Taken From Sikh Shahadat, June 2003
Translated By Balpreet Singh
This is based on an interview with Bhai Sukhvant Singh Jalalabad, a prisoner
in Nabha Jail. He fought in the June 1984 attack on Darbar Sahib. Bhai
Sukhvant Singh began staying with Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in 1982
along with 11 other young men from his village. Later, six of those Singh's
would become shaheeds during Bluestar and the rest were arrested and sent to
Jodhpur Jail. Bhai Sukhvant Singh was released in 1989 and joined the Sikh
Resistance Movement. He was arrested and sent back to jail in 1997 where he
has remained since, except for a brief four-month release in 2000. This is
his account of the attack and how he and other Singh's fought back:
June 4th, 1984
On June 4th, at amrit vela, as the sweet sound of keertan was coming from
Darbar Sahib, unexpectedly at 4.15am, a loud explosion was heard. It felt as
though this explosion had taken place right near us. This was a signal for
the bombing to begin. This all was part of a very carefully hatched plan by
the Indian Government to attack the Sikhs’ most important centre. All of a
sudden a hail of bullets began to fly. All us Singh's became alert right
away. We were about 20 Singh's in the Sindhi Hotel, which was near the
By daybreak, all the placements that had been made at high places had been
completely obliterated. It’s important to say here that whatever placements
had been made before June 3rd, and the government had noticed, were
completely destroyed. Only those positions remained intact that had been
made after June 3rd and which the government was unaware about.
Gen. Shabegh Singh spent the entire night of June 3rd making new positions
and those were the ones that caused to most damage to the army.
We came to a lower level of the Hotel and made new positions in the rooms
and with our weapons we took them up. The bullets were flying at us so
quickly that we couldn’t fire back.
We got in contact with the Langar Building and this was where Bhai Amrik
Singh and Baba Thara Singh were commanding operations. They sent us a
message at the Sindhi Hotel to leave there and to come to the Langar where
all the Singh's would be gathering to fight together. This was because the
Sindhi Hotel could have been surrounded at any time.
The Langar Building
At about 11am, we left the Sindhi Hotel and went to the Langar. There all
the Singhs gathered and had a meeting where different positions were
assigned. I and some other Singhs were given our duty at the Burj, but when
we got there, there was a storm of bullets being fired at it. The Burj was
swaying and it seemed that it could fall at any moment. Inside it, the dust
made it impossible to breathe. Our position here could not be successful so
we came back to the Langar Building. So many bullets were being fired that
no one could leave their morcha. But we would only shoot when we had a
soldier in our sights. All of us were in contact with each other and we
would go to each others morchas. If someone needed ammunition we could get
All night the fighting continued but the army did not have the courage to
advance on foot. At around midnight, four helicopters began to hover around
Darbar Sahib. They tried to drop Commandos but the Singhs with their fire
did not let them. A helicopter hovered over the Langar Building for quite
some time as well and Bhai Amrik Singh grabbed an LMG and fired at it. This
one too couldn’t drop any Commandos.
The next day at around 5, the Langar building came under organized fire. Our
placements on the top level were completely destroyed. Many Singhs were
shaheed and others were injured. There was no one to tend to the wounds but
Guru Sahib was doing so much kirpa that the injured were still encouraging
the rest of us to fight hard. The dead bodies of the shaheed Singhs were
lying in the placements but our hearts had become like stone and it didn’t
matter anymore. In our hearts we all wanted to fight ill our final breath.
On the evening of June 5th, Bhai Amrik Singh and the others made a plan to
go to Akal Takhat Sahib. We also got ready to go with Bhai Sahib because we
had planned to bring ammunition from there.
