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Operation Bluestar
– startling revelations by Maj Gen J S Jamwal (retd) –

Major General J S Jamwal, then GOC, 15 Infantry Division, who was instrumental in rescuing Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra, then presidents of the Shiromani Akali Dal and the SGPC, respectively, on their “personal request” amidst Operation Bluestar has alleged the Army operation was not only “ill-advised” but “ill-conceived” by the powers that be.

Giving an account of the Army operation, opposition by some saner Army officers, who had perceived better alternative by avoiding collateral damage to Akal Takht and its ramifications, Gen Jamwal today claimed here that the former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi had bypassed the then army chief and called the Western Army Commander Gen Sundarji to direct him to take immediate steps to clear the holy shrine of the militants hiding there.

Gen Jamwal said Akali leaders late Jathedar Tohra and late Sant Longowal were taken to cantonment through heavy security cordon inspite of firing from militants. They were given proper accommodation in the cantonment before they were shifted to jail.

Gen Jamwal said he was the Garrison Commander at Amritsar at that time but his views were also not sought, and added there were other better alternatives, including cutting of water, power and food supply to flush out Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his firebrand followers who had taken refuge in the building of Akal Takht. Such visionary step could have saved many precious lives besides saving the sanctity of the holy shrine. He said Army commanders supervising the operations got panicky due to initial heavy casualties of commandos in the Golden Temple complex.

He said the entire tactical planning was fraught with dangerous repercussions which were aimed at dividing the countrymen. The nation paid a very heavy price and has yet to recover from trauma.

Making a revelation the General said Pakistan was queering the pitch during the fateful operation and was trying to make noises on radio sets and television about “fake movement of troops” in a bid to frighten the Indian Army which was waging a war against the holed up militants. He said he was in charge of the security of the borders and said they were prepared to meet any eventuality (attack) from across the border.

The General said he played a key role in restoring the glory of Harmandar Sahib and revealed that two senior Army officers paid a heavy price for stealing some precious items from the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple. He said he ordered all those items taken away by the troops of a particular battalion as souvenirs. These were returned to the SGPC management and at least two senior officers were chargesheeted for such misdeeds.

II

Major Gen J S Jamwal (retd), then General Officer Commanding (GOC), 15 Infantry Division, Thursday claimed that he had refused to accept the advice of two senior Army officers to kill the militants taken into custody during Operation Bluestar.

Breaking his silence on remarks by certain Sikhs for the first time after 24 years of Operation Bluestar that the Army had killed many Sikh youths after capturing them from the Golden Temple, General Jamwal said he had snubbed them (Army colleagues) by telling them to let law take its course. “I am not a butcher,” he told the two Army officers, who wanted the captured militants eliminated. General Jamwal, however, said being a religious person he took measures to restore the confidence of the Sikh masses. As part of the confidence building, he gave a two-hour curfew relaxation after Operation Bluestar, despite opposition by then deputy commissioner Ramesh Inder Singh (now chief secretary).

He said he was given the onerous task of restoring the sanctity of the temple and had invited 11 persons, including Hindus and Sikhs, when some prominent Sikh leaders, including the then Jathedar, Akal Takht, Giani Kirpal Singh, gave went to their rage. The General said the Operation had become inevitable due to major threat to the pilgrims, but the blame lay with all of us. He said he tried to douse fire in the hearts of Sikhs through his humble and honest approach.

He had paved the way for reconciliation among different communities which allowed normalcy inside the temple and the then Jathedar, Akal Takht, agreed to address the Sikh masses via television about the safety of Kotha Sahib.

He said he had also apologised to a group of Nihang Sikhs whose dresses were torn by a JCO in a fit of rage on the outskirts of the city. He said he gave them a fresh set of clothes which led to the restoration of faith of people in the Indian Army.

General Jamwal said he felt like resigning from his post when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had rejected his proposal of undertaking kar sewa of the damaged Akal Takht by the five designated Panj Pyaras (five beloved ones) arranged by him through personal efforts. He said Indira Gandhi wanted the kar sewa to be undertaken by the union home minister.

Giving the inside story of Operation Bluestar, General Jamwal said the Army got perturbed when it failed to locate the body of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale amidst rumours that he had escaped from the rear side of Akal Takht. However, Army officials heaved a sigh of relief when his body was found from under the debris of a portion of Akal Takht. Later, the body of Major-Gen Shabeg Singh (retd) was found on the day when Giani Zail Singh, then President of India, visited the Golden Temple after Operation Bluestar.

“We concealed the body of Shabeg Singh in the Akal Takht complex itself, lest the President should see it”.

