Nights of Long Knives-I
(Pogrom, Accord, Fraudulent Commissions & State Repression)
(1984 – 1988)
The assassination of Indira Gandhi on the morning of October 31, 1984, pre-empted Indira’s Operation Shanti, to commit mass scale genocide of the Sikhs all over India, by over a week.
Rajiv Gandhi, on a visit to West Bengal, heard of his mother’s death over BBC by noon, and shortly left for Delhi by an air force plane. On arrival at Palam airport in Delhi at 1540 hours, he told those present to receive him, “My mother has been shot dead. What are you doing here? Go, and take revenge. No turban (distinctive Sikh headdress) should be seen.”
It had its twofold impact. Firstly, Arjun Das, a Congress(I) member of Metropolitan Council, in whose constituency the AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Science) lay, shortly afterwards, brought forth a group of 30-35 Youth Congress(I) activists to the nearby INA market. They caught hold of the turban of a Sikh youth and tossed it up in the air. When it came down, it was tossed up again. The shopkeepers made the youth to disappear. A bonfire was made of the turban. More turbans were added to it, of those travelling in the buses as also vehicles of the Sikh passersby. They were now beaten up mercilessly. The Sikh shops were looted and put to fire. So was the case with the nearby Laxmi Bai Nagar and Kidwai Nagar Gurdwaras, which were gutted. Worst still, the Adi Granth, the holy book, was defecated upon.2
That marked the beginning of organised violence against the Sikhs in Delhi.
Secondly, it signalled Arun Nehru, a scion of Gangu Brahmin and a minister of Indira’s cabinet to take over the command.3
Word went around to Youth Congress(I) hoodlums in Delhi, and by nightfall all over India, to put to action the Operation Shanti. In Delhi, Congress(I) Members of Parliament(MPs), Members of Metropolitan Council, Municipal Corporation and Youth Congress got the directive. So did the Delhi police to stand aside, and assist where needed.
Significantly, about 1730 hours, when Rajiv Gandhi came out of AIIMS after seeing the dead body of his mother, he was greeted with the slogan khoon ka badla khoon se, blood for blood. H.K.L. Bhagat, the doyen of Delhi’s underworld urged the crowd, “What is the point of assembling here.”4
Their field of operations lay elsewhere.
Already the atmosphere had been vitiated by All India Radio’s giving out the identity of the shooters as two Sikhs and a clean shaven Sikh! That must have been at the instance of a high official. It was violative of the norms in such a matter. In the surcharged atmosphere of hatred created by Indira over the media against the Sikhs, it was bound to have violent repercussions. And, there were incidents of sporadic violence at various places in India.
Intriguingly, how could one make out that the clean shaven man was not a Hindu? The news agencies, PTI and UNI, quoted eye-witnesses about the involvement of three persons, two of whom had been shot dead (as it came out Satwant Singh managed to survive), and the third injured. By late in the evening, the strategy to cover-up the moles in Indira set up, the real culprits behind the assassination, had been masterminded. At the instance of a top adviser, the news agencies astonishingly withdrew the story about the third man. The news about Sub-Inspector Rameshwar
Dayal, Indira’s security guard (who was trailing behind Indira Gandhi, Narayan Singh, Nathu Singh
and R.K. Dhawan), receiving three bullet wounds from behind, in his thighs, was suppressed for two
days. Thereafter, it was leaked in a surreptitious manner.5 Was there another man firing from
behind? The post mortem report too suggested there being another assassin.6
Satwant Singh was
not far wrong when he later said that bullets were flying all around.
Shortly afterwards followed, to the AIIMS, President, Giani Zail Singh. He came directly
from the airport on his return from his special visit to North Yemen. The crowd outside the AIIMS
had by now become nasty. It stoned his cavalcade as it slowed down at the gate on arrival. As one
Security Officer later put it, it wanted to square up Indira’s slaughter with that of President Zail
Singh, a Sikh. Later, Zail Singh was permitted to escape, after tasting the stone throwing crowd’s
fury, only because he gave indication of his mind to straightaway induct Rajiv Gandhi as Prime
Zail Singh did so without consulting members of Indira’s cabinet or senior leaders of
Congress(I) Party. Subsequently, he rationalised that he did so, firstly, to save the Congress party
from a certain split, and, secondly, “I wanted to repay a part of my debt to Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.”7
There was nothing surprising in that. Placing of party and family interests over that of the country
was part of Congress culture. Zail Singh’s action was partly voluntary, partly under duress. He had
been musing over the issue during the hours of his return flight from Yemen. Rajiv attributed his
coming into power, to the muscle power his partisans had shown outside the AIIMS. They could
have lynched Zail Singh in case of contrary indications. Rajiv felt no sense of gratitude to Zail
Singh. The perspectives being at variance right from the beginning, there was little rapport between
the two. It was not long that Zail Singh came to rue his impetuous decision.
Rajiv’s taking the oath of office at 1845 hours (with three members of Cabinet) gave him the
wherewithal to “teach the Sikhs a lesson”. Indira’s funeral was fixed for November 3, afternoon,
notwithstanding the fact that her bullet-riddled body needed immediate cremation. The Congress(I)
set up got two full days and three nights to wreck vengeance on the Sikhs. Delhi Transport
Corporation(DTC) buses were commissioned to fetch people from Haryana and rural areas
throughout the night.
Situation in Delhi deteriorated fast. By late in the night, organised violence against the Sikhs
had spread to all parts of the city. Marauding crowds were on the rampage. Reference was made to
119 incidents of violence, incendiarism and killing of the Sikhs, including 13 Gurdwaras, on October
31 before the Misra commission.
Word went around on the night of October 31, to Congress(I) set up all over the country to
start anti-Sikh pogrom from 9 a.m. the following day. It had a greater impact in Congress(I) ruled
Hindi or cow belt States, with Delhi playing the leading role. In the south, situation took a different
turn and fury against the Sikhs was much less except in Tamil Nadu. So was the case with non-
Congress ruled West Bengal where it was promptly suppressed. The only State which remained
incident free was Punjab where much malignedly-talked about backlash at slaughter of the Sikhs in
other parts of India, did not take place.
In Delhi, charge was immediately taken by H.K.L. Bhagat, Minister in both Indira and Rajiv
Cabinets, king of the underworld, who can even now marshal 200,000 hoodlums fully armed at a
couple of hours notice. He was ably assisted by Sajjan Kumar Congress(I) M.P. from outer Delhi,
Dharam Das Shastri and Jagdish Tytler, Congress(I) M.P.s, and youth Congress leaders. “Several
meetings were held all over Delhi – Central, Outer, and Trans-Yamuna area – in the late hours of
October 31, to give final touches, as it were, to the plan already prepared with meticulous care, with
an eye on every minute detail that nothing was left out to successfully exterminate the Sikhs.”10
worst affected parts were Bhagat’s constituency across Yamuna where he and members of his family
personally led violence, and the outlying colonies like Kodapur, Inderpuri, Tughlaqabad and Palam
which fell to Sajjan Kumar’s thugs. Among the affluent colonies, the worst affected were those
bordering on villages and resettlement colonies.
The evidence led before the Misra Commission revealed that the pattern of violence
throughout the Hindi belt was the same. The lumpen elements led by local Congress(I) leaders, and
armed with uniform rods,” crow bars, cans, kerosene, inflammable powder, fire arms, lathis and
voters lists earmarking the Sikh houses played havoc with the Sikhs and their establishments.
Gurdwaras were invariably the first attacked and destroyed to break the Sikhs morally. Then their
houses and shops were looted and the residences put to fire. The men were beaten to death or
roasted alive with the help of tyres soaked in kerosene around their necks; others were shaved off by
barbers accompanying the mobs. Their educational institutions were pillaged.
It was for the first time after independence that places of religious worship of a community
were sought to be destroyed wholesale. It was worse, as recorded by Misra Commission, the
lumpen elements under Congress(I)’s inspiration defecated at Adi Granth and Sikh religious literature
on a large scale. They acted the way their ancestors had done with the Buddhist holy places and
holy books in the 9th century. In the present case, they did that with full state support – of the
Prime Minister and his party stalwarts whose hands were soaked in Sikhs blood; of the police which
either actively participated with the mobs, or where required deprived the Sikhs of their licensed
weapons to the glee of the unruly hoodlums, or stood by; of the DTC which diverted its buses to
Haryana and to rural areas to gather together lumpen elements at the instance of Congress(I) leaders;
of the Doordarshan (Indian TV) which carried slogans of Sardar, Quam ke Ghaddar (Sikhs, traitors to
the nation) and khoon ka badla khoon se (blood for blood) raised by lumpen elements at Indira’s dead
body which lay in state; of the judiciary which made no suo moto move to discipline the state after
gruesome details of happenings, for instance in Block 2 of Trilokpuri, were published by the media.
It was a case of silent anti-Sikh conspiracy, the upshot of months of Goebblian-type propaganda
painting the Sikhs in lurid colours.
In the resettlement colonies of Jahangirpuri, Kalyanpuri, Mangolpuri, Sultanpuri and
Trilokpuri where the local Hindus and Muslims joined together under the slogans Hindu-bhai,
Muslim-bhai – Sardaron ki karen safai, Sardaron ko jala do, loot lo, Sardaron ko mar do – (Hindu-Muslim
brothers annihilate the Sikhs; burn the Sikhs, loot them, kill them)12, the destruction of the Sikh life
and property was complete. The menfolk were brutally killed while their women were subjected to
group rape amidst shouts by a gleeful crowd, “O Sikhs, you used to say that you saved the honour of
Hindu women (from foreign marauders in the 18th
century), now come and save the honour of your
own women”. The Hindus under Congress(I) leadership sought to regain their national honour by
humiliating the Sikhs and attacking the main Sikh shrines -Gurdwaras Sis Ganj and Rakab Ganj –
associated with Guru Tegh Bahadur who, to their knowledge, had laid down his life to save
Hinduism from Aurangzeb’s onslaught. Verily, that was the Gandhian way of repaying a national
No distinction was made between one set of the Sikhs as against the other. The Sikhs associated with Congress(I) were not spared. Charanjit Singh, Congress(I) M.P. from South Delhi had his soft drinks complex damaged. The partisans of Tejwant Singh of Skippers Group in vain pleaded with the Hindu mob to spare his Janak Cinema complex as at Indira’s instance he had rebuilt Akal Takht in face of the Sikhs’ of those travel ling in the bus’s hostility. Hindus downrightly condemned him a mercenary and set it to fire.
The middle class Hindus were not actively involved in the mayhem.14 But “the vast majority of Hindus felt that the killer mobs Were on the right track and that the Sikhs needed to be taught a lesson.” Tavleen Singh, who spoke to a cross section of them shortly afterwards, continues, that, “This was the answer I got not just from ordinary men in the street but even from those who had received elitist, westernised, liberal education. Everybody seemed to feel that the killing of innocent Sikhs was completely justified.”
The Indian Express of November 1, 1984, gave in detail the news of the emergent violence against the Sikhs. There was a clear case for calling in the army which was available in strength, but Delhi administration and the Union Home Ministry wilfully did not do so.16
The worst violence in Delhi took place on November 1 and 2, 1984. It had to be brought to control by November 3, because of presence or foreign heads of state or government or high dignitaries at Indira’s funeral slated for that day.
Home Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao went over All India Radio on November 1 to say that marauders had enough of revenge and should new restrain their hands. That was a signal that they could at the most have another day. Riotous mobs carried out their operations throughout the November 1, night into November 2, afternoon. They were incensed by false rumours, sedulously spread by the police on November 1, of the Sikhs having ganged together and attacked certain localities, the Sikhs poisoning of Chandrawal water reservoir supplying water to Delhi; and the Sikhs in Punjab cutting up Hindus travelling by Jhelum express and other trains reaching Delhi and U.P. railway stations.
The India Today (November 30, 1984) team of journalists reported that there were clear cases of police complicity and active participation in riots in Delhi; worst, the entire Sikh constabulary, some 20 percent of the force, was withdrawn to give full leeway to the Hindu mobs. Even the Sikh soldiers in Delhi cantonment were disarmed and confined to the barracks. The India Today went on: “The culpability of police was next only to that of Congress(I) politicians in Delhi. . . the local people, including Hindus, pointed the finger at the local Congress(I) leaders. Prominent names mentioned were of four Congress (I) M.P.s mentioned earlier and Brahma Yadav, Delhi Youth Congress(I) President – all of whom alongwith small time Congress(I) politicians wanted arrested hoodlums to be released.” The police adopted the noval method of asking looters to leave the looted property on the roadside and at certain spots, delinking the criminal from the crime. The recovered items were misappropriated by others. “Security men pointed out that if each theatre of violence is studied carefully, it is easy to pinpoint the outlying villages or suburban colonies from where the marauding hordes came”, and, that, “These are not just their vote banks, they are also their rally banks” providing “the bulk of manpower for the various Congress(I) rallies in the capital.”
The trains approaching Delhi from Haryana and U.P. saw brutal attacks on the Sikh passengers including the Sikh army officers and jawans in their uniforms. The worst stations were Hailey Mandi and Palwal outside Delhi and Tughlaqabad in Delhi.
The Peoples Union of Democratic Rights and the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties brought out their findings in November 1984 under the title “Who are the Guilty”. They enumerated the names of politicians, members of Congress(I) including M.P.s, Members of Metropolitan Council and Municipal Corporation, policemen and others who took prominent part in organising and manning the riots. Subsequently, in January 1985 the Citizens for Democracy in Truth About Delhi Violence: Report to the Nation corroborated the glaring facts of Congress(I) and official participation in anti-Sikh carnage. A couple of other teams too conducted their enquiries detailing the eyewitness accounts of open police connivance and the refusal of police stations even to register cases. The government or Congress(I) did not dare to proceed against any of these outright exposures, but chose to proceed against the Spokesman weekly for some of its write ups.
Haryana saw widespread violence all over the state with Congress(I) under Chief Minister Bhajan Lal playing a prominent role. Twelve towns including Gurgaon, Faridabad, Rewari and Sonepat were placed under curfew. There was considerable loss of life and property which remained untabulated. So was the case with anti-Sikh pogrom in Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.
“In terms of both enormity and brutality, violence in Bihar was next only to that in the Capital. The three day frenzy claimed no less than 200 lives” said the report in the India Today (November 30, 1984). Here again, the marauding mobs were led by leaders of Congress(I) and its youth wing, while the police stood by. In words of the DMK-P leader Roshan Lal Bhatia,” the whole operation was led and masterminded by Congress(I) Seva Dal Volunteers, the Youth Congress(I) and the police.” It was the same pattern as in Delhi. In Bokaro, “the entire locality where the Gurdwara and the houses of Sikhs were located was razed to the ground and every Sikh put to death.” The Sikhs were killed in Dhanbad, Ranchi, Daltonganj, Patna, Jamshedpur, Jhumritailaiya, Hazari Bagh, Muzaffarpur and Bhagalpur. Army was called out (but not authorised to maintain law and order) in seven towns, 15 towns were placed under curfew, though it was not enforced for two crucial days. The violence was so thorough that thousands of the Sikh families saw their safety in migration to Punjab.
In U.P., the pattern of Delhi violence was repeated ad nauseum with Congress(I) activists leading mobs of lumpen elements. Worst affected were Kanpur and Lucknow. Misra Commission, as usual in under estimation, accounted for only 127 deaths in Kanpur. The Sikhs were put to death in bulk in Ghaziabad and Lucknow. False rumours of bodies of Hindus slain by the Sikhs in Punjab arriving by Punjab Mail at Lucknow led to the Sikh rail passengers being massacred at Lucknow railway station with police abetting in the crime. In Kanpur, evidence led before Justice Misra revealed that “the crimes were almost of the same pattern as the riotous mobs at Delhi committed” viz, damage, desecration and burning of the Sikh shrines, looting and then burning of residential and business premises, and killing of the Sikhs.
