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The Spirit of the 18th Century: Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale [SPECIAL ARTICLE]

June 7, 2016 | By

This monograph addresses the misgivings of Sikhs and non-Sikhs regarding Darbar Sahib, also known as The Golden Temple, being the epicenter during the Indian army attack in June 1984. It traces the religious, historical and political reasons for the crystallization of the Brahminical Hindu mind as an antithesis to Sikh religion, philosophy and religio-political ethos exemplified by Sikh consciousness.

This is an English version of the original article written in Punjabi.

by: Prabhjot Singh*

A majority of Sikhs have not been able to reconcile to the fact that Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his associates made the Darbar Sahib complex a center for the struggle against the Indian government, nor are able to understand the rationale behind the choice of Darbar Sahib as a battleground to fight and attain martyrdom. This dichotomy prevails not only among ordinary Sikhs, but also among leaders and activists of organisations spearheading the Sikh struggle. They too have not been able to come to terms with this. The Sikh nation profusely respects Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. However, reeling under extreme pressures of Indian nationhood, the Sikh mind keeps on lamenting that Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was wrong in making Darbar Sahib as a center of the struggle.

The status of those participating in the struggle is coherently different from that of ordinary Sikhs. They fully understand and acclaim the deeds of Sant Jarnail Singh; they themselves are also honestly dedicated to further the Panthic cause. Still, they find it difficult to answer this question and are found ill-equipped to explain and elaborate this concept in clear detail. One the one hand little understanding of the distinct Sikh national identity becomes a stumbling block and on the other the pressure of the contemporary understanding of religion and places of worship. Though, it is clear that the second question arises from the failure to understand the first one.

This dichotomy continues to bother the Sikh mind or shall we say that the Sikh community continues to waver in the wrong direction. It is time to minutely consider every aspect of this approach and advance our correct argument to answer this key question.

Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale [File Photo]

Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale [File Photo]

Real Reasons and Purpose of the Indian Army Attack:

The conscious as well as the less aware sections of the Sikh community always dwell on the fact that the Brahminical ideology became enemies of Sikh thought from that very day when the child Guru Nanak refused to wear the sacred Brahmin Hindu janeu. This is indeed true. Since the times of Gurus, the Brahmin ideology continues to counter Sikh ideology out of jealousy, a misconceived sense of superiority and misplaced false pride. The birth of the Third Nation, the non-acceptance of the authority of the Brahmanical forces and the challenges posed to it are key factors responsible for this jealousy and continued enmity. It is this thinking which always remains resolute to destruct the distinct identity of the Khalsa Panth.

With the devolvement of political power upon leaders propounding the Brahminical ideology in 1947, their anti-Sikh approach, thought and action is coming to the fore in a more declared and overt way. Many Sikhs believe that the Indian government made the first attack on Darbar Sahib in June 1984. However in 1955, with barely 8 years of the newly acquired pseudo-freedom, the Indian state had attacked Darbar Sahib. This attack was carried out to destabilize the Punjabi Suba Morcha. The calamity that struck the Sikhs during that attack by the government machinery, within the precincts of Darbar Sahib may be understood through the detailed description by writer Karam Singh Zakhmi:

….As a precautionary measure, 24 licenses of guns belonging to Darbar Sahib, Sri Akal Takht Sahib and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee were suspended and the guns taken away by the police. All the guns and revolvers belonging to employees and workers of SGPC and Shiromani Akali Dal were also taken away by the police. The gun and pistol belonging to Master Tara Singh was also taken away by the police from his residence. This was purportedly done to prevent any possible retaliation by the use of these weapons after the pre-planned police attack. The attack led by Deputy Inspector General of Punjab Police Mahasha Ashwani Kumar began on the intervening night of 3-4 July 1955. Various police parties raided the houses of Darbar Sahib Head Priest Singh Sahib Giani Bhupinder Singh, Manager Darbar Sahib Giani Gurdial Singh, ad-hoc secretary of SGPC –Giani Teja Singh, Secretary SGPC Prof. Harbhajan Singh and other leaders and detained them. It is noteworthy that the police did not have arrest warrants for any of these respectable persons. When Singh Sahib Giani Bhupinder Singh sought a warrant from the police party which raided his house at midnight, he was told by the police personnel in charge of the raid, “I am the warrant”.

For the first time in history, during the Mughal period, the Head Priest of Darbar Sahib -Bhai Mani Singh was arrested. History repeated a second time when the Head Priest of Darbar Sahib and the Jathedar Sahib of Akal Takht Sahib were arrested and sent to prison by the Congress government. Here it is essential to deem the Congress party not just as a political outfit but as a representative organ of Brahmin ideology and policy.

The main action started around four in the in the morning, when thousands of armed police personnel led by Hindu chauvinist, DIG of Punjab Police Ashwani Kumar attacked Darbar Sahib. Barricades were put on all roads leading to Darbar Sahib and Darbar Sahib Sarai . With heavy police presence at all places, offices of the Shiromani Akali Dal were also attacked. Ashwani Kumar did this police action so that all Jathedars) who had come to Amritsar to participate in the Satyagraha could be arrested and there was no non-cooperation on that day and he could declare that the Morcha has been crushed. His thinking was that unless the congregation was upset, the Morcha would not fizzle out. With this evil intention, he stepped up the police action to take over the precincts of Gurdwara Manji Sahib. Right in the middle of the day, armed with lathis, pistols, guns and tear gas, thousands of police personnel reached Gurdwara Manji Sahib for the attack. The propaganda van accompanying the police announced over the public address system that Section 144 has been clamped on Gurdwara Manji Sahib and no congregation would be allowed there, even though thousands had already assembled there. This unprecedented action of the police led to a wave of sadness and anger amongst the congregation1. To instill fear and bewilderment amongst the people, the army was conducting flag marches in the by-lanes and bazars near Darbar Sahib2.