III

Narrating the sequence of events regarding fire in the Sikh Reference Library and Museum in the precincts of the Golden Temple during Operation Bluestar in June 1984, the then GOC of Amritsar, Major-Gen J S Jamwal said since the initial attack had not brought any success and the Army suffered heavy casualties, the Army decided to use heavy artillery to break the walls (of the library).

In this firing, the artillery shell pierced the walls near the library to create a hole which led to fire in the library and some of the precious manuscripts were burnt. He said it was totally unintentional as the Army was not aware of the library at the entrance of the complex. He, however, said the Army had clear instructions not to fire any bullet on the Golden Temple.

He said the Army under his charge retrieved some of the books and manuscripts which were given to the SGPC authorities after the Temple complex was handed over to the management.

On the Army’s failure to save its troops during the initial attack on the Temple, he said this was due to the lack of planning by the then Army Commander, Western Command, Gen K Sundarji who was known for his flamboyance, but lacked military mind to execute a properly planned operation. He said General Sundarji had botched up a number of operations under his charge and had brought disastrous results. He also cited the example of an Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) operation in Sri Lanka which resulted in a bloody nose to the Indian Army.

He said General Sundarji had literally brought India to the brink of war with Pakistan during Brasstrack exercises on the western front. Another example, General Jamwal said, was General Sundarji’s planning to overawe the Chinese on the northern frontier when he decided to take over certain Chinese posts. Later, he realised his folly and decided to pull back much to the embarrassment of the government.

General Jamwal said Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister, used to get direct feedback from General Sundarji who was unable to provide her ground realities that left a permanent scar on the psyche of a particular community. He said General Sundarji had a good command of English, but lacked professional skills. It was unfortunate that General Sundarji died a miserable death.

In another revelation, General Jamwal said Major-Gen K S Brar, who was called ‘Bulbul Brar’ by his colleagues, got puzzled following the heavy casualties of Army commandos on the first day of Operation Bluestar. (Courtesy : The Tribune, dated 6,8,9 June 2008, respectively)

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US Libraries to have Books on Sikhism

Washington, January 16. To help disseminate information about Sikhism, public libraries run by Montgomery County, adjacent to Washington, DC, have agreed to include books about the community in their collections.

The Guru Gobind Singh Foundation will provide books to the libraries. The area has a sizeable Sikh population. Foundation executive director Rajwant Singh appealed to the congregation members to give generously for the library project.

He said Sikhs had been living in the USA for over 100 years but not much information was available about them and their religion to general public.

“This project will certainly ensure more education about our community among non-Sikhs and it will also deter any prejudice arising from ignorance about Sikh traditions and Sikh observances,” he said.– UNI (Courtesy: The Tribune, January 7, 2008)

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Sikh Diaspora Seeks Representation at United Nations 

Amritsar, January 16. Various Sikh organisations based in the countries across the world have joined hands to seek representation for the Sikh diaspora in the United Nations.

Serious efforts are afoot to float an international gurdwara parbandhak committee so that burning issues relating to the Sikh community, including ban on turban in France, could be taken up at the world platform.

The American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the UK-based Sikh leaders like Avtar Singh Sanghera and Manmohan Singh Bajaj have discussed the issue with other Sikh leaders based in other countries. More Sikh organisations have come forward to support the cause.

President of Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southall Middlesex, UK, Himmat Singh Sohi has called upon the world Sikh leadership to get united on a single platform to get the common problems of the Sikhs resolved. Sohi emphasised the need for a mature leadership at the world level, which could be possible by floating an international gurdwara parbandhak committee or a similar association. UK-based Sikh scholar Jasdev Singh has endorsed the views of Mohi.

Sikh leaders based in different countries are likely to meet the Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, for his approval for the proposed committee.

“I think there is a need for Sikhs to share their experiences and address their issues through international institutions as well as in the countries where they are based. Perhaps the time has come to establish an international association of gurdwaras. Such an organisation could seek NGO consultative status at the United Nations similar to that given to major bodies of other religions. Sri Guru Singh Sabha will be willing to work with any gurdwara-based organisation towards this goal,” he said.

Earlier, SGPC’s ambitious plan of incorporating 10 NRI Sikhs in its general House ran into rough weather with the American diaspora rejecting it.