Madhya Pradesh widely saw the anti-Sikh carnage. Of the 45 districts, only two Panna and Dhalie were unaffected. The worst affected were Indore, Morena and Gairatganj. Trains were stopped and the Sikh passengers including a Railway ticket examiner were killed.
In Maharashtra, Kapargaon and Ahmadnagar claimed Sikh lives. The Sikhs came out of the holocaust very badly mauled. Psychologically the most terrible blow was to their self-image, of their being lions – protectors of the weak and fighters against injustice and tyranny. The Hindus got a rarest of rare opportunity to rub salt into their wounds. Averring to the atrocities perpetrated by
them they tauntingly said, yad karega khalsa, Khalsa shall remember, in parody to raj karega Khalsa, Khalsa shall rule. And, the Hindus were not far wrong. The Sikhs cannot forget the humiliations heaped on them at first in Operations Bluestar and Woodrose, and again in the aftermath of Indira’s assassination, all in 1984. That constitutes a milestone for rise of militant assertion of their national self-identity as Jallianwala massacre did in the freedom struggle.
According to intelligence sources, the total number of the Sikhs killed throughout India in the aftermath of Indira’s killing could be between 12,000 to 20,000.
The demand for judicial probe into anti-Sikh carnage and to punish the guilty, produced sullenness in various segments of Congress(I) leaders. The different constituents of lumpen elements openly named, or in the process of being named, by media and various investigating agencies, felt uneasy. They got their opportunity at Congress(I) rally at India Gate lawns on Indira’s birthday, November 19, addressed by Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. The mass of audience consisted of the lumpen elements and their managers. The behaviour of the crowd was quite nasty. It seemed it would lynch Mahinder Singh Sathi, the only Sikh Congress(I) leader and Mayor of Delhi18
present on the dais, in the presence of Prime Minister. The crowd was unaware that Rajiv had a number of skeletons in his cupboard to hide. He had to prevent himself being exposed in any probe into anti-Sikh turmoil. Rajiv assured them and amidst applause exonerated them. Precisely, he said that when a big, banyan, tree falls, the earth below trembles. That set the tenor for his forthcoming election campaign for the Lok Sabha.
The Congress(I) in a vicious campaign sought to convert the anti-Sikh pogrom into votes in Lok Sabha elections in end-December. One of the main theme of the campaign was the threat posed to the Indian unity by the Sikhs.
Rajiv wilfully misconstrued and twisted the Anandpur Sahib Resolution in search for political gains. Full page advertisements were inserted in various newspapers highlighting such a threat to national integrity in a subtle and not so subtle a manner.
Indira was depicted as a martyr in the cause of Indian unity. Huge posters showed the Sikhs in uniform shooting at her. Others showed rolls of barbed wire alongside the slogan, “Will the country’s border finally be moved to your doorsteps?” Beneath was another slogan in bold relief, “India could be your vote away from unity or separation.” Then there was the question put in a less subtle manner, “Why should you feel uncomfortable riding in a taxi driven by a taxi driver who belongs to another state?” Rajiv in a nasty campaign accused the opposition of backing the “secessionists and anti-nationals”. Finally, his supporters broke all barriers when they raised outrageous slogans against his Sikh sister-in-law (the widow of his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi) Maneka who was opposing him in Amethi constituency. One of their precise slogan was beti hai Sardar ki, quam hoi ghaddar ki (she is daughter of a Sikh, she belongs to a race of traitors).
The campaign had its greatest impact in Hindi states or cow belt. The Hindus’ attitude towards the Sikhs was most intimidating. One of the slogans shouted by them was jeeten gay to looten gay, haaren gay to maaren gay – If we win will loot you, if we lose we will beat you up.20
Such slogans signifying the Hindu chauvinism or Hindu backlash, apart from modern techniques of election management, yielded Congress(I) rich dividends.
For the first time in independent India, it secured just under 50 per cent votes. Because of electoral multiplication in its favour, that yielded Rajiv over 75 per cent seats in Lok Sabha. Significantly, H.K.L. Bhagat, whose constituency in East Delhi had seen more thorough destruction of the Sikh life and property following Indira’s assassination, won the seat with greatest margin of victory – of over 500,000 votes. Verily, the Sikhs felt that “the majority community had given its verdict in support of brutal genocide of innocent Sikhs.”21 The situation seemed tailor-made in the context of “Harvard Sociologist Kar Deusch’s warning – however grim – that the last resort of the frustrated is terrorism.”
Rajiv was not unaware that he had overplayed the anti-Sikh card. There were warnings to him to climb down in case the government wanted to keep the Sikhs within the Union. There were forebodings of hard core elements assuming pre-eminence in the voice of the community. Rajiv tried his hands at conflict management in his nationwide broadcast on January 5, 1985. Precisely, he said that he gave settlement of the Punjab problem ‘top priority’. His setting up a 3 member Cabinet sub-committee comprising S.B. Chavan, P.V. Narasimha Rao and K.C. Pant, a day earlier, pointed to that. But again the considerations of electroral gains in elections to the ten state assemblies fixed for the first week of March held the upper hand and prevented any positive move.
The government by the time had made false move to cover up the lead it got as to the international conspiracy to kill Indira. The investigations into Indira’s assassination were complete by November 19, 1984. Only Beant Singh and Satwant Singh were involved; Balbir Singh and Kehar Singh were romped in. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Anantram drew a blank even after the arrest of Simranjit Singh Mann in November, 1984, as it found no linkage between him and the Delhi group. Then, it started looking into international dimensions. In January 1985 it unravelled the network of spies, none of them a Sikh, operating right in Prime Minister’s Secretariat, and under the very nose of her Principal Secretary, P.C. Alexander, right from Indira’s second term in power. The secrets were being sold for a song. Hesitatingly, the government disclosed the names of East European diplomats besides those of France involved in, what it called, industrial and defence secrets! One has yet to come across a photocopying machine that would not Xerox political secrets! The agencies like KGB, CIA, Mossad, SDECE and others had their fingers in the pie. The government chose not to pursue the lead as to the real motives behind Indira’s killing, or the mastermind behind the murder and leaking of classified information; that would have shown that Rajiv, since his taking over as Prime Minister, had been talking through his hat! What was involved was not only his credibility, but also of December 1984 elections, fought on a false premise. The government did not like to get at the truth as that was unpalatable.
By Basant Panchmi in early February 1985 heralding change in season, the mounting Sikh anger was reflected in the spread of kesari coloured turbans signifying the spirit of sacrifice, and in this case defiance of the central government, at public meetings and functions all over Punjab. This was more glaring at Hola Mohalla celebrations, March 6-8, at Anandpur Sahib. The ektara provided the music to songs eulogising Bhindrawale, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh for their sacrifices. The audio-cassettes had the power of scream and strength of a war cry by a committed few.24
The tradition of martyrdom and self-sacrifice made the militant ideology attractive to the Sikh youth. The dividing line between the extremists and non-extremists got thinner.
The Babbar Khalsa issued warning against any one showing weakness. Akali Dal and the SGPC on March 7, coinciding with Congress(I)s repeating its electoral performance in-the Assembly elections, issued an ultimatum to the government to institute a judicial enquiry into the anti-Sikh
carnage in November 1984 and release their leaders by Baisakhi day, i.e. April 13, or face an agitation named “genocide week.”
That somewhat provided a corrective to Rajiv, aptly termed, “Mr. Confused” by Khushwant Singh. The government resorted to selective release of the Sikh leaders, to drive a wedge between them. Seven Akali leaders, inter alia, Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, Surjit Singh Barnala (both moderates) and Jagdev Singh Talwandi (who of late had played a dubious role in Sikh polity) were released on March 12, while Parkash Singh Badal and Gurcharan Singh Tohra were not. Two days later, Arjun Singh, who a day earlier had been inducted as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, was named new Governor of Punjab. He now emerged PM’s main advisor on Punjab. The Cabinet sub-committee found time to visit the state on week-ends.
Censorship on the press was relaxed and army control in certain districts was withdrawn. During his first visit to Punjab on March 23, at Hussainiwala borders, where Pakistanis were celebrating their national day, Rajiv gave the Punjabis a sop in announcing his decision to set up a Railway coach factory at Kapurthala to create employment avenues for Punjabis. There were reports of Raghunandan Lal Bhatia and Swaran Singh playing a conciliatory role with the Akalis.
Meanwhile ragis (minstrels) going around the villages praising Bhindranwale, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh drew evocative response. Even at the Kirtan Darbar telecast from Jalandhar Radio Station on March 22-23, the slogans Bhindranwale amar rahe and Khalistan Zindabad came through clearly. The government’s honouring the army men for their role in Operation Bluestar added salt to the wounds and made the Sikhs to honour family members of Beant Singh and Satwant Singh.
The cult of bomb was not far away. A hand grenade was thrown on Ram Naumi procession at Amritsar on March 30. Shortly afterwards came a series of acts of terrorism. A police sub-inspector was shot at in Jalandhar, militants tried to enter a Judge’s house in Chandigarh, and beat up security men of some Congress(I) M.P.s on mass contact in Ferozepur. A bomb was spotted at Chandigarh on the route President Zail Singh was to take; the car of Giani Kirpal Singh (who had given the controversial statement under army bayonets about Kotha Sahib in Akal Takht being intact) was shot at.25
Obviously, there was escalation in violence. Incidents started occurring with somewhat regularity.
Who were the organisers behind these incidents? Which hands pulled the triggers from behind? Who were the masterminds? What sort of organisation they set up? Did they follow the example of Anusilan Samiti set up by Bengal revolutionaries following 1905 partition of Bengal? And, what pattern they followed? For once, no one knew either about the organisers, or the centre(s) of operations. One thing, however, was clear. There were multiple centres, operating independently of each other. The Government of India, as usual, blamed Pakistan for providing training and wherewithals to perpetrators of these incidents. That was part of the story. So was the case with direct involvement of elements from within Congress(I) and Indian intelligence agencies, to which we shall revert shortly.
The union government acted rather belatedly. On April 11,1985, it announced its willingness to institute a judicial enquiry into November 1984 killings in Delhi, (Justice Ranganath Misra a sitting judged of Supreme Court was named to head the enquiry), lifted the ban on A.I.S.S.F. and agreed to review the cases of detainees. On Baisakhi, April 13, another batch of 53 was released and Rajiv reiterated his resolve to settle the Punjab problem.
Some elements within Congress(I) were quite upset at the change of tenor. On the eve of Baisakhi, passport size photographs of Guru Gobind Singh seated on his royal throne with hawk perched on his right hand, signifying Khalsa’s resolve to resort to arms, as all peaceful avenues had failed, were widely distributed by elements closer to Congress(I). Tohra on arrival at the Golden Temple stated on April 20, that the government-built Akal Takht was not acceptable, it would be demolished and rebuilt. A fortnight later, on May 6, the divine sanction came in the form of collapse of three metre by one metre projection of rebuilt Akal Takht.26
According to some, the Skippers’ Group had cheated both the government and the Guru.
By the end of April, Longowal seemed to represent the voice of Sikh anger. Quiet consultations and involvement of men like Khushwant Singh seemed to have set the stage for a settlement.27
The hard core within Congress(I), shocked at the apparent change in the government policy, was dead set to, firstly, sabotage Longowal’ s pre-eminence to enter into an agreement, and, secondly, to “resurrect fear and hate in Hindu-Sikh relations.”
The first objective was sought to be achieved by making use of Baba Joginder Singh, octogenarian father of Sant Bhindranwale. Talwandi was the obvious instrument. Baba Joginder Singh’ s sudden dissolution of three Akali Dais on May 1, 1985, and formation of an ad hoc committee with Simranjit Singh Mann, then in Bhagalpur Jail, as convener (till his release Baba himself looking after the job), achieved the objective of cutting Longowal to size. Though Longowal was able to reassert his position in another four weeks, it was not the same again. The united Akali Dal led by Baba Joginder Singh came into being.
The second objective saw a bizarre playing up of the terrorist card by Congress(I) leaders in petty politicking. To begin with, came an attack on R.L. Bhatia who escaped. The objective, in the words of Harkishan Singh Surjeet, was to see that negotiations do not start.28 Bhatia told Raj iv of involvement of a Senior Congress(I) leader in the attack on him.29 This was substantiated with the arrest of Gurinder Singh shortly afterwards, and his spilling the beans about his links with Santokh Singh Randhawa, then President of , Punjab Congress(I). There were demands for arrest of Darbara Singh and Randhawa for their fathering the terrorists. To prevent further damage, Gurinder Singh was conveniently put to death while in police custody on May 10, 1985.
The same day, Chaudhary Balbir Singh, a former M.P. from Hoshiarpur was put to death in an attack similar to the one on Bhatia. It generated a Hindu backlash in Hoshiarpur, and mob frenzy leading to communal clashes.
From the evening of May 10, to the morning of May 11, 1985, was enacted another gruesome drama of transister bomb explosions claiming 43 lives at a score of places widely spread over all parts of Delhi; at Sirsa, Hissar and Ambala in Haryana; Alwar in Rajasthan; and Meerut and Kanpur in U.P. That showed a widespread organisation and a higher degree of coordination. That was beyond the capacity of Kartar Singh Narang an Income-Tax lawyer, Mohinder Singh Oberoi or their cohorts who were arrested within hours.
Information going around the circles pointed to H.K.L. Bhagat, who was sore at Rajiv’s agreeing to a judicial probe into November 1984 killings, to be the mastermind. His short term objective was to re-enact anti-Sikh pogrom at a minor level. He was assisted by other Congress(I) malcontents and intelligence agents who had infiltrated as sevadars at joraghar – place where shoes are
kept in Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, New Delhi – the group of noveau militants with Kartar Singh
Narang’s younger son as the ring leader. The intelligence agents supervised the assembling of crude
devices in their sophisticated covers. Two of the four militants released from Tihar Jail and
entrusted to partially distribute these transister-bombs were arrested from Lajpat Nagar in South
Delhi.32 Rajiv himself went to the police control room in Delhi, asked army to hold flag marches in
the affected areas and prevented a communal backlash.
Petty politicking by Congress(I) leaders was not unsuccessful. The Hindu-Sikh clashes did
take place in May in Dhariwal, Gurdaspur, Ludhiana, apart from Hoshiarpur following inspired
incidents of terrorism. Curfew had to be imposed in all the four cities.34
The transistor bomb blasts
gave adverse publicity to the Sikh militants or Bhindrenwale’s followers who unnecessarily get the
blame or credit.
Another step in the same direction was the blowing up on June 23, 1985, of Air India’s
Jumbo, AI-182, Emperor Kanishka, on its flight from Toronto, off Irish coast with 329 passengers
on board. Another Air India plane the same day at Tokyo had a narrow escape. Zuhair Kashmeri
and Brian McAndrew who made a detailed study by sifting and analysing the available evidence,
were convinced that these were the handiwork of Indian intelligence agents who had penetrated
Canada in a very big way.35 Their main objective was to draw upon the reserve of American,
Canadian and British repugnance to terrorism to smash in these countries the centres of Sikh
militancy. These were already being subverted through Maj Gen (Retired) Jaswant Singh Bhullar.
His greatest disservice to the Sikh cause was that he prevented the repression in Punjab from being
projected as violation of human rights – the language which the Americans understood. Instead, he
unnecessarily channelised it in sectarian, unproductive, terms. Bhullar needed such a big act to blunt
the edges of the sharp swing, the Sikh militancy was getting in Northern America in the first half of
1985. The adoption of the plank of sovereign Sikh state, Khalistan, by the World Sikh Organisation
headed by Bhullar at its convention at Merriot Inn, Berkley the same day (was it a coincidence?) was
The Government of India, on getting the signal, instantly laid the blame at the Sikh
By May end, it was obvious that state terrorism was growing side by side with the growth of
Sikh militancy. Rather, some members of the ruling party at the Centre and police/intelligence set
ups had developed a vested interest in proliferation of acts of terrorism, conveniently attributed to
the Sikh militants. The police in Punjab by now was perfecting its method of killing the Sikh youth
in “police encounters or during interrogation.” There was sharp rise in cases of mysterious death of
Sikh youth in police custody. Punjab had become “a virtual police state”, and in the words of
Sanjeev Gaur “the army, the para military forces and the Punjab Police have converted an otherwise
curable disease into a cancer.”36
They certainly abetted in creating an impossible imbroglio.
