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Burning Punjab – Post Mortem of Khalistani period

16. February 2003

By Harsh Thakor

The following is a description of the people´s movement during the Khalistani period. It narrates how the State uses communalism and how only democratic forces can combat it. To democratic forces the world over the period of the Khalistani movement and the secular democratic resistance is a lesson.

The Khalistani movement marked a historic epic in the history of post-Independent India. This reactionary communal fascist movement advocated the liberation of Sikhs and a separate state to be carved out for the Sikh people. Khalistani ideology advocated a separate theocratic state based on all the tenets of Sikhism.Jagjit Singh Chauhan was the founder of this movement in the late 60´s abroad. Natively from Punjab he had settled abroad and in Britain formed Sikh religious groups advocating a new state for the Sikhs. The Khalistani dictates included ban on cigarettes, ban on eating meat, ban on drinking liquor, ban on beauty parlours, prohibition of shaving and compulsion of women to wear Salwar Kameez.The people had to observe the Khalistani code in all ways of life.In Punjab the Akali Dal represented the religious Sikh politics through the Akali movement which had its origin in the Singh Sabha movement of the late 20´s which tried to communalise a secular a anti-imperialist movement To divert it with the blessings of the British the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak committee was formed. The Akali movement professed the Anandpur Sahib resolution that converted several democratic issues into Sikh demands. Democratic demands of the people like the arrest of the Jodhpur detenues,the sharing of river waters with Haryana,the transfer of the capital from Chandigarh to Amritsar ,the punishing of criminals during Delhi riots were taken up as religious issues.. However the fundamental difference of the Akali Dal with the Khalistanis was that they wanted to gain power within the Indian State through electoral means, while the Khalistanis advocated total religious liberation struggle to de-throne the Indian State. There were forces within the Akali Dal which openly supported the Khalistani armed actions and election boycott. Like the Lakhowal faction of the Akali Dal.In the mid 80´ Sant Longowal,the Akali Dal president was assassinated by the Khalistanis for was collaborating a settlement with the ruling Congress.
Since 1947 the Congress rulers that snatched power from the British attempted to play the communal card applying the same Btitish rule and divide policies. Punjab had a rich tradition of secular democratic struggles like Khoka peasant movement of the 40´s, Bhagat Singh´s Naujavan Bharat Sabha,the Ghadr Party and the Communist Party led peasant insurrections. The Congress led by Nehru and Gandhi that seized power in 1947 attempted to suppress all those struggles .It was significant that the same Congress that captured power indirectly conspired in Martyr Bhagat Singh´s (Indian anti-communal martyr)hanging in 1931.From the late 60´s the Akali Dal won power in the State. The Ruling Akali Dal was responsible for the false encounters of Communist Revolutionary activists of the Naxalite movement activists in the early 70´s.In the 70´s there was a strong secular democratic movement led in Punjab by the revolutionary democratic forces represented by groups of Communist Revolutionaries. The movement of the Punjab Students Union and Naujavan Bharat Sabha had a strong revolutionary democratic character. In 1974 a famous Moga Sangram rally was led and in 1979 a massive 10,000 strong rally was led state-wide against the murder of their leader Prithipal Singh Randhawa.The weakening of the Secular democratic movement led to the emergence of Sikh communal politics
From the early 80´sto the Early part of the 90`s the state of Punjab was ravaged by Khalistani terrorism. Communal fascists were a great threat to the people´s democratic movement. The Akali Dal represented the Sikh communalists while the Congress represented the Hindu communalism. Both parties used the communal terrorists against each other. Indira Gandhi created Bhindranwale a Sikh communal fanatic to electorally defeat the Akali Dal.Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale belonged to a Sikh fundamentalist sect which opposed the electoral Akali Dal politics. In the earlier phases the Akali Dal patronized the Sikh fundamentalist forces, harbouring several terrorists in religious temples. However when the contradiction between the Khalistani liberation and Akali Dal ideology became acute the Congress won Bhindranwale to their side to de-stabilise the Akali Dal,the ruling party. The Khalistani movement was an agent of the Indian state.Heavy state terrorism took place in Punjab against the common people in the name of combating the communal terrorists. Often a truckload of weaponry sent for arming the Khalistani terrorist forces were allowed by the Police.The situation was reminiscent of the Vietnam war and in no post-partition period was such communal terror experienced. The rays of darkness had extinguished the light from the land of Punjab. The Khalistanis were armed to the core. Innocent Hindus were shot in buses by bullets from A.K.47 machine guns.Women were raped who disobeyed the Khalistani dictates,houses razed to the ground. Villagers were forced to bow to Khalistani dictates on the butt of the gun.Jounnalist Lala Jagat Narain ,of the Hindu Samachar was assassinated when he condemned Bhindranwale.In 1984 in June the Indian Army carried out Operation Bluestar to suppress the Forces of Khalistani terrorists that had taken refuge in the Golden Temple.