The Sikh Problem

Ranbir Singh Sandhu, Ph.D. November 19, 1984

Dear Friends

The purpose of this note is to present some information regarding the problem Sikhs face in India. Terrorism by the government and by certain irresponsible elements of the Hindu against the Sikhs has been increasing systematically leading up to the invasion of the Golden Temple, massacre of thousands of Sikhs including a large number of women and children, imprisonment and torture of tens of thousands, and the denial of civil liberties to the entire state for the last several months. Subsequent cordon and search operations have been designed to systematically eliminate all "Amritdhari" (confirmed) Sikhs labelling them as terrorists. Recently, Mrs. Gandhi's assassination gave the rulers of India and the unruly mobs working on their behalf an excuse to kill and burn everything and everyone connected with the Sikh religion. Sikh leaders and the Sikh faith itself have been maligned. The "Khalsa" created by Guru Gobind Singh as the "saint-soldier" protector of the weak and fighter for freedom of religion has now been designated by the Indian government as a "terrorist by faith" and is the victim of a witch-hunt. The government propaganda has been successful in getting many people to believe in the guilt of the victim.

The Indian government is engaged in subjugating the Sikhs and is destroying their religion in the name of secularism and unity of the country. This suppression has been going on for the last thirty-seven years. Over the last three years, the government has adopted violent methods. From September 1981 till June 1984 hundreds of Sikhs were killed in fake "encounters" with the police. Several thousand were killed in a few days when over forty Sikh places of worship were simultaneously invaded by the Indian army with tanks, artillery, helicopter gunships etc. The Golden Temple complex was seriously damaged and the Akal Takhat destroyed. The Golden Temple is the symbol of three centuries of sacrifices, martyrdoms, blood, sweat, tears, hopes, and a labour of love for God. It is to the Sikhs what The Vatican is to the Catholics, what Mecca is to the Muslims, and what The Wailing Wall is to the Jews. The Sikhs are devastated by the Indian government's sacrilege. The army destroyed most of the structures, set fire to the reference library, destroyed the weapons of the Sikh gurus and killed thousands of innocent people under the pretext of flushing out nonexistent terrorists. This was followed by cordon and search operations in Punjab villages to round up as terrorists all confirmed Sikhs. The most recent phase in this genocide started after Mrs. Gandhi's assassination when government sponsored mobs of militant Hindus massacred Sikhs all over India and the police "looked on". These massacres and the large scale arson were recorded by newsmen who happened to he in lndia to cover Mrs. Gandhi's cremation. The Indian government has done its best to keep the newsmen out of the state of Punjab. Photographers and cameramen have had their film confiscated.

People in the United States and elsewhere question us about our problems with the Indian government. These questions cover a broad spectrum ranging from "Who are the Sikhs?", "What were their demands?", "Did the Sikhs keep changing their demands?", "Why did Sant Bhindranwale live in the Golden Temple?", "Why were there weapons in the Golden Temple?", "What were the causes of the violence in the Punjab and who were the perpetrators and who the victims?", "Were the Sikhs in the Golden Temple killing the Hindus?", "Is the Indian government really suppressing the Sikh religion?", "What can the Sikhs do?". This note attempts to provide some answers.

1. Who are the Sikhs?

a. Not "Militant Hindus".

The Government of India has arbitrarily declared all Sikhs to be "militant". The Indian Constitution regards them as Hindus. This is completely false and is the root of all the trouble the Sikhs have had over the last thirty-seven years. The Sikhs are neither "Hindu" nor "Militant". The Sikh religion is only about five centuries old, and many of the Sikhs had Hindu ancestors. However, the Sikh religion is quite different from the Hindu. To class Sikhs as "Hindus" is about as logical as to class all Christians as Jews because Jesus Christ was born a Jew. Indeed, the Sikhs are more distinct from the Hindus than Christians are from the Jews in that the Sikhs do not believe in any of the Hindu scriptures, gods or rituals. They do not believe in the caste system and do not worship idols. They believe in one almighty God and in union with God through God's word conveyed through the Gurus. Their religion is unique in emphasizing the equality of sexes, equality of all people, sharing and charity. Sikh places of worship run free kitchens accessible to all regardless of caste, religion or race. Contrary to what the Indian government would like everyone to believe, the Sikhs are not militant. Their mission has always been to protect the weak and to serve mankind. The last of the ten Sikh Gurus, Guru Gobind Singh, transformed the Sikhs and created the "Khalsa" in 1699 A.D. The Sikhs who elected to become "Khalsa", through a ceremony much like baptism or confirmation, were to be "saint soldiers". They were to live by the highest standards of morality and courage and, as one of their distinguishing marks, wear their hair unshorn. The "Khalsa" were required to bear arms and be proficient in their use. However, because of the insistence on high standards of morality and devotion to God, there was never a question of these arms being misused. The role of the "Khalsa" has been to defend their faith, protect the weak, and to fight oppression by unjust authority. Any member of the "Khalsa" not living up to the high standards required of him is subject to excommunication. This system of self-discipline has insured the posture of power with restraint. In his "History of the Sikhs", Cunningham wrote about Guru Gobind Singh's "Khalsa" in these words: "A living spirit possesses the whole Sikh people, and the impress of Gobind has not only elevated and altered the constitution of their minds, but has operated materially and given amplitude to their physical frames. The features and external form of a whole people have been modified, and a Sikh chief is not more distinguishable by his stately person and free and manly bearing, than a minister of his faith is by a lofty thoughtfulness of look, which marks the fervor of his soul, and his persuasion of the near presence of the Divinity". The charge by the Indian government that the Sikhs had weapons in the Golden Temple is simply ridiculous considering that their religion required them to bear arms. This religious injunction predates all the laws made by the government.

b. Religious Freedom for All.