The celebration of ghallughara (holocaust) week, June 1-7, marking the first anniversary of the
Operation Bluestar brought to the fore Bibian Nabhawalian, sisters Surjit Kaur and Jaspal Kaur of
Nabha who added their melody to that of innumerable dhadis and ragis – minstrels. Their now-folksy
song recalled the valiant fight put up by Bhindranwale and others, and roused the Khalsa martial
spirit to ‘unite’ and ‘defend’ the faith which was under attack.
These – the growth of State terrorism and Sikh militancy -alongwith alienation of the Sikhs
provided the background to the secret parleys carried on by Arjun Singh with Longowal which led
to Rajiv-Longowal accord in another six weeks.
Arjun Singh had a series of 14 meetings with Akali leaders. He and Rajiv Gandhi were personally involved on Congress(I) or government side; Longowal, Barnala and Balwant Singh on Akali side. It was wily Balwant Singh who monoeuvred vak, a hymn read ad hoc and taken as an order, from Adi Granth, on July 22, telling a tense Longowal to “act courageously and stop being in two minds on vital questions”. As a key Longowal aide said at the time, “For Santji it was a question of takht (throne) or takhta (chopping block)”.38
Badal wanted the release of detenues and rehabilitation of the Sikh soldiers castigated in the Operation Bluestar as pre-conditions for any accord. President Zail Singh, Buta Singh and Darbara Singh whose leadership had thrived on continuous conflict between Congress and Akalis were kept in the dark.
It were under these circumstances that Longowal and Rajiv met on July 23-24, when the two signed the Memorandum of Settlement, also known as Rajiv-Longowal Accord. It, interalia, provided for rehabilitation of the army deserters, enactment of All India Gurdwara Act, withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab by January 26, 1986, and time bound adjudication of territorial and river water claims. For the first time, contiguity and linguistic affinity, with a village as a unit was recognised. The wording in some respects, especially providing for two commissions under para 7 to adjudicate on territorial claims, was unhappy. On river waters, it sanctified usage as on July 1, 1985.
Besides, there was unwritten understanding between the two sides on many points.
It would be of interest to go through the text.
1. Compensation to innocent persons killed.
1.1 Along with exgratia payment to those innocent killed in agitation or any action after August 1982, compensation for property damaged will also be paid.
2. Army recruitment.
2.1 All citizens of the country have the right to enrol in the army and merit will remain the criterion for selection.
3. Enquiry into November incidents.
3.1 The jurisdisction of Mr. Justice Ranganath Misra Commission enquiring into the November riots of Delhi would be extended to cover the disturbances at Bokaro and Kanpur also.
4. Rehabilitation of those discharged from the army.
4.1 For all those discharged, efforts will be made to rehabilitate and provide gainful employment.
5. All India Gurdwara Act.
5.1 The Government of India agrees to consider the formulation of an All India Gurdwara bill. Legislation will be brought forward for this purpose in consultation with Shiromani Akali Dal, others concerned and after fulfilling all relevant constitutional requirement.
6. Disposal of pending cases.
6.1 The notifications applying the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to Punjab will be withdrawn.
Existing special courts will try only cases relating to the following types of offences: (a) Waging War (b) Hijacking.
6.2 All other cases will be transferred to ordinary courts and enabling legislation if needed will be brought forward in this session of Parliament.
7. Territorial claims.
7.1 The capital projects area of Chandigarh will goto Punjab. Some adjoining areas which were previously part of Hindi or the Punjabi regions were included in the Union territory. With the Capital region going to Punjab, the areas which were added to the Union Territory from the Punjab region of the erstwhile state of Punjab will be transferred to Punjab and those from Hindi region to Haryana. The entire Sukhna lake will be kept as part of the Chandigarh and will thus go to Punjab.
7.2 It had always been maintained by Mrs. Indira Gandhi that when Chandigarh is to go to Punjab some Hindi-speaking territories in Punjab will go to Haryana. A Commission will be constituted to determine the specific Hindi-speaking areas of Punjab which should go to Haryana, in lieu of Chandigarh.
The principle of contiguity and linguistic affinity with a village as a unit will be the basis of such determination. The Commission will be required to give its findings by December 31, 1985, and these will be binding on both sides. The work of the Commission will be limited to this aspect and will be distinct from the general boundary claims which the other commission referred to in para 7.4 will handle.
7.3 The actual transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab and areas in lieu thereof to Haryana will take place simultaneously on January 26, 1986.
7.4 There are other claims and counter-claims for readjustment of the existing Punjab-Haryana boundaries. The government will appoint another Commission to consider these matters and give findings. Such findings will be based on a village as a unit, linguistic affinity and contiguity.
8. Centre-State relations.
8.1 Shiromani Akali Dal states that the Anandpur Sahib resolution is entirely within the framework of the Indian Constitution, that it attempts to define the concept of Centre-State relations in a manner which may bring out the true federal characteristics of our unitary Constitution, and that the purpose of the resolution is to provide greater autonomy to the State with a view to strengthening the unity and integrity of the country, since unity in diversity forms the corner-stone of our national entity.
9. Sharing of river waters.
9.1 The farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan will continue to get water not less than what they are using from the Ravi-Beas system as on July 1, 1985. Waters used for consumptive purposes will also remain unaffected. Quantum of usage claimed shall be verified by the tribunal referred to in para 9.2 below.
9.2 The claims of Punjab and Haryana regarding their (the in the original draft) remaining waters will be referred for adjudication to a tribunal to be presided over by a Supreme Court judge. The decision of this tribunal will be rendered within six months and would be binding on both parties. All legal and constitutional steps required in this respect be taken expeditiously.
9.3 The construction of the SYL canal shall continue. The canal shall be completed by August 15, 1986.
10. Representation of minorities.
10.1 Existing instructions regarding protection of interests of minorities will be recirculated to the state Chief Ministers. (PM will write to all Chief Ministers).
11. Promotion of Punjabi Language.
11.1 The Central Government may take some steps for the promotion of the Punjabi language.
This settlement brings to an end a period of confrontation and ushers in an era of amity, goodwill and co-operation, which will promote and strengthen the unity and integrity of India.
Rajiv really believed that the era of confrontation was over. He rhetorically said, especially to no one at the time of signing, to the surprise of Akali leaders present, “Should we recall Bhullar from America”? If, as Arjun Singh said, “Secrecy was the key to success” in arriving at the accord, it also led to its being stillborn. The Accord came as douche of cold ice to the inflamed Sikh- baiting nerves of the top Congress(I) leadership and their close ups. They were enraged; even the people whom one could regard as reason-able were mad with fury. They had nothing but abuse for Rajiv. If Accord had to be signed on these terms, couldn’t his mother have done so in November 1982 or February 1984? What was the need for her to enact the Operation Bluestar? And, push the Sikhs out of the national mainstream, when substantially same type of Accord had to be agreed to? To them, Rajiv by entering into the Accord had become antihero; he had shown a critical lack of appreciation of fundamentals of Indian (read Hindu) polity.
The public-opinion polls conducted by certain newspapers showing overwhelming popular response to the Accord were meaningless as politics in India has never been conducted on such considerations; rather public opinion has been moulded by instilling false antibodies in the body politic. The point that Longowal had agreed to submit Anandpur Sahib Resolution to the Sarkaria Commission, and otherwise affirmed Akali Dal’s commitment to the Indian unity as against the demand for secession or separatism, was off the mark. Shiv Shankar, in the words Prem Bhatia, “the shoe-shine boy,” took the responsibility to play havoc with the Commissions envisaged in the Accord, while Arun Nehru and Buta Singh waited in the wings to turn things upside down.
If the Congress diehards were furious, no less were the Sikh militants. The leaders of United Akali Dal berated Longowal for betraying the morcha. Even Badal termed it as a “total sell out” for he was in favour of firm decisions and not Commissions headed, as earlier proved, by Commission-agents in the garb of sitting or retired judges of the highest courts. Tohra too spoke in the same vein. Both regarded the promised peace ephemeral.
At a small conclave of district jathedars, attended by Badal and Tohra too, at Gurdwara Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur, on July 26, 1985, Longowal put the Accord for approval. He termed it “a victory for Panth”, and affirmed, “This is an agreement signed not once but on each page. This is as good as a treaty between two countries. Not since the era of Maharaja Ranjit Singh has such an agreement taken place between Punjab and Hinduastan.”40
He threatened to quit if the agreement was not accepted unanimously. Badal and Tohra beat a tactical retreat. The accord was approved.
Some of the steps taken, e.g. suspension of court martial trials and recruitment of some Sikh army deserters into para military forces tended to take the wind out of the criticism. The decision of the Prime Minister to go in for elections in Punjab for September 22, (put off after Longowal’s assassination by three days) to restore the democratic process seemed in order, notwithstanding criticism by BJP and the left.
Badal and Tohra felt the pulse of the time and fell in line with Longowal on the fateful morning of August 20, at Chandigarh.
The same day, the union Home Ministry struck its first nail in the coffin of Raj iv-Longowal Accord. It, in a notification appointing the former Supreme Court Judge, K.K. Mathew, to head the Commission under article 7.2, provided for “other factors” besides those provided in the Accord, viz. principles of contiguity and linguistic affinity and a village as a unit, as the basis for determining the transfer of areas in the terms of reference. Mathew’s only qualification to head this Commission to separate Hindi and Punjabi speaking villages (he knew neither of the languages) was that he had earlier messed up L.N. Mishra death enquiry committee.
To top it all, the same evening, Longowal fell to the bullet of assassin at Sherpur village in Sangrur District. The militants’ motivation was not incongruent to that of the top Congress(I) leaders in or out of government, who were sore at the Accord. The failure of a dozen commandos and 200 security men within the compound of the Gurdwara to provide protective security between first and second shot, with a considerable interval, was sinister.41
The security set up had its quota of shocks shortly afterwards when Lalit Maken and his wife, and later Arjun Das were gunned down in broad day light in the Capital. Senior officials only then began to see a distinct pattern in the militant’s killings.
After an unseemly controversy, Barnala emerged as Longowal’s successor as Acting President of Akali Dal. The group leaders sank their difference, and put a joint list for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. For the first time since independence, Akali Dal gained an absolute majority on its own in the Assembly elections on September 25, 1985. It won 73 out of 100 of the total of 117 seats contested. Shiromani Akali Dal surprisingly polled only 38.40 percent votes. Its major rival, Congress(I), polled 37.31 percent votes and won barely 32 seats.42
The turn out of voters (66.54 percent) was higher than that in the tumultuous elections of 1977 (64.51%) and 1980 (64.33%). Congress(I) was not less happy to project it as a verdict against the militants.
Apart from Longowal providing the martyrdom scenario and sympathy, Akali victory was attributed to “the complete polarisation amongst non-scheduled caste votes” that “reached its apex.”43
That was part of the story. Akalis secured more Hindu votes in this election than in the past, and were successful to project themselves as a regional than a religious party. It sponsored half a dozen Hindus, a Muslim and a Christian as candidates. The militants’ move to boycott the elections met halfhearted response even from elements like Bimal Khalsa, wife of Indira assassin Beant Singh, who fought the elections.
Barnala’s unanimous election as leader of Akali legislature party with Badal, to the surprise of many, proposing his name should have induced in him a sense of realism. Badal’s aspiration to be inducted as Deputy Chief Minister or atleast as number two in the cabinet was not misplaced. But Barnala fell to the wiles of Balwant Singh and opportunism of Amarinder Singh. The importance of Badal lay in the fact that he was the only leader available as a conduit to the militants.44
By excluding Badal from his cabinet, Barnala showed his inherent insecurity, if not isolation from the Sikh youth. That gave a false start to Barnala’s term as Chief Minister with Balwant Singh in Number 2 position. They were sworn in on September 27, alongwith four others.
The main issues that confronted Barnala immediately were, one, release of Sikh army personnel and their rehabilitation; two, the release of the youth, and the innocent persons including women and children held in Jodhpur following the Operation Bluestar; three, stoppage of false encounters and killing of the Sikh youth by the police and security forces; and, finally, the settlement
of the Punjab problem, or implementation of Rajiv-Longowal Accord in its true spirit, to the satisfaction of the people. For that, Barnala needed a lot of goodwill of the central government which was a party to the Accord.
He began on the right note affirming his faith in the Accord. What was more germane was the fact that Rajiv’s euphoria had worn thin; the elements opposed to the Accord, and fully entrenched in the union government were in full operation. The different languages the centre spoke were all orchestrated. Barnala showed a lamentable lack of awareness of the nature of forces arraigned against him.
Barnala’s 21 months tenure as Chief Minister falls into three unequal parts – till January 26, 1986, when the Centre played a cat and mouse game with him and calculatedly failed to carry through the transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab in terms of the Accord; through end April 1986, the proclamation of Khalistan by militants, with the connivance if not the blessings, of the central government for narrow ends, and the police entry into the Golden Temple complex which caused a spilt in Akali party; and the residue period when Barnala had become irrelevant. He was a mere puppet in the hands of the central government or Delhi Durbar which ruled supreme.
From whatever angle one views Barnala during any of the three phases, one finds him wanting.
Barnala’s only laudable action during the first phase was setting up on October 1, 1985, of a four member committee headed by Justice Ajit Singh Bains, a retired Judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court to go into the arrests in the state during the last four years. Bains did a thorough job. “The citizens’ fundamental right to liberty”, he opined, “is basic to any democracy; so 1 was keen to see as many people out of the Jails as fast as I could make it.”45
The Committee adopted a simple procedure. It asked the prosecution to prepare the list of cases district wise, take the help of district attorneys and the police, and present evidence they had in each case. The evidence in majority of cases was flimsy. The police reportedly admitted, it had implicated innocent people to escape pressure from higher ups. False murder and conspiracy cases, and of the people taken into custody after false encounters, came to light.
In a fortnight, the Committee recommended release of over 2,000 detainees as also of over 150 Hindu Suraksha Samiti volunteers, including its President Pawan Kumar Sharma. Its most significant recommendation was to ask Punjab government to approach the central government for release of most of 450 people arrested by army during the Operation Bluestar from the Golden Temple complex and two other Gurdwaras. Only 25 of them were hardcore supporters of Bhindranwale. Others had died or had fled. Of the 379 detenues held in Jodhpur, most of them were innocent pilgrims including women and children, or the SGPC employees.
The Committee, thereafter, started screening the cases of those already convicted. Despite police obstruction, it was able to look into 80 percent of the cases. It found 99 percent of the police encounter cases to be ‘bogus’.
Barnala, instead of releasing those recommended, fell under the evil spell of Rajiv Gandhi who charged the Punjab government of indiscriminate release. This was despite the fact that, of the 2,000 persons released, none had joined the rank of the militants. Barnala’s timidity put a heart to the police to oppose releases. His setting up a ‘police committee’ to screen the recommendations of
Bains Committee was unkindest of all. This led to a slanging match between Bains and the state
police which was accused by him of indulging in state terrorism. It, all the more, hurt Barnala’s
image. Of the over 2,000 persons who had been actually released, 833 were already on bail. Barnala
government’s pusillanimity “in not accepting the recommendations of its own committee” further
alienated the Sikh youth.
What for was Barnala turning his back on the most solemn commitments made by
Longowal and the Akali Dal plank? The central government had already shown its perfidy while
issuing notification specifying the terms of reference of Mathew Commission under article 7.2 (to
determine Hindi speaking area on the principles of contiguity and linguistic affinity with a village as a
unit). When Barnala government objected to “other factors at the discretion of the Commission”,
the Centre expressed its inability to modify its notification. That was quite an unmaintainable
Rajiv’s declaration on October 11, that no Congress(I) government (meaning Haryana)
would take advantage of the ‘objectionable clause’ in terms of reference, only showed the imbecility
of union government’s position. Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, in another 10 days, based his
entire case for Fazilka and Abohar on the ‘objectionable clause’. And, Mathew, whose strings were
being pulled from behind, refused to go by the 1971 or 1981 census which showed 85 percent of the
people of the area were Punjabi speaking. The affirmation by Census Commissioner of the 1971
and 1981 figures meant nothing to Mathew. He did not want to go by 1961 census either, as over
500 villages in Haryana according to that census were Punjabi speaking.