However to keep things under control, Hukam Singh exhorted the Sikh sangat to maintain peace and continue to recite Shabads. As a result, unmindful of the blistering heat, thousands of Sikhs –men and women, squatted on the ground from the Diwan hall up to the area where footwear is removed and deposited to enter the Darbar Sahib. They announced that the police will now have to go over their dead bodies should they continue their march towards Darbar Sahib.

The police continued their march ahead. However the entire pathway was occupied by Sikh men and women. They were ready to peacefully withstand all torture to prevent the police from going beyond Gurdwara Manji Sahib. The police attacked with tear gas and lathis. The first tear gas bomb was thrown where the pilgrims keep their footwear. It was obvious that that this would lead to mayhem. Still the Sikh men and women did not lose their cool and continue to sit there peacefully. The police then threw many tear gas shells and started a rain of lathis on the squatting congregation. Continuing their torturous ways, the police reached the main Diwan hall of Manji Sahib. Even there they threw tear gas shells and beat up the people with an indiscriminate shower of lathis. Many were injured. The police made the Sangat go back from the area that led to the parikarma of Darbar Sahib. The Sangat entered the parikarma through the main gate and again started to withstand the police cane charge. However the rabidly communal police officer -Ahwani Kumar was determined to carry out the attack with full viciousness. He commandeered the police to continue the attack without caring for the sanctity of Manji Sahib and Darbar Sahib. He was full of venom. Sometimes he would say that the police was being attacked by bricks and stones and sometimes he would say that police has been attacked by seven bullets from amongst the congregation. No police person sustained any bullet injury. May be someone from amongst the agitated gathering may have thrown some stones and bricks but the allegation of bullets being fired was a blatant lie and was a pretext for bringing in more police to further aggravate the torture of the Sikh Sangat. The police reached the Parkash Asthan Guru Ram Das Langar and the residential quarters of Priest of Darbar Sahib- Bhai Chet Singh. They threw tear gas shells in the house of Giani Chet Singh. His family and he were harassed, insulted and thrown out of their house. Standing atop these places, the police officers and policemen threw tear gas in the parikarma of Sri Darbar Sahib, fired bullets and threw stones and bricks. For the first time, it was seen that police would throw stones and bricks on ordinary people. Under the pressure of the people, a wall broke down in the parikarma, injuring many people. Many more injured with bullet wounds were hospitalized. The general secretary of Shiromani Akali Dal -Ajaib Singh, in a press release said that at least two Sikhs have been killed by police bullets, which were not followed up by either the police or the government.

Tear gas shells were randomly thrown in the parikarma. Tear gas reached the ground and first floor of the sanctum sanctorum, making things difficult for those who were doing Kirtan there. The bullets reached Akal Takht Sahib and the signs on the walls are clearly visible.

Since the Mughal rule, for the first time, Deputy Chief of police Mahasha Ashwani Kumar desecrated Darbar Sahib and committed atrocities which antagonized the Sikh community. Even those Sikhs affiliated with the Congress could not help crying.3

Those questioning the credentials of Sant Jarnail Singh must ask as to why did the government carry out this ferocious attack on Darbar Sahib in 1955? At that time, there were no insurgents within the precincts of Darbar Sahib. Even then bullets were fired; lathis were rained on the Sikh Sangat and tear gas shells thrown within the precincts. Now, in their eyes, “Who is the Guilty?–the Guru’s Sangat or the Government? Those who use demeaning language and explanation to describe the events of June 1984, would obviously hold the Sikhs responsible for the wrath of the police, isn’t it?

To discern the truth, we have to unravel the depths of the Hindu mind. The Brahmanical Hindu mind cannot tolerate the true Khalsa Panthic genesis of the Sikh nation. As and when the Khalsa Panth identifies itself more closely with the fundamental Sikh ethos, the clash of the Hindu community with the Sikh nation becomes sharper. The attitude of the Hindus towards the Panth becomes more vicious and cruel.

With the emergence of Sant Jarnail Singh on the Sikh political spectrum, the Brahmin Hindu mind became full of fear, hatred and anger as the Sant was working to rekindle the spirit of distinct identity of the Sikh people as well as making the Sikh population aware of their rich heritage of being fighters for the faith. These deeds of Sant Jarnail Singh were instrumental in the Hindu community becoming increasingly aggressive in its feeling of engulfing the Sikh community.

Sant Jarnail Singh was the pioneer of a different religio-political consciousness for the Khalsa Panth4. According to Dr. Gurbhagat Singh, for the first time since the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Sikhs became conscious of their Sikh national and cultural traits.5 Encyclopaedia Britannica describes Sant Jarnail Singh as the religious and revolutionary leader of the Sikhs.6

For once in Punjab, Sant Jarnail Singh was able to revive the times of the eighteenth century. During an interview with Sant Jarnail Singh, an American reporter was able to gauge this divine aspect of his character. After the interview, in his interaction with journalist Karamjit Singh, he said Sant Jarnail Singh is an eighteenth century spirit living in the twentieth century.7 As and when Sant Jarnail Singh was bringing about awareness amongst the Sikh nation, the valorous times and spirit of eighteenth century was emerging on the horizons of Punjab.  A unique trait of the Sikh mind is that whenever it thinks about the glory of the Khalsa Panth, it sub-consciously reaches the times or the eighteenth century. It was during this period that awash with the love of the Gurus, the community had reached its pristine glory.

