What really happened in Punjab Part 4

11

Nights of Long Knives – II

Untempered State Terrorism

(1988-199_)

By the spring of 1988, the Union Government had decided to pursue a policy of cold repression in Punjab. Julio Ribeiro had done a commendable job in steeling the Punjab police as an instrument of state repression. But his opposition to untempered state repression, and publicly airing the need for a political initiative to solve political problems in Punjab, which in his views had their own rationale, was considered an unwelcome forage in matters of state polity. In view of the change in policy, Ribeiro had become irrelevant and was kicked high as adviser to the Governor. He, however, had nothing to do with the administration of police or paramilitary forces.

K.P.S. Gill was inducted as Director General of Punjab Police to oversee the implementation of the new policy. The strings throughout were controlled by the union Home Ministry. Gill’s appointment was considered a masterstroke by the anti-Sikh lobby in Delhi as the Centre now had a native to implement its policy vis a vis the Sikhs. Gill, a Jat Sikh from Punjab, was an I.P.S. (Indian Police Service) officer of Assam Cadre. Gill’s temperament as a cold blooded and heartless fellow was steeled during his service tenure in Assam where he, at the instance of the union government, trampled under foot the human rights and civil liberties of the people of the north-eastern states, in the process, reducing them to third rate citizens. Gill was known to have a single track mind and was deaf to the political goings on. To him any problem, be it in Assam or Punjab, could only be a law and order problem. Nothing more, nothing less. His description of the happenings in Punjab as “purely between Jat Sikhs (militants) and Jat Sikhs (Punjab Police)”1

typically reflected the state of his mental asphyxiation.

Gill was conceived of, and was ideally suited to serve, what Adolph Hitler had once defined, as a “slave overseer. . . more heartless. . . than any alien beast”2

in Punjab. He justified the confidence reposed in him by brutalising the police and making it a totally criminalised force functioning outside the pale of the rule of law or the Constitution. He gave the police force the licence to kill the Sikh youth without any qualms. The police set up all over Punjab came right on the top to the detriment of the District Magistrate and judiciary. Magisterial or judicial enquiries into the police brutalities were now out. These arms of the government were completely paralysed with the connivance of the union government.

Already the police was making announcements of ‘recoveries’ of Russian made RPG Rockets and Russian surface to air missiles, earlier imported by the RAW (Indian external intelligence agency) from Kabul, from all over Punjab.3

These served as a prelude to pursuit of new policy.

Punjab was by now heading towards the operation ‘Black Thunder’ which was already under way. As part of Union Home Ministry’s instructions, the message had to be conveyed to the mediamen at Amritsar to behave or face the consequences. Kuldip Singh Arora, Amritsar correspondent of United News of India (UNI) was picked up on April 13, 1988, under the National Security Act for meeting militants inside the Golden Temple, a serious charge under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA). About 100 journalists had so far conducted such interviews.

This was aptly interpreted by Amritsar’s Working Journalists Association to fall in line and not

“write anything that displeases it (the government).”

4

The shift in Rajiv’s outlook was obvious when on April 25, he met Barnala for the first time

after the latter’s dismissal a year ago. He also met Amarinder Singh of UAD who ideologically was

closer to Barnala rather than Badal of his own party.

The security forces, by now started establishing themselves on several rooftop pickets,

including the one facing the Clock Tower, wherefrom General Sunderji had directed the Operation

Bluestar. The security forces during the last couple of months had kept the militants’ inside the

Temple under observation to prevent their escape. The militants did not take a cue regarding the

preparations of the forces outside.5

In an exchange of fire on April 29, militants had helped a

Babbar Khalsa activist to slip out of the hands of the security forces.

The time for Operation Black Thunder arrived after the debate in Parliament on Punjab was

over in the first week of May. Despite provocations, there was no firing from inside. To prepare

the nation, the state-sponsored terrorists fired on Gadi Lohars, a nomad tribe, celebrating marriage at

Panipat in Haryana on May 8, killing 13 persons. That served dual purpose of also keeping Haryana

Chief Minister, Devi Lal, in check. The following day DIG (CRPF) Sarabdeep Singh Virk chose to

take notorious Santokh Singh K-ala, a former militant who was now leading a state-sponsored

terrorist outfit alongwith him atop the buildings around the temple. Kala shouted provocatively at

the militants. They fired and injured Virk. That set the ball rolling.

Before the Operation Black Thunder could be on, Rajiv had to be convinced. Eleven major

meetings were held, with Rajiv being present at eight of them. Home Minister, Buta Singh and

Minister of State for Home, P. Chidambaram, carried the day. Rajiv insisted on measures to keep

alive the Rode mission.

With the words ‘go ahead,’ Air Force airlifted Special Action Group (SAG) of 1,000

commandos of National Security Guards (NSG) and their equipment to Amritsar on May 11 and 12.

Meanwhile exchange of firing had gone on intermittently. 800 pilgrims had been evacuated on May

10, but recitation of gurbani had stopped.

Rode was away to Punjabi University, Patiala, on May 9, and rushed back to Amritsar on

hearing of the firing. His move, of a day earlier, to shift from his apartment on the parikarma

(circumambulation) sandwiched between the firing positions of the CRPF and the militants, to the

top of Guru Nanak Niwas, was not taken equanimously by the militants. On May 11, at the instance

of Rode a two hour ceasefire was called and his emissaries, Gurdev Singh Kaonke, a former Acting

Jathedar of Akal Takht, and three others, visited the militants with food and fruits. Some journalists

also went inside and 10 more persons were evacuated. Around this time, the NSG commandos

started taking their positions.

6

The local administration bluffed Rode to take him the following day at 8 a.m. to enter the

Temple from Santokhsar Gurdwara to restore rituals. Precisely, at the time, the security forces

started firing. Rode, Savinder Singh, Jaswant Singh, Kashmira Singh, Bhai Mohkam Singh and

Gurdev Singh Kaonke alongwith 24 others were prevented from proceeding further. After two

hours protests, Rode formally decided to move ahead despite the firing. Deputy Commissioner

Sarabjit Singh, Inspector General (I.G.) (Border) Chaman Lal and Senior Superintendent Police,

Suresh Arora were present. Kaonke told the police, “You men are liars. It is you who are shooting,

not the militants.” He was struck by a CRPF rifle butt. Deputy Commissioner apologised to Rode.

The CRPF jawan was rebuked. Rode and his men were formally arrested for violating the curfew.7

The NSG had completed its build up. The Operation Black Thunder was now formally on.

Late in the night, half a dozen militants tried to break the cordon and were fired upon.

Three of them turned back. One was shot dead and two were able to make good their escape.8

Then followed long exchange of fire between the militants and the security forces. Two Jaguars

flew near the temple at the time. The security forces took over Guru Ram Das Serai and neutralised

two Bungas.

The authorities applied force with cajolery. The killing of militants by the security forces

from outside the temple was supplemented by selective killing inside by the infiltrators. For

instance, of all the persons inside, such a senior person as Jagir Singh, spokesman of the Panthic

Committee, came out of room 14 to fetch a pail of water from the holy tank. He was shot on the

back of the head, obviously from inside and lay on the pavement near the sarovar. Side by side,

appeals were made on May 13, directly by Deputy Commissioner and Senior Superintendent of

Police in the presence of 50 newsmen; and again the following day through Baba Uttam Singh of

Khadur Sahib in Tarn Taran asking sevadars, women and children to come out. Only half a dozen

sevadars rushed out of the temple. By the time, 34 militants had been shot dead or seriously

wounded.

9

The authorities met a success on May 15, when in response to repeated appeals by Inspector

General (Border) Chaman Lal and Deputy Commissioner Sarabjit Singh to surrender, 151

(according to some sources 146) persons including 17 women and children came out with their

hands and weapons in the air. These included some marked militants like Surjit Singh Penta, who

according to the official version swallowed cyanide. In the words of Nirmal Mitra of the Sunday,

“Rumour spread that he had been killed by the police.”

10

In nutshell, a couple of the KCF units and splinter groups of militants had been liquidated.

The goings on in the Temple during the last couple of days had their backlash. The militants

of the KCF mowed 30 migrant labourers at a worksite on Sutlej-Yamuna Canal in Ropar district.

Gen. Labh Singh of the KCF left a note that others will also be dispatched unless they leave. The

labour from Bihar, U.P., Rajasthan and other places made a queueline to get their dues and left.

Again on May 20, 45 persons were gunned down in crowded places in Punjab and Himachal

Pradesh. Seven powerful bomb blasts hit Pathankot and curfew had to be imposed.

11

The final denouement was yet to come. 46 person came out from various rooms along the

parikarma and instead walked coolly into the main temple. They desecrated the temple with their

excreta and eventually surrendered on May 18 in response to repeated appeals by K.P.S. Gill who

was aware that bulk of them were infiltrators from the security agencies.12

Media management

played up KPS Gill as against the NSG which had to bear it in order to build up the morale of

Punjab police.

In New Delhi’s South Block the question was raised whether Prime Minister should visit the

Golden Temple and seek truce with the Khalsa Panth. After much vacillation, the Home Ministry

apprised Rajiv of the state-sponsored terrorists and the massive infiltration that had led to the

government’s gaining a tactical victory. It also put forth the need for a surgical operation to flush

out militants from the Mand, the wild growth along the belt of river Beas.13

A furious Rajiv ordered

immediate disbanding of state-militants and working out of the Rode option.

The government had initially toyed with various options including winding up of the SGPC.

But the fear of the “the mass uprising” forced it to give up the idea. It only led to the idea to create

a corridor around the Golden Temple.

In implementing Rajiv’s orders, the union Home Ministry played a game of duplicity. It

came out as if the rump executive of the SGPC with its top leadership in gaol had reasserted its

position by end-May. It held the high priests responsible for desecration of the Golden Temple, and

in assertion of its authority dismissed the five high priests headed by Rode, and appointed new ones

headed by Harcharan Singh of Delhi.14 Gill, Chaman Lal and Sarabjit Singh showed that they had

tried their best to pressurise the SGPC executive to rescind its resolution. The administration even

organised press conference for Rode in Jail Superintendents’ room and his statement was circulated

by the Punjab Public Relations Department. These moves came under criticism at the hands of BJP

and CPM thoughtlessly. Eventually, Governor Ray came out with a statement that the

administration would not like to interfere in the SGPC’s independence and the Sikh religious

affairs.15 The SGPC no doubt gained in stature, but the real gainer was Buta Singh-led Union Home

Ministry.16

I Verily, it had successfully scuttled the Rode option and willy nilly reduced Rajiv to the

position of inanity.

The union Home Ministry had no option but to disband the state terrorist groups. Santokh

Singh Kala in his interview in mid-May 1988 with various foreign correspondents including from

America and Japan had admitted his role in liquidating scores of militants’, families. On the other

hand, the “security and police officials” told the New York Times correspondent that “the groups’

members had not been effective in anti-terrorist operations. . . . They resorted over the months to

robbery and extortion.”17 Kala was held in unofficial custody by the CRPF and later liquidated. The

vigilante consisting of highly motivated individual killers, continued under Gill’s patronage.

18

The setback suffered by the militants led to the KCF and Babbar Khalsa putting their heads

together for the next six weeks or so. A crude bomb blast by end of May 1988 in front of Shivala

Bhaiyan Temple, Amritsar, despite curfew, left 20 dead and over 40 injured. Similar crude bombs

exploded at Kurukshetra on June 19 leaving 20 dead, Tilak Nagar Vegetable market in West Delhi,

the following day (8 dead and 42 injured), and again in the bustling Katra Ahluwalia at Amritsar the

next day leaving 28 dead and 50 injured.

19

The killing of General Labh Singh, the undisputed head of the KCF on July 12,1988,

disrupted this cooperation. Avtar Singh Brahma and some others were soon felled. These were

results of some militants captured during the Operation Black Thunder being used to identify them

while sitting in vehicles with tinted glasses. Their position was soon filled by upcoming men who

went on a number of killing sprees. The only difference was that against an average of 200 killings

before the Operation Black Thunder, the number fell to about 150 a month. That may have been

because of elimination of state-terroristic groups. It was contended that militancy had rather spread

because of multiplicity of squads coming up under little known leaders.

20

The image of K.P.S. Gill as also of the police and administration got a severe battering

because of the publicity given to the amorous advances he made to a senior lady Indian

Administrative Services Officer, at an evening party. She lodged a First Information Report against him. The government chose to ignore this serious lapse because, in its eyes, Gill was doing good work, in making short shrift of the Sikh youth as ordinary criminals. In the process, it made a mockery of the Government Servants Conduct Rules. The papers like Times of India (editorial, August 3) and journalists like Khushwant Singh chose to come out strongly in favour of Gill who rededicated himself to the ‘good work’ he was doing. These only affected Gill’s getting Padam Shri in place of Padam Bhushan on the eve of the following Republic Day celebrations.

Ribeiro was explicit, “The police can only fight terrorism: not solve it.”21

He looked towards political solution for that.

In another half-hearted attempt, Prof. Darshan Singh Ragi was brought back as Head Priest of Akal Takht on August 13. Rode meanwhile had been disowned by Damdami Taksal. According to Harinder Baweja, of the Sunday Observer, Manochahal who had support of some central leaders and “has received substantial money from the government” backed Ragi.22 Vipul Mudgal of India Today attributed Ragi’s return to Buta Singh,23

who probably dangled him to Rajiv as a substitute for Rode. The easing out of Mann shortly afterwards as President of the UAD is to be seen as part of such monoeuvrings.

Punjab continued to be victim of lack of a clear cut policy. Rajiv’s visit to the state in September 1988 evoked indifference and scepticism of the people. His announcement to release another 138 of the innocent persons from detention heldsince Operation Bluestar did not evoke even “a murmur of approval”. For, people asked, if they were innocent, why were they not released earlier? His two other ingredients of holding panchayat elections and holding an all party meet to thrash the Punjab problem had nothing new or startling about them. The people rather felt scared at his sight.

The killing of the Sikhs in Bidar in Karnataka on September 14-15, was reminiscent of November 1984 riots in Delhi and other places. It further exasperated the feelings. Most of the students affected were from Punjab and Delhi.

By the end of September, followed a natural disaster, marked by heavy rains in the catchment area of Bhakra between September 25-28, 1988. The sudden release of water from Bhakra dam caused 10 feet high cascades of water which washed away villages within hours. 9000 of Punjab’s 12,989 villages were flooded, 2500 were completely marooned or simply washed away. The deluge affected 34 lakh (3.4 mn) people. And, Chairman Bhakra Beas Management Board, Maj Gen B.N. Kumar, did not even warn the people over the fast telecommunications network – TV and Radio – much less save the situation by releasing large quantities of water over an extended span of time. And to rub salt over fresh wounds, Union Agriculture Minister Bhajan Lal termed the floods as blessings in disguise.24 He mentioned of rise in ground water level. What really he meant was discovery of Bhakra weapon to deluge the entire rural Punjab. The moral was not lost on the militants who, in what they regarded just retribution, gunned down Maj. Gen. B.N. Kumar. They also adopted classic guerrilla tactics in killing 175 persons in a fortnight.

25

The second half of 1988 was marked by tension over the likely hanging of Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh whose death sentence were upheld by the Supreme Court on August 3,1988. Balbir Singh the third accused sentenced to capital punishment was acquitted.

Before proceeding further we may recapitulate the various stages of the trial.

As stated earlier, the investigations into the assassination of Indira was completed by November 18, 1984. Only Beant Singh and Satwant Singh were involved. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by S. Anantram constituted shortly afterwards thought it demeaning for a Prime Minister to be felled only by two of her security guards! A conspiracy was a must. And, it worked out one initially involving Kehar Singh, (an assistant in Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals), who was distantly related to Beant Singh, and Balbir Singh a Sub-Inspector in Prime Minister’s security.

The trial had political overtones as Indira came from the ruling dynasty. Also the accused came from the Sikh community whose credibility was suspect. The question before the judges was not only about the guilt or otherwise of the various accused but also that of their own credibility and of their patriotism. It had emotional overtones.

Satwant Singh was only a hitman, not the key figure. The best course in his case would have been to adopt the same posture as adopted by Nathuram Godse in M.K. Gandhi murder case. But he was not a learned man. Neither was his father, Tarlok Singh, who throughout the trial retained his rustic common sense. His was a most tormented soul. On the one hand, he was accepting saropaos, robes of honour, as father of a living-martyr, and on the other Satwant’s lawyer was playing jugglery with the case in the light of his own idiosyncrasies. Tarlok Singh and Satwant Singh would have loved the lawyer to adopt Godse’s stance, but were left gaffing.

The case against Kehar Singh and Balbir Singh rested only on circumstantial evidence, and “a coincidence” which Mahesh Chandra, Additional Sessions Judge, conceded “cannot be termed as a conspiracy.” To begin with, Mahesh Chandra was told that investigations in the case were complete by November 18, and what the SIT did thereafter was nothing but bullshit. But the stakes were high. His eyes were riveted to a high Court judgeship which awaited him in case he announced a judgment asked for the by the SIT. Despite gasping holes in the evidence – non production of vital witnesses and medical reports on Indira as also Sub-Inspector Rameshwar Dayal who received three difference-type of bullets in his thighs, Mahesh Chandra proceeded to weave all the three accused, Satwant Singh, Kehar Singh and Balbir Singh, in a conspiracy and sentenced them to death on January 22, 1986. He was so overwhelmed by his over enthusiasm that he forgot to mention the mode of execution and that it was subject to confirmation by the High Court.

The Judges of the High Court, seized of irresistible compulsions asked piercing and searching questions about the fabricated evidence about Balbir Singh’s detention on November 1, and his re-arrest on December 3, 1984, and contradictions in the police records. In the end, they chose to ignore all that, and on December 3, 1986, confirmed whole hog Mahesh Chandra’s judgment. The presiding judge, S. Ranganathan was kicked high to the Supreme Court.

It was extraordinary, firstly, that the conspiracy trial by Additional Sessions Judge and enquiry into Indira’s assassination by Justice M.P. Thakkar, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, went hand in hand. And then, Thakkar’s two reports throwing valuable light were suppressed. These were not shown even to the President, Giani Zail Singh, much less to the Judges of either the High or the Supreme Court. The government was not interested in finding out the truth; presently it was only in conviction of Satwant Singh, Kehar Singh and Balbir Singh. And, Thakkar report when presented to Parliament in March 1989 showed that Kehar Singh and Balbir Singh had

nothing to do with any conspiracy whatsover to murder Indira. Verily, the motto on the national emblem, satyamevajayate meant whatever is victorious is truth or truth lies in victory.

Also, the SIT fabricated another conspiracy case involving Simranjit Singh Mann and a host of other Sikhs. Rajiv, Buta and Chidambaram were closely involved. The SIT wanted the Special Public Prosecutor, K.L. Arora to give an instant advice. He instead) recorded a small note that the case was not worth the paper written) on. It had no substance in it. Nonplussed, the SIT only conveyed) that, then, Arora would not argue the government case in the Supreme Court. That marked the beginning of the rise of G. Ramaswamy in the echeleons of Government of India, as he was willing to oblige the SIT with the sort of endorsement they wanted. In due course, he rose to be Attorney General of India.

The case landed in the Supreme Court and ordinarily its turn would not have come for a couple of years more. But Rajiv publicly said that his mother had been killed and the accused were yet to be meted out punishment. Supreme Court dutifully gave precedence to the case over others. Since what was at stake was their own patriotism they applied their mind to the evidence, but only partially. It was obvious that the case against Balbir Singh was fabricated one. They acquitted him. Even the Special Public Prosecutor felt that the case against Kehar Singh was much weaker. “If Balbir is acquitted, Kehar’s conviction cannot stand,” said K.L. Arora. But it did stand. If both of them were acquitted, the SIT conspiracy to involve others in a second conspiracy would have ended straightaway in a fiasco. In the process, the Judges of the Supreme Court showed their jaundiced mind when they discussed the issue of Beant Singh’s taking amrit, baptism, as if that was subversive. Also, according to the judges, Beant twice within 10 days, October 14 and 24, 1984 took amrit. They did not seek to know that that would be sacrilegious for one who takes it and the one who administers it.

Kehar Singh’s conviction evoked a lot of sympathy from the media and from eminent personalities. They regarded it as a ‘judicial murder’. The foreign press including the Economist (London) too wished Rajiv to have been in a favourable state of mind. M.K. Gandhi’s son Ramdas Gandhi had written to the Governor General to grant clemency to Nathuram Godse. Indira’s son did not. The President twice on advice of the Prime Minister refused his mercy petition. Satwant Singh mercifully had not put in one.

Satwant Singh’s last testament: “There is no greater privilege for a Sikh than to lay down his life for the protection of Harimandir and the Akal Takht. I wish to be born again and again, and each time to be able to die for it.” These would rank him amongst the leading Sikh martyrs.

Kehar Singh on the other hand till the very last protested his innocence. The Supreme Court went to the extent of saying that, “The finding of guilt recorded by the High Court against Kehar Singh is a mixture of both relevant and irrelevant evidence adduced by the prosecution.” Here even Supreme Court failed to sift grain from the chaffe.26 His case was like that of Master Amir Chand who was hanged in the first Delhi Conspiracy Case on inadequate evidence.27 His son, Rajinder Singh, rightly said if “she was murdered by some one else. .” probably things would have been different. Two former Judges, Ajit Singh Bains and C.S. Tiwana, Chairman and President respectively of the Punjab Human Rights Organisation stated “There was no justice for Sikhs in India” and that the “government was more barbaric than the racist regime in South Africa.”

28

Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh were hanged to death on January 6, 1989. Prof. Darshan Singh Ragi, Akal Takht Jathedar, termed them shaheed, martyrs. The militants in retaliation during January 1989 hanged 10 persons and killed another 109 including security men, in shootouts and bomb blasts. The police in turn killed 42 of them including Harbir Singh alias Veeru Ribeiro and his associates of the KCF. For the first time, it recovered from militants AK-74 assault rifles which were more sophisticated than AK-47 rifles.29 The militants made good their losses by recruiting new youth. As Vipul Mudgal observed, “the mass base of terrorists had widened, a significant stage in the drift towards insurgency.”

30

Communal violence against the Sikhs in Hindu-dominated urban areas in Punjab was part of the Hindu prerogative. Now, it proliferated to Jammu, winter capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. On January 13, 1989, from noon, the 10,000 strong Sikh procession as part of Guru Gobind Singh’s birthday celebrations came under a systematic attack of the organised Hindu mob. For “six blood curdling hours”, the Sikhs were bludgeoned to death with iron rods, reminiscent of anti-Sikh carnage in Delhi in November 1984. Lynching and arson went hand in hand, with smoke billowing all over the city. In the words of India Today correspondents, “The police, according to every witness who has talked simply looked the other way or ducked for shelter.” They quoted senior-most officials to state, “Not a lathi was raised, not a teargas shell fired. It almost seemed as if the police were encouraging the show.”31

The days haul, according to official sources, was 13 dead, hundreds injured, 145 vehicles and hundreds of shops burnt. According to unofficial sources, the number of dead was several times over. The worst was that the Chief Minister was in the town.

All the 200 Hindus arrested days afterwards were released “following a week long hartal organised by the BJP”. The Union Government sent no word of sympathy or concern to the victims. Rather, the right of Hindus to kill the Sikhs at will was implicitly conceded; “and” as India Today correspondents observed, “the guilty go scot free.”

32

Back home to Punjab. The brutalisation of the police and “state terrorism” forced 40 Sarpanchas of Batala area to resign after lodging complaints ranging from “illegal and unregistered arrests to gross misbehaviour by policemen.” The villagers at the meeting called by Governor Siddhartha Shankar Ray at Village Shankarpur near Batala spoke of police brutalities, especially of SSP Gobind Ram who, a la Izhar Alam in Amritsar earlier, was now maintaining an underground terrorist force comprising of criminals and smugglers. K.P.S. Gill put his foot down and threatened to quit, if Gobind Ram was transferred.

33

Illegal detention and elimination of the Sikh youth, thanks to Gill’s implementing the union Home Ministry’s policy of untempered state terrorism, were the order of the day all over Punjab, especially since the middle of 1988. The usual practice was for police -consisting of local central investigation/intelligence agency (CIA) toughs, men from police and CRPF – to raid the Sikh homes at night and take away youth between 15 to 35 years of age, or better still, to catch them in the streets. The families were told that either they had not taken into custody the young man at all, or he had escaped a few hours later. Tied hand and foot, with weight tied around their waists, the bodies were pushed into the canals or river beds to appear years later, with tell tale marks, but without anyone being able to recognise their kith and kin.

34

Rajiv, by early 1989, was reconciled to state terroristic set ups and police using criminals and smugglers to fight against the militancy. In a major departure, he desisted from attributing all violence to the militants.35 It was this realisation that led him to announce on March 3, 1989, the

release of all Jodhpur detenues, withdrawal of Punjab Disturbed Areas Act, and Armed Forces

(Punjab and Chandigarh) Special Powers Act (except for Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepur

districts), removal of all restrictions on entry of foreigners in Punjab, and withdrawal of special

powers under NSA. Some people attributed these measures to U.S. Congressman Stephen Solarz’s

recent visit to Punjab, and a motion in the U.S. Congress to deny India the ‘most favoured nation’

status in matters of trade, because of Amnesty International’s report on the human rights violations

in Punjab.

36

That, the government was not sincere and its mind was closed was clear before long. Firstly,

it was silent on the fate of 309 army men who had been court martialled. Secondly, of 188 Jodhpur

detenues released on March 6, as many as 84 including Tohra were re-arrested on charges pending

against them.37

The government, as an afterthought, agreed to look into the nature of charges

whether those deserved a jail term of more than 4 years already undergone by them. Thirdly, despite

being caught on the wrong foot, after being forced by disclosures in the Indian Express to lay copies

of the main Thakkar Commission Reports on conspiracy leading to Indira’s assassination, Rajiv and

Buta Singh proceeded with, on April 7, the government’s filing a false and frivolous conspiracy case

against Simranjit Singh Mann, Atinderpal Singh, Jagmohan Singh alias Toni, and Prof. Dalip Singh –

two Bombay College Lecturers, and Rattan Singh. That reflected the height of government’s

depravity.

The arrest of two teenage girls, with one of them being molested in Majitha, caused a U.S.

Congressman Dan Burton to write to Indian Embassy in Washington about human rights violations

in India.38

The embarrassment caused to the government of India, led to instructions being

reiterated in May 1989 to Punjab police not to take women to police stations, or arrest them to

produce wanted members of their families.

But Gobind Ram, SSP Batala, was a class apart. He had two women Gurmeet Kaur and

Gurdev Kaur lifted on August 21, 1989, from Amritsar and taken to Batala. They were brutally

tortured to produce their husbands, now missing for several years. They were at first whipped.

Then they were made to lie down with four men on a wooden plank on their thighs. They were

incapacitated. That produced a public outcry. Prof. Darshan Singh Ragi, Akal Takht Jathedar

spearheaded the campaign against beating of women in police stations and ‘repression on Sikhs’.

With hundreds of others including religious and political leaders, he gheraoed Batala police station

on September 1, 1989. He likened Gobind Ram to ‘Ravan, Duryodhan and Dushashan’. President

of Human Rights Organisation, Justice Ajit Singh Bains, warned that the Sikhs too were preparing

lists of policemen on the basis of their behaviour with the public. There was demand for Gobind

Ram’s suspension and inquiry by a High Court Judge.39

Prof Ragi threatened dharna at Governor’s

residence on September 8, unless the demands were conceded.

Ray conceded that Gobind Ram was one of “three-four others who had become sadists due

to the extraordinary situation” but still defended him. KPS Gill was still “favourably disposed

towards Gobind Ram.” As against the duo, whose approach to the Sikh problem was no different

than that of Mir Mannu in 18th century Ribeiro was horrified. “I am against brutalisation of the

police force” and that “it was a mistake to have sent Gobind Ram to Batala in the first place”, said

he.40

However, he was asked to keep his hands off the police department. He was on his way out to

a diplomatic assignment, after leaving a bitter legacy.

Gobind Ram after an enquiry got away with only a transfer from Batala. The retribution came in another form. On September 13, his 18 years old college going son at Jalandhar was shot dead. No one claimed responsibility.

Prof Ragi’s appeal to the militants to be humane to women and children had an immediate effect. The militants kidnapped a teenage son of a police officer and four year old son of another in next few days, and treated them well. KPS Gill knelt down to swap men held in illegal police custody, to have the boys released.

41

Side by side, on September 20, 1989, itself when Gill was striking deal with the militants, Bhai Manjit Singh, younger son of Sant Kartar Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale was being initiated into panthic politics in Gurdwara Ramsar, Amritsar. The meet by the AISSF was especially cleared by Ray and Gill. While the resolutions by the AISSF reiterated the concept of Khalistan, Manjit Singh understandably made no mention of it as the goal.42

Harminder Singh Sandhu still in detention issued a hard hitting statement which came as a surprise as he had, after Bluestar, offered cooperation to the government.

After the initiation ceremony was over, discernible observers perceived that the government had a finger in every pie, and it “continues to play games in Punjab.”43 Not only that, Haryana Home Minister Sampat Singh in July 1989 had threatened to disclose Buta Singh’s links with terrorists, but was prevailed upon to desist from that.

44

The day of reckoning came. And, the government of Rajiv Gandhi which had made Punjab a big field for its games was defeated. The Congress(I) emerged as the single largest party in the general elections held in November 1989. In Punjab, Simranjit Singh Mann-led Akali Dal won six of thirteen seats, with another four going to candidates backed by it. The people of Punjab had shown an uncanny commonsense.

The last action of Rajiv before demitting office was to withdraw the fictitious conspiracy case against Mann who had won a landslide victory from Tarn Taran constituency, and order his release. Mann, subjected to repression and torture in Jail for five years on trumped up charges, later talked about ‘Nuremberg’ type trials of ‘guilty’ police officers. The arch-conspirator, S. Anantram, got scot free. To complicate matters, Rajiv government also released Harminder Singh Sandhu, General Secretary, of the AISSF. Only a shortwhile earlier, he had issued a terse statement for Khalistan and thanked Pakistan for offering sanctuaries to the militants. Immediately after his release, he reiterated that Khalistan was the goal of the AISSF and that they would talk to the new government of V.P. Singh “only through the aegis of the United Nations.”45 Ray mischievously sought instructions from Prime Minister V.P. Singh, when he had hardly taken over, whether or not to re-arrest Sandhu. His intentions were not clean. This was clear from the fact that a couple of days earlier he had hastily closed the case against Gobind Ram, former SSP Batala, charged with beating up Sarpanchas publicly, and his recommendations to hold Assembly elections.46

He was out to embarrass the new government and also create complications for Mann.

V.P. Singh’s response came immediately after he took over as Prime Minister on December 6, 1989. He decided to visit the Golden Temple, Amritsar, the following day. Accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal, Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and Inder Kumar Gujral not in his capacity as Foreign Minister but as Minister from Punjab, he moved through the parikarma of the Golden Temple without armed security guards and prayed at the key Sikh and Hindu shrines

in Amritsar. He drove through Amritsar in an open jeep. Even elements from the AISSF hailed the gesture.

The same day Siddhartha Shankar Ray after having a feel of the changed atmosphere resigned. He was replaced on December 8 by former Cabinet Secretary Nirmal Kumar Mukherjee, who vouchsafed new approach to solve the Punjab problem.

Akali Dal (Mann) lost no time in redefining its goals within the framework of a united India. In a resolution adopted on December 10, 1989, it demanded an “autonomous Sikh region” in north India comprising Punjab, and some adjoining areas of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan with the right to frame its own “internal constitution” having all powers except foreign relations, defence, currency and general communications.” The party spokesman, while releasing the resolution, stated that it was based on the Cabinet Mission Plan on the basis of which power was transferred to the two dominions of India and Pakistan in August 1947. This was interpreted by discernible observers as “a significant climbdown from the AISSF stand for an independent Khalistan”.

47

The all-party meeting convened by the Union Home Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed at Delhi on December 17, 1989, adopted a consensus paper on Punjab. It had three main ingredients. One, resolution of Punjab problem within the framework of the constitution without sacrificing the unity and integrity of the country; Two, expeditious steps to secure conviction of the guilty persons involved in 1984 violence against the Sikhs; and Three, repeal of the 59th

amendment of the constitution. The Congress(I) was not part of the consensus. Its representatives, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Buta Singh, P. Chidambaram, Darbara Singh and Beant Singh could not point to the specific points to which they did not agree. Later, Congress(I) leaders, to sidetrack the issues under discussion, asked the government to declare its position with regard to revival of pro-Khalistan declarations, continuation of killings and re-entry of arms into the Gurdwaras. About these, the document did make specific references. These were reflective of Congress(I)’s line of action to aggravate the situation in Punjab. The continuous clout of K.P.S. Gill in the state stood it in good stead. Then there was the CRPF.

Mann welcomed evolving the national consensus and extended his support to V.P. Singh who, on December 19, 1989, reiterated the need for “healing hearts”. Three Akali Dal (Mann) M.P.s, who took their oath in Lok Sabha two days later, voted for the motion reposing confidence in V.P. Singh government. Two of them, Rajinder Kaur Bulara and Rajdev Singh, who spoke, made impassioned plea for restoration of democratic processes in Punjab and squarely condemned Congress(I) for perpetrating inhuman atrocities on the Sikhs. It was Congress(I) which fostered on them the desire to secede in order to live honourably.

By the end of December 1989 there was slight change in the attitude of the new government. Firstly, the quantum of autonomy being asked for by Akali Dal (Mann) was beyond comprehension of any Hindu dominated political party. Secondly, if elections were held to the provincial assembly as scheduled, Akali Dal (Mann) which had won plurality of votes in 74 out of 99 segments of provincial assembly constituencies during November Parliamentary elections, was bound to sweep the polls, marginalising further Badal and Barnala Akali Dais. This was not acceptable to various political elements including not only Congress(I) but also BJP, CPM and even Deputy Prime Minister, Devi Lal. Thirdly, only Ray had been replaced. His alter-ego Gill, who continued to play havoc with the administration, was still there. The police’s putting to death Akali

Dal (Mann) M.P. Baldev Singh Khudian on December 28, 1989, and dumping his body in a canal (this came to light in early January 1990) was designed to foul the atmosphere.

Governor Nirmal Mukherjee’s statement that the issue of holding provincial elections shall be reviewed by the end of January 1990 was seized upon by Hindu-conscience keeper Times of India (editorial, December 30, 1989) to advocate that “it would be dangerous to restore full democratic process in Punjab at this stage before the new government becomes fully cognisant of the ground realities in the state.”

Harkishan Singh Surjeet of CPM followed with a press conference at Chandigarh on January 2, 1990. He termed Akali Dal (Mann)’s demands as “nothing but a step towards Khalistan.” He opined that Congress(I), BJP, CPI and CPM were not in favour of holding assembly elections in Punjab at present.48 This line up was a signal to V.P. Singh to move cautiously. The same day, Mann at Faridkot conveyed his willingness to attend all-party meet on Punjab being convened by the Centre at Ludhiana on January 11, 1990. He wanted the centre to announce general amnesty and release of all the Sikhs lodged in Jails, reinstatement of army deserters, repeal of all black laws, and stoppage of ‘fake encounters’. He pointed out that the Sikhs were being treated ‘like slaves’ and ‘excesses’ against them were continuing. Badal and he wanted the administration to trace Khudian, the missing M.P.

