|Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale
|Born||Jarnail Singh Brar
12 February 1947
Rode, Moga, Punjab
|Died||6 June 1984 (aged 37)
|Cause of death||Operation Blue Star|
|Monuments||Gurdwara Yaadgar Shaheedan, Amritsar|
|Alma mater||Damdami Taksal|
Head of Damdami Taksal
|Movement||Sikh Panjabi nationalist movement|
|Children||Ishar Singh and Inderjit Singh|
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale ([dʒəɾnɛl sɪ́ŋɡ pɪ̀ɳɖɾɑ̃ʋɑɭe], born Jarnail Singh Brar) (2 June 1947 – 6 June 1984) was the leader of the Sikh organization Damdami Taksal, and a notable supporter of the Anandpur Resolution. He advocated against the consumption of liquor, drugs and laxness in religious practices, such as the cutting of Kesh by Sikh youth.
In the summer of 1982, Bhindranwale and the Akali Dal launched the Dharam Yudh Morcha (battle for righteousness), with its stated aim being the fulfillment of a list of demands based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. Thousands of people joined the movement in the hope of acquiring a larger share of irrigation water and the return of Chandigarh to Punjab.
Bhindranwale has been noted for strongly opposing prime minister Indira Gandhi for alleged policies against Punjab during Dharam Yudh Morcha (battle for righteousness). Later that year she ordered the attack on Golden Temple, Sikhism's most sacred Gurdwara, in Amritsar on the martyrdom anniversary of 5th Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev ji when the complex had pilgrims. Since his death, Bhindranwale has remained a controversial figure in Indian history. While the Sikhs' highest temporal authority Akal Takht describe him a great martyr of the Sikh Nation, who made supreme sacrifice for the sake of faith, the Indian government and rest of the Indians views him as an extremist.
Although Bhindranwale started the Khalistan movement: in an interview, he stated that "we like to live together, we like to live in India", but did not object to the state's hypothetical creation. However, he did consider Sikhs as "a distinct nation".
Bhindranwale was born in the village of Rode, in Moga District located in the region of Malwa. The grandson of Sardar Harnam Singh Brar, his father, Joginder Singh Brar was a farmer and a local Sikh leader, and his mother was Nihal Kaur. Jarnail Singh was the seventh of seven brothers and one sister. He was brought up as a strict vegetarian. In 1965, he was enrolled by his father at the Damdami Taksal, a religious school, near Moga, Punjab, then headed by Gurbachan Singh Khalsa. After a one-year course in Sikh studies he returned to farming again. He continued his studies under Kartar Singh, who was the new head of the Taksal. He quickly became the favourite student of Kartar Singh. Kartar Singh was fatally injured in a car accident and nominated Bhindranwale as his successor, in preference to his son Amrik Singh. Amrik Singh later became a close associate of Bhindranwale.
He married Pritam Kaur, the daughter of Sucha Singh of Bilaspur. The couple had two sons, Ishar Singh and Inderjit Singh, in 1971 and 1975, respectively. Pritam Kaur died of heart ailment at age 60, on 15 September 2007 in Jalandhar.
In Punjab, Bhindranwale went from village to village as a missionary and asked people to live according to the rules and tenets of Sikhism. He preached to disaffected young Sikhs, encouraging them to return to the path of Khalsa by giving up vices like pornography, adultery, drugs, alcohol and tobacco which had crept in. His focus on fighting for the Sikh cause appealed to many young Sikhs. Due to his religious background as a preacher and head of the most prestigious Sikh school of learning (Damdami Taksal), his followers formally called him Bhindranwale Mahapurkh, which meant "The Great Spiritual Man from Bhindran". Bhindranwale became the new leader of the Damdami Taksal when Kartar Singh Khalsa, the successor to Gurbachan Singh Khalsa, who died in a road accident on 16 August 1977, nominated Bhindranwale. Bhindranwale was formally elected at a bhog ceremony at Mehta Chowk on 25 August 1977.
