Giani Zai] Singh. the first sucker Sikh President of India, paid a visit to the Golden Temple Complex on 8th June 1984 under tight security arrangements made by the Army. He was dressed in a spotless white Achikin and Churidar Pyjama. The only ‘blot’ on his snow white, shining, dress was a red rose hung on the left side of his Achikin. He was roaming around in the Complex clasping “red rose” as though he had gone to attend a marriage ‘party. He must have witnessed the horrible scene there. The blood stained rooms, the blood stained Parkarma around the Sarovar were still visible here and there although the Army had washed away all these places before his visit. He must have seen the Akal Takht reduced to rubbles by heavy and intensive bombardment and heavily damaged Darshni Deori as well as bullet holes in the Golden Temple. He must have witnessed the destruction of surrounding buildings and debris scattered all around in the Parkarma and outside the Complex. He must have smelt the stench emitted by the decomposed bodies of thousands of Sikhs. Seeing all these horrible acts of savagery he was not visibly moved. What he said to the Governor B.D. Pande was “Where from such a large number of weapons happened to be smuggled in by the extremists and brought to the Golden Temple Complex. Did you lend your eyes and ears to some one else.”
Astonishingly, he did not bother about the destruction of Akal Takht and other buildings. Nor did he brother about the brutalities committed by the Army. He did not question why the army used main battles tanks Vijyanta and heavy field guns to destroy the Akal Takht and blast off hundreds of Sikhs.
The weapons Giani Singh had talked about, were not those recovered from the militants. These were brand new weapons arranged by the Army to give a false impression that the extremists were heavily armed. When those.
All forms of aid are denied to the surviving victims. The Red Cross is refused permission to enter the Temple complex and the wounded are left to suffer for days. Many people die of dehydration as they are refused water. The Christian Science Monitor reported on the 8th June 1984:
“On Saturday, medical workers in Amritsar said soldiers had threatened to shoot them if they gave food or water to Sikh pilgrims wounded in the attack and lying in the hospital.” The CFD report, ‘Oppression in Punjab’ remarks: “In accordance with the UN Charter of Human Rights, the Red Cross is permitted to go in aid of the wounded right inside the enemy territory, but in Amritsar in June, 1984, the Red Cross was not allowed to enter the Golden Temple – a respected and hallowed part of our country – in aid of Indians underattack from the Indian Army. It only means that the attack was so brutal and the battle scene so grisly, that there was much to hide from public scrutiny, even if it be that of a neutral agency called the Red Cross. This also explains perhaps why Press censorship had already been imposed, the last of the journalists were hounded away and the Press was not allowed to go inside the Golden Temple up to June 10, when they were taken on a guided tour of the complex for the first time since the Army operation began almost a week before.”
An article that was published in India Today (30/9/84) details the most vulnerable of the 18,000 “suspected terrorists” arrested in June 1984 and detained in maximum security prisons:
“These were the other victims of Operation Bluestar, little children, some only two years old, who got rounded up. Since then, 39 children have been languishing in two Ludhiana jails. The youngest of these children, Jasbir Kaur, is only two years old, her sister Charanjit Kaur is four, and her brothers, Harinder and Balwinder, are six and twelve. There is four-year old Rinku whose father died during the army operation and whose mother has been missing since. Like the rest of the ‘infant terrorists’, Rinku had to go through gruelling interrogation. When asked where his mother was he replied, “I don’t know”. Asked where his father was, he said, “Killed with a gun”. Why his stomach was so big; “Because I eat clay”. Their ordeal began in early June when they were picked up around the Temple and packed into camps in Amritsar and Jalandhar. Two central agencies, the Central Bureau of lnvestigation (CBI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) began their questioning. There were long, intimidating sessions. The children cried and begged to be sent home. But it went on for days. Their little finger prints were taken and IB sleuths set about verifying their bonafides. One interrogating officer admitted that officials were not moved by the children’s cries.
The weapons Giani Singh had talked about, were not those recovered from the militants. These were brand new weapons arranged by the Army to give a false impression that the extremists were heavily armed. When those weapons were telecasted they looked brand new and were shining. The weapons possessed by the militants were either damaged by heavy bombardment or some of them were carried by those who had escaped. The weapons recovered from them ought to be old and damaged.