The Sikhs believe in religious freedom for all. Tolerance of other religions is an integral part of their faith. Recently there have been several incidents of militant Hindus burning the Sikh scripture. By contrast, over the entire history of the Sikh religion, there has never been a case of a Sikh burning or being disrespectful to the Hindu scriptures even though they (the Sikhs) do not believe in them.

c. History of Persecution.

Because of their firm faith in their religion, the authoritarian Governments in Delhi have seen them as troublesome people. This has made them one of the most persecuted communities in the history of religions. The Sikhs have suffered in the cause of religious freedom and have a long and glorious history of martyrdom. The fifth guru was tortured to death in 1606 A.D. because, according to the then ruler, not only Hindus but many simple-minded Muslims had started following him. The ninth guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded in Delhi for asking the mughal emperor to be just and fair to the Hindus. The tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh struggled against the tyrannical government all his life. His four sons, his mother and a very large number of followers achieved martyrdom. During the non-violent freedom movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, over eighty percent of those who died at the hands of the British authorities were Sikhs even though the Sikhs constituted only about two percent of the population of India. The most recent chapter in this history of persecution began after India's freedom from British rule. The Sikhs have a tradition of unflinching courage based on their belief in their righteous cause of the defence of human rights and religious freedom.

d. Religious Organization.

The Sikhs have no priests and no organized church. The tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh decreed that after his death there would be no person as guru and the Sikhs were to regard the compilation of the writings of the gurus, addressed as Guru Granth Sahib, as the word of God and their living guru for all time. Thus, since 1708 A.D., Guru Granth Sahib has been the Sikh guru. The Sikhs run the mundane affairs of their religion through a democratic system prescribed by the tenth Guru. Whenever Khalsa Sikhs get together in good faith and make a decision, it has the same force as if the Guru had made that decision himself. According to the tenth Guru, "Khalsa is my form and in Khalsa I reside". As noted by George Forster in his "Origin and Making of a Nation", an equality of rank is maintained in their civil society, which no class of men, however wealthy or powerful, is suffered to break down.

2. The Sikh Problem

a. The Indian Constitution.

The Sikhs have always been a distinct independent religion, yet while framing the Constitution of India after the transfer of power from the British Government, the Hindu majority violated its solemn and documented assurances given to the Sikhs, and unilaterally declared them to be a sect of Hindus. As such, they were not entitled to safeguards under the Indian Constitution and became subject to the laws of a religion not their own.

b. Government Interference in Sikh Religious Affairs.

The Government has run the religious affairs of the Sikhs according to its desires. Political parties have been allowed to contest elections to the Committees that manage the Sikh Shrines (equivalent to church positions). The elections are managed by the Government and the election laws made by it. These laws have been repeatedly amended, as needed, to insure the ruling political party's victory at the polls and consequent tight control over the affairs of the Sikh Religion. How would the American public take the situation if the Democratic and the Republican parties were permitted to endorse and finance candidates to be appointed as Bishops, Cardinals, and Rabbis?

c. Hostility Of The Arya Samaj.

The single factor that has inexorably led to the present situation in India is the hostility of the Arya Samaj, a militant Hindu sect founded by Swami Dayanand in the nineteenth century, towards the Sikh religion. The book written by the founder of this sect contains highly derogatory comments about Jesus Christ and the Prophet Mohammed as well as the Sikh Gurus. A majority of the Hindus living in the states of Punjab and Haryana belong to this sect. They have been responsible for burning the Sikh scriptures, attacking Sikhs in Haryana and elsewhere, and other harassment. The Government of India encourages these looters and arsonists by failing to punish or restrain them. In fact, when the militant Hindus attacked innocent Sikhs, The government arrested more Sikhs, ostensibly to restrain them from revengeful activity. The Government of India has treated the Sikhs as outlaws, classified them as "criminal tribes" in their laws, described them as a "menace to the peace-loving Hindus", and instructed local officials to take strong measures against them. These policies have been consistently enforced since 1947.

d. Territorial Problems.

The city of Chandigarh was built with the sole purpose that it would be the capital city of Punjab. However, the Government of India insists on retaining possession of this city. Other areas which are Punjabi-speaking and contiguous to the state of Punjab have been taken away and attached to the newly created Hindi-speaking states simply to humiliate the Sikhs. The Sikhs feel cheated at every step the Government has taken towards the reorganization of States. The present States of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh were part of Punjab at the time of freedom from the British. Whenever the Sikhs agitated for the creation of a Punjabi speaking state, as proposed before freedom, the Government responded by taking additional areas out of Punjab.

e. Other Problems.

