Bibi Amandeep Kaur
Khalistan Commando Force

Cynthia Mahmood. Fighting For Faith And Nation - Dialogue With Sikh Militants

Well I didn’t have any interest in politics prior to 1988. But when I went to college I saw some victims of the brutality of the state, and this shook my conscience. One girl, Harjinder Kaur Khalsa, had come from Australia to get married in Punjab, and on the way back she was arrested at the airport in Delhi and was martyred. Then there was a boy, Gurmukh Singh, who was the captain of the hockey team at my college. He was tortured so badly by police that he was admitted to the hospital and died on the fifth day there due to profuse bleeding. It occurred to me then that I should try to make some changes, some social reform, and change the face of my religion on which there are many black spots at this time.

“After our college mate Gurmukh Singh died, some of us went to his house to express our sympathy to his family. We found out that he was the only son. There were four sisters and Gurmukh Singh was the eldest. ‘When I saw those little girls crying. I couldn’t understand why can’t the police be held answerable for these atrocities? My mind was in a state of excitement. Why shouldn’t it be me who should ask these police why this innocent boy was killed?

“But asking for answers from the police would mean two things. Either I would be killed like Gurmukh Singh in an encounter, or else they would put ammunition on me and I would languish in jail for years. So I didn’t do anything.

“I was the best athlete of my college for four years, and I became captain of our team of girls hockey. I was considered to be a brilliant sportswoman and an intelligent girl, and I came from a good family, but it was paining my heart that Sikh boys and girls who were really deserving couldn’t reach the positions in life they deserved. I saw discrimination everywhere.

“Then by the grace of Waheguru I met one Singh, Gurdev Singh, who was related to me distantly. He knew that I belonged to a devout family and that I could do anything I was told to do very responsibly. One day he told he told me bluntly that there was ammunition that had to be taken to some particular place. Could I do that?

“I said, ‘Yes, I will do it,’ and Gurdev Singh handed over all the ammunition. Why did I do this? I did it because I wanted to know as to why Gurmukh Singh was martyred. I wanted to hold the police answerable for their crimes and there was no way to do it other then this way. I couldn’t stand the torturing and killing of innocent boys.

“I decided not to tell my family about this decision to take action, because I feared they might obstruct my path. I had made up mind to do it, come what may. And with my fellow friends I wasn’t sure they were as serious as I was, and I thought they might make fun of me or something. I told nobody what I was going to do.

“There happened to be two police check posts on the way to where that ammunition had to be deposited. I was wearing my track suit and I took the ammunition and hid it under my clothes. When I came to the stand I saw the brother of a close friend of mine, and he had a scooter. I asked him if I could borrow that scooter as I had house guests at my place and needed to go into the village. He said that would be fine, and I took his scooter and drove off.

“I was stopped at the first police check post. It’s not a very common sight in Punjab for girls to be driving scooters, so if somebody does it people notice it and question it. A policeman said, ‘Where are you going? Where are you coming from?’ It turned out that they were looking for two young men, and one of them was in fact Gurdev Singh, who had assigned me this responsibility. I didn’t tell them anything. just mentioned the name of my father, who was a respected man in the area. They let me go on.

“At the second police check post the police on duty also knew my father well and respected his name. So I was not detained there either. With God’s grace I was successful in getting the ammunition to its destination where it was received by the Singh's. When I returned back home I felt satisfied that I had done my work well. I was contented and actually jubilant.

“In this moment of jubilation it occurred to me that if I could be successful in this, why couldn’t I join my Sikh brothers in direct combat action? After all, Sikh girls are as brave as Sikh men, and I knew they always stood by their brothers and husbands in times of need. I knew I was capable of taking any risk, that nothing could scare or deter a Sikh woman.

I didn’t know of any women, though, who were actually involved in combat. But I requested brother Gurdev Singh to let me join him in the movement. ‘I will be with you through thick and thin,’ I said. ‘I am capable of taking as many risks as you are.’

“Gurdev Singh said, ‘You are a girl, you can’t join us.’

