The year 1983 was a very crucial year for Dharm Yudh Morcha and the Akalis. Whenever the Morcha reached the stage of success Indira Gandhi invited the Akali leaders for talks, not with the intention of settling the issues but to dampen their spirit and frustrate the Morcha. She thus completely outwitted the Akali leaders and demolished their image in the eyes of the Sikh Panth. They were badly let down by her superior craftsmanship and so was let down and humiliated Longowal. It was only Sant Bhindranwale who saw through the sinister game of Indira Gandhi.
He therefore repeatedly warned the Akali leaders to beware of Indira Gandhi’s tricks but none of them took his advice seriously. Longowal, Barnala, Balwant Singh, Badal, Tohra and others were hankering after power in the name of thePanth but the great hero Sant Jarnail Singh was fighting for the defence of the faith of Nanak and Gobind Singh as well as for Anandpur Sahib Resolution.
When Sant Bhindranwale captured the hearts and souls of the Sikhs, old and young alike, it was almost impossible for a pigmy like Longowal to dislodge him from their hearts. Feeling that his leadership has been eclipsed Longowal frantically hob nobbed with Indira Gandhi in order to eliminate Sant Bhindranwale. Longowal gave green signal to Indira Gandhi to arrest Sant Bhindranwale from Guru Nanak Niwas. She therefore secretly planned to arrest Bhindranwale in December 1983.
To facilitate Bhindranwale’s arrest Longowal and Kirpal Singh, who was a selfish and meek head priest of Akal Takht, conveyed indirectly to the Centre that Guru Nanak Niwas was not a part of Golden Temple Complex and therefore the Central government could well send the commandoes there to arrest Sant Bhindranwale. It was not impious for treacherous Longowal to stoop so low to facilitate arrest of Sant Bhindranwale simply to keep his leadership alive. In this sordid conspiracy were actively involved some of the traitors of the Sikh Panth who are called Surjit Singh Barnala and Balwant Singh Ex Finance Minister besides a clown named Balwant Singh Ramuwalia. These three crooks and faithless creatures formed the nexus upon whose advice Longowal always acted willingly. It should not however be misunderstood that Longowal was totally misled by them. In fact he, too, played his treacherous role wilfully.
Sensing the evil design of Longowal and Indira Gandhi Sant Bhindranwale, the Hero of the Khalsa Panth, shifted tothe Akal Takht on 15th December 1983 and made it his headquarters to carry on the fight for the cause of the Sikhs.
Before rift between Sant Bhindranwale and Longowal brewed up the latter called a convention at Amritsar in January1983 to find out the ways and means for getting the Sikhs, demands accepted. The response was remarkably encouraging as more than three thousand Sikhs including ex-servicemen attended the convention held in the Golden Temple Complex.
Among the participants were about two hundred Sikh officers who were above the rank of Colon : Generals like Jaswant Singh Bullar, Narinder Singh were the few of them who latter rose to prominence. But the most shining star among them was Major General Shahbeg Singh, an organiser of the Mukati Bahni and a hero of Bangla Desh war of 1971. Shahbeg Singh’s performance in that war was excellent and for that rolehe was praised and applauded by the whole nation. He became a legendary hero. But Indira Gandhi, an overambitious and megalomaniac lady was not made of a stuff who could allow any body else to share the credit of victory of 1971 war. Shewanted to be the sole hero herself.
In this back ground she framed up Major General Shahbeg Singh in a frivolous case when he was posted at Jabalpur as G.O.C. of the Southern Command and was cashiered on flimsy grounds of corruption. The only charge against him was that he had auctioned an unserviceable `Jonga’ a military jeep, to his relation. Inquiry held by the government into this flimsy charge revealed that the Major General had purchased Jonga for himself by proxy! Did this frivolous allegation warranted removal of such a brave general from his high post just a day before his retirement without pensionary benefits?
All this mischief was done at the instance of Indira Gandhi who wanted to discredit him. She conveniently forgot his outstanding performance in the war of 1971. It was not the first time that she had denigrated an outstanding Army Generals.
Some what similar indignity was heaped on Field Marshal Manek Shah for his outstanding performance in earlier India Pakistan war.
