By Asia Samachar | MALAYSIA |
Jaswant Singh Kanwal, the acclaimed Punjabi novelist who had spent some time in his younger days in Malaya, knew Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in person. In fact, in the more peaceful times before the volatile 1984, Bhindranwale had twice called upon the novelist at his home.
“She made a mistake, he made a mistake. The Sikh Quam had to suffer the natijah (repercussions),” Jaswant told Akaal Channel in an earlier interview replayed in the memory of the literary figure’s recent death. The interview was conducted by Harpreet Singh Makhu.
The ‘she’ here was Indira Gandhi, the Indian prime minister and leader of the Congress Party. It was on her orders that the Indian army launched a bloody and brutal attack upon Bhindranwale and his people holed up in the Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, in Amritsar in 1984.
On that chapter, Jaswant had written a book, ‘Khoon Ki Sohile Gavieh Nanak‘.
On the period before the dark chapter in the annals of Sikh history, Jaswant said he had met Bhindranwale four days before the attack with the aim of defusing the tense situation.
He had suggested that Bhindranwale should “pesh” (present oneself) to the authorities in an attempt to avert a potential attack.
“This is not the time. One, it would lead to the beadbi of the Akal Takht. They (Bhindranwale and his men) were not causing the beadbi, but the sarkaar (government). So, I urged him to back off. The sixth Guru (Guru Hargobind) fought the battles outside.
“But he replied that they’ve done the ardaas. So I asked what can still be done. ‘They (Indian army) are already here, we will fight, we will embrace shaheedi.’ He stood by his decision. I tried in vain to persuade him otherwise. I left sad.”
What was the way out? He felt that Bhindranwale should not fight them, instead ‘welcome them.
“But he was impatient. He should not have taken such a step (taking on the Indian army) so early. He should have continued to rally greater from the people of Punjab. (Under that circumstances) even the Akali Dal would have fallen behind him.”
On allegations that Bhindranwale was a Congress agent, he said: “Indira Gandhi wanted to use him against the Akali Dal. But he (Bhindranwale) had refused to do so.”
Did Bhindranwale and his followers do the right thing? Jaswant felt that their youth and ‘josh’ had got the better of their ‘hosh‘…They did not look far ahead.”
Generally, Jaswant felt argued that Sikhs had failed miserably when it came to political strategy. Bhindranwale did not have the proper advisors. At the same time, he felt that none of the Akali Dal leaders could muster enough gumption to come forward to provide leadership.
In one of his discussions with Bhindranwale, he had advised: “You cannot take on such a big force. The Panth still needs you. Please back away…They didn’t agree with my words. They were overtaken by josh (enthusiasm). Josh jadhaa si.
“He made the mistake of calculating that Indira Gandhi would not make the mistake of launching an attack on them.”
Asked about Bhrindanwale as a person, Jaswant said he had the Sikh kaum at heart (dard) and had even sacrificed himself for it.
IN MEMORY: Punjab literary greats Dalip Kaur Tiwana and Jaswant Singh Kanwal (Asia Samachar, 2 Feb 2020)
Black November: India’s judicial system failed 1984 victims (Asia Samachar, 25 Nov 2019)