Shaheed Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale
Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala
14th Jathedar of Damdami Taksal
Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala known as ‘Sant Ji’ was the 14th leader of the Damdami Taksal, a Sikh religious group based in Punjab India during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Sant Ji carried heavy influence amongst many Sikh youth in Punjab during this time as the leader of the Damdami Taksal. Sant Ji spread the original values of Sikhi and persuaded people young and old to follow the original rules and tenets of the Sikh religion.
In 1981, Sant Ji was arrested for his suspected involvement in the murder of Lala Jagat Narain, the proprietor of the Hind Samachar Group. Although Sant Ji willingly surrendered to police (he was later released due to lack of evidence) he was kept on close watch by Indian police officials.
Sant Ji is mainly notable for his involvement in the ‘Dharam Yudh Morcha’ alongside Sant Harchand Singh Longowal which was for the basic human rights of Punjabis stated within the ‘Anandpur Sahib Resolution’ and for the ‘Battle of Amritsar’ in June 1984, in which he and other defenders of the faith defended Sri Akaal Takht Sahib complex, including the Sri Darbar Sahib against the invading Indian army.
In the days before the attack on Sri Harimandir Sahib, Sant Ji had denied the wishes of many Jhujaru Singh who had asked to stay within the complex and die as a martyr in the coming battle, this was done to help the Sikh struggle flourish after the attack on the Sikh throne. In the same way that the Sikhs in the Haveli at Chamkaur Sahib had voted for Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj to escape and live to fight another day, Sant Ji told his fellow defenders of the Faith that he will fight and defend the Sikh throne against the invading Indian army. All that had chosen to stay with Sant Ji to defend the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib and Sri Harimandir Sahib had taken an oath to die as martyrs in the manner of Baba Deep Singh Ji Shaheed fighting to the last drop of their blood.
EARLY LIFE & DAMDAMI TAKSAL
Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala was born in June 1947, in the village of Rode which falls in the Faridkot district of Punjab. His father, Baba Joginder Singh, was a farmer and a local Sikh leader who had one daughter Manjeet Kaur and seven sons, of which Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa was the youngest. Sant Ji was brought up as an Amritdhari Sikh with strict Sikh values. His six brothers were Bhai Jagir Singh Rode (martyr of June 1984), Bhai Jagjit Singh, Bhai Jugraj Singh, Bhai Harjeet Singh, Bhai Veer Singh and Bhai Harcharan Singh alias Captain.
Sant Ji took Amrit from the Panj Pyare at the age of five years. His early education was in government primary school, where he studied until the fifth grade. Sant Ji took up farming with his father after school. In those days Sant Gurbachan Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala came to village Rode, and here he took the 8-year-old Sant Ji with him to join and learn within the Damdami Taksal (Jatha Bhindran). The Damdami Taksal was and is a travelling Sikh university that originated in the times of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj. The first Jathedar (head/leader) of Damdami Taksal was Shaheed Baba Deep Singh Ji.
Sant Gurbachan Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala was the 12th Jathedar of Damdami Taksal. Under his guidance, Sant Ji began his learning in spiritual, scriptural, theological and Sikh historical studies. A few years later, Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala went back to his village and returned to farming with his father. In 1966, Sant Ji was married (Anand Karaj) to Bibi Pritam Kaur, daughter of Bhai Sucha Singh of Bilaspur. His wife bore him two sons, Bhai Ishar Singh in 1971 and Bhai Inderjit Singh in 1975.
The successor to Sant Gurbachan Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala was Sant Kartar Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala, who passed away in a road accident on 16th August 1977. Sant Kartar Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala had mentioned Sant Ji as the new leader of Damdami Taksal. Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala was formally elected at a Sri Akhand Paath Sahib Bhog ceremony at Chownk Mehta on 27th August 1977.
In Punjab, Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala went from village to village as a religious preacher talking with Sikhs. Sant Ji asked people of Punjab to live according to the rules and tenets of Sikhi. Sant Ji would give revolutionary speeches and encourage numerous Sikh youths to take Amrit, the holy nectar. Sant Ji preached to the young Sikhs who had lost their path, encouraging them to return to the path of the Khalsa by giving up vices like alcohol, tobacco, drugs, prostitution or any other addictions which would affect them mentally or physically.