During his younger years, when Dal Khalsa founder, revolutionary leader and poet Bhai Gajinder Singh expressed his desire of re-establishing the Sikh rule and working in that direction, he too recalled the contribution of the eighteenth century Sikh general and hero Bhai Baghel Singh through one of his poems:

Delhi and its Red Fort

I am walking past the Red Fort of Delhi

But today it did not bow.

Perhaps it has forgotten manners

Even I am not Baghel Singh.

What to say of

Delhi or Delhi’s Red Fort

They always salute those who wield the Sword

They are slaves of those who wield the Sword

When I will pick up the Sword

And show its marvels

When I will come as Baghel Singh

Then it will bow.

Then it will respect.

Whilst the government of India had vowed to demolish the distinct identity of the Sikh nation, the Sikh nation under the leadership of Sant Jarnail Singh was raising Sikh consciousness about its uniqueness and living with Chardikala–this was obviously intolerable to the Hindu majority which was the backbone of the Indian government.

When in 1947, the Sikh nation decided to tie-up its destiny with India; it did so with the belief and promise that they would have an area earmarked in North India where they could enjoy the glory of freedom. As per this undertaking by the Indian rulers, the Sikh community, even whilst living in India, can demand a confederation. The landscape and scope of a confederation is much more as compared to a federation. In a confederation, a nation is sovereign sui generis but is associated with others in the confederation as per a mutually agreed arrangement.

It was the political and ethical duty of the Indian state that if the Sikh nation demands a confederation, then as per their commitment and promise, they should fulfill this legitimate demand. Significantly, the Dharam Yudh Morcha of 1982 had a federal status as one of its main targets.

Jawaharlal Nehru had assured the Sikhs that The brave Sikhs of Punjab are entitled to special consideration. I see nothing wrong in an area and a set up in the North wherein the Sikhs can also experience the glow of freedom. –quoted in The Statesman, Kolkatta, 7 July 1946.

However the Hindu mind was fearful of the fact that if Punjab was given a federal status, then the hegemonistic hold of the Hindus over the Sikh mind would weaken and secondly by doing so, the unique status and personality of Punjab would be established. This would have abolished the unitary model of the Indian rulers.8

Another point that is worth considering is that even prior to 1947 Hindu leaders had started projecting Hindustan as a single nation, even though there were blissfully aware that India is not one nation. Upon attaining political power in 1947, they are hell-bent to realize this nefarious dream. All sections of the Indian state –official and non-official continue to work in this direction because they want to strengthen and firmly establish the hegemony of the Hindu majority. Whenever the Hindu majority sees this despicable dream shattered or challenged, they become mad and are ready are willing to go to any extent to crush the opposition to the concept of a united Hindu nation.

The Hindu majority believed that the emergence of the Sikh movement spearheaded by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale could lead to the destruction of this self-professed Hindu nation theory as the negative impact of the government and the media over the last three decades and more was beginning to crumble. All over, there was talk of Sikh religion and Sikh principles.9

In view of this situation, the leader of the Hindu majority –Mrs. Indira Gandhi decided to vehemently crush the Sikh movement. The attack on Darbar Sahib was done during the period when Sikh pilgrims were commemorating the martyrdom of the Fifth Master –Guru Arjan Dev Ji. The purpose of the attack was crystal clear – to teach a lesson to the entire Sikh community and to demolish the emerging Sikh leadership upholding the ideology of Sikh independence, so that there was no let-up in the implementation of the deceitful plan to decimate the idea of distinct Sikh national identity and there is no hindrance in converting India into a monolithic Hindu state.

Writing about the Massacre of 1984, Dr. Gurbhagat Singh says that Indira Gandhi decided to carry out Operation Bluestar (the name given by the enemy) out of the fear that the Sikhs may not establish their status as an independent nation and wean themselves away from the unitary trap of the Indian nation.10 He further writes that the issue of Operation Bluestar was not limited to undermining and demeaning Sikh heritage and Sikh national consciousness but was aimed at deliberately pursuing the project of keeping the entire Indian sub-continent as one nation.11

From across the border, Afzal Ahsan Randhawa, writing about this Massacre appropriately deduced the real intention of the Indian government and said the attack was the culmination of the anti-Sikh feelings since the times of Guru Nanak. In one of his poems –Odhak Mukegi Eh Raat , written after the Massacre of 1984, he expresses his thoughts in these lines:

The adversary showed us today
Oh! The enmity of five centuries.12

Prof. Harinder Singh Mehboob, while giving his considered opinion about the reasons for the attack on Darbar Sahib says For Hindutva, Sant Jarnail Singh was not just one person, he was a fearless exponent of a unique religion and personified living Sikh history. Therefore for the rulers, it was imperative to destroy his steadfastness. It is only in this way that one can understand the historical rationale behind the rising and flourishing of the cruel, wayward and disloyal face of Operation Bluestar.13

These are the reasons and purposes behind this Third Massacre of the Sikhs.

Let the Panth remember for all times to come that living under the present dispensation, whenever the Sikh nation desires to bring about a Khalsa revolution in this land, there will definitely be a confrontation with Brahmanical forces.

The Logic for Violence:

Ordinary Sikhs and those opposing the Khalsa Panth unthinkingly take pride in saying that India is a democratic country –not just a democratic country, but the biggest democracy in the world. In addition to this, we are also taught that in case any cross-section of society or community has to get any of its demands met, then they should not resort to violent means but take recourse to democratic means to present their view point to the rulers of the country. In case someone resorts to violence to get demands met, then one pays a heavy price as well as compromises the cause too. Violence does not solve problems. Sant Jarnail Singh made a mistake by following the path of violence.