Ex-servicemen discussed the problems faced by the Sikhs and tried to find out ways and means to get them resolved by the Central government. A few of them supported Longowal’s soft and peaceful line of action but the majority sided with Sant Bhindranwale who suggested to adopt hard line. Sant Bhindranwale declared emphatically that the Centre would never accept their just demands if they continued prostrating before Indira Gandhi. He exhorted them to rise, unite and snatch their just rights. The Ex-Sikhsoldiers and officers overwhelmingly supported SantBhindranwale. Upon this Longowal felt belittled and humiliated.
Major General Shahbeg Singh was greatly influenced bythe ideology followed by Sant Bhindranwale. He became his Chief martial advisor though General Narinder Singh was also to render help to the militant organisations. SimranjitSingh Mann an IPS officer of the rank of DIGP was his strong political supporter. Bhai Amrik Singh President of AISSF and son of Sant Kartar Singh, predecessor of Sant Bhindranwale, was his ideologue. Surinder Singh Sodhi, a devoted Sikh, was his Security Officer.
Sant Bhindranwale’s other militant body guards were Sewa Singh, Rachpal Singh, Amarjit Singh and Surinder Singh Gill. Bhai S. S Sodhi was not only a superb marksman but he could also drive anything ranging from a bicycle to an aeroplane. Harmandar Singh Sandhu, General Secretary of AISFF, was the interpreter of the Sant. It is however intriguing why he surrendered to the Army along with Longowal and G.S. Tohra. Bhai Ranjit Singh who alleged to have killed Gurbachan Singh Nirankari Chief was close confidante of Sant Bhindranwale but he was subsequently weaned away by Longowal who arranged his surrender to
Delhi police through Surjit Singh Barnala. Barnala took him in his car from Amritsar to Delhi and handed him over to the Delhi police. This clearly shows that Barnala was a secret agent of the government. By secretly surrendering Bhai Ranjit Singh to Delhi police he pleased both the Nirankaris and the Central government. For this service he was later on rewarded with Chief Ministership of Punjab and then the Governorship of Tamil Nadu.
By winning the hearts of the Ex-servicemen Sant Bhindranwale expanded his influence further. Then he gave a new dimension to his movement. Now it looked as though the whole Khalsa Panth was standing by his side waiting for his guidance and direction. He became undisputed leader of the Khalsa Panth.
Although a criminal case of murder and keeping unlicensed arms was registered against Nirankari Chief
Gurbachan Singh and sixty three others yet they were at large. Hardev Singh Chhina, a staunch Nirankari Chief Secretary of Punjab had escorted Gurbachan Singh safely out of Amritsar and Punjab immediately after the murder of Sikhs on 13th April 1978. Yet no action was taken against the abetter of the offences, who had also harboured the main accused Gurbachan Singh. Surprisingly he was not even
transferred. As has been said earlier that the Nirankari chief had a clout with the Indian government he manipulated transfer of the criminal case from Punjab to the state of Haryana. The Supreme Court of India readily ordered transfer of the case to the court of R.S. Gupta, additional Session Judge of Karnal District, who was a pliable and notoriously corrupt judicial officer. The Judge startled the Sikh Panth on 4th January, 1980 by acquitting the Nirankari chief and all other sixty and odd accused who had committed murder of 13 Sikhs. It was a perversion of justice and for this ignoble act the Indian government was responsible, for, it had wielded all influence on the depraved judicial officer to give verdictin favour of Nirankaris.
Sant Jarnail Singh was dismayed and disgusted at this gross injustice done to the Sikhs. But the Nirankaris were jubilant and rejoiced at their manipulated judicial victory.
Nevertheless this ominus development gave a new and dangerous dimension to the struggle against the Nirankaris. R.S. Gupta, a freak of nature, by delivering perverse judgement not only debased norms of justice but he also gravely injured the feelings of the Sikhs. The Sikhs were reminded of their past history and the teachings of the Gurus, such as Hargobind and Gobind Singh, who had explained the Khalsa the necessity and the merit of taking revenge from the evil enemy. Faithfully following the teachings of the Gurus, Bhai Ranjit Singh a brave and courageous Sikh youth, justifiably shot dead the Nirankari Chief Gurbachan Singh, right in his fortified den in Delhi on 24th April, 1980 and thus avenged the martyrdom of 13 devout Sikhs. His brave act glorified the faith of the Khalsa and he virtually became a hero of Sikh Panth overnight.