In addition there are other religious, economical, and constitutional problem including state-center relations.

3. Massacre Of The Sikhs

A large majority of those who died in the reign of terror prior to the invasion of the Golden Temple were Sikhs killed by the police. 18 died at the massacre by the police on September 14, 1981 in Chando-Kalan. 21 were killed when the police fired upon a peaceful "rasta roko" (stop the traffic) demonstration, 8 were taken off busses and killed by mobs in Haryana, and another 8 were killed by the police during firing outside the Bibi Kahn Kaur Gurdwara in Muktsar. Numerous others were killed after arrest. They were reported to have been killed in "encounters" with the police. Amnesty International has declared these encounters to be "fake" and in fact murders. According to Sant Bhindranwale, nearly 200 of his men had been tortured to death and over 1000 crippled by torture at the hands of the police. The only campaign of terror was conducted by the government and the Sikhs were the victims. The Indian government has successfully prevented the truth from reaching the free world. However, recent news reports have very clearly brought out the pattern of escalating government violence against the Sikhs. Till June 1984, the Sikhs were killed in "fake encounters". Several thousand were killed in a mighty invasion of Sikh places of worship by the army. This was followed by massive "cordon and search" operations in Punjab villages to round up as terrorists all confirmed Sikhs. The most recent phase in this genocide started after Mrs. Gandhi's assassination when government sponsored mobs of militant Hindus massacred Sikhs all over India. The Sikhs in India are having to give up the symbols of their religion and the open practice of their faith to escape the wrath of the rampaging mobs. The world is witnessing the extermination of a religion. Thanks to the existence of a free press in this country, the world now knows something about the gruesome reality of being a Sikh in India.

4. The Separatist Movement - A Government Lie

The Indian government, the international press, and the news media have constantly harped on the theme that the Sikhs wanted an independent state. This is totally incorrect. The Sikh demands were contained in the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. An independent state separate from India was never among the demands. This lie has been invented and propagated by the Indian government to justify its brutal attack on the Golden Temple and the cordon and search operations following it. Actually, the Sikhs have all along been the most patriotic citizens of India and, before June 1984, the number subscribing to the idea of a separate Sikh state was extremely small. These people were not taken seriously by anyone except the Indian government who used their existence to make all Sikhs suspect. Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, repeatedly declared he was neither for nor against an independent Sikh state but was quiet on the subject. He said: "How can a community which has contributed so much to the freedom of a country want it fragmented? We want to stay in India but we want to be treated as equal citizens. It is really for the Indian government to decide what they want to do. Do they want us to stay in India? If so, they have to treat us as equals. However, if they call us extremists and give us a separate state, we shall not say no. We shall not repeat the mistake we made in 1947." To call this a demand for a separate state is a wicked misrepresentation.

5. Government's Campaign Of Terror In Punjab

a. The Peaceful Agitation By The Sikhs.

The Sikhs had been agitating peacefully in support of their legitimate demands listed in the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. Tens of thousands courted arrest peacefully in an attempt to persuade the Indian government. However, it appears that sometime towards the end of 1981 and beginning of 1982, the government started to feel the financial and administrative burden of the ongoing peaceful protest by the Sikhs. Any civilized government would have accepted the fact that if the Sikhs had continued their non-violent agitation for so long and sent so many persons to jail, they must feel strongly about their grievances. This would have been the signal for negotiations and accommodation. There was only one set of demands based on promises and assurances given by the national leaders at the time of freedom. These should have been settled on their merits rather than on the basis of possible electoral consequences. But, as noted by Pran Chopra, a highly respected Hindu journalist and academician, "giving anyone a fair share in power is unthinkable politics for Mrs. Gandhi". Therefore, instead of solving the problem amicably, the government decided to crush the peaceful movement by murder and torture.

b. Repeated Sabotage of Negotiations by the Government.