Oh fanatical followers of Indian democracy! If the Indian state was a truly democratic one, then the Indo-Sikh problem would have been resolved long back in 1947 itself. Describing the hidden and real character of Indian democracy, Prof. Harinder Singh Mehboob says Indian democracy is actually a democracy of an intolerant religious majority.14

If we would like to recognize the true character of the Indian state, then we will have to understand the Hindu mind. In this endeavor, psychologist Carl Yung can be quiet helpful.

Carl Gustav Jung believed that the unconscious mind is not individual but collective. He says that the archetypes of the centuries come together to develop the unconscious mind of a nation. As a form of cultural traits, it is handed down from one generation to another.15

Here our understanding of the Hindu mind is that of the Brahmin-oriented Hindu mind, which is grossly intolerant of the distinct identity of other nations and religions.

In other words, different communities have their own collective mind which is passed on through generations. If one were to explain this thought a little more, then one can say that one can decipher the stand of a community towards another community as well as the direction of their historical path through an understanding of their collective mind.

In order to understand the Hindu mind, one will have to delve deep into history. The Brahmanical ideology was and is engaged in destroying Buddhism, because in the eyes of the Brahmins the major crime committed by the Buddhist religion was that it totally negated the caste-structure of the Hindus and had aimed to establish an egalitarian society. The Buddhists had set up their own separate institutions and had grasped political power as well which was posing a direct challenge to the ideals of Brahmanism. History tells us that in order to uproot Buddhism, the Brahminical forces continued their tirade against them.

The Brahmins conspired to get the last Mauryan king Braihadrath killed. This dastardly act was committed by Braidhadrath’s Brahmin commander Pushyamitar Sung in 185 BC. This was a frontal attack by the Brahminical forces against Buddhism which was propagating egalitarianism. Soon after assuming power, Pushyamitra started to kill Buddhist monks and destroy their religious mathhs (caves). After setting on fire in large numbers the Buddhist Mathhs at Pataliputra, he turned towards Sakal (Sialkot, West Punjab) and declared a price of 100 dinar and gold coins on the heads of Buddhist monks. According to Tibetan historian Tara Nath, Pushyamitra was a heartless destroyer of Buddhists and Buddhism. From Pataliputra to Sakal, he destroyed all Buddhist Centres of the faith and set them on fire.16

The enmity of the Brahmins with Buddhists does not end there. In Nagarjanakonda, Andhra Pradesh, under the pretext of saving Brahmanism, the Adi Shankaraya (788-820 BC) ordered the merciless killing of hundreds of Buddhists.17

Endorsing this truth, Dr. Gurbhagat Singh says that Brahmanism is uni-directional, a one-act play. This unitary approach gave birth to the Brahmnical opposition to Buddhism. As a result, Buddhist monks and Buddhist universities were burnt down. History stands testimony to this.18

This stance of the Brahmins continues till this day. They continue to massacre and destroy with complete immunity religious minorities and nations.

The attack on Darbar Sahib in June 1984 leading to the demolition of Akal Takht Sahib, the genocide of the Sikhs in November 1984, the killing of thousands of Sikh men and women during the period of Sikh insurgency, the destruction of their home and hearth, the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, the massacre of Muslims in 2002, the mayhem meted out to Christians in 2008 in which many Christians were killed and churches burnt down and the attacks on the ethnic nationalities of the North-East –these are some glaring examples of the true nature of Hindu India.

This is the true face of Hindu violence which has the single-minded purpose of destroying root and branch other nations, religions and ideologies and after smashing them and their fundamental ethos to engulf them in the vast sea of Hindutva and resultantly make them subservient to Hindutva.

On the other hand, Sikh display of strength is a grace and blessing. Dr. Gurbhagat Singh writes that the Gurus directed the Khadag to be the organizer of morality. According to him the Khadag cannot be used for personal or pecuniary purpose, only for that change which brings about a clearly defined happiness and organizes a bigger moral role. In contemporary terms, the Khadag is a symbol of such intervention that would bring about change –a weapon in the hands of a revolutionary who is determined to work for the progress of humanity and its fundamental value systems.19 According to Dr. Jaswant Singh Neki, the sword of the Sikhs is meant to release one from bondage. The Kirpan comes out of the scabbard to ensure that the enemy is forced to keep the sword back into the sheath. The Kirpan of the Khalsa enlivens justice and keeps injustice at bay.20 The secret of the Sikh wars becoming myths was that the Sikhs fought the wars not just as worldly battles but with a spirit of delivering something divine.21

This canard has been widely spread and is usually heard that Sikhs are always ready to pick up a fight. It is common parlance to listen that the Sikh Kirpan is always dying to come out of the scabbard. However post-1947 history bears testimony to the fact that the Sikhs engaged in a long and embittered peaceful struggle for their rights defying this oft-held belief. The Dharam Yudh Morcha was also launched in 1982 in a peaceful manner. The Indian state left no stone unturned to crush these peaceful struggles through violence and maintained an utterly rigid stand toward the Sikh problem. When all means fail, weapons automatically becomes unsheathed, weapons are the last recourse. The Tenth Master Guru Gobind Singh ji has said

“When all other means fail

It is righteous to take to the sword ..”

– Zafarnamah
(Epistle of Victory, written by the Tenth Master,
Guru Gobind Singh to Mughal Emperor Auganzeb)

During his religious discourses, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale used to say As per Gurmat, when all means have been exhausted, then as per the dictum of Miri-Piri, Guru Sahib has given every Sikh, every Khalsa the right to use the Sword.22  Following the edict of the Gurus, Sant Jarnail Singh prepared his fighting forces for an armed struggle. He not only resolved but gave a befitting reply to the hostile anti-Panthic transgressions of the enemies.

