facts and Myths about Bhindranwala
In the early 1980s, Bhindranwale led an armed movement for Sikh autonomy and died during an army offensive (nicknamed Operation Blue Star) on the Darbar Sahib complex (also known as the Golden Temple complex).
Not many people can claim to be neutral about Bhindranwale. To his admirers, he was above all a man of his word, a rare quality among politicians.1 To his detractors, he mostly represented the 'paranoia' and 'dangerously intolerant quality of orthodox Sikhs.'2
After Operation Bluestar, Harchand Singh Longowal, perhaps the most respected moderate Sikh leader of recent years, is said to have done a volte-face and revised his opinion of Bhindranwale overnight from 'scoundrel' to 'saint.'3
Dipankar Gupta, one of India's premier sociologists, once offered the following explanation, 'That Bhindranwale is near canonisation in the minds of many Sikhs today is because Bhindranwale's blood mingled with the blood of at least 400 pilgrims who died during Bluestar.'4
The fiery preacher, equally controversial in life and death, left behind several myths about himself, some made popular by well-wishers, others by detractors. The following is a countdown of the top five most enduring of the Bhindranwale fables.
Myth #5: Bhindranwale Survived Operation Bluestar and Is Alive and Well
Damdami Taksal is the influential religious school, once located in the village Bhinder5, where Bhindranwale was initially a student and eventually jathedar (head priest). The seminary's current jathedar, Thakur Singh, has continued to maintain that Bhindranwale is still alive.6
According to Lt. Gen. Kuldip Singh Brar, who commanded Operation Bluestar, '[the bodies] of Bhindranwale and Shahbeg were identified by a number of agencies including the police, the I.B. [Intelligence Bureau] and militants in our custody.'7 Bhindranwale's brother is also reported to have identified Bhindranwale's body.8 Pictures of what appears to be Bhindranwale's body have been published in at least two widely circulated books.9,10
Whereas there can be little doubt that Bhindranwale is no more, the circumstances of his final moments remain shrouded in mystery. The New York Times reported three distinct versions of Bhindranwale's death.
Veteran B.B.C. correspondent Mark Tully relates an incident during Bhindranwale's funeral. Captain Bhardwaj 'on lifting the sheet to make sure it was Bhindranwale [asked] the police why the Sant's [Sant is an honorific title analogous to Saint] body was so badly battered.' A police officer replied, 'The extremists broke his bones.'11
At the other end of the spectrum lies Dilbir Singh's account. Dilbir Singh was 'Public Relations Advisor at Guru Nanak Dev University for seven years [and] was with the Sant constantly from 1978 until the last week of his life.' He was also 'at that time a correspondent of the Tribune and formerly of the Patriot.' He stated, 'In the fight Bhindranwale was injured on the right side of his temple. A government doctor verified he was captured alive. He was tortured to death.'12
R.K. Bajaj, a correspondent for Surya magazine, is said to have confirmed that 'he had personally seen a photograph of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in army custody.'13
Myth #4: Bhindranwale Was a Man of Religion Without Political Ambition
Bhindranwale made repeated claims to the effect that he had no interest in political power, 'If I ever become president of the Akali Dal or the S.G.P.C. [Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee], an M.L.A., a government minister, or a member of parliament . . . I shall deserve a shoe-beating by you.'14,15
In contrast, we have the following examples of Bhindranwale's abundant political aspirations year after year:
* During the S.G.P.C. elections of 1979, 'Of the forty candidates Bhindranwale put up [for a total of 140 seats], all but four were defeated.'16
* 'For all his protestations that he was not a politician, Bhindranwale campaigned actively for the Congress in three constituencies' during the 1980 general elections.17
* During the 1981 elections to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (D.S.G.P.C.), 'in an attempt to divide Akali votes, the Congress (I) had asked the A.I.S.S.F. [All India Sikh Students Federation] to put up candidates for the Delhi gurdwaras whose campaign was led by Sant Bhindranwale. No A.I.S.S.F. candidate won.'18
* At one point in 1983, the Talwandi-Tohra faction of the Akali Dal got a section of the S.G.P.C. to recommend Bhindranwale for the position of jathedar of the Akal Takht.19
* According to India Today, in the months leading up to Operation Bluestar about a third of Longowal's S.G.P.C. members and district Akali Dal presidents had 'defected' to Bhindranwale.20
* The Darbar Sahib's Public Relations Officer (P.R.O.) Narinderjit Singh Nanda recalled, 'Bhindranwale told me that within thirty days he was taking over the S.G.P.C.'21
However, given his poor record in electoral politics and a disinclination to play by the rules, he had little incentive to seek formal political office. He was already 'the uncrowned emperor.'22 As articulated by Time magazine, 'Bhindranwale had become so popular he had usurped the Akalis' authority.'23 He wielded more informal power than all of Punjab's formal political players combined and liked the idea of 'keeping all factions chasing his favor [whereby] no faction made a move in Punjab without considering the response it would draw from Bhindranwale.'24
Bhindranwale operated 'from inside a whale,'25 seemingly without concern for other points of view. 'In this independence lay much of Bhindranwale's appeal.'26 Yet, the same aloofness also represented his most significant weakness: a failure to participate in the democratic process.