The government registered a case of murder in Delhi court and implicated Jagir Singh, elder brother of Sant Jarnail Singh along with Bhai Ranjit Singh. The Sant was also accused of hatching conspiracy. Undeterred by such armtwisting and pressure tactics used by the Indian Government, Sant Bhindranwale continued his struggle against theNirankaris. He moved from village to village and revived the glory of the Khalsa created by Guru Gobind Singh from the edge of the “Khanda” a double edged sword. The Sikhs, especially the youth, were greatly influenced by the discourses given by the Sant. His rhetorical speeches infused a new life and instilled a fresh spirit in the Khalsa Panth. His relentless struggle roused the dormant energy of the Sikhs and the Sikh peasantry. In a short span of five years, from 1978 to 1983, he resurrected the Khalsa which thus far was in deep slumber.
The historic movement launched by Sant Jarnail Singh effectively checked the onslaught of the Nirankaris and other adversaries which was aimed at the Sikh religion. The Sikhs again imbued the true spirit of the Khalsa which was over shadowed under the influence of Hinduism, Communism, and
Thenceforth Sant Jarnail Singh did not allow the Nirankaris to hold conferences and take out processions on the soil of Punjab. This was his great victory which gave a further fillip to his unique movement of purifying the Khalsa.
Whereas Guru Gobind Singh had created the Khalsa, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a true disciple of the former,resurrected it. For this achievement he will be remembered by the Khalsa Panth for ever, only the heretics would frown.
Besides the Nirankaris Lala Jagat Narain, a staunch Arya Samaji and the chief Editor of the Hind Samachar Newspapers Group based at Jalandhar was spitting fire through his news papers by making derogatory speeches against Sant Bhindranwale as well as against the Sikh Gurus. He vehemently supported the vicious Nirankari movement launched against the Sikhs and went to the extent of writing editorials defending the outrageous acts of the Nirankari Chief.
Not only that, he appeared as a star defence witness and gave a false statement in favour of Gurbachan Singh in the murder case. His preposterous propaganda and outrageous actions against Sikhism provoked and angered the Sikh youth to such an extent that two of them gunned him down in broad day light, on 9th September 1981 while he was travelling in his car from Ludhiana to Jalandhar. Sant Jarnail Singh was again accused by the government of conspiring to murder the Lala and a criminal case was registered against him as well as Swaran Singh his nephew and one Nachhatar Singh.
The warrants for the arrest of Sant Bhindranwale were issued on 12th September 1981 by the Punjab Government headed by a wily Congress Chief Minister, Darbara Singh. The Sant used to compare Darbara Singh with infamous Zakarya Khan who was the Subedar of Lahore during the Mughal empire and who had committed enormous atrocities on the Sikhs. Unmindful of his contemplated arrest or physical liquidation by the government the Sant had gone to village Chando Kalan, in the Haryana state, to pursue his religious activities there. In the mean while Darbara, the wicked chief Minister of Punjab, and the Indian government hatched a conspiracy to physically liquidate Sant Bhindranwale in village Chando Kalan and then to declare that he was killed is a fake encounter.
To accomplish this foul task Darbara Singh secretly despatched a strong contingent of police force consisting of nearly three hundred armed personnel under the overall command of D.S. Mangat Deputy Inspector General of police of Patiala range, The heavily armed police force included armed contingents of Central Reserve Police Force and the Haryana Armed Police. This large force was equipped with sub machine guns, Self loading Rifles, and other sophisticated weapons.
The secret mission of the Armed Forces was to physically exterminate Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in a stage-managed encounter as their aim was not simply to arrest him. Had it been the intention of the government to simply arrest the Sant, there would have been absolutely no necessity of dispatching such a heavily armed and large Police Force when the Sant had barely a dozen armed bodyguards with him.
Sant Bhindranwale was gifted with a remarkable intuitive power and vision. He therefore, sensed the impending danger. As he was not at that time prepared to meet the challenge of the state machinery he left Chando Kalan late in the evening on 12th September and arrived at his headquarters at Chowk Mehta in Amritsar District. His departure from Chando Kalan was not yet known to Darbara Singh and his hatchet men headed by D.S. Mangat.
The Armed Paramilitary Forces laid siege of village Chando Kalan soon after the Sant had left for Chouk Mehta. The armed forces searched the Gurdwara and all houses of the Sikhs. Not finding the Sant there the paramilitary forces went berserk and looted and plundered the houses of the Sikhs. They gave severe beatings to them all, old and young alike, and also molested their women. In a fit of frenzy they set ablaze two mini buses of Dam Dami Taksal and burnt to ashes two Birs (copies of holy Guru Granth Sahib) besides some other holy scriptures.