Those in in the Indian government or Indian society, dare to question the bonafides of Sant Jarnail Singh, fail to remember that their Father of the Nation –Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had assured the Sikhs that the Hindus and the Congress would fulfill their promises to the Sikhs. On 16th March, 1931, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi came to a special Sikh congregation held in Gurdwara Sisganj, Delhi, where he was asked as to what guarantee there was that his Indian National Congress would implement the assurances, given to the Sikh people in 1929, at Lahore. His reply is published in his Young India, of the 19th March, 1931, and it contains the following:

Sardar Madhusudan Singh has asked for an assurance that the Congress would do nothing that might alienate sympathies of the Sikhs from the Congress. Well, the Congress, in its Lahore Session, passed a Resolution that it would not enter into or be a party to any settlement with regard to the minority question that failed to satisfy any of the minorities concerned. What further assurances the Congress can give to the Sikhs, I fail to understand. I ask you to accept my word and the Resolution of the Congress that it will not betray a single individual much less a community. If it ever thinks of doing so, it will only hasten its own doom. I pray you, therefore, to un-bosom yourselves of all your doubts… What more shall I say? What more can I say than this. Let God be the witness of the bond that binds me and the Congress with you.

When pressed further, Gandhi said the Sikhs would be justified in drawing their swords out of their scabbards as Guru Gobind Singh has asked them to, if the Congress were to recoil from its commitment.23

Young India, March 19, 1931

If a celebrated Congress leader like Gandhi endorses an armed struggle by the Sikhs to protect their rights as legitimate then why is Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s insurgent struggle questioned and why is he accused of violence?24

The Indian rulers who religious follow the Chanakya creed have thoroughly studied the Chanakya of the West –Machiavelli who says It is not required for a State to honour its promise, particularly if the reasons and circumstances under which the promises were made, cease to exist.25

In Max Weber’s view, the monopoly over legitimate violence in a society is the very definition of a state.26 In modern times, the Hindu society, having established its rule has acquired this monopoly to commit violence.

Therefore it first portrays all the struggling peoples’ movements in India as a law and order question, then easily launches merciless attacks to crush these movements and in this way justifies the same in the eyes of the international community as legal and appropriate. This is exactly what it has done with the Sikh movement too and this sinister and deceitful campaign continues unabated.

To understand this subject more, it should be borne in mind that the issue is not one of violence versus non-violence, but of the sinister mind-set, attitude, hatred and ego of the Hindu nation through which flows such vast destruction.

We die before we fall…Att Hi Rann Mein tab Joojh Maron..

The fight by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale against the Indian army from within the precincts of Darbar Sahib was correct not only in principle but also as per time-tested Sikh traditions. Before we proceed further, let us focus our attention on Sikh history. The Sikh nation is blissfully aware of the ultimate truth that Akal Takht Sahib was installed by the Sixth Master –Guru Hargobind Sahib. Two Kesri Nishan Sahib were placed just in front of Akal Takht Sahib. These two were symbols of the powers of Miri and Piri, which was a clear proclamation that these two powers know no superior –they are not subservient to anyone; on the contrary are sovereign sui generis. Just as it is the sole prerogative of the King to sit on the throne, similarly, the Nishan Sahibs are symbols of sovereignty and this too was and is the prerogative of the King.27 Sitting on the throne at Akal Takht Sahib, Guru Ji used to hold Darbars of the Sikh Sangat.28 His first order upon assuming the throne was that whoever comes to pay obeisance should ride on horseback and be well-armed. Following this order, soon hundreds upon thousands of Sikhs assembled in the presence of Guru Sahib.29 The entire gathering of Sikhs was organized into four distinct set-ups under the leadership of Bhai Bidhi Chand, Painde Khan Bhai Pirana and Bhai Jetha. In some writings, there is a mention of five groups instead of four with the fifth leader being Bhai Langah.30

Daily, Guru Sahib used to hold wrestling matches between Sikhs in front of Akal Takht Sahib. The bards used to sing ballads of bravery. Sikhs used to be imbued with more energy and vigor upon listening to such tales of valor and heroism.31

In the Darbars at Akal Takht Sahib, Guru Hargobind Sahib would conduct himself as a King. In true tradition of a Supreme Authority, he would support the Kalgi and wear turbans adorned with jewels. In true royal tradition, there used to be a canopy over his head. Representatives of Indian (sub-continent ) kingdoms used to visit the Darbar of Guru Hargobind Sahib. Similarly, Guru Sahib also sent representatives to the Darbars of other kings. The holding of such Darbars had a trans-national effect on Akal Takht Sahib.32 In other words, under the divine dispensation of Guru Sahib, the Sikhs were living as rulers in a sovereign state without a boundary.

Ajit Singh Sarhadi while writing about the importance of Darbar Sahib and its relationship with the Sikh nation says After the martyrdom of Banda Singh Bahadur, the political assembly of the Sikhs was destroyed and hence Darbar Sahib became the centre of Sikh political authority and divine truth, where since the last two and half centuries, despite all odds and sacrifices, Sikhs used to assemble to decide the destiny of their nation. More than once, Darbar Sahib and its adjacent buildings were reduced to the rubble and the foreign powers took control of this area. However the Sikhs remained steadfast and determined in their pursuit for freedom and sovereignty. The Sikhs forever continued to use Darbar Sahib and adjacent buildings for their political, social, cultural and religious activities, -this was done not as a concession from anyone nor as a subject of any power, but the Khalsa Commonwealth made it a centre for representation of the Sikh religio-political institution as the birth right of the Khalsa Panth. For any agreement or amendment, this right of the Sikh nation never became the subject of bargaining. This position and status of Darbar Sahib is unparalleled and no such example can be found in religion or political history. Sri Dabar Sahib is not only a religious centre for the Sikhs, but it represents such an institution where they assemble, think and decide the fate of their community. Since the last four centuries, they have fought for this right. Whatever may have happened they have nurtured and maintained this right.33