49

The recovery of Khudian’s body the following day from the canal at the very site at which, the police had earlier said, Khudian had committed suicide, was one of the factors which prevented Mann from attending the all-Party meet. The refusal of Mukherjee on January 7, to grant general amnesty, and murderous spree by the CRPF at Tarn Taran, for which the governor had to express his regrets, were others. Finally, Mann had his doubts about the utility of an all-Party rally. “When you don’t deal with reality and indulge in theatrics it only leads to a mirage”, he said. He had the mandate and wanted Damdami Taksal and the AISSF to be called for negotiations. He asked his men to prepare the list of police excesses and categorise the police officers in A.B.C. categories, as police did with the militants.

49a

A day before the Ludhiana meet, Gobind Ram, former SSP Batala, was blown out in a bomb blast in his Punjab Armed Police (PAP) office at Jalandhar and registered their presence. According to Joyce Pettigrew this was the work of persons from within the (PAP).

50

Ludhiana meet on January 11, 1990, was a big tamasha. V.P. Singh was illustriously cheered and repeatedly got off his car to accept felicitations from the crowd enroute. The non-attendance of Akali Dal(Mann) was a set back: Badal, and Barnala who was heckled throughout, provided no substitute. The absence of Congress(I) was on the cards.

It was practically a meet of the National Front. The various constituents blew their own trumpets and dispersed. V.P. Singh was all for giving the peace a chance in Punjab. His pronouncements, inhibited as he was, consisted only of platitudes. The only tangible announcement was the one ordering judicial probe into Khudian’s death. He was prevented from making a major announcement by Atal Behari Vajpayee of the BJP and Harkishan Singh Surjeet of the CPM, both of whom were full of venom.

Vajpayee glibly saw a contradiction in the demand for general amnesty in Punjab to the one asking for punishment of those guilty of committing violence against the Sikhs in November 1984

riots. He cast aspersions on sincerity of Mann Akali M.P.s. Surjeet smelt a theocratic state in the Sikh aspirations.

Devi Lal was his usual ebullient self. Gujral still talked of “a new chapter of peace and patriotism”. Indrajit Gupta of CPI was the lore voice demanding elections. Badal’s suggestion to set up a commission under a Supreme Court Judge to identify those responsible for bringing Punjab to its present sorry pass, though a noval one, was unrealistic.51

No judge of Supreme Court, a packed body, whose members have sold their conscience, would be honest to himself much less to the ruling elite to do so.

Mann met V.P. Singh at Halwara airport on his arrival and again at the lime of his departure. He, inter alia, wanted Prime Minister to dismantle the “repressive administrative machinery” in Punjab. This meant removal of Chief Secretary, S.L. Kapur, and Director General of Police, KPS Gill. This should have been at the top of Prime Minister’s agenda right from the day of his visit to Amritsar. Mann asked for recall of para military forces and wanted the administration to provide a list of those wanted by the state for acts of terrorism.

52

V.P. Singh’s seeking assurance from Mann that his party, if it comes to power in the assembly, would not adopt a resolution asking for Khalistan,” only showed the height of distrust of the Sikhs. It also revealed the depth to which suspicions had taken root among the people who considered the Sikh’s asserting their independence a logical step after undergoing that much deprivation and persecution. No amount of assurances can generate faith in a society based on chicanery and skullduggery. Mann assured V.P. Singh as much as he could that his apprehensions were baseless. He even offered to forge an alliance with the ruling Janta Dal to rule out such a possibility.

54

To clarify his position, Mann in an interview with the Washington Post disclosed that he had sought mediation of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter over Punjab’s “political status to end the civil strife in the Indian stale”. Carter was already seized of similar problems in central America and an Ethiopian province. Mann had in view the “autonomous powers granted to the French speaking province of Quebec in Canada” as a model, for a possible solution of Punjab problem. “But that was red herring to Congress(I)-BJP-CPM combine. Mann should have been more circumspect, especially because V.P. Singh was heading a minority government.

Amidst the welter of contradictory pulls, it was obvious that V.P. Singh’s drive towards peace in Punjab had met a setback, if not come to a grinding halt. Only a unilateral action on the part of Prime Minister could salvage the situation and take Punjab out of the morass. For that, V.P. Singh needed courage and full support from within his own party. That was not forthcoming.

To begin with, taking away, in part, Punjab problem from Inder Kumar Gujral and entrusting it to Arun Nehru, the evil genius behind November 1984 riots and grounding of the Rajiv-Longowal accord, was a retrogressive step. It meant putting a new heart to the oppressive administrative set up in Punjab. Significantly, Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, on Nirmal Mukherjee’s report on January 19, sought to dispel the impression that “terrorists can run amuck in Punjab just because of the recent mandate of the People.”56

The security forces resumed their offensive with venom to wipe out the militants. The killing of Harmindar Singh Sandhu, considered close to the administration, on January 24, 1990, was a retributory step.

Side by side, the administration sought to erode the image of Mann. Akal Dal (Mann) was already facing teething troubles because it was not yet a single, cohesive political entity with a clear cut policy and programme of action. The revolt of Dhian Singh Mand M.P. to assert his identity, and moves to further splinter the A1SSF are to be seen in that light.

And then, the security forces using a constable to plant and explode a powerful bomb at the Police Training College, Phillaur, on February 11, 1990, to show the bold face of ‘terrorism’ was a class in itself.57 There was increase in killings and extortions. The police set up in Punjab was determined not to let the centre free itself from the kind of unimaginative, police-oriented, approach that it had inherited from the previous regime. Congress(I), BJP, CPM, as also the ruling Janta Dal in another few days, openly advocated that elections should not be held in Punjab until some kind of normalcy was restored. The government too, by now, was prevaricating. By the third week of February, it was thinking in terms of extension of President’s rule beyond May 11.58

It was also toying with the idea of reviving the Punjab assembly dissolved earlier, to bring up Badal vis-a-vis Mann. Barnala could be accommodated with a governorship. Mann was quite upset at the various moves. He could have said with Julius Ceasar, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” On March 7, he termed the union government as a “bunch of criminals from top to bottom” and the Punjab police “an organised gang of terrorists”. Pie expressed himself against killing of innocent persons, extortions and robberies, etc. But the “organised gang of terrorists” struck in a big way the same evening killing 28 persons and injuring another 30 in Hindu dominated Abohar in a bomb blast. Conveniently, electricity and telephone lines were down. And then, they struck again at Tarn Taran, the following day.

Mann knew the police game. He called on V.P. Singh and Devi Lal, separately on March 8, and emphasised the need for removal of Director General Police and Chief Secretary as a process of dismantling of the oppressive machinery. Prime Minister seemed agreeable.

An all-party meeting held at Raj Bhavan on March 13, by and large, opposed the holding of Assembly elections in the state in the prevalent circumstances. Surjeet and Vajpayee made firm declarations to the fact on March 23, at Khatkar Kalan celebrations marking Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom anniversary.

The 64th Constitution Amendment Bill to extend President’s rule in Punjab beyond May 10 introduced in Lok Sabha on March 30, fell through at the introduction stage as Congress(I) chose to withdraw from the House. A majority of total members of the House was not present. A meeting of leaders of various parties including Congress(I), decided that it should be reintroduced on April 4. The Government now sought to manage a convenient terroristic act on the eve of introduction of the Bill to ensure its safe passage. A powerful bomb blast went off at Batala on April 3, killing 40 people. The irate Hindu mob caught hold of 12 Sikhs near the Gurdwara and killed them in presence of the police and the BSF personnel. The post mortem report indicated that two of them had been killed in police firing – a glaring truth despite KPS Gill’s denial to the contrary.

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The bomb blast caused communal flare up. Indefinite curfew was imposed at Batala. The government agreed to Congress(I)’s moving an adjournment motion in Lok Sabha on April 5, to extract its support in passage of the bill. It was also receptive to the plea for Mukherjee’s removal. Mann was explicit, “In case the Sikhs are denied their constitutional rights, we will be forced to redefine our political goals.”60 He also held the Punjab government squarely responsible for the killings at Batala.

On Baisakhi, April 13, 1990, at Talwandi Sabo, Mann announced his resolve to approach the U.N. for a plebiscite in Punjab to find out whether the Sikhs wanted to live in India. He also stated that the people of Punjab would not support the government in case of a war with Pakistan. Some prominent members formed a “committee on Punjab” with Justice (Retd) V.M. Tarkunde as its president to “devise ways and means to bring about a political resolution to the Punjab problem.”

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Mann and V.P. Singh had, of late, drifted apart. Already Mann had not taken his oath as a member of Lok Sabha on one pretext or the other. Earlier it was release of Attinder Pal Singh, a party M.P. Later, it was Mann’s insistence to take his three feet long sword alongwith him to the House. The issue of taking of the sword was used just to express his disgust at the government’s handling of Punjab situation.

The observance of ghallughara (holocaust) week in early June 1990 saw mammoth crowds attending functions sponsored by the militant groups. Mann’s ros (protest) march for restoration of democratic processes, covering several villages in the borders of Amritsar and Gurdaspur, besides his listening to the people’s grievances and attending bhog ceremonies of militants killed, were provocative to the administration. The centre already politically adrift, replaced Nirmal Kumar Mukherjee who had been inquisitive about the security forces mis-doings, by a faceless Janta Dal Member of Rajya Sabha, Virendra Verma. He proved to be an uninspiring and inapt Governor, Gill administered him a sharp rebuke on June 23, 1990, when in a closed door meeting, he stated that “brutalities had increased and that the police had a hand in kidnapping and extortions.”62

It was now obvious that Gill had emerged as the real power.

The government inducted National Security Guards in the border districts in July to supplement the police and para military forces. It had its immediate impact in 200 civilians and ‘more than 150 suspected terrorists’ being killed during July 1990. The police now started showing civilians and militants being killed in what it called ‘inter-gang rivalries’. “The fall out” in the words of Kanwar Sandhu of India Today “is that the police have once again assumed the preponderant role in the administration.”

63

The militants made their presence felt at Chandigarh when they killed former Finance Minister Balwant Singh and then “two senior engineers posted on controversial SYL canal project,” which brought the work at the project to a creeching halt.64

They also had the Chandigarh-based newspapers to publish in full, Sukha and Jinda’s letter to the President. This was the handiwork of the new Panthic Committee headed by Dr. Sohan Singh retired Director, Health Services of Punjab. It declared itself against the pursuit of parliamentary path to gain power.

In another month, the government took “the controversial decision to ask the army to mount exercises in these areas.” This was later termed operation Rakshak 1. A series of new steps including night ambushes were chalked out.

65

V.P. Singh was disturbed at the turn of events. His visit to Lopoke village, on India-Pakistan borders, was a non-event and his prescription of “all-party meeting” was termed by Badal as an “exercise in futility”. V.P. Singh full of remorse stated, “One thing I will regret all my life for which I will not pardon myself, and publicly acknowledge my mistake, in not holding elections (in Punjab) within six months of the Government coming into power.”

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By the autumn of 1990, V.P. Singh government had run out of ideas. That was true in regard to the general problems facing the country, especially the continued self-immolation by caste-Hindu youth protesting against acceptance of Mandal Commission Report. BJP’s efforts to ride on the crest of Hindu revivalism brought it and the ruling Janta Dal to the parting of ways.

Mann’s decision to quit Lok Sabha seat on October 12, 1990, was a pointer to the hardening of attitudes. Mann in a press statement said, “We have been thrown out of the Constitution. Only the United Nations can restore democracy in Punjab.”

67

The fall of V.P. Singh government shortly afterwards and incoming of the new one, headed by Chandra Shekhar caused much flutter. Chandra Shekhar was one of the few leaders who had condemned Indira’s Operation Bluestar. But now he was in power with the support of Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress(I) which was determined to draw its pound of flesh.

At Chandra Shekhar’s first meeting, KPS Gill abused Virendra Verma. He positively disliked the situation. That made him to transfer KPS Gill as Director General of CRPF and replace Virendra Verma by General O.P. Malhotra. To revamp the upper echelons, he replaced the Chief Secretary and brought Tejendra Khanna from the centre.

That tended to give a new but facile look to the administration which was worried at the media’s caving in to the code of conduct issued by the Panthic Committee led by Dr. Sohan Singh on November 20. The code wanted the media to use the word militant and not terrorist, and drop the prefix ‘self-styled’ while mentioning the rank. The Radio and TV stations at Jalandhar and Amritsar followed suit. But not the Radio Station at Chandigarh. It did so only after its Station Director, Rajendra Kumar Talib, was shot dead on December 6, 1990.

Meanwhile, at the ground level, 100,000 to 1 50,000 troops were spreading out in November 1990 on the Punjab borders to carry on Rakshak 1 exercise, to plug the border and extend support to the civil administration even in remote areas. To add to the deception, Chandra Shekhar offered to talk to any one, including militants on all matters inclusive of Khalistan, “to show how impractical it was.”

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The Akalis fell to the bait. As a first step three Akali Dais – led by Badal. Tota Singh and Mann – decided to unite at Fatehgarh. Sahib on December 26, under the overall leadership of Mann. But a day before Babbar Akali Dal, to rock the boat, came into being.

Mann met Chandra Shekhar on December 28,1990, and presented a memorandum. It emphasised the Sikhs resolve to assert their right of self-determination granted to them by international law and article 51 of the Constitution. It went on that the “Sikhs have no choice but to safeguard their religious, political and other interests”, recalled that the Sikhs had joined the Union on the basis of the Cabinet Mission Plan which gave the right of provinces to change their constitution after 10 years. “Even if the format of the province has changed, the principle remains”. The memorandum emitted an aura of a suppressed nation, rising against the tyranny of “Brahminical Government of India”.

69

Both CPM and Congress(I) felt disturbed at the tenor of the talks. Rajiv Gandhi expressed his strong reservations at the invocation of article 51 of the Constitution. Mann challenged L.K. Advani, Rajiv Gandhi and E.M.S. Namboodiripad to have a debate with him on the issue.70

Independent of that, a meeting between Chandra Shekhar and representatives of the AISSF(Manjit), Damdami Taksal, and Panthic Committees led by Manochahal and Zaffarwal was held on January 11, 1991, at the Prime Minister’s farm house at Bhondsi in Haryana. Chandra Shekhar said that because of the minority character of his government, he was not able to discuss with them an autonomous region within India much less an independent Sikh state. He could attend to cases of innocent detainees, barricades before the Golden Temple, etc. As a result, cases against Bhai Manjit Singh held in Sangrur Jail were dropped and he was released on January 14, 1991.

71

The link for these talks was provided by Gurtej Singh formerly of IAS who had connections with P.S. Kohli IAS, a former adviser to Punjab Governor. One Guruswamy of Andhra Pradesh who had his own connections with Gurtej Singh of Andhra cadre acted as a common friend to carry through the talks.72

A political conference in February presided over by Tohra gave mandate to the militants for talks with the government. These were obviously a trap.

Before proceeding further, it would be of interest to have a look at the various Panthic Committees and their alignments. Shekhar Gupta in India Today and Samir Lal in a special report in the Times of India of February 10, 1991 details them as follows:

1. Panthic Committee (Dr. Sohan Singh)

1. 1 Khalistan Commando Force led by Paramjit Singh Panjawar

1. 2 Babbar Khalsa International led by Sukhdev Singh Babbar

1. 3 Khalistan Liberation Force led by Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala

1. 4 Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan led by Rachhpal Singh Sangha and Satnam Singh Satta.

1. 5 AISSF – Daljit Singh Bittu

2. Panthic Committee (Wassan Singh Zaffarwal Group)

2. 1 Khalistan Commando Force (Zaffarwal group)

3. Panthic Committee (Gurbachan Singh Manochahal group) -Believed by other militants to be government agents.

3. 1 Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan (Manochahal group)

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3. 2 Khalistan Commando Force (Gurjant Singh Rajasthani group)

3. 3 AISSF (Manjit Singh group) it was a middle ground group confining itself to political and ideological work.

4. Panthic Committee (Gurdev Singh Usmanwala group)

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Note by Samir Lal: None of these organisations has any formal links with various Akali factions or the SGPC. However all the mainstream bodies are susceptible to pressure from the militants.

Unaware of the goings on, Mann awoke to the threat posed by the army’s massive involvement in Punjab. The three separate strands – the various steps to the merger of Akali Dais, Mann’s talks with the government and army’s increasingly spreading its operations went hand in hand for another six weeks when certain militant organisations sought to inject a sense of realism in the ongoing process.

In a statement issued on February 14, 1991, Bhai Kulwant Singh Babbar on behalf of five militant organisations aligned to Panthic Committee (Dr. Sohan Singh) stated, “The militants have no doubt that Mr. Shekhar is flying on borrowed wings and thus could hardly be worth talking to. A leader on borrowed life could hardly give anything to the Sikhs.”75

He cast doubts on the government’s credibility to give them safe passage for talks.

That put a sense of realism in Mann who by end of February wanted the government to withdraw the army and recall the Governor for “having the whole townships searched, and insulted lawyers and intellectuals, gagged the press and robbed every Sikh of his self respect.” He characterised Chandra Shekhar government a dummy resting on the shoulders of Rajiv Gandhi, and added “Recently, killing of the Sikhs by the security forces in false encounters reached the proportion of a genocide.”

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The police excesses boomeranged and found expression in a series of gheraos of police stations and highway blockades following reports of false encounters. The killing of half a dozen farmers at Nathu Ka Burj in Amritsar district in army ambush in February 1991 helped to inflame people’s resentment. Governor Malhotra’s arrival there later only gave credence to the authorities insensitiveness to the villagers.

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The decennial census operations completed by the time indicated, the extent to which the Sikh genocidal policy initiated by Indira had had its impact during the decade 1981-1991.

Keeping in view the strength of the armed forces, the CRPF and the BSF in Punjab at the time of census operations and the strength of Purbea labour in various districts, and reading in between the lines the provisional population figures issued by the census authorities, one comes to the startling conclusion that in Punjab,

a) the Sikhs have lost anything between ten to twelve lakh (1 to 1.2 mn) people mainly youth, during the decade 1981-91: the break up being over 200,000 thousand each in Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts: over 100, 000 each in Ludhiana, Patiala; and Bhatinda districts; between 50,000 to 100,000 in Faridkot, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Ferozepur and Sangrur districts; between 25,000 to 50,000 in Rupnagar district.

b) the number of the Sikh women in age group 15-35 in 1991 was higher than the corresponding figure for the Sikh menfolk in the same age group.

And, in case the Sikhs continued to observe the current family planning norms, the killing of their youth during 1981-91 which is still going on would show phenomenal downfall in the Sikh population in the next decennial census in 2001.

The formal results of the census operations were yet months away. Mann was still fulminating when it was confirmed that the talks between some sections of militants and Prime Minister had taken place. These were confirmed by Dr. Jagjit Singh Chauhan U.K. based head of Khalistan as also Chandra Shekhar.78 One could only surmise whether Chauhan, a dubious character, had links with either Zaffarwal or Manochahal Committees, or possibly with both of them. Of all, Panthic Committee (Dr. Sohan Singh) was quite in the dark. It condemned those holding talks with Prime Minister as opportunists.

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The fall of Chandra Shekhar government over the issue of spying by two Haryana policemen at Rajiv’s house and India’s hurtling towards another general elections stampeded the various Akali factions towards the election fray. Chandra Shekhar played not a mean role in persuading those who had held talks with him in January last to participate in the elections both for Parliament and for Punjab provincial assembly.

Piqued at Congress(I)’s withdrawal of support, Chandra Shekhar, to begin with, was for holding simultaneous elections to Parliament and Provincial assembly seats in Punjab in May 1991 alongwith elections in other parts of India. For that, he over-ruled President R. Venkataraman who had certain reservations mainly because of boycott of Punjab elections by Congress(I).

Chandra Shekhar was partially moved by army’s strong recommendations to hold elections in Punjab at an early date. These in the eyes of the union Home Ministry had political overtones. The Army, not conversant with police links with certain militants and state-terrorist outfits, also talked of militant infiltration of security forces it projected a scenario of militancy taking the shape of urban insurgency. The Punjab Police, knowing its role, described it as ‘highly exaggerated’.80

In short, while the army was interested in thinning down its presence, if not complete withdrawal, the government was attempting to institutionalise army presence by its continued involvement in electoral process and after.

But hardly was the notification issued that the union Home Ministry changed its stance. Elections in Assam and Punjab both for Parliamentary seats and for provincial assembly were delinked. Ultimately these were fixed for June 7 and 21 respectively, i.e., almost four weeks in case of Punjab after the completion of process in other parts of India. The point of mischief was that it would enable the new government to play havoc with them. In that, Chandra Shekhar behaved like a crafty Purbea. It also showed his malefic intentions towards the ongoing political process in Punjab. He was acting more as a Congress(I) stooge notwithstanding his earlier good intentions.

The first round of polling to seats in Parliament took place on May 19, 1991. Rajiv was killed by a human bomb, Dhanu (the blessed one – real name Kalaivathi) of LTTE the following day. That led to postponement of the next two rounds of polling to mid June. By the time, the elections in Assam were completed, but not in Punjab.

The election fray only helped to show how fractured the Sikh polity was amidst Akalis, neo-Akalis, militants and pseudo-militants. The alignments were rather sharp.

Firstly, Simranjit Singh Mann, whose Akali Dal had won a mandate during the last general elections to Lok Sabha in 1989. His greatest handicap was that he could not have had the time to weld his party into a political machine. Having been catapulted into political fray after five years incarceration, he faced a great deal of limitations in finding sincere people committed to the cause. And like Sant Fateh Singh in 1960s, he ran the risk of being joined by infiltrators, this time intelligence agents.

Secondly, the alignment of Gurbachan Singh Manochahal, founder member of the first Panthic Committee formed in 1986, Bhai Mohkam Singh of Damdami Taksal and Bhai Manjit Singh of the AISSF. They had greatly felt encouraged after their parleys with Chandra Shekhar since January last. Gurtej Singh formerly IAS was, in the words of Avinash Singh, “believed to be the brain behind the indirect Central support to the federation led by Manjit Singh.”81 They at first

sought to corner 70 of 117 assembly and 7 of 13 Lok Sabha seats, leaving 40 assembly and 5 Lok

Sabha seats to Mann. Bhai Manjit Singh was projected as prospective Chief Minister. Manochahal

wanted to get accepted as Jathedar of Akal Takht. And, surprisingly, “Senior police officers have

been heard saying in private that there is very little crime against his name in police records.”82

There was, however, revolt in the AISSF and a section from Ferozepur and Kapurthala floated a

separate unit.

Thirdly, Badal who broke away from Mann-led Akali Dal. With well knit organisation at his

command, he was in full fray despite advice to the contrary of the AISSF (Manjit) activists.

83

Fourthly, Longowal Akali Dal and a host of others, not of much consequence.

Finally, the militant outfit led by Panthic Committee(Dr. Sohan Singh). They did not now

believe in the electoral process. The Committee had been greatly weakend because Dr. Sohan

Singh, the think tank of the Committee, was unwell, and according to some sources, had gone out of

India for treatment, or was no longer in command.

83a

Mann faced an uphill task. Firstly, he was at the receiving butt of the rest of the Sikh groups

in or outside the election fray. Secondly, he was involved in gruelling arguments with the militants –

formerly led by Dr. Sohan Singh whose mantle now fell on Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar of Babbar

Khalsa International – not to thwart the electoral process by the bandh call given by them for June

21-22. He made earnest attempts to convince them by utterances and by insertions in the daily Ajit

of Jalandhar that they could “achieve their goal by launching a two-pronged struggle” and that there

was no contradictions between their struggle by bullet and his by ballot. These were rather

complementary. That was especially so as the militants considered Bhai Manjit Singh, in the words

of Gobind Thukral of Hindustan Times, “as an agent of the Centre.”

84

Mann spoke of the need to revamp the entire administration, stop fake encounters,

‘involuntary disappearance’ of the Sikh youth, and dismantle the oppressive machinery which was

serving as the handmaid of the Centre. The enactment of a special law absolving the police

personnel of their oppressive and illegal deeds in case of Akalis coming in to power in Punjab was

provocative.

Objectively speaking, one could say that Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar on whom fell the

mantle of Dr. Sohan Singh Panthic Committee failed to appreciate that extremists and fellow

travellers, functioning within the constitutional framework had always played an important role in

furthering the cause of revolution. They have throughout history worked within the parameters laid

down by the imperialist or authoritarian powers, and availed of the constitutional processes

whatsoever available. It had been in the interest of revolutionaries to see that the position of the

extremists and cohorts was not compromised, much less overwhelmed, especially by pseudo

militants or counter revolutionaries. Sukhdev Singh’s distrust of the plank of Mann and Badal to

seize power to dismantle the oppressive machinery and cause all round demoralisation, and instead

go in for boycott of the elections, showed an utter lack of political processes. He failed to

appreciate the distinctions between militants and extremists, or for that matter between militants and

terrorists on the one hand, and extremists, moderates and quislings on the other. He also failed to

realise that militants cannot overthrow the Indian system, only weaken it. Banda Singh Bahadur did,

and could, seize Punjab, but failed against the imperial, read Indian, might. The success of the Sikhs

later could be attributed to Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali’s softening up of the Mughal

administration. In short, Sukhdev Singh lacked a wider perspective, and failed to come out of the narrow grooves and operate as a leader of broader set up rather than the Babbars.

By the time, electioneering formally came to a close, polling to 11 Assembly and two Lok Sabha seats had been countermanded because of killing of candidates, while election to another set of 11 Assembly and one Lok Sabha seats was fixed for June 22.

By June 19, it was obvious that Congress(I) had improved its position as the largest single party, well short of majority, in the Lok Sabha. It was also obvious, because of political permutations, it was out to form the next government at the Centre. By midnight, Chief Election Commissioner, T.N. Seshan, a nominee of Rajiv to the post and who had conducted the May-June 1991 elections as a circus master, conspired with President R. Venkataraman and postponed the Punjab elections to September 25. Lameduck Prime Minister, Chandra Shekhar, was not even consulted. A disillusioned Governor, Gen. Malhotra, resigned in protest. Akali Dal(Mann) called it a ‘fascist’ act. The daily Tribune (Chandigarh) wrote, “It will be seen as an act of betrayal, one more in a chain of such acts.”

85

In a unique move, Mann candidates wrote to the United Nations Secretary General, Javier Peres de Cuellar “to have the elections conducted in Punjab under the aegis of the U.N. to stop the tide of gross and systematic violations of the human rights.” They added, “Punjab has become a colony of the Centre’s rule and the Sikhs have been enslaved.” Mann also appealed to the militants to stop fratricidal war and change their strategy to avoid serious repercussions.

By mid-August, Akali Dal (Mann) and the AISSF (Manjit) announced ‘complete unity’ between the two groups. Knowledgeable circles termed it very damaging to Mann.

86

With Congress(I) back in power at the Centre, it initiated a multipronged policy for suppression of the Sikhs. P.V. Narasimha Rao, the new Prime Minister was an old war horse of Indira vintage. He had long been associated with Indira’s Sikh baiting policies. He had willy nilly been a part of Indira’s Brahminical zeal.

The appointment of Surindra Nath, a retired I.P.S. officer, the first from that service to get such an appointment, was indicative of the new government’s resolve to turn Punjab into a police state. He had earlier been adviser after Operation Bluestar. This caused a setback to Tejendra Khanna’s moves to assert supremacy of civil services over the police raj. The oppressive state machinery felt greatly encouraged. The security forces in cooperation with the army by July 1991 turned sufficient heat on the militants who, according to some reports, chose to fan out into some convenient places in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Soon the union government refused to go by the electoral process. To it, even Bhai Manjit Singh or Manochahal were not acceptable. Surjeet wanted Narasimha Rao to go ahead with the elections, combined with a package deal based on Rajiv-Longowal Accord. He went on to assure Narasimha Rao that Akalis won’t participate in the election process, leaving the field free to Congress(I) and others.

It was as a result of such manoeuvrings that Tohra in August 1991 floated the idea of support to the “militant Sikh struggle” by boycotting the elections. Already, he had sought tankhahiya Buta Singh’s support in elections to Delhi Sikhs Gurdwara Management Committee

executive posts. The militants, especially aligned to Panthic Committee (Dr. Sohan Singh) erroneously thought that Tohra was adopting their line. Their motivations were different.

The bringing about of ‘complete unity’ between Akali Dal (Mann) and the AISSF (Manjit) during the period was a step in the same direction – to incapacitate Mann and tame him. Already, he had been considerably weakened by defections. Political experts termed the ‘unity’ an abject surrender on the part of Mann.87

His plunging in another two months to extend support to beleaguered Muslim leaders on Ayodhya shrine is to be seen as an effort to regain ground; so were the forays of militants in areas outside Punjab. And, their kidnapping of Romanian diplomat Liviu Radu fell in the same category.

The government at first wanted to intensify its Sikh genocidal policy before choosing to go in for elections. It brought back KPS Gill as Director General of Police in Punjab overcoming Governor Surendra Nath’s initial resistance. The union government underscored the continuation of legal anarchy in Punjab. Gill during this period was only a henchman, and a native at that. The real power lay with Director General, Intelligence, O.P. Sharma, who got orders directly from the Intelligence Bureau who called the shots. Joyce Pettigrew adds, “in the Punjab law and order issues are controlled by Delhi.”

87a

Gill revamped the police set up by inducting handpicked young I.P.S. Officers, mainly from outside Punjab. He placed them as SSPs (Senior Superintendents of Police) at district level. They began their service career with extra legal powers of life and death, outside the pale of civil power, judiciary or even the constitution. He also drafted as SSPs coldblooded rankers who had excelled themselves in cruelty and heartlessness.87b

They were assisted by SHOs (Station House Officers) in police stations who had a direct line to Gill who called the shots and/or provided the cover. Police in Punjab now virtually became mercenary.

The policy of summary execution of suspects got buttressed. It had “the blessings of some key officials at the Centre as borne out by series of secret communications from Delhi.” Kanwar Sandhu adds that when Sanjeev Gupta, a young SSP inadvertently justified fake encounters, V.S. Vaidya, Special Director (and later, Director of Intelligence Bureau) wrote to Gill on December 30, 1991, “They (district officials;) should refrain from even implicitly hinting that they indulge, connive or approve of anything which is in violation of the law of the land. Their professional compulsions in executive action should not get reflected in their public utterances.”88

Obviously, police excesses ‘were to be projected as militant propaganda and in some cases as a result of inter-gang rivalry.

From mid-November 1991 armed forces were inducted in Punjab in a big way. Already the police sponsored gangs were striking terror in the villages especially in Doaba region. They looted the people of their cash, jewellery and other valuables like imported cameras, tape recorders, VCRs and watches.89 Earlier, it was the government sponsored ‘black underwear brigades’ which in the words of Sumeet Vir Singh and Sunit Das Gupta stalked the Malwa and terrorised simple village folk.90 The police all over were virtually running extortion rackets’. Harindar Baweja added that “common also are fake encounters and harassment of those who harbour militants under duress”.

91

Right from the word go, the Operation Rakshak II by the army meant terror for all – the militants who chose to show their firepower in vulnerable areas in Ludhiana, Sangrur and Ropar, or chose to spill over to Haryana and Terai area in U.P., and the simple villagers who lived to tell the tales of horror. The people were not only systematically deprived by the police and security forces

of their belongings but also of their honour. The CRPF Chief especially sought to justify the large scale rape of women as that, in his views, would change the gene of the forthcoming Sikh generations. The army “actively helped the police pick up youth” and to escape from “disappearances, that occurred subsequently in police or paramilitary custody,” let the credit go to the police and para military forces. It tried to apply balm by offering the people medical facilities and supplying them general merchandise and provisions through army’s Canteen Stores Department shops. By the time, Punjab was held down by 750 paramilitary companies and several army divisions.

The poignancy of the situation in Punjab was brought to the fore by the report of the two man team of Swiss Workers Assistance Organisation, consisting of Mr. Hanspeter Spaas and Hans-Ueli Raaflaub. They visited parts of Punjab in their private capacity during 1991. According to them, “All government bodies, including the Punjab police, paramilitary units and the armed forces, systematically violate the human rights that are internationally recognised, no less than also the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.” People were arrested illegally, systematically subjected to torture, and those released were rearrested on flimsy grounds. “During house searches, the women, other relatives and children are systematically beaten up, maltreated, sexually abused. and even raped.” The civil and judicial authority had been “reduced virtually to a naught and was completely powerless.” The report took note of “the growing sense of psychological insecurity among the Sikhs who ran the risk of discrimination in treatment everywhere in the country”.92 Even Khushwant Singh whose position could very well be likened to that of a police spokesman, concedes that while the Sikhs in Punjab got what Bacon called “wild justice”, in Haryana they were victims of an insensate “desire to revenge” at the hands of “most of the populace.”93 It was worse, the security personnel disguised themselves as militants, knocked at the people’s houses, committed atrocities on them, resorted to extortions for private gains. Then there were depredations by former militants, mentioned as Cats by the people, and some groups like those of Hindus raised as fake Sikhs by Surendar Kumar Billa of Amritsar who operated with the blessings of the security forces, to cause anathema against the militants.94 They were criminals, pure and simple. But the militants did not escape the flak. Adds Chandan Mitra, “The police undercover operations have added to the confusion over genuine and fake militancy.”

95

When the fear was writ large on the people’s faces, the Panthic stalwarts – Parkash Singh Badal, Simranjit Singh Mann, Baba Joginder Singh, Bhai Manjit Singh, Kartar Singh Narang and Sukhbir Singh Khalsa (who was held under TADA but released conveniently to attend the conclave) – met on January 4, 1992, at Chandigarh and unanimously decided to boycott the forthcoming elections. They decided to make formal announcement once the poll notification was issued by the centre. The meeting was said to be upshot of stern directive from the Panthic Committee (Dr. Sohan Singh). As Ramesh Vinayak of India Today shortly afterwards observed, “In principle it was the best move: in practice it is fast proving a disaster.”96

And, disaster it was, with Akalis throwing to wind the opportunity to seize power and dismantle the “oppressive machinery” in a prelude to achieve their objectives.

Badal and Mann had been stampeded into the decision against their better judgement. Bhai Manjit Singh said that he would abide by it so long Badal and Mann kept themselves out of the election fray. That was the principal Congress objective and Bhai Manjit Singh seemed to be acting as their agent. Sukhjinder Singh of Badal Akali Dal was the only major Akali leader to see the futility of the decision. He resolved to contest. Many militants and their families put pressure in vain on their leaders to contest the elections.

Congress(I) felt greatly relieved at the Sikh leadership’s falling prey to its machinations and committing harakiri. It spent no sleepless nights at the thought that the elections would be a farce. And, it had earlier enacted a similar one in Assam without losing its equanimity. Presently, annexing 13 Lok Sabha seats from Punjab to make the Congress(I) position comfortable was an overriding objective.

Polling campaign was reduced to two weeks. The notification for elections issued on January 25, fixed the polling for February 19, 1992.

