Voorhees, NJ: The American Sikh Council (ASC) stands in solemn solidarity with the Sikh ‘Panth’ in remembering the attack by the Indian Government on the most sacred and important Gurdwara for the Sikhs – “Darbar Sahib” (incorrectly known as the Golden Temple). The attack was planned to coincide with Guru Arjan Sahib’s martyrdom on, June 1, 1984.
Even though this is a very complex issue the bigger question is why?
During the parliamentary elections of 1971, Indira Gandhi had defeated Raj Narain from Rae Bareli (Uttar Pradesh) constituency. He filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court accusing Indira Gandhi of electoral malpractices. On June 12, 1975, Justice Sinha found Indira Gandhi guilty and declared her election null and void. He also barred her from contesting elections for next six years. She refused to concede. On June 25, 1975 Indira Gandhi the Prime Minister of India declared a state of emergency as her leadership position was at stake. A strong political opposition put her in a vulnerable position and in order to consolidate power she made a radical move by usurping all powers to control a country which she claimed was allegedly being destabilized by various forces of the time.
During that period the country was in turmoil which included protests and civil disobedience which were all put down with force. Most of Gandhi’s political opponents were imprisoned at will, the press was censored and there was widespread violation of human rights.
According to Shah Commission, nearly 111,000 people were arrested under detention laws. Torture and custodial deaths also occurred during Emergency. The Constitution was amended in an autocratic manner, especially the 42nd amendment. Another amendment was made declaring that elections of Prime Minister, President and Vice-President could not be challenged in the Court. The government restricted all the fundamental rights of the citizens during that period.
The fear of arrest, detention and torture was rampant and dissent was minimized across India. The only people to continuously challenge Indira Gandhi’s illegal authority through mass peaceful protests were the Sikhs of Punjab starting on July 9, 1975. Over 100,000 protested and more than 50,000 courted peaceful arrest till the jails were overflowing.
Finally, Indira Gandhi’s government finally decided to hold elections and after 21 months in March 1977. All leaders and activists were released from jails. Opposition had very little time but it quickly formed a new party called Janata Party. The majority of the people voted against Gandhi and the Janata Party won hands down. The opposition coalition lasted for less than four years.
Indira Gandhi bounced back in the 1980 general elections to become PM again but she never forgot the serious opposition of the Sikhs of Punjab against her, who stood for civil rights, justice, liberty and democratic values. She continued to look for excuses and ways to get back at the Sikhs and permanently break the back of their leadership.
Sikhs had been protesting since 1978 and those protests got louder as time progressed in reference to various genuine grievances, but most surrounding economic freedom and control of all the resources within the state of Punjab. In all the meetings and parlays with Gandhi’s government, nothing concrete ever came out to solve the legitimate demands of the Sikhs of Punjab which would benefit everyone.
Simultaneously, in the same period Sant Jarnail Singh Bindrawale a preacher from the Damdami Taksal reminded Sikhs to respect themselves by being true to their Sikhi. He speeches were candid and understood by the ordinary Sikhs but also spoke to others. There was a resurgence of Sikhs taking their faith seriously and thousands taking ‘Kanday Batey Di Pahul’. Indira Gandhi was fearful of a Sikh opposition to her rule and knew she could not buy the honest Sant. Being a seasoned politician and using all the Brahminical tricks up her sleeve, she decided to kill many birds with a stone. She set up the Sant and all Sikhs aligned with his thinking as ‘terrorists’ and used the government-controlled media to the hilt in spreading mis-information and propaganda that Sikhs wanted to separate from India. Sant Jarnail Singh Bindrawale never asked for a separate homeland, except for the basic constitutionally guaranteed rights and to be treated as equal citizens. But the uneducated, autocratic and narcissist woman could not fathom anyone, least of all a simple Sikh preacher stand up to her! She had to teach the Sikhs a lesson.
