Shaheed Jathedar Pritam Singh Sekhon
Shaheed Jathedar Pritam Singh Sekhon
Khalistan Liberation Force
Jabai Baan Laagiyo, Tabai Ros Jaagiyo
When the arrow struck, the wrath was awoken
Toward the later stages of the armed movement, the Khalistan Liberation Force was putting up its final stand and their actions were growing more and more daring and innovative, resulting in sleepless nights for those sitting at the Central government throne in Delhi. In these days the name of Dr Pritam Singh Sekhon frequently featured in the headlines of the daily newspapers.
Dr Pritam Singh Sekhon was born in 1959 to Sardar Ajaib Singh and Mata Gurnam Kaur in village Dulma Khurd, Tehsil Malerkotla, District Sangrur. Bhai Sahib was the youngest of 5 children (with 4 elder sisters). Bhai Sahib gets his title “Doctor Sekhon” as he had completed a course in veterinary science from Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana where Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu was also a student. Dr Sekhon was later employed as a Veterinary Surgeon at Verka in Amritsar district before joining the freedom struggle. It is often asked what made such bright, intellectual, professional and forward thinking Sikhs take up arms and tread on the arduous path ahead, instead of pursuing their careers and fulfilling their prosperous futures.
In Dr Pritam Singh Sekhon’s case, a Doctor from a wealthy background, it was not much different to the example of a poor Sikh villager and much like thousands of others, it was the 1984 Indian army assault on Sri Harmandir Sahib. The impact of the attack had a profound effect on Dr Sekhon, comparing it to previous events in Sikh history such as the Ahmed Shah Abdali attack on Sri Harmandir Sahib and the Sikh Nation. Dr Sekhon knew the only way to punish those responsible and prevent future atrocities, was to pick up arms and participate in the Sikh freedom movement.
After meeting with other leaders of the Khalistan movement, Dr Sekhon became fully pledged to the cause. Many Sikh freedom fighters visited his accommodations regularly, where deep and serious talks began to take place. After this he became acquainted with Bhai Daljeet Singh Bittu, Shaheed General Labh Singh and Bhai Paramjit Singh Panjwar as well as many others.
Dr Pritam Singh Sekhon fully entered the Khalistan movement and very soon “Sekhon Sekhon” was on the lips of people all over Punjab. The militant actions planned and carried out by Dr Sekhon were hot topics in colleges, universities and villages across Punjab. The legendary status of Dr Sekhon was as such that people of Punjab often made requests to known associates of his for just a glimpse of this brave General.
The police first suspected Dr Sekhon’s activities in 1988 when he was connected to the assassination of a corrupt anti-Sikh MP, Satpal Prashar. Conducting their investigations the police and intelligence agencies came to realise that Dr Sekhon was an active member of the Khalistan Liberation Force. He had completed this action having concealed the gun in bedclothes and was often jokingly teased by his comrades about it.
Dr Sekhon was very close to Bhai Paramjit Singh Panjwar (KCF), Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu (SSF), Shaheed, and Bhai Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala (KLF) and also worked alongside Shaheeds such as Bhai Mathra Singh, Bhai Kanwarjit Singh Sultanwind, Bhai Harjinder Singh Jinda and Bhai Charanjit Singh Channi.
Dr Pritam Singh Sekhon spoke very little and refrained from making public announcements or issuing press releases, personal glory was not on Dr Sekhon’s agenda. This was re-iterated by many who spent time with him and also by the assistant editor of Punjabi Tribune, Karamjit Singh who had the opportunity of meeting Dr Sekhon. Karamjit Singh writes: “Dr Sekhon was one of those special Khadku’s whom can be counted on one hand, who without any hunger for fame would silently work toward achieving their goal.”
Dr Pritam Singh Sekhon spent a lot of his time isolated in Simran, he could sit for seven to eight hours in one sitting in the boiling hot summer, unaffected by the heat, and would recite Gurbani. Those who had the opportunity to meet Bhai Sahib were often left astonished that this kind-hearted, soft spoken and humble person was described as one of the most dangerous Generals of the Khalistan movement.
