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Roundtable

1984 -- Thirty Years Later:
Part II
The Roundtable Open Forum # 121

HARTOSH SINGH BAL

 

 

 




Continued From Yesterday …



PART II

Less than a year after Bhindranwale was appointed to his position, he became enmeshed in a conflict which would gain him attention both in Punjab and in Delhi, and establish a pattern of action that would be repeated in subsequent years; first an outbreak of violence apparently instigated by his rhetoric, then his taking refuge in the Darbar Sahib complex, and eventual acquittal by the authorities.

On Vaisakhi Day in spring 1978, a government sponsored sect known as the Sant Nirankaris took out a procession through the streets of Amritsar. Vaisakhi is of special importance to Sikhs: on this day, according to the faithful, Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa, the term he used to denote all Sikhs who take on the full discipline of the faith.

The Sant Nirankaris believed in a living guru -- blasphemy to Sikhs -- while claiming to be also Sikhs, and their procession on this day amounted to an act of provocation.

The ruling Akali Dal had permitted the march in spite of being aware that it would anger the community. Sure enough, at an impromptu meeting called by Bhindranwale and his supporters near the Darbar Sahib, Bhindranwale made a fiery speech against the Sant Nirankaris, stoking tempers. He led a march towards the procession with kirpans drawn; but the Sant Nirankaris were armed, and shot down thirteen men marching with Bhindranwale.

Following this, the Sant Nirankari chief, Gurbachan Singh, was arrested, along with several of his followers, but their trial was shifted outside the state, to Haryana. As Sikhs erupted in anger at the murders, Bhindranwale became the lightning rod for their outrage. He let neither the Akali Dal nor its leader, the Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, forget the incident. For the first time in their fifty-year history, the Akalis were outflanked by someone who spoke on behalf of the Sikhs.

This earned Bhindranwale the attention of the Congress party in Delhi. In his book Tragedy of Punjab, co-written with Khushwant Singh, the partisan Hindu-Punjabi journalist Kuldip Nayar describes how this came about.

Indira Gandhi’s son, Sanjay, “knowing how extra-constitutional matters worked,” suggested a “sant” be put up to challenge the Akali Dal government. Two Sikh preachers were shortlisted for the task, and the final selection left to Sanjay. One did not look “the courageous type.” The other was Bhindranwale. Sanjay’s friend, the MP Kamal Nath, told Nayar, “Bhindranwale, strong in tone and tenor, seemed to fit the bill. We would give him money off and on, but we never thought he would turn into a terrorist.”

[In November 1984, this very Kamal Nath, a Congress Party stalwart, led murdering mobs in New Delhi, killing innocent Sikhs in broad daylight. He has to this day never been brought to justice, Instead, he was rewarded with a cabinet post.]

A few months after the Vaisakhi clash, a new political organisation called the Dal Khalsa held a press conference in Chandigarh. It would soon become clear that the group’s purpose was to support every demand made by Bhindranwale, and to take the overtly political positions that he did not. The Dal Khalsa allowed Bhindranwale to maintain the fiction, meant largely for the media in Delhi, but meaningless for the average Sikh, that he was a man of religion who had nothing to do with politics.

In Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi’s Last Battle, Mark Tully and Satish Jacob claim the tab of Rs 600 for the Dal Khalsa press conference was picked up by Zail Singh, soon to be Indira Gandhi’s home minister. A veteran of Punjab politics, Zail Singh’s patronage of Bhindranwale was of a piece with his own political approach. He had trained as a preacher himself; as chief minister of Punjab between 1972 and 1977, he had confronted the Akalis on their own terms with his overt shows of Sikh religious symbolism.

Jacob told me that, years later, Zail Singh, then the president of India, asked for an explanation of the claim that he had paid for the Dal Khalsa event. “I replied, ‘Gianiji, I still have a copy of the bill,’” Jacob said. “He didn’t say anything after that.’”