American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Yadvinder Singh is of the opinion that the need of the time for Sikhs was an international body of gurdwaras rather than NRI co-options to the SGPC.
The AGPC chief said the body should get membership at the United Nations as there was no representative body of the Sikhs at the UN. All other religions have representative bodies at the UN. (Courtesy : The Tribune 17 January 2008)

~~~

Note
Apropos news Item ‘Sikh Diaspora seeks representation at United National’, it is for the information of our diaspora brethren that such an umbrella organization for all the Sikhs all over the globe has started functioning under the brand name ‘International Sikh Confederation’ (ISC) registered with its head quarters at Plot No 1, Madhya Marg, Sector 28, Chandigarh. It can be accessed through website www.sikhconfed.net and contacted through e-mail kartarsikhconfed@yahoo.com, telephone 0091-172-2657381. This representative Sikh body, with its comprehensive Constitution, giving representation to the major Sikh institutions, gurdwaras and individual Sikhs from all over the world, consists of Sikh scholars, intellectuals and professionals from varied fields. It aims at highlighting the emerging challenges to the Sikh Panth in the twentyfirst century and providing well-thought-out solutions to the various problems confronting the Sikh Panth. Its five advisory councils on religion, education, ecomonic affairs, legal affairs, and media headed by brilliant professionals are actively involved in sorting out issues related to these areas and projecting a unified and uniform response to these issues. All human rights issues concerning Sikhs, including the issue of representation of Sikhs in the United Nations, are being taken up by the Legal Affairs Advisory Council, ISC, headed by Justice Mota Singh. Let us all join and make concerted efforts to address all such issues.

– Associate Editor

~~~

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
– British priest regrets UK soldiers’ role –

Amritsar, April 6. “I feel regret and shame at the thought of soldiers from my birthplace firing indiscriminately on innocent Indians at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919,” said Priest Jean Mayers at the office of Diocese of Amritsar here recently.

Born and brought up in the UK, Mayers, a priest of Haywood Ticktoria in Australia, is here as part of a 12-member delegation. “Visiting the scene of the firing, I was moved by the well into which scores of people jumped during the massacre. The bullet marks are still intact on walls. My heart is filled with remorse and I hang my head in shame,” he said. I apologise for the British army’s act during India’s struggle for Independence. Inside the memorial, I got the feeling as if I was at a holy place.”

The delegation from Australia, led by Dr Robert Boss, is here to participate in a seminar on communal harmony organised by Guru Nanak Study Department of Guru Nanak Dev University here.

Growing religious fanaticism across the world that had sparked violence in some countries was the topic of the seminar. More interaction among people from different religions was emphasised. Bishop Pradeep Kumar said though history couldn’t be undone, kind words of Mayers would gave solace to those who had lost their dear ones in the massacre.

Danial B Das, coordinator, socio economic development programme, said there were still certain countries in the world occupying areas without the wish of the local people and it needed to be condemned. (Courtesy : The Tribune April 7, 2008)

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Sikh Father-son Duo makes it to Malaysian House

Chandigarh, May 4. Malaysian ethnic Punjabi Karpal Singh and son Gobind Singh Deo have created history by becoming the first-ever father-son duo to be elected members of a Parliament in the world.
Though members of the Indian diaspora in general and Punjabis in particular have made commendable achievements in political arenas of their new abodes (countries), never before have an ethnic Punjabi father-son duo got elected to an Assembly or Parliament anywhere in the world.

The only parallel of two members of an ethnic family getting elected to the highest House of a country has been in Canada where the husband-wife team of Gurmant Grewal and Neena Grewal got into the House of Commons from British Columbia province some years ago.

For Karpal Singh, it is his seventh entry to Malaysian Parliament while it is a debut entry for his son. Indian MP (Rajya Sabha) Tarlochan Singh, in a letter to Karpal Singh, congratulated him for his win.
A lawyer by profession, Karpal Singh is also the chairman of the main Opposition party, the Democratic Action Party (DAP). Known in Malaysia as “Tiger of Jelutong”, Karpal now moves in a wheelchair following a major road accident in 2005.

Though Karpal originally comes from Punjab, he and his family is known to have stood against injustice and fought many an important court cases in Malaysia.

For Karpal Singh, entry into Parliament came at an unexpected time. As he was mourning the death of his father, the DAP leadership offered him candidacy from Penang. Before he could accept the offer, he was named the candidate and since then he has never looked back except for losing his seat in 1995.

Recently, when a Malaysian minister identified Sikhs with Bengalis during the Baisakhi celebrations, he appealed to the community to ignore such remarks. At present, there are over one lakh Sikhs in Malaysia.