The government left nothing to chance. Encouraged by six Panthic set ups decision to boycott, it charted an elaborate plan to prevent filing of nomination papers by candidates of a host of political parties. Shiromani Akali Dal (Sukhjinder), Bahujan Samaj Party of Kanshi Ram, and Kisan Mazdoor Party came in for special dispensation, while Akali Dal (Kabul), BJP, CPI and even CPM candidates too were not shown any better treatment.

The reports about detention of scores of candidates being prevented from filing their nominations did not bestir the government. Some of the candidates were taken into custody by the police from the rooms of hapless Returning Officers. The Governor and Chief Secretary received over a dozen telegrams on February 2-3 from leaders of various parties protesting against the mischief, to no effect. The state unit of the CPI urged the party to get away from the futile exercise when Congress(I) was going to stage a coup.97 Shortly afterwards, CPI State Secretary said, “This election is going to be a farce. First, the candidates were stopped by Police from filing their nominations, then detained and later forced to withdraw, and those who are there are prisoners of police.”

98

Sukhjinder Singh whose candidates were prevented enmasse in filing nomination papers was forced to boycott the elections saying that these were “neither going to be free nor independent. ““He asked those who had been successful in filing their papers to withdraw.

The Hindustan Times correspondent observed that the complaint about police preventing people from filing nomination papers were “too numerous and specific”. But the Chief Election Officer’s silence and that of Chief Election Commission were enigmatic.

Bahujan Samaj Party candidates came in for special treatment at the hands of Congress(I) goons, who even resorted to killing some of them. But for violence against them, BSP leaders felt they could have annexed about 45 seats.

In view of the militants plea for boycotting the elections, fear stalked the countryside and polls kindled no hope. The employees whether from within the state or those from the neighbouring states including Delhi stalled to be posted on election duty in Punjab.

It was a terribly low key campaign and villages talked about untold repression at the hands of the security forces who pressurised the people to cast their votes.

Despite all the efforts of the security forces, only 21.6 per cent of the voters chose to exercise their franchise.100 In majority of 70 rural constituencies, polling ranged from 5 to 10 per cent. In urban areas, opposition including Janta Dal, and leftists – both CPI and CPM-alleged

massive rigging and manipulation of the results.101

Congress polled under 10 per cent of votes but

secured 87 out of 117 seats in the Assembly, and 12 out of 13 in Parliament. Akali Dal (Kabul) was

routed.

The Times of India (editorial, February 22, 1992) surmised that the clout of the militants was

much more extensive than what the authorities have the world believe. It also spoke of the risk of

the communal divide further widening in Punjab. That was also the theme of Harkishan Singh

Surjeet who had contributed so much to Congress(I) victory. The union government or Congress(I)

were least bothered about the legitimacy of Congress(I) victory, or the feared communal

polarisation.

The swearing in of Beant Singh of Congress(I) as Chief Minister of Punjab provided the

facade of restoration of the civil government. The 57 months long President’s rule, the longest ever

in any state, and much beyond the very concept of the framers of the constitution, came to a formal

end. Verily, the constitution had failed. The Panthic leaders who by default had brought Beant

Singh to power were promptly put behind the bars.

The Chief Minister, or his council of ministers, had no control whatsoever over the police or

paramilitary forces which continued to operate under the direct orders of Intelligence Bureau or

union Home Ministry.102

It, was a case of dyarchy.

Beant Singh’s collection of figures of those arrested under TADA during the last three years

for an answer to a question in Punjab Assembly by Mrs. Vimla Dang, a veteran communist leader,

brought the civil administration face to face with the police. He disclosed that there were 9,394

detenues under TADA at the end of 1989. These rose to 10,619 and 14,255 at the end of 1990 and

1991 respectively. The number stood at 13,516 as on February 29, 1992.

103

These figures were embarrassing as firstly, the government of India had mentioned a figure

of 1,218 persons detained in Punjab as on June 15, 1991 to the Amnesty International. Secondly,

the actual number of persons detained in Punjab jails did not tally with these figures. Thirdly, these

tended to give credence to Amnesty International which had contended that there were between

15,000 to 20,000 persons detained in Punjab jails.104

Amnesty figures could be nearer the truth as

people were held under various other provisions besides TADA.

There was need for Punjab police to demonstrate that induction of Beant Singh government

did not impinge on its supremacy. It struck at Ajit Singh Bains, a retired Judge, and Chairman of

Punjab Human Rights Organisation, on April 3, 1992. He was arrested, handcuffed, publicly

paraded and humiliated in other ways. He was charged under the almighty TADA. The Punjab and

Haryana High Court Bar Association struck work. Even Geneva based International Commission

of Jurists was perturbed at the gross violation of the rule of law. But his brother judges of Punjab

and Haryana High Court, and those of the Supreme Court later, gave him a tardy justice as if the

Sikhs were outside the pale of the Constitution.

Such type of bizarre acts shored up international attention. It were as a result of disclosures

made by Amnesty International, Asia Watch – an American human rights body which had made an

on the spot assessment in Punjab – and other human rights groups, including persistent efforts of

Gurmit Singh Aulakh of Washington who had developed good contacts on the Capitol Hill, besides

the visiting teams of Members of Parliament from other countries, that Dan Burton, a Republican

Representative of the U.S. Congress, assisted by Les Aspin, a Democrat and Chairman of the

powerful Armed Services Committee, and a score of other members from both sides, introduced a

Bill, “Jutice in India Act” in the House Representative in May 1992. It sought termination of the

U.S. development assistance to India unless New Delhi repealed repressive laws. Significant

mention was made of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, National Security Act,

Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, Armed Forces (Punjab and Chandigarh) Special Powers Act,

and Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act.

105

The union Home Ministry nonchalantly continued to lend support to Gill’s thesis of treating

Punjab problem a mere law and order problem.

The militants on Beant Singh’s induction followed a multi-pronged policy. Their objectives

were, one, to scare away non-Punjabis as shown by their strike at Sangrur; two, to continue to make

their presence felt as at Ludhiana in April which, in the words of Gobind Thukral of Hindustan Times,

made many Hindus” to say “if the government cannot control the situation, separation is a

solution;”106 three, to make the farmers not to sell wheat to government agencies (which anyhow

offered them a pittance in return) whose procurement in spring 1992 was quite unsatisfactory; four,

revive Khalsa Panchayats on resignation of Panchas and Sarpanchas which were forthcoming in a big

way, despite the presence of army;107 and five, bend the instruments of state by diktats to civil and

political officials. The appeal issued to the militants by engineers and staff of Bhakra mainline

seeking “forgiveness for any mistake committed intentionally or unintentionally in the past” signified

that it was having its impact.108

The code of conduct issued by Babbar Khalsa International to local

Radio and TV unit to accord Punjabi language the same status as was given to Tamil in Tamilnadu

or Bengali in Bengal was met in a major way only after they had regretfully beheaded M.L.

Manchanda, Station Engineer of Patiala Radio unit, in May 1992.

Beant Singh’s position was only that of a captive, a willing tool, at best a spectator of the

drama that was unfolding itself. He was making efforts to bypass the militants and Akalis, and rech

directly the hearts of the people. The magisterial enquiry indicting police excesses at Behla village in

Tarn Taran police district on June 8-9, 1992, where the Police brutally used civilians in their clash

with the militants, was an exercise at fence mending.

109

So were his emphasis upon his mentors in New Delhi to remove deficient aspects of Rajiv-

Longwal Accord and implement the provisions on Chandigarh, borders and river waters more

equanimously. His pleas that all post-1966 agreements on river waters be scrapped and the issue

looked de novo, or the villages be transferred between Punjab and Haryana on the basis of 1991

census,110

reflected his desperation to show positive results.

But Beant Singh or his ministers had no answer to the complaints about brutality and

endemic corruption in police ranks. Even “in elite living rooms of Chandigarh, Amritsar or Patiala,

the decibel levels of criticism are almost deafening.”111

And, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao who

knew that the security agencies were on threshold of a major break through, in an interview

published in Hindustan Times of June 8, 1992, expressed his lack of knowledge of the much talked

about package deal on Punjab. It was his Home Minister, S.B. Chavan, who had spoken repeatedly

about that, giving various deadlines. So had the members of CPI and CPM who expected the

government to initiate political process in Punjab.

It was not long that the militants met a severe set back. The security forces did achieve a major breakthrough for various reasons. Firstly, some of the militant set ups by holding talks with Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar in early 1991, on assurances of safe passage, had uncannily exposed their contacts. That had been a Juvenile act, as none of the militant set ups had a liberated zone as a base for their operations. The security forces worked upon the lead provided by the militants for next year and a half to yield rich dividends. Secondly, the transition in leadership from Dr. Sohan Singh (who had gone away to Pakistan) to Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar caused loosening of control in some of the key militant groups. The genuine militants made desperate efforts to discipline their cadres and, in the words of Chandan Mitra, “restore an ideological content.”112

Before the militants could plug loopholes, the security forces were a success in penetrating the major set ups. They had been betrayed down the drain.

By mid-1992, the militant leadership had been reduced to the position of sitting ducks. The police in July-August cornered in their dens over a score of leading militants who were mostly killed in cold blood. It yielded the police force rich divided of Rs. 1.5 crore (Rs 15 million) in prizes.

Among those killed during the first phase were as follows:

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1. Kalistan Liberation Force (KLF): Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala, Chief, Gurbachan Singh, Lt. General and Area Commander. Police also claimed prize on Navroop Singh Dhotian who took over from Budhsinghwala, by killing an innocent person. Dhotian was later admitted to be at large.

2. Babbar Khalsa International (BKI): Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar, Chief, and Dr. Sahibi, a Lt. General.

114

3. Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan (BTFK): Rachhpal Singh Chhandra, Chief of Sangha group, Jagdish Singh Disha, Devender Singh, and Sukhram Singh Mazhbi, all Lt. Generals; and Hardev Singh Kalia and Jaspal Singh Pala, Lt. Generals of the other group.

4. Khalistan Commando Force (KCF): Sukhwinder Singh, Lt. General and Member Panthic Committee (Zaffarwal), and Jarnail Singh Bool, Lt. General; and Surinderjit Singh ‘Shinda’, Jagroop Singh ‘Rupa’, Paramjit Singh ‘Pamma’ and Dilsher Singh ‘Shera’ all Lt. Generals.

Police wove fanciful stories about encounters. Writing of death of Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala and Sukhdev Singh Babbar, both of whom according to police died at Ludhiana within 10 days of each other, Gobind Thukral observed, “There are many holes in the police theory that these top militants had died in encounters, but the fact is that they died at the hands of the police.”115 According to informed sources, Budhsinghwala had been betrayed into police custody, and died of torture. Similarly, Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar had been taken into police custody, but had managed to swallow a capsule which brought about his death in an hour’s time, when he was being driven from Patiala towards Ludhiana.116

The police floated stories about Sukhdev Singh’s affluent living, and living with one of the alleged Nabha sister, Jawahar Kaur, a neighbourer and even having a son from her. These were half truths aimed at character assassination.

There were a number of cases of mistaken identity and in the words of Capt Kamaljit Singh of Akali Dal (Kabul) “cash rewards given to the police for killing militants is turning them into mercenaries.”

117

The police in a written statement claimed that Bhai Sukhdev Singh was involved in 1,000 killings, including that of the Sant Nirankari Chief, Baba Gurbachan Singh. Cry went up that if he

was the killer, why was Bhai Ranjit Singh, Head Priest of Akal Takht being tried for that in Delhi?

The state government, unabashedly, reduced the number of killings attributed to Sukhdev Singh to

10, i.e. one per cent of the police figure, and that the Sant Nirankari Chief was not one of them.118

The denial was necessitated by the fact that the trial in Tihar Jail was in final stages, and Sukhdev

Singh figured no where in it. It only showed that both the police and the state government were

resorting to untruths. The police statement also stated that only seven top militants had yet to be

accounted for.

The death of Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar on August 9, led to retaliatory killing of 47

relatives of policemen in two days. That caused a lot of demoralisation of a force whose morale, as

shown by Behla incident of June last, was already low. In view of the delicate stage of anti-militancy

operations, Beant Singh was able to pressurise the Union Defence authorities not to reduce, much

less withdraw as originally scheduled, the army presence in Punjab.

This led to manifold developments. One, Gill with the assistance of army and paramilitary

forces mounted Operation Night Dominance. This exercise in area clearance in practical parlance

meant, as a senior army officer confided, extermination or capture of the Sikh youth, 15-35 years of

age, and brutal suppression of the civilian population living there. Army surrounded the villages

while police and paramilitary forces combed the villages subjecting the people to uncivilized norms

in violation of human rights or human dignity. This had the tacit approval of the union authorities.

The CPI felt perturbed at the ‘official lawlessness’ and intensified exposing individual cases of police

excesses.119 A direct off shoot of Operation Night Dominance was that Manochahal group of

Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan (BTFK) was wiped out.120

Manochahal himself was believed

to be in police custody, to be used at a later date as the situation demanded. Other prominent

militants killed were the KCF (Zaffarwal) Additional Chief, Khajan Singh Sattowal on September 12,

BTFK (Sangha)Chief, Balwant Singh, KCF(Panjwar) Chief Sukhdev Singh Sukha on September 17.

With these, the police claimed to have eliminated all the known militants.

Two, conversely, Bhai Manjit Singh decided in August to float Akali Dal(Manjit) to operate

at political level. This had direct link with the downward trend in militancy and upbeat mood of the

police.

Three, the police now started enacting the drama of surrender by a large number of

militants. At a public ceremony attended by Punjab Chief Minister, the star attraction was Gurdeep

Singh Sibia of London, believed to be the founder of Babbar Khalsa International. He was

immediately whisked away to the disappointment of the journalists present.

121

Four, encouraged by downward trend in militancy, villagers started standing up to the

terrorists scanning the countryside. And, to their horror, truth was bared when they came face to

face with policemen indulging in such acts of rape, rapine and exactions. For instance, Hindustan

Time’s of September 26, 1992, reported three incidents in Jagraon, Samrala and Ropar police districts

wherein the villagers in close combats killed, injured, and caught policemen of various ranks

alongwith their AK-47 rifles. This did not cause any flutter in Delhi which regarded Punjab a

colony.

Five, Beant Singh accepted the supremacy of KPS Gill in Punjab affairs and adopted a policy

of all out confrontation of Akalis to please his central masters. He now started talking through his

hat, literally his turban, and was now merely a puppet.

Six, Beant Singh upstaged the opposition parties with peaceful holding of the civic elections to 95 municipal committees covering 1341 members in early September 1992. Voter turn out was 70 percent, with Akalis participating in the electoral process. Congress(I) won a clear majority only in 17 municipal committees. In others, Akalis, communists, BJP and independents registered massive victory. In 22 committees, Congress(I) drew a blank. Beant Singh with the help of police sought to improve the Congress position by marshalling support of dissident Congressmen who had won defying the official candidates, and independents. Police went to the extent of arresting elected members from opposition parties at the inaugural meetings to influence cooption of some members by the rump belonging to Congress(I).

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An indirect offshoot of the hardening of the government stance towards the militants was the judicial murder of Sukhdev Singh Sukha and Harjinder Singh Jinda of Khalistan Commando Force for killing Gen (retired) A.S. Vaidya.

Sukha and Jinda were tried under TADA by a designated court at Pune. A close reading of the judgement revealed that they were acquitted under TADA, but convicted under sections 307, 302 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. The case should have gone to the Maharashtra High Court and not directly taken up by the Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court against all canons of law and equity was in a hurry to confirm their death sentences. The legal luminaries were aghast. Sukha and Jinda had no confidence in fairplay of the Supreme Court and did not even appeal for reconsideration, much less tender a mercy petition to the President.

The efforts of the Panthic leaders at various stages, and especially of Mann on October 8, to make the Chief Justice, M.H. Kania to see reason even at that late stage, only led to late night sordid drama at first at the residence of Chief Justice and later at the Supreme Court at 11 p.m. when two judges went through the formal motion of turning down the plea. It only helped to “undermine the credibility of Chief Justice’s post”,123

and left rancour in the mind of the Sikh community as to the relevance of the judicial processes. Earlier on September 27, the Supreme Court had stayed action against 8 police officials who were facing disciplinary action because of their role in 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom.

Sukha and Jinda were hanged on October 9, 1992, amidst sounding of a general alert. Akalis gave a bandh call for three days. The same day victims of 1984 riots in Delhi staged a demonstration at the Boat Club, seeking action against the guilty, and CPM demanded of the government to explain the ‘unexplainable delay’ in calling in the Army to quell the riots in 1984 as charged by Chander Parkash of the police department, and the inordinate delay in punishing the guilty. An Akhand Path for Sukha and Jinda’s salvation commenced at Akal Takht on October 16, but the government assured that there was no gathering. The top Akali leaders were arrested to prevent their participation in the bhog ceremony.

But the Indian authorities looked askance at the introduction of a concurrent House resolution in early October by Republican Congressman Ban Blaz, a member of the American House Foreign Affairs and Armed Forces Committees. It was co-sponsored by nine other legislators. It referred to Punjab as Khalistan and called for self-determination for the Sikhs in Punjab. It advocated that the Sikhs “like all people of all nations, have the right to self determination and should be afforded the opportunity to decide on their own future through a plebiscite sponsored or supervised by the United Nations.” It also highlighted the Indian army and

para-military force’s committing “heinous brutalities with impunity in Khalistan”. The resolution

was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Dr. Gumit Singh Aulakh of Washington was

the influential figure behind the resolution.

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The police and security forces continued their heinous operations. It simply meant insensate

police atrocities rising above the constitution and “becoming its own worst enemy.”125

Some of the

cases may be cited with advantage.

One, the militants killed 16 bus passenger on December 1, 1992. The police swiftly

eliminated 19 Sikhs in a “fierce encounter” at Makhu in Ferozepur district. A Hindustan Times

editorial (December 4), pointed out that “it is a moot point whether such retributive action, open to

question, really serves the purpose.”

Two, the police on December 25, picked up Bhai Gurdev Singh Kaonke former Jathedar of

Akal Takht from his village and tortured him to death. This raised a storm of protest. The whole

village of Kaonke in Jagraon police district was subjected to police highhandedness.

Three, on January 1, 1993, the police announced the death of Nasib Singh of Khalistan

National Army in ‘encounter’. Four days earlier, after few attempts, he had been handed over by

Ganganagar police to Ferozepur police. So had been the case with a number of militants earlier

arrested by Rajasthan authorities and handed over to the Punjab police. The Rajasthan authorities

now told Punjab police not to enter Rajasthan without informing the local authorities. They also

conveyed that henceforth they would not hand over anyone unless his involvement in terrorist

activities in Punjab was proved by competent authorities. Similar action followed in West Bengal

when a Punjab police party went all the way to Calcutta to shoot down an alleged militant shortly

afterwards.

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Four, on January 6-7, 1993, Punjab police in the words of the correspondents of the Sunday

Observer (January 10, 1993) outdid Gabbar Singh of Sholay fame in their ransacking of Biromajri and

nearby villages in Fatehgarh Sahib district. A few days earlier, a group of policemen had raped three

women of the village. On January 6, 1993, the villagers saw a posse of armed commandos or state

terrorists coming to the village. The raped women identified one of them in the rape crime. They

were disarmed and beaten by the villagers who also informed the nearby army camp. The police

came to the site in strength and rescued their colleagues, using force. Thereafter, it let loose a reign

of terror in Biromajri and surrounding areas. Even children and old men were subjected to police

torture, and women humiliated. Houses were ransacked. Police smashed cycles, scooters, tractors,

electric and electronic goods most wantonly. Terrorised, the people fled the village. The

Association for Democratic Rights in vain sought judicial enquiry into the incidents and asked for

punishing the guilty.

l27

Five, Kulwant Singh Saini a lawyer from Ropar was called to the police station on January

25, 1993, for release of a lady arrested that morning. His wife along with minor son chose to

accompany him. They were tortured to death. The agitation by the Punjab, Haryana and

Chandigarh lawyer made police to change its version of the incident. From his not being wanted in

any case, police now showed him to be the kingpin of terrorism.

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Beant Singh, acting as a faceless robot, faced with police excesses in Kaonke, Biromajri and

Ropar could do nothing against the almighty police. Jagmit Singh Brar, a party M.P. wanted the

Chief Minister to admit moral responsibility and quit. Beant Singh was an amoral person and had no scruples or conscience.

Similarly terrorised were the Sikhs in Terai region during the autumn of 1992. A team of Citizens for Democracy and Peoples Union of Civil Liberties headed by Justice(Retired) Mahabir Singh which visited the area recorded gruesome details of police excesses.

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It was not surprising that the Bush administration, shortly before demitting office, in its annual report to the U.S. Congress on January 19, 1993, listed “significant abuses” in various parts of India, especially Punjab and Kashmir. It specifically mentioned of “police, paramilitary and army excesses against civilians”, extra judicial actions (beating, extortion, torture, rape and fake ‘encounter’ killings) by police against detainees throughout India, incommunicado detention of prolonged periods without charge, using national security legislation. It also recorded India’s failure to prosecute police and security forces implicated in abuses.

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It was amidst such an atmosphere of police hamhandedness that Panchayat polls were held in four rounds between January 16 and 22, 1993. The turn over was 82 percent. Congress(I) had nothing but to rely on police management. It was better this time than during the municipal elections. The opposition parties including CPM, CPI, Akali Dal and Bhartya Kisan Union gave many instances of their candidates being illegally detained by the police. In many cases, the nomination papers of Akali Dal(Mann) candidates were “torn by the police in presence of the presiding officers.”131 Harpreet Singh mentions that in Amritsar district a majority of Sarpanchas were “nominated by threat and not by the approval of the people.” Further that, “‘unopposed’ election of approved candidates were managed by police”. He named a large body of villages which had returned “supporters of terrorists (read, supporters of state-sponsored terrorists) as Sarpanchas at the behest of the Transport Minister, Master Jagir Singh”.132 In the words of Gobind Thukral, “The only vitiating factor, the misuse of the official machinery to tilt the results in favour of the ruling Congress, has caused the Government sharp rebukes not only from Akalis, but from once the friendly left parties.”

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Encouraged by management of the Panchayat polls, Beant Singh now threatened to scrap the 1925 Gurdwara Act and later at Hola Mohalla celebrations at Anandpur Sahib in March sought popular support to reject Anandpur Sahib Resolution of which he showed little comprehension. He also showed lack of comprehension of the forces within the Congress working at tandem with those of Hindutava which of late had made rapid strides.

The rise of Hindutava, initiated by Indira Gandhi on the eve of 1980 elections, got spurt under Rajiv when the doors of Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi, closed since 1949, were thrown open and a shilanayas laid for construction of Ram Temple. The BJP naturally sought to steal the show, at first through Lal Krishan Advani’s Rath Yatra in 1989, and later through the Yatra of Murli Manohar Joshi from Kanya Kumari to Kashmir to hoist tricolour flag on the republic day of 1992 at Srinagar. But Joshi, faced insurmountable hurdles in Jammu, and, with the cooperation of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, was airlifted by the Indian Air Force to Srinagar. But the tricolour, Joshi brought all the way from Kanya Kumari, refused to go up. When he applied force, the antenna snapped and the flag fell flat on the ground. Thereafter, a grim faced Joshi hoisted the army-installed flag.

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This cooperation between Sangh Parivar and Narasimha Rao government got further enlarged during 1992 to rope in the highest judiciary, the Supreme Court. Mann was not far wrong to say that the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, was not possible without the cooperation of Sangh Parivar, Government of India and the Supreme Court. Incidentally, Supreme Court had earlier passed a “stay order’ on construction of a platform at the site, but had bent backwards to accommodate the forces of Hindutava which had defied the stay granted.135

Now in December, the union government, after imposition of President’s rule in U.P. on December 6, gave full 40 hours to those gathered at Babri Masjid site to construct a temporary temple structure. They were given convenient transport to disperse.

The Hindutava forces’ attempts to overwhelm the union government caused rumblings in sections of Congress(I). The opposition from within forced the hands of Prime Minister to stop the BJP rally slated for February 25, 1993, at the Boat Club, Delhi. Rajesh Pilot, the new Minister of Internal Security, toyed with the idea of inducting K.P.S. Gill as Secretary of his Ministry. Gill and Punjab police played their assigned role in foiling the BJP rally in the Capital. Some BJP leaders were treated roughly.136

The union government soon realised that it cannot do to the caste-Hindus, the ruling race, the same it did to the Sikhs in Punjab, Muslims in Kashmir and other parts, and Christians or tribals in northeastern India. The proposal to bring in Gill was eventually dropped.

The impending deployment of Gill to New Delhi raised the question as to what the police should do with Manochahal held in police custody since September last. Involved also was the huge prize money held on his head.

This led to Manochahal being killed in a contrived police encounter near Tarn Taran on February 28, 1993. It was given out that Manochahal had been staying in a bunker in the house of his sister, whose husband was Inspector in the CRPF. Lack of action against the Inspector indicated that Manochahal’s stay was with the approval and under supervision of the Punjab police. An inspired report by Harpreet Singh in the Hindustan Times of December 9, 1992, indicated that two months earlier, Pakistani ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) had taken three top militants, Wassan Singh Zaffarwal, Daljit Singh Bittu and Gurbachan Singh Manochahal to China for being imparted training – the last two having reached there via Nepal. Possibly, Manochahal had been promised release from police custody, but that was not to be. Disgusted at the police antics, Manochahal shortly afterwards resigned as Jathedar of Akal Takht to which he had been appointed in 1986. Now, on his death, Punjab police allegedly recovered his diaries. These revealed his political links with Congress(I) high ups in New Delhi. It was also disclosed that Bhai Manjit Singh was the top beneficiary of the monetary dispensation from him.137

It cannot be gainsaid whether Manochahal was tortured to death, or was simply shot, to yield the police Rs. 25 lakhs (2.5 million) prize held on his head.

In the wake of the announcement of Manochahal’s death, Punjab police announced on March 2, 1993, the surrender by 101 militants including half a dozen “‘A’ category terrorists”138

In August last, Gill had mentioned of only 7 top militants left. And of them, half a dozen had been eliminated in the following months. It was upto the police to increase or decrease the number of militants at large at a given time, irrespective of the contradictions involved. For, no questions could be asked.

And yet on March 7, 1993, police claimed to have shot dead Deputy Chief of KCF-Panjwar, Bachittar Singh Sensera alias Arjan Singh in Amritsar district, and two days later it claimed killing of

Dashmesh Regiment’s Chief Lakhwinder Singh alias Kehar Singh in a “fierce encounter” near

Batala.139

Gill again showed his supremacy in the power set up in Punjab in enforcing government’s

foiling of the Badal Akali Dal rally at Jalandhar on March 14; and a Longowal Akali MLA was beaten

up in Punjab Assembly the following day by Congress(I) ministers and MLAs in presence of the

Speaker. The sentence to life imprisonment in end-March 1993 of Bhai Ranjit Singh, Jathedar, Akal

Takht, by R.P. Gupta, Additional Sessions Judge, Delhi, on charges of murdering Baba Gurbachan

Singh, Nirankari Chief, and his not even giving him the rebate of nine years he had already spent in

Jail, was quite reflective of unjust times. Gill saw the hand of Khalistan Liberation Force in bomb

blasts in Bombay, while Maharashtra police and the union Home Ministry had no such

hallucinations.

Rebuffed, Gill in early April 1993, to emphasise his indispensability to the Indian set up in

Punjab, (he was already on extension after superannuation), opined that Babbars and Khalistan

Liberation Force are still strong and that Babbars especially still retain their puritanical impression in

the rural Punjab”. He also vouchsafed that “their hideouts are safe.”140

Gill sought to derive

propaganda mileage by stage managing public surrender of Kulwant Singh Babbar, of Akhand Kirtni

Jatha, on April 14, 1993, before the Chief Minister. The Punjab police shortly afterwards, however,

shot a number of Babbars in ‘fierce’ encounters.

For achievement of New Delhi’s wider objectives it was essential that the police should

maintain its supremacy over the civil administration. Because of symbiotic relationship established

between its killing of the Sikh youth and getting rewards, apart from other benefits that went with

power and pelf without responsibility, the police was also anxious to do so. Already, the police

budget had shown a 30 time increase to Rs. 350 crores over a decade. Despite elimination of

militancy in Punjab, killing of Sikh youth continues. It will be too much to recall the reports in the

media about the people eliminated in euphemistically called ‘encounters’, cross-firings or otherwise.

Suffice it to say that over a period of about 20 months from mid-1992, according to Chief Minister

Beant Singh, the police garnered, 40,000 rewards for its action against the militants. At an average, 7

rewards per day. It must have killed atleast one lakh youth besides gobbling crores of rupees in

prizes overheads of the Sikh ‘militants’.

The converse side of police operations was their conducting tonsorial or shearing operations

involving the Sikh youth. Over the period, the movement caught on. And, Harpreet Singh of the

Hindustan Times reported that the Sikh youth in large numbers “are getting their hair shorn and beard

shaved off. . . The youth were doing so to convey the police that they had nothing to do with

militancy or Sikh struggle.”141

Not only that, even the Sikh policemen in order to ingratiate

themselves with their seniors, cast off their Keshas in large numbers.

The overall impact of the twofold police operations may be cited with advantage

* KPS Gill raised three special hit squads which operate with impunity all over northern India

including U.P., Gujarat, Maharashtra and as far as Bengal. The killing by Punjab police squad

of a Sikh couple Ranjit Singh and his wife Rani in East Calcutta on May 17, 1993, stunned and

surprised not only the Marxist government of West Bengal, but also invited adverse editorial

comments from leading dailies.142 Another glaring instance was the killing at Kota in Rajasthan

while in its custody by Punjab police of Dilbagh Singh Uppal, a businessman from Bombay; he

had been taken into custody at Bombay on July 6, 1993. A significant feature of all these extrajudicial

killings was that neither any government – centre or state – nor any of the numerous

High Courts or even the Supreme Court took cognisance of these highhanded acts of Punjab police. A public interest petition filed by spirited Dr. B.L. Wadhera, an Advocate in the Supreme Court, about killing in their sleep of Ranjit Singh and Rani by Punjab police at Calcutta on May 17, failed to activate the Supreme Court to pressurise Punjab police to even own up the killings, much less explain the reasons for that. After a year, on May 13,1994, with the consent of Punjab and West Bengal governments, the Supreme Court transferred the petition to Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI). Despite the ongoing CBI investigations, the Punjab police killed one Karnail Singh Koila on June 21,1994, in an ‘encounter’ in Howrah without intimating West Bengal government. The Punjab police cares two hoots for the rule of law, and the Supreme Court has shown selective interest in goings on in Punjab.

* Inbetween cropped up the row between Punjab Provincial Civil Services (PCS) officers and the Punjab police over the issue of police corruption. The police conveniently unearthed a plot to kill the puppet Chief Minister, Beant Singh. The PCS officers as a body showed solidarity with their brethren, and had the support of even officers of Indian Administrative Services on the points involved. Chief Minister repeatedly asserted that Punjab police was the holy cow: “Nothing against the police”, he kept telling every one. The stir ended up in whimper in August 1993.

* Benazir Bhutto’s coming to power in Pakistan in October 1993 helped yield India rich dividends in expulsion of some leading militants from Pakistan. Admittedly, she in 1989 had helped Rajiv Gandhi vis a vis Sikh militants as quid pro quo for his helping her against Zia and in return for lowering India’s profile in Sind. Considerations in 1993 were again similar. Dr. Sohan Singh, former head of Panthic Committee and half a dozen other prominent militants were arrested by Punjab Police on arrival at Kathmandu by the Pakistan International Airways in end October. Indian authorities had been suitably tipped. Sohan Singh was brought to India, while others were shot dead. The Punjab Chief Minister, Director General of Police and Intelligence Chief announced on November 4, 1993, their arrest from near Chandigarh for obvious reasons.

144

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The news management added to the stature of KPS Gill.

Verily, KPS Gill had become beau ideal of the bosses in New Delhi. Speaking at a book-release ceremony at Delhi, on November 30, 1993, Gill poignantly observed that the “issues like Chandigarh or river water are not the real problems. “He went on, “The main grudge of the Sikhs against the Hindus was the domination of Brahminical society.” With the quantum of killings he had done, thinking process of the Sikhs, he averred, had now changed.

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All sections of Brahminical society of northern India are for this change in outlook of the Sikhs. That applies to upper caste Hindus of all the major political parties – Congress(I), BJP, all factions of Janta Dal, and the Communists. That is also true of various instruments of government – executive, legislature and even judiciary.

The Supreme Court’s not activating itself, despite a public interest petition on May 17 Calcutta killing of the Sikh couple was one thing. In sharp contrast was the Supreme Court’s striking a vocal and discordant note at doings of Punjab police in the case of a caste Hindu, a member of the ruling race, in September-October 1993.

The facts of the case were simple. A caste Hindu lawyer, one Mr. Gogia, had enticed the major daughter of jat Sikh Deputy Commissioner of Hoshiarpur. Could the Punjab police be permitted to do to a caste Hindu what it was doing to hundreds of thousands of the Sikhs?

* For a fortnight the Judges of the Supreme Court ranted and roared at a reluctant Punjab police. They spent their valuable time, over hundreds of thousands of other cases pending for years, on Gogia case.

* The Chief Justice on September 20, wanted the Punjab Counsel to convey the ‘concern’ of the highest court to the Chief Minister and the Director General Police. Justice S. Mohan asked the Punjab Counsel, “Is there rule of law or that of the jungle there.” Then the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Venkatachaliah said unless the couple was produced before the Court by 4 p.m. next day, the Court “may be constrained to issue an order holding that the administrative machinery had broken down” in Punjab. The Chief Justice asked the Punjab Counsel to tell the Chief Minister that “the Court did not consider this case as another routine Punjab detention.” He meant, detaining the Sikhs was one thing, a caste Hindu quite another.

* The Gogia couple, released by the police, appeared in Supreme Court on September 23. Another two caste Hindus whose habeus corpus was admitted by the Supreme Court on September 22, were also released by the Punjab police.

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The Supreme Court, as such, asserted its facile supremacy over the Punjab police as custodian of rule of law in cases of members of the ruling race. The Judges backed out from indicting Punjab Police which had been doing so much in advancing the cause of Brahminism. The Punjab police emerged unscathed. The Supreme Court in the process formally laid down new concept of rights and justice available to citizens as individuals under the constitution. It virtually meant: show us the man, we shall show you the law.

Another facet of this demeaning situation was that Sikhism came under subversive attacks from within.

* The raking up of controversy on Sikh Rehat Maryada, Sikh Code of Conduct, in the second week of June 1993 by Damdami Taksal headed by its Acting Chief, Baba Thakar Singh, is to be seen in that light. A couple of weeks earlier, New Delhi was toying with the idea of holding the much delayed elections to the SGPC. Gobind Thukral mentions of Congress (I)’s desire to prop up Damdami Taksal to serve as its cat’s-paw.148 This controversy came to an unceremonious end in mid-August after a convoluted statement issued by Wassan Singh Zaffarwal blaming the ‘government agents,’ especially Tohra, for bringing the maryada issue to the centre stage of Sikh affairs to hamper the fight against ‘Delhi Durbar’.

