Chandigarh, September 7: A section of the media including veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar has compared Sikh militant leader Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who commanded his political fight from the front and sacrificed his life for his cause with the rapist Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim who has been sentenced to 20 years in jail. The comparison between a political fighter and a rapist is not only illogical and absurd, it is disgusting and revolting.
Here is what Nayar has written: “There are some similarities between Bhindranwale and Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim. If the former was the creation of the Congress Party, the latter has had the support of a plethora of parties in the state of Haryana, including the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). The Baba may not be a militant like Bhindranwale but his motivation was very clear as he used political benevolence to further his own interests. Otherwise, he could not have amassed huge wealth and built 132 deras around the world, including in the UK and the US.
The Akalis were gaining an upper hand and slowly eroding the base of the Congress in Punjab after the Akali-Janata Party government came to power in 1977. That was when the Congress under Sanjay Gandhi and Zail Singh selected and supported Bhindranwale to take on the Akalis. He became so powerful that by the time Indira Gandhi realised that a Frankenstein had been created and it was time for him to go, nothing less than the Indian Army would do to flush him out of Akal Takht inside the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar.”
Significantly, he refers to Ram Rahim as Baba and berates Sant Bhindranwale as the Congress creation.
Here are some facts about Sant Bhindranwale as the “Congress creation”. These cold facts are for all those who like Kuldip Nayar, attack him as the Congress creation.
One must study the sequence of events leading to taking over of Damdami Taksal chief by Sant Bhindranwale and these basic facts demolish this vicious propaganda to demean the leader who died for the cause he was espousing. One has every right to disagree with and attack that cause. Nayar was among those journalists from Delhi who too met him. He should have the guts to come out with the details of that interaction. Sant Bhindranwale used to share that. More about that later.
The first 11-year tenure of Indira Gandhi as the prime minister ended on March 24, 1977. She had resigned on March 22 following defeat of the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress had been wiped out in the entire northern India. She was succeeded by Morarji Desai who was sworn in on March 24 to head the Janata Party government.
Both Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi lost the elections as the Congress was wiped out in Northern India facing humiliating defeat.
Sanjay Gandhi quit the AICC and active politics. He said, “As I have already announced that I do not intend to take part in active politics, I see no reason to continue as a member of the AICC”. (The Indian Express, March 31, 1977).
The Congress government headed by Giani Zail Singh in Punjab was ousted on April 30, 1977 when the state came under President’s rule followed by Assembly election on June 12, 1977. The Akali Dal-Janata Party combine swept to power and Badal took over as the chief minister on June 20, 1977. Giani Zail Singh was denied ticket in the 1977 Assembly elections. He was nursing his wounds after the polls.
Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale took over as the Damdami Taksal chief on August 25, 1977.
He was nominated by the Taksal to take over as Sant Kartar Singh, who headed this Sikh seminary, met with an accident near Ludhiana on August 3, 1977 and died on August 16. Sant Bhindranwale was announced his successor at his Bhog ceremony on August 25 and those present included Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Gurcharan Singh Tohra. Both of them honoured Sant Bhindranwale with the turban.
Could Sanjay Gandhi have been looking for a person to oppose the Akali Dal within weeks after humiliating exit from the power and politics and mother and son were being hounded by the Janata Party government ruling at the centre? Could that have been the first priority of Sanjay Gandhi in that situation? Moreover, could he have engineered the accident that took the life of Sant Kartar Singh? It is for Kuldip Nayar and the people like him who term Sant Bhindranwale as the Congress creation must answer.
One can only salute Sanjay Gandhi and Indira Gandhi in case their first priority within days of having been swept out of power was to find a person to confront the ruling Akali Dal. For months, both mother and son were fighting for their political survival as they were being hounded by the Janata Party government at the centre led by Morarji Desai. It was the Akali Dal that had provided legitimacy to the politics of violence resorted to by Sant Bhindranwale through a resolution at its working committee meeting in August, 1980. The record is there.
The Congress was in power neither at the centre nor in Punjab at the time Sant Bhindranwale took over as the Taksal chief. Moreover, the people who are “created” (puppets) as political tools don’t sacrifice their lives.
It may be mentioned that the Congress was swept to power at the centre in early 1980 and a few months later in Punjab. Nirankari chief Gurbachan Singh was assassinated in April, 1980 and his assassin Ranjit Singh was basically a lone wolf. He had met Sant Bhindranwale only once and that was to get a semi-automatic weapon. The weapon that was given to him was a licensed carbine. That was the only relationship between the two.
Significantly, Sant Bhindranwale had offered to support the Akali Dal candidates in the March, 1979 elections to the general house of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. He had put up only one condition and that was of these candidates being baptised (amritdhari). The Akali leaders who did not agree to his proposal included Badal. Then he put up another condition. He asked Akali Dal to withdraw the candidature of cabinet minister Jiwan Singh Umranangal from Beas. Badal again turned down this condition. It may be mentioned that Sant Bhindranwale had clashed with Umranangal on the stage on April 13, 1978 on the issue of giving permission to the Nirankaris to hold their sammellan at Amritsar. It was on that day that 13 Sikhs died in what is now known as the Sikh-Nirankari clash of Baisakhi, 1978.
Sant Bhindranwale too could have escaped like many other militants, including from the Babbar Khalsa. It was Tohra who had offered him the escape route at their last meeting at Akal Takht on June 3 late evening after the army had encircled the Golden Temple complex. Tohra said he could get an edict issued ordering Sant Bhindranwale to leave the complex and lead the struggle later. He rather wanted Tohra to leave and assured his safe cross over to Pakistan.
Sant Bhindranwale had opted to die while confronting the might of the Indian state with his around 200 dedicated associates. Western Army Commander General K Sundarji , at his news conference on June 6, 1984, had talked about the exemplary bravery of these committed militants saying, “I wish I had 1000 such valiant fighters”.
The agents of others don’t die and that too when they have escape routes.