Sant Ji also visited other states and cities in India. Wherever he went, he carried Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj’s message to every home exhorting Sikhs to take Amrit, observe the Sikh appearance, and live according to the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj. As Tavleen Singh tells us: ‘His philosophy in six words was Nashey chaddo, Amrit chhako, Gursikh bano (Give up addictions, Take Amrit, Become good Sikhs)’. Explaining his mission, Sant Ji said, “My mission is to administer Amrit, to explain the meanings of Gurbani and to teach Gurbani to those around me… and (to tell people) that a Hindu should be a firm Hindu, a Muslim should be a firm Muslim, and a Sikh should be a firm Sikh.” His preaching was based on love. Sant Ji said, “If we speak to someone with hatred and try to assert our superiority, it will create hatred in the minds of everyone. So long as we have the spirit of love, so long as we have the support of Satguru Hargobind Sahib, the Master of Miri and Piri, is there any power on earth that can subdue us?” Sant Ji wanted the Sikhs to ‘come back to Anandpur, their home’ by taking Amrit, and become his brothers and sons of Siri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib.
HELPING HINDUS AS WELL AS SIKHS
One day a young Hindu wife came to see Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala. She sobbed out her story of how she was being maltreated by her husband’s family, for failing to extract more money from her parents. She also complained of her husband’s unwillingness to take her side. Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale asked her name and where she lived. “So, you are a daughter of the Hindus, are you willing to become the daughter of a Sikh?” She nodded in approval. Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala sent a couple of his armed guards to fetch the girl’s family. An hour later a very frightened trio consisting of the girl’s husband and his parents were brought before him. “Is this girl a daughter of your household?” Sant Ji demanded. They admitted she was. “She tells me that you want money from her father. I am her father.” Sant Ji placed a tray full of currency notes before them and told them, “Take whatever you want.” The three culprits fell at Sant Ji’s feet asking for forgiveness.
THE SIKH MASSACRE OF 13th APRIL 1978
Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala first gained prominence in public life when he organized a protest to stop the Narakhdhari cult assembly in Amritsar after he was unsuccessful in persuading the Indian administration to stop it. On 13th April 1978, Gursikhs of Damdami Taksal (25/30 Sikhs) and Akhand Kirtani Jatha (75/80 Sikhs) went to protest against the Narakhdhari cut who were preaching against the Sikh Gurus. The march was led by Bhai Fauja Singh of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, this was a peaceful protest. Before reaching the place where the Narakhdhari leader, Gurbachan Singh was preaching the protesters were fired upon by the security and the followers of the cult. The confrontation led to the martyrdom of thirteen members of the Damdami Taksal and Akhand Kirtani Jatha and further 78 Sikhs wounded.
The police, instead of stopping the massacre, hurled tear-gas at the Sikh protestors converting them into sitting ducks. A police officer who was present at the scene told a journalist that the Sikh protestors had agreed to stop some distance away from the Narakhdhari assembly and to wait for the police to negotiate with the Narakhdhari cult to end their public meeting. However, while they were waiting, Narakhdhari gunmen moved behind a row of busses, parked on one side of the road, to come to the rear of the protestors and opened fire. The leader of the protestors (Bhai Fauja Singh) was shot dead by one of the police officials as he tried to persuade the police to intervene and stop the killing.
Every attempt was made to avoid punishing the guilty. Instead of apprehending those who had committed the heinous crime, the local authorities escorted them safely out of the state. Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala felt specially let down by Parkash Singh Badal, then Chief Minister of Punjab, and by Jiwan Singh Umranangal, a cabinet minister, who was present in Amritsar at the time of the April 1978 massacre. Parkash Singh Badal felt constrained by the desires of the Hindu members of his coalition government and Jiwan Singh Umranangal never saw any merit in the protest organized by the Sikhs. These events caused extreme bitterness in the minds of the Sikhs. They felt that the Government was deliberately siding with the murderers and treating Sikhs as second-class citizens whose life had no value. An order was issued from Sri Akaal Takht Sahib calling upon all Sikhs to boycott the Narakhdhari cult. Immediately after the massacre, Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala personally cared for the dead and the wounded. This endeared him even more to the Sikh masses.
After prolonged agitation by the Sikhs, a case was registered against the perpetrators. However, the judge of Karnal court, reportedly upon receiving a bribe, acquitted all of them stating that they had acted in self-defence. Upon being released the cult leader mocked the Sikhs with the statement, “The 6th Sikh Guru released 52 prisoners, I have released 64.” The state government, controlled by Indira Gandhi’s party, elected not to appeal this judgment. As Sikhs in various places in India continued to protest the Nirankari practice of openly denigrating their faith, each protest was met by firing by the police and the Narakhdhari followers with the death toll of Sikhs gradually mounting to 28.