Outside Punjab, the conventional understanding of the alliance between Bhindranwale and the Congress assumes the party was making use of a small-time preacher for its own ends, and propelled him to a position of significance by doing so. But as head of the Taksaal, Bhindranwale already had a certain standing among Sikhs; with or without Congress support, he was anything but small-time. In truth, the arrangement was one of mutual convenience, and lasted only as long as it served Bhindranwale’s interests.

By January 1980, when Indira Gandhi was voted back into power, Bhindranwale had grown in stature and influence. During the election, he canvassed for some of the Congress candidates in Punjab, and once even shared a dais with Gandhi.

But the denouement to the story of the Vaisakhi clash made it evident that he was a difficult man to keep in check. Just days after election results were declared, Gurbachan Singh and his followers were conveniently acquitted.

Immediately, Bhindranwale’s rhetoric against the Sant Nirankaris escalated, and in April, Gurbachan Singh was murdered at his residence in Delhi. Nayar writes that the Central Bureau of Investigation, in reconstructing the murder, found that seven people, “‘either close followers or members of the jatha of Bhindranwale,’ and three person [sic] were directly involved in the ‘finalisation and execution’ of the plan to kill the Nirankari chief.” The murder weapon was licensed in the name of one of Bhindranwale’s brothers, who claimed he wanted it for his bodyguard.

When Bhindranwale’s name appeared in the police report, he sought, for the first time, shelter in the Guru Nanak Niwas within the Darbar Sahib complex. Until the 1980s, the Indian police had made only one attempt to enter the precincts, and the consequences had been disastrous. In 1955, as demands grew for a separate Punjabi-speaking state, Akali Dal volunteers, sheltering in the Darbar Sahib, began marching out to court arrest. The state government grew desperate, and on 4 July police entered the temple precincts and used tear gas to disperse the assembled volunteers. The backlash was immediate; so severe were its effects that the chief minister, Bhim Sen Sachar, presented himself before the Akal Takht to apologise for the trespass.

Bhindranwale stayed within the sanctuary of the Darbar Sahib until Zail Singh bailed him out. The home minister stood up in parliament to declare that Bhindranwale had no hand in the murder of the Nirankari chief, thus ending the possibility of a trial. The Darbar Sahib had proved a safe haven for Bhindranwale; in hindsight, it seems impossible that the police did not anticipate that he would return to it.

Once she returned as prime minister - in the meantime, she had spent some time in jail for election fraud, etc -- Gandhi dissolved several state governments ruled by her opponents, including that of Punjab. This was one of several major mistakes on the path that led to Operation Bluestar, as it changed the dynamics of the state’s politics. Bhindranwale quickly became a problem for the new Congress chief minister, Darbara Singh; and Zail Singh, unwilling to loosen his grip over the state’s politics, attempted to control Bhindranwale for his own purposes.

The Akalis, pushed out of power, came to seek help from their foremost opponent. The party was ruled by a triumvirate with differing political approaches. Of these men, Bhindranwale hated Parkash Singh Badal, and found little common ground with the ostensibly non-violent Harchand Singh Longowal; but Gurcharan Singh Tohra, the SGPC head and the third and most hard-line of the Akali leaders, was instrumental in creating an alliance between his party and Bhindranwale, and matters improved steadily between them over the next few years. From a battle over religious issues between Bhindranwale and the Akalis, the conflict now became a game of political one-upmanship, in which the target was the Indian state.

III

Hindu-Sikh divisions had existed since the days of the Partition of Punjab in 1947. As the Punjabi language increasingly became, by default, the bailiwick of the Sikhs, Punjabi Hindus disavowed their mother-tongue in order to skew the Punjabi-speaking numbers.

Sikhs, in turn, saw this as a betrayal of a shared identity.

The state’s media began to reflect this communal polarisation, and the consequences were disastrous. Less than a year after the Gurbachan Singh murder, Punjab was thrown into turmoil by another assassination -- one that would demonstrate the degree of political protection Bhindranwale received from the Congress, and his ability to use it to wreak havoc on the state machinery.