Prof. Harinder Singh Mehboob in his magnum opus, Sehje Rachyo Khalsa, says that the Jewish identity is reborn when it looks towards Jerusalem.34 Similarly, when the distinct identity of the Khalsa Panth is in danger during utmost difficult times and the Sikh nation has to uphold its banner of rights, then the Sikh eyes look towards the centre of spirituality –Sri Darbar Sahib. Khalsa Panth sits in the lap of Akal Takht Sahib and prepares to agitate through Morchas because for Sikhs worldwide, the Akal Takht Sahib is a fountain of Sikh tradition, Sikh culture and the Sikh way of life.35

When all these aspects come out to the fore in the open, many Sikhs agree to accept the underlying principles and traditions relating to Akal Takht Sahib and they do not question the rationale of Sant Janail Singh Bhindranwale using the precincts of Darbar Sahib to hold Morchas. However, in the same breath they ask another question: “All this fine, but there has been no event in Sikh history when Sikhs have challenged the enemy from within the precincts of Darbar Sahib or have led the battle from there or the parikrama of Darbar Sahib may have become a central battle ground?”

When some devout Sikh points out the martyrdom of Baba Deep Singh, then the refrain is that Baba Deep Singh attained martyrdom in the parikarma of Darbar Sahib but to maintain the sanctity of Darbar Sahib, Baba Deep Singh fought the battle from the outside and did not declare a war from within.

Khalsa Ji, there is a shining example of this too in Sikh history when Sikh warriors had not only challenged the attackers of Darbar Sahib from within the complex but also taught them a befitting lesson. However the memory of the Sikhs has become hazy about this fact. As soon as we go back in history and recall the events of September 1764, we will read that during that period Abdali was on his seventh expedition to the Indian sub-continent. “As soon as he arrived, he captured Lahore. The jathas of Dal Khalsa left Lahore and Amritsar to stay away from his attacks. At that time, Jathedar Gurbaksh Singh was the Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib. He had prayed and expressed his determination not to desert Akal Takht Sahib. He had only 29 Singhs with him. These Singhs were thoroughly committed to die protecting the honour and dignity of Akal Takht Sahib. They first had a bath at the Sarovar, and then they listened to the Hukamnama -Order of the Day, from Darbar Sahib and then came in the foreground of Akal Takht Sahib to fight the might of the Abdali forces. Abdali reached the parikarma of Darbar Sahib. He warned all those assembled there to lay down arms and surrender. In response, the Singhs under the command of Jathedar Gurbaksh Singh opened fire with handmade pistols. Abdali was expecting an overwhelming Sikh presence. He felt happy that he would easily exterminate the Sikhs. As soon as the Sikhs opened fire, Abdali’s forces attacked Akal Takht Sahib. Sikhs continued to use firepower till they had it. When the Sikhs had exhausted their ammunition, they led a frontal attack with Kirpans. In the wink of an eye, all thirty Singhs fought valiantly and attained martyrdom in front of Abdali. The enemy forces destroyed Akal Takht Sahib. When the dead bodies of the Sikhs were seen, Abdali was flabbergasted that only 30 Singhs had fought the battle with him and his army. All thirty Singhs lay near the body of their leader. Not one of them held life dear. Behind Akal Takht Sahib there is Gurdwara Shahidganj commemorating the memory of these valiant thirty Singhs.36

Advocate Gurmeet Singh tells us about yet another similar historical occurrence. He says After the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-46), when Sikhs lost and the child Maharaja Dalip Singh’s guardianship was usurped by the British Crown, then in order to de-arm the Sikh army personnel, the British called upon Sikhs to surrender their weapons. Some Nihangs refused to obey this order and sought refuge at Akal Takht Sahib. Some British army men and an officer wearing their shoes reached Akal Takht Sahib so that they could snatch the weapons from the Nihangs. The Nihangs killed them. Reinforcements were sent and the Nihangs were detained. They were tried and sentenced to death. When they were in custody, a wave of anger swept the Sikh community and the British feared that there can be a rebellion by the Sikhs. When the British government learnt about this, they shifted the Nihangs out of Punjab to Bareilly jail and executed them there.37

Sant Jarnail Singh was very well aware of not only these historical facts but about the innumerable sacrifices made by the Sikhs to protect the sanctity and honour of this religious place. In his lectures, he used to say Below the floor of the parikrama of Darbar Sahib lay the heads of a hundred martyrs –below each tile, below each brick.38

The truth is that Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was not just aware of Sikh history, he was actually living it; history was running in his veins. The American reporter who spoke to journalist Karamjit Singh reminds us of this character of Sant Jarnail Singh. He shared Sant Harchand Singh Longowal knows about the events, Sant Jarnail Singh ‘experiences’ them.39 Do remember! Those who ‘feel’ events are the personalities who have potential to give a sharp and new turn to history.