* With the police ascendancy, the Sikh sants and deradars, savants and heads of diversionary sub-sects or hospices, of various hues bestirred themselves to the centre stage of Punjab’s social and religious life by organising congregations, singly and jointly. By selectively quoting from gurbani, Sikh scriptures, they sought to project the rightful place of a living guru and their relevance in the ongoing milieu. They sought to reinduct, in a subtle and not so subtle a manner, the Brahminical practices like idol or murti (picture) worship apart from asserting their own relevance as spiritual leaders to mould the society on new lines in deviation to the one laid down by the Sikh Gurus. The convening of the first Sant Samagam at Amritsar in December 1993-January 1994 under the auspices of Sant Makhan Singh of Dera Sant Amir Singh, Sattowali Gali, Amritsar, was one such major attempt to “subvert the Sikh theology.

149

150

* A seminar conducted in early 1994 under the auspices of Sant Sucha Singh of Jawadi Kalan, Ludhiana, too tended to cause misgivings in the Sikh circles. The Samagam showed that the Sikh sants of Malwa and Doaba by and large had been completely bowled over by the government’s influence while those of Majha were partly affected. The Sikh sants were providing a handle to strike at the roots of Sikhism.

The Sikh sants must understand that Guru Nanak’s Sikhism is based on revelation. So is the case with Islam and Christianity, while Hinduism is not. He had laid down the basic postulates of Sikhism and widely debated the theological issues with the followers of various schools of Hindu thought of his times. Brahminism’s coming into power in post-1947 India, does not change its fundamentals, to invite a reconsideration of the discarded propositions.

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* The onslaught on Sikh theology at the hands of Christian missionaries, now articulated by their cohorts, Peshora Singh and Piar Singh received adequate response from Akal Takht. Harjot Oberoi of Vancouver University, British Columbia,152 is another recruit espousing re-Hinduising of Sikhism. The basic Christian attempt has been to engulf the considerable Sikh population in North America and United Kingdom. They are considered vulnerable.

152a

This onslaught has awakened the Sikhs to the threat posed. But there is vast gulf in the resources of the two sides, and the Sikhs are facing an unequal fight. Broadly speaking, Brahminism has been in league with McLeodian offensive – the equation being established during the period of McLeod’s stay at Batala in early 1960s when there was complete bi-polarisation of Hindus and Sikhs because of the struggle for Punjabi Suba. This has been an ongoing process.

A saving grace has been the interest shown by human rights groups and American Senators culminating in President Clinton’s speaking up for “the Sikh rights”.

* The visit of US Deputy Asstt Secretary of State, John R. Mallot to India in latter half of May 1993, brought into sharp focus the US-India divergence on India’s “human rights problems.” It was attracting a lot of attention in the United States.

* The US State Department and Defence Security Agency in a presentation to the Congress in July 1993 withdrew tributes paid earlier to the Indian army’s record on human rights in its operations against ‘terrorists’.

153

154

* Peter Geren and 12 other members from both sides introduced on August 5,1993, a concurrent resolution in the House of Representatives asking for plebiscite to allow the Sikh nation “the right of self-determination”. A news release by the Council of Khalistan, Washington, indicated that its President, Gurmit Singh Aulakh was the moving spirit behind the resolution. This was an upshot of the final report on India submitted by the outgoing Bush administration to the Senate.

* This invited authoritative comments from the US Deputy Asstt. Secretary of State, John Mallot, that, “We are opposed to the creation of any sovereign state of Khalistan”, and that “Punjab is not disputed territory, and, from our viewpoint, it is an integral part of India.”

155

156

Hitherto, only Kashmir was integral part of India, the way Dalits were integral part of Hinduism. Did Mallot pick up this terminology of Punjab being an integral part of India from his talks with the Indian leaders during his visit to New Delhi in May last? Or, was it an independent American assessment? Punjab had really, by now, degenerated into being an integral part of India the way Kashmir is of India, or Dalits are of Hinduism. Mallot’s description of the situation, for once, was for the real.

* The American concern culminated in a letter dated November 17, 1993, from Gary A. Condit and 23 other members of the Congress to President Clinton requesting for the US “diplomatic

role in the Khalistan crisis”, and US’ playing “the role of an honest broker between the Sikh nation and the Indian government.”

* Shortly afterwards followed Amnesty International Report on involuntary disappearances in Punjab and Kashmir, subversion of legal proceedings, arbitrary arrests, a systematic pattern of cover-ups and the virtual impunity enjoyed by the security forces to perpetrate unspeakable human rights abuses.157 President Clinton’s reply of December 27, 1993, to Condit spoke of the need “to end police abuses” in context of “the human rights situation of the Sikhs in Punjab”, and his “desire for a peaceful solution that protects the Sikh rights.”

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Unexceptional words. But these helped to create a storm in caste-Hindus of all denominations and their cohorts in northern India. Though Clinton had not spoken of Khalistan, Government of India felt outraged as if speaking for an end to police abuses and for Sikh rights was a heinous crime. The Indian Foreign Office Spokesman in a statement on January 23, 1994, rejected any statement that sought “solution that protects Sikh rights”. Half a dozen former Foreign Secretaries chose to surrender their intelligence when in a joint statement they berated Clinton’s concern for Sikh rights as if he was questioning “India’s territorial integrity”. To caste Hindus of BJP, Janata Dal, Communists and Chandra Shekhar(who had once spoken against Operation Bluestar), Clinton’s remarks were misplaced and uncalled for. The Youth Wing of the ruling Congress(I) Party under protection of police bayonets organised a protest march to the US Embassy in New Delhi.

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The reaction of the Sikh organisations was in sharp contrast. They equated Clinton to Nawab Sher Mohamad Khan of Malerkotla who in early 18th

century had protested to the Governor of Sirhind against his unjustly punishing two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh. The Sikhs adopted resolutions at Gurdwaras in Punjab villages and other parts welcoming Clinton’s concerns and sent copies to the American Embassy in New Delhi. They also organised a peaceful march to the American Embassy to convey their thanks to President Clinton.

Another saving grace was tankhaiya Buta Singh’s presenting himself before Akal Takht and subjecting himself to punishment on January 26, 1994, for his heinous crimes committed in supporting the government at the time of Operation Bluestar and thereafter. Some saw in it Congress(I)’s deep game to get him rehabilitated within Sikhism to put him as a frontman to challenge Akali hold over the Gurdwaras in the forth-coming Gurdwara elections. Tohra’s hand for the purpose was also talked of. Others saw in it his succumbing to the family pressure, and pressure of his conscience. Whatever be the case, this was a welcome development. Though Buta Singh mentioned his religion as his personal affair, agnostic Harkishan Singh Surjeet saw in it negation of India’s secularism. Congress(I) members were perplexed at the timing, when the controversy over Clinton’s remarks was at its apex.

In view of the American concerns, attempts were made to humanise the police image, and later project it as champion of people’s rights.

* The attempts made in mid-1993 to establish liaison between the police and the villagers, especially Sarpanchas, proved abortive, as people spoke in unison against the thana level police officers who were thoroughly corrupt. It was generally surmised that Khaki (the police uniform) was still a terror in the Punjab countryside.

* Notwithstanding the set back, by autumn KPS Gill proceeded to organise seminars on “Indian Police and Human Rights” under his auspices. That was a bold attempt to give a facile lift to

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police image. A beginning was made in early October 1993, with a two-day seminar at

Chandigarh. A number of journalists and others participated and expressed widespread

skepticism at police claims.

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The true feelings of a cross section of people were expressed a couple of months lateral a

seminar organised at Jalandhar on December 12, 1993, by Punjab Jagriti Manch. The speakers were

more forthright to say that such type of seminars organised by police were attempts to hide the ugly

violation of human rights by the security forces.

* Dr. Amarjit Singh Narang of Delhi University stated that Chandigarh seminar was an attempt

to give false hope to the people to lull them to silence. It was reflective of upsurge of fascist

tendencies.

* Tapan Bose, the famous Film Director, highlighted that KPS Gill was attempting to give three

clear messages. One, terrorism has come to an end in Punjab; two the unseen waves of

separatist movement are still strong; and three, judiciary and intellectuals have been

unsuccessful. Therefore, there is still need for Gill who is indispensable.

* Kirpal Singh of Chief Khalsa Diwan compared Gill’s talking about human rights to recitation

of holy scriptures by Satan.

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How would have Indians reacted if the British had held such a seminar under the auspices of

General Dyer after Jallianwala Bagh?

K.P.S. Gill met a major setback when he orchestrated a public ceremony for Bhai Kanwar

Singh, founder of Akal Federation, and an ideologue, in March, 1994, at Chandigarh. Kanwar Singh

spoke of his, along with his wife and 5 year old son, being taken into custody in Nepal in mid-1993;

they were tortured by the police who threatened to liquidate the family. In a choking voice, he said,

“I will prefer to be cut into pieces, than surrender”. Taken aback, Gill and police officers indicted

denied ‘torture’, but immediately whisked him away,163

Bhai Kanwar Singh represented the true

Khalsa spirit of defiance of oppressive authority.

Multiple factors activated the political elements in early 1994. Interested elements sought to

asphyxiate the new consciousness by launching a move to bring about an opportunistic Akali unity –

the unity of contradictory forces. Tohra was in the lead. Talwandi, Barnala and other discredited

leaders who had frequently stabbed the Panth in the back were privy to the move. Mann was

overwhelmed by the infiltrators. Or, was this another case of miscalculation? In a foxy move, they

approached Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar of Akal Takht, to bring about, what they euphemistically

called, Panthic unity. As stated earlier, Tohra has now for two decades effectively used the plea for

‘panthic unity’ as a weapon of offence and guile. Parkash Singh Badal in a deft move saved his party

from being overwhelmed. The only good point that came out was the decision by Akal Takht to set

up a think tank to monitor religious matters.

The formation of Shiromani Akali Dal(Amritsar) in April 1994 only showed the bankruptcy

of its leaders. This was proved at the by-election polls at Nakodar and Ajnala in May 1994. Despite

large scale rigging as vouchsafed by the media men,164

and indirect police help, Congress(I) won

Nakodar seat with a reduced margin. Akalis (Badal) won convincingly at Ajnala.

Chief Elections Commissioner, T.N. Seshan, ignored Beant Singh government’s corrupt

practices at Nakodar for two reasons. Firstly, he was under psychological pressure from the union

government over its move to clip his wings by bringing in an amendment of the Constitution at a

special session of Parliament in mid-June. Akalis reprehensibly had no member in either house of

Parliament. Secondly, more probably, as the Sikhs were adversely affected by these malpractices,

Seshan, who has been part of Brahminical conspiracy and who had earlier postponed Punjab

elections in 1991 under mysterious circumstances, could choose to close his eyes. It was for similar

reasons that a short while ago he had postponed the Ajnala by-election and not the one for

Nakodar, though Punjab Chief Minister’s violation of the model code of conduct was applicable to

both.165

It was fortuitous circumstance of Supreme Court’s upholding Uttar Pradesh Government’s

plea, that he had to agree to reschedule the postponed Ajnala by-election to May 31, as against May

26, earlier. For similar reasons, he did not order that counting of votes at Nakodar be withheld for a

couple of days till voting at Ajnala had taken place.

The death of Punjab Governor, Surendra Nath, in an aircrash which wiped out nine other

members of his family, on July 9, 1994, brought to light in a dramatic manner, the rapacious and

predatory character of the Punjab administration under the longlasting President’s rule, and the

diarchy thereafter with Beant Singh as Chief Minister.

The union Home Minister was right on the spot in Chandigarh after the news of Surendra

Nath’s death; he took away bundles from his residence, of what he regarded papers containing state

secrets about Sikh genocidal policies pursued by the union government. According to information

available with the Prime Minister’s Office, Rs. 1.87 Crores (18.7 mil) in cash, seven Kg of gold (it is

not know whether this was with Swiss or some other markings, or simply ingots prepared by the

local goldsmiths by melting ornaments looted from the people) and Jewellery worth Rs. 40 crores

(400 mn), and documents of property worth Rs. 250 crores (2.5 bn), were recovered from his

house.166 It also came to light that Surendra Nath had withdrawn Rs. 22 lakhs (2.2 mn) in one go

from the Secret Service Fund a week before the induction of Beant Singh in mid-1992. The

quantum of availability of funds for misuse could be gauged from the fact that, according to Beant

Singh a sum of Rs. 6,600 crores (66 bn – this is treated as a loan from the union government to put

Punjab in a debt trap )had been spent on the security forces “to counter terrorism”.167 The rationale

is provided by B.K. Chum of the Economic Times in that, “The alleged recovery from Raj Bhavan

needs to be seen in the light of amassing of huge wealth by terrorists, many Punjab police and civil

administrators during the hey day of terrorism and later by some Punjab ministers after the popular

government returned.”

168

This amassing of huge wealth by Surendra Nath has shocked out of wits many a people in

Punjab. Ashwini Kumar, a senior editor of Punjab Kesri group – consisting of Punjab Kesri (Hindi),

Hind Samachar (Urdu) and Jagbani (Punjabi) with a combined circulation of 6 lakhs (600,000), in a

signed editorial in all the three papers of October 18, expressed his utter surprise at Surendra Nath’s

avarice in amassing such a huge wealth. He also indicated that the government wants to suppress

the issue as it does not want it to go to the National Human Rights Commission.169 Khushwant

Singh, a virtual police spokesman now for some time, shaken by the disclosures cast doubts on his

“ability to judge human beings”,170 for Surendra Nath, according to one report had “purchased his

way to power” as Governor of Punjab and milched it.

171

What has come to light is obviously the tip of the iceberg.170 Punjab has undergone

extortions at the hands of a vulturine administration on a vast scale under President’s rule and after,

in the process dwarfing the exactions of Ahmad Shah Abdali during the 18th century. An enquiry

into the exactions by KPS Gill and his cohorts in the police and para military forces, and ministers in

Beant Singh government, could very much be in order to reveal the fuller dimensions of the ordeal Punjab has undergone during the period.

It is debatable whether the notice issued by Punjab and Haryana High Court, on a public interest petition, calling upon the central and Punjab governments to disclose the details by February 12, 1995, of ill gotten wealth of Surendra Nath will yield much. There has been a baffling silence on the part of authorities so far, may be, as a prelude to a white washing operation. Nothing much can be expected from National Human Rights Commission headed by Mr. Justice Ranganath Misra, who has been part of Brahminical conspiracy against the Sikhs, and otherwise has not much credibility.

One can only recall Simarnjit Singh Mann’s once calling for Nuremberg type of trials – where the plea for call to duty, and New Delhi’s proposal to grant immunity to all police and paramilitary personnel in Punjab in 1992 for all the crimes they did, incase of Akali Dal’s fighting the forthcoming elections and coming into power, would not cut ice -to mete justice to the culprits. That remains a distant possibility, as yet.

An encouraging sign has been the Supreme Courts’s severe indictment on September 16, 1994, of Punjab Police headed by KPS Gill as “an errant, high handed and unchecked police force”. It expressed complete distrust in the state police in light of KPS Gill’s casual appraoch to the abduction and liquidation by the Punjab Police of seven members of a Sikh family on October 29, 1991. Gill’s assertion before the Supreme Court about maintaining the “majesty of law” only invited Court’s derisive retort, “Not, if things are left to the Punjab Police.”

The Court directed the Director, CBI, to personally conduct an enquiry into various aspects of the case and submit a report within the specified time. The Hindustan Times in an editorial titled, “A lawless force” on September 19, 1994, wrote, “It is time for the Centre to note the grave implications of the Supreme Court’s damning indictment of the Punjab Police and initiate steps to ensure that the latter is not allowed to violate the law as it has chosen to with impunity.” Earlier in July, the Punjab Police’s beating up two journalists of the Statesman in a five star hotel under the shadow of Parliament House in New Delhi because of their asking KPS Gill some inconvenient questions, over his election as President of Indian Hockey Federation, had invited severe indictment of the press.

Gill’s extended two year term as the “slave overseer more heartless than any alien beast”, expires in December 1994. There are clouds over the question of his being granted further extension, but the dogged determination of the union government to overwhelm Sikhism, may still see it through.

The change at the top in the police set up in Punjab, if it comes about, will only be for tactical reason. It will not signify a change in policy, which would need certain modifications of fundamental character in Indian polity.

The continuous atrocities on the Sikh detenues held under TADA in Rajasthan during 1994 despite Parkash Singh Badal’s talking to BJP Chief Minister, Bhairon Singh Sekhawat, in the matter, and the killing of half a dozen Sikhs in cold blood and causing serious injuries to over two dozen others held under TADA in Pilibhit Jail on November 8-9, 1994, by the police of Mulayam Singh headed Samajwadi Party- Bahujan Samaj Party coalition in U.P., shows that animus against the Sikhs has taken deep roots in northern India, and cuts across caste or class lines. A mitigating factor in

Pilibhit has been that a Muslim MLA of the ruling Samajwadi Party brought to light the Pilibhit killing and is agitating the atrocities.

The Brahminical war against the Sikhs goes on with no holds barred. The provisions of Indian Constitution, of right to life, liberty, equality, of being meted civilised behaviour, have become irrelevant to the votaries of the Sikh values. The Brahminical order especially over northern India feels that it has administered body blows, which it hopes to be fatal, to the corporate body of the Khalsa, and that it is in the process of being overwhelmed.

The Sikhs continue to be victims of the constitutional terrorism or state terrorism that the government of India is practicing at present. Firstly, there must be a reversal of the whole process of Brahminical attempts to overwhelm Sikhism; instill in the Sikhs a sense of belonging, and that the Sikhs have a right to assert their identity. Secondly, to borrow from the Times of India (editorial, April 1, 1992), the Sikh problem “needs a conceptual response by offering them a form of autonomy that can be reconciled with an accommodative interpretation of the federal idea enshrined in Indian constitution” but that, “This will, however, remain far beyond the realms of possibility without deep introspection by the Indian political class of which there is, alas, no sign yet.”

Bharat Mata is looking towards a liberator. Will Indian political system throw up one? Time is running out.

Footnotes:

1. Cf. Shekhar Gupta’s Special Report on KPS Gill, India Today, April 15, 1993, pp. 62-66.

2. Cf. pp. 415-16 ante.

3. Dhiren Bhagat in Indian Post (Bombay), April 24, 1988.

4. India Today May 31, 1988, p. 28.

5. Avinash Singh, “Battle for Golden Temple”, Hindustan Times, May 22,1988, magazine section, p. 1; “Punjab: The Battle Escalates”, India Today, May 31, 1988, pp. 24-28.

6. Shekhar Gupta and Vipul Mudgal. “Operation Black Thunder: A Dramatic Success”, India Today, June 15. 1988, p. 78.

7. Sunday. May 22, 1988, p. 27.

8. Ibid, p. 29.

9. Ibid, p. 30.

10. Ibid.

11. Of the total of 197 persons who surrendered, leaving aside 17 women and children, militants accounted for about 50 men. About 40 were Hindus who had grown their beards. The bulk of the rest were infiltrators from the security agencies.

12. Sunday, May 22, 1988, p. 32.

13. India Today, June 15, 1988, p. 85.

14. Taking advantage of appointment of new headpriests, Barnala sought pardon for defying the Akal Takht in February 1987. Eventually, he landed himself before Prof. Darshan Singh Ragi, who made him to undergo atonement for his lapses in December 1988.

15. India Today, June 30, 1988, pp. 44-45.

16. In another two months, Giani Sohan Singh Headpriest of Golden Temple and Bhan Singh Office Secretary of SGPC, were shot dead, while Mal Singh Ghuman General Secretary SGLC,

was wounded in an attack attributed to Khalistan Liberation Force. India Today, August 15, 1988, p. 35.

17. New York Times, June 12, 1988, p. A-11.

18. The killing of SSP, Sital Das and his Deputy (Detective) Baldev Singh Brar in their office in Patiala city by Dalbir Singh who shot himself after shooting the two, in August 1988, brought to light the existence of such under-cover agents. Cf. Vipul Mudgal, “Punjab: The Underground Army”, India Today September 15, 1988, pp. 74-77.

19. India Today, July 15, 1988, p. 44.

20. Ibid, October 15, 1988, p. 50.

20a. It took the couple – the leady and husband – 7 years to have the Supreme Court to order in October 1995, Gill’s being proceeded against under the FIR. Prime Minister reportedly quite unhappy at the turn of the event.

21. India Today, August 15, 1988, p. 52.

22. The Sunday Observer, September 5, 1988, p. 1.

23. India Today September 15, 1988, p. 59.

24. Ibid, October 31, 1988, pp. 69-73.

25. Ibid, November 30, 1988, p. 56.

26. For a detailed account of trial of Satwant Singh and others, see also, Ritu Sarin’s “Cracking the Conspiracy”, Sunday November 20, 1988, pp. 25-31, and “The Final Judgment”, Sunday, August 14, 1988, pp. 22-24; David Devdas, “Indira Gandhi Assassination: The Suspended Sentence”, India Today, December 31, 1988. pp. 42-45; and TPR, “The Final Act”, Frontline, January 21 February 3, 1989. pp. 25-37.

27. For a full discussion on evidence for and against Kehar Singh, and where Supreme Court went wrong, see “Kehar Singh Story”, Illustrated Weekly of India, December 4, 1988, pp. 8-17.

28. Probe India, February 1989, p. 23.

29. The Hindu (International Edition), February 11, 1989, p. 4.

30. India Today, February 28, 1989, p. 165.

31. Inderjit Badhwar and Vipul Mudgal, “Jammu Riots: A Paralysed Administration,” India Today, February 28, 1989, p. 64.

32. Ibid, p. 69.

33. Vipul Mudgal, “Punjab: Anguished Cry”, India Today, March 15, 1989, p. 78.

34. It was in this melee that a nephew of the author was taken into custody in September 1988 at Ludhiana. The family was not told of boy’s being killed the same night. That made the author, then a senior officer in the Indian Foreign Office to contact Additional Secretary (Police) in the Union Home Ministry, and at his instance K.P.S. Gill at Chandigarh and SSP Ludhiana Mr. Sumed Saini. While in Gill’s office, the author learnt that the police had taken into custody about 30,000 school going boys who had taken amrit, baptism, and they were not being released. Later, the author met at Chandigarh the head of CRPF who entrusted a very senior officer to find out about the boy. He stated that Sumed Saini SSP Ludhiana and one Bahuguna head of CRPF unit in Ludhiana, had liquidated a large body of the Sikh youth, and that, he said, was more or less true for whole of the Punjab.

35. India Today March 31, 1989, pp. 29-31.

36. Sunday, March 19, p. 18.

37. India Express, March 7, 1989.

38. Kanwar Sandhu, “Punjab Police: Uniformed Brutality”, India Today, September 30, 1989 pp. 34-36.

39. Naveen S. Garewal in India Express, September 2, 1989.

40. n. 38, op cit.

41. India Today October 15, 1989, pp. 58-60; Indian Express, September 22, 1989.

42. Kanwar Sandhu in India Today, October 15, 1989, p. 60.

43. Ibid.

44. The Indian Express, July 10, 1989.

45. Ibid, December 6, 1889.

46. Barnala termed these as mischievous to create an adverse situation for the new government. India Today, December 31, 1989, p. 61.

47. The Indian Express, November 12, 1989.

48. The Times of India, January 3, 1990.

49. Ibid.

49a. Ibid, January 10, 1990.

50. Joyce J.M. Pettigrew, The Sikhs of the Punjab (London, 1995), p. 93.

51. Ibid, January 12, 1990.

52. The Hindu January 12, 1990.

53. Kanwar Sandhu in India Today, January 31, 1990.

54. Ibid; cf, India Today, October 15, 1990, p. 48.

55. The Times of India, January 23, 1990.

56. Ibid. January 20, 1990.

57. The Indian Express, February 18, 1990.

58. Gobind Thukral in Hindustan Times, February 22, 1990.

59. The Indian Express, April 5, 1990.

60. India Today, April 15, 1990, p. 45.

61. Other members were: Justice (Retd) Rajinder Sachar, Prof. Rajni Kothari, Lt. Gen (Retd) J. S. Aurora. M.P., George Verghese, Dr. Amrik Singh, Ms Jaya Jaitley, Ms. Madhu Kishwar. N. D. Pancholi, Tejinder Ahuja, and H. S. Phoolka. Indian Express April 18, 1990.

62. The Hindustan Times. June 24, 1990.

63. Kanwar Sandhu in India Today, August 31, 1990. pp. 66-71.

64. Kanwar Sandhu in India Today. October 15, 1990. p. 49.

65. Ibid.

66. India Today October 15, 1990, p. 45.

67. The Hindustan Times, October 13, 1990.

68. India Today, December 31, 1990, p. 37.

69. Hindustan Times and Economic Times of January 1, 1991.

70. The Indian Express, January 6, 1991.

71. Askar H. Zaidi in Times of India, April 28, 1991; Tavleen Singh in Indian Express, April 18, 1991.

72. Ibid.

73. Note by Samir Lal.

74. Note by Shekhar Gupta.

75. The Hindustan Times, February 20, 1991.

76. Ibid. February 28, 1991.

77. India Today. March 31. 1991, p. 59.

77a. “For Eyes Only” in Government is a classification higher than top secret. It is design to be shown to a specific person, in this case the successor(s) on assumption of office.

78. The Hindustan Times, April 22, 1991.

79. Ibid.

80. Kanwar Sandhu in India Today, April 30, 1991, pp. 73-75.

81. The Hindustan Times, April 26, 1991.

82. Ibid, April 25, 1991.

83. Avinash Singh in Ibid, April 26, 1991.

83a. Joyce Pettigrew (n 50) quotes a KCF partisan to report that Dr. Sohan Singh went over to Pakistan in April 1991. Also that some from the Panthic Committee did not trust Mann and played disruptive role as a result of infiltration of government intelligence agencies.

84. Hindustan Times June 20, 1991. Certain stooges of Congress (I) who were close to Manjit Singh described him sincere but politically immature.

85. Cf. India Today, July 15, 1991, p. 53.

86. The Hindustan Times, August 18, 1991.

87. Ibid, August 22, 1991.

87a. Cf. Joyce Pettigrew n 50 p. 109.

87b. For a partial list of real butchers, see. Ibid, pp 108-109.

88. Kanwar Sandhu, “Punjab Police: Official Excesses”, India Today, October 15, 1992, p. 89.

89. Avinash Singh in the Hindustan Times, November 21, 1991.

90. The Financial Express, November 13, 1991.

91. Punjab: Gill Returns India Today, December 15, 1991, p. 49.

92. For text of the report, see the Spokesman Weekly, September 28, October 5 & 12, 1992.

93. Khushwant Singh, My Bleeding Panjab, (Delhi 1992), p. 76.

94. For group photograph of Surender Billa and his fake Sikhs, see, Current weekly, August 5, 1989, p. 11.

95. Hindustan Times, February 4, 1992.

96. Ramesh Vinayak in India Today, February 29, 1992, p. 36.

97. The Hindustan Times, February 4, 1992.

98. Gobind Thukral, in the Hindustan Times, February 13, 1992.

99. The Hindustan Times, February 5, 1992.

100. Total votes 13.1 million (mn). Votes polled 3.145 mn. Votes rejected 138,000. Valid Votes 3.01 mn, Congress vote 1.4 mn.

* 25 candidates won polling less than 5,000 votes each.

* 26 candidates won polling between 5001 to 10,000 votes each.

* In all 77 candidates won on polling less than 15,000 votes each.

* In 2,000 villages polling ranged from 0 to 1 percent. Cf. Dinesh Kumar in the Times of India, February 22, 1992.

101. The Times of India February 22, 1992.

102. Kanwar Sandhu, n. 88 op cit.

103. The Hindustan Times, April 11, 1992.

104. Ibid.

105. Ibid, May 24, 1992.

106. Ibid, April 7, 1992.

107. Ibid, July 1, 1992.

108. Dinesh Kumar in the Times of India, May 1, 1992.

109. Karanbir Singh Sidhu, District Magistrate, Amritsar, who conducted an enquiry into the 28 hour long Behla encounter held that the police picked up seven villagers from their homes and forced them to go into the hideout of the militants of Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan on June 8-9, 1992. Though there were no bunkers in the hideout, the police brought in 1600 security personnel to face only two militants. At the end of the encounter the police declared the civilians used by it as cover, to form part of militant outfit, firstly to claim a bigger prize for itself, and secondly, to prevent compensation to the next of kin of the civilians used. Their bodies were not handed over to their relatives but cremated surreptitiously by the police. See, B. S. Bawa in the Pioneer, 18 June 1992.

Behla encounter showed the low morale of the security personnel, and their mercenary character.

110. The Hindustan Times, June 21, 1992.

111. Chandan Mitra in the Hindustan Times, May 26, 1992.

112. Ibid, May 27, 1992.

113. Gobind Thukral in the Hindustan Times, August 14, 1992.

114. Shahid A. Choudhary in Probe India. November 1992, p. 13.

115. The Hindustan Times, August 14, 1992.

116. For Simranjit Singh Mann’s comments see the Spokesman, September 14, 1992.

117. n. 114 op cit.

118. The Hindustan Times, August 22, 1992.

119. See, Satya Pal Dang in the Spokesman Weekly, August 10, 1992, September 14, November 16, 1992; and Hindustan Times November 5, 1992, et. al.

120. n. 1 14 op. cit.

121. The Indian Express, August 23, & September 6, 1993.

122. Hindustan Times, September 9, 1992; Probe India, November 1992, pp. 13-14.

123. Krishan Mahajan in the Indian Express, October 11, 1992; also Ritu Sarin in the Spokesman August 3, 1992.

124. The Hindustan Times, October 4, 1992.

125. Kanwar Sandhu, n. 88, p. 82.

126. The Hindustan Times, January 6, 1993.

127. Gobind Thukral in the Hindustan Times, January 20, 1993.

128. Shivanand Kanavi in the Sunday Observer, April 11, 1993 for detailed report.

129. The Spokesman Weekly, February 22, and March 1, 1993.

130. Hindustan Times, January 21, 1993.

131. Gobind Thukral in the Hindustan Times, January 22, 1993.

132. Harpreet Singh in the Hindustan Times, January 23, 1993.

133. The Hindustan Times, January 25, 1993.

134. Ibid, 27 January, 1993.

135. It became a big joke that the Judges did not know the meaning of the word stay, and that they committed contempt of their own court.

136. Kanwar Sandhu in India Today, March 31, 1993, p. 125.

137. The Hindustan Times, March 4, 1993.

138. Ibid, March 3, 1993.

139. Ibid, March 11, 1993.

140. Ibid. April 7, 1993.

141. “Fear Psychosis Still Stalks Rural Youth”, Ibid, May 4, 1994.

142. e. g. see. Ibid, editorial, May 21, 1993.

143. Ibid, May 14, 1994.

144. Ibid August 12, 1993; also Gobind Thukral in Ibid, September 1, 1993.

145. Cf. Ibid, November 1, 1993.

146. Ibid, December 1, 1993.

147. Correspondent’s Despatches, Ibid, September 21 to 24, and October 5, 1993.

148. Ibid, May 22, 1993.

149. Ibid, August 11, 1993.

150. Sant Sipahi (Amritsar, Panjabi monthly), February 1994, pp. 25-31, also subsequent issues.

151. Cf. Giani Bhagat Singh in Sant Sipahi, Amritsar May, 1994, pp. 16-18. It is another matter that the Centres of Comparative Religion hold seminars or discussions on discordant viewpoints.

152. Indira Gandhi had been greatly upset at the decision of Vancouver University in early 1980s to establish a Chair in Sikh history, consequent upon the Sikh people in North America raising the necessary funds. New Delhi exerted pressure on Ottawa to establish instead a Chair in Punjabi language.

The establishment of Chair in 1985 came at a lime when New Delhi was relentlessly carrying on a campaign against the Sikh people in North America at their adverse reaction to the events of 1984 back home. New Delhi felt that a competent person heading the Chair in Punjabi could turn it into a centre of learning not only in Punjabi language and literature, but also in Sikh religion, theology, history and polity. It, therefore, made subtle moves to have the Chair occupied by a patit, renegade, Sikh (having nothing to do with Punjabi language or literature), who, during his sojourns earlier in Delhi and Canberra, had shown propensities to serve as a cat’s paw for Brahminism, and sour the Sikh achievement.

The Sikhs of North America must understand that creating a Chair is not an end in itself. Of much more importance is to have it occupied by a right type of person. ‘Man is superior to weapon’ constituted the core of Mao’s thought, and derived its sustenance from- Guru Gobind Singh’s dictum, chirion se main baaz turaon. I will have sparrows to tear the hawks.

152a.Admittedly, the Sikh youth in the West is facing problems of adjustment in the new social milieu. In Canada, there is a concerted attack on the Sikh values in the guise of promotion of multi-culturalism. What sort of multi-culturalism the Canadian society has promoted during the last two centuries? The Anglo-Saxons and the French, despite living together for over two centuries, are on the verge of separation. In the 1995 referendum, the people of Quebec, thanks to sizeable immigrant population, failed to vote for independence only by one percent. According to some observers, the French arc bound to opt for independence in the next decade or so. Then BC and may be Alberta shall too opt for independence and the residual provinces may choose to become part of the USA. While, the Canadian society is facing disintegration, (he ‘comrades’ from within the Sikh community are propagating the concept of multi-culturalism with a view to irretrievably damage Sikhism in Canada.

153. The Hindustan Times, May 28, 1993.

154. Ibid, July 24, 1993.

155. Ibid. August 12, 1993.

156. Emphasis added. M. C. Menon in Ibid, August 13, 1993.

157. Ibid, December 18, 1993.

158. For facsimile copies of two letters, see, Sant Sipahi, March 1994, pp. 19-20.

159. The Hindustan Times, February 22, 1994.

160. The Observer of Business and Politics, August 9, 1993.

161. The Hindustan Times, December 5, 1993.

162. For proceeding of Jalandhar seminar, sec Punjabi Tribune, December 13, 1993.

163. The Hindustan Times, March 30, 1994.

164. Harpreet Singh in the Hindustan Times, May 27, 1994.

165. In U.P. Chief Minister Mulayam Singh violated the code of conduct in one constituency but by elections to all six seats were put off.

166. Cf. Ashwani Kumar’s signed editorial in Punjab Kesri group of dailies of October 18, 1994; Gobind Thukral in the Hindustan Times. October 25, 1994 and B.K. Chum in Economic Times, October 27, 1994. Kamaljeet Rattan in Economic Times, November 14, 1994, mention of Surendra Nath’s assets to amount to Rs. 750 crores.

167. The Hindustan Times, November 11, 1994.

168. Cf. Chum in 165 op cit.

169. Ashwani Kumar’s signed editorial has the title, saman sau baras ka, pal bhar ki khabhar nahin, One accumulate goods to last a hundred years, but one is not sure for a moment’s life. This could very well be given the title from a line in Guru Nanak’s verse, papan bajhon howai nahin, moian saath na jai. Wealth can’t be accumulated without sin, but it does not accompany one on death.