On 24th April 1980, the Sikhs assassinated the leader of Narakhdhari cult, Gurbachan Singh, as the Indian government had failed the Sikhs. The FIR named nearly 20 people involved in the assassination, most of whom had ties to Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala. Sant Ji was subsequently implicated in ordering the assassination. A carpenter from Delhi, Bhai Ranjit Singh, surrendered himself to the police for committing the assassination three years later, and he was sentenced to serve 13 years at Delhi’s Tihar Jail. Bhindranwale was acquitted as he could not be charged by the police due to lack of evidence.
LALA JAGAT NARAIN ASSASSINATION
Lala Jagat Narain the owner and chief editor of Hindu Samachar Newspaper group, was hell-bent on a mission in 1980 to tarnish the reputation of Sikhs and destroy their desire for autonomous freedom. He would consistently slander Sikh leaders and their philosophy of developing a separate identity from Hinduism. Even in the 1978 Amritsar massacre, Lala was present as a witness and gave statements against the peaceful Sikh protesters of which 13 were made martyrs.
All barriers were crossed when he published a picture of Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj next to Mahatma Gandhi’s and attempted to compare them as men. He went on further to make remarks suggesting Gandhi was superior as he never lifted a sword to seek justice. In his paper Lala wrote in his editorial that the tenth Guru of the Sikh Guru Gobind Singh used to live like prince and he had other vices. The Sikhs of Punjab wrote to Lala Jagat Narain about the article expressing their anger but instead of apologising for the article Lala spewed more venom at the Sikhs by accusing them of being traitors to India.
Sant Ji had warned Lala Jagat Narain openly many times prior to this incident that his writings were a direct attack on Sikhi and that if he did not heed the warning then perhaps one day a Lion would answer his challenge. His latest slur on our Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj had lit a fire of vengeance inside Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala.
On 9th September 1981, Lala Jagat Narain was shot dead near the Amaltas Motel. Two days after the assassination, police issued warrants for the arrest of Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala. Under the command of the then DIG Mangat, the Punjab police reached Chando Kalan, situated in the Haryana state, failed to produce any arrest the police burned two Damdami Taksal buses in which the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj laid. Upon seeing this, Sant Ji publicly announced that he would surrender himself on 20th September 1981.
On 20th September 1981, Sant Ji was arrested on charges of orchestrating the assassination of Lala Jagat Narain. After the arrest the public was outraged, there were clashes between the young Sikhs and the Punjab police. The police opened fire into the crowd to stop the confrontation and as a result, 18 people were killed and score left injured. Over the next 25 days while Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala was held in custody, many counter Punjab police protests were held.
Sant Ji was released on bail on 15th October 1981, as India’s Home Minister Giani Zail Singh announced in the Parliament that there was no evidence against him. In a public statement issued soon after, Sant Ji expressed his approval for Lala Jagat Narain’s murder. In this statement he accused Lala Jagat Narain of writing distastefully about the lives of the Sikh Gurus. `
THE ANANDPUR SAHIB RESOLUTION & DHARAM YUDH MORCHA
On 16th October 1973 the Akali Dal, when it was not in power, passed the ‘Anandpur Sahib Resolution.’ The major provisions this resolution were; regional autonomy for Punjab, return of Chandigarh to Punjab, special status for Sikhs in the Indian union, a supreme court review of Punjab river waters, return of the Punjabi speaking areas to Punjab, return of the administration of the Punjab Electric Board as well as the three thermal headworks to Punjab, provision of a fare share of electricity to Punjab, and some minor religious demands. During the 1970’s and till the early 1980’S the Akali Dal and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee leaders had been centring around the following leaders: Prakash Singh Badal, Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Jagdev Singh Talwandi, Surjit Singh Barnala, Balwant Singh and Harchand Singh Longowal. But these leaders did not do much to get the Anandpur Sahib Resolution implemented in Punjab. Even when Akalis formed their Government supported by Janata Party in 1977 in Punjab, they did nothing outstanding to ensure that the provisions of Anandpur Sahib Resolution were implemented.
The Akalis went out of their way to discourage and crush the anti-Narakhdhari cult movement started by Damdami Taksal under the leadership of Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala and the Akhand Kirtani Jatha as a result of the Sikh massacre of 13th April 1978, in which thirteen devout Amritdhari Gursikhs were shot dead by the followers of the Narakhdhari cult in Amritsar. Particularly, the behaviour of Jiwan Singh Umranangal and Parkash Singh Badal, who were keen to win over Hindus even if it meant harming the interests of Sikhs, was most deplorable. By the time Congress Government came into power again in 1980, the gap between the Akali leaders and Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala had widened.