Writing in India Abroad of June 22, 1984 Mr. Kuldip Nayyar, an eminent Hindu journalist stated: "When the agitation began nearly two years ago it was led by reasonable men seeking a reasonable settlement of reasonable demands. At least three times there were prospects of agreement at the negotiating table. But each time Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sabotaged the agreement". An agreement was reached on November 2, 1982 with the efforts of S. Harkishen Singh Surjeet and S. Swaran Singh. But the statement made to the parliament the next day was different from the text agreed to. Said S. Swaran Singh: "This is neither the language of the statement nor the spirit". It was after this that the Akali Dal announced its plan to agitate at the Asiad. Another accord reached on November 18, 1982 was to be announced by midnight. The Akali leaders kept waiting and the government backed out. The talks started in January 1983 broke down on February 20 because, according to S. Harkishen Singh Surjeet: "The government did not budge an inch from its earlier stand of accepting the 1970 award in toto." On April 20, 1983 an accord was arrived at. Only the modalities of implementation were to be worked out. Again the government backed out. On June 30, 1983 the opposition parties worked out an agreement. The government rejected it. The government's insincerity about a genuine settlement is described by Pran Chopra in an article published in the Illustrated Weekly of India, December 11-17, 1983. Writes Chopra, "On June 23 this year the Union Home Minister took the initiative of announcing willingness to appoint commissions on territories and river waters. But consider the sequence, it makes one marvel at the working of the government that works: On June 15, the Home Minister clearly tells the Akalis that it is for them to make the next move and, if they sent any "new formulations", he would arrange a discussion. On June 19, when asked if the government was taking any "new initiative" Mrs. Gandhi snorts: "What new initiative?" Three days later, and without any known effort to resume the thread of negotiation, P.C. Sethi sends the Dal a letter in which there are a few lines about setting up commissions and several paragraphs of diatribe against the Akali Dal accusing it of anti-national, communal, irresponsible attitudes." Similarly, on February 27, 1983 Mrs. Gandhi made the announcement of acceptance of three religious demands of the Akali Dal, not at the negotiating table before the Akalis, but from the platform of a pro-Congress Delhi based Akali splinter group. It is apparent that the government never meant to negotiate seriously. Actually it was buying time through dithering. The intention was to complete all preparations for the invasion and also escalate the violence to a point where the army action could be justified in the eyes of an uninformed and gullible Indian public.

c. The Campaign of Terror.

The history of Punjab for the two years before the invasion of the Golden Temple is one of continuing brutality against innocent people perpetrated by the government. When Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was arrested in 1981, the police fired upon and killed eighteen (in the "White Paper" the number is stated to be eleven) of his followers. The bodies of these men were not handed over to their families. The results of a government inquiry into the murders were never made public as they would cause embarrassment to certain officials. The cover story in the September 1984 issue of the news magazine Surya places the responsibility "for the mayhem that was unleashed after Bhindranwale's arrest at Chowk Mehta" in September 1981 on an intelligence officer named Vasavada. Sant Bhindranwale protested these killings, along with a long list of other atrocities, until his death. It is a fact that Bhindranwale's followers were, and after his death still are, the special target of police brutality. By July 1983, over 140 had been tortured to death. Mr. S.M. Sathananthan writing for the Transatlantic Indian Times referred to an article in the Indian Express by Rajmohan Gandhi which states: "There is truth in the Akali charge that some of their supporters had been killed by police in fake encounters". In September 1983, over 275 Sikhs were facing hundreds of trumped-up charges. In their zeal to eliminate opposition to the government, the police engaged in torturing and killing innocent people, raping Sikh women, and burning copies of the Sikh scriptures. The government not only refused to restrain its officials but encouraged them to escalate the violence directed against Sikhs who had been confirmed in their faith. Thugs were hired by the government to masquerade as Sikhs and commit planned crimes so the Sikhs could be blamed. According to a report published in the Delhi Recorder in May 1983: "Surinder Kapoor M.L.A. created sensation, when in a meeting of the Congress (Indira) Legislative Party, Punjab, held on March 6, 1983, he accused the then Punjab government of hatching a conspiracy at Mohali of cutting a few heads of dead cows and of actually conveying them to Amritsar for being stealthily thrown in some Hindu Temple there and thus lit the first communal fire in the state". Persons engaged in arson were apprehended by the public and later found to be police officials. There were cases of rampaging mobs beating up Sikhs with the police "looking on" inactive. The Sikhs have been the victims of terrorism by the government.

6. Weapons And The Sikh Religion

a. Bearing Arms.

A person confirmed in the Sikh faith is expected to live up to the ideal of a "saint-soldier". This requires a Sikh to follow the path of non-violence and peaceful protest as a saint. The Sikh religion requires its adherents to bear arms and the Sikhs have developed a proud tradition as disciplined soldiers. This practice was introduced by the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind, early in the seventeenth century. The tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh introduced the Amrit ceremony which is much like confirmation in Christianity. A confirmed Sikh has to bear arms, not to cut his body hair, not to use intoxicants, pray regularly and share the fruits of his labour with fellow members of the community. The Sikhs have a history, extending over four centuries, of supreme sacrifices in the practice of these principles as protectors of freedom of worship. The British recognized and respected the Sikh right to bear arms and allowed them to carry swords. Carrying weapons made the Sikhs a highly visible self-confident minority who did not expect any trouble with the majority population and considered themselves to be the protectors of the weak.

In one of his lectures Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale explained that the Sikhs have two ways of dealing with problems. One is the way of peace. This is the one that a Sikh is expected to follow as the norm. The other is the way of the sword. He explained that for a Sikh it is a sin to use weapons to hurt any innocent person. The weapons are meant for defence and for protection of the weak and the oppressed. However, it is an even greater sin, regardless of the religious belief of the victim, not to act against wanton and ruthless repression, which includes disrespect to scriptures of any religion, insult and rape of women, and torture of innocent persons by an oppressive government. This action must only be taken as a last resort after all other means of redress including persuasion, legal action and appeals have been exhausted. This is quite consistent with the reasoning which originally (in the 17th century) led the Sikh gurus to require Sikhs to bear arms.

b. Weapons in the Golden Temple.

