– A.R. Darshi
To achieve their illconceived objectives the Indian government inter ilia,patronized, encouraged and aided Gurbachan Singh, Chief of Nirankari Mandal, to launch onslaught against Sikh religion and their Gurus. The Nirankari chief, a surrogate of the Indian government, readily acted upon this ill-conceived plan in order to fulfill the wishes of the government as well as to seek self-aggrandizement by expanding his sphere of influence among the susceptible Sikhs.
Thus pampered and prompted by the government he stepped up pernicious activities against Sikh religion with the main thrust in Punjab it being the home land of the Sikhs. Gurbachan Singh purposely held convention of his followers at Hoshiarpur on 13th April, 1973 and passed extrely derogatory remarkes against Sikh Gurus and their religion. No Sikh organization or the Akali Dal and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee took any notice of this slanderous outburst. This callous attitude of the Akali Dal and Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee further encouraged Gurbachan Singh to carry on his tiradeagainst Sikhism.
Mustering courage the Nirankari chief gathered his crowd at Chowk Mehta on 13th September, 1973 right under the nose of the newly built headquarters of Dam Dami Taksal and delivered a highly provocate speech maligning the Sikhs and denigrating their Gurus. This was big challenge thrown by the Nirankaris as the very citadel of Sikhism was attacked. Sant Kartar Singh, predecessor Jarnail Singh, took serious note of this provocative offensive. He, therefore, organized a massive demonstration against the lewd Nirankaris and their irreligious activities. Hundreds of devout Sikhs were arrested under the inequitable orders of a wily Sikh Chief Miniset, Giani Zail Singh who was a stooge of Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India. But Sant Kartar Singh continued his struggle fearlessly which resulted in several violent clashes between the Sikhs and the Nirankaris.
Due to the callousness of the government these clashes culminated in a traumatic incident that took place at Amritsar on 13th April, 1978 which is the day celebrated by the Sikhs in commemoration of raising of the Khalsa. And this tragic incident proved a turning point in the history of the Sikhs.
The baisakhi day is celebrated by the Sikhs every year with great zeal in commemoration of founding of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh. The Nirankaris, in a calculated move decided to hold their annual convention at Amritsar on 13th April, 1978which coincided with the Baisakhi day celebrations. Sant jarnail Singh opposed their ill-coceived plan and lodged protest with the Akali government led by Parkash Singh Badal asking it not to allow Nirankaris to hold convention at Amritsar on the Baisakhi day, but Badal partially under the pressure of Morar Ji Desai, a Gujrati Brahman, Prime Minister, and partially to please the Jan Sangh, a political party of fundamentalist Hindus, allowed Nirankaris to hold their proposed gathering. A self styled sikh and mischievous Akali minister Jeewan Singh Umranangal, was directed to be present at Amritsar on 13th April, 1978. Sant Jarnail Singh personally requested him to ban
the Nirankari gathering to avoid controntation with the devout Sikhs but he put off the Sant with a lame excuse that the District Magistrate had already granted permission to the Nirankaris to hold convention. Had the Akali government wished it could have very well directed the District Magistrate to withdraw the permission but that was not to happen as the government was hostile to the Sant. Therefore it intentionally played this mischief so as to let down Sant Jarnail Singh.
Feeling disgused at the dubious role of the Akali government Sant Jarnail Singh consulted his followers and supporters and decided to send a Jatha(squad) of devout Sikhs to the venue of the Nirankari convention to lodge a peaceful protest againsttheir anti-Sikhs activities and utterances. No sooner did the small Jatha reached near the venue than the blood thirsty Nirankaris opened fire on the Jatha killing 13 Sikhs and injuring about two score. When this unprovoked firing took place, Hardev Singh Chhina, the chief secretary, and Niranjan Singh as I.A.S officer were present at the Nirankari stage. Both these officers are diehard Nirankaris. It is a matter of shame that the Akali government did not take any action against both these officers for their ignoble complicity in the ghastly crime.
Surprisingly the police had witnessed the brutal occurrence as a silent spectator. The presence of Umranangal at Amritsar and that of Hardev Singh Chhina at the Nirankari stage, proves beyond slightest doubt that these hostile forces had conspired to lower down the image of Sant Jarnail Singh as well as of Dam Dami Taksal un-mindful of the fact that Sikhsim was under attack and that it would entail serious and disastrous consequences.
When the tragic news of ghastly murder of defence-less Sikhs reached Sant Jarnail Singh, He was anguished and vowed that he would not allow the blood of 13 devout Sikhs go waste. To assuage the injured feelings of agitated Sikhs the Akali government registered a criminal case of murder and other offences against the Nirankari criminals including GurbachanSingh, their chief. But none of the accused was attested.
Sant Jarnail Singh’s anguish and anger did not cool down. He condemned the passive action of the Akali government and invigorated the Morcha against the Nirankaris. When the Morcha gathered momentum the Akali Dal and Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee were ultimately compelled to persuade Jathedar f Akali Takht. Gurdial Singh Anjoha, to issue a Hukamnama (edict) against hte Nirankaris. The Akal Takht issued Hukamnama on 10th June 1978, which was the martyrdom day of Guru Arja Dev and was read out by the Jathedar to the Sikh congregation from Manji Sahib and Akal Takht.
