1978 Kanpur Massacre

Taken From Kurbani

Shaheed Bhai Jagjit Singh Ji, Kanpur

After the incident of Vasakhi 1978, a agitation was started against the Nirankaris. Wherever the Nirankaris had their meetings, Gursikhs would go and protest peacefully. Thus Gurbachan Singh was unable to address the meetings held at Varanasi, Azamgarh and Allahbad.

On 25th September 1978, Gurbachan Singh reached Kanpur at 9.30p.m, flanked by police officers to protect him. The news having leaked out, the Sikhs started a protest march from Gurdwara Gobindpuri, which is at a distance of about 3 kilometres from the Nirankari Bhawan of Kanpur. Women and children also joined the protesters.

This time the Nirankaris again had made full preparations for the Sikhs. When the Sikh protesters reached near the Nirankari Bhawan, the Nirankaris greeted them with brickbats and gunshots. An armed volunteer of the Nirankaris attacked Jathedar Kishan Singh with a spear which pierced through his stomach. After this, a fight started. The police fired at the Sikh protesters, a result of which 13 Sikhs died, while 74 were injured.

This incident further increased the Sikhs resentment against Nirankaris and the government. On 28th September, the dead bodies of those killed at Kanpur were taken out in a huge procession. A day earlier, on 27th September 1978, the Sikhs of Amritsar, Delhi, Bombay, Lucknow, Kanpur and many other places observed a one-day protest strike.

The names of some of the Shaheeds are:- Bibi Darshan Kaur, Bhai Jagjit Singh, Bhai Harcharan Singh, Jathedar Karam Singh, Jathedar Kishan Singh, Baba Kashmira Singh, Bhai Manmohan Singh, Bhai Gurbir Singh, Bhai Balwant Singh, Bhai Gurjit Singh.

As tempers flared, the Punjab Government, on 28th September, 1978. banned the entry of the Nirankari Chief in Punjab for six months. But the Nirankari Chief challenged it in the Supreme Court and the ban was lifted.

On the 30th September, 1978, the Sikhs of Delhi organised a protest march and presented a memorandum to the Government of India to ban Nirankari 'Samagams' (congregations). On 4th November, 1978, the Nirankaris took out a procession in Delhi in connection with their annual conference. The Sikhs retaliated with a counter protest march that culminated in violence. The President of the Delhi Akali Dal, Avtar Singh Kohli, was hit on the head by a police tear gas shell and was killed. Besides him, Bhai Darshan Singh and a 13-year old Sikh boy Maninder Singh were also killed. Nine Sikhs were also injured. On 5th 6th November, 1978, disturbances broke out in some parts of Delhi and a curfew had to be imposed.

Jan Sangh (BJP) workers provided a protection force to enable the Nirankaris to continue their functions in spite of disturbances in the city. Many Arya Samajist leaders, including Lala Jagat Narain, gave speeches supporting the Nirankaris. This gave a new direction to the anti-Nirankari agitation. It dawned on the Gursikhs that the majority community in India was patronising the Nirankaris to finish off the separate identity of the Sikh faith.

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