On 9 September 1981, the newspaper baron Lala Jagat Narain, who owned the Punjab Kesri group of newspapers, was shot dead near Ludhiana by three men on a motorcycle. The Punjab Kesri was the state’s most influential Hindi newspaper, and as religion and language had become communal fault lines, it was considered representative of how Hindi newspapers blindly sought to project and protect Hindu interests. One of Narain’s killers, Nachhattar, was arrested on the spot. Among the two who fled was Bhindranwale’s nephew, Swaran Singh.

Among the papers Narain published was the Jagbani, a Punjabi newspaper that fiercely opposed Bhindranwale. “Sant Bhindranwale would find out about various news items in a host of newspapers through a number of supporters, but he would always read the Jagbani,” Dalbir Singh wrote in his book.

One morning, having read an editorial in which Jagat Narain called the jathedar of the Akal Takht and the SGPC chief traitors, “the Sant called out to his followers, ‘Have any of you read this?’ As none of them knew anything about it, he asked one of the assembled men to read the editorial aloud.

“Everyone felt bad on hearing their religious leaders being called traitors,” Dalbir Singh wrote. “One spoke up. ‘What orders do you have for us?’

“The Sant said, ’You ask for orders when your father’s turban has been tossed to the ground and the community’s pride has been reduced to dust!’

“After a few days the news of Lala Jagat Narain’s death was published in the newspapers.”

On 12 September, the police moved to arrest Bhindranwale for the murder of Narain from Chandukalan in Haryana. But Bhindranwale was tipped off -- Nayar says perhaps by Zail Singh himself -- and evaded arrest, moving to the Damdami Taksaal’s headquarters at Chowk Mehta near Amritsar.

The Punjab police never got the better of him. Birbal Nath, who headed the Punjab police between 1980 and 1982, suggested in his account of the time, The Undisclosed Punjab: India Besieged by Terror, that Zail Singh and Darbara Singh outdid each other in aiding Bhindranwale and his men.

“On 13th September, 1981, I received a phone call from the Home Minister of India Giani Zail Singh to reconsider the question of arrest of Santji,” Nath wrote. “I told him that police was bound by Court orders.”

Bhindranwale was now persistently defying Delhi and getting away with it, and this added to his mounting popularity among Sikhs. Eventually, as arrest from Chowk Mehta seemed inevitable, Bhindranwale set the date and terms for his own surrender, specifying that a Khalsa Sikh take him into custody. When he was arrested on 20 September, the police clashed with his followers at the spot, and seven people died in the resulting firing. Less than a month after his arrest, on 14 October, Zail Singh once again declared before an agitated parliament that there was no evidence of Bhindranwale’s involvement in Jagat Narain’s murder. Bhindranwale was released from custody. For the second time, he had been declared innocent without being subjected to due process.

*   *   *   *   *

The violence that Bhindranwale wreaked in Punjab raised the possibility of military action against him almost two years before Bluestar -- but the confrontation that culminated in the operation had its unassuming beginnings even further back, in a protest unconnected with Bhindranwale, launched by the Akali Dal.

In April 1982, the Akalis began a “nehar roko” (Stop the Canal) agitation against the construction of the Satluj-Yamuna Link canal, which supported Haryana’s claim to the water from Punjab’s rivers. Indira Gandhi, making another decision for short-term electoral gain, chose not to respect the Akali call for the matter to be settled by the Supreme Court.

Instead, she engineered a settlement between the Congress chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana, where polls were due in 1982, which seemed to favour the latter.

Around the time the “nehar roko” agitation began, a series of incidents aimed at provoking Hindu–Sikh violence broke out in Punjab, seemingly prompted by Bhindranwale’s political front, the Dal Khalsa. The union government decided to ban the outfit, at a meeting where the Punjab police chief, Birbal Nath, was present. Zail Singh, soon to ascend to the post of president of India, was not.