The Indian government claims the sanctity of the Golden Temple was destroyed by the presence of weapons. The Golden Temple had been licensed by the government to keep up to twenty-eight firearms, thus it is incorrect to suggest that there ought not to be any arms in the Golden Temple. In addition, a large number of persons carried their own individual weapons The Sikhs view the government's objection to the presence of weapons in the Golden Temple or any other Sikh places of worship as an attempt to impose the Hindu definition of sanctity on them. The Khalsa was created as a community of "saint- soldiers". It is a violation of freedom of worship to expect the Sikh religion to be modified to suit the expectations of members of the Hindu religion. Since early 1983 the government and militant Hindus had been actively considering storming the Golden Temple. The Sikhs had been worried about this possibility and with the limited means at their disposal collected an assortment of weapons to defend the place. The government actually invaded over forty Sikh places of worship in June 1984. None of the places other than the Golden Temple was "armed". The fact that all these places were attacked clearly shows that the presence of weapons in any place of worship had nothing to do with the government's decision to invade it.

7. The Sikh Reaction To Government's Atrocities

a. The Sikh Frustration.

Confronted with continuing oppression by the police, the Sikhs challenged the oppressors in courts of law and appealed to authorities, including the Chief Minister of Punjab, other ministers and prominent people, and the government of India. Failing to get redress through appeals to the government and the judicial process they fell backed against a wall. They became convinced that the government did not entertain any complaints of brutality against its law enforcement agencies because it considered the Sikhs as second class citizens not entitled to basic human dignity and protection of the law. We have tape-recordings of several lectures by the late Sant Bhindranwale and also some video-recordings. He described in detail the circumstances of several cases of brutality by government officials and his failure to obtain redress. In his open letter to members of the Indian Parliament (monsoon session 1983) Sant Harchand Singh Longowal pleaded for an end to the campaign of ruthless repression against the Sikh young men who were being tortured in jail and their unconditional release. This was of no avail.

b. Sikhs are Slaves in India.

Sant Bhindranwale asked that while the peaceful agitation was going on and the Sikhs were courting arrest by deliberate, non-violent and public violation of certain laws, as is the custom in all non-violent agitations, the Sikhs be treated as equal citizens. If the death of a Hindu was grounds for an inquiry, so should the murder, torture and rape of Sikhs. Defenceless Sikhs were fired upon, killed in large numbers and their bodies were not handed over to their next of kin. This never happened to Hindus. The Sikh scriptures were burnt by the government officials and some mischievous Hindus. Despite fervent requests, the government never tried to apprehend and punish the culprits. Sant Bhindranwale asked if in the five hundred year history of the Sikh religion any Sikh had ever burnt the Hindu scriptures. Some officials were murdered in village Fattu-dhinga. The government arrested 151 Sikhs. All were brutally beaten, tortured and let go after extracting bribes. None of these persons was found to be in any way involved with the murder. The government confiscated the property of numerous Sikhs including pumping equipment for irrigation of their fields. None of these things ever happened to any Hindus. When the Asian Games were held in New Delhi, every Sikh passing through the state of Haryana on his way to Delhi was searched and subjected to great humiliation. Even Hindu travellers were asked if they had Sikhs hidden in the trunks of their cars. Why were these searches directed at the entire community? Why was every Sikh treated as a criminal until he proved his innocence? Some Hindus were taken off a bus and murdered in Punjab. The killing was condemned by all including the late Sant Bhindranwale. The Indian government took serious notice of this crime as would be expected in any civilized country. However, when Sikhs were taken off busses in the state of Haryana and murdered, the crime was dismissed as a natural reaction of Hindus to the events in Punjab. There were several cases of Hindu mobs beating up and murdering Sikhs with the police looking on. No action was taken against these hoodlums. On the other hand, non-violent Sikh protesters were fired upon by the police on several occasions and a large number killed. Apparently loss of Sikh life did not matter as much as the death of Hindus under similar circumstances. Hijacking planes is a crime, so the persons guilty of doing this should be prosecuted and punished. But why was the punishment different for Hindus, and Sikhs? The Hindus who hijacked a plane to protest Mrs. Gandhi's detention, when she was out of power, were considered patriotic Indians and rewarded with nominations to state legislatures. The Sikhs who hijacked planes as part of their peaceful protest to draw attention to the fact that the government had refused to institute any inquiry into police atrocities were in exile in Pakistan. Of those who surrendered to the police one was brutally tortured and is a cripple in jail. Another was shot and killed by the police. Some Sikhs were arrested by the police in July 1982 on trumped-up charges. Sant Bhindranwale's representatives sought to see a minister of the Punjab government to have them released. After keeping them waiting for an hour and a half the minister refused to see them. Instead of providing redress, under his orders, they too were arrested by the local police. Sant Bhindranwale considered these instances of unequal treatment indicative of the Sikhs' second class citizen status in free India.

c. The Reaction to Government's Terrorism.