(Sikh religious temple)It was one of the most repressive anti –democratic acts that took place in the history of post-Independence India.100 Innocent Sikhs were shot with their hands tied down behind their backs. Various religious shrines were destroyed. Bhindranwale was killed. At that time in Jodhpur in anxiety Sikhs belonging to the Army in sheer desperation left Jodhpur to ensure their families were safe in the chaos that was created. They were frightened that their families could be attacked. These soldiers were arrested in the name of treason! In retaliation in October 1984 ,Indira Gandhi was assasinated by 2 Sikh fanatics. One of the guilty,Kehar Singh who was awarded a death sentence was innocent. After Indira Gandh´s assassination the worst massace ever in Post-Independence India took place.5000 Sikhs,were massacred by communal forces led by Jagdish Tytler and L.K Bhagat.innocent Sikhs were chopped or burnt alive. Several Hindu families came to the rescue of Sikhs by sheltering them and saving them from being trampled by the iron feet of oppression. To this day the perpetrators of the massacre have not been imprisoned. In the later phase through military combing operations in Operation Woodrose the Police under the pretext of harbouring terrorists tortured several innocent families. In villages in Punjab several innocent Sikh people, mainly youth were killed in staged encounters. The police falsely claimed that they were communal terrorists killed in encounters. Several Black laws were also proclaimed which were used as a tool to suppress the secular democratic activity like workers strikesEtc.The situation in Punjab was the equivalent of a ship trying to survive in a storm.
The Communist revolutionaries launched a protracted war against both forms of terrorism when the political parties acted as apologists for the communalists. The left parties never organized mass resistance, but some of their activists were heroically martyred who organized resistance against the Communalists.
The Mass organisations and activists of the left parties heroically resisted the Khalistani elements although their parties collaborated with the ruling class parties joining the State sponsored rallies. Activists such as Arjun Singh Mastana,Darshan Singh Canadian, Deepak Dhawan and Lal Inder Singh Lalli laid down their lives.
The Chandra Pulla Reddy group of the C.P.I.M.L ,through the Kirti Kisan Union guarded the lives of villagers from the communal terrorists. Through the Kirti Kisan Union,in the dark nights when the people in the villages faced the wrath of the communal terrorists ,their activists gave protection to the villagers ,guarding their houses from the menace of the terrorists.Several of their activists laid down their lives. Their leaders like Baldev Singh Mann(50th birth anniversary year),Jaimal Singh Padda,Sarabjeet Singh dipped their blood in the struggle against the communal fascists.The Kirti Kisan Union led several democratic agitations.The organization led several secular struggles against repayment of debts and for remunerative prices for the farmers.The Union also led protests against Poli8ce encounters against Sikh villagers in Amritsar ,Gurdaspur and Jalandhar. The Chandra Pulla Reddy Group formed the Inquilabi Kendra which led a historic march between March 23d and April 8th through various districts of Punjab in memory of Bhagat Singh to combat the communal fascist ideology of the Khalistani terrorists. It had a tremendous response from the masses.
Through Shaheed Bhagat Singh(Martyr of anti-colonial movement) brigades revolutionary groups avenged the deaths of several comrades at the hands of the terrorists. Comrade Nidhan Singh ,of the Central Team of the C.P.I.M.L laid down his life after launching a protracted struggle against the communal fascists. He had been a prominent leader of the Punjab Kisan Union and was hanged by the Khalistani fascists for not giving the secrets of the Central Team. He had rock-like tenacity.Paash,a famous revolutionary cultural poet combated communal terrorism through the anti-47 Front in Canada.Paash.a prominent revolutionary poet fought till the last breadth against the terrorists, till he fell to their bullets in Jalandhar in 1988.Intellectuals combating the Khalistani ideology with the pen like Ravinder Singh Ravi and Sumeet Preetlari of the Communist Party of India as well as Sukhraj Khaddar of the C.P.I.M.L fell to the Khalistani bullets.