“Had the Home Minister been there, he would certainly have vetoed this,” Nath wrote. “His tendencies were well-known.”

It was decided at this meeting to arrest Bhindranwale in Bombay, where he was soon due to travel with his armed jatha. But this attempt, too, became a farce. Tipped off about the arrest, his disciples had Gurbachan Singh Manochal (who became a formidable figure after Operation Bluestar) pose as Bhindranwale, while he escaped in a fleet of Fiat cars provided by his followers in the city.

The Bombay plan was crucial because it had become nearly impossible to arrest Bhindranwale in Punjab. According to Nath, the police were simply not equipped to deal with a corps such as Bhindranwale’s, which, guided by him, would have preferred death to surrender. To circumvent this problem, Nath decided to raise a commando company and use four armoured personnel carriers to carry out the arrest.

Through a comedy of errors, by the time the request for APCs reached the top levels of government, it had been transformed into a request for tanks. I asked Indira Gandhi’s former secretary, RK Dhawan, how this came about. “Darbara Singh asked for permission to use tanks,” he told me. When the request came to Gandhi, she refused to sign it, and gave the home minister a piece of her mind. “She said, ‘Why should tanks be used, or the army be involved?’” Dhawan said.

In spite of Gandhi’s disinclination for military action, by July 1982 it became clear that the police, foiled at every turn by the state’s political leadership, would be unable to check Bhindranwale. Nath writes that an attempt that month to arrest Amrik Singh, Bhindranwale’s close colleague, failed because the chief minister, Darbara Singh, had tipped off Amrik Singh. A second attempt some days later succeeded -- because, Nath said, Darbara Singh was away in Shimla, and was only informed once the arrest had taken place.

Later that month, Bhindranwale, infuriated by Amrik Singh’s arrest, once again shifted his headquarters to the Darbar Sahib complex, this time permanently. On Bhindranwale’s return to the shrine, the Akali Dal decided to follow suit. They merged the “nehar roko” agitation they had begun against Gandhi with Bhindranwale’s group, to form the Dharam Yudh Morcha -- the united front against the government in Delhi. Like the killings of Gurbachan Singh and Lala Jagat Narain, much of the violence that took place in Punjab between this time and Operation Bluestar was, directly or indirectly, connected to this band of men living inside the Darbar Sahib complex.

Nominally, the Morcha was led by the Akali leader Longowal, but the numbers turned out for Bhindranwale. At every gathering, the Akalis were forced to let him speak last, since the crowds would dissipate as soon as he was done.

Throughout the alliance, Longowal and the other Akali leaders kept hoping for concessions from the central government that would allow Longowal to call off the movement and head to assembly polls in 1985 with a symbolic victory under their belt. But Gandhi was hoping for a deal that would showcase her resilience and resolution in time for parliamentary elections, due in the second half of 1984.

It was the deadliest electoral manoeuvring India had ever seen.

In little over a year, Bhindranwale, Indira Gandhi and Longowal, the three protagonists, had all died bloody deaths.

Towards the end of 1982, Gandhi squandered one last chance for dialogue.

On the eve of the Asian Games, due to begin on 19 November, she negated the terms of an agreement that the Indian government and the Akalis had worked hard to reach. The conditions of that agreement included the transfer of the states’ capital, Chandigarh, to Punjab -- a long-time promise, repeatedly postponed by the central government over the years -- and the extension of talks about the transfer of two districts from Punjab to Haryana, but under pressure from the Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal, Gandhi called the pact off.

PC Alexander, then the principal secretary to the prime minister, thought that decision was a significant misstep.

“Whatever the justification,” he wrote in his memoir, Through the Corridors of Power, “I am one of those who hold the view that the powers that be really missed a good chance for establishing peace.”

Indeed, it was the closest Punjab and Delhi ever came to a negotiated settlement. Once again, Indira Gandhi’s focus on short-term political gain ensured that the Akalis hardened their stance.

The Akalis, in turn, saw Bhindranwale as a stick to beat the government with.