INDIA GOVERNMENT EXPLOITING SIKHS AGAINST HINDUS
With a view to win over Hindu majority of North India and Punjab, Indira Gandhi mischievously exploited the anti-Narakhdhari movement in Punjab to create communal antagonism between Sikhs and Hindus in 1980. State terrorism against devout Amritdhari Sikhs was started in Punjab through her stooge Chief Minister of Punjab, Darbara Singh, during 1982. As a reaction to the Police terrorism on Sikhs, the devout Sikhs started taking revenge on Punjab police and government officials who ordered persecution of Sikhs in 1982-83.
In August 1982 the ‘Dharam Yudh’ agitation was started under the dictatorship of Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, to whom all Akali Dal members of Legislative Assembly and Parliament had submitted their resignations. In October 1983, the Centre Government imposed President’s Rule in Punjab. From October 1983 to June 1984, is a story of political manipulations and mischievous designs on the part of Indira Gandhi to destroy the Sikh faith and exterminate the Sikh people with a view to win over Hindu votes in India.
Indira Gandhi throughout the negotiations between Akali Dal and the Centre government never let the negotiations reach finalization or settlement because she had an ulterior motive. She let the Punjab crisis drag on in order to rally the state’s Hindus behind her and in order unify the Hindu majority of North Indian states, all of whom were concerned about the growing shrillness of the Sikh agitation. The Hindu psyche had been poisoned so much against the Sikhs through communication media and mischievous political manipulations that they wanted the Delhi Government to deal more forcefully with Sikhs. By stone-walling the Sikhs, Gandhi was consolidating her position with the Hindu majority, particularly of North India, whose support she considered necessary to win in national elections that were to be held in January 1985.
Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala was one man who had the political foresight and vision and who knew that Indira Gandhi was not finalizing the negotiation because she wanted to derive the political advantage out of it. Sant Ji also knew that all the Akali Dal leaders stood fast supported the Sikh masses of Punjab, could not damage the Sikhs. On contrary, if the Akali Dal leader show split, and entered into underhand negotiations with her, she would not only out-manoeuvre them, but would also defeat the joint efforts put in by all Sikhs in Dharam Yudh Morcha agitation for acceptance of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution.
It was the saddest thing for the Sikhs to happen, almost all the Akali leaders betrayed the Sikhs and Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala for their selfish ends and had secret meetings with representatives of Indira Gandhi. They reached a secret understanding with her (via written letters which are available within the Sikh archives), they would not stand in her way if she used armed forces to attack the Sri Harimandir Sahib complex and destroy Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala and his associates. All that they wanted in return were minister and chief minister positions for themselves. As a result of such underhand negotiations and understanding, Indira Gandhi gathered the courage to launch an attack of Sri Harimandir Sahib, code named Operation Bluestar by the Indian army.
THE BATTLE OF AMRITSAR
The para military forces had already fortified their positions in the buildings surrounding the Sri Harimandir Sahib Complex. The Hindus voluntarily vacated and offered their residential and commercial buildings which the para military forces considered strategic for military action and the Sikhs were forcibly pushed out of their buildings which were required to facilitate the attack. These para military forces, equipped with modern and sophisticated weapons, started unprovoked and sudden firing at Guru Ram Das Langar Hall building where Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala and some of his followers were present on the terrace. Their aim was to kill Sant Bhindranwala but he was escorted by his body guards downstairs. The CRPF started firing at 12:40 mid-noon and continued it till seven O’clock in the evening. The brave defenders of the faith, trained and positioned by General Shabeg Singh, an expert in guerrilla warfare did not return fire for strategic reasons although a dozen of innocent pilgrims were martyred and more than 30 bullets hit Sri Darbar Sahib building. The main purpose of attack on the Sri Harimandir Sahib Complex by the CRPF was to probe positions taken by the defenders of the Complex as well as to exhaust their ammunition if they retaliated. The para military forces failed in both their objectives as the guns of the defenders of the faith remained silent.
When the CRPF opened fire the army officers were present beside them with a view to observing and studying the positions of the defenders of the Sri Harimandir Sahib Complex. But they could achieve little except hitting the Sri Darbar Sahib building and Guru Ram Das Langar Hall building where Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala held his daily congregation.
The Indian army had already completely sealed the international border right from Jammu and Kashmir to Ganga Nagar. At the same time at least seven divisions of army were extensively deployed in all villages of Punjab and the troops took up their predetermined positions. Tanks. Artillery and Armed Personnel Carriers (APC) were also pressed into service. By the nightfall, media and the press were gagged, the rail road and air services in Punjab were suspended. All channels of communications in the state were snapped. Foreigner’s entry into Punjab was banned. In short Punjab was totally cut off from the rest of the country and the world. The whole state was completely besieged by the Indian Armed Forces.
Military Rule was imposed and General Gauri Shankar was appointed as the Security Advisor to the Governor of Punjab. The civil administration and para military forces were placed under the control of the Army. It was actually an imposition of Martial Law in Punjab.