Sant Bhindranwale, when informed of this diabolic act of sacrilege was deeply hurt. He vowed to avenge the perpetrators of atrocities and sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. Failing in his foul mission in complicity with the Indian government, Darbara Singh now despatched a bigger number of paramilitary forces to Chouk Mehta to arrest Sant Bhindranwale but the latter refused to surrender. Here the Sant was fully prepared to effectively meet the challenge of the government forces. Sensing gravity of the situation and observing that the Sant was fully determined to resist the forcible arrest the government relented and negotiated with him the terms of his arrest.
The Sant after consulting his followers and supporters announced that he would offer arrest on 20th September 1981 on the condition that only baptized Sikh officer would effect his arrest. To meet this condition Jarnail Singh Chehal, Senior Superintendent of Police of Gurdaspur district, was entrusted with that job. When Sant Bhindranwale’s impending arrest was made public by the government on 15th September lacks of devout Sikhs, young and old and women, gathered in and around Gurdwara Gurdarshan Parkash at Chauk Mehta.
Before offering arrest on the stipulated date the Sant adorned a Kesari (saffron) turban in place of blue which he usually supported on his head. The Kesari colour is considered as a symbol of martyrdom by the Khalsa. He then said that he was going to embrace death as he had apprehended foul play by the government. Before offering his arrest he delivered thrilling speech to his audience pleading with them to unite under the Kesari flag in order to meet the challenge of the government and to defend the Khalsa Panth from on slaught of the enemies. Then bidding farewell to the congregation he boarded the waiting car and accompanied his namesake police officer to Ludhiana.
Soon after Sant Bhindranwale departed there was a great commotion in the audience numbering more than two lac Sikhs. The paramilitary forces at the behest of the Central Government Intelligence Agencies opened fire without any provocation and killed a dozen innocent Sikhs and seriously wounded many more. This provocative act was committed by the Secret Agencies to incite the congregation to retaliate so that the Paramilitary Forces could mow them down under the pretext of self defence. But the government failed in its sinister design as the Sant before his arrest, had advised the congregation to keep their cool despite provocation.
The police officers who interrogated Sant Bhindranwale in the district of Ludhiana failed to extract any evidence against him; even then he was detained in the Jail till 15th October 1981. In protest against his unwarranted detention some Sikh youths led by Gajinder Singh of Dal Khalsa hijacked an Indian Airlines plane on 29th September and landed it at Lahore in Pakistan.
At last the government fearing further retaliation relented and unconditionally released the Sant from the jail on 15th October 1981. He came out with flying colours. His name and fame was greatly enhanced and he was now well on his way to rise to the sky. The false case registered against Sant Bhindranwale deserved to be contrasted with fool proof murder case registered against Nirankaris and their chief Whereas Nirankari chief was present at the stage when his followers massacred 13 Sikhs, Sant Bhindranwale had gone to Chando Kalan in Haryana state when Lala Jagat Narain was assassinated near Ludhiana city in Punjab.
Nirankari chief was not arrested whereas Bhindranwale was jailed without any justification for a month. It was shameful for the government to be biased against the Sant and favourable to Nirankari Chief. This disgraceful and discriminatory act of the government cast a dark shadow on its secular credentials and sense of justice. As the portent events would show the government had deliberately played a wicked role in this sombre scenario with a view to aggravating the conflict between the Sikhs and Nirankaris on the one hand, and between the Sikhs and the government on the other.
No body, who believes in administration of true justice, could define such an evil government as the true representative of the people. At best such a government could be called a sectarian and communal in nature. The Congress government played a dirty game in aggravating the crisis in Punjab.
At first it pampered Gurbachan Singh Nirankari to open a bloody front against the Sikhs, especially the Dam Dami Taksal led by Sant Kartar Singh and then by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, and the Akali Dal headed by Longowal. Further it inducted many actors and directors to create abnormal circumstances leading to the point of explosion. Last but not the least then it inducted various Intelligence Agencies to foment the crisis so that a critical situation arises which could farcically warrant military action in the burning Punjab. And ultimately Punjab was turned into a battle field by the Central Government. -0-