The Terrible Terrorist from Punjab, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale
Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was a a man who had been built up by the Congress party. However he turned against them and set about his own goal of an Independent Sikh State.
The Man Who Would be King
Recently I had visited the Sikh Museum at Amritsar. The museum located in the premises of the Golden Temple contains some rare paintings and artifacts of the Sikh period. Thus paintings of the Sikh Gurus and the great warriors like Banda Singh Bahadur adorn the walls. But at one end of the museum, I was disconcerted to find that some photographs of Sikh terrorists are also displayed. These men had fallen in encounters with the Army and Police.
This made me think and I was reminded that in the eighties of the last century, one man had shaken the Indian state of Punjab. He was Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Who was Bhindranwale? he was a small time preacher who had been built up by the Congress party and Indira Gandhi as a counterpoise to the Akali party. The genesis of this lies in the creation of the Punjabi speaking state of Punjab in 1966.
The creation of a predominant Punjabi Speaking state led to the political equations changing and the Congress party lost its hold in Punjab and the Akali part became the dominant political force. The Congress and its President Indira Gandhi accordingly revised their strategy and picked up a non descript Sikh preacher from Damdami Taksal ( religious Center or Math) to try and break the hold of the Akali party.
Bhindranwale thus appeared on the scene and he soon became a force and the Alkali’s lost their political clout. One must grant that Bhindranwale was a shrewd schemer and planner and he soon began to have grandiose dreams of leading an independent Punjab like Maharajah Ranjeet Singh. He made the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines his abode and from there he began to make fiery speeches and orations urging the Sikhs to unite and fight for an independent Sikh state. This was not all and he began to order executions of Sikhs who were opposed to his plans.
At the same time arms and ammunition’s were smuggled into the Golden Temple, though it was surrounded by the BSF( Border Security Force) and the Police. Thus there is a nagging doubt that this pile up of weapons in the temple was with the connivance of the Central Government who had more sinister plans. But Bhindranwale continued from strength to strength and his writ began to run in the entire Punjab. Many Sikhs from foreign lands also financed him and believed in his impossible dream of a Sikh state. Moderate Sikhs and Sikhs opposed to him were simply murdered. Thus Bhindranwale unleashed a reign of terror the like of which had never been seen in the Punjab before, after the carnage indulged in by Ahmed Shah Abdali in the 18th century.
The Sikhs were bewildered as their holiest shrine became a center of terror with all its manifestations. There were reports of young girls disappearing from the premises of the temple and at night the followers of Bhindranwale desecrated the temple with wine, scotch and women. No body could protest as a fear psychosis gripped the entire Punjab. Bhindranwale continued to spit venom and made overtures to Pakistan for support. This was his fatal mistake, though Pakistan helped, the mass of Sikhs were revolted at this as the Mughals had murdered the 4 sons of Guru Gobind Singh.
In the fall of 1984, Indira Gandhi must have rued her decision to play Bhindranwale as a pawn against the Alkalis. The pawn had become King and there were reports that he was soon to announce independence from the pulpit of the Golden Temple. That is when Indira ordered the Army into the temple and Bhindranwale and his terrorists were all killed. This is an example where political expediency in building up a counterpoise to the Akalis misfired. It is similar to Al Qaeda being built up by the CIA and which soon turned against its mentor.
The exit of Bhindranwale saw a period of some terrorist activity in the Punjab with the help of Pakistan, but it soon collapsed as the Sikhs are too patriotic as a race and part of India. Lastly sane Sikhs must band together and remove the pictures of Sikh terrorists from the premises of the Sikh Museum. Thus one can conclude that terrorism is not a simple Islamic sponsored dream, but could encompass any lunatic fringe from any walk of life and religion.