'Villagers came to him with their problems, Bhindranwale pronounced judgments and called frightened policemen on the telephone to instruct them on how a matter was to be settled.'27
Subhash Kirpekar was 'perhaps the last journalist to meet the lion in his den.' During the interview Bhindranwale responded thus to a question on succession planning, 'It is not an elective post. I think whosoever attains the status of God will come up as my successor.'28
Myth #3: Bhindranwale Did Not Demand Khalistan
In the absence of a universally accepted definition of the term 'Khalistan,' the usage here is consistent with its origin wherein Dr. Vir Singh Bhatti envisioned it in 1940 as a 'theocratic' monarchy, which would by definition be inconsistent with the Indian Constitution.29
Bhindranwale's standard response to the question of Khalistan, an independent Sikh state, was noncommittal: 'we are not in favor of Khalistan nor are we against it.'30 He often also clarified that if Khalistan came about, 'We won't reject it. We shall not repeat the mistake of 1947.'31 To that he added, 'if the Indian Government invaded the Darbar Sahib complex, the foundation for an independent Sikh state will have been laid.'32
The book Fighting for Faith and Nation: Dialogues with Sikh Militants by Cynthia Keppley Mahmood has received wide acceptance among radical Sikhs. In the book, Harpal Singh recalls a meeting with Bhindranwale during which the preacher remarked, 'staying in India would mean the genocide of the Sikhs.'33 The implication that anything short of a separate state would spell eventual disaster for the Sikhs amounted to an implicit vote for Khalistan. On other occasions Bhindranwale was more explicit, 'Frankly, I don't think the Sikhs can live with or within India.'34
The Dal Khalsa, responsible for hoisting a Khalistan flag at a Sikh convention on March 20, 1982 at Anandpur Sahib, were seen forming a protective ring around Bhindranwale when, in 1981, he was holding the police at bay at Chowk Mehta in an attempt to avoid arrest.35 Although 'Bhindranwale was never openly associated with the Dal Khalsa,' most observers regarded it as 'Bhindranwale's party.'36
In early 1983, India's intelligence is said to have obtained a copy of a letter from Bhindranwale to Jagjit Singh Chauhan in which he promised full support for Khalistan.37
Finally, while we're on the subject, we might as well also cover one other related myth, i.e. that Khalistan has never had any substantial support amongst Sikhs in India. In an interview with B.B.C. correspondent Mark Tully just days before his death, S.G.P.C. President Gurcharan Singh Tohra answered a question about his personal views on Khalistan by admitting that 'some personal desires are better kept hidden.'38 According to Ved Marwah, a former senior police officer on Indira Gandhi's 'select committee for monitoring Punjab affairs,' a majority of the Sikhs supported separatism in the wake of Operation Bluestar.39 In a recent interview,40 Lt. Gen. Kuldip Singh Brar estimated that if Khalistan had been declared prior to Operation Bluestar, 'a large section of the Punjab police might have crossed over to support Bhindranwale.'
Overly optimistic claims by pro-India commentators that the Sikhs have 'moved on' are consistently belied by informed parties who note, '[Operation Bluestar] has not been forgotten, and you [the visitor] will find many people in Amritsar keen to explain the Sikh side of the story.'41
Myth #2: Only a Tiny Minority of Sikhs Revere Bhindranwale as a Martyr
In Khushwant Singh's words, '[Operation Bluestar] gave the movement for Khalistan its first martyr in Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.'42
In 1985, Harkishan Singh Surjeet had optimistically announced that Bhindranwale's martyr status would only be 'temporary.'43
However, on this day last year, Joginder Singh Vedanti, the jathedar of the Akal Takht, an approximate Sikh counterpart to the Vatican, formally declared Bhindranwale a 'martyr' and awarded his son, Ishar Singh, a siropa (robe of honor).44 The function was organized by the S.G.P.C., 'a sort of parliament of the Sikhs.'45
The Encyclopedia of Sikhism, edited by Harbans Singh, a widely respected scholar of Sikh studies, describes Bhindranwale as 'a phenomenal figure of modern Sikhism.'46
Bhindranwale's posters and speeches are among the 'most popular' items at Punjab's rural fairs, held on occasions such as the Hola Mohalla festival.47
Gurtej Singh Brar, a former I.A.S. officer and S.G.P.C. National Professor of Sikhism, was suspended from the I.A.S. for making the following statement: 'The Sikh nation theory has been current among the Sikhs since the time of Guru Nanak. There should be others like Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to lead the Sikhs and take up their cause of righteousness and truth.'48
Several North American gurdwaras prominently display Bhindranwale's pictures at entrances and in langar (community kitchen) halls. This writer has personally witnessed the phenomenon at gurdwaras in Detroit, Michigan and Toronto, Ontario (see picture).
In the words of Vir Sanghvi, one of India's leading political commentators, '[Bhindranwale] remains a martyr in the eyes of many Sikhs. Even today, rare is the Sikh politician who will dare to call him what he was: a fanatic and a murderer.'49
Myth #1: Bhindranwale Was Not a Terrorist
In 1985, Citizens for Democracy (C.F.D.), founded by Jayaprakash Narayan and chaired by the noted civil libertarian Justice V.M. Tarkunde, produced a report on the Punjab crisis. The report, banned in India because of its strong indictment of the state, has received wide acceptance within the diaspora Sikh community despite its acknowledgement of 'Bhindranwale's role in inciting violence.'50
Violent thoughts seemed second nature to Bhindranwale. He often made extremely cruel remarks with utmost sincerity, 'If a true Sikh drinks, he should be burnt alive.'51 Tavleen Singh discovered that in Bhindranwale's darbar (court), 'concepts like non-violence were mocked and sneering remarks made about Gandhi.'52 Perhaps Khushwant Singh said it best, 'He well understood that hate was a stronger passion than love.'53
Although the 'mad monk'54 was politically astute enough to recant vicious statements made in the heat of the moment, it is instructive to note just how bellicose he was when aroused.
* Harmit Singh Batra was in the Darbar Sahib complex on April 13, 1978 and quotes Bhindranwale, 'We will not allow this Nirankari convention to take place. We are going to march there and cut them to pieces!'55
* Following the clash with the Nirankaris on April 13, 1978, the 'Sant' and his cohorts were always armed. Bhindranwale often publicly recited his mantra, 'being armed, there is no sin greater than not seeking justice.'56 And they perceived plenty of injustice all around, which they rectified with the use of illegal force.