The audio and video archives of his speeches would reveal a very common saying of his- "Sikh ik vakhri qaum hai" (or, "Sikhism is a distinct nation") and he never was reported to have demanded a nation-state but Bhindranwale is widely perceived to be a supporter of the creation of a Sikh majority state of Khalistan. In a BBC interview, he stated that if the government agreed to the creation of such a state, he would not refuse. Other quotes attributed to Bhindranwale on Khalistan include "we are not in favour of Khalistan nor are we against it". Responding to the formation of Khalistan he is quoted as saying, "I don't oppose it nor do I support it. We are silent. However, one thing is definite that if this time the Queen of India does give it to us, we shall certainly take it. We won't reject it. We shall not repeat the mistake of 1946. As yet, we do not ask for it. It is Indira Gandhi's business and not mine, nor Longowal's, nor of any other of our leaders. It is Indira's business. Indira should tell us whether she wants to keep us in Hindustan or not. We like to live together, we like to live in India." To which he added, "if the Indian Government invaded the Darbar Sahib complex, the foundation for an independent Sikh state will have been laid." The BBC reported that he was daring law enforcement to react to his actions of fortifying the Golden Temple in order to bolster support.
On 13 April 1978, a group of Amritdhari Sikhs of Akhand Kirtani Jatha went to protest against Nirankaris. The resulting violence led to the death of thirteen Sikhs. The death of the Sikhs shocked the Sikh community. The Nirankari leader, Gurbachan Singh was afforded a police escort to the safety of his home in Delhi by the Punjab police. When a criminal case was filed against him, the Baba had his case transferred to neighbouring Haryana state, where he was acquitted the following year. The Punjab government Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal decided not to appeal the decision. Among Sikhs there was a great frustration at this perceived sacrilege and the legal immunity of the perpetrators. This gave rise to new organizational expressions of Sikh aspirations outside the Akali party. It also created a sentiment amongst some that if the government and judiciary would not prosecute perceived enemies of Sikhism, taking extrajudical measures could be justified. The chief proponents of this attitude were the Babbar Khalsa founded by the widow, Bibi Amarjit Kaur of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, whose husband Fauja Singh had been at the head of the march in Amritsar; the Damdami Taksal led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who had also been in Amritsar on the day of the outrage; the Dal Khalsa, formed with the object of demanding a sovereign Sikh state; and the All India Sikh Students Federation, which was banned by the government.
When the Nirankari Baba was himself shot to death on 24 April 1980, the Baba's followers named Bhindranwale as a suspect, even though he was nowhere near the scene of the incident. Several of his associates and relatives were arrested. The FIR named nearly twenty people involved in the murder, most of whom had ties to Bhindranwale. A member of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, Ranjit Singh, surrendered and admitted to the assassination three years later, and was sentenced to serve thirteen years at the Tihar Jail in Delhi.
Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale would often speak of his conviction that it was the aim of Indian authorities to target affiliates of the Damdami Tasal. The following statement was from a recorded speech by Sant Bhindranwale on March 27, 1983, where he discussed the alleged murder of Hardev Singh by police authorities:
Sikh preacher and former student at Damdami Taksal, Giani Iqbal Singh, was also convinced that Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale believed that Indian authorities were targeting students and affiliates of the Damdami Taksal. He recounted the following story from 1979 in an interview with Cynthia Mahmood, associate Professor of Anthropology with the University of Maine:
Lala Jagat Narain, the editor of a widely circulated paper in which he had campaigned against Punjabi being adopted as a medium of instruction in Hindu schools, urged Hindus of Punjab to reply to government census that Hindi and not Punjabi was their mother tongue and decried the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. Narain's role in inciting communal hatred between Sikhs and Hindus is corroborated by both Sikh institutions and journalists. Narain was once accused of grossly taking the contents of the daily Sikh prayer ‘Raj karega Khalsa aqi rahei na koe Khwar hoe sabh milange bache sharan jo hoe’ out of context, when he stated that anyone caught uttering the 300 year old hymn should be dealt with by 'blowing them off by cannon fire or beheading them, by obliterating all signs of them'. He had also been present at the clash between the Nirankaris and the Akhand Kirtani Jatha. Jarnail Singh had often spoken against him, so his involvement was suspected when the well-known editor was found murdered on 9 September 1981.
