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Sikh or Terrorist: Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale

Bijla Singh                                                                                                                            Updated: January 24, 2015



Terrorists: Flushed-Out or Sent In?

    (i)  Was Sant Jarnail Singh a Terrorist?

    (ii)    Was the Attack a Last Resort?

    (iii)   Execution of the Attack

Illegal Weapons

    (i)  Weapons in Sikhism

    (ii)    Sanctity of Gurdwaras

    (iii)   Collection of Weapons

Advocating Violence

Religious or Political Figure

Political Separatism: Khalistan

Agent of Congress or Pakistan

    (i)  Links with Pakistan

    (ii)    Agent of Congress

Threat to Kill Hindus

Sant Ji and Akal Takhat

Last Words

Notes and References



Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale
Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale is an iconic figure whose name is well known to Sikhs worldwide. He is remembered as a true Sikh, saint, warrior, upholder of justice and a martyr. His extensive preaching of the Sikh religion, speeches on politics and exposing the barbarity of the Indian government earned him fame within Sikh circles. He was looked upon as a leader of the Sikhs who had reminded them of their glorious past, great sacrifices and bold feats of destroying oppression, tyranny and injustice. His words kindled and awakened the inner spirits of the Sikhs and caused them to realize their political and religious slavery at the hands of the Indian government. The reminder of Sikh history and religious tenets inspired the Sikh people to become true followers of their faith. People started to abandon drinking, smoking, cutting their hair and many other immoral practices. There was widespread adoption of the Sikh religion. All of this, however, did not at all suit those who were keen on seeing the complete downfall of the Sikhs and their complete amalgamation into the folds of Hinduism.

In order to destroy and subdue the Sikh movement; it became a pertinent task for the government to eliminate Sant Jarnail Singh as well as crush the Sikh awakening. As a result, an attack was launched under the name of Operation Blue Star in which holiest shrine of the Sikhs, Darbar Sahib (Sri Harmandar Sahib, Sri Akal Takhat Sahib and other places in the vicinity) as well as tens of Sikh Gurdwaras were attacked. Sant Jarnail Singh and many of his companions became martyrs defending the holy place. Thousands of Sikh visitors were killed and thousands were taken prisoners. Sikh Reference Library containing rare manuscripts, history books and literature was destroyed. The amount of damage caused to the Sikh religion was immense. It was an attack on Sikh spirit and sought to instill fear in the hearts of Sikhs with the intention of coercing them into accepting the rule of the Indian government and forsaking their freedom. It was no less than a holocaust.

However, the Indian government with the help of its paid writers and media resorted to propaganda to save its face and justify its heinous crimes. Being the proponents of the government, paid writers wrote scores of books and articles to malign the name of Sant Jarnail Singh by portraying him as a terrorist, and a violent and dangerous man. Many excuses were devised to misrepresent the Sikh movement and justify the attack and atrocities committed by the Indian military. As the common saying goes, repeat a lie often enough and people will believe it — uninformed people, including some Sikhs ignorant of the true facts, began to believe the lies of the government. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to refute misconceptions about Sant Jarnail Singh, examine many of the propaganda theories put forth by the government agents, bring the actual facts to the limelight and show that it was in fact the Indian military that was violent, aggressive and terroristic.

Terrorists: Flushed-Out or Sent In?

First and the most commonly heard misconception is that the Indian government attacked Darbar Sahib to flush out the "terrorists" who had been misusing the holy place.

The above stated misconception is a preposterous claim without any reliable supporting evidence. Our response to this misconception is a three part analysis: i) examine whether Sant Jarnail Singh and his companions were terrorists or whether they were hiding inside the holy place; ii) whether the attack was a last resort; and iii) how the attack was carried out.

     (i)     Was Sant Jarnail Singh a Terrorist?

Sant Jarnail Singh never resorted to violence nor did he preach or advocate violence in his speeches. There is no record of him being arrested under any terrorist laws of Indian Constitution nor charged for any violent or criminal activity. Anytime he was arrested on false charges, the government had to release him for lack of evidence and witnesses against him.

Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the army’s main target had been arrested and was in government custody months before the attack. How could the attack be warranted on the grounds that the government had to arrest Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale when he was already in their custody months before, and was released by the Indian Government without any charges? At the time of his arrest he was carrying weapons. Why was he then released? At one time when the police made an announcement to arrest him, he peacefully complied and presented himself along with his 50 companions to the Deputy Commissioner. Surely, he would have presented himself in the same manner had another warrant been released. Even if we assume that such a warrant was released, there is no evidence to suggest that Sant Jarnail Singh refused to present himself. Additionally, the government failed to approach Sikh leaders or seek help of Sikh organizations to convince Sant Jarnail Singh to present himself. The SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee) management of Darbar Sahib desperately asked the government on a number of occasions to produce a list of people they wanted to capture so that the management could take action and prevent any army intervention. However the Indian authorities refused and failed to do this despite it being an option to prevent an assault.

Furthermore Sant Jarnail Singh and his companions did not remain within the Darbar Sahib complex 24 hours a day, but freely traveled Punjab and the surrounding areas on a daily basis. He was easily accessible by press reporters and journalists. If these people needed to be captured why did the army with all its weapons of destruction enter the Darbar Sahib killing innocent worshippers caught in the crossfire, when they could have easily assassinated or arrested Sant Jarnail Singh and his associates at any time outside the temple complex? Also, Sant Jarnail Singh was not charged with crimes or terrorist activities nor did he have an outstanding arrest warrant from which he was hiding or attempting to abscond. India Today reported in December 1983 that a senior officer in Chandigarh confessed:

It's really shocking that we have so little against him while we keep blaming him for all sorts of things.[1]

Furthermore, Gurdev Singh, District Commissioner at Amritsar until shortly before the invasion is on record as having assured the Governor of the State that he could arrest anyone in Darbar Sahib at any time.[2] He made repeated pleas to the government not to take any adverse army action against Darbar Sahib but alas, no one paid attention to his requests.[3]

According to Arun Shourie:

For all I know, he is completely innocent and is genuinely and exclusively dedicated to the teachings of the Gurus.[4]

It is thus proven from the above presented evidence that Sant Jarnail Singh was not a terrorist. He never engaged in any terrorist activity. His persona and preaching led to a revival of the Sikh faith amongst the masses, this had created a fear in the minds of the Hindus and they were willing to go any length to silence him.

     (ii)     Was the Attack a Last Resort?

The government would have us believe that the attack was a last resort because Sikhs had fortified the holy place with illegal armaments and the government was thus left with no alternative and forced to storm the holiest of Sikh shrines in order to capture some militants. However, the reality is contrary to this. Before we debunk this misconception of the government, it is prudent to evaluate if the government ever tried diplomatic methods and peaceful negotiations via having mutual discussion meetings with Sikhs to resolve the matter.

The actual facts starkly prove that the government never wanted to solve the Punjab problem by accepting the Sikh demands despite their legality, constitutionality and validity.  Numerous politicians and journalists who met with Sant Jarnail Singh and the Akalis discovered that Sikhs were willing to negotiate with the Center government but the latter showed no interest in making a peaceful settlement. What the government headed by Indira Gandhi tried was sham negotiations to prolong the matter in order to buy enough time for the security forces to get trained and skilled for executing the attack successfully. Such method was revealed by Virinder, a pro-Congress journalist-cum-politician and proprietor and editor of ‘Partap’ in his editorial:

Mrs. Gandhi has her own style. Whenever any problem presents itself before her, she tries to keep it hanging. When it comes to confrontation, she starts deliberations and tries to tire out the other party by prolonged negotiations. This has happened in Assam and the same is happening in Punjab. In Assam thousands of people have died and this fact will remain a slur on the fair name of the Government of India. Punjab to-day is face to face with a similar situation.[5]

These are the observations of a person who was never sympathetic towards the Sikh demands.

Inder Kumar Gujral accused the Center Government of bad faith during the negotiations. In a statement, on May 6, 1984 he said:

It is ironical but true that on each time the final approval was denied in the name of the Prime Minister.[6]

M. Farooqui, Secretary of the National Council of C.P.I. also accused Indira Gandhi of acting with partisan considerations. In an interview with Patriot, he disclosed that in June 1983 the opposition parties (except BJP) had evolved a formula for a reasonable political solution of the Punjab problem which had the approval of the Akali leadership too. H.N. Bahuguna, on behalf of the opposition, sent a letter to Indira Gandhi spelling out the details of the formula. Her response was not only negative but offensive in tone.[7] A team of government representatives was sent to reach a settlement with the Sikhs but the government refused to listen to their success. G. S. Dhillon explains:

all the intermediaries including Kuldip Nayar, Swaran Singh, Amarinder Singh, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, Dr. Ravi et. al. sent by Prime Minister to negotiate with the Akalis, the last time in May, 1984, had found an acceptable response from them, including the two Sants. The mediators were all intrigued to find their prompters hardly willing to listen to their success story.[8]

Dr. Ravi, the last intermediary to have met Sant Jarnail Singh in the last week of May, 1984 found the latter to be in a receptive mood. In an interview with Surya, Ram Jethmalani revealed some of the details of what transpired between Sant Ji and Dr. Ravi. According to him, Sant Ji told Dr. Ravi:

You are a good man and a wise man, whatever settlement you will go and arrive at, I shall put my thumb impression on it.[9]

Dr. Ravi reported the result of his conversation to R.L. Bhatia, President of the State unit of the Congress. The matter was passed on to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi but she backed out.[10] Later Dr. Ravi was told that “we’ll talk only after the army action.”[11]

The plethora of evidence presented clearly shows that it was the government who backed out of negotiations and did not have an iota of interest in resolving the Punjab problem. The government had made up its mind from the very beginning to attack Darbar Sahib and suppress the Sikhs. For this reason, the government put on a show of having sincerity to solve the Punjab problem for which it needed enough time to plan and execute its attack. In the meantime, the government and the media blamed the Sikh agitation for being a secessionist movement that threatened the unity of the country. Dhillon affirms:

Even the much maligned Bhindranwale was prepared to accept a just and constitutional solution to the demands of the Morcha but unfortunately judicious solutions were being persistently denied. The charges of secessionism, foreign intervention and threats to the unity and integrity of the country were nothing but stage managed shows created purely to serve ignoble communal interests and to camouflage the exploitative and oppressive policies and what we believe to be disintegrating and ruinous plans that were consistently being followed by the Centre.[12]

The Indian Government also did not use any diplomatic means with the Sikhs in order to evacuate the holy place as other governments have done. For example: the Israeli army waited for over a month while employing diplomacy and reposeful negotiations to get over 200 fully armed Palestinian militants peacefully out of the Church of Nativity. Why was no such diplomacy used by the Indian Government to secure a peaceful resolve to the standoff, considering thousands of innocent men, women and children were caught inside the complex?

The fact remains that if the government had been true to its role and had even a shred of honesty, it could have easily averted all the violence and reached a settlement with the Sikhs. Recounting the days of 1984, Rajinder Puri explains that the government could “easily settle the dispute” if it wanted to.[13]

Now we move on to discuss whether the attack was a last resort which the government allegedly had to put in action at the last moment all of a sudden.

Retired Lt-General S.K Sinha, a directly involved and high-ranking army leader of the time, reported in the Spokesman newspaper:

The army action was not a last resort as Prime Minister Indira Gandhi would have us believe. It had been in her mind for more than 18 months. The army had begun rehearsals of a commando attack near Chakrata Cantonment in the Doon Valley, where a complete replica of the Golden Temple complex had been built.[14] (bold ours)

General S. K. Sinha further states in the same interview that towards the end of 1981, he received a call from someone in Delhi informing him of the government’s decision to attack Darbar Sahib.[15] This makes it clear that the decision to attack Darbar Sahib had been made at least two and a half years prior to execution and its preparations had begun more than 18 months prior.

General S. K. Sinha openly admits that he had advised Indira Gandhi against the operation[16]. For this, he had to pay the heavy price of forced retirement, upon which he was superseded by Indira Gandhi’s personally appointed General A.S. Vaidya who was then instructed with planning and leading Operation Blue Star.