Punjab`s leading civil liberties organisation,the Association for Democratic Rights played a prominent role through consistent factfinding reports,seminars and cultural programmes It consistently refuted both the state terror and the ideology of Khalistan. The Punjab Students Union also played a useful role.In the University campuses they refuted the A.I.S.S.F …‘s(AllIndia Sikh students federation, the Khalistani Student wing))Communal propaganda. It also led a joint struggle with the S.F.I(students federation of India-wing of the Communist Party of India –Marxist) and the A.I.S.F (Student wing of the Communist Party of India)thwarting Khalistani student elements.Similarly Gursharan Singh`s Amritsar Natak Kela Kendra and the Punjab Loksabhakarichya Manch held several plays and cultural programmes promoting communal harmony. Trade Unions especially those of Electricity workers fought Khalistani forces through staging several rallies They led several protests jointly with other Unions like the Brick Kiln Workers Union,Mould and Steel Workers Etc.Revolutionary democtatic Journals such as Hiraval Dasta, Lal Tara,Parcham, Disha, Inquilabi Jantak Leh and Surkh Rekha combated the communal fascist ideology, explaining the masses how ruling class forces used communalism to divide the common people.
The anti- communal and anti repression front was formed by Communist Revolutionary groups in 1986 to give mass revolutionary resistance to the state and Khalistani terror.Masses had also to be encouraged to organize there own self -defence. All the possible resources had be mobilised to combat the twin terror in Punjab. Several middle sections could be reached through this.A special revolutionary mass resistance programme had to be made. Groups of young volunteers were created by the front who were ready to bear any risk in the struggle combating the communal terrorists.At several places where the Khalistani terrorists had banned rallies and demonstrations against them, there the front units based on their strength defiantly challenged the ban and held public conferences where they fought against Khalistani terrorism. The Front helped families organize their own self-defence against the fascists.
During Operation Blue star, Communist Revolutionary activists combated Khalistani fundamentalists who tried to grab the land belonging to Hindu families in the name of religious ideology to convert it into a Sikh temple. A demonstration was organized to protest against the fundamentalist elements, which was blocked by Khalistani elements. The volunteer squad accompanying the demonstration thwarted the fundamentalist elements. During the BlueStar period the Front organized a public kitchen for the masses, specially for those who were unemployed during the curfew.Just before Blue Star comrades aadressed a funeral gathering of 2 Hindu shopkeepers to instill courage in the masses. Handwritten propoganda was also delivered from rooftops .
Khalistani gangs at that time had called for death sentences for people who disobeyed their commands over diet,dress,cultural customs etc.The social reform campaign of the communal fanatics was in fullswing and the Khalistanis threatened to ban any protest against them and offenders would be awarded a death sentence.
In March in 1987 the ringleaders of the United Akali Dal and the A.I.S.S.F,in the course of a conference at village Chaina,near Bhagtuana,threatened to assassinate front leader Megh Raj Baghtuana,who was holding meetings against them. Despite these threats Megh Raj,a front organiser,refuted the fascist ideology of the communal terrorists programme.The masses in Bhagtuana responded heroically,organising a demonstration armed with traditional weapons, surrounding the supporters of the Khalistani ideology. material. Those supporters had to beg mercy from the people Semi-secret mass meetings were organised and a score of volunteers armed with conventional weapons and under-cover illegal firearms toured the villages to raise funds and to propogate anti-Khalistani material. 9units of the Front in Goniana,Rampura,Malout, Lambi, Lehra, Kotkapura, Nihalsinghwala, Moga and Jaitu organised a massive armed conference in Jaitu on April10th.Thousands of people assembled in the conferenceshouting Slogans”Na Hindu Raaj na Khalistan,Raaj Kare Mazdoor,Kisan.(Neither Hindu Rule or Khalistani rule,we want the rule of Workers and peasants)They were armed with traditional weaponslike Lathis,swords,and spears.The village of Jaitu seemed to be staging a festival of the masses.From various towns and villages people approached leaders of the front to hold such programmes at their places.In Bishnandi and Bazakhana,terrorists destroying tombs of the dead were beaten mercilessly by the masses.At Jaitu,an Amrithdari Sikh who tried to forcibly close a cigarette shop was beaten up by the villagers.Similar incidents took place in Kotli,Chaina,Matta,Sedh SinghWala Villages. with people armed with traditional weapons showing mass defiance Such mass resistance reminded people of the heroic resistance and courage of ranks formed from common people during the Great Patriotic War against the Nazi Fascists.