During the night the Army replaced CRPF and BSF around the Sri Harimandir Sahib Complex and besieged it completely. Water supply and electric connections were completely cut off to add to the miseries of the inhabitants of the Sri Harimandir Sahib Complex. It was perhaps the hottest month of June in this century.
The day dawned with the graveyard like silence in Punjab as no human being was visible on the streets, on the roads and in the village streets except the Army, CRPF. BSF personnel and the police who roamed about everywhere to ensure imposition of total Martial Law in the state.
Lt. General Krishna Swamy Sunderji, the General Officer Commander-in-Chief, Western Command, was made the overall in-charge of the Battle of Amritsar code named Operation Blue Star. His immediate sub ordinate was Lt. General Ranjit Singh Dyal. They drew up the fool proof plan to carry out the military operation. They set up the Command Headquarters in the Kotwali opposite the main entrance of the Sri Harimandir Sahib Complex to execute and monitor the military attack on the magnificent Sri Harimandir Sahib Complex.
At Delhi, too, a Control Room was set up under the overall Command of Rajiv Gandhi to keep track of the battle. He was assisted by Arun Singh, his most trusted aide, and KP Singh Deo, the Deputy Defence Minister.
Kuldip Brar was a clean-shaven Sikh and, therefore, he could not be called a devout Sikh and so was Arun Singh, a scion of the ex-royal family of Kapurthala State. Ranjit Dayal was allegedly a follower of the Narakhdhari cult, the sect which is the sworn enemy of the Sikh nation. Rajiv Gandhi’s views about the Sikhs are well known, he was a megalomaniac son of a megalomaniac mother and was always a strong votary of military action against the Sikhs and wanted to teach them a lesson. This was the wicked mental frame of the Hindu leaders who ruthlessly conducted and monitored the brutal military operation against the people whom they claim to be an integral part of their Hindu society. By late night the Army tightly and closely sealed all routs of ingress and exit around the Sri Harimandir Sahib Complex so that none could sneak in or out of the Complex.
Five Corps of the Army, the 10th, the 11th, the 2nd, the 1st and 15th, were actively deployed to attack the Sri Harimandir Sahib Complex. These troops were selected from the crack fighting formations of the Army. Besides, there were two battalions of specially trained Commandos who were dressed in jet black uniforms, even their heads were covered with black helmets so as not to be spotted by the defenders of the Complex at night. All of the Commandos had put on bulletproof vases under the uniforms.
The army opened heavy fire on the positions of the defenders of the Complex but the Army was given a befitting reply. The exchange of fire continued incessantly throughout the night intervening 3rd and 4th June and ended in the morning in a stalemate. Neither side was victor nor vanquished. But the army was beaten back.
While Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala and his followers were defending the Sri Harimandir Sahib and Sri Akaal Takht Sahib with exceptional courage and valour. Harchand Singh Longowal and his courteries hid themselves in the office of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. They were surrounded by some of their supporters including Balwant Singh Ramuwalia, Bhan Singh and Abinashi Singh Assistant Secretary of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Gurcharan Singh Secretary of Longowal Akali Dal and Bagga Singh Secretary of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, were also present there. Bibi Amarjit Kaur, Chief of Akhand Kirtani Jatha and patron of Babbar Khalsa, who had dubbed Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala as a coward, had also hid herself in the same room where other paper tigers had huddled themselves together. These self-styled ‘brave’ leaders were among those who had undertaken oath (Ardas) at Sri Manji Sahib, in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj to the effect that they shall defend the sacred Sri Darbar Sahib at the cost of their lives. They vowed if the Indian Army ever entered the Sri Harimandir Sahib Complex it will have to pass over their dead bodies. And when the time came to lay down their lives in defence of the Sri Harimandir Sahib Complex they hid themselves like mice and anxiously waited for the Army to be rescued. Could they be called Sikhs of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj? These shameless traitors of the Khalsa Panth deserve examplary punishment as they have not only betrayed the Panth but also broken the Ardas so sacred to the Sikh nation.
The Indian Army, as already explained, had laid complete siege of the Sri Harimandir Sahib Complex on 3rd June. Army’s Main Battle Tanks Vijayanta (MBT) fitted with the biggest and heaviest guns of 105mm. heavy field artillery and Armed Personnel Carriers had been positioned all around and inside the Complex as though the Army had to fight a war with the Army of an enemy country. The Sikh defenders of the Sri Darbar Sahib and Sri Akaal Takht Sahib, at best, were armed with ordinary weapons like Light Machine Guns, Rifles and Carbines. They had however high morale and were motivated and committed to becoming a martyr defending the Sikh throne.