There is another significant aspect which emerges from the above narration and which needs elaboration is the sovereign character of Darbar Sahib and its surroundings. The Khalsa Panth has rendered many a sacrifice to uphold this sovereignty. No one can challenge this. So much so, that in case the Sikh nation is able to have its own self-rule in Punjab, even then, the Darbar Sahib complex will remain outside the purview of the Khalsa rule and shall maintain its sovereignty. Bhai Sahib Sirdar Kapur Singh clarifies this doctrine thus:

It is not precisely the political capital of the Sikhs, because political capital presupposes a state under the control of the Sikhs, and when the Sikhs do have such a state, it is not imperative that its administrative centre must be at Amritsar, and even when it is, the Golden Temple and its precincts shall still retain their peculiar independent character apart from this administrative centre. When the Sikhs do not have a sovereign state of their own, the Golden Temple, with its surrounding complex, continuously retains its theo-political status, which may be suppressed by political power, compromised by individuals or questioned by politicians, but which remains and never can be extinguished, for, it is sui generis and inalienable, and imprescriptible.40

The Hindu Majesty (Indian government) has made the Sikh nation its slave and hence believes that the Darbar Sahib complex is also enslaved by the Hindu Majesty. This is not only a grave mistake but a severe crime by the Hindu Majesty. In the eyes of the enlightened sections of the Sikh community, the Khalsa Panth is independent and Darbar Sahib and its surroundings are sovereign. When more than one Majesties live on one soil, war is inevitable.41 This is what happened in June 1984. The Hindu Majesty attacked the sovereignty of Darbar Sahib. Sant Jarnail Singh and others attained martyrdom protecting the sanctity and sovereignty of Darbar Sahib in true Sikh tradition.

If one dies for a cause dear to the Guru,

Life and death become honourable.42

– Ratan Singh Bhangu

Writing about the courage of conviction of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, former bureaucrat turned writer A. R. Darshi states that He was the gallant defender of faith. Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, with his trusted associates fought the Indian army with unflinching faith and exemplary courage to protect his religion and religious places.43

Some Sikhs tend to believe that the martyrdom of Sant Jarnail Singh was because of his rigidity. Such misguided Sikh brethren forget that war and martyrdom are two inseparable facets of the divine structure of the Khalsa.44 A Sikh does not win over death by obstinacy but through dedicated action.45 The purpose of Sikh martyrdom is to achieve and establish the glory of the Khalsa Panth in this world and to obtain the blessings and love of the Guru in the other.

The martyrdom of Sant Jarnail Singh and his associates gave a new consciousness to the Sikh nation taking the Sikh national struggle to a new and higher pedestal. Even that section of the Sikhs, who was not part of the Sikh national struggle, willy-nilly became part of its ranks. Supporting this, Khushwant Singh writes that a community of 14 million felt like as if they had been slapped as one person.46 Thus the Sikh nation consolidated as one body and soul and felt the pain and anguish of The Third Massacre.

Describing the collective agony of the Khalsa Panth, author Ajmer Singh says that because of the significance of the unique status of Darbar Sahib, in the eyes of the Sikhs, it was not just an attack on the centre of worship of the Sikhs, but was an attack on the foundations of their religion as well as on the entire Sikh brotherhood, which bled their hearts. The entire Sikh community felt as if their turban had been removed.47

Sant Jarnail Singh’s staunch critic columnist and author Kuldip Nayar also reluctantly accepted this truth that the martyrdom of the Singhs had a salutary positive effect on the Sikh mind. He says that till 1981 only a handful of Sikhs were dreaming or talking about an independent and sovereign Sikh state and they used to be jokingly dubbed as Khalistani. However the Akali agitation and the rise of Bhindranwale increased the count in their ranks and the word Khalistan gained due recognition and respect in the minds of the Sikhs, especially those living in other countries. Now, this idea has gained ground, particularly amongst the youth, even though the elderly still think this to be nothing but foolishness. The present thinking of the Sikhs being what it is, in case a referendum through the exercise of the right to self-determination is held then it is likely that a majority would vote for a separate Sikh rule.48

Prof. Harinder Singh Mehboob in his philosophical style says that Sant Jarnail Singh was able to convince even the ordinary Sikh that the Indian democratic set up wants to have an ever-lasting subservience of religious minorities through military and constitutional bondages in order to achieve the well-defined hegemony of a religious majority.49 In other words, Sant Jarnail Singh clearly exposed the nefarious anti-Sikh character of the Indian state and the Hindu majority (the social power of the Indian state) as well as the façade of Indian democracy before the Khalsa Panth. These martyrdoms gave such consciousness to the Khalsa Panth that it in order to establish the majesty of the Khalsa Commonwealth, the Sikhs fought a decade long bloody battle against the Indian state. A conscious and aware section of the Sikh nation continues to doggedly pursue this path. .

Today, there is need to strengthen the roots of our experience gained through martyrdom, which will usher in the dawn of freedom and take the Khalsa civilization to the world.

* Author is advisor of Sikh Youth of Punjab (SYP). He could be contacted via email at: prabhjotsinghnsr (at) gmail (dot) com OR via phone at: +91-94655-89440.