Dr Pritam Singh Sekhon was tall 6’ 2” and had a very good build. He used to regularly exercise and was physically very fit. Dr Sahib used to encourage the other Singh‘s to train and encouraged weight lifting. He would say, “If I slapped someone they would never get up again!” Dr Sekhon was an action-oriented man, whose actions on the battlefield spoke volumes and it was due to these traits that he was immensely popular amongst all militant groups as well as the masses of Punjab.
Elimination of Major BN Kumar
In September 1988 the state of Punjab faced a flood crisis and to make matters worse the Bhakra Dam gates were intentionally opened, releasing water from the reservoir. More than 600 people were killed in the flooding, which displaced tens of thousands more, destroyed crops and farm machinery worth millions of pounds in India’s most prosperous state, Punjab. Furthermore there were threats that such action, to open the Bhakra Dam gates could be repeated on a larger scale to wipe out the Sikh population of the area in retaliation to growing popularity and success of the Sikh freedom movement against the government. The Jhujaru Singh’s held Major General B.N. Kumar, the army appointed chairman of Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) personally responsible and put him to justice just one month later. Dr Pritam Singh Sekhon led the unit of Singhs responsible and was credited for this action.
Rajiv Longowal accord
On July 23, 1985 the Akali leaders had betrayed the Sikh quam by signing the Rajiv-Longowal accord, which was a watered down version of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale had repeatedly stated in his speeches, if any Sikh leader accepts any sort of deal offered by the government, which was anything less than the demands of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, that leader should not be associated with. The words of Sant Jarnail Singh were still echoing in the minds of the Sikh youth, and within 25 days of signing the accord, traitor Harchand Longowal was finished by Bhai Gian Singh and Bhai Harwinder Singh Billa.
Another key figure in this treacherous deal was the former Finance Minister Balwant ‘Ladoo’, it was now his turn to pay for his betrayal. As soon as the Khalistan Liberation Force formed in late 1986, Balwant ‘Ladoo’ made his way onto the hit list. According to an article in Awaze Kaum (Jan 1986), “Khalistan Liberation Force issued a statement in which they said the killers of Sikh youth who are also responsible for disrespecting places of worship, Surjit Barnala, Balwant Ladoo and Julio Francis Rebeiro have been declared wanted by the Sarkar-e-Khalsa.” The statement was signed by Bhai Aroor Singh, Bhai Manjit Singh Khujala, Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma, Bhai Durga Singh and Bibi Bhag Kaur.
The day finally came, on July 10, 1990 at 2pm between sector 20 and sector 30 in Chandigarh. A white Maruti carrying four Jhujarus of the Khalistan Liberation Force, including Dr Sekhon, parked up alongside the minister’s car. The Singh Soorme jumped out like lions and opened fire using AK-47’s which resulted in the death of Balwant ‘Ladoo’. This action shook the central government because they were surprised that the Khalistani’s managed to assassinate him in broad daylight.
Whilst Dr Sekhon was serving in the movement the police targeted his family increasingly as his reputation grew. Bhai Pritam Singh’s mother, sisters, brother in law and many other relatives were also continually harassed and tortured by the security forces, this was a tactic used in order to test Bhai Sahib’s resilience. However, Bhai Sahib remained steadfast and did not retract an inch from his resolve. Bhai Sahib had surrendered himself to Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the father of the Sikh faith. Bhai Sahib’s number one priority remained with the progress of the Sikh Nation and considered all others secondary to his mission. This was echoed in Dr Sekhon’s words to his sister before going underground “Upon taking Amrit this head was offered to the Guru, the body belongs to the Sikh Nation, to sacrifice mind and body is now my duty’
During this time, Bhai Harjinder Singh Jinda and Bhai Sukhdev Singh Sukha were also to be given the death penalty. Bhai Gurjant Singh knew that the Panth could not afford to lose such diamonds as these two Singhs and they had to be saved by any means necessary. Even though they belonged to Khalistan Commando Force, Bhai Gurjant Singh decided that they had to be released and had made plans to kidnap a high rank member of the Congress party. However, when a message was sent to Bhai Jinda and Bhai Sukha about the plan, they sent a message back to Bhai Gurjant Singh that they were grateful for his dedication to the struggle, but they wanted to give Shaheedi just as Bhai Taru Singh Ji had done for the benefit of the Panth.