Mathew was aware of Punjabi speaking village of Kandu Khera which broke Haryana’s link
with Fazilka or Abohar but still mischievously suggested fresh enumeration in Fazilka and Abohar as
if in the form of a referendum. Only enumeration in Kandu Khera village would have been enough.
He was not bothered if that worked up communal passions. Verily, in the words of Balwant Singh,
“there are some elements in Congress(I) and the bureaucracy at the Centre who want to keep Punjab
Mathew’s tenure was extended from end-October to end-November to end-December, then
January 15, and eventually to January 25, 1986. He suggested enumeration in Fazilka and Abohar in
November and left for Kerala to wine away his time.
Bhajan Lal was unleashed by Rajiv in November. He went wild at the Congress centenary
celebrations the following month. He played up the communal (read Hindu-chauvinstic) feelings
and asserted “We shall not let Punjab have Chandigarh till Abohar and Fazilka are transferred to us
and till the water of the canal flows into Haryana.”48 Here, Bhajan Lal was modifying even the
Rajiv-Longowal Accord, for flow of water was scheduled only from August 15, 1986. Barnala
rightly observed, “Bhajan Lal has no courage to speak a word unless his bosses in Delhi tell him to
do so. I fear mischief at the Central hand and that is very sad”.49 As if by design, there was increase
in number of killings in Punjab in November-December. S. Vishwam observed that “extremism
was again sought to be used as an instrument of political blackmail.”
Barnala correctly saw linkage in Congress(I)’s volte face and revival of terroristic acts in
Punjab. The involvement of Nihangs of Baba Santa Singh in indiscriminate shooting of pilgrims at
Fatehgarh Sahib on younger Sahibzada’s martyrdom day was a pointer. As Barnala saw it, if there
were two incidents by militants, there were ten by others, complicating the situation.
Barnala crushed with a heavy hand the AISSF sponsored ‘rasta roko’, stop the traffic on roads, stir on January 10, 1986. He should have been accommodative to the AISSF in view of the earlier Haryana Government’s full cooperation with the opposition, Devi Lal-led, march to Parliament House in Delhi in December. In view of the developing situation. Barnala should have kept his options open. if not his lines of communications with the Sikh youth intact.
Eventually, when Mathew’s pre-orchestrated non-award came on January 25, 1986. he averred that because of Punjabi speaking Kandu Khera village, he was not able to recommend any area in Abohar and Fazilka to Haryana (which was hot willing to accept 13 or so villages offered by Punjab in Patiala district). The whole process of Rajiv-Longowal Accord stood subverted. Mathew’s job was not to arbitrate but give an award, and his lack of application to Punjab’s offer of 13 villages in Patiala district was result of behind the scene manoeuvering. He was not worth his salt, and slur on judiciary. The Centre’s insistence that Barnala should offer 90 villages to Haryana in lieu of Chandigarh spoke of malefic configuration.50
That was also obvious in Centre’s not constituting second linguistic tribunal under article 9.4. The other commission on river waters was constituted only on January 24, 1986.
On January 26, 1986, the much awaited transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab stood aborted. The same day, the cadres of Damdami Taksal and AISSF, in terms of a face saving compromise SGPC had entered with them that talked of joint kar seva,51 took over Akal Takht and hoisted saffron Khalistan flag (with words Khalistan superscribed on it). Reprehensibly, Mohkam Singh, a Taksal spokesman, who, in the words of Wassan Singh Zafarwal, did much to disrupt Taksal as a movement, announced to the large gathering the disbandment of the SGPC, dismissal of the Akal Takht and the Golden Temple head priests and a host of other steps52
to the glee of the central government. Mohkam Singh was only serving as New Delhi’s cat’s paw. The dissolution of the SGPC and the DSGMC (Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee) had been on the top of Indira’s agenda.
Some speak of adoption of a gurmatta, a resolution, calling for a sovereign Sikh state, Khalistan. But no such resolution was formally put forth to the vast congregation. As a matter of fact, a basic document was drawn up by Dalbir Singh, Correspondent of the daily Tribune (Chandigarh), “to form a political network to achieve the reorganisation of society in the light of Sikh principles.”52a But in the wee hours of January 26, 1986, Dr. Sohan Singh, retired Director Health Services Punjab, brought forth the issue of Khalistan and wanted a gurmatta to be adopted. Dalbir Singh avers that he walked out.52b
According to informed circles, slips were drawn after a formal ardas, prayer, and the verdict was not to go ahead with such a resolution. The matter rested at that. Joyce Pettigrew quates Dr. Sohan Singh to say that no such resolution was adopted.
Barnala’s woes knew no bounds. His position was more of a leper, or of the washerman’s dog. He could not take the forthright stand and resign at subversion of the Rajiv-Longowal Accord on non-transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab on January 26. He, for his own reasons, chose to stick to his office, to the dismay of New Delhi. Even President, Giani Zail Singh, informally tendered him advice to quit: he did so to further New Delhi’s wider objectives to plunge Punjab into turmoil.
The AISSF recognised the gravity of the situation, dissociated itself from the move, and asked Mohkam Singh to confine himself only to the Kar seva and not indulge in other adventurous moves. Tohra too expected Thakar Singh to contain his Taksal enthusiasts.
To complete the story about the two other commissions that followed on Chandigarh’s transfer to Punjab:
The first to follow was headed by Justice E.S. Venkataramiah. Set up on April 2, 1986 (to complete its work by the end of May), its terms of reference were to locate contiguous Hindi-speaking villages to be awarded to Haryana in lieu of Chandigarh. Haryana under the new Chief Minister Bansi Lal chose at first not to cooperate in identifying any villages. Then on May 29, it put forth claim to 483 Hindi-speaking villages. That led to extension of the Commission’s tenure to June 10.
Chandigarh, it may be mentioned, has a total area of 28,500 acres. Of this, 52, percent i.e. 15,000 acres fall to Haryana’s share on the Capital’s transfer to the Punjab. In lieu of the balance of 13,500 acres going to Punjab, Venkataramiah suggested that Punjab should transfer 70,000 acres of land to Haryana! On what basis he arrived at this figure, he did not spell out. He stated that article 7.4 of the Accord provided for appointment of another commission for readjustment of the existing Punjab-Haryana boundaries “based on a village as a unit, linguistic affinity and contiguity”. As such, in his views, article 7.2 of the Accord providing for the same criterion for identifying areas in Punjab for transfer to Haryana in lieu of Chandigarh was perverse. He wanted the Accord to be rewritten; he sought to rectify, what he regarded as, Rajiv’s mistake and give the Accord a new shape. Venkataramiah acted more of a politician, a mischievous one at that, than a judge. He pointed to Punjab’s offer of 31 Hindi-speaking villages near Manimajra constituting 45,000 acres, but said another Commission should be appointed to locate 25,000 acres “without insisting upon proof regarding the question whether they are Hindi speaking or Punjabi speaking”. In short, he wanted Punjab to transfer Punjabi speaking villages to Haryana. Only that could meet a perverted Brahmins sense of justice! His airing his views on Article 7.4 of the Accord was preposterous and showed malefic influence under which he was working.
The Punjab Cabinet expressed “its deep sense of anguish to find that the Commission has made recommendations unwarranted by its terms of reference as also by the letter and spirit of the accord.” It “urged the Centre to review the report and strike down the portions transgressing and violating the terms of reference.”
This made the Un ion government to set up yet another Commission on June 20, 1986. headed by Justice D.A. Desai, Chairman Law Commission, who agreed to give an award in 18 or even 12 hours. That was something exceptional. He had never worked with that speed throughout his life; neither had any of his ilk in High or Supreme Courts, otherwise there would have been no arrears! Following Venkataramiah’s recommendations, his terms of reference did not specify that he was to locate only Hindi speaking areas, or go by the specifics provided in article 7.2 of the Accord, namely contiguity, linguistic affinity and village as a unit. In short Desai agreed to give an award on the basis of thuggery!
Though the Union Government sought to amend Desai’s terms of reference and extend his tenure to July 15, Barnala government finding the general tenor of the central government inimical, chose to ignore the Desai Commission. Thereby this part of the Accord was a total flop.
In the words of Nikhil Chakravarty, a leading journalist, the three judges had devalued their standing in the eyes of the public.
Barnala’s experience with the other Commission, under Article 9, on river waters was not much different. To begin with, the Commission was required to give its decision within six months. But the Union government took exactly six months to constitute the Commission, headed by Justice V. Balakrishna Eradi, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, on January 24, 1986.
Under the Accord, Akal is had already compromised their position that under the riparian or river valley law, as applied earlier in the cases of Narbada and Kaveri river waters disputes, Haryana had no locus standi in Ravi-Beas river systems. Haryana had got Punjab’s full share of Yamuna waters of 5.58 maf: it was drawing 3.29 maf through Western Yamuna Canal, and could get another 2.29 maf when a new canal is completed. The Accord assured Haryana as also Punjab and Rajasthan water not less than what they were getting on July 1, 1985, from Ravi-Beas system: exact quantum was to be verified by the Tribunal.
Eradi took almost a year to give his award which was held back by the union government for another four months. It was released in May 1987 on the eve of Haryana Assembly elections, as if it was meant to sort out political problems of Congress(I) in that state.
Eradi went into verification of total water including pre-partition use which was never referred to it. It took into consideration 1920-1960 figures, hut not the figures for 1960-86 as these were inconvenient. For instance, the surplus water of Ravi-Beas system was calculated, at 15.85 maf at Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 between India and Pakistan. It never went beyond 15 maf, despite the fact that Indira later increased it to 17.17 maf. Eradi further inflated it to 18.28 maf.
Eradi estimated that Punjab drew 5.406 maf, Haryana 1.620 maf and Rajasthan 6.095 maf as on July 1, 1985. These figures under the Accord constituted the bench marks for further allocations.
Eradi went on to discover or locate 4.613 maf of additional water, raising the total available water from 17.17 to 21.78 maf. In the words of Harkishan Singh Surjeet, the Corn miss ion hoodwinked the masses, as the additional water resources available from the three mountain streams of Uj, Basantar and Bein which flew into Ravi and Pakistan, were seasonal and too fast. These were known and the cost of Rs. 1350 crores to dam to yield only 1. 04 maf was neither practicable nor economical. There were also practical problems of causing floods in holding back water that flowed into Pakistan through Ferozepur.
Eradi treated Rajiv Eongowal Accord as a mere scrap of paper and like Venkataramiah earlier gave it a malicions reconstruction. He, therefore, reduced Punjab’s share from 5.405 maf as on July 1, 1985, to 5.0 maf. He preserved Punjab’s pre-partition allocation, this brought Punjab’s total entitlement to 7.3 maf. He enhanced Haryana’s share from 1.62 maf as on July 1,1985, to 3.83 maf, an increase of 240 percent. With the additional water of 3.29 maf already available to it through Yamuna, Haryana’s share from the composite Punjab rose to 7.12 maf; this put it at per with Punjab, a much bigger state. Rajasthan’s share also got enhanced from 6.083 maf as on July 1, 1985, to 8.60 maf.
Eradi violated the nationally and internationally accepted principles of rights of riparian states over its water resources. The surplus water, if any, of Punjab can be made available to other states against a consideration. By incredible estimates, and dubious statistics, Eradi with malice aforethought complicated matters, instead of resolving them.
Now, we may turn to the fifth Commission that was upshot of the Rajiv-Longowal Accord. The terms of reference of Justice Ranganath Misra, a sitting judge of Supreme Court, who was entrusted on April 26, 1985, to enquire into ‘organised violence’ in Delhi, were extended to cover Kanpur and Bokaro (and later Clias Telisil) in Bihar under the Accord.
Misra was witness to the anti-Sikh carnage in Delhi. He was aware of findings of PUDR and PUCE, the work of volunteers of Nagrik Ekta Manch published in November 1984 itself under the title “Who Are the Guilty?” and the findings of a high powered non-official Commission of enquiry headed by retired Chief Justice of Supreme Court. S.M. Sikri. The reports had courageously blamed the leading lights of Congress(I) for organising the anti-Sikh carnage to ‘teach the Sikhs a lesson’. Misra was also aware of Rajiv’s alibi for the riots, and his extreme reluctance to hold an enquiry in the face of brazen allegations and eye witness reports. Right from the beginning, it was clear to him that the government wanted him to do a whitewashing job.
The Commission attracted a plethora of organisations. On the one hand was the Citizens Justice Committee (CJC) formed by various civil rights groups including the Nagrik Ekta Manch, the PUDR, the PUCE, the Sikh Forum and the Citizens for Democracy, On the other were malignant group like Citizens Committee for Harmony represented by Shyamala Pappu of Congress(I), the Vidhi Chetna of Usha Kumar, a central government counsel in Thakkar Commission’s enquiry into Indira’s assassination, and the Citizens Forum for Truth represented by a lawyer R.K. Gupta. Then there were the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee and the Arya Samaj. Right from the beginning, the question arose about safeguarding the victims of the riots who were too scared from intimidation and harassment. The CJC brought to the notice of Misra various cases of intimidation. Instead of conducting enquiry through his own team of police officers, he passed it on to the Delhi Administration. These landed on the tables of the very inspectors and sub-inspectors who had initially held the threats! Misra when questioned showed his jaundiced outlook when he said, “These are fantasies you are dealing with.”
The CJC did a commendable job in securing more than 6,000 affidavits. Whereas these were subjected to cross examination, CJC’s request for copies of affidavits of those named were turned down, and even their identity withheld. Its requests for vital police reports were refused and pleas for summoning nine senior officials responsible for maintenance of law and order during the period were turned down. The holding of the proceedings in camera added to the complications. The CJC felt that “This has been a one-sided investigation” and on March 31, 1986, withdrew from the Com-mission.
The victims case thereafter was represented by Akali Dal and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee.
Because of the overwhelming evidence, Misra was forced to concede that “violence in Delhi was indeed organised” and “that the pattern followed at Kanpur and Bokaro was the same.”58
How 3 could anti-social elements as suggested by him have synchronised such violence and the pattern at vastly distant places in so short a time is beyond comprehension.
Not aware of the Operation Shanti. Misra went on to add that “in such a short time. . . no planning could have been done. Thus the stand that violence was organised is difficult to accept.” Nonetheless, he conceded that “in these mobs people with sympathy for Congress (I) and associated
with the party activities appear to have joined in good number.” Then, he gratuitously offered alibi
for Congress(I) party “at the lower level” having “loose ends”, and that “such participation was not
on party basis”. He added that “it seems to be a fact that a number of people belonging to the
Congress(I) party at the lower level had participated in the riots.”
How did Misra account for Congress(I) M. P’s, Member of Metropolitan Council and
Municipal Committee besides the leaders of Youth Congress being “lower level” party
functionaries? Reading in between the lines, one gets the feeling that Misra did come across
impeccable evidence of Congress(I)’s participation at all levels on a massive scale in planning,
organising and manning the riots, but; his courage failed him. He was a committed judge who had
sold his conscience. H.S. Phoolka convener of CJC aptly termed the Misra report farcical.
Misra placed “the major part of responsibility” for the riots on the police, besides anti-social
elements and Congress(I) workers. He desisted “from making any assessment of the allegations
implicating individuals” and washed off his hands by recommending constitution of a committee of
at least two persons – one judicial and one administrator – to look into the papers and give directions
Misra report was withheld for a considerable period before it was partially released. Its
second volume is still held back.