  1. Karam Singh Jakhmi (Sampadak), Twareekh Punjabi Suba, 1955 pp 72-76
  2. Ajit Singh Sarhadi Punjabi Sube di Gaatha, p 249
  3. Karam Singh Jakhmi, ibid, pp 76-79
  4. Amrik Singh Muktsar, Preface Jaanbaaz Rakha, p 7
  5. Gurbhagat Singh, Zakhm nu Chetanta Banaun di Lordh, Saka 84, p 45
  7. Karamjit Singh, Sikh Kyon Bhulde Jaande Ne, Mahapurush, p 40
  8. Mehar Singh Gill, Sikh Virodhi Parvachan da Parteek, Saka 84, p 18
  9. Ibid, p 16
  10. Gurbhagat Singh, Luki Hoi Sabhyacharak Rajneeti da Vishleshan, Saka 84, p 43
  11. Ibid, p 43
  12. Afzal Ehsan Randhawa, Odhak Mukegi Eh Raat, Shahid Bilas Sant Jarnail Singh, p 14
  13. Karamjit Singh vallon Prof. Harinder Singh Mehboob di keeti gayi Interview, Sikh Shahadat, June 2002, p 28
  14. Ibid p 28
  15. Yadavinder Singh, Nav Bastivaad atte Manukhi Avchetan, Sahit Nav Sidhant, p 44
  16. Braj Ranjan Mani, Debrahminising History, pp 124-125
  17. Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India No. 54, The Buddhist Antiquities of Nagarjunakonda by A. H. Longhurst, Delhi, 1938 p 6, quoted by V. T. Rajshekhar in his book, Punjab in Turmoil, p 6
  18. Gurbhagat Singh, Zakhm nu Chetanta Banaun di Lordh, Saka 84, p 45
  19. Gurbhagat Singh, Guru Gobind Singh Ji di Maulikdha Vishav Chintan atte Punjabi Sahit, p 85
  20. Jaswant Singh Neki, Ardas, p 176
  21. Harinder Singh Mehboob, Sehje Rachhyo Khalsa, p 1013
  22. Narain Singh (Sampadak), Singh Garaj, p 179
  23. R. Darshi, Jaanbaaz Rakha, p 62
  24. Ibid, p 65
  25. Machiavelli, Samrat p 71
  26. Mark Juegensmeyer, The New Cold War? P33
  27. Sukhdyal Singh, Sri Akal Takht Sahib Itihasak Vishleshan, p 18
  28. Ibid, p 18
  29. Sukhdyal Singh, Shiromani Sikh Itihas, p 149
  30. Ibid p 149
  31. Sukhdyal Singh, Sri Akal Takht Sahib, p 18
  32. Ibid, p 19-20
  33. Ajit Singh Sarhadi, Punjabi Sube di Gaatha, p 339, 340
  34. Harinder Singh Mehboob, Sehje Rachyo Khalsa, p 836
  35. Ajit Singh Sarhadi, Punjabi Sube di Gaatha, p 339
  36. Sukhdyal Singh, Sri Akal Takht Sahib, p 57-58
  37. Gurmeet Singh Advocate, Saka Neela Tara Kyon, Saka 84, p33
  38. Narain Singh (Sampadak), Singh Garj, p 159
  39. Karamjit Singh, Sikh Kyon Rulde Jaande ne, Mahapurash, p 39
  40. Ajmer Singh, 1984 Unchittvya Kehar, p 7
  41. Jaspal Singh, Raj da Sikh Sankalp, p 317
  42. Bhai Vir Singh (Sampadak), Rattan Singh Bhangu Shahid Krit Pracheen Panth Parkash, p 237
  43. R. Darshi, Jaanbaaz Rakha, p 61
  44. Harinder Singh Mehboob, Sehje Rachyo Khalsa, p 1986
  45. Ibid, 1129
  46. Khushwant Singh, Phattan te Malam: Punjab da Dukhant, p 168
  47. Ajmer Singh, 1984 Unchittvya Kehar, p 36
  48. Kuldip Nayar, Ki Keeta Ja Sakda hai, Punjab Da Dukhant, p 167
  49. Interview Harinder Singh Mehboob, Sikh Shahadat, June 2002, p 28


Punjabi Books

Ajmer Singh -1984 Unnchittvaya Kehar, Singh Brothers, Amritsar June 2009

Ajit Singh Sarhadhi, Punjabi Sube di Gaatha, Lokgeet Parkashan, Sirhind, 1992

AR Darshi, Jaanbaaz Rakha (Translation –Prof. Kulbir Singh) Dr. Chattar Singh Jawahar Singh, Amritsar, June 2001

Sukhdial Singh, Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Itihasak Vishleshan, Lahore Book Depot, Ludhiana, 1995

Sukhdial Singh (Dr.) Shiromani Sikh Itihas (1469-1708), Sangam Publications, Samana, 2010

Harinder Singh Mehboob, Sehje Rachyon Khalsa, singh Brothers, Amritsar, 2000

Harsimran Singh, Mahanpurash: Sikh rajneeti Shashtar di Bhumika, Gian Ashram, Sri Anandpur Sahib, 1995

Karam Singh Jakhmi (Sampadak) Dr. Harjinder Singh Dilgeer, Sudhai te Vaada –Sikh Itihas Reserarch Board, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Sri Amritsar, 1998

Khushwant Singh, Kuldip Nayar –Punjab da Dukhant, Navyug Publishers, New Delhi, 1997

Gurtej Singh, Swaranjit Singh (Sampadak) –Shaheed Bilas: Sant Jarnail Singh, Satsandhi Prakashan, Chandigarh, 2001

Gurbhagat Singh (Dr.) Vishva Chintan atte Punjabi Sahit, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, 2003

Jaswant Singh Neki, Ardas, Singh Brothers, Amritsar, June 2000

Jaspal Singh (Dr.) Raj da Sikh Sankalp, Navyug Publishers, New Delhi, 2009

Narain Singh (Sampadak atte Parkashak), Singh Garj, Gurmat Pustak Bhandar, Amritsar, January 2008

Prabhsharanbir Singh (Sampadak atte Parkashak), Saka 84, Patiala, 2004

Machiavelli, Samrat (Translation –R. S. Ahluwalia), Sahit Akademy, New Delhi, 1983

Ravinder Kumar (Dr.) Sahit Nav-Sidhant: Purshvad tohn Kaumvaad Tak, Lokgeet Parkashan, Chandigarh, 2005

Vir Singh (Bhai) (Sampadak), Bhangu Ratan Singh Shahid Krit Pracheen Panth Parkash, Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi-1998


Sikh Shahadat, Ludhiana, June 2002

English Books

Braj Ranjan Mani, Debrahmanising History: Dominance and Resistance in Indian Society, Manohar Publishers, New Delhi, 2007

Mark Juegensmeyer, The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism confronts the Secular State, University of California Press, Los Angeles, 1994

T. Rajshekar, Punjab in Turmoil, Dalit Sahitya Academy, Bangalore, 2010

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