Indira Gandhi planned at least 30 months in advance to subjugate the Sikhs, starting with breaking their spirit. According to Lt.Gen S.K.Sinha a retired Army commander, a mockup complex of the Darbar Sahib was set up in mountainous town of Chakrata, 55 miles from Dehradun (Uttarakhand) where the Indian Military Academy is located. The Indian Army commandos had started seriously training 18 months earlier. Information is a two-way street so the Sant and his Sikhs got to know about the draconian plan of attacking the Darbar Sahib. No Sikh worth his salt would stand for such an affront to their most revered religious institution and the Sant and his men decided to take a stand and protect it. They were fully aware that Indira wanted them there, in order for her own ruse to stick. The brave Sant was aware that his stand to protect the hallowed ground would also be an excuse for Indira to attack. Unfortunately, the dilemma was, do they allow the attack to go unchallenged or take her bait but also protect the Darbar Sahib against her attack?
The much-maligned Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale did not have single charge filed against him till the day of the attack. The mighty Indian Army with thousands of soldiers with an entourage of generals including some Sikh (Brar, Dayal, et.al) Rats were kept at bay for more than three days by just 150 Sikhs with simple weapons. The Indian government forces killed thousands of innocent Sikhs including children. After three days of fighting, over 10,000 pairs of footwear went unclaimed. Hundreds of army trucks took away bodies of Sikh children, women and men only to be burnt to cinder with no traces left behind.
The entire state of Punjab was locked down and while no press or foreigners were allowed in. Over 42 historic gurdwaras across Punjab were attacked simultaneously, killing thousands of more innocent Sikhs. The Indian Army issued a public proclamation in its June 1984 monthly news bulletin No 153 – ‘Baat Cheet’. The decree read that ‘Any knowledge of the "Amritdharis" who are dangerous people and pledged to commit murder, arson and acts of terrorism should be immediately brought to the notice of the authorities. These people may appear harmless from outside but they are basically committed to terrorism. In the interest of us all, their identity and whereabouts must always be disclosed.’ This shocking and illegal decree has never been officially rescinded or no official apologies given to date.
This was the start of the very prolonged ‘Sikh Genocide 1984 – 1998’ www.thirdsikhgenocide.org which can fill many blood soaked volumes. The trauma of a government attacking its own citizens, especially those who gave the most lives in the freedom of that country is beyond shocking. Simply put, the Brahminical leaders not only declared moral bankruptcy on the enormous debt owed to the Sikh nation but turned out to be savage demons like the goddess Kali and her cohorts.
Regardless of which upper caste Hindu leaders are at the helm of the country, there has been long standing institutional hatred and discrimination against Sikhs passed down from one bigoted regime to the next. To date the Article 25 (b) of the Indian Constitution has not been changed, i.e. in 70 years! Sikhs are still defined as Hindus legally! A long litany of decades old, economic, civil and constitutional grievances remains unheard.
The most feared reality by the Brahminical puppeteers is that the universal and extremely egalitarian revelatory teachings of the Sikh religion can completely upend the diabolically digressive Brahmin designed caste system along-with the devious Poona Act, therefore keeping the Sikhs under their heel is very important.
The Sikhs need to be proud of those brave Sikhs who had the Guru’s blessings to stand and guard the ‘Darbar Sahib’ till their last breath. Sant Jarnail Singh Bindrawale, Maj. Gen Shabeg Singh and other shaheeds will always be remembered as they reside in the hearts of every true Sikh. It behooves every Sikh family across the world wherever they reside, to remember the illegal, unprovoked and disastrous attack by the Indian government and hold an Ardas at a minimum for all those innocent Sikhs who were murdered in June 1984.
Till there is first, a hearing and followed by complete justice, there cannot be closure! So, the wounds still remain raw and the hurt continues to fester, while the ruling majority pretends to have its head in the sand and keeps repeating. ‘forget, forgive and move on’!
On June 3, 2020 the Indian Government banned all ‘kirpans’ in and around the Darbar Sahib complex, banning all peaceful demonstrations and speeches on the eve of the 36th anniversary. What is the world’s largest democracy afraid of?
The American Sikh Council will continue to support efforts to ensure full accountability and justice, including ongoing demands for full and accurate count of every Sikh murdered by the Indian government to date. We stand with every other sovereign Sikh for the Chardi Kala of the Sikh Panth!