Frustrated in his attempts to get the governmental agencies to stop their campaign of terror and repression against the Sikhs, Bhindranwale reminded his followers of the basic principles of the Sikh religion. He urged them to take Amrit, i.e. be confirmed as Sikhs, not to cut their body hair, to give up the use of all intoxicants, to regularly read the scripture and pray to God, unite under the Sikh religious banner and work for amity among people of all religions, to bear arms and be always ready to protect the weak and the oppressed, and to punish those who deliberately insulted the scriptures, dishonoured women of any faith, and tortured persons known to be innocent. Sant Bhindranwale did not kill anyone nor did he ask any Hindu to be killed. He did mention in his lectures to the Sikh congregation details of actual atrocities perpetrated by certain individuals. It is conceivable that the murders of 25 police officials over two years were committed by people who heard him speak of the gory details of inhuman and barbaric torture perpetrated by these men against persons they knew to be innocent. Sant Bhindranwale went to the people with these details only after he had tried all possible means of redress. The government called these speeches "inflammatory" and started a campaign to describe Sant Bhindranwale as a "fire-eating extremist". The government and the judicial system were either not willing or were unable to control or punish these officials. Of course, certain criminal elements of society could have taken advantage of the confused situation in the state and indulged in looting, murder and arson. These persons should have been apprehended and punished by the government. No Sikh, including Sant Bhindranwale, ever condoned this lawlessness. Each wanton act of violence, whether committed by the government or anyone else was condemned by Sant Bhindranwale.

8. Indian Government Campaign To Malign Bhindranwale

a. Deliberate Vilification of a Holy Man.

The Indian government has carried out a malicious campaign of character assassination against the martyred Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The Indian news media controlled by the majority Hindus, the government-owned radio and television, and the Indian diplomatic missions all over the world have been giving a totally one-sided and diabolically biased view. It was well known as early as the summer of 1983 that the government wanted to kill Bhindranwale for raising his voice against an authoritarian government meddling in the Sikhs' religious affairs. He was branded a "separatist", an "extremist", and a "terrorist" when he was in fact none of these. Those who have have listened to tape recordings of Sant Bhindranwale's lectures and seen video-tapes of his meetings, know him as a deeply religious man with firm convictions who became a victim of an all powerful government led by an arrogant prime minister out to consolidate her position as the unquestioned leader of the nation on the strength of her image as a protector and defender of the Hindu majority. The government saw the resurgence of the Sikh religion under Sant Bhindranwale's guidance as a threat and carried out a sinister campaign of vilification, culminating in the invasion of the Golden Temple, with the sole purpose of assassinating the Sant and his followers, and the invasion of forty-seven other places of worship simply to give the Sikhs a "punch on the nose". Of course this euphemism involved slaughter of thousands of innocent persons.

b. Carrying of Weapons.

The Indian government is never tired of telling the world that Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was a terrorist. He is accused of carrying weapons and advising other Sikhs to do the same. Bearing arms is part of the Sikh faith. He is accused of having collected arms in the Golden Temple. Since early 1983 there was open talk of invading the Golden Temple. It became imperative to defend the complex. The responsibility for forcing the Sikhs to the posture of having to defend their place of worship against an onslaught by the Indian army lies squarely with the Indian government. The Sikhs in defending the Golden Temple were not hoping to overthrow the Indian government. Their aim was to die fighting in the cause of freedom of religion. It was unthinkable for the Sikhs to let the army overrun the Golden Temple without any resistance. The arms were not for any offensive or insurrectionary purposes but strictly for defence of the Golden Temple. The number of weapons in the Golden Temple reported by the government is an obvious exaggeration. In any case, the weapons were antiquated and quite useless in resisting an attack by the army. It is ridiculous to suggest that four hundred (according to some eyewitnesses the actual number was closer to forty) untrained men armed with about 50 sten guns, as many light machine guns and an assortment of shotguns, pistols and revolvers were planning to overthrow the Indian government.

c. False Accusations.

Sant Bhindranwale insisted he did not want a separate Sikh state. Still the government labelled him a "separatist". He preached non-violence, tolerance, self-discipline, and peace. He advocated Hindu-Sikh unity. Still the government called him an "extremist". He never hurt anyone nor, as he said, would he condone hurting any innocent person. Neither he, nor any of his followers, nor indeed any Sikh was convicted in a court of law of any of the crimes the government posthumously attributes to him. Until the day the Indian army invaded the Golden Temple and scores of other places of worship, the only charges against him were of "making inflammatory speeches". Still the government called him a "terrorist". He certainly was an "extremist" in as much as he urged all Sikhs to return to the basic principles of their faith, to give up intoxicants, to read the scriptures, to have faith in God, to go through a ceremony similar to confirmation and not cut their hair, to bear arms as required by their religion, not to hurt anyone but to be ready to fight oppression and injustice, to be united and to live in peace and amity with people of other religions. This emphasis on religion was apparently found intolerable by the Indian government.