Gobind Singh Deo is also a prominent lawyer and has been assisting his father after he returned from Lincoln’s Inn in 1996. Gobind’s younger brother, Jagdeep Singh Deo, is now a member of the state Assembly for Datum Kermit State in Penang. Karpal Singh and his sons are known for their free legal aid and community services. (Courtesy : Tribune 5 May 2008)

~~~

Sikh Protest Rally marks Baisakhi
– alleges discrimination and harassment in NY –

New York, April 15. Sikhs here led Baisakhi celebrations by organising a rally protesting against the alleged discrimination, bias and harassment faced by them.

While organising the rally yesterday, they also released a civil rights agenda and a report, which were the result of a year-long survey of 1000 Sikh members by the community coalition. 

The report titled – Making Our Voice Heard: A Civil Rights Agenda for New York City Sikhs – alleged that a large gap existed between the law and the actual experiences of the Sikh community. 

State Assembly member Jose Rivera and City Council members John Liu, David Weprin, Robert Jackson and Leroy Comerie were also present in the rally. According to the report, 41 per cent of Sikhs had been called by derogatory names or slurs; half of the Sikh students had experienced some form of harassment at school based on their religion or national origin; one in 10 Sikhs believed they had been refused employment or a job promotion because of their community identity; while about half of the Sikh immigrants did not have any form of health insurance for either themselves or their family members.

‘’The civil rights agenda not only helps to identify and document the bias, discrimination and harassment experienced by Sikhs in the city, but also takes the critical step of putting forth a bold prescription on ways government may best address these issues,’’ Liu said.

The report claimed that Sikhs in the United States suffered from significant issues of bias and discrimination in all walks of life.

‘’It is the coalition’s intention to continue to address these issues both through research and advocacy,’’ the Sikh Coalition said, adding, ‘’On this Baisakhi Day, we call on all Sikhs to stand up for their civil rights and fearlessly maintain their articles of faith.’’ 

Sikhs are among the largest linguistic and religious groups within the broader Indian-American community, which is estimated to number about 3 million.

~~~

HC Order Stayed
– way cleared for allowing reservation to sikh students in SGPC institutions –

New Delhi, May 15. The Supreme Court today stayed an order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court that declared that “Sikhs are not a minority in Punjab”. Today’s order of the apex court will pave the way for allowing reservation to Sikh students in educational institutions being run by the SGPC.

The high court in its order had said there was nothing to show from the written statement filed by the state of Punjab that it had any material or even a grievance from Sikhs.

The order had led to the quashing of two crucial notifications of the Punjab government.

The first notification allowed Sikh educational institutions run by the SGPC to reserve up to 50 per cent seats exclusively for members of the Sikh community on the basis that Sikhs are a minority community.
The second notification was issued under the Punjab Private Health Sciences Educational Institutions Act, whereby Christian and Sikh educational institutions were notified to be minority institutions in Punjab for the purposes of the said Act.

The impact of the stay on the HC order means that Christian Medical College, Ludhiana, and the SGPC-run schools, colleges and health institutes will have the freedom as enshrined under the Constitution that allows special status for minority-run institutions.

Going by the procedure, it may take quite some time even before the case can be listed for hearing by the SC, leave alone deciding it.

Arguing the matter in the SC, Punjab’s counsel Ajay Pal said the high court had failed to appreciate that there were a number of sects like Nirmalas, Udasis, Ram Raias, Dera Sacha Sauda, Radha Soami’s and Nirankaris, etc., who cannot be considered to be Sikhs.

They have been recognised as schismatic and distinct from Sikhs. Some of these and other sects believe in a living guru, which is contrary to the basic tenet of the Sikh faith.

This fact has even been judicially recognised. The adherents of these sects commonly describe themselves Sikhs and hence are even enumerated as Sikhs in the census. Thus, the census figures ought not to be used as the basis to disturb the minority status granted to Sikh institutions run by the SGPC.

Punjab while appealing against the order of the High Court had quoted various judgements in the past 80 years or which had delinked Udasis, mahants and deras from Sikhism.