According to a British correspondent of the 'Sunday Times’, London the attack had been planned for months in advance with the advice from British agencies.

A British correspondent of the 'Sunday Times’, London, noted: “Last week’s assault on the Golden Temple took place after months of preparation of the Indian army, which included advice from British experts in counter-insurgency. Sources in Delhi say that two officers of the Indian secret service, Gary Saxena and R.N. Kay, of the Research and Analysis Wing made several trips to London to seek expertise. The Indian Government then selected 600 men from different units and sent them to rehearse the assault on a life size replica of the Golden Temple, built at a secret training camp in the Chakrata Hills, about 150 miles north of Delhi. The assault troops were alerted to invade the Temple no fewer than five times during the past three months, but each time Mrs. Gandhi vetoed the invasion.[17]

How can the violent military strike be defensible on the grounds that militants were present in the temple when all the facts, including statements from high-ranking Indian Army officials, show that an attack was being planned since 1981? At this moment in time, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale or other so-called militants were not even inside the complex. In view of military preparations, no honest and true Sikh would sit around unprepared to let an enemy attack his holy place. When someone knows that his house will be attacked, he makes adequate preparations to defend it. No devout Sikh would ever tolerate or allow a military action against the very heart of Sikhism. It is an attack on the dignity, honor and prestige of the Sikhs.

According to SGPC Secretary Bhan Singh, fortification of the holy place began from February 17, 1984 after CRPF and Border Security Force (BSF) units had resorted to unprovoked firing and had begun converting the buildings on the periphery of the temple into bunkers and fortresses. Therefore, the action of the Sikhs was a just response to the provocation provided by government's military forces.[18]

Kuldip Brar says, “An announcement was made on the night of June 3rd giving the chance to pilgrims to escape.”[19] He however fails to mention the fact that he personally visited the holy place in civilian clothes on June 1 to have an assessment of the fortifications inside.[20] One cannot but be certain that Brar must have seen large number of people gathered inside the complex to celebrate the holy day which would have made his task of getting Sant Ji and “militants” out of the complex without killing or injuring innocent very much harder.[21] Nonetheless, the operation was not delayed.

Further, Brar fails to realize that despite the lifting of curfew, the pilgrims faced numerous problems. It was dark and nighttime. Firing between the army and the Sikhs did not stop and continued unabated. Trying to escape in the middle of the night during heavy crossfire is a sure death which explains why many pilgrims chose to remain inside. This was not the end of it for the pilgrims. Brar further reveals in the same interview that it was hard for the army to distinguish between the militants and pilgrims.[22] One cannot but question the sincerity of Brar as to why the pilgrims would risk escaping just to be caught by the army who had no means of distinguishing the pilgrims from the so-called militants? For the pilgrims, it was either escaping in the middle of cross firing and taking the risk of getting arrested on the charge of terrorism (or even killed) or remaining safe inside the lodging rooms. The latter was clearly a safer option.

According to many eyewitnesses no announcement was ever made by the army and the army also did not take any effective measure to safeguards innocent pilgrims.[23] Bhan Singh, Secretary of the SGPC who was trapped inside and was one of the survivors said:

Had the army given a warning, at least those pilgrims who had come for the Gurpurb could go out and then those persons who were simply here to participate in the Dharam Youdh Morcha could go out. But no warning was given to the people. The firing was started from all around the complex with vengeance, as if they were attacking an alien, enemy country.[24]

This makes it abundantly clear that the Indian army without giving any warning began the assault with scores of heavy artillery shells being blasted into the holy shrine. This raises serious concerns over the army’s actions in contrast to how other governments have dealt with similar situations. The Indian Government was hell-bent on the attack and preferred a conflict rather than diplomacy. Hence, the attack was by no means a last resort.

The last and most important question remains unanswered by the government proponents is to why the government chose the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, one of the most venerated holy days, as the day of the attack when thousands of Sikh pilgrims visit the holy place from Punjab as well as abroad. According to Brar, the army was ordered to move in as soon as possible otherwise it would have been too late and even harder to bring the situation under control.[25] Brar tries to give the impression that the attack was an impromptu rather than the meticulously planned and deliberated operation it was; schemed and drilled months and years in advance.

Holy Place Under Siege
Brar’s lies and irrationality cannot explain why the government could not wait for few more days seeing as the army had already occupied the complex surroundings months earlier. His lies stand exposed in the writings of Kuldip Nayar, an Indian journalist and a member of Punjab group in 1984, who reveals that Kuldip Brar told him having received orders from the Indian government to undertake the operation 2 weeks before it actually took place.[26] 

Indira Gandhi tries to give the similar impression during her television speech delivered on June 2, 1984 by saying “Don’t shed blood, shed hatred”.[27] But neither she nor any of her accomplices ever presented any evidence to prove that Sant Ji or Sikhs for that matter were shedding blood. It is ridiculous to make pretenses of peace and then launch a premeditated large scale army action the very next day. It is not plausible to think that the Indian government prepared for an assault of such magnitude by deploying hundreds of thousands of army men equipped with heavy artillery and tanks without even any rehearsal all within 24 hours.

The government could have conveniently chosen any other day to minimize the casualties. Instead, the army let thousands of Sikhs assemble at the holy place and then imposed curfew leaving them trapped inside to be killed in the crossfire. Dr. A. R. Darshi[28] affirms our viewpoint by stating:

The day of attack, 3rd June 1984, which was being observed as martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, was intentionally chosen by Indira Gandhi and her Hindu government mainly for two reasons. Firstly, she wanted to show indignity to the religious heritage of the Sikhs and challenge their faith. Secondly, she wanted to entrap and massacre as many Sikhs as possible because they had assembled there in large numbers.[29]

All of these points prove that the attack was planned ahead and its day and time were deliberately chosen to try and give a crushing blow to the Sikh spirit.

     (iii)     Execution of the Attack

When it comes to how the attack was carried out and the events that occurred before and after the attack it leaves no doubt that the attack was not against the terrorists but it was an attack executed by terrorists.

First and foremost, while Indira Gandhi was delivering her speech of keeping peace and seeking peaceful methods of negotiation,[30] the army had been given the order to execute the operation. As mentioned earlier, a curfew was imposed on the whole of Punjab. G. S. Dhillon gives us a clear picture of the Punjab situation at the time:

The whole administration of the State along with the railways and other transportation services including the postal and telecommunications were carried on or suspended, to suit the needs of the armed forces. The State police service virtually ceased to exist as massive purge operation went on and its various functions were taken over by the army personnel i.e. such functions as frisking, searching and arresting people, performing security duties, regulating movement of transport and men, guarding railway tracks, canals etc. and other installations of public utility. Thus on June 2, the army took over the administration, and whatever vestiges of a civilised government had remained vanished.[31]

Electricity and phone lines were cut off, disconnecting Punjab from the rest of the world. The propaganda ministers (government reporters) have no answer as to why the entire Punjab was sealed off when the so-called terrorists were only “hiding” inside the Darbar Sahib complex.[32] All of the reporters were escorted out so that no unbiased coverage of the operation could be published or aired.[33] Only government paid reporters were allowed to remain behind in Punjab so that the government could have full control over the media reporting and the only story coming out of such coverage could be the official story covered in lies, propaganda and deceit. Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon corroborates:

News censorship was ordered for a period of two months. All the foreign journalists were rounded up and expelled from the State under military escort so much so that all the leading newspapers of the State had to suspend publication for three days. All war time emergency measures were brought into force. Life came to a standstill. The telephone connections of the Complex were disconnected on June 2 and the water and electricity supply were cut off on June 3.[34]

If the government had been honest and true to its own shambolic public statements, it would have allowed the media to freely cover the events as they took place and report the actual facts. This would have proved the government to be honest in its decisions and true to its word and deed. Instead, to the contrary, no free press was allowed and attempts were made to make the official story the only story.

Furthermore, the government’s theories do not hold to the rationality and logic when confronted with the question of why thousands of army troopers equipped with heavy artillery, machinery and tanks were sent to counter only a handful of Sikhs carrying obsolete weapons. The modern weaponry used by the army was intended to be put to use during a war with another country. It is absolutely astonishing that the government used its army, CRP (Central Reserve Police) and BSF to attack its own citizens who were no threat to national security nor had any demand to separate from the Indian Union.

Sikh Pilgrims Taken Prisoners
During the operation, tens of other Sikh Gurdwaras all over Punjab were also attacked in the same manner when there were no so-called terrorists hiding in them. On the one hand the government and the Hindu majority consider Sikhs as Hindus but on the other hand, they attacked the Sikh Gurdwaras considering them as a separate group, as terrorists and a threat to national security. There is not a single record of Indian military being used to attack any of the Hindu temples or to subdue any Hindu terrorist groups. This simply points out the sectarian mindset of the Indian government. Thousands of Sikhs were killed during the operation. Pilgrims were locked up in the rooms and then set on fire. Many were forced to starve to death. Others were forced to lie on the hot floor of the parikarma (surrounding walkway; made of marble that gets extremely hot in summer sunshine). Sikhs were beaten, abused and maltreated. Their hands were tied behind their backs with their own turbans. Women were raped. Infants were grabbed from the bosoms of their mothers and thrown against the walls or into the sarovar (nectar pool). According to one eyewitness Sikh, the army threw grenades on the pilgrims resulting in many casualties and deaths. This Sikh’s infant son’s head was blown off while sitting in his mother’s lap and then his wife was shot dead by the army.[35] Sikhs were lined up and shot dead in cold blood. The cold-blooded genocide of men, woman and children in the temple is expressed in independent reports below:

A doctor drafted in by the army to conduct examinations, reported how “Sikhs had been shot at point blank range with their hands tied behind their backs with their turbans. It was a virtual massacre with a large number of woman, children and pilgrims being gunned down”.[36]

On Sunday, Medical workers in Amritsar said Soldiers had threatened to shoot them if they gave food or water to dying Sikh pilgrims wounded in the assault lying in the hospital.[37]

On 4th June, when thousands of Sikhs had gathered at the Golden Temple, army tanks moved into the Temple complex, smashing into the sanctum sanctorum and shooting everyone in sight. Many wounded were left to bleed to death and when they begged for water soldiers told them to drink the mixture of blood and urine on the floor.[38]

Dead Bodies of Innocent Sikhs
Had the true motive behind the army action been to capture or kill militants inside the holy place, thousands of innocent Sikhs would not have been killed. Additionally, the army fortified the holy place for months after the attack when it should have handed back the control as soon as the operation was complete. During the army’s occupation, the holy place was desecrated in the worst possible ways that caused the historical accounts of the defilements carried out by the Mughal and Afghan raiders to pale in comparison. The army smoked and drank alcohol inside. The army kept their shoes on and turned the holy place into their base station. Thousands of Sikhs were taken as prisoners of war and put in jails without any charge or trial. Many of these prisoners are still languishing in jails. Even children as young as four years old were arrested.[39]

The Sikh Reference Library housing irreplaceable hand-written manuscripts and the official edicts of the Gurus, history books and Sikh relics were destroyed or confiscated by the army never to be seen again. Archives of documents from every period of Sikh history and artifacts from the lives of the Gurus were taken away or destroyed by army troops. The entire city was looted and houses of Sikhs were ransacked from where valuable items were stolen and taken away by the army. These facts point to one clear fact that the army action was not against few “terrorists” but against the entire Sikh nation and it was a futile attempt to destroy the Sikhs and deal with the “Sikh problem” once and for all. In the words of Joyce Pettigrew:

The army went into Darbar Sahib not to eliminate a political figure or a political movement but to suppress the culture of a people, to attack their heart, to strike a blow at their spirit and self-confidence.[40]

Therefore, it was not an attack to free the holy place from supposed terrorists but it was itself a state sponsored act of terrorism against the Sikh religion. The army was the real culprit behind terrorism and it was a calculated use of extreme violence and terror by the government to inculcate fear in the minds of the Sikhs so that never again do they dare raise their voice against the oppression, injustice and tyranny of the Indian government. Hence, the Sikhs were the true defenders against the Indian terrorists.