“I realized that to be a girl is really a big sin in India. But through my repetitive and persistent requests and my bold assertions he finally said, ‘OK, you can be a member of Khalistan Commando Force, but we can’t take you on any combat actions. I settled for that, but in my mind I knew what I wanted to do.

They first had me sign up as a member of the Sikh Students Federation, on November 12, 1988. That was not a banned organization at the time. It became my routine task to take ammunition from one place to another, and I swear by God I never had a grain of fear in my mind. I always felt satisfied and contented after I had carried out my duties.

During all this time, I didn’t mention a word to my family and especially not my mother. It is a well-known fact that women can’t keep secrets. I thought that out of fear my mother might mention to somebody that her daughter has gone on this path. As far as I was concerned, I had taken a stern vow that I would not allow any police person to touch my body. I would martyr before I would let anybody come close to me. I was not scared of death in any way, but I feared that my secrets should come out.

There was also such a climate of terror that sometimes even parents of boys or girls killed in police actions refused to identify or claim the bodies. If they did claim the bodies the police would compel them to issue a statement that their Son or daughter was a terrorist. If the parents made that statement, even then they didn’t escape the wrath of the police. They always humiliated and tortured them. That’s why! refused to involve my family. I was not afraid for myself but I didn’t want to disturb the peaceful life of my little brothers and my parents.

I began preaching with a missionary zeal to my fellow college stunt. I started telling them to abide by the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib. My particular focus was those who had been led astray by the materialistic life and were not living as devout Sikhs. I preached to them peacefully for some time, but then I noticed some spoiled boys who were continually giving a hard time to the college girls. They used to tease them, standing by the roadside. I decided to teach them a lesson.

“One day, a girl complained to me that two boys stopped her on the path, chased her, and made her life miserable. I summoned those boys to meet me at the library, and I gave them a warning. I asked them to desist from what they were doing, plaguing the college girls. They were adamant, though, and they said they would do whatever they wanted, and I could do whatever I wanted to do about it.

“Within the college campus there was a lot of security, so I couldn’t put any plan into action there. There was a local bus stand nearby, where the girl who had been teased used to catch a motor rickshaw to get home. I went there, and saw one of those boys approach that girl and start making rude comments to her. The girl looked at me in a very piteous manner, so I decided I had to take some bold action. I walked up to that and Waheguru gave me the strength to hold him by the collar and give him a big punch on the nose!

“That boy fell at my feet immediately. I was wearing sports shoes, and in the full presence of all those people at the bus stand I went ahead and kicked him. I beat him so badly that one of his front teeth got broken. He didn’t even fight back, as I suppose he couldn’t imagine in his wildest dreams that some girl could hit him and teach him a lesson. It was a usual practice that girls used to take everything silently. I say firmly now not only boys but girls, too, were to be blamed for the sad state of affairs. They took everything too quietly.

“As for the other boy, his companion, he left the area and was never seen again.

“There was a professor of my college at that time who was a witness to that whole episode. He came up to me and, patting my back, he said, ‘You are a brave girl. If you can teach these boys a lesson in front I these people, you might accomplish a lot if you had proper training.’ It turned out that that professor was not only the well-wisher of the Singh's but one of them. He did everything stealthily, and no one knew of his involvement.

“As I was always looking for the right man to guide me, I said to this professor, ‘Sir, I want to do something. I want to ask for some answers from the police. I want to know why they are killing so many innocent people. Please guide me on the right path.’

“That professor said, ‘Well, if you want to just ask that question in an honest way, in a peaceful way, that simply means that you will be dead,’

“I said, ‘If the police can martyr all these young boys who are a match for them, I would be just a small prey before them. I am just a helpless girl.’

“Professor knew what I wanted to do, and he told me. ‘On the path that you are choosing, there is no place for sentimentalism. Even if your near and dear may be killed. Women are of a more sentimental nature, and it may be hard to tread this very difficult path.’

“There was a portrait of the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, hanging on the wall of the office where we were talking. I prayed before the tenth Guru and I said earnestly, ‘Oh, you rider of the blue steed, give me the strength that I can fight against tyranny alongside my brother Singh's. If I can’t, then tell me why you gave me so much courage and strength, if you made me a girl? Why didn’t you make me a boy?’