On September 9th, 1981 Lala Jagat Narain was murdered. A warrant was issued four days later for the arrest of Sant Bhindranwale. In his book, Mark Tully references the grievances that Sant Bhindranwale held for Narain’s role in inciting communal hatred as evidence of Sant Bhindranwale’s guilt in Narain’s murder. However, as noted by the SGPC, this grievance was a widely held view among Sikhs in Punjab, who took issue with the violent and derogatory comments published by Narain. The charges against Sant Bhindranwale would eventually be dropped when it was revealed that there was no proof of his involvement.
There may not have been any single event that Sant Bhindranwale spoke more frequently about than the incident that took place in the village of Chandon Kalan on September 14th 1981, just two days after the Punjab police issued an arrest warrant for Sant Bhindranwale and his alleged involvement in the murder of Lala Jagat Narain. In its' White Paper, the SGPC wrote the following account of the events that took place that day in the village:
This account from the SGPC is similar to Bhindranwale's own description of the incident as evident from a speech he made in:
Chando-Kalan; Khalsa Ji the inquiry into the Chando-Kalan [incidents] isn't held up, it has not started."
However, Indian authorities alleged that it was Bhindranwale's supporters that initiated the violence. Mark Tully writes:
Following the Incident at Chandon Kalan, another incident took place at village Mehta Chowk on September 9th, 1981 when Sant Bhindranwale turned himself in to police in response to an arrest warrant for his alleged involvement in the murder of Lala Jagat Narain. On September 20th, 1983, during a memorial for the 18 members of the congregation that were shot and killed by police that day at Mehta Chowk. In his speeches, Sant Bhindranwale's account of the incident aligned with the following excerpt from The Spokesman Weekly publication:
In contrast, Indian authorities claimed that members of the congregation initiated the violence by opening fire at police. Mark Tully offered the following account:
It was later learned that Punjab’s Chief Secretary had made a request prior to the Mehta Chowk incident to retired military commander, Lt. Gen SK Sinha, to supply the police with tanks. After refusing the Secretary’s request for tanks, Sinha recounts that he later received a request to meet from then Chief Minister of Punjab in which the request was toned down to providing troops to carry out the arrest.  Sinha would later find out that the order to use tanks and military troops to carry out the arrest was coming from then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi herself.  In the end, having been given the chance in this instance to turn himself into police peacefully, Sant Bhindranwale proved not to be the threat they had perceived him to be.
In his book, Amritsar: Indira Gandhi's Last Battle, Mark Tully writes that then Chief Minister Darbara Singh admitted to having permitted extra-judicial murders in Punjab. While Tully offers criticism of the policies, he also provides a justification for the staged encounters as a seemingly reasonable method of avoiding lengthy court trials: "Police officers knew that there was no point in bringing the few extremists they did arrest before the judges , because it would take years to obtain convictions in their moribund courts. So they resorted to murder disguised by the words 'killed in an encounter'."
In stark contrast, the SGPC in its White Paper offers sharp criticism of the methods allegedly adopted by police “In a self-righteous authoritarian milieu, the security forces freely resorted to inhuman tortures, fake encounters, custody deaths and ‘disappearances’, substantial evidence of which has recently come out.“ 
When discussing encounters during his speeches, Sant Bhindranwale would provide detail that he claimed to be verifiable when recounting the crimes reported to him that were allegedly committed against Sikhs, many of which were gruesome in nature. He recalls the cremation of Kulwant Singh Nagoke, a baptized Sikh who was allegedly tortured and killed while in police custody extra-judiciously:
Sant Bhindranwale believed that then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was aware that incidents were taking place in Punjab in which Amrithdaari (baptized) Sikhs were allegedly being targeted by authorities. In an interview with Swami Vishnudevananda that had taken place prior to Sant Bhindranwale having relocated to the Golden Temple, Swami Ji was asked whether he would raise these concerns when he met with the Prime Minister, to which Swami Ji responded by saying: “If I am allowed to see her, I am going to tell these truths. That these people [Sant Bhindranwale and his followers] are innocent people and I have the proof. You have to believe because if the police have created this problem then it is injustice.”
