Portrait Of Former Punjab CM's Assassin Inside Golden Temple Complex: When Will SGPC Speak About Sikh Victims Of Khalistani Terror?

Portrait Of Former Punjab CM's Assassin Inside Golden Temple Complex: When Will SGPC Speak About Sikh Victims Of Khalistani Terror?

by Rohit Pathania - Thursday, June 16, 2022 02:13 PM IST
Portrait Of Former Punjab CM's Assassin Inside Golden Temple Complex: When Will SGPC Speak About Sikh Victims Of Khalistani Terror? Portrait of suicide bomber Dilawar Singh
  • The perpetrators of Khalistani terror are being remembered; when will someone remember the victims?

When Beant Singh became the chief minister of Punjab, there was little hope of his political survival as the CM. In the Punjab of 1992, there was hardly any reason to rejoice.

The job was certainly an unenviable one, thanks to the reign of chaos that was perpetuated by the Khalistani terrorists, or khadkus as they would later get to be called.

The low voter turnout that brought Beant Singh to power also put into question for many the legitimacy of the elections, as the Khalistani sympathisers of the time would gloat.

The task at hand was also challenging - a section of the state’s Hindu population had already migrated, thanks to the senseless killings, and 'liberated zones' had been declared where the writ of the state would cease to exist post 6 pm.

Having been a social worker for most of his life, the gravity of the situation and the urgency to address the challenge would certainly not have been lost on him.

Given these circumstances, the fact that Beant Singh had taken on the Khalistani terrorists sometimes does not get appreciated enough. It was his pursuit of KPS Gill, the legendary but controversial IPS officer, to lead the fight against terror in Punjab, that had dealt the first tough blow to terrorism in a state where even Julio Ribeiro had nearly been assassinated by, and whose ‘bullet for bullet’ strategy proved to be a spectacular failure.

However with Beant Singh’s backing, KPS Gill had ushered in a sense of peace and normalcy in the state within months, literally pulling the state back from the brink. This had made him extremely unpopular with the terror groups, marking him for life. As the fax received by the media from Babbar Khalsa terrorists had clearly outlined: "by betraying the Sikh community, Beant Singh was at the top of our hit-list, thus earning for himself a death sentence."

The facts though speak for themselves about the terrorists.

The use of a suicide bomber was unprecedented in the murky chapter of Khalistani terrorism. The bomber was also not really much of a surprise - Dilawar Singh, the assassin, was a dismissed special police officer of the Punjab Police. Even the arrested among them were people who had been associated with various arms of the police force.

It is also said that Dilawar had said hours before his strike - Ajj mein jattan da sir uccha kar dena hai (Today, I will make the Jats feel proud) - with the irony entirely missed out perhaps that the man he was going to kill was also a Jatt after all.

Cut to the present day, and we see the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) honouring Dilawar Singh, calling him a qaumi shaheed (martyr of the religious community).

The SGPC has come under criticism of course. That the implication of the action has not been lost on anyone was brought out by the Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO)’s Sarabjit Singh Verka, who spoke to The Times of India, calling it the ‘return to terrorism’ in Punjab. Verka, himself a victim of police torture in that era, also connected the political dots back to the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and its attempts to regain relevance by raising ‘Panthic issues’.

Of course, the matter of the portrait is not new. It was first decided through a resolution in 2017 by the SGPC; however, what was perhaps rather disturbing was the statement made by the Jathedar of Akal Takht, Mr. Harjinder Singh Dhami, claiming that Dilawar Singh sacrificed himself to stop the atrocities on Sikhs.

This begs one to ask for the rationale behind this glorification of terrorists to this extent by the SGPC, because the track record of the khadkus in merciless killings and violence.

Reports of that era highlight how Sikhs were harassed by them. But what is really startling is the endorsement of terrorists who were wantonly engaged in sexually targeting Sikh women.

Who Will Speak For The Sikh Women Who Suffered?

A 1992 report of India Today had captured in detail how stories of abduction, molestation, rape and forced marriage of women by terrorists was commonplace in the dark days in Punjab. These women, thanks to social norms, stood disowned by families and shunned by societies.

KPS Gill had also recalled how in 1986, after seizing control of the Harmandir Sahib, a large number of Sikh women were kept captive in the shrine, to be ‘used’ when and how the ‘warriors of Khalistan’ pleased; and then to be killed in cold blood; almost without exception.

Paramjit Singh Judge, an academic with the Guru Nanak Dev University of Amritsar, had along with two other professors, conducted a survey in the Majha belt to understand the nature of terrorism and terrorists in Punjab. In this study, which went on to become a very important book, Paramjit Singh Judge and others had noted the following:

Towards the end of terrorism, a lot of information appeared on the moral degeneration of the terrorists particularly in terms of their sexual exploits or the rapes committed by them.
We anticipated that the villagers would be disinclined to discuss this aspect of the terrorists' activities. Yet, to our surprise, the respondents offered to give information or confirmed some of the cases without much hesitation. There was no evidence of 'rape' as a tactic of 'revenge' against an adversary. The incidents were viewed as a part of licentious lust. A shared sense of pain and shame marked silences in some cases. Occasionally one or two in the gathering appeared keen to blurt out all they knew. One respondent, for example hurried to explain: "They were eating almonds and drinking (desi) ghee mixed milk; such food had to have some outlet''.

In fact, in a discussion with a newspaper of the time, Mr. Judge had also said the following:

Often terrorists would enter a house just before dinner, have dinner, and then force all the family members except the young women up to the terrace... The majority of the terrorists died within a year. In that time they had access to 50 to 55 women.

Given these examples, it begs the question as to what the SGPC has done to help these victims of khadkus who were forced to be sex-slaves against their will, only to be shunned later by society?

Will they continue to endorse these people? Who will speak for these victims of that dark age?

Rohit Pathania works in the space of renewable energy and environment. Other interests include politics and the economy.
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