That professor was very much impressed by my sincerity as a I prayed before the tenth Guru, and he decided that I was fit to join the ranks of freedom fighters. He asked me to vow before the picture of Guru Gobind Singh that I would never be captured alive, that if at any time this somehow happened would stand all the torture and agony I might suffer but I would never leak any secrets, I took this vow.

So a simple, naive girl born from a rural spot became a terrorist in the eyes of the Punjab police!

I became really sick of the way some of these professors who tie big turbans on their heads, behave in anti-Sikh fashion. Why don’t they have the courage to stand by the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib? I challenged them on this sort of thing. What’s the point of all these sacrifices if the consciousness of the people is not raised?

One day some time later, I was on my usual routine of taking ammunition from one place to another. I was stopped by a notorious police person who had earned the nickname Ghotna (‘Pestle’) (Swaran Singh Ghotna) since he was fond of a particular torture in which a wooden roller crushed the legs of his victims. He caught me right outside the college complex and said he wanted to frisk me.

“It occurred to me me that if I showed any fear in my reaction then ‘Pestle’ and his companions would frisk me and the whole secret would be out. So I made up my mind to deal with this situation with boldness. I said, ‘If you want to frisk me, you have to first show the warrants of my arrest.’ The police said they didn’t have any warrants but they would frisk me anyway. Then I asked, ‘Haven’t you read in your police training that if a girl is to be frisked it can only be done with a woman police present. Without a warrant and without a woman officer around, you can’t frisk me.

“Hearing this bold response, the police seemed to be shaken. I guess it occurred to them that if a young girl like me was not afraid in a situation like this she must have nothing to hide. At that time, I was twenty-one, but I looked only sixteen or seventeen, as I used to knit my hair in two plaits like children do, and I always wore track suits and not women’s clothing. Anyway, they let me go and with God’s grace I reached my destination.

“One of the Singhs there was disturbed when I told him about this encounter. He said that it could happen again and that I might not be so lucky the next time. It turned out that it was a Hindu shopkeeper who alerted the police to watch out for me. The Singhs told me that if I wanted to take revenge on him it would be OK.

“I thought about this carefully. I thought that I had escaped from ‘Pestle’ with God’s grace, but I might not be safe in the future. So I decided that some action was warranted.

“When night came two boys, two other girls, and me went out to find the house of that Hindu informant. I used to tell my parents that times we had to practice at the hockey field until late at night, so nobody worried about where I was. But the five of us finally got to Lala’s [shop keeper’s] house. His family had gone out to attend a marriage ceremony nearby, and Lala was alone in the house. My four companions went ahead but when I joined them this Lala looked at me with his mouth wide open in surprise. ‘Oh, it’s you?’ he asked.

“Why did you complain against me to the police?’ I demanded. ‘The police were not able to get anything out of me, but now I will tell you who I am.’

“Lala started begging for pardon and crying that I was like his daughter. ‘Forgive me, forgive me,’ he was saying. But I shot him down with my revolver, with my own hands. That was my first experience in direct assault.

“After that I used to go to a village where the Singh brothers got weapons training. At first we girls cooked meals for our Singh brothers, but after some time I felt more free with them and I asked them to give me training in the use of weapons. At first they refused, but eventually they said, ‘OK, you are so brave, we are ready to teach you.’ Gurdev Singh, that boy who had originally involved me in the carrying of ammunition vouched for me and told about all the risks I had already taken and the difficult situations I had already been in.

“I was thinking about that shooting of Lala, too. I thought that if only every Sikh girl punished people who were responsible for other crimes, then our objective of an independent nation would come sooner. I also saw that the boys who were with us reacted to my bold action with appreciation. I thought that it must have given them a boost in confidence. If girls could be so brave, then they could they could even be more brave, they probably thought.

“In our religion there is equality for women. But if the woman is not courageous, then why should she blame the man for not giving her equality? It should be that if the man takes a step ahead, the woman should be courageous enough to take two steps ahead. With baptized Sikhs, I am confident that women don’t face any real hindrances. If they believe in Guru they get the respect and dignity they deserve. And those Sikhs sitting behind and not joining in the struggle, they may get inspired by the participation of the women to come forward and fight for liberation of Khalistan.