The government proponents also put forward another excuse that they did not attack Harimandar Sahib (Golden Temple) and only targeted the Akal Takhat building that was being used as the hiding place by the Sikhs. However, this is completely false. It is foolish to assume that the Sikhs care about one Gurdwara more than the other. All Gurdwaras are equally important to the Sikhs. Akal Takhat Sahib was founded and built by the sixth Guru himself and stands for the symbol of political sovereignty of the Sikhs. It is the highest decision making authority on religious and temporal matter of the Sikhs. An attack on this pontificate is a clear indication of the Indian government attempting to destroy the sovereignty of the Sikhs and enslave them into obeying the majority Hindu decisions. Further, other buildings did not remain unaffected. The building of Harimandar Sahib received more than 250 bullet holes that were counted by Dr. A. R. Darshi himself. Many Sikhs performing religious services were killed on the spot. Akhand Paaths (continuous reading of the Holy Scripture) were interrupted and the daily ceremonies could not be performed. The sarovar (nectar pool) was filled with debris, dead bodies and blood. The blood had seeped into the floor, so much so, that the smell of corpses remained for months after the attack. As a result, the gold plates and the entire marble needed to be replaced. The entire complex had to be renovated. The government agents forget the fact that an attack on one Gurdwara is considered an attack on the entire Sikh nation. Harimandar Sahib and Akal Takhat Sahib are integral to the Sikh way of life and standing symbols of Sikh sovereignty, uniqueness and distinct identity. The attack was an attempt to destroy the Sikh religion altogether but such attempts will always fail as they have in the past.

Illegal Weapons

The second most popular misconception is that the attack had become need of the hour because the Sikhs had collected large quantity of illegal weapons inside the complex. It is also argued that the presence of weapons inside the complex had desecrated the sanctity of the temple and the government wanted to restore it back to normal. Kuldip Brar, one of the Lt. Generals commanding the army during the assault, outlandishly claims that the place had no sanctity left when Sikhs took arms inside the holy place[41] which according to him was immoral.

Darbar Sahib is the holy place of the Sikhs and the Sikhs very well know how to respect and use their holy places better than the non-Sikh government. Our response to this misconception is a threefold. Firstly, to discuss whether keeping weapons is against the principles of Sikhism. Secondly, whether weapons inside the complex are disrespectful to the Sikh Gurdwara in any way and thirdly, we will examine whether there really was any mass collection of weapons inside the complex.

     (i)     Weapons in Sikhism

Weapons are integral part of Sikh way of life and Sikhs are instructed to carry weapons at all times. For this reason, a Sikh is not complete without his sword which he is given at the time of initiation. According to historical accounts, the sixth and the tenth Gurus had specifically instructed Sikhs to come to Guru’s presence adorned with weapons. Sikhs were given the orders to present horses and weapons as gifts and offerings to the Gurus rather than money or other monetary things.[42] Last five Gurus of the Sikhs kept an equipped and well-trained army. It is also a tradition of the Sikhs to keep weapons in front of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (the Holy Scriptures) be it at a Gurdwara or a house. Guru Gobind Singh Ji regarded weapons in high regard and even wrote compositions in their respect.[43] Thus, weapons cannot be separated from the Sikh way of life.

As far as Darbar Sahib (Harmandar Sahib and Akal Takhat Sahib) is concerned, the weapons of the Sikh Gurus and other prominent Sikhs like Baba Deep Singh have been kept there for centuries. These weapons are shown to the public on a daily basis. Other Takhats (Sikh seats) also follow the same practice. Thus, the presence of weapons is not at all disrespectful to the Sikh Gurdwaras.

History is testament to the fact that it was the weapons of the Sikhs that were used to free captured Hindu women from the slavery of the Mughals and Afghans. After the battle of Panipat, Ahmad Shah Abdali enslaved thousands of Maratha women and Sikhs managed to rescue 2200 of them[44] who were safely escorted back to the Maratha kingdom which is a long way from Punjab. It was due to the long hard struggle of the Sikhs that the many centuries old Muslim rule was rooted out from Northern India and the wave of foreign invasions was stopped once and for all during the glorious Sikh rule of early 19th century. Peshawar was taken over and adjoined back with India after 834 years of Muslim rule. This list of Sikh sacrifices for India is endless but the fact of the matter is that weapons were integral part of their struggle. Therefore, weapons have always been part of the Sikh way of life and are a symbol of Sikh sovereignty.

     (ii)     Sanctity of Gurdwaras

Since keeping weapons is part of the Sikh traditions, the question of desecration of a Sikh Gurdwara from weapons is pointless. During the struggles of the 18th century, Sikh Gurdwaras especially Darbar Sahib were attacked and desecrated numerous times by the Mughals and Afghans yet not a single Hindu shed a tear in grief nor did a single army unit of the Hindus come forward to offer any assistance to restore the holiness of the Gurdwaras back to normal. Episode of Massa Ranghar is a famous one in Sikh history. He took over Darbar Sahib and desecrated Harmandir Sahib in the worst ways imaginable. He used the main hall for dancing and smoked tobacco inside which is a cardinal sin in Sikhism. It was two brave Sikhs who left from Bikaner, Rajasthan to punish the perpetrator and free Darbar Sahib. Not a single Hindu showed any care or respect to the holy place. Ahmad Shah Abdali attacked and destroyed Harmandir Sahib at least twice but not a single Hindu came forward to stop such desecration. After annexing the Sikh kingdom, the British decided to auction off the land of Darbar Sahib but not a single Hindu came forward to stop such heinous crime. In light of historical facts from the 18th and 19th centuries, it is simply ludicrous to expect Hindus to act or sacrifice to upkeep the holiness of the Sikh Gurdwaras. It is simply foolish to assert that the Sikhs of all people would desecrate their own holy places. It is analogous to deploying a Christian army to stop the Muslims from desecrating Mecca by practicing Islam. Such an attack cannot be justified.

Tank Inside the Holy Place
Army Men Inside the Holy Place with Shoes On
Brar in his statement never cares to explain what exactly was immoral, the presence of weapons inside or the actual use of weapons against innocents. If it is the presence of weapons then the Indian army men were more dangerous, greater terrorists and committed greater immoral crime (according to Brar’s false philosophical interpretation) since they were equipped with more advanced and deadly weapons. The disrespect and desecration of the holy place at the hands of the Indian government was much worse because the army brought in heavy tanks, armored vehicles and machine guns. To aggravate the matter further, the army walked in with their shoes on, smoked and drank alcohol inside the complex and raped women. These heinous acts of disrespect and immorality are almost unimaginable. If the actual use of weapons against innocents is immoral then it is only the army to be blamed for this who barbarically and mercilessly killed innocent Sikh men, women and children. The barbaric killing was so gruesome that pieces of flesh were stuck to the walls of the holy place.[45] The Sikhs inside were not charged for committing any such crime. The Sikhs were at receiving end of the violence, brutality and tortures whereas the army was on the offensive side. How does this show any respect or upkeep the sanctity of the holy place? The way to rid a holy place of weapons is by removing them from its vicinity rather than bringing in more weapons in large quantity and destroying the place altogether.

Destruction of Darbar Sahib
Brar audaciously blames the Sikhs for being immoral but when questioned about whether he had made the moral decision during the operation which cost the lives of innocent pilgrims, he conveniently dodged the question by blaming the Sikhs for taking weapons inside.[46] He conveniently ignores the fact that unlike the army, the Sikhs with weapons did not damage the holy place nor did they target innocent civilians and pilgrims. Assuming Sikhs were immoral then how does that give any right to the army to become immoral as well? How were Brar and his army units any better? Thus, how is the operation even justified and what right does the government have to label Sikhs as being the wrong doers? Brar paid no concern to the Sikh sentiments and sanctity of the holy place. All he cared for was his mission which he carried out at the expense of thousands of innocent pilgrims just so he could receive a petty promotion. All he had to say was “once you put on a uniform, you have to accept these things”.[47]

If the government was so concerned about the sanctity of the holy place then why did it not take any action against the Hindu temples where statues are displayed holding weapons such as sword, an axe, bow and arrow etc.? In many south Indian temples, statues and wall paintings depicting various erotic positions are displayed. This is much more insulting and desecrating to the sanctity of the holy places than the mere presence of weapons. Why to this day has the Indian government taken no action against this? Furthermore, Dev Daasi (female prostitution) is openly practiced in many temples across South and East Indian states yet the government has deployed no army to stop female exploitation and purify the Hindu temples. Last but not least, when Sikh Gurdwaras were attacked all over India in November 1984 (just 5 months after the Operation Blue Star), the government remained mute and took no active measures to protect the sanctity of the Sikh holy places. Instead, the government ordered the police to assist the hoodlums and to ensure that the mass killing of the Sikhs was carried out smoothly. This double standard and hypocritical behavior of the Indian government clearly proves that the government had only one intention and that was to destroy the Sikhs. All these facts point to one inevitable truth that the government needed an excuse to attack the heart of Sikhism to crush the Sikh spirit.

     (iii)     Collection of Weapons

Now, let us discuss if Sant Jarnail Singh and his companions had collected weapons inside the complex. It is an open truth that Sant Jarnail Singh and his companions carried arms with them. However, all of their weapons at one time were duly licensed and they had been carrying weapons since late 70s. Neither did he use these weapons to break any law nor did he use them for violence. His intent of carrying weapons was in accordance with the ideals of Sikh tenets. As explained earlier, keeping weapons is part of the Sikh religion while their usage is strictly restricted for defensive purposes only. Sikhs were taught to keep horses and arm themselves against tyranny and oppression by the Gurus themselves. What Sant Jarnail Singh preached was nothing new or against the Sikh ideals. Dr. A. R. Darshi states:

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.[48]

Further, founding the Order of the Khalsa served the purpose of establishing an army that would uproot evil, injustice, oppression and exploitation and restore justice and equality for all. For this purpose, the Khalsa was instructed to arm itself. Just like every government keeps an army and provides it with state of the art weaponry for national security, similarly Sikhs as a nation are required by their Gurus to arm themselves with up to date weapons required for their defense. However, the weapons can only be used as a last resort to redress evil. Guru Gobind Singh in one of his famous composition Zafarnama (Epistle of Victory) states:

When all other means have failed, it is righteous to draw the sword.[49]

Sant Jarnail Singh followed in the same footsteps and did not preach violence. He reminded the Sikhs to carry arms as prescribed by the Gurus and explained that a Sikh does not keep weapons for offense, for hurting others, or for personal gain. Rather he fights oppression and injustice. In his speech on September 20, 1983, he remarked:

For a Sikh it is a great sin to keep weapons and kill any one. However, Khalsa Ji, it is an even greater sin to have weapons and not to seek justice. Further, it is a sin for a Sikh to keep weapons to hurt an innocent person, to rob anyone's home, to dishonor anyone or to oppress anyone. But there is no greater sin for a Sikh than keeping weapons and not protecting his faith.[50]

Armed Jatha of Sant Ji
It was in accordance with these principles that Sikh militants defended their holy places. Let us not forget the episodes of Sikh history; let us not forget that during all the past invasions of Darbar Sahib, Sikhs have always fought back with weapons. Baba Deep Singh took his weapons and army inside Darbar Sahib and Baba Gurbakhsh Singh along with 30 Sikhs gave a stiff resistance to Abdali’s army in the vicinity of Darbar Sahib and sacrificed their lives. Sikhs in the 18th century built bunkers and fortified the holy place to defend it against Muslim invasions. Whenever a Sikh goes to Darbar Sahib, he is armed with his sword. Thus, weapons inside the Sikh Gurdwaras are not a sign of disrespect but an integral part of Sikh traditions.