Getting Ammo At Akal Takhat Sahib
Bhai Sahib and the rest of us went through the Parkarma, through a hail of
bullets and reached Akal Takhat Sahib. We met Sant Mahapursh (Baba Jarnail
Singh) there and he gave us a Fateh. Sant jee asked Bhai Amrik Singh about
the Langar side and what was going on and he asked us if we were in “Chardi
Kala”. We replied that we were all in Chardi Kala. Sant jee had a yellow
keskee on his head and a Thompson Gun in his hands. He was in total Chardi
Kala. We explained that we had come for ammunition and Sant jee told Bhai
Rachhpal Singh to get us what we needed. Bhai Rachhpal Singh took us to the
basement and we took as much ammunition as we could carry. We then returned
to the Langar building. After this, we lost all contact with Akal Takhat
Shaheed Baba Thara Singh, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Shaheed Bhai
We distributed the ammo and in total we were 60-70 Singh's at the Langar
building. There were bullets flying in every direction. We took up positions
on the bottom most floor. As night fell, the Army sent 400 trained Commandos
from the Ghanta Ghar gate, Baba Deep Singh gate and the Langar side. From
the Langar side, we did not let even one Commando get into the Complex. On
the other sides as well, not even one Commando survived. The army saw that
they couldn’t advance by foot so around 11pm, tanks and armoured vehicles
began to come from the Seraa(n) side. They fired a hail of bullets at the
Langar building as they advanced.
Us Singh's in the Langar building, Baba Thara Singh, Bhai Surinder Singh,
Bhai Major Singh (Nagoke), Bhai Balvinder Singh, Bhai Svaran Singh, Bhai
Dalbir Singh, etc., had a meeting at the back side of the Langar building.
We decided to leave here and go to the Akal Takhat Sahib. Bhai Svaran Singh
did an ardaas here that “Guru Sahib jio! Give use the strength to combat
At 1am, we went into the parkarma via the Brahm Buta Akhara. Bullets were
flying ahead of us. Bhai Svaran Singh and Bhai Dalbir Singh went into an
adjoining room where there were many other Singh's from the Kar Seva Jatha.
It’s important to say here that about 35 Kar Seva-vale Singh's had done an
ardaas that “if Darbar Sahib is attacked, we will become shaheeds.” Only
four of these Singhs survived and they spent time with us in Jodhpur Jail.
The rest all fought bravely and became Shaheedi. The Jathedar, Baba Pehlvaan,
whose name I have now forgotten, fought most bravely of all.
Bhai Major Singh Nagoke
Bhai Major Singh Nagoke separated from us and went into the underground room
near the Langar building that had a well in it. Fiver other Singhs also
descended into this room. Bhai Major Singh had known about this place before
and we too had gone there a couple times. They had stored food rations here.
When we were taken to the prisoner camp, we found out that when on June 9th,
Giani Zail Singh came to Darbar Sahib, the Singh's fired on him from this
room. One of Giani Zail’s bodyguards was killed but he himself survived.
Major Singh and the others fought to the end. The army ended up martyring
them with poison gas. Major Singh also had a major role in the killing of
Nirankari Gurbachana that the Sangat does not know about.
When we began to move towards Akal Takhat Sahib, we only had about 20
Singh's left. The rest were all shaheed. Instead of going directly towards
Akal Takhat Sahib, we moved towards Dukh Bhanjani Beri because the firing
was less in this area. Near here there is also an enclosure where women can
do ishnaan. We put our shastar there. There was no position made here so we
couldn’t continue to fight. We drank the water from the sarovar and quenched
our thirst. We only had a few bullets left, the rest of the ammunition was
exhausted. Just our weapons remained.
At amrit vela we began to discuss how we could move towards Akal Takhat
Sahib. Baba Thara Singh was saying that if we reached there, we would have
no problem getting more amo. All night the tanks had been entering the
parkarma and in the Deoree in front of the Langar building, a tank was
constantly firing shells. Inside the enclosure, we had taken up positions
that if the army tried to enter, we would kill as many of them as possible
Bhai Surinder Singh and Bhai Balvinder Singh along with 5 Singhs decided
that they would swim through the sarovar to Darbar Sahib. After going to
Darbar Sahib, they would run on the causeway to Akal Takhat Sahib. When the
Singhs began to swim, we watched and in front of us, all were martyred and
not even one made it across.
Shaheeds Of June 6th
On June 6th, at around 9 or 10am, we suddenly heard the cries of Jaikaarey.