* After the assassination of the Nirankari leader Gurbachan Singh on April 24, 1980, Bhindranwale is universally acknowledged to have remarked that if he ever met Ranjit Singh, the suspected killer, he would weigh him in gold (i.e. reward him with his weight in gold).57
* On October 22, 1982, Bhindranwale made a public statement threatening the 'political and physical end' of anyone who didn't press for the full implementation of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution.58
* On August 17, 1983, Bhindranwale asked Sikh youth to buy a motorcycle and a revolver and threatened to kill 5,000 Hindus in an hour if the police delayed the minibus he had sent to fetch Amrik Singh who had just been released from police custody.59
* During a speech on September 20, 1983, Bhindranwale stated clearly that he would 'embrace' Sikhs who exacted revenge upon those who were guilty of torturing, killing, or humiliating Sikhs. He said, 'Getting away from there is your job, protecting you here [in the Darbar Sahib complex] is mine.'60
* On November 17, 1983, Bhindranwale bluntly demanded 'that all Hindus should leave Punjab.'61
* During a public speech delivered on May 24, 1984 at the Darbar Sahib complex, Bhindranwale openly admitted his complicity in the gruesome beheading of Surinder Singh Chinda for his role in the elimination of Bhindranwale's leading hit man, Surinder Singh Sodhi.62
Even Bhindranwale's staunchest supporters only go as far as stating, 'Bhindranwale consistently opposed violence against any innocent person.'63 The autocratic Bhindranwale had assumed singular jurisdiction over the guilt and innocence of a good portion of India's citizens. And to him lethal violence was a justified means of punishment for those whom he considered culpable. He was the legislature, executive and judiciary all rolled into one with complete disregard for the democratic concept of the separation of powers. The result was nothing short of 'ethnic cleansing.'64
Dilbir Singh (see above) related the following account of how masterfully Bhindranwale ordered the killing of Lala Jagat Narain, proprietor-editor of the Hind Samachar group of newspapers:
And in one edition Lala had written in an editorial comment that Taura [Tohra, then president of the S.G.P.C.] and Ajnoha [then jathedar of the Akal Takht] are traitors. On that day in a great fury he [Bhindranwale] called upon someone to read aloud what Lala had said. There was quiet. 'Our turban has been torn from our heads,' he proclaimed. Then one of his followers asked, 'What are your orders?' Again in anger, he said 'Orders, you need orders! What orders? Are you blind?' Now you see he did not say anything. And they said it. 'O.K.' meaning thereby, we'll finish this man. So, then, 3-4 days later, Lala was coming from Ludhiana and they fired upon him.65
According to Chand Joshi, a veteran correspondent for The Hindustan Times, 'In the Nirankari Baba murder case, for instance, the C.B.I. claimed to have pin-pointed four suspects including Jarnail Singh Brar alias Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The arrest warrants had been given to the Punjab police but were not served because of 'orders from the highest quarters.' '66
It is worth noting, 'The decision to release Bhindranwale was taken by the [Indira Gandhi and Zail Singh] government. It was not the verdict of a court.'67
Finally, it is impossible to accept that the people closest to Bhindranwale could consistently perpetrate monstrous violence without his endorsement.
* Nachhatar Singh, arrested by the police for the murder of Lala Jagat Narain, is said to have fingered Bhindranwale for ordering the killing.68
* The hijackers of an Indian Airlines plane on September 20, 1981 claimed to be members of the Dal Khalsa and demanded the release of Bhindranwale, who had been arrested in connection with the murder of Lala Jagat Narain.69 In a speech, Bhindranwale 'praised his young lieutenants' for the hijacking.70
* On July 18, 1982, a police party from the Beas Thana in Amritsar district stopped a jeep. Most of the occupants were residents of Bhindranwale's gurdwara Gurdarshan Parkash at Chowk Mehta. They attacked the police and were arrested. No case was initiated.71
* The next day, Amrik Singh, Bhindranwale's most trusted lieutenant, and six close associates of Bhindranwale, including Bhindranwale's personal driver Kulwant Singh, were arrested for an attempt on the life of Joginder Singh Sandhu, the Nirankari Mandal's propaganda secretary.72
In closing, here is a sampling of additional points to ponder:
# Whereas 'nobody was ever refused an interview,'73 he refused to surrender to anyone but sufficiently orthodox Sikh policemen.74
# While he professed the highest standards of Sikhism, he practiced gender discrimination.75
# Although he viewed modernity as evil, he had no compunctions about using modern firearms.
# Whereas many Sikhs regard him as a 'messiah,'76 his 1984 prophecy failed to materialize: 'In the next ten years Sikhs will get their liberation. This will definitely happen.'77
Bhindranwale might well be the most polarizing figure in Sikh history. This essay acknowledges his numerous advocates but makes no apologies for expounding on the preacher's flaws. To the extent that the Sikhs revere him as a prophet and a martyr, his contradictions are likely to be emblematic of the paradoxes that inflict the Sikh community as whole. To grapple with Bhindranwale's inconsistencies is to critically evaluate the state of Sikhism today.
Surain Singh Dhanoa was the senior-most bureaucrat in Punjab during the years immediately following Operation Bluestar.78 His viewpoint is representative of the denial that causes many in India to place responsibility for Operation Bluestar squarely at Bhindranwale's doorstep. According to Dhanoa, 'There would have been no Operation Bluestar [if] Bhindranwale had moved out of the Golden Temple complex.'79
However, Dhanoa and others fail to acknowledge New Delhi's primary role in the brinkmanship and lost opportunities prior to Operation Bluestar. Instances include the critical roles played by Sanjay Gandhi and Zail Singh of the ruling Congress party in 'promoting' Bhindranwale as a counterweight to the Akali Dal,80 the government's failure to arrest Bhindranwale even when he 'openly flouted the law' while touring New Delhi with an entourage 'brandishing illegal arms,'81 and Indira Gandhi's propensity for backing out of agreements (at one point 'three times in six months'82).83
Responsibility for Operation Bluestar and the 'dark decade'84 (mid-1980s to mid-1990s) that followed ought to be apportioned in proportion to the formal political powers and electoral mandates enjoyed by the parties involved: one, the various New Delhi administrations, mostly Congress-led; two, the various governments in Punjab, led by the Akali Dal, Congress, or New Delhi-appointed governors; three, the S.G.P.C.; and four, at the very bottom of the culpability scale, those, such as Bhindranwale, who held informal power only to the extent permitted by the inability and unwillingness of those wielding formal power to solve Punjab's problems.