After a great deal of wrangling, Kusum Lata Mittal did identify Congress(I) leaders including
the then M.P.s, police officers and other individuals who should be prosecuted for their acts of
omission and commission.62
Because of political pulls and pressures, malfeasance of some judges of
Delhi High Court, including the anti-Sikh penchant that characterise the society and has come to
influence all echeleons of government including the judiciary, nothing practical has been achieved in
that direction. Cry for justice remains unheard.
A written Accord with all it comas and full stops, signed in a most solemn ceremony, was
rendered useless. Not a single Article was implemented in its true spirit including article 2 on
recruitment to army based on merit. Even Misra Commission noted the distinction in terms of its
reference, viz, to inquire into “the incidents of organised violence” in Delhi vis-a-vis “the
disturbances which took place in the Bokaro Tahsil, in Chas Tehsil and at Kanpur.” When the issue
of All India Gurdwara Act came up, the view of unregenerate Darbara Singh and tankhahya Buta
Singh prevailed that it was too dangerous a proposal, subversive of Congress ideals to break Akali
hegemony over the Gurdwaras.” It was unceremoniously shelved. So was the Accord.
To resume now the narrative from the capture of Akal Takht and the Golden Temple
complex by Damdami Taksal and the AISSF:
At the instance of the SGPC and Akali Dal, Jathedar Kirpal Singh and four other head
priests called Surbat Khalsa meeting on February 16, 1986, at Amritsar. Since negotiations with
Damdami Taksal showed little progress, the venue was changed from Amritsar to Anandpur Sahib.
Meanwhile on February 4, the police and CRPF under Mohammad Izhar Alam, an over-enthusiastic
Superintendent of Police, Jalandhar, acted brutally in killing four from an AISSF procession at
Nakodar and cremated the bodies instead of handing them over to their families. A hapless Barnala
could only transfer few police officers, instead of suspending some of them. This was a signal for
militants to retaliate. There was general upsurge of insensate violence. A number of killing squads
arose. Admitted an official, “Most of them operate on their own now, in small bands, making our
job even more difficult”. Besides, there was greater element of surprise in extremist activity, so
much so that Bhai Mohkam Singh of Damdami Taksal and Harinder Singh Kahlon convener of the
AISSF condemned violence in the state.
The rubble of the demolished Akal Takht yielded a rich crop of meat bones, earthen piece of
chillums, razor blades etc – all thrown by troops sacrilegiously into the building material at the time of
construction under auspices of Baba Santa Singh.
At the Sarbat Khalsa of February 26, 1986, at Anandpur Sahib attended by over 200,000
people, Giani Kirpal Singh contended that “non-believers and naxalites had infiltrated these bodies
(Damdami Taksal and AISSF) to implement the old conspiracy of finishing off the Sikh religion.
Sikh youth are being killed and Akali leaders are their special target. They want to usurp the SGPC
which the Sikhs got after great sacrifice.” While Tohra announced his resignation, Badal warned
against any move to send the police into the temple complex, as that would inflame the Sikh opinion
in Punjab and finish off Akali Dal. Barnala to the glee of his central mentors disagreed and asserted,
“The rod is the only answer now for those spoiled boys. If we don’t send the police now, tomorrow
the army will have to go.”
Congress(I) leaders started harping on the growing violence in Punjab. Small violence was
splashed disproportionately in the news papers and on the TV. Barnala blamed Border Security
Force for letting in from Pakistan scores of young men through Punjab and Rajasthan borders.
Gursharan Singh, noted Marxist playwright in his political plays, and in the editorial of his monthly
Samata, too thought that Pakistan was behind the violence in the state; he was clear that they were
not associated with Damdami Taksal and the AISSF. The police sources despite confessions about
Pakistan’s involvement blamed the Taksal and the AISSF but had no concrete evidence.
The five member council of Damdami Taksal and AISSF in February-March 1986 repeatedly
condemned killings. The question that agitated the mind of thinking people was, apart from the
mysterious hand of Pakistan, who was behind the violence in Punjab? Sanjeev Gaur of the Sunday
hit the nail on the head when he recalled, “A keen Punjab-watcher’s” apprehension, “That even a
central lobby which is against the present Akali government in Punjab could be backing the
terrorists in the sinister move.”66 And, the activisation of Shiv Sena – no kin of Bal Thackarey’s
organisation of the same name in Maharashtra – in urban areas of Punjab with an eye to gain from
the communal clashes could also be attributed to this very lobby. Suman Dubey of India Today was
emphatic that, “The BJP eyes the rise of Shiv Sena with distaste”. He quoted Hit Abhilashi to say,”
We cannot champion only the Hindus, as violence has hit both the communities.”
Congress(I) leadership had no compunctions in playing up the communal card. The series
of incidents from mid-February to the third week of March at Batala marking the rise of Hindu
militancy – roughing up of College going Sikh boys from rural areas on February 19, Shiv Sena
activists’ detonation on March 15, 1986, of two crude bombs, one of which hit the Gurdwara, and
their attack on the police station the following day when they fired weapons and threw seven crude
bombs – were sinister in content. The sharpened trishul became the normal wear of the Hindus,
united under the flag of ‘Om’. The partisan behaviour of the CRPF and the rumours of death of a
granthi (he had only been roughed up) yielded unexpected results: a gherao of the town by rural
Sikhs from March 19, 1986, to prevent milk and vegetables reaching the town. It lasted four days.
Curfew had to be imposed for a fortnight. The publicity given to various incidents in the press and TV tended to play up the communal divide.
Another catalyst to encourage these elements was the march to Chandigarh, to gherao the Assembly, of Baba Joginder Singh whose United Akali Dal had been eclipsed by Damdami Taksal and the AISSF. The death of his son Jagjit Singh Rode in mysterious circumstances on March 17, 1986, helped to swell the marchers to more than 3,000 strong. Chandigarh Administration and Punjab Police, bungled in handling the situation. Two people were killed in the police firing.
By the end of March, the gunning down of a Communist Party of India legislator in Amritsar district and of the RSS workers at Dresi Ground Ludhiana – the first such attacks on leftists and RSS workers in years – created congenial atmosphere for the central government to launch its new policy in Punjab. The sudden and unannounced change of Shankar Dayal Sharma, Governor of Punjab, and induction on April 1, 1986, of Siddharath Shankar Ray who had earlier crushed Naxalites in Bengal, as the new Governor without consulting Barnala, was one step. The other was the induction of the super-cop Julio Francis Ribeiro of Maharashtra cadre as Director General Police, Punjab, (he was also head of the CRPF and the BSF) around the same time. These were indicative of the union government’s resolve to crush the Sikhs. That was also a notice to Barnala to play to the tune or Ray could take over the administration and Governor’s rule imposed.
Hardly had Ribeiro taken over that the militants gave him a taste of their prowess. In early April 1986 at Jalandhar they killed half a dozen policemen on the spot, maimed another four and set free three of their colleagues involved in Ramesh Chandra’s killing, outside the court of Additional Sessions Judge; they passed by atleast six CRPF posts before escaping.68
Ribeiro spoke of bullet for bullet policy but needed time to rally his forces. The interregnum could be used to break Akali Dal and its majority in the legislature. The union government was now looking towards a ‘big act’ on part of the militants.
The emissaries of a Union Minister manoeuvred with Baba Joginder Singh, with whom Baba Gurdev Singh, ‘acting jathedar’ of Akal Takht was aligned, to make a declaration of Khalistan from Akal Takht at the Sarbat Khalsa on Baisakhi, April 13, 1986. The former demurred, while the latter instead offered his resignation at the Sarbat Khalsa. It was turned down.69
Baba Joginder Singh said he could think of doing so around June 4, the second anniversary of the Operation Bluestar. That was not acceptable to the union government which wanted to hasten the declaration.
Now, considerable financial clout of the World Sikh Organisation(WSO) headed by Bhullar, was brought to bear on the self-constituted five-member Panthic Committee consisting of Arur Singh, Dhanna Singh, Wassan Singh Zafarwal, Gurbachan Singh Manochahal and Gurdev Singh Usmanwala “to announce Khalistan without further ado”. Raminder Singh of India Today continues,” the WSO’s Chandigarh based contact man, a retired bureaucrat, spent sometime with the committee members. His reasoning prevailed and the Committee advanced the date to April 28. But Delhi newspapers were on strike that day, so the date was postponed to April 29.”
Harbir Singh Bhanwar in the daily Ajit (Jalandhar) of May 14, gives a graphic description as to how the declaration of Khalistan was made on April 29, 1986, from room number 46 of parikarma of Darbar Sahib at 11.30 a.m. Some of the five member committee had their beards tied up and were wearing pants and bush shirts. They changed their dress to white cholas, round kesri turbans like that of Bhindranwale, untied their beards to let them flow, and put white or kesari dushalas
around their neck. Then a 10 page declaration, believed to have been vetted in Buta Singh’s office,
on the pad of ‘panthic panj membri committee’ (panthic five member committee) without a date was
distributed to press reporters and others. The statement that Khalistan had come into being was
amended to read that “the fight for Khalistan has begun”. Delhi was to be the capital of Khalistan;
non-Sikhs were to have the same rights as the Sikhs.71
Its territory was to be defined. [Later in
1988, at was clarified that whole of India minus Kashmir was to form Khalistan]. Side by side with
the declaration a host of militant set ups with high sounding names were set up by various members.
After the declaration, four of the five members rerolled their beards, changed to safari suits
and mixed with the crowd. All of them disappeared from the Golden Temple complex.
Barnala then attending the National Development Council (NDC) meeting in Delhi was
caught unawares. Rajiv on getting the expected flash adjourned the NDC meeting and closeted
himself with his close advisers. He wanted Barnala to take police action or resign. 72
Barnala caved in
for the former course. Rajiv at the time was well aware that the five-member committee which
made the announcement had left the Golden Temple complex. But it gave him the opportunity to,
firstly, justify the Operation Bluestar and, secondly, split Akali Dal.
By afternoon, a captive Barnala accompanied by Arun Singh, Minister of State for Defence,
Congress(I) Vice President Arjun Singh, a Major-General of National Security Guards(NSG) and
top officials of Home Ministry were flown by special aircraft to Amritsar. Julio Ribeiro was already
there. It was decided that three companies of NSG in ‘Operation Search’ would flush out the
‘terrorists’ from the Golden temple complex the following early morning.
The complex was surrounded on April 30, 4.30 a.m. by the police and the CRPF. The
commandos then entered the temple complex firing in the air. There was no resistance. Still they
killed two innocent persons. Of the 378 persons rounded up, only 233, mainly belonging to Taksal
and the AISSF were detained. Reibero conceded ‘No one of note was caught’.
Barnala at the Cabinet meeting at Chandigarh on April 30, lasting from 12.30 to 15.00 hours
had the declaration of Khalistan condemned. He did not have the courage, moral or other, to tell
his colleagues of the ongoing police action in the Golden Temple, Amritsar. On hearing of it,
Sukhjinder Singh, Amarinder Singh and Sucha Singh Chhotepur resigned from the Cabinet. Badal
and Tohra resigned from Akali Dal Working Committee. Akali Dal split. A group of 27 Akali
MLAs and 4 of the 7 MPs got recognition as separate groups. Tohras men, however, continued in
Already Governor Ray had come to the rescue of Barnala. On the evening of April 30, he
rallied Congress(I) and other opposition parties to pledge their support to Barnala in case of the
expected split of Akali party.74 Barnala was now a lame duck Chief Minister, dependent upon the
crutches of Congress(I) Assembly party. He inducted 21 new members in the cabinet, promoted
two to cabinet rank, and offered the rest lucrative chairmanships of the public sector corporations.
He dangled the offices of profit to those who had joined Badal, to no effect.
Rajiv in appreciation immediately in May 1986 kicked Buta Singh high to Union Home
Ministry. He took up the task with zeal and got lifetime’s opportunity to settle his old scores.
The post-Operation Search period saw a triangular interplay of forces of Sikh militancy, Hindu revivalism and state terrorism, with the latter two hands in glove with each other, to fix the Sikhs. Firstly, the militants obviously stepped up their activity over a limited area and sought to annihilate both the Hindus and the Sikhs opposed to them. In Krishan Nagar, Amritsar, on May 21, 1986, they shot anyone looking like a Hindu; a Sikh who appealed to them not to kill innocent people was also shot dead after being told: “There is no place for Hindu lovers.”76 Adds Gobind Thukral of India Today, “The small minority of middle ground leaders in the Damdami Taksal or the All-India Sikh Students Federation such as Harinder Singh Kahlon, who oppose the cult of killing are getting isolated.”77 The unrelated incidents of violence were played up. As Barnala stated, the violence in Punjab was overstated.78
No attempt was made to differentiate between extremists and militants, and militants and terrorists. All the Sikhs were brushed with the same paint.
Secondly, the sharpened Trishul, which showed itself at Batala in March last, formed part of the menacing Hindu revivalism in all parts of India. On the basis of bureau reports, Inderjit Badhwar of India Today wrote, “The clarion call to Hindu nationhood. . . has found credence and acceptability among the unlikeliest of people; people who are banding together for the first time under one saffron banner. . . It is response of a people who are not at peace.”79 It had a sinister impact on Punjab and the Sikhs in India. In Punjab, there was a clear schism between the Hindus and the Sikhs in cities where the Hindus are in majority. As Kewal Verma put it, “Hindu has become increasingly communal and Hindu-Sikh divide has widened.”80 This resulted in communal clashes in Patiala, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Nakodar, Batala and Amritsar cities where curfew became a part of life. At places, the Sikh shops and houses were ransacked. The Sikhs as a result started moving out of the Hindu dominated localities. Side by side, the Hindus in Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi indulged in violence against the Sikh life and property as part of backlash of militants’ killing of the Hindus, e.g., in a bus at Mukatsar on July 25, 1986. The police also killed three Sikhs at Delhi standing up to the Hindu mobs. Because of Hindu revivalism, “the migration to Punjab is picking up” with the Sikhs from Delhi, Kanpur, Patna and Haryana seeking to buy property in Punjab cities.” The future of the Sikhs outside Punjab was “beset by fear and doubts”. Raminder Singh of India Today, who conducted a special survey in August 1986 to gauge the feelings of the Sikhs outside Punjab, quoted Nidharak Singh of Bombay to add, “The Hindus in Punjab have only the terrorists to fear as no Sikh mob in the state has attacked the Hindus. We face the prospect of ordinary people around us becoming mobs.”81
There was cowardicing by a section of the Sikhs in places like Delhi, where some of them clipped off the keshas of their school going children, to give them security. Hindus felt elated.
Lastly, the state terrorism with Ribeiro as its fountainhead in Chandigarh and getting directions from tankhahya Buta Singh-headed union Home Ministry,82 raised its ugly head to engulf the Sikhs and Sikh values. To begin with, Ribeiro prepared a hit list of 38 A category or ‘top terrorists’, with a B category list of 400 to be liquidated without the due processes of law. Reprehensibly, Barnala himself gave Ribeiro a list of 60 youth from Gurdaspur District for summary elimination. Also, worst type of torture of the Sikh youth at Ladha Kothi in Nabha took place under his very nose.
The handing over of Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts to the trigger happy CRPF and BSF respectively, to flush out the militants, had its twofold impact. One, it made the militants to shift their activity to Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana and Sangrur districts apart from some other parts of Punjab. Two, in the surcharged communal atmosphere with the Hindus in cities and towns up in arms
against the Sikhs, it signalled to the Hindus all over Punjab to approach local CRPF units to have
shot any Sikh with whom they had a personal grudge or dispute.
Shekhar Gupta of India Today records its small beginnings in end June.
a) In Chandigarh a Hindu lawyer had an altercation with a young Sikh client and started
shouting that terrorists had come to kill him. The youth was shot.
b) In village Rupewal near Nakodar, a Harijan tried to filch some water melons from a
Sikh farm. He was thrashed by farmer’s son. The Harijan approached the CRPF and
had shot the Sikh farmer and his son as terrorists. The villagers were up in rage and
the Punjab Police registered a case of murder.
c) Punjab police in Amritsar openly accused the CRPF of ‘murdering’ Harminder Singh
Shammi, a small time Sikh leader.” The prevalent communal cleavage affected Punjab
Police and CRPF who openly clashed in the streets of Amritsar. The Punjab Police
registered a case against the CRPF for dacoity while the CRPF lodged an identical First
Information Report against the Punjab Police.