The Hukamnama in brief declared, “That the Nirankaris headed by Gurbachan Singh have launched a pernicious offensive against the Sikhs and their Gurus.” It is aimed at denigrating the Sikhs religion. The Nirankari chief who poses himself as Avtar, has massacreed 13 Sikhs on the Baisakhi day. This had posed a serious challenge to the survival of the Sikh religion. Therefore every Sikh is required to oppose by all means the vicious Sect of the Nirankaris which is the enemy of the Sikh faith. Every Sikh is further directed to severe all relations with the Nirankaris and with those Sikhs who have joined or still supported the immoral sect of Nirankaris.
Issuance of this Hukamnama was a big victory for Sant Jarnail Singh but he was not yet fully satisfied. He demanded closure of all Nirankari Bhanwans, which according to him are the evil dens spewing venom against Sikhism in Punjab. To achieve this aim, he continued his agitation till the Akali government was compelled to close down all Nirankari Bhawans in Punjab with effect from 20th August 1978. the Sikhs felt jubilant but their rejoice was short lived as Akali government again yielded to the pressure exerted by the Brahman Prime Minister Morar Ji Desai and the Jan Sangh and allowed the Nirankaris to open Bhawans on 27th August, 1978, just after a week. But the Sant resisted this move saying that he will not allow to open the NirankarisBhawans.
In retaliation to the statement of Sant Bhindranwale that he will not allow to open the Nirankari Bhawans. Harbans lal khanna a leader of jan Sangh Party’s Amritsar unit declared that he would lead the hindus and Nirankaris to reopen the Nirankaris Bhawans on 27th august. This was an open challenge to the Sikhs in general and Bhindranwale taksal in particular.
Apprehending confrontation between these waring groups Badal requested Talwandi and Tohra respectively. Presisdents of Akali Dal and Shiromani Gurdwara Pranbandhak Committee, to persuade Sant Bhindranwale that he should drop the plan to go to Amritsar on that day. Both the Akali leaders accordingly pleaded with him to drop his plan and they succeeded in their mission only on the assurance that they shall not allowreopening of the Nirankari Bhawans on 27th August.
Nevertheless the Bhawans were unlocked and reopened with the help of the security forces. Talwandi and Tohra later apologized to Sant Jarnail Singh accusing Badal that he did not agree to keep the Bhawans locked. The sant was thus betrayed and duped. When he was let down by the government Sant Bhindranwale intensified anti-Nirankari movement which yielded fruit. Now Badal himself declared that he would close down the Nirankari Bhawans. He also gave assurance that the objectionable portions from “Avtar Bani” and “Yug Purush” both Nirankari’s heretic books, shall be deleted. But actually no steps were taken to fulfill this promise. As a result anti Nirankari movement continued unabated.
Meanwhile Gurbachan Singh, encouraged by the Hindus and the Indian government, carried on his activities not in Punjab but in other parts of the country. He announced to hold Nirankari convention in Allahabad on 25th September 1978 but the devout Sikhs chased him out of the city. He then gathered his followers in Nirankari Bhawans, Kanpur, on 26th September and under the shadow of the Security forces held another convention there.
The devout Sikhs again converged there in large numbers but the Nirankaris attacked them with the support of the Hindu police. The police resorted to lathi charge and also opened fire on Sikhs. The brutal use of police force left a trail of blood.Twelve Sikhs were killed and nearly eighty were seriously injured. This time ghastly crime was committed by the Hindu police in connivance with the Nirakaris and the government.
The Kanpur tragedy clearly showed that the Hindus were openly siding the the Nirankaris and were poised against the Sikhs.
However undaunted by the unholy alliance of the hindus and the Nirankaris sant Bhindranwale continued his struggle for restoring lost glory of the Khalsa. Whenever and wherever Akali leaders deviated from the path of Sikhism he demonstrated them publicly and advised them to mend their
ways. Most important instance of deviation by the Akali Dal from tenets of Sikh religion was the historic Akali conference held at Ludhiana from 26th October to 28th October 1978. Sant Bhindranwale was a genius and a born leader unlike spineless Harchand Singh Longowal upon whom leadership was thrust. Longowasl looked pigmy not only in physical stature but also intellectually compared with Sant Bhindranwale. Sant Bhindranwale has had far greater vision and foresight. He had a remarkable inquisitive insight and intuitive power. He was a symbol of indomitable courage, valour and spiritual power. His more than six-feet tall, stature piercing and fiery eyes, animated the dormant energy of Sikh peasantry, Sikh intellectuals and theSikh youths. These extraordinary qualities raised him from the
state of an ordinary farmer preacher to the status of a great leader and a gallant defender of the Sikh faith. He could be treated little short of a prophet or a messiah. Is there any other leader born in the Sikhs history in the twentieth century who has infused such a new life into the Khalsa Panth the word over and galvanized it into un-defeatable and unbreakable body. It was due to his charismatic and captivating personality that he had risen like the sun and eclipsed all other Akali leaders in a short span of a few years. Such a leader is born once a while.Therefore to compare him with Longowal is to compare him with a candle. A candle could be blown out by a whistle but it is senseless to think of blowing the sun out. A candle gives light when it is ignited but the sun shines eternally of its own energy
and gives light wherever it goes. Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale would continue to shine in the annals of history of the Sikhs.