Later in the interview, Sant Bhindranwale asked the Swami whether any government official had condemned the alleged killing of 200 innocent Sikhs by police. When Swami Ji asked for evidence, Sant Bhindranwale provided an example of a Sikh who was reported to have been shot and killed by police just two days prior, allegedly because he was an Amritdhari as well as another example of a baptized Sikh that was shot and killed by police 15 days earlier allegedly for being a supporter of Sant Bhindranwale. Throughout this interview Sant Bhindranwale would state the names of the victims and their villages as a method for Swami Ji and others to seek validation.
In July 1982, Longowal invited Jarnail Singh Bindranwale to take up residence at the Golden Temple compound. He called Bhindrawale "our stave to beat the government." Bhindranwale subsequently took shelter with a large group of his armed followers, in the Guru Nanak Niwas (Guest house), in the precincts of the Golden Temple. In late July 1983, finding an increasing number of his followers arrested day by day, Bhindranwale left his base in Chowk Mehta for the Golden Temple to start a campaign for their release there. Also from there, he joined his campaign to the Akali campaign for their political, economic, cultural, and religious demands. In the chaos of Punjab, Bhindranwale developed a reputation as a man of principle who could settle people's problems about land, property or any other matter without needless formality or delay. The judgement would be accepted by both parties and carried out. This added to his popularity.
During a publicly recorded speech es in May and July in 1983 (several months before relocating to the Akal Takht and initiating efforts to fortify it) Sant Bhindranwale alleged that government authorities were plotting to occupy the Golden Temple, citing statements he alleged were made by Senior Officials in Punjab’s Criminal Intelligence Division:
As the likelihood of the impending assault on the Golden Temple began to escalate, Sant Bhindranwale made his intentions to defend the complex clear. During a speech on May 18 1983, seven months before he made the decision to relocate and fortify the complex, he is recorded as having stated: “Do not commit any excesses, do not be unfair to anyone but just as for a Muslim there is only wilderness after Mecca, for a Sikh of the Guru, there is nothing but wilderness beyond Harmandar Sahib. We do not go to anyone's home, we do not loot anybody's shop, nor do we lay siege to any place. However, if someone intoxicated by his power as a ruler attacks our home, we are not sitting here wearing bangles that we shall continue to suffer as eunuchs and as lifeless people." 
As the days went by the law and order situation further deteriorated and violence around the complex escalated. While the Akalis pressed on with their two-pronged strategy of negotiations and massive campaigns of civil disobedience directed at the Central Government, others were not so enamoured of nonviolence. Communists known as "Naxalites", armed Sikh groups – the "Babbar Khalsa" and "Dal Khalsa", and the police clashed, and sometimes worked hand in hand. A covert government group known as the Third Agency was also engaged in dividing and destabilising the Sikh movement through the use of undercover officers, paid informants and agents provocateurs. Bhindranwale himself always kept a revolver and wore a cartridge belt; he encouraged his followers to be armed.
With the conviction that the Indian Army was preparing for an imminent attack on the Golden Temple, on 15 December 1983 Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his entourage moved to the Akal Takhat and began fortifying the complex with sand bags and light weaponry. Hindu Punjabi author A.R. Darshi writes that the move was supported by then SGPC President Gurcharan Singh Tohra over the objections of political leader Harcharan Singh Longowal. Darshi also writes that Longowal tried to persuade Giani Kirpal Singh, then head priest of the Akal Takht, to use his authority to issue a Hukamnama (edict) to resist the move but was refused. However, Journalist Khushwant Singh alleges that Bhindranwale used his political connection with Gurcharan Singh Tohra, president of the Gurdwara committee and the man responsible for keeping the peace in the Golden Temple complex, to overrule the head priest. Mark Tully and Satish Jacob wrote, "All terrorists were known by name to the shopkeepers and the householders who live in the narrow alleys surrounding the Golden Temple... the Punjab police must have known who they were also, but they made no attempt to arrest them. By this time Bhindranwale and his men were above the law." However, Ranbhir Sandhu states that Bhindranwale presented himself, along with over 50 of his supporters, at the Deputy Commissioner's residence on the day he moved to the Darbar Sahib complex: therefore, his purpose in moving there was not hide from the law. Gurdev Singh, District Magistrate at Amritsar till shortly before the invasion is on record as having assured the Governor of the state that he could arrest anyone in Darbar Sahib at any time.