In the meantime, beholden to neither side, Bhindranwale’s power continued to grow. Seated in the Darbar Sahib complex, he issued diktats on postings and appointments in the government. He decided the fate of policemen who had extra-judicially persecuted and harassed Sikhs.

He also rallied over two hundred armed men, some from the Taksaal, others simply fugitives from the law, aware that the police could not enter the complex to arrest them. There were others, such as Major General Shahbeg Singh, an Indian Army hero of the 1971 war in East Pakistan.

Shahbeg had turned to defending Sikh rights after he was cashiered from the army on corruption charges; he claimed he had been discriminated against because he was Sikh. His training made him especially capable of assessing the military strengths and weaknesses of the Darbar Sahib complex -- during the 1971 war, he had raised and fought alongside the Mukti Bahini guerillas.

There was no shortage of money or weaponry flowing into Bhindranwale’s camp. At one point in their association, the journalist Dalbir Singh wrote, Bhindranwale offered him Rs 10 million to start a newspaper. When Dalbir expressed his doubts about the enterprise, Bhindranwale told him they would drop the idea.

“One Sten gun can be bought for eight thousand rupees. How many can we buy for a crore (ten million)? If daily one magazine [of such a gun] is emptied out all the radio and television stations of the world speak of it. No single newspaper can compete with that.”

*   *   *   *   *
The Punjab Police -- themselves corrupt and beholden to political interests -- who had tried for years to contain Bhindranwale in spite of political interference, were systematically marginalised, not only by their inability to act against Bhindranwale’s men, but also by the terrifying violence of Bhindranwale’s retribution against police excesses.

In her 2004 book Dreams after Darkness, Manraj Grewal wrote of the deputy superintendent of police, Giani Bachan Singh. In 1982, Manjit Singh, a disciple of Bhindranwale, hijacked a plane headed from Udaipur to Delhi. An attempted diversion to Pakistan failed, and the plane finally landed in Amritsar, where Giani Bachan Singh shot Manjit Singh dead. Two attacks on him followed; in one, his son was killed. Defeated, the DSP attempted at a truce.

Bhindranwale asked him to write a letter seeking forgiveness from the Akal Takht for the fake encounters he had conducted. Grewal writes, “It was a signal to all employees in the state that the real power vested in us,” -- Bhindranwale’s cohort -- “and their government could not save them.”

In return for this letter, the only assurance Bhindranwale gave the policeman was that his family would be spared. When he was killed by militants, his daughter was injured, Grewal writes, because “the men who went there begged her to get aside, saying that they had been sent to kill her father not her, but she kept coming in the way.”

On 23 April 1983, the senior police officer AS Atwal came to pray at the Darbar Sahib. Atwal had planted a mole within Bhindranwale’s camp, and had engineered an operation in which one of Bhindranwale’s close associates was killed. But it seems the mole was discovered, and used to lure Atwal into the complex, where he was shot dead.

The shooters sauntered away from the spot where Atwal fell, even as his bodyguard, waiting outside, failed to react. A police complement posted barely a hundred yards away did nothing to help. The demoralisation of the force was complete.

The question of why the police failed to respond to a provocation as grave as Atwal’s murder has been raised repeatedly over the years. RK Dhawan, Gandhi’s former adviser, offered me an explanation.

“The police did not have bullet-proof jackets to go in,” he said. “They were finally arranged through the then high commissioner in London, but by the time they arrived it was too late.”


THE ROUNDTABLE OPEN FORUM # 121

This is one version of the goings-on that led to the tragedies of 1984. As this story continues into tomorrow, we again invite our readers to post their comments and/or their own memories, or their take on the events described herein.




To Be Continued Tomorrow …

 

[Courtesy: The Caravan. Edited for sikhchic.com]

May 24, 2014

Conversation about this article

1: Harsimrat Kaur (New Delhi, India), May 24, 2014, 5:48 AM.