Notes and References
1. Mahmood, Cynthia Keppley, Fighting for Faith and Nation: Dialogues with Sikh Militants (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), p. 69.
2. Mahmood, pp. 241-243.
3. Tully, Mark, 'After Blue Star,' Part 2, B.B.C., June 2004
4. Singh, Patwant and Harji Malik (editors), Punjab: The Fatal Miscalculation (New Delhi: Patwant Singh, 1985), p. 219.
5. Singh, Khushwant, A History of the Sikhs, Volume 2: 1839-1988 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 328.
6. Kaur, Naunidhi, Frontline, June 23, 2001 ().
7. Brar, Lt. Gen. K.S., Operation Blue Star: The True Story (New Delhi: U.B.S.P.D., 1993), p. 114.
8. Akbar, M.J., India: The Siege Within: Challenges to a Nation's Unity (New Delhi: U.B.S.P.D., 1996), p. 196.
9. Nayar, Kuldip and Khushwant Singh, Tragedy of Punjab: Operation Bluestar and After (New Delhi: Vision Books, 1984), p. 97.
10. Tully, Mark and Satish Jacob, Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi's Last Battle (New Delhi: Rupa & Co, 1985), p. 177.
11. Tully, p. 182.
12. Pettigrew, Joyce, The Sikhs of the Punjab: Unheard Voices of State and Guerrilla Violence (London: Zed Books, 1995), pp. 34-35, 51.
13. Jaijee, Inderjit Singh, Politics of Genocide: Punjab (1984-1998) (Delhi: Ajanta Publications, 1999), p. 59.
14. Sandhu, Ranbir Singh, Struggle for Justice: Speeches and Conversations of Sant Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale (Dublin, Ohio: Sikh Educational & Religious Foundation, 1999), p. 285.
15. Tully, p. 113.
16. Singh, Khushwant, p. 332.
17. Tully, p. 61.
18. Joshi, Chand, Bhindranwale: Myth and Reality (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1984), p. 85.
19. Joshi, p. 130.
20. India Today, May 15, 1984, pp. 30-31, cited in Paul Wallace and Surendra Chopra, Political Dynamics and Crisis in Punjab, (Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev University, 1988), p. 39.
21. Tully, p. 202.
22. Joshi, p. 26.
23. Lopez, Laura, 'India, Diamonds and the Smell of Death,' Time, June 25, 1984.
24. Jeffrey, Robin, What's Happening to India?, Second Edition (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1994), pp. 146-147.
25. Mahmood, p. 249.
26. Jeffrey, p. 142.
27. Jeffrey, p. 168.
28. Kaur, Amarjit, et al, The Punjab Story (New Delhi: Roli Books International, 1984), pp. 76-78.
29. Grewal, J.S., 'Sikh Identity, the Akalis and Khalistan,' in J.S. Grewal and Indu Banga, Punjab in Prosperity and Violence: Administration, Politics and Social Change 1947-1997 (Chandigarh: Institute of Punjab Studies, 1998), p. 65. This paragraph was added in response to a clarification sought by Hari Singh Khalsa of Española, New Mexico.
30. Sandhu, p. vi.
31. Sandhu, p. lvi.
32. Sandhu, p. lvii.
33. Mahmood, p. 128.
34. Jaijee, p. 34.
35. Joshi, p. 34.
36. Tully, p. 60.
37. Joshi, p. 129.
38. Tully, Mark, 'After Blue Star,' Part 3, British Broadcasting Corporation, June 2004.
39. Jaijee, p. 30.
40. Rediff, June 3, 2004.
41. Pippa de Bruyn and Keith Bain, Frommer's India (Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2004), p. 387.
42. Singh, Khushwant, p. 378.
43. Interview with Nikhil Laxman of The Illustrated Weekly of India, reproduced in Samiuddin, Abida, editor, The Punjab Crisis: Challenge and Response, (New Delhi: Mittal Publications, 1985).
44. The Times of India and Outlook, June 7, 2003; Don't React, Editorial, The Indian Express, June 9, 2003.
45. Singh, Khushwant, p. 214.
46. Singh, Harbans (editor-in-chief), The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, Volume II (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1996), p. 352.
47. Jolly, Asit, Reporting from Chandigarh, Punjab, B.B.C., March 31, 2002 ().
48. Joshi, p. 1.
49. Imprint magazine, February 1986, cited in Sandhu, p. xl.
50. Rao, Amiya, et al, Report to the Nation: Oppression in Punjab (Columbus, Ohio: Sikh Religious and Educational Trust, 1986), p. 16.
51. Akbar, p. 181.
52. Kaur, Amarjit, et al, p. 39.
53. Singh, Khushwant, pp. 330-331.
54. Joshi, inside front cover jacket.
55. Tully, p. 59.
56. Sandhu, p. vi.
57. Sandhu, p. vi.
58. Joshi, p. 120.
59. Joshi, p. 144; Sandhu, p. 256.
60. Sandhu, p. 286.
61. Joshi, pp. 148-149.
62. Sandhu, p. 471.
63. Sandhu, p. xxi.
64. Cole, W. Owen and Piara Singh Sambhi, The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Second Fully Revised Edition, (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1998), p. 176.
65. Pettigrew, p. 34.
66. Joshi, p. 78.
67. Tully, p. 69.
68. Joshi, p. 88.
69. Joshi, p. 91.
70. Juergensmeyer, Mark, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, Third Edition, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003, p. 100.
71. Joshi, p. 115.
72. Joshi, p. 115.
73. Singh, Tavleen in Amarjit Kaur, et al, p. 34.
74. Joshi, p. 34.
75. This is a reference to Bhindranwale's insistence that Indira Gandhi, being a woman, should be the one to visit him for negotiations.