170. Khushwant Singh in The Sunday Observer, November 13, 1994.

171. Kamaljeet Rattan in n. 165, op. cit.

11

Nights of Long Knives – II

Untempered State Terrorism

(1988-199_)

By the spring of 1988, the Union Government had decided to pursue a policy of cold repression in Punjab. Julio Ribeiro had done a commendable job in steeling the Punjab police as an instrument of state repression. But his opposition to untempered state repression, and publicly airing the need for a political initiative to solve political problems in Punjab, which in his views had their own rationale, was considered an unwelcome forage in matters of state polity. In view of the change in policy, Ribeiro had become irrelevant and was kicked high as adviser to the Governor. He, however, had nothing to do with the administration of police or paramilitary forces.

K.P.S. Gill was inducted as Director General of Punjab Police to oversee the implementation of the new policy. The strings throughout were controlled by the union Home Ministry. Gill’s appointment was considered a masterstroke by the anti-Sikh lobby in Delhi as the Centre now had a native to implement its policy vis a vis the Sikhs. Gill, a Jat Sikh from Punjab, was an I.P.S. (Indian Police Service) officer of Assam Cadre. Gill’s temperament as a cold blooded and heartless fellow was steeled during his service tenure in Assam where he, at the instance of the union government, trampled under foot the human rights and civil liberties of the people of the north-eastern states, in the process, reducing them to third rate citizens. Gill was known to have a single track mind and was deaf to the political goings on. To him any problem, be it in Assam or Punjab, could only be a law and order problem. Nothing more, nothing less. His description of the happenings in Punjab as “purely between Jat Sikhs (militants) and Jat Sikhs (Punjab Police)”1

typically reflected the state of his mental asphyxiation.

Gill was conceived of, and was ideally suited to serve, what Adolph Hitler had once defined, as a “slave overseer. . . more heartless. . . than any alien beast”2

in Punjab. He justified the confidence reposed in him by brutalising the police and making it a totally criminalised force functioning outside the pale of the rule of law or the Constitution. He gave the police force the licence to kill the Sikh youth without any qualms. The police set up all over Punjab came right on the top to the detriment of the District Magistrate and judiciary. Magisterial or judicial enquiries into the police brutalities were now out. These arms of the government were completely paralysed with the connivance of the union government.

Already the police was making announcements of ‘recoveries’ of Russian made RPG Rockets and Russian surface to air missiles, earlier imported by the RAW (Indian external intelligence agency) from Kabul, from all over Punjab.3

These served as a prelude to pursuit of new policy.

Punjab was by now heading towards the operation ‘Black Thunder’ which was already under way. As part of Union Home Ministry’s instructions, the message had to be conveyed to the mediamen at Amritsar to behave or face the consequences. Kuldip Singh Arora, Amritsar correspondent of United News of India (UNI) was picked up on April 13, 1988, under the National Security Act for meeting militants inside the Golden Temple, a serious charge under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA). About 100 journalists had so far conducted such interviews.

This was aptly interpreted by Amritsar’s Working Journalists Association to fall in line and not

“write anything that displeases it (the government).”

4

The shift in Rajiv’s outlook was obvious when on April 25, he met Barnala for the first time

after the latter’s dismissal a year ago. He also met Amarinder Singh of UAD who ideologically was

closer to Barnala rather than Badal of his own party.

The security forces, by now started establishing themselves on several rooftop pickets,

including the one facing the Clock Tower, wherefrom General Sunderji had directed the Operation

Bluestar. The security forces during the last couple of months had kept the militants’ inside the

Temple under observation to prevent their escape. The militants did not take a cue regarding the

preparations of the forces outside.5

In an exchange of fire on April 29, militants had helped a

Babbar Khalsa activist to slip out of the hands of the security forces.

The time for Operation Black Thunder arrived after the debate in Parliament on Punjab was

over in the first week of May. Despite provocations, there was no firing from inside. To prepare

the nation, the state-sponsored terrorists fired on Gadi Lohars, a nomad tribe, celebrating marriage at

Panipat in Haryana on May 8, killing 13 persons. That served dual purpose of also keeping Haryana

Chief Minister, Devi Lal, in check. The following day DIG (CRPF) Sarabdeep Singh Virk chose to

take notorious Santokh Singh K-ala, a former militant who was now leading a state-sponsored

terrorist outfit alongwith him atop the buildings around the temple. Kala shouted provocatively at

the militants. They fired and injured Virk. That set the ball rolling.

Before the Operation Black Thunder could be on, Rajiv had to be convinced. Eleven major

meetings were held, with Rajiv being present at eight of them. Home Minister, Buta Singh and

Minister of State for Home, P. Chidambaram, carried the day. Rajiv insisted on measures to keep

alive the Rode mission.

With the words ‘go ahead,’ Air Force airlifted Special Action Group (SAG) of 1,000

commandos of National Security Guards (NSG) and their equipment to Amritsar on May 11 and 12.

Meanwhile exchange of firing had gone on intermittently. 800 pilgrims had been evacuated on May

10, but recitation of gurbani had stopped.

Rode was away to Punjabi University, Patiala, on May 9, and rushed back to Amritsar on

hearing of the firing. His move, of a day earlier, to shift from his apartment on the parikarma

(circumambulation) sandwiched between the firing positions of the CRPF and the militants, to the

top of Guru Nanak Niwas, was not taken equanimously by the militants. On May 11, at the instance

of Rode a two hour ceasefire was called and his emissaries, Gurdev Singh Kaonke, a former Acting

Jathedar of Akal Takht, and three others, visited the militants with food and fruits. Some journalists

also went inside and 10 more persons were evacuated. Around this time, the NSG commandos

started taking their positions.

6

The local administration bluffed Rode to take him the following day at 8 a.m. to enter the

Temple from Santokhsar Gurdwara to restore rituals. Precisely, at the time, the security forces

started firing. Rode, Savinder Singh, Jaswant Singh, Kashmira Singh, Bhai Mohkam Singh and

Gurdev Singh Kaonke alongwith 24 others were prevented from proceeding further. After two

hours protests, Rode formally decided to move ahead despite the firing. Deputy Commissioner

Sarabjit Singh, Inspector General (I.G.) (Border) Chaman Lal and Senior Superintendent Police,

Suresh Arora were present. Kaonke told the police, “You men are liars. It is you who are shooting,

not the militants.” He was struck by a CRPF rifle butt. Deputy Commissioner apologised to Rode.

The CRPF jawan was rebuked. Rode and his men were formally arrested for violating the curfew.7

The NSG had completed its build up. The Operation Black Thunder was now formally on.

Late in the night, half a dozen militants tried to break the cordon and were fired upon.

Three of them turned back. One was shot dead and two were able to make good their escape.8

Then followed long exchange of fire between the militants and the security forces. Two Jaguars

flew near the temple at the time. The security forces took over Guru Ram Das Serai and neutralised

two Bungas.

The authorities applied force with cajolery. The killing of militants by the security forces

from outside the temple was supplemented by selective killing inside by the infiltrators. For

instance, of all the persons inside, such a senior person as Jagir Singh, spokesman of the Panthic

Committee, came out of room 14 to fetch a pail of water from the holy tank. He was shot on the

back of the head, obviously from inside and lay on the pavement near the sarovar. Side by side,

appeals were made on May 13, directly by Deputy Commissioner and Senior Superintendent of

Police in the presence of 50 newsmen; and again the following day through Baba Uttam Singh of

Khadur Sahib in Tarn Taran asking sevadars, women and children to come out. Only half a dozen

sevadars rushed out of the temple. By the time, 34 militants had been shot dead or seriously

wounded.

9

The authorities met a success on May 15, when in response to repeated appeals by Inspector

General (Border) Chaman Lal and Deputy Commissioner Sarabjit Singh to surrender, 151

(according to some sources 146) persons including 17 women and children came out with their

hands and weapons in the air. These included some marked militants like Surjit Singh Penta, who

according to the official version swallowed cyanide. In the words of Nirmal Mitra of the Sunday,

“Rumour spread that he had been killed by the police.”

10

In nutshell, a couple of the KCF units and splinter groups of militants had been liquidated.

The goings on in the Temple during the last couple of days had their backlash. The militants

of the KCF mowed 30 migrant labourers at a worksite on Sutlej-Yamuna Canal in Ropar district.

Gen. Labh Singh of the KCF left a note that others will also be dispatched unless they leave. The

labour from Bihar, U.P., Rajasthan and other places made a queueline to get their dues and left.

Again on May 20, 45 persons were gunned down in crowded places in Punjab and Himachal

Pradesh. Seven powerful bomb blasts hit Pathankot and curfew had to be imposed.

11

The final denouement was yet to come. 46 person came out from various rooms along the

parikarma and instead walked coolly into the main temple. They desecrated the temple with their

excreta and eventually surrendered on May 18 in response to repeated appeals by K.P.S. Gill who

was aware that bulk of them were infiltrators from the security agencies.12

Media management

played up KPS Gill as against the NSG which had to bear it in order to build up the morale of

Punjab police.

In New Delhi’s South Block the question was raised whether Prime Minister should visit the

Golden Temple and seek truce with the Khalsa Panth. After much vacillation, the Home Ministry

apprised Rajiv of the state-sponsored terrorists and the massive infiltration that had led to the

government’s gaining a tactical victory. It also put forth the need for a surgical operation to flush

out militants from the Mand, the wild growth along the belt of river Beas.13

A furious Rajiv ordered

immediate disbanding of state-militants and working out of the Rode option.

The government had initially toyed with various options including winding up of the SGPC.

But the fear of the “the mass uprising” forced it to give up the idea. It only led to the idea to create

a corridor around the Golden Temple.

In implementing Rajiv’s orders, the union Home Ministry played a game of duplicity. It

came out as if the rump executive of the SGPC with its top leadership in gaol had reasserted its

position by end-May. It held the high priests responsible for desecration of the Golden Temple, and

in assertion of its authority dismissed the five high priests headed by Rode, and appointed new ones

headed by Harcharan Singh of Delhi.14 Gill, Chaman Lal and Sarabjit Singh showed that they had

tried their best to pressurise the SGPC executive to rescind its resolution. The administration even

organised press conference for Rode in Jail Superintendents’ room and his statement was circulated

by the Punjab Public Relations Department. These moves came under criticism at the hands of BJP

and CPM thoughtlessly. Eventually, Governor Ray came out with a statement that the

administration would not like to interfere in the SGPC’s independence and the Sikh religious

affairs.15 The SGPC no doubt gained in stature, but the real gainer was Buta Singh-led Union Home

Ministry.16

I Verily, it had successfully scuttled the Rode option and willy nilly reduced Rajiv to the

position of inanity.

The union Home Ministry had no option but to disband the state terrorist groups. Santokh

Singh Kala in his interview in mid-May 1988 with various foreign correspondents including from

America and Japan had admitted his role in liquidating scores of militants’, families. On the other

hand, the “security and police officials” told the New York Times correspondent that “the groups’

members had not been effective in anti-terrorist operations. . . . They resorted over the months to

robbery and extortion.”17 Kala was held in unofficial custody by the CRPF and later liquidated. The

vigilante consisting of highly motivated individual killers, continued under Gill’s patronage.

18

The setback suffered by the militants led to the KCF and Babbar Khalsa putting their heads

together for the next six weeks or so. A crude bomb blast by end of May 1988 in front of Shivala

Bhaiyan Temple, Amritsar, despite curfew, left 20 dead and over 40 injured. Similar crude bombs

exploded at Kurukshetra on June 19 leaving 20 dead, Tilak Nagar Vegetable market in West Delhi,

the following day (8 dead and 42 injured), and again in the bustling Katra Ahluwalia at Amritsar the

next day leaving 28 dead and 50 injured.

19

The killing of General Labh Singh, the undisputed head of the KCF on July 12,1988,

disrupted this cooperation. Avtar Singh Brahma and some others were soon felled. These were

results of some militants captured during the Operation Black Thunder being used to identify them

while sitting in vehicles with tinted glasses. Their position was soon filled by upcoming men who

went on a number of killing sprees. The only difference was that against an average of 200 killings

before the Operation Black Thunder, the number fell to about 150 a month. That may have been

because of elimination of state-terroristic groups. It was contended that militancy had rather spread

because of multiplicity of squads coming up under little known leaders.

20

The image of K.P.S. Gill as also of the police and administration got a severe battering

because of the publicity given to the amorous advances he made to a senior lady Indian

Administrative Services Officer, at an evening party. She lodged a First Information Report against him. The government chose to ignore this serious lapse because, in its eyes, Gill was doing good work, in making short shrift of the Sikh youth as ordinary criminals. In the process, it made a mockery of the Government Servants Conduct Rules. The papers like Times of India (editorial, August 3) and journalists like Khushwant Singh chose to come out strongly in favour of Gill who rededicated himself to the ‘good work’ he was doing. These only affected Gill’s getting Padam Shri in place of Padam Bhushan on the eve of the following Republic Day celebrations.

Ribeiro was explicit, “The police can only fight terrorism: not solve it.”21

He looked towards political solution for that.

In another half-hearted attempt, Prof. Darshan Singh Ragi was brought back as Head Priest of Akal Takht on August 13. Rode meanwhile had been disowned by Damdami Taksal. According to Harinder Baweja, of the Sunday Observer, Manochahal who had support of some central leaders and “has received substantial money from the government” backed Ragi.22 Vipul Mudgal of India Today attributed Ragi’s return to Buta Singh,23

who probably dangled him to Rajiv as a substitute for Rode. The easing out of Mann shortly afterwards as President of the UAD is to be seen as part of such monoeuvrings.

Punjab continued to be victim of lack of a clear cut policy. Rajiv’s visit to the state in September 1988 evoked indifference and scepticism of the people. His announcement to release another 138 of the innocent persons from detention heldsince Operation Bluestar did not evoke even “a murmur of approval”. For, people asked, if they were innocent, why were they not released earlier? His two other ingredients of holding panchayat elections and holding an all party meet to thrash the Punjab problem had nothing new or startling about them. The people rather felt scared at his sight.

The killing of the Sikhs in Bidar in Karnataka on September 14-15, was reminiscent of November 1984 riots in Delhi and other places. It further exasperated the feelings. Most of the students affected were from Punjab and Delhi.

By the end of September, followed a natural disaster, marked by heavy rains in the catchment area of Bhakra between September 25-28, 1988. The sudden release of water from Bhakra dam caused 10 feet high cascades of water which washed away villages within hours. 9000 of Punjab’s 12,989 villages were flooded, 2500 were completely marooned or simply washed away. The deluge affected 34 lakh (3.4 mn) people. And, Chairman Bhakra Beas Management Board, Maj Gen B.N. Kumar, did not even warn the people over the fast telecommunications network – TV and Radio – much less save the situation by releasing large quantities of water over an extended span of time. And to rub salt over fresh wounds, Union Agriculture Minister Bhajan Lal termed the floods as blessings in disguise.24 He mentioned of rise in ground water level. What really he meant was discovery of Bhakra weapon to deluge the entire rural Punjab. The moral was not lost on the militants who, in what they regarded just retribution, gunned down Maj. Gen. B.N. Kumar. They also adopted classic guerrilla tactics in killing 175 persons in a fortnight.

25

The second half of 1988 was marked by tension over the likely hanging of Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh whose death sentence were upheld by the Supreme Court on August 3,1988. Balbir Singh the third accused sentenced to capital punishment was acquitted.

Before proceeding further we may recapitulate the various stages of the trial.

As stated earlier, the investigations into the assassination of Indira was completed by November 18, 1984. Only Beant Singh and Satwant Singh were involved. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by S. Anantram constituted shortly afterwards thought it demeaning for a Prime Minister to be felled only by two of her security guards! A conspiracy was a must. And, it worked out one initially involving Kehar Singh, (an assistant in Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals), who was distantly related to Beant Singh, and Balbir Singh a Sub-Inspector in Prime Minister’s security.

The trial had political overtones as Indira came from the ruling dynasty. Also the accused came from the Sikh community whose credibility was suspect. The question before the judges was not only about the guilt or otherwise of the various accused but also that of their own credibility and of their patriotism. It had emotional overtones.

Satwant Singh was only a hitman, not the key figure. The best course in his case would have been to adopt the same posture as adopted by Nathuram Godse in M.K. Gandhi murder case. But he was not a learned man. Neither was his father, Tarlok Singh, who throughout the trial retained his rustic common sense. His was a most tormented soul. On the one hand, he was accepting saropaos, robes of honour, as father of a living-martyr, and on the other Satwant’s lawyer was playing jugglery with the case in the light of his own idiosyncrasies. Tarlok Singh and Satwant Singh would have loved the lawyer to adopt Godse’s stance, but were left gaffing.

The case against Kehar Singh and Balbir Singh rested only on circumstantial evidence, and “a coincidence” which Mahesh Chandra, Additional Sessions Judge, conceded “cannot be termed as a conspiracy.” To begin with, Mahesh Chandra was told that investigations in the case were complete by November 18, and what the SIT did thereafter was nothing but bullshit. But the stakes were high. His eyes were riveted to a high Court judgeship which awaited him in case he announced a judgment asked for the by the SIT. Despite gasping holes in the evidence – non production of vital witnesses and medical reports on Indira as also Sub-Inspector Rameshwar Dayal who received three difference-type of bullets in his thighs, Mahesh Chandra proceeded to weave all the three accused, Satwant Singh, Kehar Singh and Balbir Singh, in a conspiracy and sentenced them to death on January 22, 1986. He was so overwhelmed by his over enthusiasm that he forgot to mention the mode of execution and that it was subject to confirmation by the High Court.

The Judges of the High Court, seized of irresistible compulsions asked piercing and searching questions about the fabricated evidence about Balbir Singh’s detention on November 1, and his re-arrest on December 3, 1984, and contradictions in the police records. In the end, they chose to ignore all that, and on December 3, 1986, confirmed whole hog Mahesh Chandra’s judgment. The presiding judge, S. Ranganathan was kicked high to the Supreme Court.

It was extraordinary, firstly, that the conspiracy trial by Additional Sessions Judge and enquiry into Indira’s assassination by Justice M.P. Thakkar, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, went hand in hand. And then, Thakkar’s two reports throwing valuable light were suppressed. These were not shown even to the President, Giani Zail Singh, much less to the Judges of either the High or the Supreme Court. The government was not interested in finding out the truth; presently it was only in conviction of Satwant Singh, Kehar Singh and Balbir Singh. And, Thakkar report when presented to Parliament in March 1989 showed that Kehar Singh and Balbir Singh had

nothing to do with any conspiracy whatsover to murder Indira. Verily, the motto on the national emblem, satyamevajayate meant whatever is victorious is truth or truth lies in victory.

Also, the SIT fabricated another conspiracy case involving Simranjit Singh Mann and a host of other Sikhs. Rajiv, Buta and Chidambaram were closely involved. The SIT wanted the Special Public Prosecutor, K.L. Arora to give an instant advice. He instead) recorded a small note that the case was not worth the paper written) on. It had no substance in it. Nonplussed, the SIT only conveyed) that, then, Arora would not argue the government case in the Supreme Court. That marked the beginning of the rise of G. Ramaswamy in the echeleons of Government of India, as he was willing to oblige the SIT with the sort of endorsement they wanted. In due course, he rose to be Attorney General of India.

The case landed in the Supreme Court and ordinarily its turn would not have come for a couple of years more. But Rajiv publicly said that his mother had been killed and the accused were yet to be meted out punishment. Supreme Court dutifully gave precedence to the case over others. Since what was at stake was their own patriotism they applied their mind to the evidence, but only partially. It was obvious that the case against Balbir Singh was fabricated one. They acquitted him. Even the Special Public Prosecutor felt that the case against Kehar Singh was much weaker. “If Balbir is acquitted, Kehar’s conviction cannot stand,” said K.L. Arora. But it did stand. If both of them were acquitted, the SIT conspiracy to involve others in a second conspiracy would have ended straightaway in a fiasco. In the process, the Judges of the Supreme Court showed their jaundiced mind when they discussed the issue of Beant Singh’s taking amrit, baptism, as if that was subversive. Also, according to the judges, Beant twice within 10 days, October 14 and 24, 1984 took amrit. They did not seek to know that that would be sacrilegious for one who takes it and the one who administers it.

Kehar Singh’s conviction evoked a lot of sympathy from the media and from eminent personalities. They regarded it as a ‘judicial murder’. The foreign press including the Economist (London) too wished Rajiv to have been in a favourable state of mind. M.K. Gandhi’s son Ramdas Gandhi had written to the Governor General to grant clemency to Nathuram Godse. Indira’s son did not. The President twice on advice of the Prime Minister refused his mercy petition. Satwant Singh mercifully had not put in one.

Satwant Singh’s last testament: “There is no greater privilege for a Sikh than to lay down his life for the protection of Harimandir and the Akal Takht. I wish to be born again and again, and each time to be able to die for it.” These would rank him amongst the leading Sikh martyrs.

Kehar Singh on the other hand till the very last protested his innocence. The Supreme Court went to the extent of saying that, “The finding of guilt recorded by the High Court against Kehar Singh is a mixture of both relevant and irrelevant evidence adduced by the prosecution.” Here even Supreme Court failed to sift grain from the chaffe.26 His case was like that of Master Amir Chand who was hanged in the first Delhi Conspiracy Case on inadequate evidence.27 His son, Rajinder Singh, rightly said if “she was murdered by some one else. .” probably things would have been different. Two former Judges, Ajit Singh Bains and C.S. Tiwana, Chairman and President respectively of the Punjab Human Rights Organisation stated “There was no justice for Sikhs in India” and that the “government was more barbaric than the racist regime in South Africa.”

28

Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh were hanged to death on January 6, 1989. Prof. Darshan Singh Ragi, Akal Takht Jathedar, termed them shaheed, martyrs. The militants in retaliation during January 1989 hanged 10 persons and killed another 109 including security men, in shootouts and bomb blasts. The police in turn killed 42 of them including Harbir Singh alias Veeru Ribeiro and his associates of the KCF. For the first time, it recovered from militants AK-74 assault rifles which were more sophisticated than AK-47 rifles.29 The militants made good their losses by recruiting new youth. As Vipul Mudgal observed, “the mass base of terrorists had widened, a significant stage in the drift towards insurgency.”

30

Communal violence against the Sikhs in Hindu-dominated urban areas in Punjab was part of the Hindu prerogative. Now, it proliferated to Jammu, winter capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. On January 13, 1989, from noon, the 10,000 strong Sikh procession as part of Guru Gobind Singh’s birthday celebrations came under a systematic attack of the organised Hindu mob. For “six blood curdling hours”, the Sikhs were bludgeoned to death with iron rods, reminiscent of anti-Sikh carnage in Delhi in November 1984. Lynching and arson went hand in hand, with smoke billowing all over the city. In the words of India Today correspondents, “The police, according to every witness who has talked simply looked the other way or ducked for shelter.” They quoted senior-most officials to state, “Not a lathi was raised, not a teargas shell fired. It almost seemed as if the police were encouraging the show.”31

The days haul, according to official sources, was 13 dead, hundreds injured, 145 vehicles and hundreds of shops burnt. According to unofficial sources, the number of dead was several times over. The worst was that the Chief Minister was in the town.

All the 200 Hindus arrested days afterwards were released “following a week long hartal organised by the BJP”. The Union Government sent no word of sympathy or concern to the victims. Rather, the right of Hindus to kill the Sikhs at will was implicitly conceded; “and” as India Today correspondents observed, “the guilty go scot free.”

32

Back home to Punjab. The brutalisation of the police and “state terrorism” forced 40 Sarpanchas of Batala area to resign after lodging complaints ranging from “illegal and unregistered arrests to gross misbehaviour by policemen.” The villagers at the meeting called by Governor Siddhartha Shankar Ray at Village Shankarpur near Batala spoke of police brutalities, especially of SSP Gobind Ram who, a la Izhar Alam in Amritsar earlier, was now maintaining an underground terrorist force comprising of criminals and smugglers. K.P.S. Gill put his foot down and threatened to quit, if Gobind Ram was transferred.

33

Illegal detention and elimination of the Sikh youth, thanks to Gill’s implementing the union Home Ministry’s policy of untempered state terrorism, were the order of the day all over Punjab, especially since the middle of 1988. The usual practice was for police -consisting of local central investigation/intelligence agency (CIA) toughs, men from police and CRPF – to raid the Sikh homes at night and take away youth between 15 to 35 years of age, or better still, to catch them in the streets. The families were told that either they had not taken into custody the young man at all, or he had escaped a few hours later. Tied hand and foot, with weight tied around their waists, the bodies were pushed into the canals or river beds to appear years later, with tell tale marks, but without anyone being able to recognise their kith and kin.

34

Rajiv, by early 1989, was reconciled to state terroristic set ups and police using criminals and smugglers to fight against the militancy. In a major departure, he desisted from attributing all violence to the militants.35 It was this realisation that led him to announce on March 3, 1989, the

release of all Jodhpur detenues, withdrawal of Punjab Disturbed Areas Act, and Armed Forces

(Punjab and Chandigarh) Special Powers Act (except for Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepur

districts), removal of all restrictions on entry of foreigners in Punjab, and withdrawal of special

powers under NSA. Some people attributed these measures to U.S. Congressman Stephen Solarz’s

recent visit to Punjab, and a motion in the U.S. Congress to deny India the ‘most favoured nation’

status in matters of trade, because of Amnesty International’s report on the human rights violations

in Punjab.

36

That, the government was not sincere and its mind was closed was clear before long. Firstly,

it was silent on the fate of 309 army men who had been court martialled. Secondly, of 188 Jodhpur

detenues released on March 6, as many as 84 including Tohra were re-arrested on charges pending

against them.37

The government, as an afterthought, agreed to look into the nature of charges

whether those deserved a jail term of more than 4 years already undergone by them. Thirdly, despite

being caught on the wrong foot, after being forced by disclosures in the Indian Express to lay copies

of the main Thakkar Commission Reports on conspiracy leading to Indira’s assassination, Rajiv and

Buta Singh proceeded with, on April 7, the government’s filing a false and frivolous conspiracy case

against Simranjit Singh Mann, Atinderpal Singh, Jagmohan Singh alias Toni, and Prof. Dalip Singh –

two Bombay College Lecturers, and Rattan Singh. That reflected the height of government’s

depravity.

The arrest of two teenage girls, with one of them being molested in Majitha, caused a U.S.

Congressman Dan Burton to write to Indian Embassy in Washington about human rights violations

in India.38

The embarrassment caused to the government of India, led to instructions being

reiterated in May 1989 to Punjab police not to take women to police stations, or arrest them to

produce wanted members of their families.

But Gobind Ram, SSP Batala, was a class apart. He had two women Gurmeet Kaur and

Gurdev Kaur lifted on August 21, 1989, from Amritsar and taken to Batala. They were brutally

tortured to produce their husbands, now missing for several years. They were at first whipped.

Then they were made to lie down with four men on a wooden plank on their thighs. They were

incapacitated. That produced a public outcry. Prof. Darshan Singh Ragi, Akal Takht Jathedar

spearheaded the campaign against beating of women in police stations and ‘repression on Sikhs’.

With hundreds of others including religious and political leaders, he gheraoed Batala police station

on September 1, 1989. He likened Gobind Ram to ‘Ravan, Duryodhan and Dushashan’. President

of Human Rights Organisation, Justice Ajit Singh Bains, warned that the Sikhs too were preparing

lists of policemen on the basis of their behaviour with the public. There was demand for Gobind

Ram’s suspension and inquiry by a High Court Judge.39

Prof Ragi threatened dharna at Governor’s

residence on September 8, unless the demands were conceded.

Ray conceded that Gobind Ram was one of “three-four others who had become sadists due

to the extraordinary situation” but still defended him. KPS Gill was still “favourably disposed

towards Gobind Ram.” As against the duo, whose approach to the Sikh problem was no different

than that of Mir Mannu in 18th century Ribeiro was horrified. “I am against brutalisation of the

police force” and that “it was a mistake to have sent Gobind Ram to Batala in the first place”, said

he.40

However, he was asked to keep his hands off the police department. He was on his way out to

a diplomatic assignment, after leaving a bitter legacy.

Gobind Ram after an enquiry got away with only a transfer from Batala. The retribution came in another form. On September 13, his 18 years old college going son at Jalandhar was shot dead. No one claimed responsibility.

Prof Ragi’s appeal to the militants to be humane to women and children had an immediate effect. The militants kidnapped a teenage son of a police officer and four year old son of another in next few days, and treated them well. KPS Gill knelt down to swap men held in illegal police custody, to have the boys released.

41

Side by side, on September 20, 1989, itself when Gill was striking deal with the militants, Bhai Manjit Singh, younger son of Sant Kartar Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale was being initiated into panthic politics in Gurdwara Ramsar, Amritsar. The meet by the AISSF was especially cleared by Ray and Gill. While the resolutions by the AISSF reiterated the concept of Khalistan, Manjit Singh understandably made no mention of it as the goal.42

Harminder Singh Sandhu still in detention issued a hard hitting statement which came as a surprise as he had, after Bluestar, offered cooperation to the government.

After the initiation ceremony was over, discernible observers perceived that the government had a finger in every pie, and it “continues to play games in Punjab.”43 Not only that, Haryana Home Minister Sampat Singh in July 1989 had threatened to disclose Buta Singh’s links with terrorists, but was prevailed upon to desist from that.

44

The day of reckoning came. And, the government of Rajiv Gandhi which had made Punjab a big field for its games was defeated. The Congress(I) emerged as the single largest party in the general elections held in November 1989. In Punjab, Simranjit Singh Mann-led Akali Dal won six of thirteen seats, with another four going to candidates backed by it. The people of Punjab had shown an uncanny commonsense.

The last action of Rajiv before demitting office was to withdraw the fictitious conspiracy case against Mann who had won a landslide victory from Tarn Taran constituency, and order his release. Mann, subjected to repression and torture in Jail for five years on trumped up charges, later talked about ‘Nuremberg’ type trials of ‘guilty’ police officers. The arch-conspirator, S. Anantram, got scot free. To complicate matters, Rajiv government also released Harminder Singh Sandhu, General Secretary, of the AISSF. Only a shortwhile earlier, he had issued a terse statement for Khalistan and thanked Pakistan for offering sanctuaries to the militants. Immediately after his release, he reiterated that Khalistan was the goal of the AISSF and that they would talk to the new government of V.P. Singh “only through the aegis of the United Nations.”45 Ray mischievously sought instructions from Prime Minister V.P. Singh, when he had hardly taken over, whether or not to re-arrest Sandhu. His intentions were not clean. This was clear from the fact that a couple of days earlier he had hastily closed the case against Gobind Ram, former SSP Batala, charged with beating up Sarpanchas publicly, and his recommendations to hold Assembly elections.46

He was out to embarrass the new government and also create complications for Mann.

V.P. Singh’s response came immediately after he took over as Prime Minister on December 6, 1989. He decided to visit the Golden Temple, Amritsar, the following day. Accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal, Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and Inder Kumar Gujral not in his capacity as Foreign Minister but as Minister from Punjab, he moved through the parikarma of the Golden Temple without armed security guards and prayed at the key Sikh and Hindu shrines

in Amritsar. He drove through Amritsar in an open jeep. Even elements from the AISSF hailed the gesture.

The same day Siddhartha Shankar Ray after having a feel of the changed atmosphere resigned. He was replaced on December 8 by former Cabinet Secretary Nirmal Kumar Mukherjee, who vouchsafed new approach to solve the Punjab problem.

Akali Dal (Mann) lost no time in redefining its goals within the framework of a united India. In a resolution adopted on December 10, 1989, it demanded an “autonomous Sikh region” in north India comprising Punjab, and some adjoining areas of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan with the right to frame its own “internal constitution” having all powers except foreign relations, defence, currency and general communications.” The party spokesman, while releasing the resolution, stated that it was based on the Cabinet Mission Plan on the basis of which power was transferred to the two dominions of India and Pakistan in August 1947. This was interpreted by discernible observers as “a significant climbdown from the AISSF stand for an independent Khalistan”.

47

The all-party meeting convened by the Union Home Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed at Delhi on December 17, 1989, adopted a consensus paper on Punjab. It had three main ingredients. One, resolution of Punjab problem within the framework of the constitution without sacrificing the unity and integrity of the country; Two, expeditious steps to secure conviction of the guilty persons involved in 1984 violence against the Sikhs; and Three, repeal of the 59th

amendment of the constitution. The Congress(I) was not part of the consensus. Its representatives, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Buta Singh, P. Chidambaram, Darbara Singh and Beant Singh could not point to the specific points to which they did not agree. Later, Congress(I) leaders, to sidetrack the issues under discussion, asked the government to declare its position with regard to revival of pro-Khalistan declarations, continuation of killings and re-entry of arms into the Gurdwaras. About these, the document did make specific references. These were reflective of Congress(I)’s line of action to aggravate the situation in Punjab. The continuous clout of K.P.S. Gill in the state stood it in good stead. Then there was the CRPF.

Mann welcomed evolving the national consensus and extended his support to V.P. Singh who, on December 19, 1989, reiterated the need for “healing hearts”. Three Akali Dal (Mann) M.P.s, who took their oath in Lok Sabha two days later, voted for the motion reposing confidence in V.P. Singh government. Two of them, Rajinder Kaur Bulara and Rajdev Singh, who spoke, made impassioned plea for restoration of democratic processes in Punjab and squarely condemned Congress(I) for perpetrating inhuman atrocities on the Sikhs. It was Congress(I) which fostered on them the desire to secede in order to live honourably.

By the end of December 1989 there was slight change in the attitude of the new government. Firstly, the quantum of autonomy being asked for by Akali Dal (Mann) was beyond comprehension of any Hindu dominated political party. Secondly, if elections were held to the provincial assembly as scheduled, Akali Dal (Mann) which had won plurality of votes in 74 out of 99 segments of provincial assembly constituencies during November Parliamentary elections, was bound to sweep the polls, marginalising further Badal and Barnala Akali Dais. This was not acceptable to various political elements including not only Congress(I) but also BJP, CPM and even Deputy Prime Minister, Devi Lal. Thirdly, only Ray had been replaced. His alter-ego Gill, who continued to play havoc with the administration, was still there. The police’s putting to death Akali

Dal (Mann) M.P. Baldev Singh Khudian on December 28, 1989, and dumping his body in a canal (this came to light in early January 1990) was designed to foul the atmosphere.

Governor Nirmal Mukherjee’s statement that the issue of holding provincial elections shall be reviewed by the end of January 1990 was seized upon by Hindu-conscience keeper Times of India (editorial, December 30, 1989) to advocate that “it would be dangerous to restore full democratic process in Punjab at this stage before the new government becomes fully cognisant of the ground realities in the state.”

Harkishan Singh Surjeet of CPM followed with a press conference at Chandigarh on January 2, 1990. He termed Akali Dal (Mann)’s demands as “nothing but a step towards Khalistan.” He opined that Congress(I), BJP, CPI and CPM were not in favour of holding assembly elections in Punjab at present.48 This line up was a signal to V.P. Singh to move cautiously. The same day, Mann at Faridkot conveyed his willingness to attend all-party meet on Punjab being convened by the Centre at Ludhiana on January 11, 1990. He wanted the centre to announce general amnesty and release of all the Sikhs lodged in Jails, reinstatement of army deserters, repeal of all black laws, and stoppage of ‘fake encounters’. He pointed out that the Sikhs were being treated ‘like slaves’ and ‘excesses’ against them were continuing. Badal and he wanted the administration to trace Khudian, the missing M.P.