Fortifying the complex against the imminent Indian invasion was very much according to tradition. Even then it was a last resort. Sant Jarnail Singh had launched a peaceful struggle against the government that lasted two years. During this struggle, thousands of Sikhs were arrested, tortured in jails and many hundreds killed in fake encounters. Yet the government did not yield and decided to launch an attack to suppress the peaceful struggle. Had the government honestly sought peaceful negotiations, delivered justice and stopped all anti-Sikh activities the violence would not have escalated. It is the responsibility of the government to treat all its citizens equally with respect and dignity and show no partiality to any religious group. Otherwise, the citizens of the country have every right to defend themselves. This is why the Sikhs armed themselves to face the Indian army. It was the Indian army that initiated the attack, and Sikhs had every right to defend it with weapons. Sikhs did not even fire a single bullet until the army entered the complex. Dr. A. R. Darshi states:

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.[51]

He further states:

Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi also exhorted the Sikhs to take swords if their just demands were not conceded by the government. When Madhusudan Singh asked M.K. Gandhi what the Sikhs should do in the event of betrayal by the Congress, Gandhi firmly replied that in that case the brave Sikhs should take their swords in their hands with perfect justification and safeguard their rights by use of the arms. If Gandhi, a great leader of the Congress, justified armed struggle by the Sikhs to safeguard their interests, then why is Sant Bhindranwale being blamed for his militant struggle?[52]

Hence, the blame rests upon the government for causing all the damage, spreading violence and resorting to terrorism. After the attack was over, the army displayed many weapons allegedly recovered from the so-called terrorists. It was a pompous show the government put on to cover the truth. These weapons were smuggled into the holy place by the government itself to justify the attack and the Sikh genocide without arousing any protest from the Hindu majority. On 22 July, 1984, A. G. Noorani reported in The Illustrated Weekly of India:

A S. Pooni, Home Secretary of Punjab, also confirmed that ‘the Government had a fair idea of the kind of weapons inside the Golden Temple’.... How did they reach there? In Kar-seva trucks carrying food and construction material. ‘They were not intercepted because there were oral instructions “from the top” until two months ago not to check any of the Kar-seva trucks’, Bhinder told the two correspondents.[53]

Regarding these weapons Dr. A. R. Darshi writes:

The weapons were not recovered from the militants. These were brand new weapons arranged by the army to give a false impression that the extremists were heavily armed. When those weapons were telecast they looked brand new and were shining. The weapons possessed by the militants were either damaged by heavy bombardment or some of them were left by those who had escaped. The weapons recovered from them ought to be old and damaged.[54]

Saroop Singh Narang explains that the army had occupied the surrounding areas of Darbar Sahib and no one was let in without going through proper screening and security checks. He states:

Darbar Sahib had been surrounded by the C.R.P and the Punjab police 18 months prior to the attack and every human being was searched before being allowed entry to the complex. Even food used for community kitchen was inspected. Four intelligence agencies were busy collecting information about the inside activities of the holy place. Sant Jarnail Singh came to Nanak Niwas (kitchen building) about six months after the army check posts had been put in place. In the presence of strict security check points and intelligence agencies how did the weapons show up inside the holy place? The truth of the matter is that it was all planned by the government. The government agent, M. K. Tripathi collaborated with Punjab police chief Bhindar and arranged trucks full of weapons which were smuggled into the Darbar Sahib.[55]

Harbir Singh Bhanwar, a reporter and an eyewitness to the events of the attack writes in his personal diary that the weapons were brought in by the army. He writes:

Before the President of India visited the Golden Temple the army brought a truck loaded with weapons into the complex so that it would give the impression that the militants had [a] mass collection of foreign weapons.[56]

All these facts irrevocably prove that the Sikhs had not collected any weapons inside the complex to launch an attack on the Indian government. Rather, these weapons were brought in by the army and blamed on the Sikhs. The weapons used by the Sikhs were old and very few in quantity. The Sikhs were few in number and equipped with dated weapons which shows that they could not and have been and were not preparing for terrorism of any kind. On the other hand, the army had been in training for 18 months prior to the attack and came in with tanks, guns and heavy artillery which leads to the conclusion that the army was well prepared for an act of terrorism to try and force Sikhs into submission and instill fear in their hearts and have them forsake their rights of freedom.

Advocating Violence

Contrary to the opinion of the government and its puppets, Sant Jarnail Singh never advocated violence in word or action. We have already proven earlier that he was not a terrorist and the government was taking the first step in instigating violence which started in 1978 when an imposter named Gurbachan started preaching against Sikhism. Tavleen Singh echoes:

Contrary to the popular belief that he 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.[57]

Dr. A. R. Darshi explains the ill-conceived motives of the government behind supporting the characterless Gurbachan and his cult by stating:

The Indian government led by Brahmanical Hindus knew well that the Sikhs were the only martial race in India which has inexhaustible energy, determination and courage to fight for their just rights. The Hindu polity also knew that the Sikhs cannot be subdued by force forever. Therefore, the government cleverly planned to subvert the Sikh religion and deplete its numerical strength by employing wicked strategy enunciated by Kautilya in the Arth Shastra. To achieve their ill-conceived objectives the Indian government patronized, aided and encouraged Gurbachan, chief of Nirankari Mandal to launch onslaught against Sikh religions and their Gurus.[58]

The violent attack of Gurbachan and his wicked followers on the Sikhs that resulted in serious injury and martyrdom of many Sikhs was preplanned by the government. Dr. A. R. Darshi writes:

The police resorted to lathi charge and also opened fire on the Sikhs. The brutal use of police force left a trail of blood. Thirteen Sikhs were killed and nearly eighty were seriously injured. This time ghastly crime was committed by the Hindu police in connivance with the Nirankaris and the government.[59]

Khushwant Singh affirms:

Terrorist activity preceded the morcha by more than six months and was born out of encounters faked by the Punjab police and the armed conflict between the Nirankaris and Sant Bhindranwale beginning April 13, 1978.[60]

To make the matter worse, the case was transferred to Haryana High Court where all the perpetrators including Gurbachan were released. This was an unfair, unjust and unequal treatment by the government.

The Indian Supreme Court 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 perversion of justice and for this ignoble act the Indian government was responsible.[61]

It is worth mentioning here that anti-Sikh groups; Hindu fascist groups such as the RSS and Shiv Sena,  as well as Hindu political leaders openly released statements threatening to eliminate Sikhs all over India and kicking them out of the country. Yet not a single action was taken against them. In the neighboring state of Haryana, Sikhs were regularly attacked and killed with the help of the state government. According to Dr. A. R. Darshi:

What had happened in Haryana was crueler and more disgusting. The fanatic and barbaric Hindus indulged in worst kind of violence. They brutally lynched and killed about a dozen Sikhs and grievously injured and maintained many more. The Hindus molested some Sikh women and looted their ornaments of gold and diamond. More than a dozen Gurdwaras were damaged and destroyed in towns like Panipat, Karnal, Kaithal and Jind….Chief Minister of Haryana, Bhajan Lal, glibly smiled when he was asked by a press reporter to comment on these inhuman crimes. Several Hindu and Congress leaders boastfully declared that this was only a trailer shown to the Sikhs living outside of Punjab.[62]

In such a situation when the government sided with anti-Sikh forces and the media played its biased and vicious role against the Sikhs, the Sikhs were forced to take matter in their own hands as taught by the Gurus and punish the criminals. Dr. A. R. Darshi states:

The principles of Miri Piri and the philosophy of the Khalsa enjoins upon the brave Sikhs to fight for their rights and safeguard their interests. Thus if Sant Bhindranwale had followed the philosophy of Miri Piri and the Khalsa what wrong had he done?[63]

The government and its paid goons place blame for every crime committed by the army and the police on Sant Jarnail Singh. According to them such suppression and oppression was necessary to control Sikh separatism. However, the facts speak otherwise. During the peaceful struggle in early 1980s, the crime rate in Punjab was much lower compared to other Indian states. According to official reports, 172 persons were killed in Punjab between August 5, 1982 and December 31, 1983.[64] On the other hand in the year 1983 in Delhi alone, 244 persons were murdered.[65]

Nayar confirms that:

Punjab Government circulated a secret document. This document said that there were 5,422 murders in 1980 and 5,068 in 1981 in U.P., while in Punjab there were 620 murders in 1980 and 544 in 1981.[66]

From this, Sinha et al. conclude:

Clubbing together every kind of crime under the heading and blaming the Akali agitation for all of them is but an attempt to mislead the people.[67]

Sant Jarnail Singh fully aware of the government’s malicious propaganda states in one of his speeches delivered on 29 April 1983:

At whatever place, whatever untoward incident occurs, whether any other place is named in that connection or not, the names of Harmandar Sahib and Nanak Niwas are always included Madhya Pradesh is thousands of kilometers from here. Something happened at Bhilai a long time back. Even that case has been linked to this place.[68]

The government was specifically targeting the Sikhs who were part of Sant Ji’s group. Ranbir Singh Sandhu states:

Akali protestors were generally released after two to fifteen days in jail or even taken out of the city and let off the day they were arrested. On the other hand, protestors from Sant organization, most of whom had been formally initiated into the Sikh faith, were brutally tortured and often killed while in police custody.[69]

To escalate the violence in the state, the government staged many crimes such as throwing a cow’s head in a Hindu temple, alleged assassination attempt of the Chief Ministers etc. and blamed them on Sant Jarnail Singh. Exposing the vicious hunt game of the government, Ranbir Singh Sandhu states:

To brand devout Sikhs as criminals, the Government stage-managed numerous crimes. The police would orchestrate a crime and then ascribe it to Sant Bhindranwale. Following this, the law-enforcement agencies would round up devout Sikhs and harass, torture, rape, and often ‘eliminate’ them.[70]

This is why Sant Jarnail Singh justified fighting back and defending against the atrocities of the government officials and the Hindu leaders who were threatening to exile all the Sikhs from India. He was not against any community. According to his own words said on 18 May 1983:

We have no personal enmity with anyone; we are not jealous of anybody. However, if someone tries to destroy our religion, we must be steadfast in securing our rights…We fight those who strip our sisters naked, we fight those who dishonor our sisters, and we fight those who insult our Satguru Granth Sahib. This fight will go on and no power in the world can stop us until these things are stopped.[71]

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.[72]

Therefore, it is clear from the above given proofs that Sant Jarnail Singh was an innocent man who never raised his tongue, sword or gun against anyone innocent.

Religious or Political Figure

An objection is commonly raised against Sant Jarnail Singh that in spite of denying having any political motives, he encouraged his companions to participate in politics. From this they falsely conclude that he wanted to become a leader of the Sikhs.

Sant Ji Delivering Religious Sermon
Such a half-baked theory can only be put forward by those who are either ignorant of the Sikh ideals or intentionally trying to malign the name of a true Sikh. Little do they know that the concept of Miri-Piri (Spiritual Temporal) advocates a Sikh being active in politics as part of his religious lifestyle. Sant Jarnail Singh never went to a leader’s house, never associated with political figures and not once did he utter any desire to hold a political office. However, this does not mean that he was not fully aware of the situation and the political atmosphere around him. He had fully understood that the Akali Dal (political party that represented the Sikh interests) had become impotent to support the Sikhs and had sold its integrity and conscience to the government to achieve political favors. Sant Jarnail Singh was greatly disappointed when the Akali Dal did not support the Sikhs against the Nirankaris in 1978. The so-called Sikh leaders abused alcohol and did not follow the Sikh principles. This is why he encouraged his companions to run in SGPC elections so that the Sikh interests could be represented by the practicing Sikhs.