Anyway Giani Zail Singh’s remark was not strange. He was expected to use any language against the militants. He is the same Giani Zail Singh who, before election to the institution of President of India, had declared publicly, “I am prepared to sweep the room of Indira Gandhi with a broomstick if she orders me to do so.” If this man could stoop so low, what else could be expected of him. Sant Bhindranwale rightly said about him that he was a Sikh of Indira Gandhi and not of Guru Gobind Singh. The Giani by his selfishness proved that he was really the Sikh of Indira Gandhi who is a slur on Sikhism. He gave explanation to Jathedar Kripal Singh and others that he being a constitutional head of the state could not do anything.
In order words he meant to say that he could not prevent attack by the Indian Army on the Akal Takht. If he was so helpless, he could have resigned in protest against the military operation. His resignation might have forced Indira Gandhi to reconsider her decision to send Armed Forces to invade the Golden Temple Complex. Did he resign? Well, he did not. But when he had seen horrible destruction of the Akal Takht and other buildings, and learnt about merciless massacre of Sikh pilgrims, he should have resigned there and then and atoned his sins.
Some firing still continues within the Golden Temple Complex.
(Eye witness Giani Puran Singh’s account);
The four Singhs had dug up a trench under the Ramgarhia bunga. Three amry troops went in, and they were pulled by the Singhs into the trench.
The soldiers told them to get out. The Singhs wanted a negotiator before anything would happen. So they called me to negotiate with them or otherwise they wouldn’t get out. I said if I was to negotiate, then don’t shoot the Singhs. To this they agreed. But the officer said we wont kill them here. I knew they would shoot them elsewhere and that if the Singhs were fired at while I was there, I would held prisoner by the Singhs. So the officer told me to find out if the three troops sent in were alive, especially the doctor with them and then he said “We’ll forgive them.”
I began to speak to them via speakers. The Singhs said that they were willing to do what I told them to do. I asked if the military troops were alive. The Singhs said no military person was alive in their trench. The officer requested me to leave and the Singhs would be flushed out. They fought all day, all night. However, the army just couldn’t flush them out. Even when Giani Zail Singh (the President of India at the time) came to Sri Darbar Sahib, they were still fighting.
Giani Zail Singh was shot when crossing the firing line of the Singhs, however if the Singhs stopped firing then they would be martyred. But they didn’t know of anyone visiting Sri Darbar Sahib. It was turning dark. A colonel had a gun with him. His commander gave him the blessing to do the following which I witnessed myself. The colonel fitted some battery to the gun and began to fire at the Singhs. So the Singhs were apparently killed but we didn’t know if the colonel was alive or not. However, nothing happened to the Singhs, as they carried on firing. The army began to throw grenades. But an officer told me that they were not doing much, considering the Singhs were still firing. Then the army began to fire tear gas as obviously this would react with their eyes. One Singh got out the trench, as he was in agony, and was shot down by the army. And then the other Singhs went out to search for water and they were also shot down by the army.
(excerpts from eye witness account of Giani Sahib Singh ji),
HARBIR SINGH: When was Sri Guru Granth Sahib’s Prakash conducted?
SINGH SAHIB: First of all we cleaned the insides of Sri Harimandir Sahib. The Sikh soldiers helped me with this task. Sukhasan of the sacred copy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib that was hit by a bullet was conducted next. Then the Sri Guru Granth Sahib copy was brought from Lachi Bazer Gurdwara and the prakash was completed around 10:00 AM. There was no Kara Prashad served. A Sikh Subedar brought some sweet-meat prepared from sugar from somewhere, which was served instead.
HARBIR SINGH: Then which Shabad’s kirtan was initiated?
SINGH SAHIB: When the two Colonels inside Sri Harimandir Sahib, Shamindar Singh and Sharma, asked me to organize shabad kirtan, I expressed the need for a significant staff to conduct such program. They asked me in return where to get the required staff, upon which I informed them of the Gurdwara employees among the detained Sikhs outside and asked for their release. They agreed to my suggestion and escorted me to where the Sikhs were detained. As I pointed out our staff members, their hands were sniffed.
HARBIR SINGH: (Astonished) Why did they sniff their hands?
SINGH SAHIB: I did not know either. Apparently, the hands used in firing guns can be identified through smell. It can also be identified from the fingers. Based on my request 15 Sikhs were released. The rest were considered prisoners and sent to camps. Among the released were Hajuri Ragi Mohinder Singh’s tabla companion Bhai Gurcharan Singh (who could perform kirtan as well), Surma Singh Karamjeet Singh who could play tabla, and Sant Bhindranwale’s Ragi Bhai Harbhajan Singh. For several days these individuals conducted the kirtan. The information regarding kirtan being performed by military personnel in your diary is inaccurate.