On April 14th a truckload of terrorists armed with naked swords and firearms came to attack the house of Front leader Megh Raj.They were met with a shower of brickbats and stones from the housetops. The Front workers armed with traditional weapons, forced the terrorists to retreat.5Khalistanis were literally beaten by the villagers. In the end the police raided the office of the Front in Rampura Phul showing whose side they were on.In spite of repeated threat of the communal terrorists the Front held several demonstrations with numbers varying between 8,000 to 4,000 people. In another part of same the village the terrorists who felt insulted organized an area conference in the village and called Baba Joginder Singh, a sikh fanatic leader to stage it. A group of young fanatics beat up a shopkeeper on the pretext that he sold beedies.The village people who were trained and prepared beat up these elements. The participants in the Sikh fundamentalist conference retaliated but had to face a severe punishment from the revolutionary masses. On the day of a fundamentalist conference a gang of young fanatics beat up a shopkeeper on the pretext he sold beedies.The village people retaliated ,thrashing the gang. This was the first time the communal fanatics faced such a beating in the State.This news spread like wildfire to other parts and greatly inspired the people. The Communal gangs counter attacked but now the rage of the common people flowed like a torrent and they repulsed the communal elements. The villagers´ organized self-defence played a great role in this. In the same town followers of the Front organised a march with conventional weapons. This inspired 2 Hindu shopkeepers to beat up the communal terrorists who threatened them. The Police tried to ban the demonstration to protect law and order!They showed whose side they were on. In Moga in Bhatinda on July 10th district an 8,000 strong conference was held by the Front. People converged from all over the State like a tornado raising anti-Khalistani and anti-state slogans. The speakers at the rally explained the root causes of the Punjab Problem, the politics of the Front and the role the revolutionary masses had to play in defeating the enemy forces.This conference had historical significance as it was the first state-wide mass resistance in Punjab against the Communal fanaticsHere the creative and revolutionary potential of the masses was revealed who demonstrated their strength in rising up against the fascist opressors.
On April 9th 1991 Megh Raj.Jagpal Singh ,Karam Singh, Pappyand 9 other Front activists were massacred in Sewevala in Faridkot district.To commemorate their death a statewide protest took place which culminated in a 10,000 Strong rally in Sewewala where people assembling from allover the state ,armed with traditional weapons as well as raising anti-Khalistan and anti-State Slogans were mobilized .A self-defence barricade was made against the Khalistani Terrorists and police protection was opposed. Echoes of the revolutionary spirit reverberated in the hearts of the people assembled like a light radiating over them. It appeared like a huge red flame had lit the Sewewala village. The martyrdom of the Sewewala Martyrs wrote a new chapter in the history of anti-imperialist democratic movement. In 1994 finally the Khalistani movement was put down.
The Punjabi people wrote a heroic chapter during the Khalistani movement that will remain in the annals of the history of revolutionary democratic Struggle. The masses fought with undaunting courage after being trampled by the Iron feet of oppression. They showed to the world the capacity of the masses to combat a monster through struggle. The Ruling Class and Imperialist forces to divert the people from their democratic aspirations used the Khalistani movement. It was an abject lesson how the absence of a strong and secular democratic anti-feudal and anti-imperialist movement can lead to communal movements with imperialist backings. Imperialism uses the services of communalism to survive. In the Post Khalistani days a revolutionary democratic movement led by the Punjab Lok Morcha formed by Communist revolutionaries (Which had it´s origins in the anti-communal front) has been active as well as a strong anti-imperialist peasant movement led by the Bharatiya Kisan Union.
Let us remember the patriotic movement of the Punjabi people against the shackles of darkness.
The criminals of the Delhi Riots in 1984 Jagdish Tytler and L.K Bhagat must be punished!
All the Akali and Congress leaders who patronized Khalistani elements should be sentenced!
All policemen guilty of killing innocent Sikhs should be punished!
Long Live the Martyrs who laid down their lives against the Khalistanis!

By Harsh Thakor