76. Singh, Tavleen in Amarjit Kaur, et al, p. 41.
77. Akbar, M.J., India: The Siege Within: Challenges to a Nation's Unity (New Delhi: U.B.S.P.D.), 1985, p. 185, cited in Harjot Oberoi's essay 'Sikh Fundamentalism: Translating History into Theory' in Fundamentalisms and the State: Remaking Polities, Economies, and Militance edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), p. 268.
78. Surain Singh Dhanoa, an Indian Administrative Service (I.A.S.) officer from the Bihar cadre, served as chief secretary of Punjab until mid-1985 when he was appointed as senior advisor to the governor of Punjab, India Today, May 31, 1985, p. 17.
79. Dhanoa, S.S., 'Memorial to Bluestar,' The Tribune, June 15, 2005.
80. Tully, p. 60.
81. Tully, p. 70.
82. Harkishan Singh Surjeet, quoted in Tully, p. 91.
83. The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Jagpal Singh Tiwana, a leader of the Sikh community in Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada), in framing this argument via his comments on Sikh-Diaspora, Yahoo! Groups, June 17, 2005.
84. Grewal, Manraj, Dreams After Darkness: A Search for a Life Ordinary Under the Shadow of 1984 (New Delhi: Rupa & Co, 2004), p. 1.
Re: facts and Myths about Bhindranwala
oh common this is ages old article and has been logically discussed many times on different forums...and logical conclusions have been drawn...dont just indulge in copying and pasting from the internet...you will find one article against somebody and i will produce 10 in support of that person...even if i dont know that person at all...so better do research like an independent journalist...this topic is far more serious and requires lots and lots of research...and my dear friend copy paste is not a research by any stretch of imagination...!
Re: facts and Myths about Bhindranwala
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Re: facts and Myths about Bhindranwala
Baba Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwale was a prominent Sikh preacher and a leader during the late 70s and early 80s. He led the Sikh community during one of the most crucial times of the Sikh history when the Indian government was using every tactic in the book to disunite the Sikhs. He was a man of principles who lived his life according to the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib Ji. His bravery, fearlessness, and true character were loved by the masses in the Sikh community. His preaching and speeches illuminated a hope of freedom in the people of Punjab.
The government launched an attack on full scale to crush the same hope of freedom which resulted in martyrdom of Baba Jarnail Singh, destruction of several Gurdwaras, dishonor of women and deaths of thousands of innocent Sikhs including women and children. Subsequent to the attack, he came to be known as a true martyr. His popularity and fame was seen as a “threat” by the central government. To slander his true character and reputation the government used media, press, and television to spread misinformation about him and labeled him as a “terrorist”. Unfortunately, some ignorant people have started to believe in such misinformation one of which is Puneet Lamba who has written an article “Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale: Five Myths” in which he has tried very unsuccessfully to prove that Baba Jarnail Singh was a terrorist. This article is written for the purpose of responding to his misconceptions and clearing the doubts raised by him in the minds of the Sikhs.
Baba Jarnail Singh sacrificed while defending Darbar Shaib which makes him a martyr and a respected true hero in the eyes of the majority of the people in the Sikh community. So “Myth 5” and “Myth 2” are only myths and not facts. However, other three “myths” are nothing but cooked up lies and gross misinterpretation of Lamba. Let’s take a look at each of the “myths”.
Myth 4 – Religion and Politics
Mr. Lamba fails to recognize the ‘Miri Piri’ concept in Sikhi. While Darbar Sahib is the religious sovereignty of the Sikhs, Akal Takhat Sahib is the seat of Sikh polity and a powerful symbol of Sikh sovereignty which stands right in front of Darbar Sahib. Although Baba Jarnail Singh had no ambition to become a political leader he never overlooked the importance of having political power. In his speeches he clearly stated that he had no wish to become a political leader.  By saying the above he only represented himself not anyone else in his group or his associates.
The purpose of having his associates run for political seats was to have a representation of the Sikh community on political level. His mission was clearly stated by him in one of his speeches “to take Amrit, read Bani, give up intoxicants, preach unity and be attached to Guru Granth Sahib only and encourage others to do the same”.
To say that Baba Jarnail Singh had no link with politics is highly foolish. Throughout his career he demanded the government to accept Sikhi as a separate religion and the Anandpur Resolution of 1973. Both required modifications in the Indian Constitution which clearly is a political move. According to Dr. A. R. Darshi “His main aim was not simply to bull doze the Nirankari offensive but also to strive for implementation of Anandpur Sahib Resolution adopted by the Akali Dal in 1973. And if the union government refused to concede that demand then to aspire for independent state as was promised by the Indian National Congress before attainment of independence in 1947.” 
A religious man like Baba Jarnail Singh cared for his community and had realized that the Sikh community needed political representation in the government so that legitimate decisions could be made by the government concerning the Sikhs. He had studied the Sikh philosophy according to which religion perishes without political sovereignty. He himself never wanted to become a political leader but he never discouraged other Sikhs from entering into politics.
Myth 3 – Baba Jarnail Singh and Khalistan
Baba Jarnail Singh was a saint-soldier of Guru Sahib and was fully aware of the Sikh tenets. According to the Sikh philosophy “Religion perishes without political sovereignty”.  Baba Jarnail Singh openly spoke against the police atrocities on innocent Sikhs and dishonor of the Sikh women. In his speeches he mentioned numerous times that Sikhs were being treated as slaves and inferior to Hindus. Witnessing the atrocities how could any moral person sit around and support the Indian government? His demands were clear and bold.
“We wish to live in Hindustan. We wish to live as equal citizens. The Center should tell us whether it wants to keep us with it or not. If the Center wants to keep us with it, it should give us our full rights according to the sacrifices we have made…If it wishes, it can keep us with it or if it wishes, it can call us terrorists and extremists and separate us. It is their job. Don't put the blame on us.” 
Hence, it is clear that Baba Jarnail Singh never opposed the demand of Khalistan. What he supported was equality, freedom and life of dignity as first class citizens.
“If they keep us with them, among them, we shall not accept living as second class citizens. We shall live as first class citizens and work as equal partners.” 
