Sant Bhindranwale - Saint Soldier

Bhai Jagbir Singh, Sikh Students Federation (S.S.F)

In the six years which led up to the invasion of Sri Harmandir Sahib (the Golden Temple) Indira Gandhi and her government machinery ruthlessly made Sant Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale the target of false propaganda in an attempt to assassinate his character.

The Indian government used it's controlled radio and television to vehemently denounce him; it paid large sums of money to renowned writers to write against him in order to tarnish his figure, sent letters and messages to politicians, opposition members and Chief Ministers requesting them to denounce Sant Jarnail Singh as an evil man, and hired people to deliver speeches and write articles in newspapers and news magazines mischievously maligning Sant Bhindranwale as a terrorist and anti Hindu communalist. His speeches were branded as anti national, secessionist and inflammatory and he was given the title of India's Khomeimi.

Yet if facts and facts alone are considered a very different picture emerges of this influential Sikh figure. Sant Jarnail Singh was born in 1947 at village Rode in district FaridKot in Punjab and was the youngest of seven brothers. From his childhood, he showed profound spiritual inclinations and was baptised at the young age of five by Sant Gurbachan Singh Khalsa the 12th head of the highly respected missionary college Damdami Taksal (the Taksal was set up by Guru Gobind Singh Ii who appointed Baba Deep Singh Ji and Bhai Mani Singh Ji in 1709 to lead this Sikh institute of religious learning). He spent his childhood and adolescence in deep meditation devoting himself towards a spiritual life. Sant Gurbachan Singh seeing this asked his father in order to admit him into the Taksal. When Sant Kartar Singh the 13th Jathedar of Damdami Taksal expired in 1977 Sant Jarnail Singh was chosen as the 14th Jathedar of this institution due to his meditative nature and knowledge of Gurbani. He immediately set about keeping the traditions of Damdami Taksal by imparting training to students in reciting and understanding of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the propagating of Sikh traditional values. He went from village to village and town to town preaching Sikh values, baptising the Sikhs and exhorting them not to consume intoxicants of any kind as well as to refrain from eating meat. He preached the true spirit of Sikhi. But what circumstances forced him to make a stand against the Hindu rulers of Delhi?

It was on April 13th 1978, on the day of Vaisakhi when Sant Bhindranwale's Jatha and members of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha lead by Bhai Fauja Singh on hearing that a heretical sect (called Nirankaries) were mocking their faith and insulting the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji decided to hold a peaceful protest march to the place where the so called Nirankaries were gathering. These 'Nakli Nirankaries' were receiving help and financial support from the Congress government with the intention of dividing and disrupting the Sikhs. On reaching the gathering the Sikhs were tired upon by the Nirankaries resulting in the deaths of 13 Sikhs including Bhai Fauja Singh and injury to a further 80. The police either looked on or took part in the massacre and later the government prevented the case from being heard in the High Court.

It was after this tragic and deplorable: incident that Sant Bhindranwale came to the tore front of events in Punjab and led the Sikhs in airing their grievances against the Central Government. In Brahmin India hundreds of people belonging to minorities were being killed, intimidated, discriminated against, exploited and eliminated systematically by the regime of New Delhi. Sant Bhindranwale invited the Sikhs to rise and raise their voices against the tyrant rulers as the law of the land had failed to give justice to them: His message was plain "follow the Satguru". However because people had strayed so far from the true path of Sikhi any attempt to bring people back to that path was considered extreme. He was labelled a religious fanatic to which he replied in his speeches:

"I am accused of extremism because I propagate against social evils and persuade the people to get themselves baptised by observing the ceremony of taking Amrit, the sacred necter used for baptism."

"We wish every religion to grow and flourish but we will not tolerate attacks on Sikhi designed to terminate it."

"We have no enmity with Hindus or with a person of any other faith"

"My mission is to ensure that everyone Hindu, Sikh, Muslim remains true to ones religion, that there is unity among all sections of people, that the modesty of women is not violated that all people are weaned away from the use of narcotics, that all social evils are cured and to see that the Sikhs mobilise themselves under one banner by strengthening their faith in the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. If all this, which is the mission of my life is termed as 'extremism' then I don't mind being known as an extremist"

"We are in favour of unity if it does not result in Sikhs being treated as second class citizens."

"We are Sikhs and Sikhs do not believe in killing."

"Even if it results in my body being cut to small pieces I shall still fight against injustice."

It is left to the reader to decide whether or not these are the words of a fanatic.

To understand Sant Bhindranwale one needs to go to the very roots of Sikhi itself. The sixth Guru, Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, had the Sri Akal Takhat Sahib built directly in front of Sri Harmandir Sahib. For the Sikhs, the Akal Takhat is the centre for their political (worldly) decisions and Sri Harmandir Sahib is the centre for their religious (spiritual) inspiration. Setting both these along-side each other was a gesture that the religions and political thought must go together - political decisions must be made with the enlightenment gained from religion and religion can only flourish with freedom. Guru Gobind Singh Ji put this idea in the following gesture:

Dharma (righteousness) cannot flourish without Raj (sovereignty) Without Dharma nothing is of any value.