49

The recovery of Khudian’s body the following day from the canal at the very site at which, the police had earlier said, Khudian had committed suicide, was one of the factors which prevented Mann from attending the all-Party meet. The refusal of Mukherjee on January 7, to grant general amnesty, and murderous spree by the CRPF at Tarn Taran, for which the governor had to express his regrets, were others. Finally, Mann had his doubts about the utility of an all-Party rally. “When you don’t deal with reality and indulge in theatrics it only leads to a mirage”, he said. He had the mandate and wanted Damdami Taksal and the AISSF to be called for negotiations. He asked his men to prepare the list of police excesses and categorise the police officers in A.B.C. categories, as police did with the militants.

49a

A day before the Ludhiana meet, Gobind Ram, former SSP Batala, was blown out in a bomb blast in his Punjab Armed Police (PAP) office at Jalandhar and registered their presence. According to Joyce Pettigrew this was the work of persons from within the (PAP).

50

Ludhiana meet on January 11, 1990, was a big tamasha. V.P. Singh was illustriously cheered and repeatedly got off his car to accept felicitations from the crowd enroute. The non-attendance of Akali Dal(Mann) was a set back: Badal, and Barnala who was heckled throughout, provided no substitute. The absence of Congress(I) was on the cards.

It was practically a meet of the National Front. The various constituents blew their own trumpets and dispersed. V.P. Singh was all for giving the peace a chance in Punjab. His pronouncements, inhibited as he was, consisted only of platitudes. The only tangible announcement was the one ordering judicial probe into Khudian’s death. He was prevented from making a major announcement by Atal Behari Vajpayee of the BJP and Harkishan Singh Surjeet of the CPM, both of whom were full of venom.

Vajpayee glibly saw a contradiction in the demand for general amnesty in Punjab to the one asking for punishment of those guilty of committing violence against the Sikhs in November 1984

riots. He cast aspersions on sincerity of Mann Akali M.P.s. Surjeet smelt a theocratic state in the Sikh aspirations.

Devi Lal was his usual ebullient self. Gujral still talked of “a new chapter of peace and patriotism”. Indrajit Gupta of CPI was the lore voice demanding elections. Badal’s suggestion to set up a commission under a Supreme Court Judge to identify those responsible for bringing Punjab to its present sorry pass, though a noval one, was unrealistic.51

No judge of Supreme Court, a packed body, whose members have sold their conscience, would be honest to himself much less to the ruling elite to do so.

Mann met V.P. Singh at Halwara airport on his arrival and again at the lime of his departure. He, inter alia, wanted Prime Minister to dismantle the “repressive administrative machinery” in Punjab. This meant removal of Chief Secretary, S.L. Kapur, and Director General of Police, KPS Gill. This should have been at the top of Prime Minister’s agenda right from the day of his visit to Amritsar. Mann asked for recall of para military forces and wanted the administration to provide a list of those wanted by the state for acts of terrorism.

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V.P. Singh’s seeking assurance from Mann that his party, if it comes to power in the assembly, would not adopt a resolution asking for Khalistan,” only showed the height of distrust of the Sikhs. It also revealed the depth to which suspicions had taken root among the people who considered the Sikh’s asserting their independence a logical step after undergoing that much deprivation and persecution. No amount of assurances can generate faith in a society based on chicanery and skullduggery. Mann assured V.P. Singh as much as he could that his apprehensions were baseless. He even offered to forge an alliance with the ruling Janta Dal to rule out such a possibility.

54

To clarify his position, Mann in an interview with the Washington Post disclosed that he had sought mediation of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter over Punjab’s “political status to end the civil strife in the Indian stale”. Carter was already seized of similar problems in central America and an Ethiopian province. Mann had in view the “autonomous powers granted to the French speaking province of Quebec in Canada” as a model, for a possible solution of Punjab problem. “But that was red herring to Congress(I)-BJP-CPM combine. Mann should have been more circumspect, especially because V.P. Singh was heading a minority government.

Amidst the welter of contradictory pulls, it was obvious that V.P. Singh’s drive towards peace in Punjab had met a setback, if not come to a grinding halt. Only a unilateral action on the part of Prime Minister could salvage the situation and take Punjab out of the morass. For that, V.P. Singh needed courage and full support from within his own party. That was not forthcoming.

To begin with, taking away, in part, Punjab problem from Inder Kumar Gujral and entrusting it to Arun Nehru, the evil genius behind November 1984 riots and grounding of the Rajiv-Longowal accord, was a retrogressive step. It meant putting a new heart to the oppressive administrative set up in Punjab. Significantly, Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, on Nirmal Mukherjee’s report on January 19, sought to dispel the impression that “terrorists can run amuck in Punjab just because of the recent mandate of the People.”56

The security forces resumed their offensive with venom to wipe out the militants. The killing of Harmindar Singh Sandhu, considered close to the administration, on January 24, 1990, was a retributory step.

Side by side, the administration sought to erode the image of Mann. Akal Dal (Mann) was already facing teething troubles because it was not yet a single, cohesive political entity with a clear cut policy and programme of action. The revolt of Dhian Singh Mand M.P. to assert his identity, and moves to further splinter the A1SSF are to be seen in that light.

And then, the security forces using a constable to plant and explode a powerful bomb at the Police Training College, Phillaur, on February 11, 1990, to show the bold face of ‘terrorism’ was a class in itself.57 There was increase in killings and extortions. The police set up in Punjab was determined not to let the centre free itself from the kind of unimaginative, police-oriented, approach that it had inherited from the previous regime. Congress(I), BJP, CPM, as also the ruling Janta Dal in another few days, openly advocated that elections should not be held in Punjab until some kind of normalcy was restored. The government too, by now, was prevaricating. By the third week of February, it was thinking in terms of extension of President’s rule beyond May 11.58

It was also toying with the idea of reviving the Punjab assembly dissolved earlier, to bring up Badal vis-a-vis Mann. Barnala could be accommodated with a governorship. Mann was quite upset at the various moves. He could have said with Julius Ceasar, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” On March 7, he termed the union government as a “bunch of criminals from top to bottom” and the Punjab police “an organised gang of terrorists”. Pie expressed himself against killing of innocent persons, extortions and robberies, etc. But the “organised gang of terrorists” struck in a big way the same evening killing 28 persons and injuring another 30 in Hindu dominated Abohar in a bomb blast. Conveniently, electricity and telephone lines were down. And then, they struck again at Tarn Taran, the following day.

Mann knew the police game. He called on V.P. Singh and Devi Lal, separately on March 8, and emphasised the need for removal of Director General Police and Chief Secretary as a process of dismantling of the oppressive machinery. Prime Minister seemed agreeable.

An all-party meeting held at Raj Bhavan on March 13, by and large, opposed the holding of Assembly elections in the state in the prevalent circumstances. Surjeet and Vajpayee made firm declarations to the fact on March 23, at Khatkar Kalan celebrations marking Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom anniversary.

The 64th Constitution Amendment Bill to extend President’s rule in Punjab beyond May 10 introduced in Lok Sabha on March 30, fell through at the introduction stage as Congress(I) chose to withdraw from the House. A majority of total members of the House was not present. A meeting of leaders of various parties including Congress(I), decided that it should be reintroduced on April 4. The Government now sought to manage a convenient terroristic act on the eve of introduction of the Bill to ensure its safe passage. A powerful bomb blast went off at Batala on April 3, killing 40 people. The irate Hindu mob caught hold of 12 Sikhs near the Gurdwara and killed them in presence of the police and the BSF personnel. The post mortem report indicated that two of them had been killed in police firing – a glaring truth despite KPS Gill’s denial to the contrary.

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The bomb blast caused communal flare up. Indefinite curfew was imposed at Batala. The government agreed to Congress(I)’s moving an adjournment motion in Lok Sabha on April 5, to extract its support in passage of the bill. It was also receptive to the plea for Mukherjee’s removal. Mann was explicit, “In case the Sikhs are denied their constitutional rights, we will be forced to redefine our political goals.”60 He also held the Punjab government squarely responsible for the killings at Batala.

On Baisakhi, April 13, 1990, at Talwandi Sabo, Mann announced his resolve to approach the U.N. for a plebiscite in Punjab to find out whether the Sikhs wanted to live in India. He also stated that the people of Punjab would not support the government in case of a war with Pakistan. Some prominent members formed a “committee on Punjab” with Justice (Retd) V.M. Tarkunde as its president to “devise ways and means to bring about a political resolution to the Punjab problem.”

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Mann and V.P. Singh had, of late, drifted apart. Already Mann had not taken his oath as a member of Lok Sabha on one pretext or the other. Earlier it was release of Attinder Pal Singh, a party M.P. Later, it was Mann’s insistence to take his three feet long sword alongwith him to the House. The issue of taking of the sword was used just to express his disgust at the government’s handling of Punjab situation.

The observance of ghallughara (holocaust) week in early June 1990 saw mammoth crowds attending functions sponsored by the militant groups. Mann’s ros (protest) march for restoration of democratic processes, covering several villages in the borders of Amritsar and Gurdaspur, besides his listening to the people’s grievances and attending bhog ceremonies of militants killed, were provocative to the administration. The centre already politically adrift, replaced Nirmal Kumar Mukherjee who had been inquisitive about the security forces mis-doings, by a faceless Janta Dal Member of Rajya Sabha, Virendra Verma. He proved to be an uninspiring and inapt Governor, Gill administered him a sharp rebuke on June 23, 1990, when in a closed door meeting, he stated that “brutalities had increased and that the police had a hand in kidnapping and extortions.”62

It was now obvious that Gill had emerged as the real power.

The government inducted National Security Guards in the border districts in July to supplement the police and para military forces. It had its immediate impact in 200 civilians and ‘more than 150 suspected terrorists’ being killed during July 1990. The police now started showing civilians and militants being killed in what it called ‘inter-gang rivalries’. “The fall out” in the words of Kanwar Sandhu of India Today “is that the police have once again assumed the preponderant role in the administration.”

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The militants made their presence felt at Chandigarh when they killed former Finance Minister Balwant Singh and then “two senior engineers posted on controversial SYL canal project,” which brought the work at the project to a creeching halt.64

They also had the Chandigarh-based newspapers to publish in full, Sukha and Jinda’s letter to the President. This was the handiwork of the new Panthic Committee headed by Dr. Sohan Singh retired Director, Health Services of Punjab. It declared itself against the pursuit of parliamentary path to gain power.

In another month, the government took “the controversial decision to ask the army to mount exercises in these areas.” This was later termed operation Rakshak 1. A series of new steps including night ambushes were chalked out.

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V.P. Singh was disturbed at the turn of events. His visit to Lopoke village, on India-Pakistan borders, was a non-event and his prescription of “all-party meeting” was termed by Badal as an “exercise in futility”. V.P. Singh full of remorse stated, “One thing I will regret all my life for which I will not pardon myself, and publicly acknowledge my mistake, in not holding elections (in Punjab) within six months of the Government coming into power.”

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By the autumn of 1990, V.P. Singh government had run out of ideas. That was true in regard to the general problems facing the country, especially the continued self-immolation by caste-Hindu youth protesting against acceptance of Mandal Commission Report. BJP’s efforts to ride on the crest of Hindu revivalism brought it and the ruling Janta Dal to the parting of ways.

Mann’s decision to quit Lok Sabha seat on October 12, 1990, was a pointer to the hardening of attitudes. Mann in a press statement said, “We have been thrown out of the Constitution. Only the United Nations can restore democracy in Punjab.”

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The fall of V.P. Singh government shortly afterwards and incoming of the new one, headed by Chandra Shekhar caused much flutter. Chandra Shekhar was one of the few leaders who had condemned Indira’s Operation Bluestar. But now he was in power with the support of Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress(I) which was determined to draw its pound of flesh.

At Chandra Shekhar’s first meeting, KPS Gill abused Virendra Verma. He positively disliked the situation. That made him to transfer KPS Gill as Director General of CRPF and replace Virendra Verma by General O.P. Malhotra. To revamp the upper echelons, he replaced the Chief Secretary and brought Tejendra Khanna from the centre.

That tended to give a new but facile look to the administration which was worried at the media’s caving in to the code of conduct issued by the Panthic Committee led by Dr. Sohan Singh on November 20. The code wanted the media to use the word militant and not terrorist, and drop the prefix ‘self-styled’ while mentioning the rank. The Radio and TV stations at Jalandhar and Amritsar followed suit. But not the Radio Station at Chandigarh. It did so only after its Station Director, Rajendra Kumar Talib, was shot dead on December 6, 1990.

Meanwhile, at the ground level, 100,000 to 1 50,000 troops were spreading out in November 1990 on the Punjab borders to carry on Rakshak 1 exercise, to plug the border and extend support to the civil administration even in remote areas. To add to the deception, Chandra Shekhar offered to talk to any one, including militants on all matters inclusive of Khalistan, “to show how impractical it was.”

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The Akalis fell to the bait. As a first step three Akali Dais – led by Badal. Tota Singh and Mann – decided to unite at Fatehgarh. Sahib on December 26, under the overall leadership of Mann. But a day before Babbar Akali Dal, to rock the boat, came into being.

Mann met Chandra Shekhar on December 28,1990, and presented a memorandum. It emphasised the Sikhs resolve to assert their right of self-determination granted to them by international law and article 51 of the Constitution. It went on that the “Sikhs have no choice but to safeguard their religious, political and other interests”, recalled that the Sikhs had joined the Union on the basis of the Cabinet Mission Plan which gave the right of provinces to change their constitution after 10 years. “Even if the format of the province has changed, the principle remains”. The memorandum emitted an aura of a suppressed nation, rising against the tyranny of “Brahminical Government of India”.

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Both CPM and Congress(I) felt disturbed at the tenor of the talks. Rajiv Gandhi expressed his strong reservations at the invocation of article 51 of the Constitution. Mann challenged L.K. Advani, Rajiv Gandhi and E.M.S. Namboodiripad to have a debate with him on the issue.70

Independent of that, a meeting between Chandra Shekhar and representatives of the AISSF(Manjit), Damdami Taksal, and Panthic Committees led by Manochahal and Zaffarwal was held on January 11, 1991, at the Prime Minister’s farm house at Bhondsi in Haryana. Chandra Shekhar said that because of the minority character of his government, he was not able to discuss with them an autonomous region within India much less an independent Sikh state. He could attend to cases of innocent detainees, barricades before the Golden Temple, etc. As a result, cases against Bhai Manjit Singh held in Sangrur Jail were dropped and he was released on January 14, 1991.

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The link for these talks was provided by Gurtej Singh formerly of IAS who had connections with P.S. Kohli IAS, a former adviser to Punjab Governor. One Guruswamy of Andhra Pradesh who had his own connections with Gurtej Singh of Andhra cadre acted as a common friend to carry through the talks.72

A political conference in February presided over by Tohra gave mandate to the militants for talks with the government. These were obviously a trap.

Before proceeding further, it would be of interest to have a look at the various Panthic Committees and their alignments. Shekhar Gupta in India Today and Samir Lal in a special report in the Times of India of February 10, 1991 details them as follows:

1. Panthic Committee (Dr. Sohan Singh)

1. 1 Khalistan Commando Force led by Paramjit Singh Panjawar

1. 2 Babbar Khalsa International led by Sukhdev Singh Babbar

1. 3 Khalistan Liberation Force led by Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala

1. 4 Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan led by Rachhpal Singh Sangha and Satnam Singh Satta.

1. 5 AISSF – Daljit Singh Bittu

2. Panthic Committee (Wassan Singh Zaffarwal Group)

2. 1 Khalistan Commando Force (Zaffarwal group)

3. Panthic Committee (Gurbachan Singh Manochahal group) -Believed by other militants to be government agents.

3. 1 Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan (Manochahal group)

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3. 2 Khalistan Commando Force (Gurjant Singh Rajasthani group)

3. 3 AISSF (Manjit Singh group) it was a middle ground group confining itself to political and ideological work.

4. Panthic Committee (Gurdev Singh Usmanwala group)

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Note by Samir Lal: None of these organisations has any formal links with various Akali factions or the SGPC. However all the mainstream bodies are susceptible to pressure from the militants.

Unaware of the goings on, Mann awoke to the threat posed by the army’s massive involvement in Punjab. The three separate strands – the various steps to the merger of Akali Dais, Mann’s talks with the government and army’s increasingly spreading its operations went hand in hand for another six weeks when certain militant organisations sought to inject a sense of realism in the ongoing process.

In a statement issued on February 14, 1991, Bhai Kulwant Singh Babbar on behalf of five militant organisations aligned to Panthic Committee (Dr. Sohan Singh) stated, “The militants have no doubt that Mr. Shekhar is flying on borrowed wings and thus could hardly be worth talking to. A leader on borrowed life could hardly give anything to the Sikhs.”75

He cast doubts on the government’s credibility to give them safe passage for talks.

That put a sense of realism in Mann who by end of February wanted the government to withdraw the army and recall the Governor for “having the whole townships searched, and insulted lawyers and intellectuals, gagged the press and robbed every Sikh of his self respect.” He characterised Chandra Shekhar government a dummy resting on the shoulders of Rajiv Gandhi, and added “Recently, killing of the Sikhs by the security forces in false encounters reached the proportion of a genocide.”

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The police excesses boomeranged and found expression in a series of gheraos of police stations and highway blockades following reports of false encounters. The killing of half a dozen farmers at Nathu Ka Burj in Amritsar district in army ambush in February 1991 helped to inflame people’s resentment. Governor Malhotra’s arrival there later only gave credence to the authorities insensitiveness to the villagers.

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The decennial census operations completed by the time indicated, the extent to which the Sikh genocidal policy initiated by Indira had had its impact during the decade 1981-1991.

Keeping in view the strength of the armed forces, the CRPF and the BSF in Punjab at the time of census operations and the strength of Purbea labour in various districts, and reading in between the lines the provisional population figures issued by the census authorities, one comes to the startling conclusion that in Punjab,

a) the Sikhs have lost anything between ten to twelve lakh (1 to 1.2 mn) people mainly youth, during the decade 1981-91: the break up being over 200,000 thousand each in Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts: over 100, 000 each in Ludhiana, Patiala; and Bhatinda districts; between 50,000 to 100,000 in Faridkot, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Ferozepur and Sangrur districts; between 25,000 to 50,000 in Rupnagar district.

b) the number of the Sikh women in age group 15-35 in 1991 was higher than the corresponding figure for the Sikh menfolk in the same age group.

And, in case the Sikhs continued to observe the current family planning norms, the killing of their youth during 1981-91 which is still going on would show phenomenal downfall in the Sikh population in the next decennial census in 2001.

The formal results of the census operations were yet months away. Mann was still fulminating when it was confirmed that the talks between some sections of militants and Prime Minister had taken place. These were confirmed by Dr. Jagjit Singh Chauhan U.K. based head of Khalistan as also Chandra Shekhar.78 One could only surmise whether Chauhan, a dubious character, had links with either Zaffarwal or Manochahal Committees, or possibly with both of them. Of all, Panthic Committee (Dr. Sohan Singh) was quite in the dark. It condemned those holding talks with Prime Minister as opportunists.

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The fall of Chandra Shekhar government over the issue of spying by two Haryana policemen at Rajiv’s house and India’s hurtling towards another general elections stampeded the various Akali factions towards the election fray. Chandra Shekhar played not a mean role in persuading those who had held talks with him in January last to participate in the elections both for Parliament and for Punjab provincial assembly.

Piqued at Congress(I)’s withdrawal of support, Chandra Shekhar, to begin with, was for holding simultaneous elections to Parliament and Provincial assembly seats in Punjab in May 1991 alongwith elections in other parts of India. For that, he over-ruled President R. Venkataraman who had certain reservations mainly because of boycott of Punjab elections by Congress(I).

Chandra Shekhar was partially moved by army’s strong recommendations to hold elections in Punjab at an early date. These in the eyes of the union Home Ministry had political overtones. The Army, not conversant with police links with certain militants and state-terrorist outfits, also talked of militant infiltration of security forces it projected a scenario of militancy taking the shape of urban insurgency. The Punjab Police, knowing its role, described it as ‘highly exaggerated’.80

In short, while the army was interested in thinning down its presence, if not complete withdrawal, the government was attempting to institutionalise army presence by its continued involvement in electoral process and after.

But hardly was the notification issued that the union Home Ministry changed its stance. Elections in Assam and Punjab both for Parliamentary seats and for provincial assembly were delinked. Ultimately these were fixed for June 7 and 21 respectively, i.e., almost four weeks in case of Punjab after the completion of process in other parts of India. The point of mischief was that it would enable the new government to play havoc with them. In that, Chandra Shekhar behaved like a crafty Purbea. It also showed his malefic intentions towards the ongoing political process in Punjab. He was acting more as a Congress(I) stooge notwithstanding his earlier good intentions.

The first round of polling to seats in Parliament took place on May 19, 1991. Rajiv was killed by a human bomb, Dhanu (the blessed one – real name Kalaivathi) of LTTE the following day. That led to postponement of the next two rounds of polling to mid June. By the time, the elections in Assam were completed, but not in Punjab.

The election fray only helped to show how fractured the Sikh polity was amidst Akalis, neo-Akalis, militants and pseudo-militants. The alignments were rather sharp.

Firstly, Simranjit Singh Mann, whose Akali Dal had won a mandate during the last general elections to Lok Sabha in 1989. His greatest handicap was that he could not have had the time to weld his party into a political machine. Having been catapulted into political fray after five years incarceration, he faced a great deal of limitations in finding sincere people committed to the cause. And like Sant Fateh Singh in 1960s, he ran the risk of being joined by infiltrators, this time intelligence agents.

Secondly, the alignment of Gurbachan Singh Manochahal, founder member of the first Panthic Committee formed in 1986, Bhai Mohkam Singh of Damdami Taksal and Bhai Manjit Singh of the AISSF. They had greatly felt encouraged after their parleys with Chandra Shekhar since January last. Gurtej Singh formerly IAS was, in the words of Avinash Singh, “believed to be the brain behind the indirect Central support to the federation led by Manjit Singh.”81 They at first

sought to corner 70 of 117 assembly and 7 of 13 Lok Sabha seats, leaving 40 assembly and 5 Lok

Sabha seats to Mann. Bhai Manjit Singh was projected as prospective Chief Minister. Manochahal

wanted to get accepted as Jathedar of Akal Takht. And, surprisingly, “Senior police officers have

been heard saying in private that there is very little crime against his name in police records.”82

There was, however, revolt in the AISSF and a section from Ferozepur and Kapurthala floated a

separate unit.

Thirdly, Badal who broke away from Mann-led Akali Dal. With well knit organisation at his

command, he was in full fray despite advice to the contrary of the AISSF (Manjit) activists.

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Fourthly, Longowal Akali Dal and a host of others, not of much consequence.

Finally, the militant outfit led by Panthic Committee(Dr. Sohan Singh). They did not now

believe in the electoral process. The Committee had been greatly weakend because Dr. Sohan

Singh, the think tank of the Committee, was unwell, and according to some sources, had gone out of

India for treatment, or was no longer in command.

83a

Mann faced an uphill task. Firstly, he was at the receiving butt of the rest of the Sikh groups

in or outside the election fray. Secondly, he was involved in gruelling arguments with the militants –

formerly led by Dr. Sohan Singh whose mantle now fell on Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar of Babbar

Khalsa International – not to thwart the electoral process by the bandh call given by them for June

21-22. He made earnest attempts to convince them by utterances and by insertions in the daily Ajit

of Jalandhar that they could “achieve their goal by launching a two-pronged struggle” and that there

was no contradictions between their struggle by bullet and his by ballot. These were rather

complementary. That was especially so as the militants considered Bhai Manjit Singh, in the words

of Gobind Thukral of Hindustan Times, “as an agent of the Centre.”

84

Mann spoke of the need to revamp the entire administration, stop fake encounters,

‘involuntary disappearance’ of the Sikh youth, and dismantle the oppressive machinery which was

serving as the handmaid of the Centre. The enactment of a special law absolving the police

personnel of their oppressive and illegal deeds in case of Akalis coming in to power in Punjab was

provocative.

Objectively speaking, one could say that Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar on whom fell the

mantle of Dr. Sohan Singh Panthic Committee failed to appreciate that extremists and fellow

travellers, functioning within the constitutional framework had always played an important role in

furthering the cause of revolution. They have throughout history worked within the parameters laid

down by the imperialist or authoritarian powers, and availed of the constitutional processes

whatsoever available. It had been in the interest of revolutionaries to see that the position of the

extremists and cohorts was not compromised, much less overwhelmed, especially by pseudo

militants or counter revolutionaries. Sukhdev Singh’s distrust of the plank of Mann and Badal to

seize power to dismantle the oppressive machinery and cause all round demoralisation, and instead

go in for boycott of the elections, showed an utter lack of political processes. He failed to

appreciate the distinctions between militants and extremists, or for that matter between militants and

terrorists on the one hand, and extremists, moderates and quislings on the other. He also failed to

realise that militants cannot overthrow the Indian system, only weaken it. Banda Singh Bahadur did,

and could, seize Punjab, but failed against the imperial, read Indian, might. The success of the Sikhs

later could be attributed to Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali’s softening up of the Mughal

administration. In short, Sukhdev Singh lacked a wider perspective, and failed to come out of the narrow grooves and operate as a leader of broader set up rather than the Babbars.

By the time, electioneering formally came to a close, polling to 11 Assembly and two Lok Sabha seats had been countermanded because of killing of candidates, while election to another set of 11 Assembly and one Lok Sabha seats was fixed for June 22.

By June 19, it was obvious that Congress(I) had improved its position as the largest single party, well short of majority, in the Lok Sabha. It was also obvious, because of political permutations, it was out to form the next government at the Centre. By midnight, Chief Election Commissioner, T.N. Seshan, a nominee of Rajiv to the post and who had conducted the May-June 1991 elections as a circus master, conspired with President R. Venkataraman and postponed the Punjab elections to September 25. Lameduck Prime Minister, Chandra Shekhar, was not even consulted. A disillusioned Governor, Gen. Malhotra, resigned in protest. Akali Dal(Mann) called it a ‘fascist’ act. The daily Tribune (Chandigarh) wrote, “It will be seen as an act of betrayal, one more in a chain of such acts.”

85

In a unique move, Mann candidates wrote to the United Nations Secretary General, Javier Peres de Cuellar “to have the elections conducted in Punjab under the aegis of the U.N. to stop the tide of gross and systematic violations of the human rights.” They added, “Punjab has become a colony of the Centre’s rule and the Sikhs have been enslaved.” Mann also appealed to the militants to stop fratricidal war and change their strategy to avoid serious repercussions.

By mid-August, Akali Dal (Mann) and the AISSF (Manjit) announced ‘complete unity’ between the two groups. Knowledgeable circles termed it very damaging to Mann.

86

With Congress(I) back in power at the Centre, it initiated a multipronged policy for suppression of the Sikhs. P.V. Narasimha Rao, the new Prime Minister was an old war horse of Indira vintage. He had long been associated with Indira’s Sikh baiting policies. He had willy nilly been a part of Indira’s Brahminical zeal.

The appointment of Surindra Nath, a retired I.P.S. officer, the first from that service to get such an appointment, was indicative of the new government’s resolve to turn Punjab into a police state. He had earlier been adviser after Operation Bluestar. This caused a setback to Tejendra Khanna’s moves to assert supremacy of civil services over the police raj. The oppressive state machinery felt greatly encouraged. The security forces in cooperation with the army by July 1991 turned sufficient heat on the militants who, according to some reports, chose to fan out into some convenient places in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Soon the union government refused to go by the electoral process. To it, even Bhai Manjit Singh or Manochahal were not acceptable. Surjeet wanted Narasimha Rao to go ahead with the elections, combined with a package deal based on Rajiv-Longowal Accord. He went on to assure Narasimha Rao that Akalis won’t participate in the election process, leaving the field free to Congress(I) and others.

It was as a result of such manoeuvrings that Tohra in August 1991 floated the idea of support to the “militant Sikh struggle” by boycotting the elections. Already, he had sought tankhahiya Buta Singh’s support in elections to Delhi Sikhs Gurdwara Management Committee

executive posts. The militants, especially aligned to Panthic Committee (Dr. Sohan Singh) erroneously thought that Tohra was adopting their line. Their motivations were different.

The bringing about of ‘complete unity’ between Akali Dal (Mann) and the AISSF (Manjit) during the period was a step in the same direction – to incapacitate Mann and tame him. Already, he had been considerably weakened by defections. Political experts termed the ‘unity’ an abject surrender on the part of Mann.87

His plunging in another two months to extend support to beleaguered Muslim leaders on Ayodhya shrine is to be seen as an effort to regain ground; so were the forays of militants in areas outside Punjab. And, their kidnapping of Romanian diplomat Liviu Radu fell in the same category.

The government at first wanted to intensify its Sikh genocidal policy before choosing to go in for elections. It brought back KPS Gill as Director General of Police in Punjab overcoming Governor Surendra Nath’s initial resistance. The union government underscored the continuation of legal anarchy in Punjab. Gill during this period was only a henchman, and a native at that. The real power lay with Director General, Intelligence, O.P. Sharma, who got orders directly from the Intelligence Bureau who called the shots. Joyce Pettigrew adds, “in the Punjab law and order issues are controlled by Delhi.”

87a

Gill revamped the police set up by inducting handpicked young I.P.S. Officers, mainly from outside Punjab. He placed them as SSPs (Senior Superintendents of Police) at district level. They began their service career with extra legal powers of life and death, outside the pale of civil power, judiciary or even the constitution. He also drafted as SSPs coldblooded rankers who had excelled themselves in cruelty and heartlessness.87b

They were assisted by SHOs (Station House Officers) in police stations who had a direct line to Gill who called the shots and/or provided the cover. Police in Punjab now virtually became mercenary.

The policy of summary execution of suspects got buttressed. It had “the blessings of some key officials at the Centre as borne out by series of secret communications from Delhi.” Kanwar Sandhu adds that when Sanjeev Gupta, a young SSP inadvertently justified fake encounters, V.S. Vaidya, Special Director (and later, Director of Intelligence Bureau) wrote to Gill on December 30, 1991, “They (district officials;) should refrain from even implicitly hinting that they indulge, connive or approve of anything which is in violation of the law of the land. Their professional compulsions in executive action should not get reflected in their public utterances.”88

Obviously, police excesses ‘were to be projected as militant propaganda and in some cases as a result of inter-gang rivalry.

From mid-November 1991 armed forces were inducted in Punjab in a big way. Already the police sponsored gangs were striking terror in the villages especially in Doaba region. They looted the people of their cash, jewellery and other valuables like imported cameras, tape recorders, VCRs and watches.89 Earlier, it was the government sponsored ‘black underwear brigades’ which in the words of Sumeet Vir Singh and Sunit Das Gupta stalked the Malwa and terrorised simple village folk.90 The police all over were virtually running extortion rackets’. Harindar Baweja added that “common also are fake encounters and harassment of those who harbour militants under duress”.

91

Right from the word go, the Operation Rakshak II by the army meant terror for all – the militants who chose to show their firepower in vulnerable areas in Ludhiana, Sangrur and Ropar, or chose to spill over to Haryana and Terai area in U.P., and the simple villagers who lived to tell the tales of horror. The people were not only systematically deprived by the police and security forces

of their belongings but also of their honour. The CRPF Chief especially sought to justify the large scale rape of women as that, in his views, would change the gene of the forthcoming Sikh generations. The army “actively helped the police pick up youth” and to escape from “disappearances, that occurred subsequently in police or paramilitary custody,” let the credit go to the police and para military forces. It tried to apply balm by offering the people medical facilities and supplying them general merchandise and provisions through army’s Canteen Stores Department shops. By the time, Punjab was held down by 750 paramilitary companies and several army divisions.

The poignancy of the situation in Punjab was brought to the fore by the report of the two man team of Swiss Workers Assistance Organisation, consisting of Mr. Hanspeter Spaas and Hans-Ueli Raaflaub. They visited parts of Punjab in their private capacity during 1991. According to them, “All government bodies, including the Punjab police, paramilitary units and the armed forces, systematically violate the human rights that are internationally recognised, no less than also the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.” People were arrested illegally, systematically subjected to torture, and those released were rearrested on flimsy grounds. “During house searches, the women, other relatives and children are systematically beaten up, maltreated, sexually abused. and even raped.” The civil and judicial authority had been “reduced virtually to a naught and was completely powerless.” The report took note of “the growing sense of psychological insecurity among the Sikhs who ran the risk of discrimination in treatment everywhere in the country”.92 Even Khushwant Singh whose position could very well be likened to that of a police spokesman, concedes that while the Sikhs in Punjab got what Bacon called “wild justice”, in Haryana they were victims of an insensate “desire to revenge” at the hands of “most of the populace.”93 It was worse, the security personnel disguised themselves as militants, knocked at the people’s houses, committed atrocities on them, resorted to extortions for private gains. Then there were depredations by former militants, mentioned as Cats by the people, and some groups like those of Hindus raised as fake Sikhs by Surendar Kumar Billa of Amritsar who operated with the blessings of the security forces, to cause anathema against the militants.94 They were criminals, pure and simple. But the militants did not escape the flak. Adds Chandan Mitra, “The police undercover operations have added to the confusion over genuine and fake militancy.”

95

When the fear was writ large on the people’s faces, the Panthic stalwarts – Parkash Singh Badal, Simranjit Singh Mann, Baba Joginder Singh, Bhai Manjit Singh, Kartar Singh Narang and Sukhbir Singh Khalsa (who was held under TADA but released conveniently to attend the conclave) – met on January 4, 1992, at Chandigarh and unanimously decided to boycott the forthcoming elections. They decided to make formal announcement once the poll notification was issued by the centre. The meeting was said to be upshot of stern directive from the Panthic Committee (Dr. Sohan Singh). As Ramesh Vinayak of India Today shortly afterwards observed, “In principle it was the best move: in practice it is fast proving a disaster.”96

And, disaster it was, with Akalis throwing to wind the opportunity to seize power and dismantle the “oppressive machinery” in a prelude to achieve their objectives.

Badal and Mann had been stampeded into the decision against their better judgement. Bhai Manjit Singh said that he would abide by it so long Badal and Mann kept themselves out of the election fray. That was the principal Congress objective and Bhai Manjit Singh seemed to be acting as their agent. Sukhjinder Singh of Badal Akali Dal was the only major Akali leader to see the futility of the decision. He resolved to contest. Many militants and their families put pressure in vain on their leaders to contest the elections.

Congress(I) felt greatly relieved at the Sikh leadership’s falling prey to its machinations and committing harakiri. It spent no sleepless nights at the thought that the elections would be a farce. And, it had earlier enacted a similar one in Assam without losing its equanimity. Presently, annexing 13 Lok Sabha seats from Punjab to make the Congress(I) position comfortable was an overriding objective.

Polling campaign was reduced to two weeks. The notification for elections issued on January 25, fixed the polling for February 19, 1992.

