After reading the thread here and the links posted to Wikipedia, etc., I started to wonder if maybe I had been duped by my sources, my memory and by the media at the time, into an innaccurate and unfair 'picture' of Bhindranwalee. So I did some research.
My father, as a miltary man himself, was impressed with the ability Bhindranwalee had to lead men and inspire them for his cause.
But I now think it would be a self-denial to ignore that there WAS another side to the man.
We are all imperfect beings with both bad and good qualities. One who has only good qualities prevailing in him deserves the epithet 'Sant'.
After reacquainting myself again with the details, I myself don't see how Bhindranwalee deserves this title.
To present him as a 'hero' of sikhism imho castes a bad light on the teachings of the gurus.
Sorry if that offends people, but I ask you who disagree to consider without bias the following information.
No doubt he was a charismatic and inspiring leader. He DID have many noble qualities, sure.
That he loved his own interpretation of "his religion" and was tireless in its promulgation is not in any doubt.
But where were the saintly qualities of tolerance and comapassion and brotherly love for those who did not share his 'interpretation'? If you didn't agree you were put on a 'hitlist'.
Maybe its because many people are too young to know first-hand what was happening in the Punjab in the early eighties, or maybe its because many ex-patriate sikhs in UK Candada, etc., were too far from events to get a correct picture of events.
I was in Punjab in '83 and '84 and stayed in Jullundur, Amritsar and Kapurthala. The general perception at that time in those areas was very much of FEAR among minority groups such as, Nirankaris, Radha Swamis and Hindus. Even many in the Sikh farming community were in a state of fear.
The creation of this prevailing sense of 'fear' was understood at the time to be a deliberate policy intended to drive out all but those regarded as 'pure' sikhs from the Punjab in pursuit of a seperate sovereign sikh state.
Many people who publically criticised Bhindranwalee were murdered. This was a time when even the Punjabi police were in fear of Bhindranwalee and his gangs. Every day, you could read in the newspapers about five to thirteen people being murdered . And that is no exageration. Every day!
That is NOT to lay blame for all those killings at Bhindranwalee's feet. Just to remind people of the situation at that time in particular as regards what Bhindranwalee did regarding this climate of fear.
"a true sikh should not fear anyone nor cause fear in anyone."
Sant Harchand Singh had become so scared of Bhindranwalee he did not meet him for six months in 1984 and enlisted the support of the Babbar Khalsa to protect him from attack.
When Bhindranwalee was at his most influential, not even the judiciary or police dared to cross him and were afraid of him. (Some may say with some justification that this was a good thing in certain cases). If they did cross him, he needed only to send word through a telephone message or by messenger and within 24 hours they would be punished or murdered.
How else was other than a fear of reprisals was he able to smuggle all that heavy armament into the Golden Temple complex, (Machine guns, mines, Sten guns, Anti-tank weaponery, grenades, etc.) And this at a time when the government was trying to secure his arrest?
It was then regarded as a well-known fact that many killings were directed by Bhindranwalee personally. Also I am not aware of him denying this. On the contrary he used the fear engandered by this belief to further his own ends and to gain control in the deteriorating situation with regard to the polictical stalemate between Akali Dal leadership, Congress, etc. This he did very succesfully.Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/showthread.php?t=5324
To imagine he was just a religious man who was innocent of ordering/encouraging murder and also innocent of terrorising those he regarded as obstacles in his cause, for me is the exact oppsosite of the facts.
All the killer gangs of that time such as 'Dal Khalsa', 'Bhindranwalee Tigers', 'Dashmesh Regiment', Khalsitan Commandos', 'A.I.S.S.F.', 'National Council of Khalistan', etc. all declared allegiance to him.
Whole families of people who criticised these gangs were being wiped out, sikh or non-sikh.
We must ask what did he do to stop such actions? What quotes of his are there denouncing this behaviour? I am aware of none. Can anybody correct me in this?
As regards him supporting the idea of 'Khalistan' or not... Here are some quotes from Bhindranwalee that he made to the press at that time:
"The sikhs are a seperate nation. They must have a special status in the union like Jammu & Kashmir".
The Week, March 27 -April 2, 1984).
"I ask them - [the British Sikhs] - to join the fight for our independence as a seperate nation."
(Daily Mail, April 12, 1984)
"A sikh without arms is naked, a lamb led to the slaughter. Buy motor cycles, guns and repay the traitors in in the same coin."
(Int. Herald Tribune, April 24, 1984)
In a recorded speech to a select gathering in the Golden Temple complex he said:
"It comes to 35, not even 100. Divide fifty-five crores, then each sikh gets only 35 hindus, and not even 36th. How do you say you are weak?"
What is that if not a reference to how many hindus need to be killed by each sikh in a war for independence?
There is no doubt that the police ALSO were performing their own terrorist activities and unjust actions against suspected 'Khalistani' terrorists/supporters. That this included innocent sikhs is without doubt. For that reason I believe Bhindranwalee was regarded by many in the sikh communityas a protector and brave fighter for oppressed sikhs against such injustice.
In that regard, the 'hitlists' that Bhindranwalee circulated, have been described by supporters as only for those policemen who killed or tortured Bhindranwalee's men.
But also all sikhs who operated as 'sikh gurus' were on his lists, the sikh historian and critic of Bhindranwalee Dr. Gopal Singh was on his hitlists, etc., etc.
The lists go on and on.
So to say it was only a campaign of intimidation against corrupt police is only half the story:
S.Harbans Singh Manchandra (Pres. of Gurdwara Parbandhak Committe, Delhi) murdered March 28th, 1984;
Dr. V.N. Tiwari (Prof. of Punjab Uni) killed Chandigarh, 3rd April 1984;
85 yr old Giani Partap Singh, staunch critic of Bhindranwalee murdered in Amritsar, May 10th, 1984;
The question occurs how much can accountability for these many, many murders be laid at Bhindranwalee's door? No doubt many were done without his direct order. Old scores were also settled by these gangs in ways that had nothing to do with Bhindranwalee.
But he must surely be held accountable by any fair-minded, unbiased person for his role in supporting and promoting the climate of fear and religious intolerance prevalent at that time.
Bhindranwalee first was wanted in the connection of the murder of Lala Jagat Narain and warrants were issued as as early as September 1980.
The murderer of the Nirankari guru on 24th Aril 1980 was by Ranjit Singh. Someone who had for a time worked in Bhindranwalee's household and had been a close confidant of Bhindranwalee.Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/showthread.php?t=5324
Did Bhindranwalee ever deny involvemnt in these murders or condemn these acts?
Regarding the murders of eminent Hindus like Jagat Narain, and of the Nirankari Baba Gurcharan Singh, Bhindranwalee said:
"whosoever has performed these great feats deserves to be honoured at the Akal Takht. If they come to me, I'll weigh them in gold".
This quote of his has been repeated many times but can be found in 'India Today', April 30th 1983).
I personally feel that it is a sad state of affairs when a person such as this is revered as a Sant and as a Martyr and ispresented as a lofty 'example' of Sikhi to sikh youth.
Apologies fo any offence caused.
Apologies also for possible misunderstandings on my part, or innacurate information in this post. Corrections of such will be gratefully welcomed by me if presented constructively and with references and reasoned argument.