On the morning of 4th June the Indian Army bombarded the historic Ramgharia Bunga, the eighteenth century brick-laid towers, located near Guru Ram Das Langar Hall and water tank, located behind the Guru Nanak Niwas. Other adjoining houses and buildings situated around the Complex were also bombarded heavily. Heavy artillery, which is used only in the open field battle, was arrayed against the defenders of the Sri Darbar Sahib Complex and deadly 25 pounder shells were fired at them. As a result, the buildings around the Complex were reduced to rubbles, the Bunga and the water tank were blasted along with their occupants and their bodies were flung off in pieces all around. Bombardment by the Indian Army was so severe, so cruel, and so savage that not a single defender and other innocent Sikh occupants of the buildings survived. The casualties of innocent Sikh pilgrims who had been trapped there were enormous.
When a word of total siege of Sri Harimandir Sahib reached the villages, thousands of Sikhs armed with their traditional weapons like swords and spears and 12 bore guns, gathered in the nearby villages in order to march towards the Sri Darbar Sahib with determination to liberate their sacred Sri Darbar Sahib from the diabolical hands of the Indian Army. The Army Helicopters spotted the massive movements of the Sikhs converging on Amritsar to free Sri Harimandir Sahib from the siege laid by the Indian Army. The military officers on board of these helicopters sent wireless messages to the temporary headquarters of Lt. General K Sunderji. He sent Battle Tanks, APCs and artillery to all directions where the Sikhs had gathered and where from they were marching towards Amritsar with a clear order to check their advance by force. The Army killed hundreds of these Sikhs with canon fire and dispersed them and only then their advance was checked.
Interestingly, when Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala and his companions were bravely and courageously defending Sri Harimandir Sahib and Sri Akaal Takht Sahib, Gurcharan Tohra emerged from his hideout and went to Sant Ji who was at Sri Akaal Takht Sahib to persuade the gallant defender of the faith of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj and Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj to surrender before the Army. It could not be supposed that Tohra went to the Sant Ji voluntarily. Perhaps he was negotiating the surrender of the Sant Ji on behalf of the Central Government. That is why the Army, which had besieged the Complex, had not opened fire till he returned from the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib to his office.
When Tohra argued with Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala that he could not match the tanks and heavy field guns he snubbed and reprimanded Tohra and dismissed his suggestion with contempt blaming him as an agent of the Indian government. Had Tohra wanted to fulfil his pledge to defend Sri Harimandir Sahib, he would have sided with Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala and remained with him in the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib to fight the Army. But he preferred to surrender.
Worse than Tohra’s role was that of Harchand Singh Longowal, the traitor, who kept himself hidden in the office of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee till he was safely rescued by the Army on the intervening night of 5th & 6th June.
The savage onslaught of the Indian Army launched on 4th June was bravely and successfully repulsed by Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala and his followers and the battle again ended in a stalemate. Well-equipped Indian Army, the generals and the Indian government were stunned to see the extraordinary courage of a few motivated and committed Sikhs defending their sacred Sri Harimandir Sahib. The Army Generals had to change the strategy several times to win the battle at any cost irrespective of loss of life to be suffered by hundreds of innocent Sikh trapped in the Complex.
Major General Kuldip Brar, a clean-shaven Sikh belonging to the same caste as of Sant Ji was chosen by the Indian government to launch a frontal attack on Sri Akaal Takht Sahib. Kuldip Brar Commander of the 9th Division which is considered as a crack division of the Indian Army launched a frontal attack on Sri Akaal Takht Sahib. It was not the only Division that had taken part in the military operation, there were six divisions more. There were Madrasis from Tamil Nadu and Biharis from the Tribes of Central India, Dogras from Jammu Kashmir and Kumaonis and Garhwalis from Uttar Pradesh. Besides there were Rajputs from Rajasthan. There were Sikhs too whose presence was symbolical. The Sikhs were inducted by the Indian government for the purpose of publicity and to show the world that the Sikhs had also taken part in the attack. These few Sikhs however could not be called true Sikhs. They were mainly supporters of Narakhdhari cult.
They attacked the Sri Harimandir Sahib Complex nevertheless with all malice in their hearts and cruelty in their minds. They continued incessant firing on Sri Akaal Takht Sahib and surrounding residential buildings throughout the day but failed to frighten the brave Lion, Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala and his fellow defenders of the faith. The Indian army failed either to win the battle. The battle of the day again ended in a stalemate. But the Indian Army was severely beaten.