The Khalistan Liberation Force had established itself as one the most active freedom fighter groups in India. The Singhs realised that that they had to do something big to gain international media coverage of the atrocities that were being carried out upon the Sikhs. They did not want to do something that could damage the movement but needed an action that could get the right attention. If they kidnapped an Indian it would not get the coverage needed, so that they had to find someone who was an important figure but from abroad. Furthermore, Bhai Jaswinder Singh and Bhai Pargat Singh had been arrested in Romania for the attempted assassination of former Punjab DGP Julio Francis Rebeiro and the Singhs wanted to secure their release. The Romanian Ambassador, Liviu Radu, was the perfect target as the Singhs realised that only a foreign dignitary would be honest enough to convey their message once released.
The one advantage they had was their “Engineering Cell”. The cell would plan highly risky and dangerous missions and would be in charge of the planning and execution of the difficult mission that lay ahead of them. On the 9th October 1991 at 8.10am, the Khalistan Liberation Force under the command of Jathedar Gurjant Singh kidnapped the Romanian Ambassador, Liviu Radu. Radu was on his way to the Romanian embassy office at Vasant Vihar in Delhi in his black Dacia sedan car. He was abducted a quarter of a mile from his home by Dr Sekhon, Bhai Navneet Singh Kaddian and three other Jujharoos.
Whilst Radu was in the care of the Khalistan Liberation Force, he explained that he suffered from heart problems and required his medication. The Singhs were concerned for Radu’s health and sent
Bhai Devpal Singh MA to make phone call to Radu’s wife to find out what medication he took. Bhai Devpal Singh MA was surrounded by the Police whilst making the call from a Delhi phone booth to the Radu’s residence. Upon his apprehension, he produced a revolver and began shooting at the Police to secure his escape. In the encounter that entailed, Bhai Devpal Singh MA joined the Shaheeds of the Khalsa Panth.
The Singhs never kept Radu in the same place for more than six days and they made sure armed guards kept watch twenty four hours a day. Whilst moving him, Radu would be blind folded but never harmed.
The Khalistan Liberation Force made sure they treated Radu well. In the circumstances, he became more like a friend to the Singhs than a hostage, and they started to call him “Uncle”. This is the compassion of the Khalsa, they would try and meet his every need, bringing him English newspapers to read and even a television to watch to pass time. This was later reiterated by Radu in his press conference. At night, the Singhs would always bring him warm milk, after drinking it, they would say “Uncle, more milk?” and he would laugh and say “Hanji”. Radu started to befriend the Singhs and even started to speak Panjabi.
Dr Pritam Singh Sekhon, who was one of the masterminds of the “Engineering Cell” was fluent in speaking English, and would speak to Radu for hours on end normally until midnight. He once even introduced Radu to Bhai Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala and explained that this was their Chief. Dr Pritam Singh educated Radu about the Khalistan movement, the broken promises given to the Sikhs, the 1984 Holocaust, the genocide on the Sikhs and of the rapes and torture that was taking place on innocent civilians throughout India. Radu became distraught by what India was doing and could not understand why the international community was ignoring the plight of the Sikhs.
At the same time, the Indian government had already started spreading fabricated stories and propaganda against the Singhs. Government sanctioned gangs had been tasked with discrediting the popularity of the Singhs. The government controlled media called the Singhs “vicious terrorists” and said they had already killed Radu. At this point the Khalistan Liberation Force released a photo with Radu showing him alive.
From the outset, the Khalistan Liberation Force had no intention of killing Radu. However, the Indian government had no value for Radu let alone those of the Singh’s on death row. Radu himself realised that if anyone wanted him dead, it wasn’t the Singhs but the Indian government. It would be in India’s advantage if he was killed as they could then demonise the Jujharu’s. Radu started to become worried but Dr Pritam Singh reassured him and said “We will die, but we will never let you die”.
Many thought Radu had been killed but he was released unharmed on 26 November 1991. When he was released, Radu had a small beard and had tied a turban. On reaching his residence, the guard did not at first recognise him and was shocked because he looked like a Sikh. Only on producing his ID card was it that the guard realised that it really was Radu.
In a public press conference Radu said;
“The freedom fighters that kidnapped me treated me very well, they made sure I had no problems and never threatened to kill me.”