Well written account. However, while reading such versions by those writing in India today, it is important that we know and remember that, no matter how brave and honest they are, journalists in this country do not feel safe and free to tell the 'whole' story, especially if it shows Hindus or the offending majority community in a poor light. This article, for example, completely brushes over with a broad stroke the overall context: which is the two-decade long step-child treatment of the Sikhs immediately following the Partition of Punjab, in which Sikhs lost everything of value, in terms of their heritage, gurdwaras, personal properties, etc. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala was merely trying to give voice to the grievances of a community in the face of an overwhelming and oppressive stance taken by both the central and the state government, which were using their power and influence over the media to hide the truth from the rest of the country. They had indeed become tyrannical in every sense of the word: read between the lines and see for yourself the machinations and schemes being utilized by Indira Gandhi through Zail Singh, et al. Without that complete context, every telling of the story will remain, at best, a regurgitation of government propaganda and half-truths. Hartosh Singh is a good and courageous writer, but his hands too are tied. Ask him why he lost his last job recently, and how, despite being one of the country's top journalists, now works for a relatively minor journal! Then you'll understand how Indian censorship works. Only then will you understand why this article does not, and cannot, reveal the whole truth. Yes, until the story is told in its honest entirety, Bhindranwale will remain a caricature, at best. Which doesn't help anyone in addressing the cancer that now grows unfettered in the very heart of this country.

2: Karan Kaur (Canada), May 24, 2014, 8:55 AM.

Interesting. Very biased article. It seems to lay the whole blame on Sikhs - Zail Singh and Darbara Singh for protecting Bhindranwale and for helping create the 'monster'; the Akalis for the manipulative politics against him; and Bhindranwale himself. All and every Sikh. Except Indira, the Government of India and the majority community. Perhaps the writer is trying to win back his job and Hindu patronage.

3: G C Singh (USA), May 24, 2014, 10:41 AM.

Poor Hartosh Singh How hard he is trying to rehabilitate himself with the Hindu establishment and get some assignment with Indian "lamestream' media by doing this hit job on Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale where he is regurgitating the bold faced lies, fabrications and disinformation campaign of the Hindu propaganda mills and Indian agencies. It will take a whole article to refute his assertions and his anecdotal stories. In a TV talk show, hosted by a Hindu apologist Arnab Goswami on Operation Blue Star, a retired "Muslim" Brigadier Ishrat Khan, a retired Sikh bureaucrat KC Singh and Hartosh Singh Bal were brought as guests to defend Operation Blue Star. The host poed a question to Akali Dal leader Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal: "Was Bhinderanwale a terrorist in you view?" When Grewal asked for two minutes to answer and articulate his point of view, he was repeatedly interrupted and shouted down and not allowed to answer. Even BJP's spokesperson, a very polished South Indian lady, Nirmala Seetharaman, would not take his bait and call Bhinderanwale a terrorist. Goswami then turned to Hartosh to get the answer he wanted. He obliged and shamelessly said "Arnab ... the simple fact is that Bhinderanwale ran a reign of terror from the Golden Temple and he was a terrorist". here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lc0oX0m3BdA

4: Kaala Singh (Punjab), May 24, 2014, 12:41 PM.

There is no doubt that Bhindranwale was initially patronised by the Indian state against the Akalis and knowingly or unknowingly he did fall prey to their machinations. That Bhindranwale used to get money from Delhi is a very disturbing allegation. The bigger question now is, what exactly was this whole affair. The Sikh community in Punjab and outside needs to know the answers as more than 300,000 Sikhs lost their lives and the lives of countless others destroyed. The truth must come out so that the blunders of the past are not repeated. Was this power play and a game of oneupmanship between Indira Gandhi and Bhindranwale or was it something else? What exactly was he trying to achieve and how did he think he would win this game against a much more powerful and cunning enemy? Did he have the resources to win this game? For Sikhs, what was achieved from this conflict except death and destruction? A lot of Sikhs would like to know the answers.

