1984-6: Views From Other Side

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  1. dalvindersingh grewal

    dalvindersingh grewal Writer Historian SPNer

    Jan 3, 2010
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    1984-6: Views from Other Side
    Dr. Dalvinder Singh Grewal

    I had a fair idea about the operations from two points of views i.e., the Army operations within the complex and the Sikhs around the complex but wanted to know about those who hated Sant Bhindranwale and projected him as a demon. These were the local Hindus, Central Government Officials, intelligence Officials, the local police officials and certain Army personnel who had been fed with tutored information or rumours. Also important was the views of the people from other parts of Punjab to the whole operations to have a clear overall picture.

    I was posted in Artillery Brigade headquarters from 1973-1976 as General Staff Officer (3) as a captain. I had taken up my Post Graduate studies in English from Himachal Pradesh University. For coaching, I used to go to a coaching academy in Hall Bazaar run by Professor Sharma who was the retired Principal of a local college. He had two sons; the younger one did Post Graduate Courses in Teaching of English with me from CIEFL Hyderabad. This brought us quite close to each other. I reached their house-cum-academy walking as it was not at much of a distance. I found younger Sharma present. I told him the purpose of my visit and requested him to tell me about the attack on Darbar Sahib and other connected incidences.

    He told quite an opposite version from what I heard at tea shop. In his view, Sant Bhindranwale was a criminal who murdered Hindus, Niarankaris or anyone who opposed him. He mentioned how bus travellers: the Hindus were segregated and murdered mercilessly and how Lala Jagat Narain and his son were murdered in cold blood. His stories of murders were long. In fact every murder which was done in Punjab was connected to him as per his version. This had made him fearful for his brother going to his college in TaranTaran. He himself being a chain smoker; was also against declaration of Sri Amritsar as a holy city and also told me how the Hindus held huge demonstrations lead by Luxmi Kanta Chawla against banning smoking in the city premises. He also told of women being raped at Darbar Sahib Complex and bodies thrown in to the Sarovar or into the sewage system. He mentioned: “Not a single women or a Hindu was safe in the Darbar Sahib Complex. Darbar Sahib has been desecrated not only through killings and rapes but also by converting the complex into a battle ground by fortifications in the buildings/ Weapons are collected on a mass scale. Heinous crimes were planned and mounted from Akal Takhat and executions are carried out on a large scale. Khalistan flags often seen in the complex are to show that they are not only successionists but also are independent of India. This is a serious threat to the integrity of India. Religious sanctity of Darbar Sahib complex no more exists.” They had been appealing to the police, the state Government and the Central Government to either arrest or eliminate Sant Bhindranwale. It is on their hue and cry that Indira sent Army and they all welcomed Army with seats on 31 May 1984 in a very big welcome. Other members of his family also were of the same point of view. Later on some students also came up for the tuition and I shared my experiences with them and extracted their views as well. Views of Hindu students were quite opposite to the Sikh students. It showed of a greater divide between the two. This had never happened earlier to this scale where lines were clearly drawn between Hindus and Sikhs. The vague and bizarre allegations about Bhindranwale and his men too were not heard from anywhere before. This divide shocked me and I became very cautious while registering the two points of view. This needed a deep research before a conclusion was arrived at. I requested Sharmas for the old newspapers especially along with local editions which they had preserved. These old issues were of Panjab Kesri and Jagbani. I collected the bundle and thanked them before leaving.

    Now it was also important to know the views of officials of the Central Government, Intelligence, the local police and certain Army personnel. I met a CRPF officer along with Sharma in Hall Bazaar and discussed the situation. He has been here since a month and had been part of the operation.

    I have got the views of Army officers at the Darbar Sahib complex who felt the operation to be a necessity. I could not verify the conduct of Army personnel during and after the operations and left it to verify from other sources. I came to know that one Lt Col Sharma being the intelligence officer of 15 Infantry Division then had taken photographs of the entire event including the operation. Colonel Goraya was in-charge of administration immediately after the operation. I could not meet them but I planned to trace them later.

    To go to my home near Raikot, Ludhiana, I managed my travel through in the military vehicles which were freely plying all over. Punjab appeared to be under stunning silence. There was excessive checking still at key points. Hardly any civilian could be seen close to the road. Army had spread all over; at almost all key points even in the remotest areas. Checking was thorough. I could see a pain writ large on the faces of almost all the Sikhs. At my home I was told of the untold miseries faced by the Sikhs in the hands of police and Army. I was also told that on hearing of the attack groups of Sikhs from remote areas started moving towards Sri Amritsar on foot or their transport since there was a complete ban on movements on the main roads in the curfew. MLA Basant Singh Khalsa from Dakha with his group crossed through the Sutlej on boats, passing through the villages on foot reached the periphery of Sri Amritsar only to be stopped by the tanks which had encircled Sri Amritsar.

    Every one talked of the game-plan of Mrs. Gandhi to teach Sikhs a lesson. Since they got the information through unofficial channels, Pakistan Radio and BBC in addition to propaganda by the Government on ‘Sarkari channels’ as they said, they were not knowing exactly what had happened. As I told them what I saw, most of the listeners had tears in their eyes. They were all feeling helpless in the chains of injustice. They had been hurt from the inner core of their hearts. When asked about the blame of terrorism on Sant Bhindranwale, they were very critical and in one voice they said, “Bhindranwale was a saint. He did not murders; no repression, no threats. It was all planned by the government agencies. It was a long term planning done after Indira Gandhi was defeated by Janta Government where Akalis were a party to Indira Gandhi’s defeat. She had planned ever since to teach Sikhs a lesson and she has done so in this murderous attack. She used Giani Zail Singh effectively who in turn tried to use Bhindranwale, but he did not fall in his net. They used intelligence agencies to spread the mayhem and attribute this all to Sant Ji. We have been listening to San Ji’s video. No where he asked people to spfread violence or kill Hindus. In fact he was against this. He had no hand in killing Hindus. There was no FIR against him. He was interrogated in Lala Jagat Narain’s case. Since he had no involvement he was let off. Entire Punjab knew about it that a game plan of murders was being played to brow beat Akali agitation and teach Sikhs a lesson.”

    There were thus two different versions of the role of Sant Bhindranwale, Smt. Indira Gandhi and the Sikh trinity. I planned to analyse these two versions in detail on reaching my location.

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