The government left nothing to chance. Encouraged by six Panthic set ups decision to boycott, it charted an elaborate plan to prevent filing of nomination papers by candidates of a host of political parties. Shiromani Akali Dal (Sukhjinder), Bahujan Samaj Party of Kanshi Ram, and Kisan Mazdoor Party came in for special dispensation, while Akali Dal (Kabul), BJP, CPI and even CPM candidates too were not shown any better treatment.

The reports about detention of scores of candidates being prevented from filing their nominations did not bestir the government. Some of the candidates were taken into custody by the police from the rooms of hapless Returning Officers. The Governor and Chief Secretary received over a dozen telegrams on February 2-3 from leaders of various parties protesting against the mischief, to no effect. The state unit of the CPI urged the party to get away from the futile exercise when Congress(I) was going to stage a coup.97 Shortly afterwards, CPI State Secretary said, “This election is going to be a farce. First, the candidates were stopped by Police from filing their nominations, then detained and later forced to withdraw, and those who are there are prisoners of police.”

98

Sukhjinder Singh whose candidates were prevented enmasse in filing nomination papers was forced to boycott the elections saying that these were “neither going to be free nor independent. ““He asked those who had been successful in filing their papers to withdraw.

The Hindustan Times correspondent observed that the complaint about police preventing people from filing nomination papers were “too numerous and specific”. But the Chief Election Officer’s silence and that of Chief Election Commission were enigmatic.

Bahujan Samaj Party candidates came in for special treatment at the hands of Congress(I) goons, who even resorted to killing some of them. But for violence against them, BSP leaders felt they could have annexed about 45 seats.

In view of the militants plea for boycotting the elections, fear stalked the countryside and polls kindled no hope. The employees whether from within the state or those from the neighbouring states including Delhi stalled to be posted on election duty in Punjab.

It was a terribly low key campaign and villages talked about untold repression at the hands of the security forces who pressurised the people to cast their votes.

Despite all the efforts of the security forces, only 21.6 per cent of the voters chose to exercise their franchise.100 In majority of 70 rural constituencies, polling ranged from 5 to 10 per cent. In urban areas, opposition including Janta Dal, and leftists – both CPI and CPM-alleged

massive rigging and manipulation of the results.101

Congress polled under 10 per cent of votes but

secured 87 out of 117 seats in the Assembly, and 12 out of 13 in Parliament. Akali Dal (Kabul) was

routed.

The Times of India (editorial, February 22, 1992) surmised that the clout of the militants was

much more extensive than what the authorities have the world believe. It also spoke of the risk of

the communal divide further widening in Punjab. That was also the theme of Harkishan Singh

Surjeet who had contributed so much to Congress(I) victory. The union government or Congress(I)

were least bothered about the legitimacy of Congress(I) victory, or the feared communal

polarisation.

The swearing in of Beant Singh of Congress(I) as Chief Minister of Punjab provided the

facade of restoration of the civil government. The 57 months long President’s rule, the longest ever

in any state, and much beyond the very concept of the framers of the constitution, came to a formal

end. Verily, the constitution had failed. The Panthic leaders who by default had brought Beant

Singh to power were promptly put behind the bars.

The Chief Minister, or his council of ministers, had no control whatsoever over the police or

paramilitary forces which continued to operate under the direct orders of Intelligence Bureau or

union Home Ministry.102

It, was a case of dyarchy.

Beant Singh’s collection of figures of those arrested under TADA during the last three years

for an answer to a question in Punjab Assembly by Mrs. Vimla Dang, a veteran communist leader,

brought the civil administration face to face with the police. He disclosed that there were 9,394

detenues under TADA at the end of 1989. These rose to 10,619 and 14,255 at the end of 1990 and

1991 respectively. The number stood at 13,516 as on February 29, 1992.

103

These figures were embarrassing as firstly, the government of India had mentioned a figure

of 1,218 persons detained in Punjab as on June 15, 1991 to the Amnesty International. Secondly,

the actual number of persons detained in Punjab jails did not tally with these figures. Thirdly, these

tended to give credence to Amnesty International which had contended that there were between

15,000 to 20,000 persons detained in Punjab jails.104

Amnesty figures could be nearer the truth as

people were held under various other provisions besides TADA.

There was need for Punjab police to demonstrate that induction of Beant Singh government

did not impinge on its supremacy. It struck at Ajit Singh Bains, a retired Judge, and Chairman of

Punjab Human Rights Organisation, on April 3, 1992. He was arrested, handcuffed, publicly

paraded and humiliated in other ways. He was charged under the almighty TADA. The Punjab and

Haryana High Court Bar Association struck work. Even Geneva based International Commission

of Jurists was perturbed at the gross violation of the rule of law. But his brother judges of Punjab

and Haryana High Court, and those of the Supreme Court later, gave him a tardy justice as if the

Sikhs were outside the pale of the Constitution.

Such type of bizarre acts shored up international attention. It were as a result of disclosures

made by Amnesty International, Asia Watch – an American human rights body which had made an

on the spot assessment in Punjab – and other human rights groups, including persistent efforts of

Gurmit Singh Aulakh of Washington who had developed good contacts on the Capitol Hill, besides

the visiting teams of Members of Parliament from other countries, that Dan Burton, a Republican

Representative of the U.S. Congress, assisted by Les Aspin, a Democrat and Chairman of the

powerful Armed Services Committee, and a score of other members from both sides, introduced a

Bill, “Jutice in India Act” in the House Representative in May 1992. It sought termination of the

U.S. development assistance to India unless New Delhi repealed repressive laws. Significant

mention was made of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, National Security Act,

Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, Armed Forces (Punjab and Chandigarh) Special Powers Act,

and Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act.

105

The union Home Ministry nonchalantly continued to lend support to Gill’s thesis of treating

Punjab problem a mere law and order problem.

The militants on Beant Singh’s induction followed a multi-pronged policy. Their objectives

were, one, to scare away non-Punjabis as shown by their strike at Sangrur; two, to continue to make

their presence felt as at Ludhiana in April which, in the words of Gobind Thukral of Hindustan Times,

made many Hindus” to say “if the government cannot control the situation, separation is a

solution;”106 three, to make the farmers not to sell wheat to government agencies (which anyhow

offered them a pittance in return) whose procurement in spring 1992 was quite unsatisfactory; four,

revive Khalsa Panchayats on resignation of Panchas and Sarpanchas which were forthcoming in a big

way, despite the presence of army;107 and five, bend the instruments of state by diktats to civil and

political officials. The appeal issued to the militants by engineers and staff of Bhakra mainline

seeking “forgiveness for any mistake committed intentionally or unintentionally in the past” signified

that it was having its impact.108

The code of conduct issued by Babbar Khalsa International to local

Radio and TV unit to accord Punjabi language the same status as was given to Tamil in Tamilnadu

or Bengali in Bengal was met in a major way only after they had regretfully beheaded M.L.

Manchanda, Station Engineer of Patiala Radio unit, in May 1992.

Beant Singh’s position was only that of a captive, a willing tool, at best a spectator of the

drama that was unfolding itself. He was making efforts to bypass the militants and Akalis, and rech

directly the hearts of the people. The magisterial enquiry indicting police excesses at Behla village in

Tarn Taran police district on June 8-9, 1992, where the Police brutally used civilians in their clash

with the militants, was an exercise at fence mending.

109

So were his emphasis upon his mentors in New Delhi to remove deficient aspects of Rajiv-

Longwal Accord and implement the provisions on Chandigarh, borders and river waters more

equanimously. His pleas that all post-1966 agreements on river waters be scrapped and the issue

looked de novo, or the villages be transferred between Punjab and Haryana on the basis of 1991

census,110

reflected his desperation to show positive results.

But Beant Singh or his ministers had no answer to the complaints about brutality and

endemic corruption in police ranks. Even “in elite living rooms of Chandigarh, Amritsar or Patiala,

the decibel levels of criticism are almost deafening.”111

And, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao who

knew that the security agencies were on threshold of a major break through, in an interview

published in Hindustan Times of June 8, 1992, expressed his lack of knowledge of the much talked

about package deal on Punjab. It was his Home Minister, S.B. Chavan, who had spoken repeatedly

about that, giving various deadlines. So had the members of CPI and CPM who expected the

government to initiate political process in Punjab.

It was not long that the militants met a severe set back. The security forces did achieve a major breakthrough for various reasons. Firstly, some of the militant set ups by holding talks with Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar in early 1991, on assurances of safe passage, had uncannily exposed their contacts. That had been a Juvenile act, as none of the militant set ups had a liberated zone as a base for their operations. The security forces worked upon the lead provided by the militants for next year and a half to yield rich dividends. Secondly, the transition in leadership from Dr. Sohan Singh (who had gone away to Pakistan) to Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar caused loosening of control in some of the key militant groups. The genuine militants made desperate efforts to discipline their cadres and, in the words of Chandan Mitra, “restore an ideological content.”112

Before the militants could plug loopholes, the security forces were a success in penetrating the major set ups. They had been betrayed down the drain.

By mid-1992, the militant leadership had been reduced to the position of sitting ducks. The police in July-August cornered in their dens over a score of leading militants who were mostly killed in cold blood. It yielded the police force rich divided of Rs. 1.5 crore (Rs 15 million) in prizes.

Among those killed during the first phase were as follows:

113

1. Kalistan Liberation Force (KLF): Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala, Chief, Gurbachan Singh, Lt. General and Area Commander. Police also claimed prize on Navroop Singh Dhotian who took over from Budhsinghwala, by killing an innocent person. Dhotian was later admitted to be at large.

2. Babbar Khalsa International (BKI): Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar, Chief, and Dr. Sahibi, a Lt. General.

114

3. Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan (BTFK): Rachhpal Singh Chhandra, Chief of Sangha group, Jagdish Singh Disha, Devender Singh, and Sukhram Singh Mazhbi, all Lt. Generals; and Hardev Singh Kalia and Jaspal Singh Pala, Lt. Generals of the other group.

4. Khalistan Commando Force (KCF): Sukhwinder Singh, Lt. General and Member Panthic Committee (Zaffarwal), and Jarnail Singh Bool, Lt. General; and Surinderjit Singh ‘Shinda’, Jagroop Singh ‘Rupa’, Paramjit Singh ‘Pamma’ and Dilsher Singh ‘Shera’ all Lt. Generals.

Police wove fanciful stories about encounters. Writing of death of Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala and Sukhdev Singh Babbar, both of whom according to police died at Ludhiana within 10 days of each other, Gobind Thukral observed, “There are many holes in the police theory that these top militants had died in encounters, but the fact is that they died at the hands of the police.”115 According to informed sources, Budhsinghwala had been betrayed into police custody, and died of torture. Similarly, Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar had been taken into police custody, but had managed to swallow a capsule which brought about his death in an hour’s time, when he was being driven from Patiala towards Ludhiana.116

The police floated stories about Sukhdev Singh’s affluent living, and living with one of the alleged Nabha sister, Jawahar Kaur, a neighbourer and even having a son from her. These were half truths aimed at character assassination.

There were a number of cases of mistaken identity and in the words of Capt Kamaljit Singh of Akali Dal (Kabul) “cash rewards given to the police for killing militants is turning them into mercenaries.”

117

The police in a written statement claimed that Bhai Sukhdev Singh was involved in 1,000 killings, including that of the Sant Nirankari Chief, Baba Gurbachan Singh. Cry went up that if he

was the killer, why was Bhai Ranjit Singh, Head Priest of Akal Takht being tried for that in Delhi?

The state government, unabashedly, reduced the number of killings attributed to Sukhdev Singh to

10, i.e. one per cent of the police figure, and that the Sant Nirankari Chief was not one of them.118

The denial was necessitated by the fact that the trial in Tihar Jail was in final stages, and Sukhdev

Singh figured no where in it. It only showed that both the police and the state government were

resorting to untruths. The police statement also stated that only seven top militants had yet to be

accounted for.

The death of Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar on August 9, led to retaliatory killing of 47

relatives of policemen in two days. That caused a lot of demoralisation of a force whose morale, as

shown by Behla incident of June last, was already low. In view of the delicate stage of anti-militancy

operations, Beant Singh was able to pressurise the Union Defence authorities not to reduce, much

less withdraw as originally scheduled, the army presence in Punjab.

This led to manifold developments. One, Gill with the assistance of army and paramilitary

forces mounted Operation Night Dominance. This exercise in area clearance in practical parlance

meant, as a senior army officer confided, extermination or capture of the Sikh youth, 15-35 years of

age, and brutal suppression of the civilian population living there. Army surrounded the villages

while police and paramilitary forces combed the villages subjecting the people to uncivilized norms

in violation of human rights or human dignity. This had the tacit approval of the union authorities.

The CPI felt perturbed at the ‘official lawlessness’ and intensified exposing individual cases of police

excesses.119 A direct off shoot of Operation Night Dominance was that Manochahal group of

Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan (BTFK) was wiped out.120

Manochahal himself was believed

to be in police custody, to be used at a later date as the situation demanded. Other prominent

militants killed were the KCF (Zaffarwal) Additional Chief, Khajan Singh Sattowal on September 12,

BTFK (Sangha)Chief, Balwant Singh, KCF(Panjwar) Chief Sukhdev Singh Sukha on September 17.

With these, the police claimed to have eliminated all the known militants.

Two, conversely, Bhai Manjit Singh decided in August to float Akali Dal(Manjit) to operate

at political level. This had direct link with the downward trend in militancy and upbeat mood of the

police.

Three, the police now started enacting the drama of surrender by a large number of

militants. At a public ceremony attended by Punjab Chief Minister, the star attraction was Gurdeep

Singh Sibia of London, believed to be the founder of Babbar Khalsa International. He was

immediately whisked away to the disappointment of the journalists present.

121

Four, encouraged by downward trend in militancy, villagers started standing up to the

terrorists scanning the countryside. And, to their horror, truth was bared when they came face to

face with policemen indulging in such acts of rape, rapine and exactions. For instance, Hindustan

Time’s of September 26, 1992, reported three incidents in Jagraon, Samrala and Ropar police districts

wherein the villagers in close combats killed, injured, and caught policemen of various ranks

alongwith their AK-47 rifles. This did not cause any flutter in Delhi which regarded Punjab a

colony.

Five, Beant Singh accepted the supremacy of KPS Gill in Punjab affairs and adopted a policy

of all out confrontation of Akalis to please his central masters. He now started talking through his

hat, literally his turban, and was now merely a puppet.

Six, Beant Singh upstaged the opposition parties with peaceful holding of the civic elections to 95 municipal committees covering 1341 members in early September 1992. Voter turn out was 70 percent, with Akalis participating in the electoral process. Congress(I) won a clear majority only in 17 municipal committees. In others, Akalis, communists, BJP and independents registered massive victory. In 22 committees, Congress(I) drew a blank. Beant Singh with the help of police sought to improve the Congress position by marshalling support of dissident Congressmen who had won defying the official candidates, and independents. Police went to the extent of arresting elected members from opposition parties at the inaugural meetings to influence cooption of some members by the rump belonging to Congress(I).

122

An indirect offshoot of the hardening of the government stance towards the militants was the judicial murder of Sukhdev Singh Sukha and Harjinder Singh Jinda of Khalistan Commando Force for killing Gen (retired) A.S. Vaidya.

Sukha and Jinda were tried under TADA by a designated court at Pune. A close reading of the judgement revealed that they were acquitted under TADA, but convicted under sections 307, 302 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. The case should have gone to the Maharashtra High Court and not directly taken up by the Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court against all canons of law and equity was in a hurry to confirm their death sentences. The legal luminaries were aghast. Sukha and Jinda had no confidence in fairplay of the Supreme Court and did not even appeal for reconsideration, much less tender a mercy petition to the President.

The efforts of the Panthic leaders at various stages, and especially of Mann on October 8, to make the Chief Justice, M.H. Kania to see reason even at that late stage, only led to late night sordid drama at first at the residence of Chief Justice and later at the Supreme Court at 11 p.m. when two judges went through the formal motion of turning down the plea. It only helped to “undermine the credibility of Chief Justice’s post”,123

and left rancour in the mind of the Sikh community as to the relevance of the judicial processes. Earlier on September 27, the Supreme Court had stayed action against 8 police officials who were facing disciplinary action because of their role in 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom.

Sukha and Jinda were hanged on October 9, 1992, amidst sounding of a general alert. Akalis gave a bandh call for three days. The same day victims of 1984 riots in Delhi staged a demonstration at the Boat Club, seeking action against the guilty, and CPM demanded of the government to explain the ‘unexplainable delay’ in calling in the Army to quell the riots in 1984 as charged by Chander Parkash of the police department, and the inordinate delay in punishing the guilty. An Akhand Path for Sukha and Jinda’s salvation commenced at Akal Takht on October 16, but the government assured that there was no gathering. The top Akali leaders were arrested to prevent their participation in the bhog ceremony.

But the Indian authorities looked askance at the introduction of a concurrent House resolution in early October by Republican Congressman Ban Blaz, a member of the American House Foreign Affairs and Armed Forces Committees. It was co-sponsored by nine other legislators. It referred to Punjab as Khalistan and called for self-determination for the Sikhs in Punjab. It advocated that the Sikhs “like all people of all nations, have the right to self determination and should be afforded the opportunity to decide on their own future through a plebiscite sponsored or supervised by the United Nations.” It also highlighted the Indian army and

para-military force’s committing “heinous brutalities with impunity in Khalistan”. The resolution

was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Dr. Gumit Singh Aulakh of Washington was

the influential figure behind the resolution.

124

The police and security forces continued their heinous operations. It simply meant insensate

police atrocities rising above the constitution and “becoming its own worst enemy.”125

Some of the

cases may be cited with advantage.

One, the militants killed 16 bus passenger on December 1, 1992. The police swiftly

eliminated 19 Sikhs in a “fierce encounter” at Makhu in Ferozepur district. A Hindustan Times

editorial (December 4), pointed out that “it is a moot point whether such retributive action, open to

question, really serves the purpose.”

Two, the police on December 25, picked up Bhai Gurdev Singh Kaonke former Jathedar of

Akal Takht from his village and tortured him to death. This raised a storm of protest. The whole

village of Kaonke in Jagraon police district was subjected to police highhandedness.

Three, on January 1, 1993, the police announced the death of Nasib Singh of Khalistan

National Army in ‘encounter’. Four days earlier, after few attempts, he had been handed over by

Ganganagar police to Ferozepur police. So had been the case with a number of militants earlier

arrested by Rajasthan authorities and handed over to the Punjab police. The Rajasthan authorities

now told Punjab police not to enter Rajasthan without informing the local authorities. They also

conveyed that henceforth they would not hand over anyone unless his involvement in terrorist

activities in Punjab was proved by competent authorities. Similar action followed in West Bengal

when a Punjab police party went all the way to Calcutta to shoot down an alleged militant shortly

afterwards.

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Four, on January 6-7, 1993, Punjab police in the words of the correspondents of the Sunday

Observer (January 10, 1993) outdid Gabbar Singh of Sholay fame in their ransacking of Biromajri and

nearby villages in Fatehgarh Sahib district. A few days earlier, a group of policemen had raped three

women of the village. On January 6, 1993, the villagers saw a posse of armed commandos or state

terrorists coming to the village. The raped women identified one of them in the rape crime. They

were disarmed and beaten by the villagers who also informed the nearby army camp. The police

came to the site in strength and rescued their colleagues, using force. Thereafter, it let loose a reign

of terror in Biromajri and surrounding areas. Even children and old men were subjected to police

torture, and women humiliated. Houses were ransacked. Police smashed cycles, scooters, tractors,

electric and electronic goods most wantonly. Terrorised, the people fled the village. The

Association for Democratic Rights in vain sought judicial enquiry into the incidents and asked for

punishing the guilty.

l27

Five, Kulwant Singh Saini a lawyer from Ropar was called to the police station on January

25, 1993, for release of a lady arrested that morning. His wife along with minor son chose to

accompany him. They were tortured to death. The agitation by the Punjab, Haryana and

Chandigarh lawyer made police to change its version of the incident. From his not being wanted in

any case, police now showed him to be the kingpin of terrorism.

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Beant Singh, acting as a faceless robot, faced with police excesses in Kaonke, Biromajri and

Ropar could do nothing against the almighty police. Jagmit Singh Brar, a party M.P. wanted the

Chief Minister to admit moral responsibility and quit. Beant Singh was an amoral person and had no scruples or conscience.

Similarly terrorised were the Sikhs in Terai region during the autumn of 1992. A team of Citizens for Democracy and Peoples Union of Civil Liberties headed by Justice(Retired) Mahabir Singh which visited the area recorded gruesome details of police excesses.

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It was not surprising that the Bush administration, shortly before demitting office, in its annual report to the U.S. Congress on January 19, 1993, listed “significant abuses” in various parts of India, especially Punjab and Kashmir. It specifically mentioned of “police, paramilitary and army excesses against civilians”, extra judicial actions (beating, extortion, torture, rape and fake ‘encounter’ killings) by police against detainees throughout India, incommunicado detention of prolonged periods without charge, using national security legislation. It also recorded India’s failure to prosecute police and security forces implicated in abuses.

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It was amidst such an atmosphere of police hamhandedness that Panchayat polls were held in four rounds between January 16 and 22, 1993. The turn over was 82 percent. Congress(I) had nothing but to rely on police management. It was better this time than during the municipal elections. The opposition parties including CPM, CPI, Akali Dal and Bhartya Kisan Union gave many instances of their candidates being illegally detained by the police. In many cases, the nomination papers of Akali Dal(Mann) candidates were “torn by the police in presence of the presiding officers.”131 Harpreet Singh mentions that in Amritsar district a majority of Sarpanchas were “nominated by threat and not by the approval of the people.” Further that, “‘unopposed’ election of approved candidates were managed by police”. He named a large body of villages which had returned “supporters of terrorists (read, supporters of state-sponsored terrorists) as Sarpanchas at the behest of the Transport Minister, Master Jagir Singh”.132 In the words of Gobind Thukral, “The only vitiating factor, the misuse of the official machinery to tilt the results in favour of the ruling Congress, has caused the Government sharp rebukes not only from Akalis, but from once the friendly left parties.”

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Encouraged by management of the Panchayat polls, Beant Singh now threatened to scrap the 1925 Gurdwara Act and later at Hola Mohalla celebrations at Anandpur Sahib in March sought popular support to reject Anandpur Sahib Resolution of which he showed little comprehension. He also showed lack of comprehension of the forces within the Congress working at tandem with those of Hindutava which of late had made rapid strides.

The rise of Hindutava, initiated by Indira Gandhi on the eve of 1980 elections, got spurt under Rajiv when the doors of Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi, closed since 1949, were thrown open and a shilanayas laid for construction of Ram Temple. The BJP naturally sought to steal the show, at first through Lal Krishan Advani’s Rath Yatra in 1989, and later through the Yatra of Murli Manohar Joshi from Kanya Kumari to Kashmir to hoist tricolour flag on the republic day of 1992 at Srinagar. But Joshi, faced insurmountable hurdles in Jammu, and, with the cooperation of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, was airlifted by the Indian Air Force to Srinagar. But the tricolour, Joshi brought all the way from Kanya Kumari, refused to go up. When he applied force, the antenna snapped and the flag fell flat on the ground. Thereafter, a grim faced Joshi hoisted the army-installed flag.

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This cooperation between Sangh Parivar and Narasimha Rao government got further enlarged during 1992 to rope in the highest judiciary, the Supreme Court. Mann was not far wrong to say that the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, was not possible without the cooperation of Sangh Parivar, Government of India and the Supreme Court. Incidentally, Supreme Court had earlier passed a “stay order’ on construction of a platform at the site, but had bent backwards to accommodate the forces of Hindutava which had defied the stay granted.135

Now in December, the union government, after imposition of President’s rule in U.P. on December 6, gave full 40 hours to those gathered at Babri Masjid site to construct a temporary temple structure. They were given convenient transport to disperse.

The Hindutava forces’ attempts to overwhelm the union government caused rumblings in sections of Congress(I). The opposition from within forced the hands of Prime Minister to stop the BJP rally slated for February 25, 1993, at the Boat Club, Delhi. Rajesh Pilot, the new Minister of Internal Security, toyed with the idea of inducting K.P.S. Gill as Secretary of his Ministry. Gill and Punjab police played their assigned role in foiling the BJP rally in the Capital. Some BJP leaders were treated roughly.136

The union government soon realised that it cannot do to the caste-Hindus, the ruling race, the same it did to the Sikhs in Punjab, Muslims in Kashmir and other parts, and Christians or tribals in northeastern India. The proposal to bring in Gill was eventually dropped.

The impending deployment of Gill to New Delhi raised the question as to what the police should do with Manochahal held in police custody since September last. Involved also was the huge prize money held on his head.

This led to Manochahal being killed in a contrived police encounter near Tarn Taran on February 28, 1993. It was given out that Manochahal had been staying in a bunker in the house of his sister, whose husband was Inspector in the CRPF. Lack of action against the Inspector indicated that Manochahal’s stay was with the approval and under supervision of the Punjab police. An inspired report by Harpreet Singh in the Hindustan Times of December 9, 1992, indicated that two months earlier, Pakistani ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) had taken three top militants, Wassan Singh Zaffarwal, Daljit Singh Bittu and Gurbachan Singh Manochahal to China for being imparted training – the last two having reached there via Nepal. Possibly, Manochahal had been promised release from police custody, but that was not to be. Disgusted at the police antics, Manochahal shortly afterwards resigned as Jathedar of Akal Takht to which he had been appointed in 1986. Now, on his death, Punjab police allegedly recovered his diaries. These revealed his political links with Congress(I) high ups in New Delhi. It was also disclosed that Bhai Manjit Singh was the top beneficiary of the monetary dispensation from him.137

It cannot be gainsaid whether Manochahal was tortured to death, or was simply shot, to yield the police Rs. 25 lakhs (2.5 million) prize held on his head.

In the wake of the announcement of Manochahal’s death, Punjab police announced on March 2, 1993, the surrender by 101 militants including half a dozen “‘A’ category terrorists”138

In August last, Gill had mentioned of only 7 top militants left. And of them, half a dozen had been eliminated in the following months. It was upto the police to increase or decrease the number of militants at large at a given time, irrespective of the contradictions involved. For, no questions could be asked.

And yet on March 7, 1993, police claimed to have shot dead Deputy Chief of KCF-Panjwar, Bachittar Singh Sensera alias Arjan Singh in Amritsar district, and two days later it claimed killing of

Dashmesh Regiment’s Chief Lakhwinder Singh alias Kehar Singh in a “fierce encounter” near

Batala.139

Gill again showed his supremacy in the power set up in Punjab in enforcing government’s

foiling of the Badal Akali Dal rally at Jalandhar on March 14; and a Longowal Akali MLA was beaten

up in Punjab Assembly the following day by Congress(I) ministers and MLAs in presence of the

Speaker. The sentence to life imprisonment in end-March 1993 of Bhai Ranjit Singh, Jathedar, Akal

Takht, by R.P. Gupta, Additional Sessions Judge, Delhi, on charges of murdering Baba Gurbachan

Singh, Nirankari Chief, and his not even giving him the rebate of nine years he had already spent in

Jail, was quite reflective of unjust times. Gill saw the hand of Khalistan Liberation Force in bomb

blasts in Bombay, while Maharashtra police and the union Home Ministry had no such

hallucinations.

Rebuffed, Gill in early April 1993, to emphasise his indispensability to the Indian set up in

Punjab, (he was already on extension after superannuation), opined that Babbars and Khalistan

Liberation Force are still strong and that Babbars especially still retain their puritanical impression in

the rural Punjab”. He also vouchsafed that “their hideouts are safe.”140

Gill sought to derive

propaganda mileage by stage managing public surrender of Kulwant Singh Babbar, of Akhand Kirtni

Jatha, on April 14, 1993, before the Chief Minister. The Punjab police shortly afterwards, however,

shot a number of Babbars in ‘fierce’ encounters.

For achievement of New Delhi’s wider objectives it was essential that the police should

maintain its supremacy over the civil administration. Because of symbiotic relationship established

between its killing of the Sikh youth and getting rewards, apart from other benefits that went with

power and pelf without responsibility, the police was also anxious to do so. Already, the police

budget had shown a 30 time increase to Rs. 350 crores over a decade. Despite elimination of

militancy in Punjab, killing of Sikh youth continues. It will be too much to recall the reports in the

media about the people eliminated in euphemistically called ‘encounters’, cross-firings or otherwise.

Suffice it to say that over a period of about 20 months from mid-1992, according to Chief Minister

Beant Singh, the police garnered, 40,000 rewards for its action against the militants. At an average, 7

rewards per day. It must have killed atleast one lakh youth besides gobbling crores of rupees in

prizes overheads of the Sikh ‘militants’.

The converse side of police operations was their conducting tonsorial or shearing operations

involving the Sikh youth. Over the period, the movement caught on. And, Harpreet Singh of the

Hindustan Times reported that the Sikh youth in large numbers “are getting their hair shorn and beard

shaved off. . . The youth were doing so to convey the police that they had nothing to do with

militancy or Sikh struggle.”141

Not only that, even the Sikh policemen in order to ingratiate

themselves with their seniors, cast off their Keshas in large numbers.

The overall impact of the twofold police operations may be cited with advantage

* KPS Gill raised three special hit squads which operate with impunity all over northern India

including U.P., Gujarat, Maharashtra and as far as Bengal. The killing by Punjab police squad

of a Sikh couple Ranjit Singh and his wife Rani in East Calcutta on May 17, 1993, stunned and

surprised not only the Marxist government of West Bengal, but also invited adverse editorial

comments from leading dailies.142 Another glaring instance was the killing at Kota in Rajasthan

while in its custody by Punjab police of Dilbagh Singh Uppal, a businessman from Bombay; he

had been taken into custody at Bombay on July 6, 1993. A significant feature of all these extrajudicial

killings was that neither any government – centre or state – nor any of the numerous

High Courts or even the Supreme Court took cognisance of these highhanded acts of Punjab police. A public interest petition filed by spirited Dr. B.L. Wadhera, an Advocate in the Supreme Court, about killing in their sleep of Ranjit Singh and Rani by Punjab police at Calcutta on May 17, failed to activate the Supreme Court to pressurise Punjab police to even own up the killings, much less explain the reasons for that. After a year, on May 13,1994, with the consent of Punjab and West Bengal governments, the Supreme Court transferred the petition to Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI). Despite the ongoing CBI investigations, the Punjab police killed one Karnail Singh Koila on June 21,1994, in an ‘encounter’ in Howrah without intimating West Bengal government. The Punjab police cares two hoots for the rule of law, and the Supreme Court has shown selective interest in goings on in Punjab.

* Inbetween cropped up the row between Punjab Provincial Civil Services (PCS) officers and the Punjab police over the issue of police corruption. The police conveniently unearthed a plot to kill the puppet Chief Minister, Beant Singh. The PCS officers as a body showed solidarity with their brethren, and had the support of even officers of Indian Administrative Services on the points involved. Chief Minister repeatedly asserted that Punjab police was the holy cow: “Nothing against the police”, he kept telling every one. The stir ended up in whimper in August 1993.

* Benazir Bhutto’s coming to power in Pakistan in October 1993 helped yield India rich dividends in expulsion of some leading militants from Pakistan. Admittedly, she in 1989 had helped Rajiv Gandhi vis a vis Sikh militants as quid pro quo for his helping her against Zia and in return for lowering India’s profile in Sind. Considerations in 1993 were again similar. Dr. Sohan Singh, former head of Panthic Committee and half a dozen other prominent militants were arrested by Punjab Police on arrival at Kathmandu by the Pakistan International Airways in end October. Indian authorities had been suitably tipped. Sohan Singh was brought to India, while others were shot dead. The Punjab Chief Minister, Director General of Police and Intelligence Chief announced on November 4, 1993, their arrest from near Chandigarh for obvious reasons.

144

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The news management added to the stature of KPS Gill.

Verily, KPS Gill had become beau ideal of the bosses in New Delhi. Speaking at a book-release ceremony at Delhi, on November 30, 1993, Gill poignantly observed that the “issues like Chandigarh or river water are not the real problems. “He went on, “The main grudge of the Sikhs against the Hindus was the domination of Brahminical society.” With the quantum of killings he had done, thinking process of the Sikhs, he averred, had now changed.

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All sections of Brahminical society of northern India are for this change in outlook of the Sikhs. That applies to upper caste Hindus of all the major political parties – Congress(I), BJP, all factions of Janta Dal, and the Communists. That is also true of various instruments of government – executive, legislature and even judiciary.

The Supreme Court’s not activating itself, despite a public interest petition on May 17 Calcutta killing of the Sikh couple was one thing. In sharp contrast was the Supreme Court’s striking a vocal and discordant note at doings of Punjab police in the case of a caste Hindu, a member of the ruling race, in September-October 1993.

The facts of the case were simple. A caste Hindu lawyer, one Mr. Gogia, had enticed the major daughter of jat Sikh Deputy Commissioner of Hoshiarpur. Could the Punjab police be permitted to do to a caste Hindu what it was doing to hundreds of thousands of the Sikhs?

* For a fortnight the Judges of the Supreme Court ranted and roared at a reluctant Punjab police. They spent their valuable time, over hundreds of thousands of other cases pending for years, on Gogia case.

* The Chief Justice on September 20, wanted the Punjab Counsel to convey the ‘concern’ of the highest court to the Chief Minister and the Director General Police. Justice S. Mohan asked the Punjab Counsel, “Is there rule of law or that of the jungle there.” Then the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Venkatachaliah said unless the couple was produced before the Court by 4 p.m. next day, the Court “may be constrained to issue an order holding that the administrative machinery had broken down” in Punjab. The Chief Justice asked the Punjab Counsel to tell the Chief Minister that “the Court did not consider this case as another routine Punjab detention.” He meant, detaining the Sikhs was one thing, a caste Hindu quite another.

* The Gogia couple, released by the police, appeared in Supreme Court on September 23. Another two caste Hindus whose habeus corpus was admitted by the Supreme Court on September 22, were also released by the Punjab police.

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The Supreme Court, as such, asserted its facile supremacy over the Punjab police as custodian of rule of law in cases of members of the ruling race. The Judges backed out from indicting Punjab Police which had been doing so much in advancing the cause of Brahminism. The Punjab police emerged unscathed. The Supreme Court in the process formally laid down new concept of rights and justice available to citizens as individuals under the constitution. It virtually meant: show us the man, we shall show you the law.

Another facet of this demeaning situation was that Sikhism came under subversive attacks from within.

* The raking up of controversy on Sikh Rehat Maryada, Sikh Code of Conduct, in the second week of June 1993 by Damdami Taksal headed by its Acting Chief, Baba Thakar Singh, is to be seen in that light. A couple of weeks earlier, New Delhi was toying with the idea of holding the much delayed elections to the SGPC. Gobind Thukral mentions of Congress (I)’s desire to prop up Damdami Taksal to serve as its cat’s-paw.148 This controversy came to an unceremonious end in mid-August after a convoluted statement issued by Wassan Singh Zaffarwal blaming the ‘government agents,’ especially Tohra, for bringing the maryada issue to the centre stage of Sikh affairs to hamper the fight against ‘Delhi Durbar’.