5: Kaala Singh (Punjab), May 24, 2014, 1:37 PM.

The Indian State has done grave injustice to the Sikhs after luring them into joining India in 1947 when they had the option to become independent. That is the crux of the whole issue. The Sikhs were not supposed to go through the the hell of 1984. As rightly said by Commentator#1, the Sikhs lost everything of value in 1947 during the partition. The Sikhs came into conflict with Muslims only because they were seen as siding with India as they had decided to join India. Had they remained neutral and independent, they could have escaped the conflicts of 1947 and 1984. All this was due to the incompetent Sikh leadership in 1947 and 1984 who only thought about themselves and not the Sikh interests. It's high time that the Sikhs as a community should do a thorough introspection and analyze all "leaders" that we have had, right from Master Tara Singh to Bhindranwale and the current Badals, et al. The true story must be told and the Sikhs must come up with independent institutions dedicated to upholding Sikh interests and produce competent leaders and not the trash that has controlled our destiny till now. A lot of Sikhs wonder, what did they gain by joining India in 1947? They were used as gun fodder in conflicts with Pakistan and China and later discarded and subjected to humiliation and genocide.

6: N Singh (Canada), May 24, 2014, 1:46 PM.

@ Kaala Singh: Is there any hard evidence that Bhindranwale got money from Delhi or is this another rumour designed to malign him? Earlier, you stated that he would go with his supporters to meet with Indira in Delhi. Why would he not go? If he was trying to broker a deal for the Sikhs and their rights, why would he not go to Delhi to negotiate and why would he not go with his supporters as a show of strength? When has anyone negotiated with an opponent who is weak and comes along with a begging bowl? It would have been more sinister if he had gone to meet with Indira on his own in secret. Secondly, you question the stance he took. Again, based on the Hindu establishment's historical treatment of the Sikhs, including reneging on all their pre-independence promises, what alternative do you suggest? Sitting back and watching the destruction of Sikhi, Sikhs and the Punjab? I doubt what happened could have been avoided. At best it would have been delayed and Bhindranwale acted as the catalyst. Either way a clash between the Sikhs and the establishment was bound to happen. It always does when you try to demoralize, marginalize and destroy a proud and determined people.

7: Raj (Canada), May 24, 2014, 4:43 PM.

The debate about what Bhinderanwale should have or not done has been going on ever since he emerged as one of the Sikh leaders at a very crucial time in our history. I had opportunity to witness one of his interviews by Hindu journalists in Amritsar. He knew that politicians of those times, Sikh or non-Sikhs, didn't give a damn about morality, justice or fairness. The proof is in the current situation of Punjab run by left-over politicians from that era. He knew them very well, he knew what they were capable of, given the chance. He knew the politicians will stop at nothing if it was meant to give them political gains; not even sanctity of Darbar Sahib. And, he proved it at the expense his life. Whether he should have fortified Darbar Sahib or not, wouldn't have made a difference. Other gurdwaras, like Dukh Niwaran Sahib in Patiala, Alamgir Sahib in Ludhiana and dozens ofother gurdwaras were not occupied or fortified by him. They were attacked on the same day. I have seen the damage done to Alamgir Sahib. Point is, the politicians, Sikh and Hindu, felt very threatened by the movement of fairness, justice and morality started by him. They were out to get him at any cost. Unfortunately, they didn't even stop before destroying the Akal Takht.

8: N Singh (Canada), May 24, 2014, 5:27 PM.

My contribution to comment #7 ... likewise, I too have seen the damage done to Dukh Niwaran Sahib in Patiala by the Indian troops.

9: S Vishal (Canada), May 25, 2014, 9:44 AM.

I support the Sikh fight for justice, particularly for what ensued in the 1980s onwards. The Indian government is full of corrupt criminals who have wronged the people of Punjab and must be brought to justice. Indira Gandhi and her cronies were indeed all thugs. Power-hungry thugs.

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Part II
The Roundtable Open Forum # 121"









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