The distraught union Home Ministry brought in K.P.S. Gill, an Assam cadre officer, as
Inspector-General of the CRPF; he also concurrently headed the unified command of local police
and the BSF. Gill excelled Ribeiro in serving the cause of the South Block. With Ribeiro assuring
quick distribution of ‘rewards’ held on ‘terrorists’, security agencies started getting extra-payment for
killing of the Sikhs. By end July 1986, the CRPF started killing relatives of ‘top terrorists’, of course,
in false encounters.
The first to use the term ‘state terrorism’ in this phase was Barnala’s Minister of State for
Home, Kanwaljit Singh, who visited Batala area in June and was grilled by 200 Sikh villagers.86
Revenue Minister Major Singh Uboke dismissed the massive ‘Operation Mand’ launched amidst
fanfare in early August to smash Khalistan’s headquarters as ‘Operation Fraud’ or ‘Operation
Pakhand’ (charade). He contended at a Cabinet meeting that “innocent Sikhs and even women”
were being harassed and tortured by the security forces. This resulted in Barnala’s unsavoury
meeting with Ribeiro who refused to relent.87 Uboke legitimately asked, “Is he (Ribeiro) superior to
Barnala’s government?” Obviously, yes. “This is police raj” lamented Uboke.
The anguish of Punjab Ministers had its counterpart in Badal, Sukhjinder Singh, Baba
Joginder Singh and others rallying the Sikh masses against the oppressive state machinery. They
attended bhog ceremonies of those killed in false encounters by police and security agencies. This
gave a fillip to amrit prachar and those taking the Sikh baptism straightway came under police
surveillance.89 Badal was emphatic that Ribeiro “is increasing terrorism and State terrorism is the
worst type of terrorism.”
The amateurish, lone ranger, attempt on Rajiv Gandhi by Karamjit Singh with a katta, or
sawed shotgun, on October 2, at Rajghat, Delhi, was followed by a considered attempt the following
day on Ribeiro at the impregnable Punjab Armed Police Headquarters, Jalandhar.91
August, the militants had despatched Gen. A.S. Vaidya, Army Chief at the time of Operation
Bluestar. Though Ribeiro was only bruised in the right arm, it put a silencer at his loudmouth and
made him more circumspect.
Though militants met a series of setbacks with more than a quarter of Ribeiro’s A and B hit lists being eliminated, there was no let up in militant activity. Even the killing of individuals showed a pattern. On eve of Diwali, the extremists of Damdami Taksal and AISSF honoured publicly the relatives of Indira assassins, as also those of other martyrs at Manji Sahib hall in the Golden Temple complex. At the Sarbat Khalsa on Diwali, November 1, 1986, they appealed to Amnesty International to expose the fake encounters resorted to by the police and security agencies to eliminate the Sikh youth.
The contradictory postures of union government soon put Punjab back to square one to the discomfiture of Ribeiro. Buta Singh to spite at Barnala helped Tohra to get elected as SGPC president on November 30. The same day militants massacred 24 Hindu bus passengers on Jalandhar-Pathankot highway. This caused furore in Hindi belt. And, Tohra announced disbanding of Special Security Force raised for protection of the Sikh shrines after Operation Search in April last. That caught Buta Singh on the wrong foot. Tohra, Badal and a host of other Akalis were held under preventive detention.
When Buta Singh was interplaying one section of Akalis against the other, his Minister of Internal Security, Arun Nehru, (dropped on Oct. 22) was conspiring with his intelligence set up to fix Buta Singh. He chose his target one Kuldip Kaur, a British national and wife of a Conservative Party leader in Greater London. On arrival in October 1986 at Delhi’s International Airport, she got VIP treatment; she was received at the tarmac of the aircraft by a car sent by Buta Singh. Now, at the time of her departure, in November, she was detained under TADA on trumped up charges. Buta Singh under stress spoke in Lok Sabha the Gandhian truth when he flatly denied the considerable family relationship between his family and that of Kuldip Kaur. Margaret Thatcher’s intervention with Rajiv Gandhi brought about her release the following April.
In a review of 1986, Inderjit Badhwar and Prabhu Chawla of India Today observed that militancy which was earlier confined to Amritsar and Gurdaspur, had spread to Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Faridkot. It “has now assumed the trappings of an insurgency. . . . Its base continues to grow. . . The state’s Chief Secretary and Home Secretary have not been involved in a single important decision for several months.” Further that, “The police option had neither mitigated the communal divide nor brought down terrorist killings, nor elevated the morale of the police and the confidence of the people.” The sporadic killing of innocent villagers by the CRPF and the BSF with the Home Ministry refusing to order inquiries “had given the impression that the security forces are accountable to nobody for their action”. That had forced the ‘boys’ to form “revenge squads”, and put content into folk singers’ emotional songs to the Khalsa “to rise and fight as was done during the Mughal and the Ahmad Shah Abdali period.”
Seema Mustafa made an independent assessment for the weekly Sunday (Calcutta) during the same period and wrote: “The people tend to look at an attack on militants as an attack on their religion.”
The Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) for the first time in January 1987 owned up some of the killings in the state. As a matter of fact, the KCF was given a new shape by Sukhdev Singh alias Sukha Sipahi alias General Labh Singh who appointed half a dozen ‘Lt. Generals’ independent of each other, with each of them having ‘area commanders’. The Ludhiana bank robbery of Rs. 5. 7 crores (57 million) gave it a big boost. Conveniently, the police initiated the policy to eliminate, to begin with, A grade militants, in cold blood and give out that they had “escaped from police
custody”. The process began with the elimination of Roshan Lal Bairagi and Manjit Singh Bhindi
who reportedly “escaped from police custody” at the Beas Bridge, near Amritsar in early January
1987.95 The Police also got, by the time, moles planted in militant set ups. It was not long that a
senior official at Chandigarh stated that, “The infiltration into the ranks (of KCF and KLF) is far
deeper than what they think.”
Buta Singh was still caught in contradictions when a climb down by the extremists led to
Prof Darshan Singh Ragi, the famous hymnologist, being accepted by the Sarbat Khalsa on January
26, 1987, as ‘acting jathedar’ of Akal Takht. He had been named to the post by the executive of the
SGPC on December 24, last, when Giani Puran Singh replaced Giani Sahib Singh as head granthi of
the Golden Temple, Savinder Singh replaced Harcharan Singh Mahlon as Jathedar of Takht Kesgarh
at Anandpur, Bhai Jaswant Singh replaced Sant Lakha Singh as Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib,
and Bhai Kashmira Singh replaced Giani Pritam Singh as head granthi of Akal Takht. The last three
were leading figures of Damdami Taksal.
Professor Darshan Singh was acceptable to the extremists for his high appraisal of Sant
Bhindranwale and also to the moderates because he fell short of Khalistan as a sovereign state.
After his selection by the SGPC, he was in the forefront in highlighting the atrocities of the CRPF
on the villagers of Brahmpura in Amritsar district on the night of December 27, 1986.
Prof. Ragi was a man in a hurry. He sought to win over the militants’ confidence, bring
about the unity to form one Akali Dal and one AISSF. That would be a stepping stone to
formulation of a minimum programme which the community could wrest from the centre and pull
itself out of the morass.
On February 3, 1987, the five headpriests, headed by Prof Ragi ‘dissolved’ all factions of
Akali Dal including the ruling Barnala’s Akali Dal (Longowal). They wanted all office holders to
resign by February 5. Earlier in end December, he had held separate secret confabulations with
Barnala’s number two, Balwant Singh, and Amarinder Singh (while Tohra and Badal were in
detention). They had encouraged him.
Barnala demurred but denied Buta Singh’s statement that the Centre had asked him to stand
The headpriests appealed directly to the MLAs and party officials to resign by 5 p. m. on
February 8. Barnala hoodwinked his MLAs and party officials by saying that he was sending his
resignation to the priests. The party General Secretary and Agriculture Minister Harbhajan Singh
Sandhu was closeted with Prof. Darshan Singh Ragi on February 8, and placed the services of Akali
Dal (Longowal) at the disposal of the priests. Barnala disowned Sandhu for overstepping his
authority. Ragi announced Barnala’s excommunication and called on all Akali Dal (Longowal)
Ministers, MLAs, party office bearers to appear before Akal Takht on February 14, by 12 noon.
Only 4 members including Sandhu responded.
Prof Ragi stated that Barnala was held back by the “remote control from Delhi”.99 He was
not far wrong. Twice Rajiv and Congress(I) Vice President Arjun Singh personally assured him of
their support in defying Akal Takht. The Union Government threw a bait that it would soon
“announce a timetable for transfer of Chandigarh as well as the orderly release of the innocent Sikhs
detained in Jodhpur jail”.100 Buta Singh too orchestrated his support to Barnala who organised a
massive convention at village Longowal on February 20,1987; it rejected the edict excommunicating
This partly checkmated Prof. Ragi whose guidelines for the new party specified that “Its goal was to secure special rights for the Sikhs in accordance with the provisions of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution.”101 Significantly, Gurjit Singh of the AISSF who recognised authority of Akal Takht in an interview stated, “We must have our own ‘Pradhan’ (President), own ‘Vidhan’ (Constitution) and own ‘Nishan’ (flag).” In the very next breath he amplified, “India can only retain four things: defence, railways, postal communications and currency. We cannot talk on the basis of anything short of it.” He added, “It is Delhi which wants us to ask for Khalistan.”102
In short, he was asking for a system of government within the parameters of the Cabinet Mission Plan on the basis of which the power was transferred to the two dominions of India and Pakistan in 1947.
The President’s praise of Barnala, despite his personal reservations, in his address to the joint session of Parliament in February 1987 formed part of union government’s empty gestures to Barnala. The Centre placed much credence on Ribeiro’s initial success in piercing through the militant organisations. The betrayal of Dhanna Singh, founder member of the Panthic Committee (because of his high connections he was made to escape to USA) and wiping out of entire families of militants were some of the immediate results. The police drew blank as to the organisation, method of operation or main ideologues behind the movement. A frustrated Ribeiro stated that it would be a longdrawn struggle. It was beyond him to wipe it out; he only sought to control it. He also started showing better appreciation of socio-political issues involved.
The completion of Sunil Dutt’s Mahashanti Padyatra, aimed inter alia at separating the Sikh fight against the Mughal type of tyranny in Punjab from “the hatred among Hindus and Sikhs”104 on Baisakhi, April 13,1987, also saw the emergence of social reform movement or cultural revolution sponsored by the Khalistan Commando Force. The 13-point code of conduct had many positive points to commend. It wanted baptised Sikhs to live upto the Guru’s commandments, no intoxicants including spirits, tobacco and opium (either buying or selling), no disrespect to hair, no dancing or filmi music at weddings, no marriage party of more than 11 persons, no dowry, no fraternistation with Radhasoamis by the Sikhs, no school uniforms that are not saffron for boys, black and white for girls, no extraction of ransom or blackmail money, no bribe giving or taking. It also prohibited selling of meat or killing of animals that had distinct Damdami Taksal or Akhand Kirtani Jatha imprint on it. Above all, it warned those who served as informers against the militants and indulged in looting of the Sikh houses at the instance of police and other malpractices. (This part could be objected to by the authorities as it dried up their sources). It had its immediate impact in both rural and urban areas all over Punjab, especially majha and doaba areas.
The government panicked and straightaway arrested 500 AISSF workers. This was followed by the arrest of Damdami Taksal partisans. It was reprehensible that Buta Singh, a product of Khalsa College and once an Akali M.P. termed militants enforcing Guru Gobind Singh’s edict against smoking of tobacco and trimming of beard or hair – part of the fundamentals of code of conduct of the Khalsa – as fundamentalism and “rabid kind of communalism”, and opposed to “secularism”. He regarded this attempt, to eliminate the impact of Hinduism on Sikhism, as a sinister move.
By the time, there were two developments that complicated the situation. One, the involvement of Acharya Sushil Muni, the Jain saint to get the Jodhpur detenues released and begin a series of parleys with Prof. Darshan Singh Ragi on the Sikh problem. He was reported to be acting
on instructions of Prime Minister. Two, Ribeiro’s superannuation by end May and his positive refusal to accept extension or reappointment unless he got “the powers of army chief.
Jain Muni’s move was fraught with dangerous consequences for Buta Singh who dissociated the government from Sushil Muni-Darshan Singh parleys. He, to complicate the issues, shot a series of three letters from end-April to early-May to Barnala and wanted him inter alia to stop ‘amrit prachar’ (taking of baptism by the Sikhs) as that, in his words, had “led to the deepening of communal and separatist feelings”.
And then, Ribeiro was involved in a running debate with no. 2 in Punjab cabinet, Balwant Singh, who held that Ribeiro’s concept of his indispensability was “an imperialist idea and it smacks of dictatorship”.108
Barnala was not in favour of granting any extension to Ribeiro and withheld a formal request to that effect. The union government wanted to use Ribeiro in its campaign against the Sikh people. In order to facilitate that, it dismissed Barnala government amidst a litany of charges and counter-charges when it still enjoyed majority support in the legislative assembly. President’s rule was imposed on May 12, 1987. The forthcoming elections in Haryana were unnecessarily orchestrated by Barnala and the captive media as the reason for that. The release of Eradi Commission report on sharing waters obviously favouring Haryana on the eve of Haryana elections as another trump card proved a joker, and led to Congress(I)’s humiliation at polls. It secured five seats in a house of 90. Devi Lal of Lok Dal was in the top gear.
The sort of things to follow in Ray-Ribeiro regime in Punjab could be discerned from the fact that Barnala’s minister and head of party’s youth wing, Prem Singh Chandumajra was immediately arrested and tortured: “he was hung upside down and beaten.”109
The police was tight lipped.
Punjab was soon subjected to criss-cross currents. The gun-trotting militants were pursued by gun trotting policeman. And, then there was a group raised by the police to carry on the vendetta against the families of militants and their sympathisers. Ribeiro’s greatest contribution was to build up the morale of policemen and motivate, if that is the proper word, a group of men to kill the people for the sake of killing. The bulk of Hindu officers in the police force needed no promptings; the patit-Sikhs (Sikh renegades) too proved good stuff to fall in line. The CRPF was by and large a rabidly communal force; like the Purbeas in 1848-49, it got the century’s opportunity to undertake large scale massacre of the Sikh youth in the longiasting President’s rule.
Ribeiro saw no inconsistency in doling out contradictory figures. For instance, on May 25, 1987, he told the press that, “There were only 100 armed terrorists left in Punjab”. Three weeks later on June 16, he stated, “In Punjab, the police has killed or captured 3,318 terrorists in the last 14 months. In one month since President’s rule, we have killed or captured 404 terrorists.” The group of India Today journalists headed by Dilip Bobb observed, “How 100 terrorists increased to 404 reflects either a total failure of police intelligence or the killing of suspects who obviously had not been previously identified as terrorists.”110 Earlier, in January 1986, Ribeiro had given the number of terrorists to be 200 which rose to 450 by April 1986 and now he claimed to have killed 3,318 of them in the last 14 months. Verily, Dilip Bobb continued, “All over Punjab the issue of fake encounters and ‘state terrorism’ has become an overriding and emotional one.” And, “Ribeiro and his police force today have the power- and the image – of an occupation army. . . . Even Congress(I) MLAs who had supported President’s rule are disillusioned. . . Police rule has become total repression.”111
The militants struck in a big way in Delhi on June 13, 1987, killing 14 people. They followed up by waylaying a bus at Lalru in Patiala district and slaughtered 38 Hindu passengers on July 6, 1987. Labh Singh of KCF claimed responsibility. Within 24 hours followed similar massacre of passengers in two buses in Fatehabad, Haryana, leaving 32 dead. These were believed to be the work of state-terrorist group and were designed to destablise newly established Lok Dal government headed by Devi Lal in Haryana. Devi Lal too talked of a deep rooted conspiracy to destabilise his newly elected government. Significantly, the Times of India in front page editorial, also linked it to “the grand destablisation theory favoured by Congress(I) hacks.” It raised the query, why strike in Haryana and rhetorically asked “Why make the Chief Minister dependent on the support of the Centre to preserve law and order?”
