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Operation BlueDisgrace: From An Interview With Giani Pitam Singh Ji

Chaan Pardesi

Oct 4, 2008
London & Kuala Lumpur
Interview with Giani Pitam Singh ji, then Head Granthi of Siri Akal Takht Sahib on Blue Star ( From his book "Diary De Panne"). English Edition of this Book will be published within next 3/4 months.

Giani Pritam Singh Ji, Head Granthi, Sri Akal Takht Sahib, was present on his duty during the army attack and remained there all the while. I have interviewed him about it. Bhai Harbans Singh, S. Swaran Singh Farrash, and Bhai Hari Singh, who remained with him during the attack, were present at this interview.
Q: You were present in Sri Akal Takht Sahib at the time of army attack; please tell us about it.
The CRPF had started firing at Sri Darbar Sahib on June 1. Curfew was imposed thereafter and a small relaxation was given on June 3. I stayed here on June 3 due to the curfew. Bhai Harbans Singh, Bhai Swarn Singh Farrash, and Bhai Hari Singh were with me throughout. I sat at the holy service of Sri Guru Granth Sahib early in the morning on June 4 and took the edict (Hukamnama). Bhai Gursharan Singh of Jatha Bhindranwale was sitting in the periphery below Sri Akal Takht Sahib and singing Asa di Var. It was about 4:40 a.m. when 10-12 cannon ***** were thrown by the army, which damaged the high buildings like Sindhian Dharamshala, Nakai Bunga, upper rooms, and the minarets of Bunga Ramgarhia. When Bhai Gursharan Singh, the religious singer, heard the sound of cannon *****, he ran upstairs and came to the building of Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Soon after, the rain of cannon ***** started. At this, we discussed the situation and came to the room where Sri Guru Granth Sahib was placed. In the meantime, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale came there. I told him that his Jatha which was singing Asa di Var has left its place, which was against the convention. He told us that it did not indicate any weakness on our part. I told him that I had not shown any weakness and was sitting at the religious service of the Holy Guru Granth Sahib . After some time, he found Bhai Gursharan Singh and his Jatha and sent them towards us. They completed the singing of Asa di Var inside Sri Akal Takht Sahib. They said the prayer according to the convention and distributed Karah Prasad, the holy pudding.
In the evening, we held the sitting of Sodar (Sodar di chauki) and completed the reading of Rehraas. Holy weapons were shown according to the convention. Sri Guru Granth Sahib was laid to rest (Sukhasan) and placed in the Kotha Sahib.
Q: How long did you continue the conventional religious service at Sri Akal Takht Sahib?
Upto the evening of June 5. We took the edict (Hukamnama) of the Holy Granth Sahib early in the morning; Bhai Gursharan Singh and his Jatha performed the Kirtan of Asa di Var; we distributed the prasad after saying the prayer. During the day, we continued to perform religious service of the Holy Granth turn by turn, although the bullets kept raining from all sides. In the evening, five or six staff members went away while these three persons stayed with me. In the evening, there was no electric supply. After the Sodar sitting, Rehraas, and evening prayer, we put the holy weapons in the sheaths and placed them in the almirah meant for them.
Q: When did the army enter Sri Darbar Sahib?
It was about eight at night. Nothing was visible due to darkness, but the sound of boots indicated that the army had entered. First of all, they came opposite Sri Akal Takht Sahib; they fired a ball for light and released tear gas. It was a very difficult condition. We made our scarfs wet and placed them on our eyes. There was intense firing from both sides. Gradually, the firing by the army decreased. At this time, the followers of Bhindranwale who were firing from the upper storey of Sri Akal Takht Sahib raised slogans. It appeared that most of the army men were killed there. (According to the official sources, 59 out of the 60 commandos sent there were killed).
Afterwards, at about ten tanks entered the periphery of Sri Darbara Sahib and kept firing all the night from the side of Dukh Bhanjni Beri and Shaheed Bunga. During this time, Sant Bhindranwale and his companions seemed to have come down in the basement. We took shelter behind a wall nearby.
The tank ***** kept raining all the night. The debris flew here and there and even fell upon us.
Q: Did you meet Sant Bhindranwala?
I met him on June 4. He was moving inside Sri Akal Takht Sahib and signing the hymn: 'Sura so pahchaniya, jo larey deen ke het; purja purja kat maray, kabhoon na chhade khet' and 'Je tau prem khelan ka chau, sir dhar tali gali mari aao.' It would be about eight in the morning on June 6. Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale came with some companions to the toilets constructed below the quarter of Giani Sadhu Singh. He was talking to his companions after washing their hands at the water tap. We were sitting on the other side by the wall. We could not make out the conversation due to the sound of firing. They went towards the basement again. At about 8:30 a.m., Bhai Amrik Singh came with his companions towards the toilets. By chance, a ball hit the door in the wall, which exposed us. Finding us sitting on the ground, Bhai Amrik Singh said, "Singh Sahib! It doesn't look nice you are sitting on the ground; you could go to a room and sit on a bed." I told him that all rooms were being hit by the bullets and that it was a safer place. The upper portion of Sri Akal Takht Sahib had been destroyed and could be seen by us clearly. The firing continued in the meanwhile. I asked them: "What is your programme?" He said: "Sri Akal Takht has been disfigured. It is not proper for us to live under this condition. We had planned to attain martyrdom at 7:30 a.m. but have decided to do so at 9:30 a.m. after discussing the matter with Sant Bhindranwale. A large number of Sikhs have been killed; if we save ourselves, people will not spare us." He pointed to his deceased father, Sant Kartar Singh Bhindranwale, and said: "It is good that we would soon join the holy saints." At that time, Bhai Amrik Singh was assigning various duties to his companions. He told one of them to arrange Akhand Paath at his home. He told still another that he should distribute sweets after about a month at his home where a son would be born to him.
Bhai Amrik Singh also asked us, "Have you got any means to escape?" My companions were insisting that we should leave the complex by opening the iron gate outside. The key of this lock was with Sant Bhindranwale's companions. I asked him if they permitted, we could go out by opening the outside lock. He said, "You may leave, but the army will not spare you. If you can find any means to escape, you may go out." We opened this gate and ran towards the Bohr Wali Haveli where the employees of the SGPC lived. We got the door opened by the helper Balbir Singh. It was about nine at that time. About 10-12 employees of the SGPC and the wife of the helper were staying there.
Q: Did you learn anything about the martyrdom of Sant Bhindranwale?
No, we did not witness anything.
Q: When were you apprehended by the army?
On the night of 6-7 June, we stayed at the house of the helper. The armymen knocked at the door on June 8. They asked us why we were staying there. I told them about myself and gave them information about the accompanying employees. We showed them our identity cards. They said that all of us were terrorists. They called for more force and searched the house but they did not find any weapon or objectionable thing there. Then they stripped us all and made us to stand in one line with only our underwears. The lady was the last in the line. Those army men had one Light Machine Gun (LMG). When they were going to shoot us, one of them said, "There are only two bullets in this magazine. Load the gun with a new magazine." There was a Sikh soldier among the previous armymen. He immediately rushed to Major Rattan Singh of Haryana Jat Regiment and brought him on the scene. They were about to shoot us when Major Rattan Singh came there and said, "Stop. Send them to me at the Temple in Kathian Wala Bazar." We put on our clothes.
We went towards that side. We saw about 30-40 Sikhs with their hands tied on the backs sitting in the street and being hit by rifle butts, sticks, and boots. Major Rattan Singh asked us, "Are you terrorists?" I told him that I was the Head Priest of Sri Akal Takht Sahib. He said, "Why did you not surrender when we made the announcement?" I told him that we were inside the quarter of the SGPC and that we did not hear any announcement. He said that no concession would be given to any terrorist that day. We were searched and the money in our pockets was taken away. An army Havildar asked me, "Are you a Sikh or a Muslim?" I replied, "I am a Sikh of Guru Ram Dass and was serving my Guru." That Havildar abused me and put the point of his gun on my chest saying, "Call your Guru Ram Dass to help you." I heaved a deep sigh and felt that the army was challenging my Guru. I thought of the Guru in my mind and prayed, "O Divine Master! Justify your name and save your devotee." In the meantime, Rattan Singh came there on a round. Some Hindus had brought food, etc., for the soldiers. They recognized me and requested the Major to spare me. He called me towards him and made me sit on a chair beside him. The Guru had himself helped his devotee and saved his honour.
I told the Major that the army was supposed to be disciplined and to exercise restraint but his army was not following any principles; they were acting like butchers. Perhaps he felt pity and took me in his arms saying, "I will try my best to save you." Then he talked to the Area Incharge on wireless. Thereafter, he said to me, "You are a religious man. Please speak the truth when I ask you certain questions." I replied, "I will speak only the truth." He asked, "Are all the 12-13 people with you employees of the SGPC?" I testified to this fact. Then he asked me about another 40-50 people. I did not know them. I, therefore, said that they might be new employees whom I did not know. He said, "All of them are terrorists." (Later, they were all killed.).
The Major told me that he could not acquit me in any way and thought it better to send us to the army camp from where they would be released after a few days. Therefore, a soldier led us to Bazar Mai Sewan. We saw the death bodies of many Sikhs on the way. We were brought to the army camp from Faqir Singh's shop in Bazar Mai Sewan. From there, we were brought to Darbar Sahib during a meeting of the Sikh High Priests (Sikh Sahiban) and released thereafter.



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