When asked, if he was grateful to anyone he replied;
“I am thankful to everyone but especially to those freedom fighters. Whatever is being spread about them is false. They looked after my health. I am a heart patient and they made sure I received all my medication. They bought me newspapers to read and even provided a television to pass time. They would always speak to me. They would cook me nice food.”
At this point his wife, Katrina Radu laughed and said;
“He was thin before staying with the freedom fighters. He has now got a belly!”
Radu carried on and said;
“I cannot say that the people that kidnapped me are terrorists. They are just fighting for their freedom. They want freedom for their people. They do not want to take any ones freedom away from them. These freedom lighters are always meditating on God and ask for the benefit of all in their daily prayers.”
It was a massive victory for the Khalsa Panth to keep Radu for 48 days and get the media coverage the Sikhs needed. India had spread so much hate and propaganda about the Singhs, but here was Radu and his family thanking the Khalistan Liberation Force. The Indian government had been embarrassed throughout the worldwide media. It thought that by not meeting the demands of the Singhs, India had won, but instead the Khalistan Liberation Force had been one step ahead of India and their master plan to gain coverage global media coverage of the brutal genocide being carried on the Sikhs had been a success. After his release Radu wanted to go back Romania, as he no longer felt safe in India. This was not because of the Singhs but because he felt the malicious Indian government would too kill him in a fake encounter.
Chief of Khalistan Liberation Force
After the Shaheedi of Bhai Gurjant Singh Ji, Dr Sekhon was appointed the Jathedar of KLF. He re-arranged the Khalistan Liberation Force into smaller cells. These would only have four or five members; the cells would continue to work under the command of Dr Sekhon but there was to be little communication between the cells. This made it near impossible for the cells to be infiltrated and ensured the safety of each cell, should a member be arrested he would have no further information to reveal on the other active cells. The struggle for justice continued following the Shaheedi of many top ranked Singhs in the movement with the Khalistan Liberation Force remaining one of the strongest and most active even in the final stages.
Other action of Dr Sekhon
The elimination of Judge R.P Gaind who paid to have innocent Sikhs killed, issued harsh sentences to them and granted police remand without any sufficient evidence.
The Thanedar of Sadar who had the blood of Sikhs on his hands was duly punished. At first Dr Sekhon set fire to a shop as a decoy and upon the arrival of the Thanedar he was gunned down on the spot.
Shiv Sena leader Jagdish Tanghri who was given protection by the government was admitted to the top floor of Dayanand Medical Hospital for treatment. Dr Sekhon along with two other Singhs entered the hospital, disguised as Doctors on the pretence of bringing in a patient. They reached the top floor and eliminated the Shiv Sena leader. They then calmly made their exit along with the assault rifles grabbed from the leader’s bodyguards.
In 1993, Dr Pritam Singh Sekhon went to America to drop off his wife and son to safety. Whilst he was away Bhai Navneet Singh Kaddian was appointed acting General of the Khalistan Liberation Force. Dr Sekhon had settled his family abroad and was ready to return to the battlefield. The KLF Singhs persuaded Dr Sekhon not to return to Punjab because the terrorist Indian government had intensified its search for the last of the Khalistani Generals. The Singhs felt his leadership skills were too important so he continued to command the Khalistan Liberation Force from a neighbouring country of India.
According to Christine Fair, the author of Urban Battlefields of South Asia:
“The KLF was responsible for a number of innovations. It preferred using vehicles with more space for transporting weapons and explosives that could easily be concealed: The Ambassador car was a weapon of choice. Among their cadres was an expert in bomb construction. The KLF took advantage of India’s geography to operate and would coordinate its actions by phone in places as remote as Gujarat and Maharashtra. As the KLF was a well-educated group, it developed a coded communications system for communication both within and outside the country.”
Dr Pritam Singh Sekhon commanded the Khalistan Liberation Force with great valour and humility. Due to his intelligence the KLF managed to continue its armed struggle, even during the dark days of the evil Chief Minister Beanta’s regime. The KLF continued the armed struggle for independence under Dr Sekhon’s leadership until the late 90’s. Dr Sekhon breathed his last breath in March 1999 and went down in history as one of the most intelligent Khalistani freedom fighters. If his contribution to the war on terrorism committed by the Indian government was to be defined by one word, it would be MASTERMIND.
Singh Soorme – Issue 4