When night fell the three experienced Generals, K Sunderji, Ranjit Dyal and Kuldip Brar put their heads together desperately to chalk out a fresh strategy to subdue the one brave General, Sant Ji. They strained their nerves to fulfil the desire of Indira Gandhi, to capture Sant Ji dead or alive. This was the main and the only objective of Indira Gandhi which she had assigned to the Army. But this task was not easy. That is why the Generals were worried and so was Indira Gandhi.
The final strategy formulated by the three Generals was to launch frontal attacks on Sri Akaal Takht Sahib from all sides simultaneously. Specially trained Commandos from the 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, dressed in black denims, wearing bullet proof vases were directed to force their entry from the main entrance of the Complex. But as soon as they stepped in, the Sikh defenders, positioned on either side of the entrance, gunned them down. The few who managed to flee towards the Parikarma were taken care of by defenders entrenched around the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib. Thus, the Commando’s assault utterly failed. It looked impossible for the so-called brave Commandos to accomplish the task assigned to them. Now Kuldip Brar was dismayed as he had failed to dislodge the brave Sikh fighters from their positions. In order to accomplish his task, he ordered his troops to fire stun-gas bombs at the Sikh defenders. These chemical weapons made the Sikh fighters semi-unconscious. It was only then that the Commandos could force their entry to the Clock Tower gate and shot the semi-unconscious Sikhs, making them martyrs. Could it be called a fare war? Could it be called a bravery? It was all shame and nothing else.
Anyway, when the Commandos, reinforced by the 10th Battalion of the Guards, known as another pride of the Indian Army, stepped in the Parikarma, they faced withering fire from all directions. It was remarkable planning and strategy of General Shabeg Singh which out manoeuvred all the three Generals of the Indian Army. The Sikh defenders trained and positioned by General Shabeg Singh, mowed down these fresh Guards too. Thus, the second assault was also repulsed by the brave Sikhs by inflicting heavy casualties on the attackers.
However, the third assault carried out by about 200 Commandos and the same number of Guards succeeded to a limited extent when some of them managed to make their way in front of Sri Akaal Takht Sahib. But no sooner did they reach the courtyard than they were gunned down by squads of defenders positioned inside the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib itself. The rest of them fled to safety. This was the battle scene on the North side or the main entrance of the Complex.
At dawn pounding of Sri Akaal Takht Sahib by Vijayanta tanks ceased and with it ceased partial firing from inside the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib because emplacement set up by the Sant Ji and his followers had been shattered by heavy bombardment.
Para 28 of White Paper on Punjab agitation published by the Government of India mentions that the Army had taken control of Sri Akaal Takht Sahib by 12:30pm on 6th June and that only the ground floor and the basement were yet to be captured. Then para 30 reads, the continued resistance from the ground floor and the basement of Sri Akaal Takht Sahib was tackled during the night of 6th/ 7th June. This statement completely stands at variance with the actual account given by the eyewitnesses and that dead bodies of Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala and Bhai Amrik Singh were found on the ground floor on 7th June.
Bhai Hari Singh, Sewadar in Sri Darbar Sahib, along with 30 other persons had been hiding in the Kotha Sahib where Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj is solemnly laid to rest in the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib every evening. It was a miracle that this Kotha Sahib, despite heavy bombardment, suffered comparatively little damage although it is situated in the front of Sri Akaal Takht Sahib. Bhai Hari Singh says that at about 7:30am on 6th June Bhai Amrik Singh entered Kotha Sahib and told them to leave the room as now they (the defenders) could not match heavy bombardment by the tanks brought in by the Indian Army. About a few minutes later Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala along with nearly forty followers entered that room. Sant Ji prayed before Sri Akaal Takht Sahib and then addressed his followers, “Those who want to attain martyrdom may stay with me and others should leave Sri Akaal Takht Sahib.”
When Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala left the room his forty supporters followed him. Bhai Amrik Singh was one of them. They raised war slogan of the Khalsa, “Bole So Nihal, Sat Siri Akaal” and then rushed out of the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib in order to pounce upon the Army. The troops who had been keeping a strict eye on the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib fired bursts of machine guns at them. Some of them were hit and attained martyrdom. Among those martyrs was Bhai Amrik Singh. There was another burst of machine guns, which took life of a dozen more. The rest of the defenders escaped and went to the residence of Bhai Ram Singh, one of the priests of Sri Darbar Sahib. His house is situated behind the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib. Those dozen followers of Sant Ji changed their traditional clothes there and disappeared wearing shirts and trousers. They told Bhai Ram Singh and Bhai Pritam Singh, another priest who had hid himself there, that Bhai Amrik Singh had attained martyrdom.