“One of those boys with us during the killing of the informant Lala was Manpreet Singh, who attended Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar. He was killed by the police two or three months later after severe torture. They threw his body in front of Lyallpur Khalsa College in Jallandhar. Since he was our comrade, we wanted to hold a continuous recitation of Guru Granth Sahib after seeking the permission of the college administrators. But the Jallandhar police didn’t permit us to hold this recitation for the peace of his soul.

“We were determined to hold this function in our comrade’s memory, so we started the ceremony right on the roadside. A big traffic jam developed as we recited the Guru Granth Sahib. There were long lines of traffic on both sides of the road. Finally a police official came by and agreed to let us have the recitation inside the college complex. I realized then that there were two sets of laws in this country, one for Hindus who can hold their ceremonies anyplace they like, and another for us, who can’t even commemorate the death of one of our young boys. The clear message is that this country doesn’t belong to us.

"During all this time my name became known in various districts. We used to hold meetings of the Sikh Students Federation in our home under the guise of celebrating the birthday of one of my relatives or friends. My parents thought that since I was in college it must have become a fashionable ritual for us to celebrate so many birthdays in this way. No one knew what the meetings were really about.

The same notorious police officer, 'Pestle,' used to patrol that area and he stopped me again one time. I can only say that with the grace of Waheguru I had nothing on my person that time. There were two lady police officers with him, though, and I thought they were perhaps jealous of me because my reputation had spread and they themselves had rather missed that opportunity. Those two lady constables used to be assigned to stay at the bus stands so that girls should not be harassed, but nobody ever listened to them. Rather, girls who felt afraid would call my name, and the boys who were bothering them would run away!

My brother Singhs found out that it was again a Hindu informer who was responsible for 'Pestle' picking me up. After I was released on the word of one MLA who knew that I was the leading student of my college, I made up my mind that this kind of informing had to be stopped. This rich Hindu would have to pay the price of being an informant against me.

"We reached this Lala's home at about midnight. The whole family had gone to sleep. Again there were five of us, three girls and two boys. We huddled all the family into one room and warned them to keep quiet, and we brought that Lala into another room. We made him sit in a chair in the front veranda. Actually it was the four of them who did all this, as I was standing somewhat behind. Then my companions called me loudly and I appeared on the scene. I looked at this Lala and I said, 'Look at this lady. You want me to be arrested by the police?' He promptly said, 'Oh. I have not reported against you to the police.' I said, 'Well, you told the police that I was a dangerous girl, and now you are about to find out for yourself just how dangerous I really am. ' My companions tied him to this chair with a rope, and I shot him down.

"The next day at home, my mother mentioned to me that freedom fights had killed that rich Lala from Tarn Taran. I kept quiet, but in my heart I was happy that I had accomplished this mission and nobody had caught wind of it.

"On Monday I went back to college, and I got the impression that the boys and girls were looking at me in a different way. In my dreams I started getting a vision of unidentified bodies at a crossroads, and I saw my own body among them. I was haunted by all this. I thought about how it is a known fact of history that brutal governments try to destroy the youth of a nation so that nobody can challenge them. And I thought about how sad it is for us girls, too. No matter what righteous path a girl might follow in full sincerity, she is always looked upon with suspicion or contempt. Today people hail that Tamil girl who killed Rajiv Gandhi, but tomorrow if I should accomplish such a thing people might scold my parents for not bringing me up properly. In the case of women you can never tell what the reaction might be. I was disturbed by these thoughts.

"Eventually, I slipped out of the country and went to the Middle East. It was my commitment to my family that made me feel restricted as to what I could do for the Sikh nation. They never knew what I was involved in, and I didn't want to bring any harm or shame to them. Other members of families of freedom fighters have been tortured and killed by police, even their distant relatives. I was constrained by this thought, and eventually I left.

I know that whenever my Sikh nation will really need my help, however, I am capable of breaking all these shackles that bind me. If need be I will break them. I will be back there in a second with a gun in my hand, and no one still stop me."

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