Sant Jarnail Singh himself, however, during the course of the struggle, remained dedicated to the Sikh teachings as a preacher. His primary mission was never obscured with political struggle. He iterated time and time again in many of his speeches:[73]

And as far as I am concerned, my mission is to administer Amrit, to explain the meanings of Gurbani and to teach Gurbani to those around me.[74]

His preaching mission was so successful that thousands of people took Amrit and became Sikhs. Khushwant Singh affirms:

Bhindranwale's Amrit prachar was a resounding success. Adults in their thousands took oaths in public to abjure liquor, tobacco and drugs and were baptized. Videocassettes showing blue films and cinema houses lost out to the village gurdwara. Men not only saved money they had earlier squandered in self-indulgence, but now worked longer hours on their lands and raised better crops. They had much to be grateful for to Jarnail Singh who came to be revered by them.[75]

Vandana Shiva echoes:

The Sant's following grew as he successfully regenerated the ‘good’ life of purity, dedication and hard work by reviving these fundamental values of the Sikh religion's way of life.[76]

The popularity of Sant Ji was due to his vigorous and intensive preaching tours which brought about the much needed reform in the Sikh youth by orienting their lifestyle according to Sikh ideals. His oft-repeated message to the Sikh youth was ‘Give up addictions, take Amrit and become true Sikhs’.[77]

Sant Ji’s political immunity was also vouchsafed by no other than Rajiv Gandhi, son of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Asked specifically by pressmen, “Is Bhindranwale an extremist?” He evaded a reply and said, “This is for you to evaluate.” He was further asked, “Do you think he is a political leader'?” Rajiv Gandhi responded positively, “He is a religious leader and has not shown any political inclina­tions so far.”[78]

It was his dedication to the Sikh way of life and affirmation of the Sikh faith in the lives of thousands of Sikhs that made him a cause of concern for the government. Dhillon explains:

The ever increasing popularity of the Sant especially in the rural Punjab became a cause of concern for the Government. His activities of Amrit Parchar made him an eye-sore in the eyes of all those who looked upon the projection of Sikh identity as a challenge and who wanted to assimilate the Sikhs into the religi­ous mainstream of India which was made synonymous with the national mainstream.[79]

Therefore, Sant Jarnail Singh was a religious man and his main aim was to preach Sikhism. As far as his political aspirations are concerned, he had none of his own.[80] However, he fully extended his support to the Dharam Yudh Morcha (peaceful struggle) that was started by the Akali Dal. It is worth mentioning the circumstances leading to his support for the Akali Dal. On the 19th of July, 1982 two of his associates Bhai Amrik Singh and Bhai Thara Singh were arrested by the police on false charges. Sant Jarnail Singh himself was very sick at the time. Even then, to secure their release lest the police torture them to death, he came to Darbar Sahib and started sending a group of volunteers every day to protest against the government. On 4 August 1982, Akali Dal decided to merge its struggle for greater state autonomy and other demands with Sant Ji’s efforts. After the release of Bhai Amrik Singh and Bhai Thara Singh, Sant Ji stated that his basic demands have been fulfilled but he would continue to lend support to the peaceful Sikh struggle which was under the leadership of Harchand Singh Longowal. Sant Jarnail Singh had made it clear that Longowal was the “leader” and he was a “minor servant”.[81]

Thus, Sant Ji fully endorsed the demands listed in the Anandpur Sahib Resolution which required returning more autonomy to the State of Punjab. The transfer of water and electricity back to the state government, the return of Chandigarh and Punjabi speaking areas to Punjab and amendments to the Indian Constitution were all political demands. In spite of these, he had no personal desire to hold a political office. Dr. A. R. Darshi puts it eloquently by stating that Sant Jarnail Singh’s:

….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.[82]

According to Arun Shourie

For all I know, he is completely innocent and is genuinely and exclusively dedicated to the teachings of the Gurus.[83]

Hence, Sant Jarnail Singh was a religious man at the core. However, his mission for the Sikh cause was not devoid of political aims but neither did he have any personal political goals nor did he wish to become a political figure.

Political Separatism: Khalistan

After Operation Blue Star was over, the Sikhs realized that all peaceful means had failed and it had become necessity of the time to raise an armed struggle. For this reason, the freedom struggle started afresh with the hope to establish a separate Sikh state called Khalistan. Numerous government agents accuse Sant Jarnail Singh of perpetrating the division the country by creating a separate Sikh state. A white paper issued by the fascist Indian government alleged that the Sikh movement was heading towards “an independent Khalistan”.[84] Many biased and hateful journalists also joined the same bandwagon. Nayar asserts that “the nest stage” for the Sikh movement was to have a “separate homeland”.[85] However, neither the government nor the narrow-minded Hindus have ever cared to present any evidence to corroborate their flimsy statements.

Although the concept of Khalistan was nothing new as it was offered to the Sikhs by the British at least half a dozen times before the partition, Sant Jarnail Singh never raised a demand for it. His stance was clear on this subject. He stated on 11 May 1983:

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….However, I must say that, standing on this stage, we do not demand it and we do not oppose it either. But, if the Center gives us Khalistan, we shall take it. This time, we shall not repeat the mistake of 1947. But this is Center's job and the Center is responsible for it. 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.[86]

Sant Jarnail Singh was well versed in Sikh teachings and fully realizes the importance of Sikh sovereignty. He aptly knew that the reason for Sikh suffering was due to unequal and unfair treatment of the Sikhs at the hands of the government. His sole mission was to stop anti-Sikh activities of the government and its agents and restore the Sikh ideals back into the lives of the Sikhs. Dr. A. R. Darshi says:

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.[87]

In one of the interviews, Rajinder Puri asked Sant Jarnail Singh about his stance on Khalistan to which the latter aptly replied, “I have never asked for Khalistan," he said. "But if they give me Khalistan on a golden plate, I won’t refuse it!" When further asked what he wanted, he passionately responded, “I want to protect the identity, honour and tradition of the Khalsa”.[88]

This proves that the objective of Sant Jarnail Singh behind supporting the peaceful struggle was to secure equal rights for the Sikhs and not to establish a separate Sikh state.

We must address an additional point vis-à-vis Khalistan. The concept of Khalistan is not against the Sikh teachings. Political sovereignty is in fact a must for the religion to survive and flourish. Sikh Gurus founded many cities that were governed by them according to Sikh principles. Sikh Gurus were called “Sacha Patshah” (True King) who sat on a throne, wore royal regalia, kept horses and falcons and had a well-trained equipped army. Baba Banda Singh, Nawab Kapoor Singh, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Sikh Misls, Maharaja Ranjit Singh and many others have been sovereign rulers of Sikh kingdoms. Sikhs have ruled in Northern India from 1765—1849 as independent rulers. Sikhs have been instructed to remain sovereign. Therefore, even if Sant Jarnail Singh had raised a voice for Khalistan it would not have been against the Sikh tenets nor would it have made him a terrorist.

The government attack on Darbar Sahib unequivocally proves that Sikh sovereignty cannot exist peacefully in India because when Sikhs are the rulers their Gurdwaras are not attacked and neither are the religious sites of any other faith; however when a foreign hostile ruler comes into power, the Gurdwaras become the first target in attacks against the Sikhs. Hence, the Indian government is a suppressive Hindu government that is no different than the past Mughal, Afghan, and the British governments.

Agent of Congress or Pakistan

Part of the propaganda campaign against Sant Jarnail Singh was to damage his image and character within the Sikh community. For this reason, he was called an agent of Congress who was sent to divide the Akali party. Some even insinuated that he had links with Pakistan. This was concocted to discredit the Sikh struggle by turning Sant Jarnail Singh into a nefarious political creation of Pakistan. We shall clear both of these accusations in this section.

     (i)     Links with Pakistan

There is no evidence whatsoever proving his links with Pakistan. The intent behind the anti-Sikh campaign and spreading false stories was to confuse the minds of the Sikhs so that they would get discouraged and feel as if their struggle was nothing more than a setup of Pakistan and they were being used as tools against their own country. Sant Jarnail Singh countered this myth in his own speech on 23 May 1983 to which the government and its owned media gave no response.

Especially, this statement that Bibi Indira (Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India) has made that Pakistan has a hand in this struggle. Prior to this, Charan Choudhary (Charan Singh, Prime Minister of India 1977-1980) had made a statement that persons from Pakistan come to visit Bhindranwale in Nanak Niwas and return after discussions and making programs. (In doing this) that man showed bankruptcy of his mind, the death of his brain. (One might ask them): "If you know those persons from Pakistan come here to see me, you have so large a CID (Intelligence Division) why are those persons not arrested on their way? Then, they return from here. Why are they not apprehended at that time? If you (the leaders of the Government) know that they come to see me then you must be in league with them and they must be coming, getting out and returning with your permission." To this they have not given any reply in the newspapers.[89]

From this alone we can safely conclude that Sant Jarnail Singh had no links with Pakistan and the Sikh movement was not created by Pakistan to weaken India. Sant Jarnail Singh never wished to go to Pakistan to visit Sikh Gurdwaras left behind during the partition because he did not want to remove his Kirpan. The Indian government and its proponents to this day have not presented any shred of evidence to validate their point. If for the sake of the argument we assume that someone from Pakistan was visiting Sikhs during the struggle, it proves that the Pakistani government sympathized with the Sikhs more than the Indian government. Indira Gandhi or any government official for that matter never approached the Sikhs for peaceful negotiations to solve the Punjab situation. This only shows that whereas a foreign government was reaching out to the Sikhs, the Indian government was unwilling to hold talks with its own citizens to reach a resolution, thus, showing no care to the Sikh cause.

     (ii)     Agent of Congress

The myth of Sant Jarnail Singh being an agent of Congress was started and propagated by Harchand Singh Longowal at the behest of Indira Gandhi. Both had the same motive to wean Sikhs away from the magnetic personality of Sant Jarnail Singh, to blemish his true image and keep ahold of their political positions. Indira Gandhi wanted to appease the majority Hindu while Longowal wanted to keep his political sway over the Akali party. Indira Gandhi had failed to suppress the Sikh movement and win over Sant Jarnail Singh to her side. The only way left for her was to spread rumors. Realizing that no Sikh would believe her, she made a truce with Longowal to be her spokesperson against Sant Jarnail Singh. Dr. A. R. Darshi explains:

Making full use of her immoral treaties on politics Indira Gandhi at first tried to woo Sant Bhindranwale who was the real force behind the Dharam Yudh Morcha. But he was a man of determination and an embodiment of the tenets of the Khalsa. He, therefore, spurned all tricky moves made by Indira Gandhi. Failing to wean him away from his mission she tried to isolate him. To achieve that she turned her face to Longowal who fell prey to her game as they were hankering only after political power and she was ready to throw them that bait. They were appeased and bribed by her by promising them to hand over political power. In return, they were required to divide the Akali Dal and isolate Sant Bhindranwale. In order to camouflage their treacherous acts Longowal and his supporters launched a full scale offensive against Sant Bhindranwale and branded him as agent of the Congress. They went to the extent of dubbing him as extremist, separatist and traitor to the Sikh Panth. This is what Indira wanted and expected. It was his greatness that he never passed any invectives against his maligners. He simply but firmly said that time will prove who were Congress agents and traitors to the Panth.[90]

Traitors Longowal (middle) and Tohra (right)
Longowal not only started a vicious propaganda of lies but also banned Sant Jarnail Singh from speaking in Manji Sahib (speaking hall) which Sant Ji himself revealed in his speech on 19 April 1984. Longowal also tried to convince Giani Kirpal Singh (head of Akal Takhat Sahib) to excommunicate Sant Jarnail Singh to urge Sikhs to dissociate themselves from him but Giani Kirpal Singh refused to comply without any proper reasons. Sant Jarnail Singh being a visionary and a far-sighted man did not utter a single word against Longowal because he wished the Sikhs to remain united against the Indian government and taking any action against the lies of Longowal would have created factions within the Sikh groups. Sant Jarnail Singh, however, gave proper replies to the misconceptions but not once did he mention Longowal or speak against him. In June, 1984 Sant Jarnail Singh became a martyr sacrificing his life for the Sikh cause while defending Darbar Sahib while Longowal was safely escorted out and taken to an unknown location where he lived a lavish lifestyle all the while Sikhs were being hunted down and killed. After a while, Longowal came out in the open and with government assistance became the head of the Akali Party. Then he signed a Rajiv-Longowal Accord which was against the Sikh demands. For his treacherous role, he was gunned down by Sikh freedom fighters. Thus, it was him who was the real traitor and an agent of Congress not Sant Jarnail Singh.

Some writers and journalists falling prey to this misconception assert that Sant Jarnail Singh was backed by Congress with whose support his popularity and fame grew within the Sikh circles. They assert that Congress wanted to use him to weaken the Akalis. For example, Vir Sanghvi, states that Zail Singh failed to arrest Sant Jarnail Singh even after it had become clear that he was a “man of violence” and let him escape from Haryana.[91] However, he presents no credible evidence to support his viewpoint. His mere conjectures only echo the official version and are not valid proofs against Sant Jarnail Singh.