The following is an extract from an interview with Bhai Mukhtiar Singh Mukhi, a survivor of the Battle of Amritsar:
At 6 o’clock on the morning of 6th June, Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale came out of the basement to ask the Singhs what time the curfew was due to end. At 6:05am, Singhs heard the news on the radio which announced the curfew had been extended till 9 o’clock and Sant Ji went back to the basement. The Singhs were bravely fighting. The tanks were outside the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib and due to Singhs holding their positions the Indian army were unable to get any closer.
Sant Ji told Singhs to escape if they could. Was there an escape route from Sri Akaal Takht Sahib? There was not a specific route, but if they found one then try to escape. But none of the Singhs were ready to fulfil Sant Ji’s command to escape, they all stayed with Sant Ji.
I then went upstairs and saw Bhai Harcharan Singh Mukta, who was a senior Singh of Damdami Taksal with a metal bucket over his head. I asked him why he had a bucket on his head? To which he replied, “we are going to attain martyrdom soon, and I don’t want any bullets hitting my face leaving me unrecognisable. When the enemy remove the bucket, they will know this is Bhai Harcharan Singh Mukta.” This shows how brave, fearless and courageous these Singhs were.
Bhai Jangir Singh Rode, the elder brother of Sant Ji was on one side, he had put on a new Bana and was putting his Kirpan into a new Gatra. Upon being asked what he was doing, in high spirits he answered, “Mukhi don’t you know? It’s time for the Bharat to set off. I might be older than Sant Ji, but I want be the Sarbala. Aren’t you going with us?” I said, I am with you Singhs. The Guru says, you can’t force yourself to live nor can you force yourself to die. And that is my only regret. (Bhai Mukhtiar Singh Mukhi becomes emotional.) Then I went downstairs again, it was half 8 in the morning. The tank outside the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib blew up the Palki Sahib that held the historic weapons. Bhai Gurmukh Singh Garvai told Sant Ji that the army was bombarding the inside of Sri Akaal Takht Sahib and had blown the Palki Sahib that held the weapons of Sikh Gurus. Hearing this, Sant Ji was extremely angered and told the Singhs to get ready as the time to attain martyrdom in the battlefield had arrived. We were roughly 75/80 Singhs at that time.
Sant Ji came upstairs and said to Bhai Kabal Singh, “Kabal Singh, when we go up there don’t ask for the gold.” (Sant Ji had said whoever killed the Narakhdhari leader Gurbachana would be rewarded his weight in gold) Kabal Singh replied, “No Sant Ji, just keep me with you.” Sant Ji assured him he would be amongst the martyred Singhs. There was a lot of love between these souls. Just for the note, Sant Ji had told Sikh congregations to give gold so they could weigh Bhai Ranjit Singh, Bhai Kabal Singh and reward them both for their actions against the cult leader. I remember Bhai Dalbir Singh Abhyassi had requested the Sikhs that had once come to Sant Ji from Bombay to donate gold as they wanted to reward the Singhs for their Sewa. They laid a small cloth on the floor, the women gave all their gold for this Sewa and all their money was donated after taking out their return fare out.
Sant Ji now did Ardas of martyrdom in Sri Akaal Takht Sahib while bullets were raining over the Singhs. The Ardas was something like, “Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji Maharaj, the sacrilege of your house is being committed by the government of this day, we ask for you to give us the blessings to fight against the invaders. May we all attain martyrdom and until a homeland of the Sikhs is not established may I take birth again and again.” Now, there was only one way out of Sri Akaal Takht Sahib which was down the stairs near the Miri Piri Nishan Sahib leading out in front of the Indian tanks. It was about 9 o’clock. On the morning of 6th June? Yes, in the morning. Like this Bhai Jangir Singh, Bhai Ajaib Singh Driver, Bhai Amrik Singh, Bhai Gurmukh Singh Garvai were all ready to go out and I along with Bhai Gurmukh Singh who was the driver, were standing together behind Bhai Amrik Singh.
As some Singhs went out, the tank fired at the Miri Piri Nishan Sahib, the air was full of smoke and fire. When the mortar from the tank hit the Nishan Sahib, Bhai Gurnam Singh and Bhai Utam Singh attained martyrdom straight away, both of them were Raagi Singhs. Bhai Gurmukh Singh, the driver grabbed my arm and pulled me into a room where we kept the instruments for Kirtan and Bhai Gursharan Singh and Bhai Thakur Singh went upstairs. The Singhs ran out and stated firing at the tanks shouting ‘Bole So Nihal Sat Sri Akaal’ We saw Sant Ji near the Nishan Sahib looking towards Sri Darbar Sahib and that’s when he was shot with a burst of bullets. Kneeling with his head towards Sri Darbar Sahib, he attained martyrdom.