The deepening of state repression and widening of infiltrators’ network forced a reappraisal in militant ranks. Gurbachan Singh Manochahal formed a new Panthic Committee and set up Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan (BTFK) to carry on the militant work. The KCF, the KLF, the Akal Federation of Sher Singh and two wings of the AISSF took a unified stand to continue the “battle of the sword”.
The vitiated atmosphere made Prof. Darshan Singh Ragi irrelevant. He had been overtaken by the events. At no time was the union government willing to enter into a meaningful dialogue with him. As such, his efforts to redefine Anandpur Sahib Resolution or arrive at a consensus on the demands of the community had become redundant. His convening the meeting of moderates on August 4, at Teja Singh Samundri Hall in Amritsar ended in fiasco. The situation had been brewing since the government prevented appropriate celebration of the 3rd anniversary of the Operation Bluestar by imposing curfew in Amritsar in early June. Professor Ragi made virtually a farewell speech on August 4, and shortly afterwards left the field clear for both the angry youngmen or militants, and state terrorists.
Later, he accused some elements in the union government for providing tacit support to some militant factions to play havoc with the established Sikh institutions with a view “to divide and weaken the Sikh Qaum”. He asserted that the underground leadership of the Panthic Committee was being manipulated by the Centre (through Buta Singh without naming him), and that Manochahal would sooner or later will be exposed. Manochahal on the other hand dubbed Ragi as “a mouthpiece of the Centre.”
The four remaining high priests on August 17, called on the various militant organisations – 16 in all – to forge unity. In another statement on September 9, 1987, they appealed to the Qaum to lend support to the militants “to break the shackles of slavery” and charged the police with fake encounters. The militants at the time were rather listless. It was in this state of affairs that the Council of Khalistan came into being on October 7, in America with Gurmit Singh Aulakh as President: Dr. Harijinder Singh Dilgeer avers that it was in a way the reiteration of the declaration of April 29, 1986.
In a separate development, the Government of India decided to intervene militarily to suppress Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Tavleen Singh mentions of union government’s uneasiness at the existence of Sikh Light Infantry (SLI) intact as one of the factors for the decision. SLI was the first to be sent to Sri Lanka and its first units were badly mauled.117
It was the last come out.
The Sarbat Khalsa convened by the underground Panthic Committee on Diwali, October 21, 1987, was a non-starter. The three high priests aligned with Damdami Taksal were arrested on October 17, under National Security Act. The Golden Temple was besieged by CRPF and the BSF 48 hours before Diwali. The second ring of activists entrenched in the second floor of Akal Takht nevertheless issued text of resolutions adopted at Sarbat Khalsa without indicating its venue. These were signed by five members of Panthic Committee – Gurbachan Singh Manochahal, Wassan Singh Zafarwal, Dalbir Singh, Dalvinder Singh, and Kanwaljit Singh. The text of the resolutions was in the hands of Sheetal Das, Deputy Superintendent Police, Amritsar before their being released to the public. That indicated the deep inroads made by the police in militant set ups, if not the interaction between the two.
By the time it came out that Buta Singh at the Centre and Ray-Ribeiro regime in Punjab were working at cross purposes. Their perceptions were different. Ray had direct access to Rajiv, bypassing Buta Singh. He also resisted Buta Singh’s efforts to catapult his men in key positions in Punjab administration. Again, their interests clashed in the annual elections for SGPC President. Tohra still in Jail was favoured by Ray-Riberio while Buta Singh reversing his last year’s stand now favoured Harcharan Singh Hudiara, a Barnala nominee.
In the fall of 1987, there were a number of groups working against the militants among the people. Mention may be made of the Communist Party of India (CPI), and the Communist Party of India(Marxists) (CPM), cadres who went to the countryside in great enthusiasm. They exposed themselves as likely target by militants to be eliminated. And then, there were Congress(I) sponsored Sadhbhavana Yatras, goodwill troupes. These were selective and half-hearted. Last came the whirlwind but extensive tours of Ray and Ribeiro who sought to convince themselves that there were no incidents of state terrorism. Since the people were so terrified, and police credibility so low, nothing much came out of these public relations exercises.
By the end of 1987, in the words of Inderjit Badhwar of India Today, “The one thing that stands out in stark relief in Punjab is that civil rights – arrests, detentions, fake encounters – have become a major universal issue. And the ramifications of what is popularly described as the ‘gun and lathi raj’ are discussed” by all sections of society, “and even police officials”. Police had become thoroughly corrupt and “there are reports of wide spread extortion from “innocent persons” arrested on false charges. The manpower pool from which the militants draw fresh recruits “continues to get larger”.120
An indirect offshoot was the growth of militancy in Kashmir following glaring rigging of elections there in 1987. There was nothing new in the people being disfranchised and robbed of their sovereignty. The goings on in Punjab provided them inspiration and hope.
From the beginning of 1988 there was spurt in the orchestrated violence in Punjab. Two alternative plans to solve the problem were on the way.
One, Jain Muni Acharya Sushil Kumar had been approached by Capt. Satish Sharma, closer to Rajiv, to reactivate his peace process. Earlier in May 1987, Sushil Muni had favoured amnesty for the army deserters, release of Jodhpur detenues, probe into the 1984 riots and fake police encounters. He now assisted by Tarlochan Singh Riyasti, former President of Punjab Congress and once General Secretary of the party, planned a crucial meeting with the leading militant groups on January 10, 1988.121 Two days earlier, Riyasti was assassinated. He had come to know of Buta Singh’s links with some of militant outfits and had started talking openly about the havoc which he was playing in Punjab. It was significant that Jathedar Rachhpal Singh, who was close to both Rajiv
Gandhi and Buta Singh, publicly blamed the latter for getting Riyasti out of the way.122
derailed Muni Sushil Kumar.
Two, planning for Operation Black Thunder was initiated early in 1988 at Manesar in Aravali
hills, 40 kms from Delhi by National Security Guards(NSG) under patronage of union Home
Minister, rather Ministry of Internal Security. A large model of the Golden Temple complex was
created; also used for practice were a high school at Tauru and a college at Nuh in Haryana whose
structures resembled the parikarma of the Golden Temple. Weekend visits to the Golden Temple
became regular feature of the Special Action Group (SAG) of the NSG. They also started growing
their hair for operational reasons.
To vitiate the atmosphere for Sushil Muni’s mission, the state sponsored terroristic groups
started murderous assaults from end -December 1987 liquidating families of militants and their
sympathisers. Their houses were put to fire. The units were placed under the overall charge of
Izhar Alam, Senior Superintendent of Police, Amritsar. Ribeiro had certain reservations and
conveniently went on leave to Bombay.
Discernible observers noticed the higher degree of media- print and audio-visual – coverage
given to these incidents. In the words of Acharya Sushil Muni, “during the earlier terrorist killings
there was no TV coverage. But look, how quickly TV crews now reach the scene of the massacre
and telecast them in detail all over India.”124 Initially when the news reached the Central Secretariat,
people were taken aback at the spurt in violence. But soon, to their relief, they learnt of the agency
at work. The militants continued to get the blame in the media. By January 25, 1988, over 200
people had been killed, and even the Sikhs from rural areas started migrating to towns and cities.
Ribeiro on return from leave was made to concede that the “terrorists have regained the upper
Sushil Muni appealed to Rajiv on February 5, 1988, to release Jodhpur detenues and the four
head priests. “He favoured the idea, but there was tremendous opposition to it from within the
Rajiv opened out on February 11, 1988, but opposition from within continued. It
had its two fold impact. One, leave of SAG of NSG earmarked for Operation Black Thunder was
cancel led. Two, it led to a half-hearted measure. Instead of releasing the bulk of Jodhpur detenues
retaining only a few, only 40 of them were released in early March. These included Jasbir Singh
Rode, Sant Bhindranwale’s nephew and the three high priests held since May last.
According to Seema Mustafa of the Sunday, “Rode had been given the green signal by the
government to offer a Kashmir-like status to Punjab while negotiating with the terrorist groups in
the state,” and that “Article 370 of the Constitution would be made applicable for (sic) Punjab as
Rode needed all the good wishes to sell the proposition to the militants. But a strong lobby
at the centre did not want the Rode experiment to succeed, or even to let Rode have grip over the
situation. The security agencies under patronage of Union Home Ministry were hell bent to carry on
their vendetta. The day (March 4, Holi festival) Rode was released, state-terrorists massacred 34
persons and injured 49 from a mixed crowd of Hindus and Sikhs at Kari-Sari village in Hoshiarpur
district witnessing Raslila on Holi at the Thakardwara. The police was present in strength.
According to eye withnesses, it withdrew for “more than half an hour” to facilitate the massacre.
K.P.S. Gill who oversaw the massacre, was encamped nearby.128
On being released at Amritsar on March 4, Rode skirted the issue of Khalistan but said ‘puran azadi’ (full freedom) was the ‘goal’ of the Sikhs. He added, “It is for the government to decide whether this is possible within the country or outside”. And, “The ongoing dharam yudh will help them achieve this target.”
Sushil Muni interpreted ‘puran azadi’ to mean complete independence in religious affairs.130 Rode two days later too amplified that ‘puran azadi for Sikhs’ meant freedom to pursue religious and economic affairs independently. He continued, “We want equality which we have been denied so far” and “If the Indian government considers us irrelevant then it should separate us.”131 The same day, the Punjab Assembly, kept under suspended animation, was dissolved. It was erroneously interpreted as a gesture to the militants. The move was necessitated by the union government’s resolve to prevent the election of Simranjit Singh Mann to a Rajya Sabha seat, elections to which were due by end of the month.132
The following day Buta Singh announced in Parliament, the government’s resolve to amend the Constitution to extend President’s rule and provide for a state of emergency in Punjab, if needed.
The installation ceremony of Rode on March 9, was used by the NSG officers “at the pickets watching every movement, counting heads, guns and identifying faces”. There were around 80 militants inside. From now on “some Officers stopped trimming their beards for the occasional, but vital, walk inside the temple”.133
Not only that, some Hindus with long hair and beards were infiltrated into the militant ranks inside the temple shortly afterwards.
Confusing signals representing union government’s fractured policy continued. Rajiv announced on March 11, 1988, the government’s preparedness to initiate dialogue with ‘all’ or ‘anyone’ on Punjab within the framework of Indian constitution. Rode regarded the high priests as a ‘bridge’ to be used for meeting between the Centre and the militants. He was still doing tightrope walking when the Centre decided to push through Parliament the Constitution 59th
Amendment Bill providing for state of emergency in Punjab, and asphyxiation of the democratic processes in the state. It had to be rushed through before end-March as Congress(I) was to lose some seats in Rajya Sabha in the periodical elections due by then.
To facilitate passage of the Bill in Parliament, the services of state-sponsored terrorists had to be utilised. They were made to propel a Soviet built Rocket Propeller Grenade (RPG) launcher to lob a 2.25 kg, 85 mm shell at the Vishwakarma Temple near Phagwara, housing 70 CRPF jawans. Dhiren Bhagat of Indian Post (Bombay) who investigated the import of these Russian RPG launchers from Kabul by Indian Airlines to Delhi Airport by Indian intelligence agency, RAW, observed that “quite incidentally none of the 70 sleeping policemen was hurt.”134 The correspondents of India Today observed that “its timing was politically expedient for the Centre. It came when the Union Government was going through embarrassment of pushing the controversial emergency bill through Parliament in the teeth of stiff resistance from the opposition.”135
The bill was passed the following day. Rode had nothing but to be critical of the new measure.
By the end of March, heads of militant outfits warned the people against the government outfits killing the Sikh families and asked their units to use their energies against such outfits. The very next day, April 1, 1988, the state-terrorists gunned down 37 persons in Patti and Tarn Taran subdivisions, including 18 of a family in Penhota village. They mischievously left behind a note on behalf of the K.C.F. claiming responsibility. The official media splashed the ghastly scene. The
three militant outfits the KCF, the BTFK and the AISSF(Gurjit), in separate statements denied
involvement of any of them and described the killings as “the handiwork of police touts”.136
the state-terrorist groups had wiped out more than 40 families in Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts.
Punjab was now entering a new phase of state terrorism. The era of kite-flying, as in Rajiv’s
interview to a British newspaper to grant some special status to Punjab on the lines of article 370 of
the Constitution which incidentally received hostile reaction from the national (read Hindu) and
communist press, was over.137
So were the days of Julio Ribeiro who was found to be independently
minded and unwilling to carry though the policy of untempered state repression, to which we now
1. Talks on November 1, 1984, with a RAW Inspector who was present at the airport.
2. Arjan Das was later shot dead by militants for disrespect shown to the holy book.
3. According to Coomi Kapoor, Dharam Das Shastri now asserts “that it was Arun Nehru who
gave Delhi Congressmen the green signal for the riots. When queried why it took him so long
to mention Nehru’s alleged involvement, he says he was in fear for his life earlier when the
portly cousin of Rajiv Gandhi was in power.” Cf. “Inside Story”, Indian Express, February 23,
Earlier, K.K. Tiwari, Congress(I) Minister at the Centre, had accused Arun Nehru of
masterminding the anti-Sikh riots, and “even for assassination of Indira Gandhi”. Tavleen
Singh, “Unwilling Confessions”, Indian Express, April 23, 1989.
4. Amiya Rao, et. al., Truth About Delhi Violence, (Delhi, Citizens for Democracy, January 1985), p.
5. “The Third Man”, Sunday. (Calcutta, weekly) November 11, 1984 p. 37.
6. Ritu Sarin in the Sunday, May 26, 1985, p. 17.
7. During his return journey from North Yemen, Zail Singh debated in his mind about the
succession. He could have inducted Pranab Mukherjee leader of the Congress(I) in Rajya
Sabha. He presided over Cabinet meetings in Indira’s absence. He had vetted his bio-data
stencilled by Press Information Bureau, Government of India, to be distributed immediately
on his induction as caretaker Prime Minister. P.V. Narasimha Rao, leader of Congress in Lok
Sabha and Prakash Chand Sethi with longest stint as Cabinet Minister could be other
nominees. That, he felt, would have caused “a spilt in the Congress party” which he wanted to
avoid. And then, “I wanted to repay a part of my debt to Nehru-Gandhi dynasty” by
nominating a scion of that family “to the highest office in the land.” Cf. Interview with
Onlooker (Bombay) magazine, UNI despatch in the Indian Express, February 18, 1988.
8. Report of Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission of Inquiry, Vol. I, p. 11.
9. The peace in Punjab was attributed by Hindus to the massive presence of the army in the
10. Amiya Rao, n. 4, p. x.
11. According to knowledgeable sources, the wholesale order for these rods was placed by
Congress(I) with a factory owned by a Sikh in Gurgaon in August 1984.
12. CFD, n. 4, p. 23.
13. NOW (Monthly magazine), December 1984, p. 25.
14. The correspondents of India Today (November 30, 1984) observed “No one failed to notice the
absence of the middle class from the, perpetrators of this violence in the very middle class
areas that it occurred. The sign already was ominous that this was the handiwork of marauders from outside, not a spontaneous outpouring of grief”
According to Citizens Commission, some Hindu neighbours gave shelter to the Sikhs while others refused but did not join in attacking them either. In congested areas, Hindus did point out Sikh homes to miscreants. In poorer areas, Hindu neighbours by and large joined in the attack on the Sikhs, with few exceptions of those extending shelter. “The Delhi Riots; A People’s Verdict”, Indian Express, February 10, 1985.
