THE STORY OF FORGOTTEN FREEDOM FIGHTER SANT- JARNAIL SINGH BHINDRANWALE

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TANUJ BANSAL.

SIKHS, the community who had been fighting for our country since the times of Mughal Rule, the people who had been fighting injustice and sins and asked nothing but respect, status and quality of life with equality among everyone and what did they got back in the end, mass killings, brutal rapes with the women of their community, freedom fighters being called as terrorists and a criminal status to the whole community. Ever asked yourself if it wasn’t the partition of India in ’47 but only of the Punjab and what about the promises made P.M. Nehru ji and according to Indiatimes, still nobody including home ministry, defense ministry and cabinet secretariat has no records that whether the Operation Blue Star, a military attack on Golden Temple was decided orally or written by word. Question many like these remain unanswered and ignored till now. This is where the story of Sant Bhindranwale comes and starts back in 1977 when Sant Bhindranwale was formally elected as 14th Jathedar of Damdami Taksal. Jarnail Singh Brar aka Sant Bhindranwale born on 12 February, 1947 to his father Joginder Singh Brar, a farmer and a local Sikh leader and his mother Nihal Kaur in the village of Rode, Moga. He got married at the age of 19 with Pritam Kaur, daughter of Sucha Singh. They had two sons Ishar Singh and Inderjeet Singh.

As a missionary he would tour from villages to villages all over Punjab spreading religious beliefs and encouraging the community to give up on sins and to take up on values of Sikhism and to preach Sikh’s Faith.  Due to his speeches during touring, numerous people gave up all the sins and were baptized, his amrit prachar was so successful that thousands of people took oaths to never commit sins and get along with substance use or abuse and pornography and began the life they were meant live. People also began to seek his intervention in addressing social grievances and he started holding courts to settle disputes. This reflected widespread disenchantment among the masses with expensive and time-consuming bureaucratic processes that also never ensured proper justice. Due to his emerging power and respect, it is believed that P.M. Indra Gandhi tried to co-opt Bhindranwale to split up votes and weaken the Akali Dal and Sanjay Gandhi is also believed to approach Bhindranwale when Indira Gandhi lost the power in Indian general election of 1977 but when congress resumed power in1 980, the found out that Bhindranwale cannot be controlled and directed. The miscalculations of congress were to use Bhindranwale as a pawn against the Akali dal were cleared when they all say Bhindranwale’s political objectives became popular among the agricultural Jat Sikhs in the region as he would advocate for state’s water rights central to state’s economy as well as leading Sikh revivalism. After the Sikh-Nirankari clashes of 1978, Akali Dal and SGPC failed to support Sikhs and Bhindranwale did not respected them because of this and called them corrupt and mealy-mouthed as in mid-1983, Sikhs associated with him were being arrested and their homes were confiscated and police destruction on his property while Akali politicians were dining with figures aligned with congress.

After the clashes and due to acquittance of accused in the criminal case filed against Nirankaris, Bhindranwale increased his rhetoric against enemies of Sikh community and as his very publicly told rhetoric that Indira Gandhi was involved in the trials after which she dissolved the Akali led government who were then supporting the Bhindranwale and installed her government through fresh elections. Orthodox Sikhs also believed this as a conspiracy to defame Sikh Religion. In the years following this event, several murders took place all around the Punjab, Bhindranwale’s group and Babbar Khalsa formed by widow Bibi Amarjit Kaur were allegedly accused. The Babbar Khalsa activists are known to escape and take retreat in Golden Temple after committing acts of punishments on people who were against orthodox Sikh tenets. Bhindranwale also took residence to escape arrest after he was allegedly accused of murder of Nirankari Head Gurbachan Singh on 24 April, 1980. Police retaliated and raided houses of the suspects and beating up inmates and killed a few of them in faked encounters and even killed 24 thusly, which would later infuriate him and he termed it as killing of innocent Sikhs without any due process. But then it turned out that the member of Akhand kirtani jatha, Ranjit Singh was the assassin of Nirankari Head after his surrender and admission to assassination.

In may of 1981, AISSF led protests against tobacco and other intoxicants and Arya Samaj also led protest against Alcohol and meat but it was the Bhindranwale and Sikhs that the police clashed with on 31 may resulting in a dozen Sikh death, adding more tensions.

On September 9, 1981, Lala Jagat Narain was murdered and who was viewed as a supporter of Nirankari and condemned Bhindranwale through his newspaper Punjab Kesari and is also known to play a significant role in fanning the flames of communal hatred between Hindus and Sikhs. Punjab Police issued an arrest warrant for Bhindranwale as he had often spoken out against the well-known editor. At that time Bhindranwale was on preaching tour in Chando Kalan, but when combined police forces of both Haryana and Punjab came to arrest him, he had relocated at Mehta Chowk by then. Bhindranwale agreed for the arrest and told the crowd of his supporters to commit no violence after the arrest. Several violent incidents happened in next 25 days including arsons and exchange of fire between police and villagers, mass shooting in market, hijacking of Indian Airlines Aeroplane and several bomb blasts in many districts of Punjab including Amritsar. India’s Home Minister Giani Zail Singh announced in parliament that there was no evidence of involvement of Bhindranwale in Narain’s murder and he was released on 14th October, 1981.

As Bhindranwale’s increasing influence and his huge support from public, AISSF and Akali youth, Akali Dal decided to join forces with him and after being united they decide to launch “Dharam Yudh Morcha” to champion preliminary demands that was the set of 45 economic, political, religious and social policies formulated in September, 1981, a list of 15 demands would be prepared in October, 5 of which were economic. Despite the Resolution’s endorsement of “state’s autonomy in keeping with concept of federalism” Indira Gandhi and Central Government took a hard line, emphasizing the Sikh demands and treating them as tantamount to secession.

Over 100,000 protesters arrested over the course of morcha, the central government instead of constitutionally referring to all the legal issues to supreme court, played up the threat of extremism and law and order, and appeared disinclined to solve the issues justly or constitutionally. Under the pretext of maintaining law and order, central state actions in the form of false encounters, tortures and killings under police custody as well as extra judicial police invasions and lockdowns were increased in rural Punjab. Neither the issues nor the rights violation was being addressed. Sikh Activists started retaliating with political violence.

Media also misrepresented Bhindranwale by accusing him with terms of terrorist and extremist and he became the focus of press of violence in Punjab but atrocities and inhumane tortures and sexual assaults by police were ignored totally. At that media was working as puppets of central government.

23 people were killed 24 hours before the announcement of the operation blue star and while in October 1983, six Hindu bus passengers were ruled out and killed by whom the government called Sikh militants and imposed an emergency rule in Punjab. The failure of the central government to address the political, social and economic problems of Sikhs led to alienation and rise of militancy. Due to the protests, police brutality and burgeoning insurgency ensuing, it would be increasingly clear that government wants military solution rather than the political one and he would tell people to get ready for the ultimate showdown. Bhindranwale was residing at Akal takth and was keeping firearms and geared bodyguards and acolytes.

Bhindranwale never supported the idea of separate state but he didn’t say no to it too. He simply meant he won’t be making the same mistakes like the Sikhs did in 1946. He also noted that he wants equality and freedom and he will live together with Hindus as he asks for Hindu-Sikh unity but if they are going to discriminate, he will accept the creation of separate state rather than living with humiliation.   

He simply was after the Anandpur Sahib Resolution with no violence in his mind, he wasn’t seeking separate state, he was just seeking equal rights.

But the government finally planned the operation and began on 3 June and ended on 8 June, 1984. He died in the operation with almost all of his followers. The Magnificent Freedom Fighter met the tragic end.              

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