These paid puppets do not present any credible source as evidence to back up their claims. Sant Jarnail Singh was the head of Damdami Taksal (a Sikh religious school) whose name is well known in the Sikh community. Sant Jarnail Singh spent his childhood under the guidance of Sant Kartar Singh from whom he received religious education, mentorship and observed Sikh political struggle. His whole character was developed and molded according to the Sikh teachings. Sant Kartar Singh was known to be a strict follower of the Sikh religion and a key figure in the struggle against the government during the time of Emergency Rule. His role and preaching against the government hired ‘Nirankaris’ was also significant. Because of these reasons, Indira Gandhi considered Damdami Taksal a sharp thorn in her political foothold. She wanted to eliminate Damdami Taksal at all cost. Thus, it is inconceivable that she would choose one of the best students of Sant Kartar Singh as her agent.

Questioning why Indira Gandhi would choose such a man, Mark Tully, a BBC journalist of the time, responds by asserting that Sant Jarnail Singh “was chosen for his religious fervor and so that he could take a stand against the Akalis” and “Congress wanted to groom him to sing their tunes”.[92] However, Sant Jarnail Singh at the time had already been groomed by his religious school to sing the tunes of the Sikh religion. He was a religious figure rather than a political one, and going against the Akalis meant defeating them on political platform. Mark Tully himself confirms that Sant Jarnail Singh was a “natural fanatical religious leader than a natural politician”[93] then why was Congress not wise enough to choose someone who was a bit experienced and possessed leadership skills in politics? In 1977, when Sant Kartar Singh died, Sant Jarnail Singh was called from his personal residence and unanimously appointed the next successor. Congress had no involvement in this matter. In 1978, when 13 Sikhs were martyred, it was Sant Jarnail Singh who raised his voice against the government. On the other hand, the Akalis obeyed every command of the government by providing help to the perpetrators and escorting them safely out of Punjab in government owned vehicles. This shows that from the time of Sant Jarnail Singh’s appointment, the Akalis sided with the government and therefore, Congress did not need to take any steps to weaken them. Additionally, Sant Jarnail Singh never opposed Akalis on any political platform. During his religious discourses and numerous lectures and interviews he strongly condemned the government rather than the Akalis.

Further, even the peaceful struggle that was launched by the Akalis in 1980s was not actively supported by the Sikh masses. Majority of the Sikh voice was behind Sant Jarnail Singh whose inspirational speeches were attracting all levels of Sikh society. Even the peaceful struggle did not catch any momentum until Sant Jarnail Singh offered his support and actively participated in it. Thus, it is ridiculous to claim that the government wanted to weaken the Akalis when they were never strong enough to oppose the government to begin with and were ever ready to betray their own people to gain more power. The government never took them seriously and only wished to suppress Sant Jarnail Singh’s preaching activities.[94] Additionally, the Akalis had already joined hands with the BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party) and therefore were not in any position to independently win the elections. If at all, the government should have targeted the BJP to weaken the Akalis rather than picking a noble man like Sant Jarnail Singh who never entered politics and had no desire to hold any political office.

This misconception falls flat on its face when we consider the fact that the Akalis were secretly communicating with the Congress government while the struggle was continuing in full force. The letters written by Longowal and Gurcharan Singh Tohra expressed their desire to the government to take strict action against Sant Ji and to eliminate him. These letters also confirm the full support of the Akalis was extended to the government.[95]

Congress could have chosen any person and popularized him using its media just like it did in case of Gurbachan, a characterless leader of the so-called Nirankaris. Choosing someone like Sant Jarnail Singh was impossible because he was dedicated and committed to the Sikh ideals. Congress needed someone of low character who had no interest in practicing religion, was selfish, could be easily bought and persuaded to go against his own religion and betray his own community for material wealth. Sant Jarnail Singh was not but Longowal was that someone who had no education and had entered politics just to gain wealth. Had Sant Jarnail Singh been a Congress agent, he would have been the favorite of government officials and he would have indulged in at least some amount of anti-Sikh activities but not even one such incident is found throughout the entire life of Sant Jarnail Singh. Furthermore, Sant Jarnail Singh would have started a separate Sikh party to weaken the Akalis and the government media would have printed news in his favor. But it is a known fact that the media continued to print misinformation fed by the government and played a vital role in spreading government propaganda against Sant Jarnail Singh to brand him as terrorist, separatist and an extremist.

By early 1984, the Akali party had become nearly impotent as the entire Sikh voice supported Sant Jarnail Singh. Laura Lopez wrote in June 1984:

By early this year, it was apparent to her (Indira Gandhi) that Bhindranwale had become so popular he had usurped the Akalis' authority, leaving the party impotent in negotiations and fearful of his violent fanaticism. No matter how long she talked to the Akalis, Mrs. Gandhi concluded, they could never deliver on an agreement that would hold while Bhindranwale was alive.[96]

It becomes clear that the negotiating talks between Indira Gandhi and the sell-out Akalis could yield no result and could not appease the Sikhs by early 1984. Thus, had Sant Jarnail Singh been planted by the Congress to weaken the Akalis, the objective had been achieved at least 6 months prior to the attack. Why then did the government have to eliminate the person (or its agent) who had fulfilled his alleged given mission? Therefore, it is apparent that Sant Ji was not an agent of Congress. The government and the Hindu extremists saw the revival of Sikhism as a threat and crime against India to eliminate which the attack and the Sikh genocide was chosen as the valid option by the government. To achieve such a wicked goal, a vilification and hate campaign against Sant Ji was needed to depict him as a criminal and a terrorist so that the government could easily and justifiably launch an attack with its army.

Traitors like Partap Kairon, Darbara Singh, Giani Zail Singh, Longowal and Beant Singh are well known for their services rendered to the government and betrayal of the Sikh community. Their actions against the Sikhs speak for themselves but when it comes to Sant Jarnail Singh there is not a single action or word that can be found against the Sikh community. He stood for Sikh rights but the government agents always spoke against the Sikh demands and even took active measures to suppress the Sikhs. Whereas government agents lived (and still live) lavishly Sant Jarnail Singh led a simple life. Whereas the government always protected its agents, Sant Jarnail Singh was martyred by the army equipped with tanks and heavy artillery. Since when has the government ever launched a full scale attack to kill its own agent? Even after so many years, the government disapproves of constructing any memorial in his name and displaying his picture in the Sikh Museum. On the other hand, the government designates federal holidays on the name of its agents. Those who called Sant Jarnail Singh an agent or a terrorist remained political leaders and enjoyed favors at the hands of the Hindu government but Sant Jarnail Singh lived and died like a true Sikh. His sacrifice is considered heroic and he is considered a true martyr and has been given the title of ‘Sikh of 20th Century’. No agent of the government could have obtained a closer place in the hearts of the Sikhs as Sant Jarnail Singh did and no agent could ever receive such respect and honor within the Sikh nation. His speeches to this day have the same inspiring and uplifting effects as they did back then.

All these arguments clearly prove that Sant Jarnail Singh was not an agent of Congress. In fact, it was the government who made up these lies. Cynthia Mahmood rightly observes:

Whatever ties Bhindranwale may have had with Congress in the early days, it would be misleading to suggest that Congress "created" the Bhindranwale phenomenon.[97]

Here is a synopsis from Sant Jarnail Singh’s own speech delivered on September 20, 1983 concerning this misconception.

Who is it that keeps calling me an agent of the Congress, a traitor (to the nation)? The Government has initiated these plots to create dissensions and divisions in the Panth, to make us fight amongst ourselves, in order to preserve their own chairs (positions of power). We have to guard against these (schemes). Tell me if administering Amrit (initiating people into the Sikh faith), teaching people to live by the Rehat (Sikh code of conduct), teaching them to read Guru's Word, getting them to unite under the saffron Nishaan Sahib, uniting them with Siri Guru Granth Sahib, uniting them with Akal Takhat Sahib and Harmandar Sahib, to be desirous of demanding, and urging the young men to demand, justice for the lost honor of our daughters and sisters, for the blood of the innocents, and for insults against the Satguru, and declaring support for the Panth, not surreptitiously but openly, if all this is the work of an agent of the Congress, then what is the business of the others? If this is the work of an agent, I am an agent. If this is the work of a bad man, I am bad. If this is the work of a Jan Sanghi (a member of the Jan Sangh, a radical Hindu political party), I am a Jan Sanghi. If this is the work of a Kali, I am a Kali. If this is the work of an Akali, in that case, I am already an Akali to start with….The Government will use many such tricks. It is going to try every which way, even by buying some of us over.[98]

Those who call Sant Jarnail Singh an agent are the real agents. They are the ones who took side with the Indian government and continue to write in favor of the government while completely ignoring human rights violations in the Punjab. The real agents betrayed Sikhs, surrendered to the army and helped the government kill thousands of innocent Sikhs. Sant Jarnail Singh vowed to fight to defend the honor of Darbar Sahib till his last breath and he lived up to it. It was only after his martyrdom that the army was able to enter Darbar Sahib. His mission inspired the whole Sikh generation to start a struggle for Sikh freedom which shall continue until it is achieved.

Threat to Kill Hindus

Whether Sant Jarnail Singh preached violence or hated anyone has already been refuted previously. Here we wish to address a specific incident that involved threatening to kill Hindus 5000 to be specific. Indian government and Hindu majority annoyed by this statement mislead the general public that Sant Jarnail Singh hated Hindus and considered them his enemy. This is far from the truth. Sant Jarnail Singh did not hate Hindus. He addressed this point in his famous speech “I do not hate Hindus” in which he narrates many examples of him helping the Hindus. We only give the summary points of the speech defending his stance.

  1. He rescued a daughter of a Hindu named Hukam Chand from Jalalabad.
  2. He gave 500 rupees to Kailash Chandar to get him back on his feet after his shop was caught on fire and destroyed.
  3. In Kapurthala, a copy of Ramayana (Hindu holy book) was burnt. He spent 5000 rupees on litigation to get the culprits punished.
  4. In April 1983, two Hindus died during “Stop the Traffic” campaign. He gave 5000 rupees to each of the families.

Complete details of the above four examples can be found in his speeches. This proves that he had no enmity for the Hindus otherwise he would not have offered any help to them. These statements are from 20 September, 1983. Many of his other passages refuting this myth can be found in his speeches. Now, let us discuss the speech about threatening to kill 5000 Hindus. The intent of this statement can only be well understood given its proper context, background and the circumstance.

When the peaceful struggle was in full force and at its zenith, the government started to deal more aggressively with the Sikhs. About 200 Sikhs became martyrs. Many were crippled in jail due to extensive tortures. Some were tortured to death. Gurdwaras were destroyed and Gurbani Pothis (Sikh Holy Scriptures) were desecrated and burnt. Despite numerous appeals to the government, the perpetrators were never arrested. The police took no action and no case was ever registered. Then a Sikh donated a jeep worth 80,000 rupees which the government confiscated with no reason or justification. Five Sikhs Jagir Singh, Mangal Singh, Ajaib Singh, Amrik Singh and Thara Singh from the group of Sant Jarnail Singh were arrested without any charge or allegation of crime. Then the Sikh community collected 300,000 rupees and bought a bus for the group of Sant Jarnail Singh for preaching tours all over India. This bus was sent along with some Sikhs to bring Mata Labh Kaur (the old aged mother of Sant Kartar Singh, mentor of Sant Jarnail Singh). This bus was confiscated and all the Sikhs arrested without any reason. The police showed no care for the elderly mother and treated her badly. Sant Jarnail Singh made an appeal to release the innocent Sikhs but it was ignored by the government officials thinking that the Sikhs will eventually quiet down. However, they did not realize that their maltreatment had reached an unbearable extent and Sikhs would not tolerate the arrest and maltreatment of their respected women. As a last resort, Sant Jarnail Singh issued a statement that if the bus along with all the passengers were not released by 5p.m. he will kill 5,000 Hindus in one hour. As a result the government complied and all Sikhs were released.