We thought that maybe the Sangat from outside had arrived but when we
listened with more attention, we realised the shouts were coming from Akal
Takhat Sahib. There were tanks standing in front of Akal Takhat Sahib and
they had destroyed the building completely. Finally, Baba Thara Singh said
to us, “we cannot fight tanks with bullets. If any of us can escape, they
At the suggestion of Baba Thara Singh, we threw our weapons (which were
without ammo now) into the sarovar. Baba jee did ardaas that we would go
outside and become shaheed. Baba jee asked the elderly to accompany him. He
said if they were arrested it was fine, but if not, they would certainly be
happy to be shaheed. My uncle also accompanied Baba jee. The moment they
stepped out, they were all shot dead.
We returned into the enclosure but the army realised there were people
inside. They announced that if there was anyone inside, they should come
out, otherwise they were opening fire. So at around 10am, 15 Singhs and some
members of the Sangat came out, but this time the army did not open fire.
They immediately began to beat us with sticks. I saw the bodies of Baba
Thara Singh an my uncle lying there. We managed to survive.
Our arms were tied behind our backs with our dastars and the army began to
beat us so badly that some Singhs died from their injuries. We were taken to
the chhabeel near Manji Sahib Divan Hall where a number of Singh's and
embers of the Sangat were already sitting. We were made to sit with them on
the parkarma. We heard from the soldiers here, while they were hitting us,
“Your Bhindranwala tiger has been killed and we’ve won the battle.” We were
silent and staring at Akal Takhat Sahib. There were still tanks in front of
Akal Takhat Sahib and there was a tank directly behind all of us as well. If
firing came from any direction, the tank would fire a hail of bullets in
that direction. Night fell here.
Death Of A Sikh Soldier
This night, a scene occurred in front of me that I will never forget and
still passes through my eyes even today. One Bihari soldier was smoking and
then threw the butt into the sarovar. A Sardar soldier was also standing
there. There were some Sardar soldiers to be seen that day. The Sardar said
to the Bihari, “Don’t throw the butt into the sarovar” but after smoking
another, he threw the butt into the sarovar again and said, “What are you
going to do?”. The Sardar took his carbine and blew the Bihari away. On top
of a nearby tank, another Bihari soldier opened fire on the Sardar and
ripped his body apart with bullets. He fell dead into the sarovar and his
body began to float on the surface.
At that point, the Bihari captain ordered the tanks to run us over and kill
us. They turned the tanks towards us but suddenly a Muslim Major came and he
said in a loud voice, “What are you doing??!” The soldier on the tank said,
“Our Captain Sahib has ordered us to kill them.” The Major replied that all
these prisoners have been put on a list and if any are killed, the killer
would be held responsible. He had the Bihari's changed and the new posts
began to make our lists. We asked the Major for water but he said that if we
survived, we should consider ourselves lucky. We stayed there all night in
this state. The Major came a few more times in the night to ask how we were.
In the morning we were ordered to stand but because many of us were badly
beaten, they fell over. They were then beaten more. In a line we were
marched to the Seraa(n) area near Manji Sahib Divan Hall. On the way we saw
that the bodies of the Sangat were everywhere and some were still screaming
in pain. No one was listening to them. The Soldiers were only picking up
their own dead and wounded.
In front of the Seraa(n) there were 500 people already sitting and we too
sat down. The army then began to throw hand grenades at us. Everything was
covered in blood and bodies began to pile up. The soldiers were also firing
at us now so that no one would survive. Here, my companion Bhai Raj Singh
became a shaheed. I was slightly injured but survived again. We lay there
with the other bodies. When the firing stopped, we went into the rooms of
the Seraa(n). In one room, there was an injured mother and her baby. She
didn’t care about herself but she was begging for the life of her child.
After a while, her voice and that of her baby was silenced by bullets. They
did not even spare innocent children. Chunks of flesh had been blown away
and were sticking to the walls of the Seraa(n).
The army then announced that whoever was still alive should come out. We saw
rooms filled with bodies and they smelt very bad. We came out and this time
we saw that along with the pilgrims were leaders of the Sikh Students
Association. We saw Balvant Singh Ramuvalia there who was helping make
lists. He tried to speak with an officer but that officer slapped him and
knocked his turban off.
We saw the bodies of SGPC secretary Gurcharan Singh and Bugga Singh lying
near some sacks of wheat. Where we were sitting we found out that some
Sardar soldiers had come and taken the two and shot them dead. They said
“you are the cause of all this” and executed them.