For Sikh there is only one sovereign to whom they bow and that is Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ii. Our religious teachings say we cannot have a sovereign amongst equals, as all humans are equal. Thus a Sikh owes greater allegiance to Guru Ii than to any government. Hence the need arose for Sant Bhindranwale to say:

"We are not the followers of Indira or her father. We are the Sikhs of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji"

The Lords of both Spiritual and Temporal Power.

Here the need also rose for him to come to the forefront in the recent struggle. He was not a politician. He was a religious preacher, first and foremost, but because Sikhi was under attack from also from 'Sikh' politicians he had to enter the political fray.

Even now, to back up its claim, that Sant Bhindranwale was a terrorist the government propaganda machine arises absurd questions concerning him. One of these is that if Sant Bhindranwale was not a terrorist then why did he appeal to the Sikhs to arm themselves? Arms are an inseparable part of the Sikh religion and culture. The Khalsa was created out of the double edged sword, he trained himself in arms and he died fighting against the tyrant with arms. Keeping arms for protection of justice and righteousness is not evil; on the contrary, every Sikh is to bear arms. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji's instructions to his Sikhs were:

"O my beloved (Khalsa) hear this request of mine, Without weapons and Kesh (Hair) do not come before me."

Thus in effect Sant Bhindranwale was reiterating this order. By calling him a terrorist for doing so, the government was explicitly casting a slur on the Sikh religion. Sant Bhindranwale also pointed out that a Sikh needs no licence for such arms, since Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji did not obtain a licence from Emperor Jehangir and nor did Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji from Aurengzeb, even though it was illegal for Sikhs to carry arms in those days. As to the use of these weapons, Sant Bhindranwale time and again stated the Sikh belief that there is no greater sin than to use such weapons to murder people or to loot and plunder. But he also pointed out that for a Sikh to posses arms and not to use them to fight for his and others' just rights and his survival is just as great a sin.

He supported violence only against those who first committed violence against innocent people, and the killings of those who first killed innocents. To kill those who first kill others is not terrorism but is in fact an act to stop terrorism and uphold the principles of justice and righteousness: the responsibility of a Saint-Soldier.

The Indian government also points an accusing finger at Sant Bhindranwale saying that he was responsible for the murder of all Hindus in the months leading up to the invasion of Sri Harmandir Sahib. The fact is that there's not a scrap of evidence to back up this claim. Any evidence that has been forwarded is purely circumstantial and would not stand up in any court of law and did not when Sant Bhindranwale voluntary courted arrest at Metha Chowk, but was released without charge. Feudal killings in the Punjab, and indeed in the rest of India, are unfortunately very common. Since Sant Bhindranwale came to the forefront in the Punjab, all such killings were portrayed as being political and blamed on Sant Ji. The justification given for the attack on Sri Harrnandir Sahib was that the government could not tolerate the killing of Hindus in Punjab. What is conveniently ignored is the fact that an equal, if not greater number of Sikhs were also killed during the same period; whether it be whilst in police custody, or during peaceful demonstrations, or by 'Hindu' mobs in neighbouring states such as Haryana, or in personal feuds. No action has been taken to bring those actually responsible to justice.

Those people, who have spent any time in the presence of the Sant, vouch for his true character. For example, Joyce Pettigrew of South Asia Research writes about the Sant:

"I met Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Amrik Singh (president All India Sikh Students Federation A.I.S.S.F. (now known as S.S.F.) in mid-December 1983. They were not fanatical figures full of hatred that the press portrayed. Bhindranwale was quiet, with a sense of humour. He listened intently to the questions, answering directly if he could. On one occasion when he could not he said openly that he studied only to the fifth grade. He was unpretentious, apologising twice if anything he said offended me."

Professor Mehar-Chan Bharadwaj, an advisor to the agitation, persuaded an M,P, to spend three days at Sri Harmandir sahib in April '84. On his return, he made a speech in parliament stating that "there were no terrorists in the Golden Temple" and further said that "to invade the Golden Temple would be a grave mistake".

It is extremely unfortunate that the Indian government and media chose to portray Sant Bhindranwale in the way they did. By doing so, they branded every true follower of the Sikh faith a terrorist and succeeded in alienating Sikhs from India.

Sant Bhindranwale did just what is expected of a saint-soldier, and thus he was not a terrorist but a protector of those who were being terrorised by the tyrant rulers.

It is hoped that this article has gone some way to redressing the balance; Sikhs of today must wash off their masochistic tendencies of condemnation of their own community, which appears to have been imbibed in them as a result of continued mischievous propaganda against the Sikhs by the brahmin majority.

"Please come under the fold of Satguru (the one and only True Satguru), take Amrit, read the bani (Scriptures) and talk among yourselves of the Panth and the Kesari Nishan Sahib (the Sikh flag) and of your true leader the Guru Granth Sahib Ji..and when the time comes for confrontation don't kill the poor, don't molest the women and don't trouble the old, but don't spare anyone who insults Guru Ji"

Let me die unafraid
beyond the reach of aid
Let me lie proudly dead.
(Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale)

The dark night of separation will Soon be gone
The light of freedom will dawn on Khalistan.
(Freedom Fighter who died fighting for Khalistan)

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