The state also pleaded that the All India Gurdwaras Act, 1925, clearly defined the term Sikh and who could be counted as Sikhs.

~~~

‘The Rise of Khalsa’ makes it to NY Film Festival

Ludhiana, May 27. “The Rise of Khalsa”, a documentary directed by Jagmeet Samundari, a passout of Panjab University, has been selected for screening at the New York International Film Festival to be held in Los Angeles slated for July this year. The documentary will be screened in New York later this year.

Confirming the development, Samundari on his visit to surrounding areas in the district recently said he was finalising the locales for his forthcoming documentary on Guru Gobind Singh.

He said, “I received a message from the organisers regarding the screening of my film, ‘The Rise of Khalsa’, at the film festival from July 17 to 24. The review of the selection panel reads, ‘Very good overall’. This film is about Sikh religion and its struggle against the Mughals in India and how the Khalsa Panth was founded from the Sikh religion”.

After passing out from Panjab University with masters in mass communication, Samundari shifted base to Mumbai in 2000. He worked as an assistant director with Ajay Devgan’s father, Veeru Devgan, in “Hindustan Ki Kasam”.

He also acted in a number of teleserials, including “Aap Beeti,” “Awaaz” and “Sab Gol Maal Hai”.

Samundari said,“During the process of exploring different avenues in the entertainment industry, it struck me that Sikhism could offer a wide range of subjects for exploration, under the camera. Besides learning at the individual level, there are less-discussed aspects about the religion which I wanted to explore”.

“The Rise of Khalsa” throws light on the formation of the Khalsa Panth, beginning from its historical perspective to the announcement of its establishment by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.

The message from the US makes a special mention about the choice of locations, historical re-enactment and image quality of the picture.

Produced by Baljit Mankku, the documentary is comparable to the standards of the Discovery channel. The script links history to the present. (Courtesy : The Tribune, May 28, 2008)

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State-of-the-Art Sikh Museum, Nanded

Nanded: Perhaps it is time for Sikh museums to spring up in many places, and the development is in keeping with the fervour of religiosity inspired largely by the Diaspora efforts and the celebrations of the Guru’ta Gaddi Diwas. Now it seems a state-of-the-art Sikh museum is set to come up at Nanded at a cost of Rs 20 crore as part of tercentenary celebrations of Guru’ta Gaddi Diwas.

The development has been confirmed by Nanded’s Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib Gurdwara Board Chairman Dr P S Pasricha, who said latest technologies will be used in the new museum.

“Visitors will be imparted information about Sikh religion in either of four languages - Punjabi, English, Hindi and Marathi. The touch screen systems, latest gadgets, and many attractions will punctuate the over 30,000 square feet area. The museum will employ graphics and animation strategies and technology shall be put to use to pass on the message of Sikh Gurus to youth, particularly those residing abroad, to save them from ever-increasing western culture influence,” Pasricha, the former Maharashtra police chief, said.

The first phase of this museum-cum-art gallery would be made operational in 13,000 square feet area within next two months, while the entire project would be completed by October-end. Pasricha said approximately 11 acres of land surrounding the complex was being developed with landscaping and fountains. Fountain shows are being planned for the night to describe Sikh religion.

Pasricha also said Godavari riverfront is being developed and construction of 100-feet roads on both sides of the river was undertaken by the board. Godavari will form an aquaduct and will provide a feeling of divinity and spirituality to all those who will enjoy the fascinating scenery of the original Godavari. Efforts

were on to tap religious tourism with construction of special NRI Yatri Niwas with luxurious rooms and suites of international standards.

Pasricha is also leading efforts to ensure that the new airport at Nanded, likely to be operational from May 1, 2008, be named after Guru Gobind Singh.

~~~

Letters to Editor

Dear Editor,
Humanity benefits from those individuals who find time for others. There was one such individual “Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji”, who, in the Vaisakhi of 1699, created the brotherhood of the Khalsa and changed the face of India and our destiny, (and I dare say the world!) by putting the welfare of his fellow humans above that of himself and his family. I shudder to think what would have been the future of India, if Guru Gobind Singh had not created the brotherhood of the Khalsa to defend the basic human rights of every Indian and had not fought against the tyranny and injustices of the Moghul Emperor, Aurangzeb. Before Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Indians used to die for India and now we kill to protect India. He changed cowards into warriors for the defence of their motherland. Guru Gobind Singh Ji personally used weapons to defend the human rights of oppressed Indians.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji sacrificed his father, his children and himself so that India and mankind could be saved. His creation of the Khalsa not only defeated the Mughal but also helped create the first secular kingdom in India under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, where every one was equal, regardless of their religion or caste. His ideology gave birth to martyrs like Bhagat Singh and Udham Singh who helped defeat the British and gain freedom for India.

It is on record that his creation of the brotherhood of the Khalsa is making more sacrifices for India than any other community in India in direct proportion to its numbers. Even after India’s independence, his creation, the Sikhs, continued to fight for the defence and integrity of India in line with the traditions established over 300 hundred years ago by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa Waheguru ji ki Fateh. May you always celebrate Vaisakhi in style to commemorate the birth of Khalsa. All of us should be aware that Vaisakhi is no ordinary day in the lives of Indians.

Capt Tajinder Singh Gill
Email : <ts@grastcircle.in>


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