He very well knew that the government would never agree to this and would never change the Constitution in which under Article 25 Sikhs are classed as Hindus. The demand for Khalistan was neither against the Sikh philosophy nor was it opposed by the Sikh community. Guru Sahib himself established many cities, lived like a King and Sikhs called Him “The True King”. This was not any different than establishing an independent state for the Sikh community. Sikhs like Baba Banda Singh, Nawaab Kapoor Singh, Sardar Jassa Singh, Sikh Misls and many others had established the Sikh rule. Baba Jarnail Singh supported a country in which Sikhs could enjoy equal rights and have freedom be it in India or Khalistan. By not listening to the Sikh demands and attacking the Sikh Gurdwaras the Indian government sent a clear message to the Sikh community that there was no place for them in India as first class citizens.
Myth 1 – Baba Jarnail Singh and Terrorism
Baba Jarnail Singh was a true Sikh who lived his life according to Sikh beliefs. For him "Physical Death I do not fear, Death of the Conscience is a Sure Death" was the way to live. He opposed the brutality of the Indian government against the Sikhs and for this very reason was branded as a “terrorist”. The government considered every Amritdhari (baptized) Sikh a terrorist and threat to the Nation.
Baba Jarnail Singh preached the teachings of Guru Sahib which was to keep arms and rehat. By spreading the message of Guru Sahib he did nothing wrong. According to Dr. A. R. Darshi “Ideology professed and advocated by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was not entirely new. It was exactly the same as enunciated by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and developed by Guru Hargobind Ji and Guru Gobind Singh Ji…..what Sant Bhindranwale did was that he revived the true tenets of the Khalsa and gave it a new dimension.” 
Baba Jarnail Singh started preaching the Sikh beliefs as taught by Guru Sahib. A significant increase in the number of Sikhs was seen as a threat to the “Indian unity” and the government used its entire media to malign his character in the public. Unfortunately, Mr. Lamba fell for this trap. We shall see that Lamba had purposely ignored and kept quiet about all the brutalities and tortures by the Indian officials on Sikhs. Most of his arguments are based on hearsay not reliable facts. Answers to his statements (in red) are as follows:
Violent thoughts seemed second nature to Bhindranwale. He often made extremely cruel remarks with utmost sincerity, 'If a true Sikh drinks, he should be burnt alive’.
The statement is nowhere to be found in his speeches and has no reference. Even if we assume that such statement was said by him it was directed towards people who misrepresented the Sikh identity. The Indian government had hired many criminals known as “Cats” who disguised themselves as Sikhs, got drunk, and looted the public and raped women. Their only job was to humiliate the Sikhs. Why is Lamba forgetting that the tenth Guru Ji Himself burnt alive these kind of people? Had Baba Jarnail Singh been of violent nature he would’ve ordered his associates to kill non-Sikhs and rape their women but on the contrary it was the government that engaged in such activities.
Tavleen Singh discovered that in Bhindranwale's darbar (court), 'concepts like non-violence were mocked and sneering remarks made about Gandhi.
First of all, Gandhism concept of non-violence is not according to the teachings of Guru Sahib. The Sikh Gurus taught Sikhs to arm themselves and fight for their rights. This is why keeping of Kirpan (Sword) was made mandatory for all Sikhs. Not fighting for rights, honor of women and dignity of all might have been the idealistic views of Gandhi but is not the nature of Sikhs. Baba Jarnail Singh supported the same line of thinking and rejected Gandhism.
“Can those who are the sons of the valiant guru, whose symbol is the sword, ever accept a woman like Mahatma as their father? Those are the techniques of the weak, not of a race that has never bowed its head before any injustice - a race whose history is written in the blood of martyrs.” 
Bhindranwale advised, “To kill is bad but to have weapons and not fight for justice is worse.” 
In fact, it was Gandhi who mocked Guru Gobind Singh Ji and used foul language by calling him a “misguided patriot”.  If opposing Gandhi (a mere human being) makes Baba Jarnail Singh a terrorist then by the same argument opposing Guru Gobind Singh Ji (greatest of all) makes Gandhi even a greater terrorist. Baba Jarnail Singh spoke against non-violence that would prevent a person from protecting his honor and dignity. Gandhi was a racist person and responsible for millions of deaths during the partition in 1947. He betrayed the Sikh community. To expect any respect for Gandhi from the Sikhs is insane and highly irrational.
To learn about the true version of Gandhi, I suggest everyone to visit .
Harmit Singh Batra was in the Darbar Sahib complex on April 13, 1978 and quotes Bhindranwale, 'We will not allow this Nirankari convention to take place. We are going to march there and cut them to pieces!
The reference is highly biased and totally false. April 13th is a very auspicious day for the Sikhs. On this day ‘Nirankaris’ were carrying out anti-Sikh activities by insulting the Sikh tenets and Guru Granth Sahib. The government fully supported such campaign. Sikhs went to stop these activities in a peaceful protest but they were fired upon. 13 Sikhs were brutally killed and several other Sikhs were wounded. This peaceful march was sent by Baba Jarnail Singh. Even after the massacre of the Sikhs the matter was handled in legal ways. If he wanted to act in a violent way he would not have sent a peaceful march. According to Tavleen Singh:
"Contrary to the popular belief that he (Jarnail Singh) took the offensive, senior police sources in the Punjab admit that the provocation came in fact from a Nirankari official who started harassing Bhindranwale and his men. There were two or three Nirankaris in key positions in the Punjab in those days and they were powerful enough to be able to create quite a lot of trouble. The Nirankaris also received patronage from Delhi." (Tavleen Singh: Terrorists in the Temple, in The Punjab Story, edited by Amarjit Kaur et al., Roli Books, New Delhi, 1984, page 32.)
I highly doubt Lamba ever tried to verify Batra’s sayings.
After the assassination of the Nirankari leader Gurbachan Singh on April 24, 1980, Bhindranwale is universally acknowledged to have remarked that if he ever met Ranjit Singh, the suspected killer, he would weigh him in gold (i.e. reward him with his weight in gold).