It is clear from the above that the statement was issued as a last resort to get the government to listen and be fair.  The most obvious fact that is ignored by most people is that the government not only acted quickly but also complied with the Sikh demand upon receiving the threat. When hundreds of Sikhs were killed, thousands arrested and desecration of Sikh scriptures had happened numerous times, the government remained inactive but as soon as the word ‘Hindu’ was mentioned the government woke from its slumber to protect the Hindu majority. The question here is not why the statement was issued but why the government remained quiet in case of Sikhs but became active for the Hindus. This shows government’s bias, partial and discriminatory behavior towards the Sikh community. There was no justice for the Sikhs from the government who only worked to appease the majority Hindus. The most glaring fact staring us in the face is that the government loved Hindus while showing no care to the religious sentiments of the Sikhs. On the one hand, the government and the Hindu majority raise a hue and cry over Sikhs being part of the Hindus and on the other attribute titles of “terrorists”, “extremists” and “dangerous” only to the Sikhs. Such bigotry can only stem from racial discrimination.

Hindus usually reason that those 5,000 Hindus were innocent and the statement itself points towards terrorism. We respond that hundreds of Sikhs who were tortured to death were equally innocent. Thousands of Sikh pilgrims who died during the Operation Blue Star attack and Sikhs killed in fake encounters were also innocent. Thousands of Sikhs massacred in November 1984 were equally innocent. What was their fault? They were killed for being Sikhs. If this is a just reason then Sant Jarnail Singh’s statement was on the same line that he would target Hindus for being Hindus. This was no different than the government’s policy. The difference being that the government was inflicted with intolerance, prejudice and discrimination while Sant Jarnail Singh was driven with the motive of securing equal rights. Further, he only issued the statement and did not act on it. He did not kill a single Hindu. On the other hand, the Indian government is responsible for killing thousands of Sikhs. Hindus killed many Sikhs in neighboring states and raped Sikh women. Any logical and sane person would agree that the real terrorist is the one who actually commits terrorism as opposed to the one who merely makes a verbal claim; that also only as an idle threat used as negotiation. Hence, the one who acts is a greater terrorist than the one who only issues a statement. This makes Hindus and the Indian government real terrorists not the Sikhs.

The law should be applied to all equally. This is the only way for different communities to coexist in peace and harmony. It is ironic that the government agents label Sant Jarnail Singh as a terrorist but make no mention of atrocities and mass killings committed by the government agencies and the general Hindu public. It is not fair press when a Sikh is called a terrorist for issuing a statement but all Hindu leaders and fascist groups are considered ‘patriots’ for threatening to kill Sikhs. Such reporters and writers have sold their conscience, soul and pen and surrendered their will to the government for writing against the Sikhs. It was a case of survival of 5,000 Hindus versus the entire Sikh nation. Sant Jarnail Singh did not kill a single Hindu but the government launched a full scale attack with its full machinery to try and eliminate the entire Sikh nation and crush its free spirit. Therefore, the government was the real terrorist not Sant Jarnail Singh.

Sant Ji and Akal Takhat

It is argued by some gullible and ignorant people from within the Sikh community that had Sant Jarnail Singh evacuated the holy place, the great damage and loss incurred could have been avoided. They argue that since Sri Guru Hargobind Ji vacated the holy place when he was attacked, Sant Ji should have done the same. However, such a statement is the product of their sheer ignorance and foolishness of placing their trust in the Indian army while portraying the true defenders of the holy place as the “bad guys”.

In 17th century, Sri Guru Hargobind Ji left the holy place because the war was between Sikhs and the Mughals. The latter deliberately attacked to capture or kill the Guru in order to subvert the Sikh uprising. The Mughal target was not Darbar Sahib. For this very reason, the Mughals chose the wedding day of Bibi Veero Ji, daughter of Guru Sahib, as the day of the attack thinking that it would be easy for them to destroy the nascent Sikh militia forces considering the Guru will be occupied with the weeding affairs. Guru Sahib not only wished to save the innocent Sikhs, wedding guests and the holy place from unnecessary harms but also give a befitting response to repulse the attack. Thus, Guru Sahib arranged the wedding to take place outside the city and shifted his camp to divert the Mughal army attention from the wedding as well as the holy place. The very fact that the Mughals did not go to Darbar Sahib proves that the holy place was not their target at all.

In contrast, the Indian government had chosen Darbar Sahib particularly Akal Takhat as its target. Sant Jarnail Singh was merely a pretext for the attack not the real target. As we have already proven that since Sant Ji did not remain confined to the holy place, he could be arrested at any time. Besides, there were no criminal charges leveled against him and even then the State police are sent to make arrests. Furthermore, the army had been preparing for the attack at least 18 months prior to June 1984 when Sant Jarnail Singh had not even shifted himself within the precincts of the complex. Thus, to assert that the army would not have caused any damage had Sant Jarnail Singh evacuated the complex is based on the false assumption that the attack was against Sant Jarnail Singh personally and not on the entire Sikh nation. It is foolish to assume that the government prepared and rehearsed the attack for 18 months and sent in its heavily equipped army just to fight one single man who could have easily been arrested at any time. It must be kept in mind that numerous other Gurdwaras in Punjab were also attacked and innocent Sikh pilgrims who had no links with Sant Jarnail Singh were arrested and killed. The events of the attack and its aftermath clearly point out to the fact that the attack was not against Sant Jarnail Singh but against the Sikh nation to destroy its source of power and inspiration.

Why was Akal Takhat chosen by the government? Because Akal Takhat has always remained the symbol of Sikh struggle for justice and freedom. It has been the center of all struggles throughout Sikh history. Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon states:

It was from the Akal Takhat that the Sikhs conducted their long drawn out political struggles against the foreign invaders. It has been the nucleus of crusade against every malevolent rule and a symbol of Sikh struggle for freedom. Realising its significance as the heart and soul of Sikh faith, the shrine was made, several times, the target of attack by the enemies in order to annihilate the Sikhs.[99]

The Indian government targeted Akal Takhat for the same reasons as foreign invaders in the past i.e. to attack the heart of Sikhism and destroy it root and branch as well as cow down the Sikhs into submission. Dhillon affirms:

Assault on Darbar Sahib marked the climax of a consistent Government policy to weaken the Sikhs religiously. It aimed at undermining the foundations of Sikhism and depriving the Sikhs of all those glories that rendered them respectable in the eyes of the world.[100]

Just as Ahmad Shah Abdali and the Mughals had targeted the holy place to destroy the Sikhs, the Indian government too followed the same footsteps. It made no difference to the enemy whether there were any Sikhs defending the place or not.

We have already discussed in detail that the government had no valid reasons to attack the holy place in the first place. There were no terrorists hiding and no mass collection of weapons inside the complex, the Sikhs inside were going in and out of the place all the time, Sikhs who fought against the army were not wanted criminals nor was there any warrant issued against any one of them and the weapons they had legitimately acquired were duly licensed (up until the time when the licenses were biasedly and needlessly revoked by the government in an attempt to disarm them so that the entire Sikh nation will be defenseless against the army).

Sikhs are brave and courageous people who do not tolerate any assault on their Gurdwaras. Sant Jarnail Singh drew his inspiration from the Sikh ideals and history and sacrificed his life defending the sanctity of Darbar Sahib. He had done nothing wrong. Only a eunuch or someone with no courage, bravery, conscience and self-confidence would allow the enemy to attack his place of worship without putting up a fight.

Had Sikhs silently left the holy place, it would have been a matter of a great shame for the entire Sikh nation. The same people who implore the possibility of Sant Ji evacuating the complex and thus allowing the army to have had a free reign of terror, loot and destruction would have labeled him as coward and liar had he actually deserted. These same people have done nothing for the sake of the Sikh community and made no contribution towards the progress of the Sikh religion. Lacking all rationality and common sense they fail to answer why thousands of Sikhs were mercilessly massacred after the attack inside the holy place and why more than twenty thousand Sikhs were brutally killed in Delhi and other Indian cities in November 1984.[101] Was Sant Jarnail Singh there as well? The Indian government had also attacked Darbar Sahib in 1955 and attacked Paonta Sahib in 1964. Was it because of Sant Jarnail Singh? When Sant Jarnail Singh was alive the spirit of the Sikhs was at its peak and people were adopting Sikhism in droves. After the attack not only was the spread of Sikhism suppressed but baptized Sikhs were specifically targeted and eliminated to reduce the Sikh population. This proves that the government’s ulterior motive was to destroy the Sikh religion root and branch. The government showed no care to the sanctity of the holy places, religious sentiments of the Sikhs and basic human rights of the Sikhs. The government destroyed the Sikh Gurdwaras, suppressed the Sikhs for decades and blamed it all on Sant Jarnail Singh and using its media and sell-outs managed to convince the ignorant and foolish masses.

The government has no right to interfere in the religious matters of the Sikhs or for that matter, any other religious community. Sikhs can go to Darbar Sahib either fully armed or not. The government has no right to dictate how Sikhs should visit their holy places. The fault lies with the government who deliberately attacked the entire Sikh nation. It should have been the government’s responsibility to ensure protection of life and property of its citizens and the government should have made proper plans so that the loss of life and property was minimized. However, to the contrary, the government calculatingly selected the day when the holy place is most visited, and then only after letting all pilgrims gather inside the temple, attacked the complex with tanks. Sant Jarnail Singh rightly defended the holy place. Neither did he initiate the attack nor did he fire the first bullet. The army kept firing at the holy place to identify positions of the defenders and type of weapons they had but they received no return fire. Sikhs only retaliated when the army had entered the complex. Dr. A. R. Darshi states:

When the CRPF opened fire the army officers were present beside them with a view to observing and studying the positions of the defenders of the Golden Temple Complex. But they could achieve little except hitting the Golden Temple and Guru Ram Das Langar building where Bhindranwale held his daily congregation.[102]

As far as the question of launching the struggle from the holy place is concerned, Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon explains:

The Gurdwara Reform Movement and a number of other Morchas such as Guru Ka Bagh, keys of the Golden Temple and the Akal Takhat, Bhai Pheru Gurdwara and Gurdwara Gangsar, which played a significant role in keeping the socio-religious liberties of the Sikhs intact were all launched from the Akal Takhat. Even after Independence, all Sikh agitations, Morchas for the creation of Punjabi Suba and the ‘Save Democracy Campaign’ against the imposition of Emergency (1975) were conducted from the premises of the Akal Takhat. No objection was ever raised about the use of the Golden Temple Complex for the socio-political purposes. It was only after the launching of the Dharam Yudh Morcha (1982) that the use of Darbar Sahib for political purposes became the subject of an unsavoury controversy.[103]

Fortifying the holy place was not against the Sikh practices. Guru Gobind Singh Ji had built five forts to defend against the hill kings and the Mughal army. Every government takes defensive steps and measures to protect itself from enemy attacks. Amassing weapons, military training, contingency planning etc. are all part of preparation. These corrupt governments of the world do not have any divine right nor are they superior to rest of mankind, they have no right to carry out such actions. The Sikh nation has the divine right to remain martial and collect weapons to defend against all enemy attacks. Sant Jarnail Singh being a devout Sikh followed the teachings of the Sikh Gurus and took the same precautionary measures. On what grounds can he ever be classed as a terrorist? His preparations were so minor compared to those of the Indian government, yet ironically Sant Jarnail Singh instead of the government is labeled as the terrorist. Moreover, fortifying the holy place was carried out as a defensive measure after Sikhs had learned about the government preparations to launch an attack. Sant Jarnail Singh had warned the Sikh masses many times in his speeches about the inevitable attack and the action Sikhs must take to combat the situation.[104] This proves that the attack was no surprise to him or anyone else. Had the attack been against Sant Jarnail Singh, he would have evacuated the holy place himself but since he was well informed of the government’s intentions, he prepared to defend the holy place. It was not his personal fight but a Dharam Yudh (righteous religious war) for which he sacrificed his life as he had vowed in case of an attack.

Therefore, we conclude that Sant Jarnail Singh cannot be held responsible for the damage caused by the government. Evacuation of the holy place by Sant Ji would have brought more destruction, killing and shame to the Sikh nation. Sant Jarnail Singh and his brave companions died fighting for a noble cause repelling the attack as much as they possibly could have.