Critics of Sant Bhindranwale claim that he had refused all efforts made by the Gandhi administration to negotiate a settlement. The Prime Minister reportedly attempted to renew negotiations but at the same time she warned
In contrast, in his book, 'Cannon Unto Canon’, Amritsar-born Indian Ambassador to Madagascar Daljit Singh Pannun recounts the terms he had struck with Sant Bhindranwale while inside the Golden Temple. These terms would have involved a period of 10 days where Bhindranwale and his supporters would agree to disarm their rifles in exchange for a commitment from the Indian government to stop torturing Sikh youths in captivity. During these negotiations, Pannun asserts that Sant Bhindranwale clearly stated that he did not have any demands for Khalistan.
Gurdev Singh, former Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar from July, 1983, to June, 1984, also asserted his confidence that Bhindranwale and his supporters could have been arrested without the use of military action:
Subramaniam Swami, who at the time was an elected member of India’s Janata Party, published an article soon after the massacre inside the Golden Temple to say that the government had been master-minding a disinformation campaign to create legitimacy for the action. The goal of this disinformation campaign, according to Swami, was to “make out that the Golden Temple was the haven of criminals, a store of armory and a citadel of the nation’s dismemberment conspiracy.”
According to Author Ranbir Singh Sandhu:
Author Joyce Pettigrew offers the following perspective on the government’s motivation behind the assault on the Golden Temple:
On 3 June 1984 Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi initiated Operation Blue Star and ordered the Indian Army to raid the Golden Temple complex to remove armed Sikhs militants from the complex. Bhindranwale was killed in the operation.
According to Lieutenant General Kuldip Singh Brar, who commanded the operation, the body of Bhindranwale was identified by a number of agencies, including the police, the Intelligence Bureau and militants in the Army's custody. Bhindranwale's brother is also reported to have identified Bhindranwale's body. Pictures of what appear to be Bhindranwale's body have been published in at least two widely circulated books, Tragedy of Punjab: Operation Bluestar and After and Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi's Last Battle. BBC correspondent Mark Tully also reported seeing Bhindranwale's body during his funeral.
People who maintain that he survived the operation include Dilbir Singh, the Public Relations Advisor at Guru Nanak Dev University. He stated that Bhindranwale was injured on the right side of his temple. He stated, "a government doctor verified he was captured alive. He was tortured to death." R.K. Bajaj, a correspondent for Surya magazine, claimed to have seen a photograph of Bhindranwale in custody. This claim is strongly contested, especially by Bhindranwale's son who has now become a prominent figure within Sikh politics. Some within the Damdami Taksal claimed he is still alive and well. Thus he is supposed to come back and reactivate the fight for freedom from Indian oppression and finish the Dharam Yudh Morcha.
Cynthia Keppley Mahmood wrote in Fighting for Faith and Nation: Dialogues With Sikh Militants that Bhindranwale never learned English but mastered Punjabi. He was adept at television, radio and press interviews. Keppley further stated that "those who knew him personally uniformly report his general likability and ready humour as well his dedication to Sikhism". The author further states that "Largely responsible for launching Sikh militancy, he is valorized by militants and demonised by enemies and the accounts from the two divergent sources seem to refer to two completely different persons."
Though journalist Khushwant Singh believed himself to be on Bhindranwale's hit list, he allowed that the Sikh preacher-become-activist genuinely made no distinction between higher and lower castes, and that he had restored thousands of drunken or doped Sikh men, inured to pornographic films, to their families, and that Operation Blue Star had given the movement for Khalistan its first martyr in Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. In 2003, at a function arranged by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, at Akal Takhat Amritsar under the vision of president SGPC Prof. Kirpal Singh Badungar and Singh Sahib Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, former jathedar of the Akal Takht made a formal declaration that Bhindranwale was a "martyr" and awarded his son, Ishar Singh, a robe of honour. Harbans Singh's The Encyclopedia of Sikhism describes Bhindranwale as "a phenomenal figure of modern Sikhism".
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