Gurbachna was not an innocent person. He was killed for insulting Sikhi and speaking blatantly against the Sikh Gurus. He killed many Sikhs and the government always took his side. He killed 13 Sikhs in 1978 on the Sikh holy day. He desecrated Guru Granth Sahib and claimed himself to be greater than the Sikh Gurus. He even wrote books against the Sikh Gurus containing fake information. The government failed to deliver justice and showed no respect for the Sikh religion. Ranjit Singh’s action was accepted and honored by the Sikh community. If the government can honor its soldiers for killing the enemy then why can’t the Sikh community honor its fellow brothers for punishing its enemies?
On August 17, 1983, Bhindranwale asked Sikh youth to buy a motorcycle and a revolver.
This is true but Lamba’s motives are to misrepresent Baba Jarnail Singh’s image so expecting him to look at the facts would be a mistake. Why exactly did Baba Jarnail Singh say these words? Because everyone had realized the fact that instead of serving the justice the government was killing innocent Sikhs and filing no cases. Disappearance of Sikh youth in Punjab had become very common. Hindus in other states were forcibly cutting Sikhs’ hair and insulting the Sikh identity. The final option left was to buy weapons to protect themselves as instructed by Guru Sahib. If the government won’t do the job then people have the complete rights do it themselves. During Mughal Empire, Guru Sahib bought horses and weapons and instructed the Sikhs to do the same. He raised an army and taught Sikhs to always fight for justice.
By following the concept of Miri Piri and asking Sikhs to follow the teachings of Guru Sahib (raising arms) he had done nothing wrong. According to Dr. A.R. Darshi “The tradition of arming the Sikhs was introduced by Guru Hargobind Ji…He then instructed the Sikhs to offer him weapons and horses instead of money. He accepted weapons and horses at Akal Takhat Sahib from His followers…..Sant Bhindranwale simply revived this tradition in letter and spirit and gave it a new dimension by substituting revolvers and guns with swords and spears and motor cycle with horse. He therefore did not commit any offense by following the Gurus. The cynics may criticize him for revival of the age old tradition of the Khalsa.”
What Sant Jarnail Singh preached was totally in accordance to Sikh principles. He preached Sikhs to defend themselves and fight for justice. According to him "A Sikh is never an oppressor but only defends himself and his people. I have never, he said, initiated any attack with my tongue or my pen or with my sword. I only answer back or retaliate to actions initiated by the enemies of the Sikhs." 
Baba Jarnail Singh made it clear in his speeches that by keeping and carrying weapons it is a sin to dishonor women and harm innocent people but it is a greater sin to keep weapons and not fight for rights, honor and dignity. 
I ask Mr. Lamba to prove how asking Sikhs to arm themselves was against Sikhi? Sikhs were armed by the Sikh Gurus themselves and asking them to follow the instructions of Guru Sahib can only be wrong in the eyes of ignorant people. If carrying weapons to defend honor and justice and to fight for truth makes one a terrorist then what does one have to do to become a patriot? Do today’s governments not arm their countrymen? Why are they not called terrorist countries?
During a speech on September 20, 1983, Bhindranwale stated clearly that he would 'embrace' Sikhs who exacted revenge upon those who were guilty of torturing, killing, or humiliating Sikhs. He said, 'Getting away from there is your job, protecting you here [in the Darbar Sahib complex] is mine.
May I ask what is wrong with such a statement? Since when did punishing the murderers, rapists and killers become an act of terrorism? It has been stated before that the government was not only not arresting the criminals but giving them the full support to rape and kill Sikhs. Under such circumstances if Sikhs won’t take the matters into their own hands and punish the criminals then who will? What exactly does Lamba expect? Should Sikhs have stayed in their homes quietly waiting for these criminals to show up at their doors to rape their women while police stood watching? Lamba is a big fool to be thinking in that manner. He should’ve studied little bit of Sikh history before writing an article misrepresenting a true Sikh hero. If justice is not served then Sikhs know how to deliver it.
“It is an age old tradition of the Khalsa to fight the tyrants and not to submit themselves to tyranny. If thus the Congress government contemptuously branded them as a lawless people and oppressed them they are justified to meet arms with arms.” 
On November 17, 1983, Bhindranwale bluntly demanded 'that all Hindus should leave Punjab.
It is very idiotic to be quoting a Hindu who is extremely against Sikhs. Baba Jarnail Singh made no such claims. In fact it was Hindu leaders and politicians who said that all Sikhs outside of Punjab will be killed. Hindu organizations like Shiv Sena raised many anti-Sikh slogans such as “We are not going to let any second or third group exist, we are not going to let a turban remain on any head”.  Chief Minister of Punjab, Darbara Singh, stated that he will crush all Sikhs demanding the recognition of their distinct identity. Bhajan Lal, Chief Minister of Haryana and Keval Krishan claimed to forcibly kick out all the Sikhs living outside of Punjab.  Lamba seems to have turned his back on that. Why?
And in one edition Lala had written in an editorial comment that Taura [Tohra, then president of the S.G.P.C.] and Ajnoha [then jathedar of the Akal Takht] are traitors. On that day in a great fury he [Bhindranwale] called upon someone to read aloud what Lala had said. There was quiet. 'Our turban has been torn from our heads,' he proclaimed. Then one of his followers asked, 'What are your orders?' Again in anger, he said 'Orders, you need orders! What orders? Are you blind?' Now you see he did not say anything. And they said it. 'O.K.' meaning thereby, we'll finish this man. So, then, 3-4 days later, Lala was coming from Ludhiana and they fired upon him.
Twisting words seems to be another talent of Lamba. The editor Lala (person who was killed) had printed anti-Sikh pictures and wrote derogatory comments about the Sikh Gurus. He openly printed insulting comments on Sikh identity for years. He also stated that all Sikhs in Haryana (neighboring state of Punjab) will be killed. He vehemently supported the anti-Sikh groups such as Nirankaris. Not only that, he even appeared as a star defense witness and gave a false statement against the Sikhs. Yet the government did nothing. Instead the government provided him with its security forces. It was his preposterous propaganda and outrageous actions against Sikhism that provoked and angered the Sikh youth to such an extent that two of them gunned him down in broad day light in 1981 while he was traveling in his car from Ludhiana to Jalandhar. 