Last Words

In this article we have addressed every common misconception and myth regarding Sant Jarnail Singh. If after reviewing all this, someone who still has doubts must ponder upon the facts that the demands raised by Sant Jarnail Singh are still hanging and remain unresolved. Sikhs are still considered Hindus according to Article 25 of the Indian Constitution and they must register their marriage under “Hindu Marriage Act”. Amritsar has still not been given the status of ‘holy city’ which was readily granted to Hindu and Buddhist cities. Chandigarh, the capital city, has not been rightfully returned to Punjab. Punjab’s water and electricity are still controlled by the Central Government and being given free of charge to the neighboring states of Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi. Sikh Gurdwaras are still being attacked, fake encounters are taking place in police stations, women are being raped and the Holy Scriptures are being desecrated. Criminals walk free and Sikhs are punished for peacefully protesting. Punjab has been flooded with drugs and alcohol. Imposters are posing themselves as Gurus and misleading the masses. If Sant Jarnail Singh was the real cause of the turmoil in Punjab then why has the Punjab situation gotten worse after the Sikh movement has been suppressed? Clearly, the government now faces no opposition and has an open road to do everything it wants i.e. to destroy the Sikhs and their prosperity.

Sant Jarnail Singh was the only person who kept the government in check and exposed its despotic behavior and anti-Sikh activities to the general masses. His noble sacrifice has earned him the status of ‘Sikh of 20th Century’ which is due to love and admiration the Sikhs have for him. True heroes like him have always been branded as extremists, separatists and terrorists by the oppressive regimes but the truth shall prevail. Just like Mughal and the British Empires that considered Sikhs as terrorists have vanished, the Indian regime too shall disappear from the map of this world. A day shall come when Sikhs will become sovereign rulers of their homeland and Sant Jarnail Singh will get his due respect and honor in history books. As long as the world lives, the name of Sant Jarnail Singh will be remembered in the hearts of the Sikhs as a true Sikh, martyr and a great warrior. His name will continue to exist in the memory of Sikhs and his life will continue to inspire future generations of Sikhs to fight against tyranny, oppression and injustice. In the words of A. R. Darshi:

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.[105]

May Guru Sahib bless the Sikh nation with more Sikhs like Sant Jarnail Singh.

Notes and References

[1]. India Today, 31 December 1983, page 36

[2]. Gurdev Singh: Letter addressed to I.K. Gujral, dated 26 January 1996, published in Abstract of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, October-December 1996, pp. 106-111

[3]. Singh, Pritam (2004). Saka Neela Tara Kyon Te Kiven (Operation Blue Star Why and How). In Prabhsharanbir Singh (Ed.), Patiala: Sikh Students Federation (pp. 51-54).

[4]. Arun Shourie: The Consequences of Pandering. Indian Express, May 13, 1982.

[5] Partap, May 6, 1983 in India Commits Suicide by G. S. Dhillon, p. 166-67

[6] Noorani. A.G.; A White Paper on a Black Record, in Samiuddin, Abida (ed.), The Punjab Crisis: Challenge and Response (Delhi, 1985), p. 238.

[7] Farooqi, M.; June 83 Formula Offers A Solution in Ibid, p. 333.

[8] Dhillon, G. S. India Commits Suicide (2nd ed.). Chandigarh: Singh and Singh Publishers, 1993. Print, p. 201

[9] Ibid. p. 201-02

[10] Surya, July, 1984.

[11] Ibid

[12] Dhillon, G. S. Ibid, p. 201-02

[13]. Puri, Rajinder. “Remembering 1984.” The Tribune. 2 November 2003. Web. 25 December 2013.

[14]. Spokesman Weekly, July 16, 1984, p. 28-29

[15]. Ibid

[16]. Sharma, Man Mohan. What Ails the Indian Army: A Report to the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces. USA: Trishul Publication, 1998. Print, p. 273

[17] Sunday Times, London, June 10, 1984.

[18]. Spokesman Weekly, July 16, 1984,  p. 28-29

[19]. Deol, Sonia. 1984: A Sikh Story. Interview with Kuldip Brar. 2010.

[20] Nayar, Kuldip and Khushwant Singh. Tragedy of Punjab. Vision Books: New Delhi, 1984. Print, p. 10

[21] Tully, Mark and Jacob, Satish. Amritsar: Mrs. Gandhi’s Last Battle. Rupa Co: New Delhi, 1985. Print, p. 147-48.

[22]. Deol, Sonia. Ibid.

[23]. Ibid. Interview with eyewitnesses.

[24] Rao, Amiya, Aurbindo Ghose, Sunil Bhattacharya, Tejinder Ahuja and N.D. Pancholi. Report to the Nation: Oppression in Punjab (US ed.). Columbus (Ohio): A Sikh Religious and Educational Trust Publication, 1986. Print, p. 59

[25]. Ibid

[26]. Nayar, Kuldip. Blue Star was Indira Gandhi’s call. The Tribune. 27 January, 2014. Web. 30 January, 2014

[27]. Ibid

[28] It may be noted by some readers that Dr. Darshi’s work has been often cited in this article. We would like the readers to know that Dr. Darshi is a Hindu academic and has honestly presented the facts in his book. It should be noted that a Sikh writer may well be accused of bias but what would Dr. Darshi gain by praising Sant Jarnail Singh? He has simply written the truth and his efforts are commended and appreciated by all admirers of the truth.

[29]. Darshi, A. R. The Gallant Defender (4th ed.). Amritsar: Bhai Chattar Singh Jiwan Singh, 2004. Print, p. 106

[30]. Indira Gandhi Television Speech, 2 June 1984

[31] Dhillon, G. S. Ibid, p. 217

[32]. “Gun Battle Rages in the Sikh Holy Shrine.” The Times, 5 June 1984. p. 1

[33]. The Times. 6 June 1984. p. 36

[34] Dhillon, G. S. Ibid, p. 220

[35]. Deol, Sonia. 1984: A Sikh Story. Interview with eyewitnesses. 2010.

[36]. The Guardian, 14th June 1984

[37]. Christian Science Monitor, 8th June 1984

[38]. Amrit Wilson, New Statesman. 16th Nov 1984

[39]. Rao, Amiya et. al. Ibid, p. 44

[40]. Pettigrew, Joyce. The Sikhs of Punjab. London: Zed Publishers, 1995. Print, p. 35

[41]. Deol, Sonia. 1984: A Sikh Story. Interview with Kuldip Brar. 2010.

[42]. Singh, Dalip. Guru Gobind Singh and Khalsa Discipline. Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 1992. Print, p. 56

[43]. Shashtar Naam Maala part of Sri Dasam Granth.

[44]. Gandhi, Surjit Singh. Sikhs in 18th Century. PDF file. p. 149

[45]. Sukhwant Singh Jalalbad (2004). Maas De Cheethray Udd Ke Saravan Dian Deewaran Naal Laggay Sann (Pieces of Flesh were stuck to the Walls of Sarai). In Prabhsharanbir Singh (Ed.), Patiala: Sikh Students Federation. pp. 89-97

[46]. Deol, Sonia. 1984: A Sikh Story. Interview with Kuldip Brar. 2010

[47]. Ibid.

[48]. Darshi, p. 53

[49]. Zafarnama by Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

[50]. Sandhu, Ranbir Singh. Struggle for Justice. Dublin: Sikh Educational and Religious Foundation, 1999. Print, p. 286

[51]. Darshi, p. 67

[52]. Ibid.

[53]. Singh, Patwant, and Harji Malik. Puniab: The Fatal Miscalculation. Patwant Singh: New Delhi, 1985. PDF file, p. 149

[54]. Darshi, p. 131

[55]. Narang, Saroop Singh. Bahadar Sikh Kaum Kiven Pinjray Ch Payeee (How the Brave Sikh Nation was Enslaved). Wolverhampton: Guru Nanak Parkashan Academy, 1998. Print, p. 169

[56]. Bhanwar, H.S. Diary De Panne (Pages of Diary). Amritsar: S.G.P.C., 2000. Print, p 66

[57]. Singh, Tavleen. The Punjab Story. Ed. Amarjit Kaur et al., Roli Books: New Delhi, 1984. Print, p. 32

[58]. Darshi, p. 30

[59]. Ibid, p. 35

[60]. Singh, Khushwant (1985).  The Brink of the Abyss. In Patwant Singh and Harji Malik (Ed.), Puniab: The Fatal Miscalculation (p. 130). Patwant Singh: New Delhi.

[61]. Darshi, p. 40

[62]. Ibid, p. 95

[63]. Ibid, p. 68

[64]. White Paper on The Punjab Agitation, Government of India, 10 July 1984

[65]. Statesman, July 1, 1984

[66]. Nayar, Kuldip and Khushwant Singh. Tragedy of Punjab. Vision Books: New Delhi, 1985. Print, p. 56

[67]. Sachchidanand. Sinha, Jasvir Singh, Sunil, G.K.C. Reddy: Army Action in Punjab: Prelude and Aftermath. Samta Era: Delhi, 1984. Print, pp. 38-39

[68]. Sandhu, Ranbir Singh. p. 97

[69]. Ibid., p. xxii

[70]. Ibid., p. xxix

[71]. Sandhu, Ranbir Singh. p. 123

[72]. Harry Reasoner, CBS News 60 minutes, 10 June 1984

[73]. Sant Jarnail Singh speeches: May 1983, 16 August 1983, 20 September 1983, 8 March 1984, and the interview on 22 February 1984

[74]. Sandhu, Ranbir Singh. p. 376

[75]. Singh, Khushwant. A History of the Sikhs (Vols 2: 1839-1988), (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press: Delhi, 2004. Print, pp. 324-25

[76]. Vandana Shiva. The Violence of the Green Revolution. Research Foundation for Science and Ecology, Dehra Dun, 1989.

[77] Sandhu, Ranbir Singh. Sant Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale - Mission and Martyrdom. p. i

[78] Rao, Amiya et. al. Ibid, p. 17

[79] Dhillon, G. S. Ibid, p. 151

[80]. Speeches on 16 August 1983, 20 September 1983 and 8 March 1984.

[81]. Singh, Surinderjit, personal communication, January 1983

[82]. Darshi, p. 27

[83]. Arun Shourie: The Consequences of Pandering. Indian Express, May 13, 1982.

[84]. Wali, M.M.K. (1984). The Army Action at Golden Temple. In Patwant Singh and Harji Malik (Ed.), Puniab: The Fatal Miscalculation (p. 147). Patwant Singh: New Delhi.

[85]. Nayar, Kuldip and Khushwant Singh. Tragedy of Punjab. Vision Books: New Delhi, 1985. Print, pp. 71-72

[86]. Sandhu, Ranbir Singh. p. 112

[87]. Darshi, p. 27

[88]. Puri, Rajinder. “Remembering 1984.” The Tribune. 2 November 2003. Web. 25 December 2013.

[89]. Sandhu, Ranbir Singh. p. 139

[90]. Darshi, p. 78

[91]. Sanghvi Vir. The Giani and Bhindranwale. Imprint, February 1986

[92]. Deol, Sonia. 1984: A Sikh Story. Interview with Mark Tully. 2010.

[93]. Ibid.

[94]. Sandhu, Ranbir Singh. p. xxii

[95]. Singh, Prabhsharanbir. Saka 84. Patiala: Sikh Students Federation, 2004. Print, pp. 201-07

[96]. Laura Lopez. India: Diamonds and the Smell of Death. Time Magazine. 25 June 1984, p. 47

[97]. Mahmood, Cynthia. Fighting for Faith and Nation. University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia, 1996. Print, p. 80

[98]. Sandhu, Ranbir Singh. pp. 283-84

[99] Dhillon, G. S. Ibid, p. 207

[100] Ibid, p. 211

[101]. Jaijee, Inderjit Singh. Politics of Genocide. Baba Publishers: Chandigarh, 1996. Print, p. 33

[102]. Darshi, p. 108

[103] Dhillon, G. S. Ibid, p. 210

[104]. Sandhu, Ranbir Singh. p. 438

[105]. Darshi, p. 36