The Bihari soldiers were looking at the Sardar soldiers with suspicion and
saying “they shot at us as well”.
Amritsar Army Camp
The night of June 7th arrived and we were taken by bus to Amritsar’s army
camp. We were locked up in small rooms that were meant for ammunition. They
were very tight and had no fan. We were so thirsty that some of us were
falling unconscious. Bhai Sunaam Singh became a Shaheed here. We were almost
unconscious and crying out. The noise made the army open our doors and when
we ran out to drink water, the army opened fire and many Singhs died here.
We continued to lie inside.
On the night of June 8th, a Sardar soldier took charge. He was from Jhabaal.
The Bihari's were changed. He said to us that he was also pained by all that
had happened and his own father who did seva with Baba Khark Singh had also
been killed. He said he had just returned after doing the cremation. He said
that we should last one more night like this and then we would be put in
On June 9th we were put in open barracks and were given Chholay Puris to
eat. We began to throw up right away. Doctors came and said that we had been
dehydrated and we should only be given rice and water. He said that if you
bodies accepted the water, we might live otherwise there was no hope. We had
not had anything to eat for the past four or five days. Our bodies began to
accept the water and then we were given rice for the next two or three days.
We thought we would survive now.
Jail And Torture
Then began the job of identifying us. We were marched in front of a room
where the fighters were separated from the regular Sangat. A companion of
Sant jee was doing the identifying. We were a total of 60 Singh's left and
we were put in two rooms. Different agencies interrogated us for two months
but we gave them no information. We were then taken to Nabha jail. Here the
interrogation continued. When this stopped, we were remanded to custody
under the National Security Act for a period set for two years. Our families
found out we were ok. After the remand, we were taken to Ladha Kothi Sangrur
were they interrogated us again. They kept asking where Sant jee got the
weapons, who were the fighters and who were involved in various actions that
took place. We kept repeating that we didn’t know anything. We were about to
be sent away to “Kala Pani” when some Guru Kae Laal killed Indira. All the
Singh's faces were shining with happiness since history had shown that
whoever attacked Sri Darbar Sahib could not escape the Khalsa.
What had been happening to us for the past five months now stopped. New
lists were made and 379 individuals were charged with rebellion and sent to
Jodhpur Jail. We were sent there via air from Patiala. There were two women
as well, Bhai Rachhpal Singh’s wife and another from Amritsar (Bibi Amarjit
Kaur). There was a court inside Jodhpur Jail. We all fell ill because of the
food given to us here but soon we became used to it.
After five years in jail, in 1989, the charge of rebellion was taken back
under pressure from the United Nations. Those of us who didn’t have any
other cases booked, were then released. I had cases in Punjab so I was sent
to Jalandhar Jail and then Amritsar. I later came out on bail. The
government offered us assistance but I rejected it and joined the movement
again in 1990. Since 1997 I am in jail again and await the day when with the
grace of the Guru some true leader comes again to take the Panth into Chardi
On Sant Jarnail Singh’s Shaheedi
We saw Sant jee for the last time on June 5th, at five pm. He was in total
Chardi Kala and encouraging the other Singhs. On June 6th at around 9 or 10
am, a very big battle took place in front of Akal Takhat and the echo of
jaikaaras could be heard for a long time. When we were in the Amritsar Army
Camp, some trustworthy Singhs who were close to Sant Jarnail Singh told us
that Sant jee became a shaheed in this battle. Sant jee knew that his
shaheedi was certain and talked about this openly. On June 3 at 9 or 10 am,
he had gathered all the main Singhs and talked about his coming shaheedi and
gave the opportunity to everyone who wanted to leave. Some Singhs managed to
escape on June 6th. We were in Jail at that time and we all accepted that
Sant jee, Gen. Shabegh Singh, Baba Thara Singh and Bhai Amrik Singh were
Shaheed. At Nabha Jail we were about to have an Akhand Paath Sahib for Sant
Jee and the rest of the Singhs but Baba Thakur Singh sent us a message and
Baba Surinder Singh himself came to say that Sant jee was in “Chardi Kala”.