Baba Jarnail Singh gave no orders to kill him. He was arrested under suspicion but later released since the government had no concrete evidence to arrest him or prove him guilty. 
Nachhatar Singh, arrested by the police for the murder of Lala Jagat Narain, is said to have fingered Bhindranwale for ordering the killing.
According to A.R. Darshi “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 for over a month.”  Perhaps now Lamba should study the other side of the story and not take every word of the government and its puppets blindly.
The hijackers of an Indian Airlines plane on September 20, 1981 claimed to be members of the Dal Khalsa and demanded the release of Bhindranwale, who had been arrested in connection with the murder of Lala Jagat Narain. In a speech, Bhindranwale 'praised his young lieutenants' for the hijacking.
Sikh hijackers hijacked a plane not for Baba Jarnail Singh but in protest against violation and insults of the Sikhs and their rights. After he was arrested, the police killed 200 Sikhs and burnt copies of Sikh Holy Scriptures. In protest, the plane was hijacked. No passenger was harmed and the plane landed safely on the Indian soil but all Sikh hijackers were punished. On the other hand when Panday brothers hijacked a plane demanding the release of Indira Gandhi they were awarded with high ranking positions. Is this justice? If hijacking a plane is wrong then why weren’t Panday brothers given the same punishment? Why is it that Sikhs are punished for the same action Hindus are awarded for? This incident showed that the government had more respect for a human (Indira Gandhi) than Guru Granth Sahib.
On July 18, 1982, a police party from the Beas Thana in Amritsar district stopped a jeep. Most of the occupants were residents of Bhindranwale's gurdwara Gurdarshan Parkash at Chowk Mehta. They attacked the police and were arrested. No case was initiated.
This is a fabricated story of the police to justify the arrests. Thousands of innocent Sikhs have been tortured and killed by the police in the name of “terrorism” but no cases were registered. This doesn’t mean the innocent ones who were killed are the real culprits. The police are the real criminal here since no case was registered. Otherwise, they would’ve exposed themselves.
Whilst the formally authorized Sikh code of conduct requires unshorn beards only for amrit-dhari (baptized) Sikh men, Bhindranwale demanded unshorn and open beards for all Sikh men
Sikh code of conduct requires open and unshorn beards for all Sikhs. Cutting or trimming hair is a taboo in Sikhi. According to Rehatnamas tying of beard is prohibited.
Whereas 'nobody was ever refused an interview, he refused to surrender to anyone but sufficiently orthodox Sikh policemen.
There is big difference between an interview and an arrest. During the arrest the Hindu police greatly insulted the Sikhs by taking off their turbans. Baba Jarnail Singh asked the Sikhs to arrest him to avoid insult. This was not an illegal action because the government accepted his demand.
While he professed the highest standards of Sikhism, he practiced gender discrimination.
Baba Jarnail Singh was a true Sikh. He preached the same message to men and women equally. He supported the practice of only Sikh men administering the baptism ceremony which is widely accepted by the Sikh community.
Although he viewed modernity as evil, he had no compunctions about using modern firearms.
What exactly is “modernity” that Lamba is talking about? If going against the principles of Sikhism is called “modernity” then yes he was against it. Keeping weapons is completely in accord with the Sikh teachings and has been part of the Sikh traditions for over 350 years.
Whereas many Sikhs regard him as a 'messiah, his 1984 prophecy failed to materialize: 'In the next ten years Sikhs will get their liberation. This will definitely happen.
Neither is Baba Jarnail Singh regarded as a messiah nor did he make such prophecy. He said “The day Indian army attacks Golden Temple; the foundation of Khalistan will be laid.” Lamba is only fooling himself to think that by using his invalid no proof rubbish he could convince Sikhs to start hating a true hero like Baba Jarnail Singh.
I close this rebuttal by appealing Mr. Lamba to study the life of Baba Jarnail Singh according to the Sikh philosophy not according to his point of view. He shouldn’t fall for Indian propaganda and for once use some rationality to confirm his hypothesis. Only then will he realize that Baba Jarnail Singh was an ideal Sikh who for the honor of Sikh Nation sacrificed his life. No terrorist has ever been praised or remembered by the Sikh Nation. If Baba Jarnail Singh was a terrorist he would not have been labeled as a “Shaheed” and given the title of “Sikh of 20th Century”. He was a man of vision and a great leader who in a very short period of time woke up the Sikh Nation to become conscious of their rights and sovereignty.
“Sant Bhindranwale was a genius and a born leader compared to Harchand Longowal. He had far greater vision and foresight. He had a remarkable inquisitive insight and intuitive power. He was a symbol of indomitable courage, valor and spiritual power…..Such a leader is born once in a while.” 
1) Ranbir Singh Sandhu, Struggle for Justice: Speeches and Conversations of Sant Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale, pg. 285
2) Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale: Speech on 22 February 1984
3) Dr. A.R. Darshi, The Gallant Defender, pg. 27
4) Gurbilas P: 10, Bhai Sukha Singh
5) Sandhu, pg. 112
6) Sandhu, pg. 211
7) Dr. A.R. Darshi, The Gallant Defender, pg. 52
8) Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale: Speech in 1983
9) Cynthia Mahmood, Fighting for Faith and Nation, pg. 46
10) Sachi Sakhi, Sardar Kapoor Singh, 74-76
11) Darshi, pg. 53
12) Harry Reasoner, CBS News 60 minutes, 10 June 1984
13) Sandhu, pg. 78
14) Darshi, pg. 67
15) Sandhu, pg. 278
16) Sandhu, pg. 77
17) Vir Sanghvi, The Giani and Bhindranwale, Imprint, February 1986.
18) Darshi, pg. 43
19) Darshi, pg. 45
20) Sandhu, pg. 77
21) Darshi, pg. 36