HARBIR SINGH: Who did the Ardas?
SINGH SAHIB: This too was done by Sri Darbar Sahib’s Ardassia Bhai Harpal Singh. All these individuals stayed in my house for several days. Upon seeking their release I took them to my house. Several of them had blood stains on their cloths. They bathed and washed their clothes. Several of them had to use my clothes.
HARBIR SINGH: Shabad kirtan started being relayed on the radio on June 8, who organized this program?
SINGH SAHIB: The radio and electricity workers arrived on June 7. They installed the necessary wires, etc. Military personnel brought a loudspeaker from some Hindu individual. We returned it afterwards.
HARBIR SINGH: When were the dead bodies removed?
SINGH SAHIB: Giani Zail Singh was to arrive on June 8. So the Indian forces removed all dead bodies from the parikarma path from Ghanta Ghar anteroom towards Baba Budha’s Baeri tree. But the bodies were left elsewhere. Even the sarowar had 10-12 floating bodies. I witnessed on June 7 that a Sikh ran out from a room along the parikarma and jumped into the sarowar. The soldiers immediately opened fire and killed him in the sarowar itself.
HARBIR SINGH: Tell us about Giani Zail Singh’s visit?
SINGH SAHIB: On the day of Giani Zail Singh’s visit, some soldiers took me towards the Langar building. All stories of this building were filled with soldiers. Dogra regiment was stationed here. Colonel Bajwa and one other Colonel informed me that some Sikhs were still in Ramgharia Bunga. They had taken one Captain Doctor hostage. Furthermore, these Sikhs had conveyed that if 5 Singh Sahibans asked them to drop their weapons they will comply. Giani Puran Singh was with me.
As we approached the bunga, we saw two Gursikhs seated with their backs tied to each other in front of the Bunga. We asked the Colonels that if the Sikhs drop their weapons would they not shoot them? They promised that if these Sikhs have not killed any of their men, they will be spared. Within the Ramgharia Bunga, approaching from Baba Kharak Singh’s Dera side we spoke with the Sikhs over a small loudspeaker. We told them “If you have any military hostages, release them and come out, you will not be killed.”
We could hear some noises but could not understand what was being said. Finally, we heard that they did not have any hostages. Upon hearing this, the Colonel asked us to leave and said they will handle it from here. Giani Zail Singh’s arrival was fast approaching.
HARBIR SINGH: Was firing ongoing when Giani Zail Singh arrived?
SINGH SAHIB: Firing was continuously going on at one place or another. However, your report that a security person in Giani Zail Singh’s escort was shot is inaccurate. When Giani Zail Singh arrived, one of his escort had an umbrella covering him. I sent a sewadar and asked for the removal of the umbrella. They obliged. Giani Zail Singh paid respect upon reaching Harimandir Sahib.
The question of honoring him with saropa simply did not arise. He asked some officer to contact me. Upon meeting me, Giani Zail Singh first inquired about the Jathedar of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib, Giani Kirpal Singh. I told him that he was safe. Then he asked about the attack. I summarized the events. Further I told him that the soldiers were moving around with naked heads, with boots, and continuously drinking and smoking within the premises. Their behavior was inappropriate and derogatory.
Whenever they see a Sikh, they kill him without asking any questions. Hundreds of Sikhs have been killed this way. Additionally, the sacred places are being abused by them. They have done worse things than the Mughals. How could all this happen under a Sikh President?
Giani Zail Singh told me that Mrs. Gandhi did not tell him anything. He said that he wanted to visit on June 7 but could not. He said, “Even today I have managed to come after great difficulty.”
I told Giani Zail Singh that the soldiers misbehaved with me and my staff. They make our job difficult. Why not arrest us too? He immediately ordered the four generals, Sundar Ji, Dayal, Barar, and Jamwaal to provide security. I further explained that the soldiers have looted the homes of our staff including Giani Sahibans. Giani Mohan Singh has been badly beaten, arrested and taken away. They wanted to burn the markets behind Sri Darbar Sahib complex.
I later learned that the military had planned to burn the whole street around my house and the Kolsar Bazar. They were saved by Giani Zail Singh. Giani Zail Singh saw the sacred copy of Guru Granth Sahib that was punctured by a bullet. He also witnessed the state inside Sri Harimandir Sahib. Thus, upon reaching Delhi, he immediately sent a package of Rumalas. I thought even though Giani Zail Singh is a Sikh, the rumalas are government property, and therefore did not use them
Ajmer Singh Randhawa.