15. Tavleen Singh, “The Lies of Fanaticism,” Indian Express, May 15, 1988. She wrote that Hindus were oblivious of the fact that during the period of Bhindranwale’s stay in the Golden Temple, more than half of those killed in the Punjab were the Sikhs.
16. Who Are the Guilty? (Delhi, November 1984), p. 6.
17. Khushwant Singh in “Rajiv Gandhi’s Hundred Days”, Probe India, May 1985, p. 10, puts the deaths in Delhi alone in the first two days at 6,000.
18. That put an end to his aspirations to stand on Congress(I) ticket for Lok Sabha elections from South Delhi constituency, hitherto represented by Charanjit Singh.
19. Khushwant Singh’s translation: History of the Sikhs, Vol. 2 (Delhi, 1991), p. 391. Following M.K. Gandhi, Khushwant Singh translates qaum into race.
20. India Today, January 15, 1985, p. 111. That type of intimidation made many Sikhs in Hindu belt to migrate to Punjab.
21. Sanjeev Gaur, “Punjab: One Year After – Special Report”, Sunday, June 9, 1985, p. 30.
22. Raminder Singh in India Today, February 15, 1985, p. 71.
23. Vijay Dutt, “The Capital Conspiracy”, Probe India, March 1985, pp. 4-10.
24. M.J. Akbar, “The Spreading Kesari”, Sunday, March 31, 1985, pp. 16-17.
25. Probe India, May 1985, pp. 16-25. Giani Kirpal Singh subsequently contended that his statement was torn out of context by Doordarshan – Indian TV – to give it an optical illusion.
26. Sanjeev Gaur in Sunday, May 19, 1985, p. 54.
27. M. J. Akbar in ibid, p. 18.
28. Surjeet mischievously attributed the motive to extremists. He failed to spot the extremists in Congress(I) who could go to any length to maintain their leadership. Sunday, April 28, 1985, p. 32.
29. Gobind Thukral, “Punjab: Damaging Links”, India Today. July 15, 1985, p. 40.
30. Ibid. That does not reflect on Gurinder Singh’s motives.
31. Sanjeev Gaur in Sunday, May 19, 1985, p. 31.
32. The Delhi police later came to know of the Congress(I)’s game plan. All those arrested in connection with the bomb blasts were released after a great deal of harassment.
33. The Sunday May 19, 1985, p. 20. The issue has various stories, pp. 20-29. A far fetched one suggests an Irish Republican Army link.
34. Sanjeev Gaur in Sunday June 9, 1985, p. 31.
35. Zuhair Kashmeri and Brian Me Andrew, Soft Target: How the Indian Intelligence Service Penetrated Canada, (Toronto, 1989), pp. 86-89, and ad passim. They, inter alia, mention of the last minute cancellation by India’s Consul General, Surinder Malik, of seats on flight AI-182 of his wife and daughter, of Siddharath Singh, Joint Secretary (Americas) in External Affairs Ministry on visit to Canada and returning to India by the very flight, and a host of others closely linked with Malik. Guy Fawkes had planned in 17th century to blow the British Parliament building with gun powder. He, however, warned an M.P., his relative, a day before, not to attend the House of Commons the following day. He was found out and hanged. Surinder Malik, however, was just an instrument. The mastermind lay somewhere else in the Government of India.
35a. This is not to doubt the sincerity and commitment of the bulk of Sikhs from North America, Europe, India are other parts of the world who joined the WSO because of their feelings of disgust at the events of 1984 in India.
36. Sanjeev Gaur, “Punjab Terrorism on the Rise,” Sunday, June 16, 1985, p. 32.
37. A part of the song goes on:
Now the attacks have began on the places of worship of brave Sikhs. The forces of oppression have let loose a reign of terror…/ Rise O Khalsa! Set right the oppressor with your might…/Brave Ones! Take up arms and let the enemies’ heads roll…/Those whose honour and religious symbols, sacred thread and temples we saved with our blood have a strange way of returning our gratitude…/ They have set tanks and bombs on our beloved Akal Takht and Golden Temple…/ We shall surely return this gratitude as we make a habit of returning all accounts straight. Cf, Gobind Thukral in India Today. July 15, 1985, p. 41.
38. Correspondents of India Today, August 15, 1985, p. 20.
39. Ibid, p. 27; also, August 31, 1985, p. 23.
40. Emphasis added. Ibid, August 15, 1985, p. 22. Hindus compared it to the Lucknow pact between Congress and Muslim League, Sunday, February 16, 1986, p. 22.
41. Gobind Thukral in India Today, September 15. 1985, pp. 26-27.
42. M. S. Dhami, “Shift in Party Support Base in 1985 Punjab Assembly Election: A Preliminary analysis” in Gopal Singh, (ed.) Punjab Today, (Delhi, 1987), p. 291.
43. Ibid, p. 302.
44. Raminder Singh in India Today, October 15, 1985, p. 35.
45. Gobind Thukral in Ibid, November 15, 1985, p. 133.
46. Tavleen Singh, in Ibid, p. 130.
47. Gobind Thukral, “Bains Committee: Lack of Action”, India Today , January 1986, p. 43.
48. India Today, January 31, 1986, p. 24.
49. Ibid, January 15, 1986, p. 40.
49a. S. Viswam, “‘The Fallout of the Punjab Accord”, Sunday January 19, 1986, p. 17.
50. India Today, February 15. 1986, p. 32.
51. Ibid, p. 31.
52. Earlier on January 19, 1986. Barnala’s impulsive son Gagandeep Singh had led a couple of hundred Akali Dal youth to expel the Taksal and AISSF activists from the complex. In the exchange of fire three sevadars of Damdami Taksal were injured. The Akali youth were disarmed and driven out. Following that, on January 21. Tohra had agreed to the joint kar seva under the auspices of five revered Sikh saints, viz., Baba Thakar Singh of Damdami Taksal. Baba Harbans Singh of Delhi, Baba Jagtar Singh of Tarn Taran, Baba Uttam Singh of Khadoor Sahib, and Baba Kharak Singh, the octogenarian saint of Amritsar who opted out of kar seva. Sanjeev Gaur in Sunday, February 2, 1986, p. 33.
52a. Subsequently, this formed the basis of the document issued by the live member committee on April 29, 1986 from the Golden Temple Complex. Cf. Jovcc J.M. Pettigrew, The Sikhs of the Punjab, (London/NJ. 1995). pp. 37-36 & 152.
53. Gobind Thukral, “Venkataramiah Award: No Solution”, India Today, June 30, p. 32.
54. Chandan Mitra. “Eradi Tribunal ‘invents’ Water”, The Times of India, May 27, 1987.
55. Ibid; see also the Spokesman Weekly, June 8, 1987.
56. India Today, November 15, 1985, p. 39.
57. Ibid, 30 April 1986, p. 53.
58. Report, n. 8, Vol I, pp. 30, 44, 57, and ad passim.
59. Ibid. pp. 30-31.
60. India Today, August 31, 1987, p. 58.
61. Report, n. 8, Vol I, p. 65.
62. India Today. August 31. 1987, p. 58.
63. Ibid, September 30,1986, pp. 66-67.
64. Sanjeev Gaur, “A State in Turmoil”, Sunday, March 2, 1986. pp. 50-51: Shekhar Gupta in India Today, February 28, 1986, pp. 90-93.
65. Gobind Thukral, “Punjab: Avoiding a Showdown”, India Today, March 15, 1986, pp. 26-27.
66. The Sunday, March 2, 1986, pp. 50-52; India Today, April 15, 1986, pp. 30-31.
67. The Sunday, April 6, 1986, p. 2.
68. India Today, April 30, 1986, p. 48.
69. Harbir Singh Bhanwar in Ajit (Jalandhar), May 14, 1986.
70. Raminder Singh, “Khalistan Declaration: Last Straw”, India Today, May 31,1986, p. 29. Dalbir Singh told Joyce Pettigrew “I was the author of the document, the creator of its basic fundamentals, and I thought it to be the wrong slogan and wrong path to take and that too at the wrong time.” n. 52a op cit.
71. Harbir Singh Bhanwar, “Inj hoya khalistan da elan”, Ajit (Jalandhar) May 14, 1986; Raminder Singh, “Operation Search: Poor Catch”, India Today, May 31, 1986, pp. 30-31.
72. Khushwant Singh, in Sunday May 18, 1986, p. 7.
73. Raminder Singh, n. 70.
74. Khushwant Singh in Sunday, May 18, 1986, p. 12.
75. In a stage managed drama, the five priests – some of them restored to their positions thanks to Operation Search – summoned Barnala to appear before Akal Takht for sending police into the Golden Temple complex. The text of summons, Baranala’s reply, and of the hukamnamah issued by priests were jointly drafted by three prominent intellectuals – Dr. Attar Singh of Punjab University, Manjit Singh an advocate of Punjab and Haryana High Court, and Dr. Gurnam Singh Tir the Punjabi humourist. Barnala subjected himself to punishment on May 17, 1986 by the high priests: to organise Akhand Path, dust shoes of pilgrims, etc. It was given out as the second such punishment by Akal Takht of a Punjab ruler, the earlier being that of Ranjit Singh. As the Statesman of May 21, in its editorial observed, that did not befool any one. Ranjit Singh did not leave debauchry or Muslim dancing girl Moran after that. Barnala continued to harp that he had not committed any mistake and that “I have not been held guilty”. Sanjeev Gaur in Sunday, June 1, 1986, pp. 14-16.
76. Tavleen Singh in India Today, June 1, 1986, p. 39.
77. Gobind Thukral in India Today, June 30, 1986, pp. 27-28.
78. India Today, July 15, 1986, p. 28.
79. Inderjit Badhwar, et. al. “Hindu Militant Revivalism”, India Today, May 31, 1986, pp. 76-78.
80. Kewal Varma in Sunday, July 27, 1986, p. 22; Shekhar Gupta in India Today, September 15, 1986, pp. 29-30.
81. Raminder Singh, “Sikhs Outside Punjab: A Desperate Dilemma”, India Today, September, 15, 1986, pp. 86-89.
82. Verily, Finance Minister Balwant Singh said, “There is communalism in Home Ministry bureaucracy. If you want to solve our problem just put the entire Home Ministry on a ship and sink it in the Indian ocean.” Shekhar Gupta, “Punjab: An Escalating Crisis”, India Today, July 15, 1986, p. 27.
82a. Joyce Pettigrew, an 52a pp 44 and 53.
83. n 82, pp. 30-31.
85. They killed two relatives of Usmanwala in Ferozepur in end-July. Shekhar Gupta and Gobind Thukral, “Punjab: On a Short Circuit Fuse”, India Today, August 15, 1986, p. 52.
86. India Today June 30, 1986, p. 29.
87. Shekhar Gupta in India Today, August 15, 1986, p. 32.
88. India Today, September 30, 1986, p. 32.
89. Gobind Thukral in India Today, October 15, 1986, p. 27.
90. Interview, India Today, October 31, 1986, p. 73.
91. Ribeiro’s wife was injured; one CRPF jawan lay dead and four policemen were injured. India Today, October 31, 1986, p. 28.
92. Seema Mustafa and Nirmal Mitra, “Terror Unlimited”, Sunday, December 14, 1986, pp. 21-29.
93. Inderjit Badhwar and Prabhu Chawla, “Punjab: What Can be Done?” India Today, December 31, 1986, pp. 22-30.
94. Seema Mustafa, n. 92. p. 23.
95. Tavleen Singh and Gobind Thukral, “Punjab: Held to Ransom”, India Today, January 31, 1987, p. 25.
96. Sumit Mitra in Sunday, March 8, 1987, p. 33.
97. Avtar Singh Brahma of the village, over the public address system of the local Gurdwara, on December 27, at 10 p.m. for about 20 minutes challenged the local CRPF unit to come out and face him. They did not, till they got reinforcements from nearby village. Then followed a night of terror, after Brahma had left the village.
It was obvious that CRPF posse had used excessive force and even had molested a woman. A lance naik was demoted two ranks for three years, two increments of head constable were withheld for two years, and third was dealt with in the orderly room by commandant. This was mockery of the rule of law. Cf. Tavleen Singh and Gobind Thukral, in India Today, January 31, 1987, pp. 25-27; and Kanwar Sidhu in Ibid, September 30, 1989, p. 35.
98. Raminder Singh in India Today, February 28, 1987, pp. 26-30.
99. Sumit Mitra, “Enter the Priests”, the Sunday, February 22, 1987, p. 24.
100. India Today, March 15, 1987, pp. 27-29.
101. Raminder Singh in India Today, February 28, 1987, p. 27.
102. Sumit Mitra and Rita Sharma in Sunday, March 8, 1987, p. 37.
103. Pradeep Mathur, “The Retreat of Ribeiro”, Probe India, February 1987, pp. 6-9.
104. Tavleen Singh, “Sunil Dutt: Journey’s End”, India Today, April 30, 1987, p. 44.
105. India Today, April 30, 1987, p. 49.
106. Interview with Prabhu Chawla, text, India Today, May 31, 1987.
107. Ibid, p. 38.
108. The Times of India, May 8, 1987.
109. Tavleen Singh, “Punjab: Discouraging Start”, India Today, June 15, 1987, p. 68.
110. Dilip Bobb, et al, “The Spectre of Terrorism”, India Today, July 31, 1987, p. 31.
111. Ibid, p. 37.
112. Cf. Sunday, July 1987, p. 15.
113. Vimukh Singh in India Today, March 31, 1987, p. 38.
115. India Today, October 15, 1987, pp. 77; also of October 31, 1987, p. 51.
116. Vimukh Singh in India Today, September 30, 1987, p. 43.
117. It was the last to come out after Rajiv government’s exit, when India decided to wind up its intervention.
118. Inderjit Badhwar in India Today, December 31, 1987, p. 32.
119. Ritu Sarin, “Battle of the Mind”, Sunday, January 3, 1988, pp. 12-16.
120. Inderjit Badhwar, in India Today, December 31, 1987, p. 32.
121. Sushil Muni’s interview, India Today, April 30, 1988, pp. 71-73.
122. Rachhpal Singh attributed the motivation to Buta Singh’s desire to ward off reconciliation. Also he did not like such a senior Congressman to expose him. Indian Express. January 24, 1988.
123. For details. Shekhar Gupta and Vipul Mudgal, “Operation Black Thunder: A Dramatic Success”. India Today, June 15, 1988, pp. 75-78.
124. Interview, India Today, April 30, 1988, p. 72.
125. Interview. India Today, February 15, 1988, p. 33.
126. Sushil Muni’s interview, n. 121.
127. Seema Mustafa, “Caught in a Tangle”, Sunday, May 8, 1988, p. 17.
128. Tarun J. Tejpal’s despatch in daily Telegraph. (Calcutta). March 5, 1988.
129. The Telegraph, March 5, 1988.
130. n. 121, op cit.
131. The Telegraph, March 7, 1988.
132. Ibid, Mann earlier in 1987 missed the chance, as Barnala under influence of Rajiv, favoured Congress(I)’s Harvinder Pal Singh Hanspal, a Namdhari Sikh, who got elected. Hanspal at the time was threatening Barnala to have the surplus votes cast to him or Rajiv would dismiss his government.
133. “Operation Black Thunder”, India Today, June 15, 1988, p. 76
134. For full story of import of these launchers from Russian forces in Kabul by RAW in November last, see, Dhiren Bhagat’s despatch in the Indian Post (Bombay), April 24, 1988.
135. India Today, April 15, 1988, p. 48.
136. The Telegraph (Calcutta) April 3, 1988.
137. So was the case with Rode’s interview with BBC for a settlement within the framework of the constitution if “all the Sikhs’ rights” were conceded. Militants like Jagir Singh said that “Khalistan had already been formed. All we need to do is to take occupation”. Rode had to deny the statement. Already he was meeting stiff resistance over his move to stop extortions by some militant outfits within the Golden Temple complex. Rode had his supporter in men like Malkiat Singh Ajnala of KCF inside the temple but that was not enough. He was served with a notice to explain in writing his stand on Khalistan within a specified period.