9. Indian Government's Hypocrisy

The Indian government states it was frustrated at the wave of violence. This is sheer hypocrisy. Actually, the violence was inflicted by the government itself. According to the "White Paper" issued by the Indian government, 435 persons were killed in Punjab due to acts of violence from September 9, 1981 to June 2, 1984. Of these 109 were identified as Hindus and 167 as Sikh. Another 108 were not identified by religion. Most of these were victims in "encounters" with the police and may be assumed to be Sikh. Only 25 government officials were killed. It is obvious that a large majority of those killed were Sikhs and these had been killed by the police in several massacres and at police stations after arrest. They had been reported as killed in fake encounters. The government keeps accusing Bhindranwale of killing Hindus. This man of God never asked members of any particular faith to be victimized. In his lectures, he did mention the most recent atrocities by the government that had come to his notice. It is preposterous to ascribe every unlawful act in the state to this man. He was confined to the Golden Temple, surrounded by thousands of security personnel, for two years. It would be unthinkable that anyone could come out of the Temple, commit murders and go back in without the security forces knowing it. The government intelligence gathering system was extremely thorough. The Inspector General of Police claimed that even when Sant Bhindranwale was talking to a single person in the privacy of his room, the police knew what was said. According to some reports, the government, by letting the law and order situation in the state deteriorate and by permitting and aiding the smuggling of arms into the Golden Temple, was deliberately creating a scenario in which Bhindranwale, who spoke no English and had no access to the press, could be used as a scapegoat and an object of hatred for the majority Hindus so Mrs. Gandhi could benefit at the polls by a Hindu backlash. To stop violence, the government should have ended the planned terrorism it was perpetrating, entered into serious negotiations, and initiated legal proceedings against those officials who were guilty of inhuman treatment of peaceful protesters. As it was, the Indian government had orchestrated the terror as an excuse to invade the Golden Temple and other Sikh places of worship to subjugate the Sikhs. This suspicion was voiced as early as April 1983 by Mr. Khushwant Singh, a member of the Indian Parliament in an analysis of the government's reluctance in reaching an agreement with Sikh leaders regarding certain religious and economic demands. It is also a fact that the Indian army had built a replica of the Golden Temple in an adjoining state and had been training in preparation for the invasion. The events after Mrs. Gandhi's assassination confirm that the government and the unscrupulous elements in the majority community have been looking for a pretext to destroy the Sikhs. The fact that two persons suspected of assassinating Mrs. Gandhi were Sikhs gave them one.

10. Government's Barbaric Treatment Of The Sikhs After The Invasion

a. Abuse of People.

Vicious and barbaric abuse of the Sikh people including indiscriminate arrests, beating and torture, and denial of due process of law continues. Mary Anne Weaver writing in the Christian Science Monitor of 15 October 1984 about the massive cordon and search operations in the Punjab reports, "The pattern in each village appears to be the same. The Army moves in during the early evening, cordons a village, and announces over loudspeakers that everyone must come out. All males between the ages of 15 and 35 are trussed and blindfolded, then taken away. Thousands have disappeared in the Punjab since the Army operations began. The government has provided no lists of names; families don't know if sons and husbands are arrested, underground, or dead". The Indian government has shown little regard for basic human dignity. People have been taken from their homes, tied up and shot. Others have been brutally beaten. Thousands, including children as young as two years of age have been held without trial and subjected to inhuman torture. According to India Today, "the lofty laws protecting and respecting the child have all been violated". The law has been changed to hold anyone accused by the government of any crime or intention to commit any crime guilty until he proves his innocence. The July issue of "Baat-Cheet", an official instruction sheet of the Indian army declares every amritdhari (confirmed) Sikh a terrorist. It says "Some of our innocent countrymen were administered an oath in the name of religion to support extremists and actively participate in the act of terrorism. These people carry a miniature kirpan with a sash round their necks and are called "Amritdharis". ....Any information on the "Amritdharis" who are dangerous people and pledged to commit murder, arson and acts of terrorism should immediately be brought to the notice of the authorities. These people may appear harmless but they are basically committed to terrorism." By this definition every Sikh confirmed in his religion is an extremist and a terrorist. The only way a Sikh can save himself is to renounce the symbols of his religion. The Sikhs who have renounced the symbols of their faith have been spared. The others face genocide.

b. News Blackout.

Foreign press has not been allowed into the Punjab. Humanitarian organizations have been denied access. The Indian people are fed government views as news. The Indian government has denied visas to concerned U.S. Congressmen, members of the British Parliament, and even some U.S. Hindus who wished to see for themselves the misdeeds of Mrs. Gandhi's government. A reporter is being sought by the Indian government because he embarrassed them by telling the truth about the situation. The control on news within India has been so tight that people in Punjab are not even aware of the large scale violence against the Sikhs after Mrs. Gandhi's death. Mischievous, totally unfounded and absurd accusations like "the CIA had a hand in the Sikh agitation", and "the CIA was involved in Mrs. Gandhi's assassination" are made to create mistrust and hatred against the Sikhs in the minds of the Indian people.