* With the police ascendancy, the Sikh sants and deradars, savants and heads of diversionary sub-sects or hospices, of various hues bestirred themselves to the centre stage of Punjab’s social and religious life by organising congregations, singly and jointly. By selectively quoting from gurbani, Sikh scriptures, they sought to project the rightful place of a living guru and their relevance in the ongoing milieu. They sought to reinduct, in a subtle and not so subtle a manner, the Brahminical practices like idol or murti (picture) worship apart from asserting their own relevance as spiritual leaders to mould the society on new lines in deviation to the one laid down by the Sikh Gurus. The convening of the first Sant Samagam at Amritsar in December 1993-January 1994 under the auspices of Sant Makhan Singh of Dera Sant Amir Singh, Sattowali Gali, Amritsar, was one such major attempt to “subvert the Sikh theology.

149

150

* A seminar conducted in early 1994 under the auspices of Sant Sucha Singh of Jawadi Kalan, Ludhiana, too tended to cause misgivings in the Sikh circles. The Samagam showed that the Sikh sants of Malwa and Doaba by and large had been completely bowled over by the government’s influence while those of Majha were partly affected. The Sikh sants were providing a handle to strike at the roots of Sikhism.

The Sikh sants must understand that Guru Nanak’s Sikhism is based on revelation. So is the case with Islam and Christianity, while Hinduism is not. He had laid down the basic postulates of Sikhism and widely debated the theological issues with the followers of various schools of Hindu thought of his times. Brahminism’s coming into power in post-1947 India, does not change its fundamentals, to invite a reconsideration of the discarded propositions.

151

* The onslaught on Sikh theology at the hands of Christian missionaries, now articulated by their cohorts, Peshora Singh and Piar Singh received adequate response from Akal Takht. Harjot Oberoi of Vancouver University, British Columbia,152 is another recruit espousing re-Hinduising of Sikhism. The basic Christian attempt has been to engulf the considerable Sikh population in North America and United Kingdom. They are considered vulnerable.

152a

This onslaught has awakened the Sikhs to the threat posed. But there is vast gulf in the resources of the two sides, and the Sikhs are facing an unequal fight. Broadly speaking, Brahminism has been in league with McLeodian offensive – the equation being established during the period of McLeod’s stay at Batala in early 1960s when there was complete bi-polarisation of Hindus and Sikhs because of the struggle for Punjabi Suba. This has been an ongoing process.

A saving grace has been the interest shown by human rights groups and American Senators culminating in President Clinton’s speaking up for “the Sikh rights”.

* The visit of US Deputy Asstt Secretary of State, John R. Mallot to India in latter half of May 1993, brought into sharp focus the US-India divergence on India’s “human rights problems.” It was attracting a lot of attention in the United States.

* The US State Department and Defence Security Agency in a presentation to the Congress in July 1993 withdrew tributes paid earlier to the Indian army’s record on human rights in its operations against ‘terrorists’.

153

154

* Peter Geren and 12 other members from both sides introduced on August 5,1993, a concurrent resolution in the House of Representatives asking for plebiscite to allow the Sikh nation “the right of self-determination”. A news release by the Council of Khalistan, Washington, indicated that its President, Gurmit Singh Aulakh was the moving spirit behind the resolution. This was an upshot of the final report on India submitted by the outgoing Bush administration to the Senate.

* This invited authoritative comments from the US Deputy Asstt. Secretary of State, John Mallot, that, “We are opposed to the creation of any sovereign state of Khalistan”, and that “Punjab is not disputed territory, and, from our viewpoint, it is an integral part of India.”

155

156

Hitherto, only Kashmir was integral part of India, the way Dalits were integral part of Hinduism. Did Mallot pick up this terminology of Punjab being an integral part of India from his talks with the Indian leaders during his visit to New Delhi in May last? Or, was it an independent American assessment? Punjab had really, by now, degenerated into being an integral part of India the way Kashmir is of India, or Dalits are of Hinduism. Mallot’s description of the situation, for once, was for the real.

* The American concern culminated in a letter dated November 17, 1993, from Gary A. Condit and 23 other members of the Congress to President Clinton requesting for the US “diplomatic

role in the Khalistan crisis”, and US’ playing “the role of an honest broker between the Sikh nation and the Indian government.”

* Shortly afterwards followed Amnesty International Report on involuntary disappearances in Punjab and Kashmir, subversion of legal proceedings, arbitrary arrests, a systematic pattern of cover-ups and the virtual impunity enjoyed by the security forces to perpetrate unspeakable human rights abuses.157 President Clinton’s reply of December 27, 1993, to Condit spoke of the need “to end police abuses” in context of “the human rights situation of the Sikhs in Punjab”, and his “desire for a peaceful solution that protects the Sikh rights.”

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Unexceptional words. But these helped to create a storm in caste-Hindus of all denominations and their cohorts in northern India. Though Clinton had not spoken of Khalistan, Government of India felt outraged as if speaking for an end to police abuses and for Sikh rights was a heinous crime. The Indian Foreign Office Spokesman in a statement on January 23, 1994, rejected any statement that sought “solution that protects Sikh rights”. Half a dozen former Foreign Secretaries chose to surrender their intelligence when in a joint statement they berated Clinton’s concern for Sikh rights as if he was questioning “India’s territorial integrity”. To caste Hindus of BJP, Janata Dal, Communists and Chandra Shekhar(who had once spoken against Operation Bluestar), Clinton’s remarks were misplaced and uncalled for. The Youth Wing of the ruling Congress(I) Party under protection of police bayonets organised a protest march to the US Embassy in New Delhi.

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The reaction of the Sikh organisations was in sharp contrast. They equated Clinton to Nawab Sher Mohamad Khan of Malerkotla who in early 18th

century had protested to the Governor of Sirhind against his unjustly punishing two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh. The Sikhs adopted resolutions at Gurdwaras in Punjab villages and other parts welcoming Clinton’s concerns and sent copies to the American Embassy in New Delhi. They also organised a peaceful march to the American Embassy to convey their thanks to President Clinton.

Another saving grace was tankhaiya Buta Singh’s presenting himself before Akal Takht and subjecting himself to punishment on January 26, 1994, for his heinous crimes committed in supporting the government at the time of Operation Bluestar and thereafter. Some saw in it Congress(I)’s deep game to get him rehabilitated within Sikhism to put him as a frontman to challenge Akali hold over the Gurdwaras in the forth-coming Gurdwara elections. Tohra’s hand for the purpose was also talked of. Others saw in it his succumbing to the family pressure, and pressure of his conscience. Whatever be the case, this was a welcome development. Though Buta Singh mentioned his religion as his personal affair, agnostic Harkishan Singh Surjeet saw in it negation of India’s secularism. Congress(I) members were perplexed at the timing, when the controversy over Clinton’s remarks was at its apex.

In view of the American concerns, attempts were made to humanise the police image, and later project it as champion of people’s rights.

* The attempts made in mid-1993 to establish liaison between the police and the villagers, especially Sarpanchas, proved abortive, as people spoke in unison against the thana level police officers who were thoroughly corrupt. It was generally surmised that Khaki (the police uniform) was still a terror in the Punjab countryside.

* Notwithstanding the set back, by autumn KPS Gill proceeded to organise seminars on “Indian Police and Human Rights” under his auspices. That was a bold attempt to give a facile lift to

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police image. A beginning was made in early October 1993, with a two-day seminar at

Chandigarh. A number of journalists and others participated and expressed widespread

skepticism at police claims.

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The true feelings of a cross section of people were expressed a couple of months lateral a

seminar organised at Jalandhar on December 12, 1993, by Punjab Jagriti Manch. The speakers were

more forthright to say that such type of seminars organised by police were attempts to hide the ugly

violation of human rights by the security forces.

* Dr. Amarjit Singh Narang of Delhi University stated that Chandigarh seminar was an attempt

to give false hope to the people to lull them to silence. It was reflective of upsurge of fascist

tendencies.

* Tapan Bose, the famous Film Director, highlighted that KPS Gill was attempting to give three

clear messages. One, terrorism has come to an end in Punjab; two the unseen waves of

separatist movement are still strong; and three, judiciary and intellectuals have been

unsuccessful. Therefore, there is still need for Gill who is indispensable.

* Kirpal Singh of Chief Khalsa Diwan compared Gill’s talking about human rights to recitation

of holy scriptures by Satan.

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How would have Indians reacted if the British had held such a seminar under the auspices of

General Dyer after Jallianwala Bagh?

K.P.S. Gill met a major setback when he orchestrated a public ceremony for Bhai Kanwar

Singh, founder of Akal Federation, and an ideologue, in March, 1994, at Chandigarh. Kanwar Singh

spoke of his, along with his wife and 5 year old son, being taken into custody in Nepal in mid-1993;

they were tortured by the police who threatened to liquidate the family. In a choking voice, he said,

“I will prefer to be cut into pieces, than surrender”. Taken aback, Gill and police officers indicted

denied ‘torture’, but immediately whisked him away,163

Bhai Kanwar Singh represented the true

Khalsa spirit of defiance of oppressive authority.

Multiple factors activated the political elements in early 1994. Interested elements sought to

asphyxiate the new consciousness by launching a move to bring about an opportunistic Akali unity –

the unity of contradictory forces. Tohra was in the lead. Talwandi, Barnala and other discredited

leaders who had frequently stabbed the Panth in the back were privy to the move. Mann was

overwhelmed by the infiltrators. Or, was this another case of miscalculation? In a foxy move, they

approached Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar of Akal Takht, to bring about, what they euphemistically

called, Panthic unity. As stated earlier, Tohra has now for two decades effectively used the plea for

‘panthic unity’ as a weapon of offence and guile. Parkash Singh Badal in a deft move saved his party

from being overwhelmed. The only good point that came out was the decision by Akal Takht to set

up a think tank to monitor religious matters.

The formation of Shiromani Akali Dal(Amritsar) in April 1994 only showed the bankruptcy

of its leaders. This was proved at the by-election polls at Nakodar and Ajnala in May 1994. Despite

large scale rigging as vouchsafed by the media men,164

and indirect police help, Congress(I) won

Nakodar seat with a reduced margin. Akalis (Badal) won convincingly at Ajnala.

Chief Elections Commissioner, T.N. Seshan, ignored Beant Singh government’s corrupt

practices at Nakodar for two reasons. Firstly, he was under psychological pressure from the union

government over its move to clip his wings by bringing in an amendment of the Constitution at a

special session of Parliament in mid-June. Akalis reprehensibly had no member in either house of

Parliament. Secondly, more probably, as the Sikhs were adversely affected by these malpractices,

Seshan, who has been part of Brahminical conspiracy and who had earlier postponed Punjab

elections in 1991 under mysterious circumstances, could choose to close his eyes. It was for similar

reasons that a short while ago he had postponed the Ajnala by-election and not the one for

Nakodar, though Punjab Chief Minister’s violation of the model code of conduct was applicable to

both.165

It was fortuitous circumstance of Supreme Court’s upholding Uttar Pradesh Government’s

plea, that he had to agree to reschedule the postponed Ajnala by-election to May 31, as against May

26, earlier. For similar reasons, he did not order that counting of votes at Nakodar be withheld for a

couple of days till voting at Ajnala had taken place.

The death of Punjab Governor, Surendra Nath, in an aircrash which wiped out nine other

members of his family, on July 9, 1994, brought to light in a dramatic manner, the rapacious and

predatory character of the Punjab administration under the longlasting President’s rule, and the

diarchy thereafter with Beant Singh as Chief Minister.

The union Home Minister was right on the spot in Chandigarh after the news of Surendra

Nath’s death; he took away bundles from his residence, of what he regarded papers containing state

secrets about Sikh genocidal policies pursued by the union government. According to information

available with the Prime Minister’s Office, Rs. 1.87 Crores (18.7 mil) in cash, seven Kg of gold (it is

not know whether this was with Swiss or some other markings, or simply ingots prepared by the

local goldsmiths by melting ornaments looted from the people) and Jewellery worth Rs. 40 crores

(400 mn), and documents of property worth Rs. 250 crores (2.5 bn), were recovered from his

house.166 It also came to light that Surendra Nath had withdrawn Rs. 22 lakhs (2.2 mn) in one go

from the Secret Service Fund a week before the induction of Beant Singh in mid-1992. The

quantum of availability of funds for misuse could be gauged from the fact that, according to Beant

Singh a sum of Rs. 6,600 crores (66 bn – this is treated as a loan from the union government to put

Punjab in a debt trap )had been spent on the security forces “to counter terrorism”.167 The rationale

is provided by B.K. Chum of the Economic Times in that, “The alleged recovery from Raj Bhavan

needs to be seen in the light of amassing of huge wealth by terrorists, many Punjab police and civil

administrators during the hey day of terrorism and later by some Punjab ministers after the popular

government returned.”

168

This amassing of huge wealth by Surendra Nath has shocked out of wits many a people in

Punjab. Ashwini Kumar, a senior editor of Punjab Kesri group – consisting of Punjab Kesri (Hindi),

Hind Samachar (Urdu) and Jagbani (Punjabi) with a combined circulation of 6 lakhs (600,000), in a

signed editorial in all the three papers of October 18, expressed his utter surprise at Surendra Nath’s

avarice in amassing such a huge wealth. He also indicated that the government wants to suppress

the issue as it does not want it to go to the National Human Rights Commission.169 Khushwant

Singh, a virtual police spokesman now for some time, shaken by the disclosures cast doubts on his

“ability to judge human beings”,170 for Surendra Nath, according to one report had “purchased his

way to power” as Governor of Punjab and milched it.

171

What has come to light is obviously the tip of the iceberg.170 Punjab has undergone

extortions at the hands of a vulturine administration on a vast scale under President’s rule and after,

in the process dwarfing the exactions of Ahmad Shah Abdali during the 18th century. An enquiry

into the exactions by KPS Gill and his cohorts in the police and para military forces, and ministers in

Beant Singh government, could very much be in order to reveal the fuller dimensions of the ordeal Punjab has undergone during the period.

It is debatable whether the notice issued by Punjab and Haryana High Court, on a public interest petition, calling upon the central and Punjab governments to disclose the details by February 12, 1995, of ill gotten wealth of Surendra Nath will yield much. There has been a baffling silence on the part of authorities so far, may be, as a prelude to a white washing operation. Nothing much can be expected from National Human Rights Commission headed by Mr. Justice Ranganath Misra, who has been part of Brahminical conspiracy against the Sikhs, and otherwise has not much credibility.

One can only recall Simarnjit Singh Mann’s once calling for Nuremberg type of trials – where the plea for call to duty, and New Delhi’s proposal to grant immunity to all police and paramilitary personnel in Punjab in 1992 for all the crimes they did, incase of Akali Dal’s fighting the forthcoming elections and coming into power, would not cut ice -to mete justice to the culprits. That remains a distant possibility, as yet.

An encouraging sign has been the Supreme Courts’s severe indictment on September 16, 1994, of Punjab Police headed by KPS Gill as “an errant, high handed and unchecked police force”. It expressed complete distrust in the state police in light of KPS Gill’s casual appraoch to the abduction and liquidation by the Punjab Police of seven members of a Sikh family on October 29, 1991. Gill’s assertion before the Supreme Court about maintaining the “majesty of law” only invited Court’s derisive retort, “Not, if things are left to the Punjab Police.”

The Court directed the Director, CBI, to personally conduct an enquiry into various aspects of the case and submit a report within the specified time. The Hindustan Times in an editorial titled, “A lawless force” on September 19, 1994, wrote, “It is time for the Centre to note the grave implications of the Supreme Court’s damning indictment of the Punjab Police and initiate steps to ensure that the latter is not allowed to violate the law as it has chosen to with impunity.” Earlier in July, the Punjab Police’s beating up two journalists of the Statesman in a five star hotel under the shadow of Parliament House in New Delhi because of their asking KPS Gill some inconvenient questions, over his election as President of Indian Hockey Federation, had invited severe indictment of the press.

Gill’s extended two year term as the “slave overseer more heartless than any alien beast”, expires in December 1994. There are clouds over the question of his being granted further extension, but the dogged determination of the union government to overwhelm Sikhism, may still see it through.

The change at the top in the police set up in Punjab, if it comes about, will only be for tactical reason. It will not signify a change in policy, which would need certain modifications of fundamental character in Indian polity.

The continuous atrocities on the Sikh detenues held under TADA in Rajasthan during 1994 despite Parkash Singh Badal’s talking to BJP Chief Minister, Bhairon Singh Sekhawat, in the matter, and the killing of half a dozen Sikhs in cold blood and causing serious injuries to over two dozen others held under TADA in Pilibhit Jail on November 8-9, 1994, by the police of Mulayam Singh headed Samajwadi Party- Bahujan Samaj Party coalition in U.P., shows that animus against the Sikhs has taken deep roots in northern India, and cuts across caste or class lines. A mitigating factor in

Pilibhit has been that a Muslim MLA of the ruling Samajwadi Party brought to light the Pilibhit killing and is agitating the atrocities.

The Brahminical war against the Sikhs goes on with no holds barred. The provisions of Indian Constitution, of right to life, liberty, equality, of being meted civilised behaviour, have become irrelevant to the votaries of the Sikh values. The Brahminical order especially over northern India feels that it has administered body blows, which it hopes to be fatal, to the corporate body of the Khalsa, and that it is in the process of being overwhelmed.

The Sikhs continue to be victims of the constitutional terrorism or state terrorism that the government of India is practicing at present. Firstly, there must be a reversal of the whole process of Brahminical attempts to overwhelm Sikhism; instill in the Sikhs a sense of belonging, and that the Sikhs have a right to assert their identity. Secondly, to borrow from the Times of India (editorial, April 1, 1992), the Sikh problem “needs a conceptual response by offering them a form of autonomy that can be reconciled with an accommodative interpretation of the federal idea enshrined in Indian constitution” but that, “This will, however, remain far beyond the realms of possibility without deep introspection by the Indian political class of which there is, alas, no sign yet.”

Bharat Mata is looking towards a liberator. Will Indian political system throw up one? Time is running out.

Footnotes:

1. Cf. Shekhar Gupta’s Special Report on KPS Gill, India Today, April 15, 1993, pp. 62-66.

2. Cf. pp. 415-16 ante.

3. Dhiren Bhagat in Indian Post (Bombay), April 24, 1988.

4. India Today May 31, 1988, p. 28.

5. Avinash Singh, “Battle for Golden Temple”, Hindustan Times, May 22,1988, magazine section, p. 1; “Punjab: The Battle Escalates”, India Today, May 31, 1988, pp. 24-28.

6. Shekhar Gupta and Vipul Mudgal. “Operation Black Thunder: A Dramatic Success”, India Today, June 15. 1988, p. 78.

7. Sunday. May 22, 1988, p. 27.

8. Ibid, p. 29.

9. Ibid, p. 30.

10. Ibid.

11. Of the total of 197 persons who surrendered, leaving aside 17 women and children, militants accounted for about 50 men. About 40 were Hindus who had grown their beards. The bulk of the rest were infiltrators from the security agencies.

12. Sunday, May 22, 1988, p. 32.

13. India Today, June 15, 1988, p. 85.

14. Taking advantage of appointment of new headpriests, Barnala sought pardon for defying the Akal Takht in February 1987. Eventually, he landed himself before Prof. Darshan Singh Ragi, who made him to undergo atonement for his lapses in December 1988.

15. India Today, June 30, 1988, pp. 44-45.

16. In another two months, Giani Sohan Singh Headpriest of Golden Temple and Bhan Singh Office Secretary of SGPC, were shot dead, while Mal Singh Ghuman General Secretary SGLC,

was wounded in an attack attributed to Khalistan Liberation Force. India Today, August 15, 1988, p. 35.

17. New York Times, June 12, 1988, p. A-11.

18. The killing of SSP, Sital Das and his Deputy (Detective) Baldev Singh Brar in their office in Patiala city by Dalbir Singh who shot himself after shooting the two, in August 1988, brought to light the existence of such under-cover agents. Cf. Vipul Mudgal, “Punjab: The Underground Army”, India Today September 15, 1988, pp. 74-77.

19. India Today, July 15, 1988, p. 44.

20. Ibid, October 15, 1988, p. 50.

20a. It took the couple – the leady and husband – 7 years to have the Supreme Court to order in October 1995, Gill’s being proceeded against under the FIR. Prime Minister reportedly quite unhappy at the turn of the event.

21. India Today, August 15, 1988, p. 52.

22. The Sunday Observer, September 5, 1988, p. 1.

23. India Today September 15, 1988, p. 59.

24. Ibid, October 31, 1988, pp. 69-73.

25. Ibid, November 30, 1988, p. 56.

26. For a detailed account of trial of Satwant Singh and others, see also, Ritu Sarin’s “Cracking the Conspiracy”, Sunday November 20, 1988, pp. 25-31, and “The Final Judgment”, Sunday, August 14, 1988, pp. 22-24; David Devdas, “Indira Gandhi Assassination: The Suspended Sentence”, India Today, December 31, 1988. pp. 42-45; and TPR, “The Final Act”, Frontline, January 21 February 3, 1989. pp. 25-37.

27. For a full discussion on evidence for and against Kehar Singh, and where Supreme Court went wrong, see “Kehar Singh Story”, Illustrated Weekly of India, December 4, 1988, pp. 8-17.

28. Probe India, February 1989, p. 23.

29. The Hindu (International Edition), February 11, 1989, p. 4.

30. India Today, February 28, 1989, p. 165.

31. Inderjit Badhwar and Vipul Mudgal, “Jammu Riots: A Paralysed Administration,” India Today, February 28, 1989, p. 64.

32. Ibid, p. 69.

33. Vipul Mudgal, “Punjab: Anguished Cry”, India Today, March 15, 1989, p. 78.

34. It was in this melee that a nephew of the author was taken into custody in September 1988 at Ludhiana. The family was not told of boy’s being killed the same night. That made the author, then a senior officer in the Indian Foreign Office to contact Additional Secretary (Police) in the Union Home Ministry, and at his instance K.P.S. Gill at Chandigarh and SSP Ludhiana Mr. Sumed Saini. While in Gill’s office, the author learnt that the police had taken into custody about 30,000 school going boys who had taken amrit, baptism, and they were not being released. Later, the author met at Chandigarh the head of CRPF who entrusted a very senior officer to find out about the boy. He stated that Sumed Saini SSP Ludhiana and one Bahuguna head of CRPF unit in Ludhiana, had liquidated a large body of the Sikh youth, and that, he said, was more or less true for whole of the Punjab.

35. India Today March 31, 1989, pp. 29-31.

36. Sunday, March 19, p. 18.

37. India Express, March 7, 1989.

38. Kanwar Sandhu, “Punjab Police: Uniformed Brutality”, India Today, September 30, 1989 pp. 34-36.

39. Naveen S. Garewal in India Express, September 2, 1989.

40. n. 38, op cit.

41. India Today October 15, 1989, pp. 58-60; Indian Express, September 22, 1989.

42. Kanwar Sandhu in India Today, October 15, 1989, p. 60.

43. Ibid.

44. The Indian Express, July 10, 1989.

45. Ibid, December 6, 1889.

46. Barnala termed these as mischievous to create an adverse situation for the new government. India Today, December 31, 1989, p. 61.

47. The Indian Express, November 12, 1989.

48. The Times of India, January 3, 1990.

49. Ibid.

49a. Ibid, January 10, 1990.

50. Joyce J.M. Pettigrew, The Sikhs of the Punjab (London, 1995), p. 93.

51. Ibid, January 12, 1990.

52. The Hindu January 12, 1990.

53. Kanwar Sandhu in India Today, January 31, 1990.

54. Ibid; cf, India Today, October 15, 1990, p. 48.

55. The Times of India, January 23, 1990.

56. Ibid. January 20, 1990.

57. The Indian Express, February 18, 1990.

58. Gobind Thukral in Hindustan Times, February 22, 1990.

59. The Indian Express, April 5, 1990.

60. India Today, April 15, 1990, p. 45.

61. Other members were: Justice (Retd) Rajinder Sachar, Prof. Rajni Kothari, Lt. Gen (Retd) J. S. Aurora. M.P., George Verghese, Dr. Amrik Singh, Ms Jaya Jaitley, Ms. Madhu Kishwar. N. D. Pancholi, Tejinder Ahuja, and H. S. Phoolka. Indian Express April 18, 1990.

62. The Hindustan Times. June 24, 1990.

63. Kanwar Sandhu in India Today, August 31, 1990. pp. 66-71.

64. Kanwar Sandhu in India Today. October 15, 1990. p. 49.

65. Ibid.

66. India Today October 15, 1990, p. 45.

67. The Hindustan Times, October 13, 1990.

68. India Today, December 31, 1990, p. 37.

69. Hindustan Times and Economic Times of January 1, 1991.

70. The Indian Express, January 6, 1991.

71. Askar H. Zaidi in Times of India, April 28, 1991; Tavleen Singh in Indian Express, April 18, 1991.

72. Ibid.

73. Note by Samir Lal.

74. Note by Shekhar Gupta.

75. The Hindustan Times, February 20, 1991.

76. Ibid. February 28, 1991.

77. India Today. March 31. 1991, p. 59.

77a. “For Eyes Only” in Government is a classification higher than top secret. It is design to be shown to a specific person, in this case the successor(s) on assumption of office.

78. The Hindustan Times, April 22, 1991.

79. Ibid.

80. Kanwar Sandhu in India Today, April 30, 1991, pp. 73-75.

81. The Hindustan Times, April 26, 1991.

82. Ibid, April 25, 1991.

83. Avinash Singh in Ibid, April 26, 1991.

83a. Joyce Pettigrew (n 50) quotes a KCF partisan to report that Dr. Sohan Singh went over to Pakistan in April 1991. Also that some from the Panthic Committee did not trust Mann and played disruptive role as a result of infiltration of government intelligence agencies.

84. Hindustan Times June 20, 1991. Certain stooges of Congress (I) who were close to Manjit Singh described him sincere but politically immature.

85. Cf. India Today, July 15, 1991, p. 53.

86. The Hindustan Times, August 18, 1991.

87. Ibid, August 22, 1991.

87a. Cf. Joyce Pettigrew n 50 p. 109.

87b. For a partial list of real butchers, see. Ibid, pp 108-109.

88. Kanwar Sandhu, “Punjab Police: Official Excesses”, India Today, October 15, 1992, p. 89.

89. Avinash Singh in the Hindustan Times, November 21, 1991.

90. The Financial Express, November 13, 1991.

91. Punjab: Gill Returns India Today, December 15, 1991, p. 49.

92. For text of the report, see the Spokesman Weekly, September 28, October 5 & 12, 1992.

93. Khushwant Singh, My Bleeding Panjab, (Delhi 1992), p. 76.

94. For group photograph of Surender Billa and his fake Sikhs, see, Current weekly, August 5, 1989, p. 11.

95. Hindustan Times, February 4, 1992.

96. Ramesh Vinayak in India Today, February 29, 1992, p. 36.

97. The Hindustan Times, February 4, 1992.

98. Gobind Thukral, in the Hindustan Times, February 13, 1992.

99. The Hindustan Times, February 5, 1992.

100. Total votes 13.1 million (mn). Votes polled 3.145 mn. Votes rejected 138,000. Valid Votes 3.01 mn, Congress vote 1.4 mn.

* 25 candidates won polling less than 5,000 votes each.

* 26 candidates won polling between 5001 to 10,000 votes each.

* In all 77 candidates won on polling less than 15,000 votes each.

* In 2,000 villages polling ranged from 0 to 1 percent. Cf. Dinesh Kumar in the Times of India, February 22, 1992.

101. The Times of India February 22, 1992.

102. Kanwar Sandhu, n. 88 op cit.

103. The Hindustan Times, April 11, 1992.

104. Ibid.

105. Ibid, May 24, 1992.

106. Ibid, April 7, 1992.

107. Ibid, July 1, 1992.

108. Dinesh Kumar in the Times of India, May 1, 1992.

109. Karanbir Singh Sidhu, District Magistrate, Amritsar, who conducted an enquiry into the 28 hour long Behla encounter held that the police picked up seven villagers from their homes and forced them to go into the hideout of the militants of Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan on June 8-9, 1992. Though there were no bunkers in the hideout, the police brought in 1600 security personnel to face only two militants. At the end of the encounter the police declared the civilians used by it as cover, to form part of militant outfit, firstly to claim a bigger prize for itself, and secondly, to prevent compensation to the next of kin of the civilians used. Their bodies were not handed over to their relatives but cremated surreptitiously by the police. See, B. S. Bawa in the Pioneer, 18 June 1992.

Behla encounter showed the low morale of the security personnel, and their mercenary character.

110. The Hindustan Times, June 21, 1992.

111. Chandan Mitra in the Hindustan Times, May 26, 1992.

112. Ibid, May 27, 1992.

113. Gobind Thukral in the Hindustan Times, August 14, 1992.

114. Shahid A. Choudhary in Probe India. November 1992, p. 13.

115. The Hindustan Times, August 14, 1992.

116. For Simranjit Singh Mann’s comments see the Spokesman, September 14, 1992.

117. n. 114 op cit.

118. The Hindustan Times, August 22, 1992.

119. See, Satya Pal Dang in the Spokesman Weekly, August 10, 1992, September 14, November 16, 1992; and Hindustan Times November 5, 1992, et. al.

120. n. 1 14 op. cit.

121. The Indian Express, August 23, & September 6, 1993.

122. Hindustan Times, September 9, 1992; Probe India, November 1992, pp. 13-14.

123. Krishan Mahajan in the Indian Express, October 11, 1992; also Ritu Sarin in the Spokesman August 3, 1992.

124. The Hindustan Times, October 4, 1992.

125. Kanwar Sandhu, n. 88, p. 82.

126. The Hindustan Times, January 6, 1993.

127. Gobind Thukral in the Hindustan Times, January 20, 1993.

128. Shivanand Kanavi in the Sunday Observer, April 11, 1993 for detailed report.

129. The Spokesman Weekly, February 22, and March 1, 1993.

130. Hindustan Times, January 21, 1993.

131. Gobind Thukral in the Hindustan Times, January 22, 1993.

132. Harpreet Singh in the Hindustan Times, January 23, 1993.

133. The Hindustan Times, January 25, 1993.

134. Ibid, 27 January, 1993.

135. It became a big joke that the Judges did not know the meaning of the word stay, and that they committed contempt of their own court.

136. Kanwar Sandhu in India Today, March 31, 1993, p. 125.

137. The Hindustan Times, March 4, 1993.

138. Ibid, March 3, 1993.

139. Ibid, March 11, 1993.

140. Ibid. April 7, 1993.

141. “Fear Psychosis Still Stalks Rural Youth”, Ibid, May 4, 1994.

142. e. g. see. Ibid, editorial, May 21, 1993.

143. Ibid, May 14, 1994.

144. Ibid August 12, 1993; also Gobind Thukral in Ibid, September 1, 1993.

145. Cf. Ibid, November 1, 1993.

146. Ibid, December 1, 1993.

147. Correspondent’s Despatches, Ibid, September 21 to 24, and October 5, 1993.

148. Ibid, May 22, 1993.

149. Ibid, August 11, 1993.

150. Sant Sipahi (Amritsar, Panjabi monthly), February 1994, pp. 25-31, also subsequent issues.

151. Cf. Giani Bhagat Singh in Sant Sipahi, Amritsar May, 1994, pp. 16-18. It is another matter that the Centres of Comparative Religion hold seminars or discussions on discordant viewpoints.

152. Indira Gandhi had been greatly upset at the decision of Vancouver University in early 1980s to establish a Chair in Sikh history, consequent upon the Sikh people in North America raising the necessary funds. New Delhi exerted pressure on Ottawa to establish instead a Chair in Punjabi language.

The establishment of Chair in 1985 came at a lime when New Delhi was relentlessly carrying on a campaign against the Sikh people in North America at their adverse reaction to the events of 1984 back home. New Delhi felt that a competent person heading the Chair in Punjabi could turn it into a centre of learning not only in Punjabi language and literature, but also in Sikh religion, theology, history and polity. It, therefore, made subtle moves to have the Chair occupied by a patit, renegade, Sikh (having nothing to do with Punjabi language or literature), who, during his sojourns earlier in Delhi and Canberra, had shown propensities to serve as a cat’s paw for Brahminism, and sour the Sikh achievement.

The Sikhs of North America must understand that creating a Chair is not an end in itself. Of much more importance is to have it occupied by a right type of person. ‘Man is superior to weapon’ constituted the core of Mao’s thought, and derived its sustenance from- Guru Gobind Singh’s dictum, chirion se main baaz turaon. I will have sparrows to tear the hawks.

152a.Admittedly, the Sikh youth in the West is facing problems of adjustment in the new social milieu. In Canada, there is a concerted attack on the Sikh values in the guise of promotion of multi-culturalism. What sort of multi-culturalism the Canadian society has promoted during the last two centuries? The Anglo-Saxons and the French, despite living together for over two centuries, are on the verge of separation. In the 1995 referendum, the people of Quebec, thanks to sizeable immigrant population, failed to vote for independence only by one percent. According to some observers, the French arc bound to opt for independence in the next decade or so. Then BC and may be Alberta shall too opt for independence and the residual provinces may choose to become part of the USA. While, the Canadian society is facing disintegration, (he ‘comrades’ from within the Sikh community are propagating the concept of multi-culturalism with a view to irretrievably damage Sikhism in Canada.

153. The Hindustan Times, May 28, 1993.

154. Ibid, July 24, 1993.

155. Ibid. August 12, 1993.

156. Emphasis added. M. C. Menon in Ibid, August 13, 1993.

157. Ibid, December 18, 1993.

158. For facsimile copies of two letters, see, Sant Sipahi, March 1994, pp. 19-20.

159. The Hindustan Times, February 22, 1994.

160. The Observer of Business and Politics, August 9, 1993.

161. The Hindustan Times, December 5, 1993.

162. For proceeding of Jalandhar seminar, sec Punjabi Tribune, December 13, 1993.

163. The Hindustan Times, March 30, 1994.

164. Harpreet Singh in the Hindustan Times, May 27, 1994.

165. In U.P. Chief Minister Mulayam Singh violated the code of conduct in one constituency but by elections to all six seats were put off.

166. Cf. Ashwani Kumar’s signed editorial in Punjab Kesri group of dailies of October 18, 1994; Gobind Thukral in the Hindustan Times. October 25, 1994 and B.K. Chum in Economic Times, October 27, 1994. Kamaljeet Rattan in Economic Times, November 14, 1994, mention of Surendra Nath’s assets to amount to Rs. 750 crores.

167. The Hindustan Times, November 11, 1994.

168. Cf. Chum in 165 op cit.

169. Ashwani Kumar’s signed editorial has the title, saman sau baras ka, pal bhar ki khabhar nahin, One accumulate goods to last a hundred years, but one is not sure for a moment’s life. This could very well be given the title from a line in Guru Nanak’s verse, papan bajhon howai nahin, moian saath na jai. Wealth can’t be accumulated without sin, but it does not accompany one on death.

170. Khushwant Singh in The Sunday Observer, November 13, 1994.

171. Kamaljeet Rattan in n. 165, op. cit.

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