11. Recent Events

The news reports now being sent from India by the international press describing the wholesale massacre of Sikhs all over India by Hindu mobs aided by the police forces are sufficient proof that the Sikh minority is in real danger. The Prime Minister of India had imposed a curfew and the army had orders to shoot to kill violators. However, it is significant that for several days no one was arrested and no arsonist or looter or murderer was shot while thousands of Sikhs were massacred all over India. The curfew apparently did not apply to violent mobs. There have been reports of trains full of dead bodies of Sikhs coming into stations. People have been set on fire. The government estimates two thousand dead. Our information is that about thirty-five thousand died including eight thousand in Delhi alone. Entire villages were wiped out. It is inconceivable that the Prime Minister of India was unaware of the carnage which Mike Chinoy was reporting on the CNN news. Tens of thousands had their homes and property destroyed and are now refugees. These senseless reprisals against an entire population for the alleged act of two individuals reflects the attitude of the government and the unscrupulous politicians of the majority community towards minorities in general and the Sikhs in particular.

The Indian government claims there was a conspiracy which led to Mrs. Gandhi's assassination. We have learnt that the Sikh guard who killed Mrs. Gandhi had been on leave recently and had discovered for himself what the government had done to the Sikhs and to his family in the state of Punjab. This was apparently the sole motivation for the killing. The assassination was the work of at most two persons and the Sikhs in general had nothing to do with it beyond having been the victims of Mrs. Gandhi's tyranny. Killing innocent people is abhorrent to the Sikhs. Terrorism is not their style. Some Sikhs in New York and London rejoiced at Mrs. Gandhi's assassination. Almost all Sikh leaders, though they are not sorry for one so ruthless in the destruction of the Sikhs, have condemned the action as unbecoming of Sikhs. In fact, even though many Hindus expressed joy and distributed sweets at the desecration of the Golden Temple by the government, the Sikhs have acted with admirable restraint. The Hindus in Punjab have not been hurt. Indeed, according to news reports, the Sikhs in Punjab villages have been assuring their Hindu neighbours of protection while, ironically, they themselves have been the targets of wholesale oppression by the government. On the other hand, there are reports that the Sikhs in India have received letters from the Indian government asking them to explain why Mrs. Gandhi's death was celebrated by some Sikhs in England. It is totally ridiculous and extremely callous to hold Sikhs in India responsible for the unbecoming conduct of certain youths in another country. Indeed, if this action of the government is taken to be typical of its attitudes, it is easy to see why people would celebrate the demise of such a government. The Sikhs have always been extremely law-abiding and have had a religious commitment to freedom of worship and protection of the weak and the oppressed. The unbridled violence by organized gangs of Hindus combined with the lack of concern on the part of the government for the safety of Sikhs all over India is direct and compelling evidence that the Sikhs in India are not treated as equal citizens in their own country.

12. Sikh Stooges Of The Government

The Indian government claims many Sikhs, including the President of India are in harmony with its policies. These people wear the symbols of the Sikhs and call themselves Sikhs but do not really believe in the Sikh religion. These persons wear their hair unshorn as a matter of style and not faith. They are the "secular" or "moderate" Sikhs often referred to in government propaganda. These persons do not believe in any religion and have only to declare this publicly to be accepted in the government's good books. Every religion, every nation, throughout history has had such hypocrites and quislings. Of course, when violent mobs took over the streets of India, they did not worry too much about political loyalties of those who had long hair and wore turbans. There has even been news of the President's car having been attacked and its windows smashed.

13. What now?

The Sikh citizens of the United States must get the free world to get at the truth beyond the Indian government's propaganda. The one-sided violence being perpetrated by the Indian government and the rampaging mobs of hoodlums against the Sikhs all over India must end. We must provide aid to the victims and rescue those trapped in India's jails and torture chambers. It is imperative too that those guilty of crimes against humanity be punished for their misdeeds. It is a fact that Hindu mobs were allowed to regard the Sikhs outside of the state of Punjab as hostages, and the state of Punjab itself has been under brutal army rule for nearly six months and is treated as hostile by the Indian government. The Sikhs cannot feel safe in India anymore.

Until June 1984, the Sikhs were almost unanimously against the idea of a Sikh state separate from India. The sacrilegious invasion of the Golden Temple and the subsequent cordon and search operations involving the "disappearance" of thousands of Sikhs made the Sikhs realize that, just as Sant Bhindranwale had pointed out, the Indian government did not consider them equal citizens of India. Recent violence against the Sikhs all over India and the utter lack of interest on the part of the government in protecting the persons and the property of the Sikhs has further disillusioned them. Many of us have received letters from friends and relatives in India stating the desperate situation. To survive in the Hindu majority they would have to cut their hair and give up the other visible symbols of our religion.

We now believe the Indian government is actively supporting the destruction of Sikhs as a separate, visible and distinguishable religion. The Sikhs of India need a sanctuary where they can feel safe from the marauding bands of murderers, looters, and arsonists. Contrary to the Indian government's propaganda, the Sikhs never sought a separate state independent of India. However, in the light of their treatment by the government over the last four years, the only solution consistent with the survival of the Sikh religion appears to be the constitution of Punjab as an independent state in the international community of nations as the only viable guarantee of their religious freedom.

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