How Sant Bhindranwale escaped in September 1981 from Chando Kalan in Hisar district....??
( Despite a well-planned operation by Punjab police assisted by central forces, people are mentioning/ referring to the escape of 'Waris Punjab De' chief Amritpal Singh to the escape of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale from Chando Kalan in the Hisar district of Haryana in September 1981.
Although it is not proper to compare both situations yet it is worth mentioning this page of history before readers. We are publishing a chapter named "Bhindranwale Arrested" from the book "Turmoil in Punjab" authored by former Chief Secretary Punjab Ramesh Inder Singh so that our readers should know the real facts in this regard- Editor )
In hindsight, it was a heedless and hasty move. Bhindranwale was arrested but had to be let off within days because there was no evidence against him. His nephew, Swaran Singh, was an accused in Lala Jagat Narain’s murder and the investigators suspected that Bhindranwale was a co-conspirator and abettor.
On 12 September 1981, the prosecutor procured Bhindranwale’s arrest warrants from a judicial court. That was when the trouble began. The militants retaliated on 20 September, killing innocent people in Jalandhar and Tarn Taran.
The Jalandhar shootout was the first incident of indiscriminate mass murders in the state. Three motorcycle-riding men opened fire in a marketplace, leaving four dead and another twelve injured. A police picket was also attacked, resulting in police firing and deaths.Among the first to express reservation about Bhindranwale’s arrest was none other than the then Union home minister, Zail Singh.
On 13 September, Singh rang up Birbal Nath, DGP, Punjab, and directed him to ‘reconsider the question of the arrest of Sant Ji’.1 But Darbara Singh, the chief minister, was adamant that Bhindranwale must be arrested. Besides, the court had granted an arrest warrant that had to be complied with.
Assisted by then Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, Zail Singh is said to have surreptitiously sounded Bhindranwale out about his impending arrest. That enabled Bhindranwale to slip away on the night of 13 September 1981 from Chando Kalan in Hisar district, where he was camping for Amrit Parchar to Chowk Mehta, covering a distance of more than 200 kilometers, unnoticed.
By the time the Punjab Police, led by DIG D.S. Mangat, reached Chando Kalan, Bhindranwale was beyond reach. Bhajan Lal helped Bhindranwale escape from Haryana to avoid trouble in his state, while Zail Singh was settling scores with Darbara Singh if not directly assisting Bhindranwale.
At Chando Kalan, Mangat and SSP D.R. Bhatti were challenged by Bhindranwale’s followers. In the melee, two buses belonging to the Damdami Taksal were burnt. It was alleged that the police, frustrated at not finding Bhindranwale, had set them on fire. Holy Sikh scriptures kept in the buses too got burnt. The Haryana government instituted a judicial inquiry into the incident.
Bhindranwale was not the kind of person to forget or forgive, and certainly not when it came to the sacrilegious burning of Sikh scriptures. Two years later, on 21 September 1983, while Bhatti alighted from his official car and approached the stairs leading to the office of the SSP, Ludhiana, he was shot at in full public view. He was injured, but his gunman was killed. The message to the police was clear: Keep away, or else!
Dr -D-R-Bhatti-IPS -Retd-former DGP
After the Chando Kalan fiasco, Darbara Singh, apprehensive about the police’s ability to execute Bhindranwale’s arrest warrant, instructed the then chief secretary, Paramjeet Singh, and DGP Birbal Nath to approach Lt Gen. S.K. Sinha, GOC Western Command, at Chandimandir for army assistance, and sought armored personnel carriers (APCs), which the police could use at the Chowk Mehta gurdwara while carrying out the arrest. The army, however, declined the state's request.
The chief secretary was politely reminded that arresting criminals was the job of the police and not the army. In any case, the police had no training to use APCs, the chief secretary was told.The chief minister, however, did not give up. He upgraded his entreaty to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), which promptly instructed the then-defense secretary P.K. Kaul to comply.
Gen. K.V. Krishna Rao had taken over as army chief in June 1981 but was away on tour to Nagaland. In his absence, the army HQ conveyed the instructions of the defense secretary to the lower command. An infantry battalion based in Amritsar was alerted to move to Chowk Mehta to affect the arrest. However, Lt Gen. S.K. Sinha intervened with Gen. Rao and the move to involve the army was scuttled. The generals believed, and rightly so, that the army should not be involved in such civil affairs.
Former CM Punjab Darbara Singh, former CM Haryana Ch Bhajan Lal and former President of India-Giani Zail Singh
Left to handle the situation himself, it was Darbara Singh’s turn to play dirty. He opted to negotiate with Bhindranwale his surrender. J.S. Anand, the then DIG, CID, was first deputed to Chowk Mehta to confab with him.
However, on seeing the DIG, Bhindranwale refused to parley with a patit (apostate) Sikh—Anand supported a trimmed beard and was not a sabat surat Sikh. A second emissary, an SP-rank sabat surat Sikh (one who sports the five Ks of Sikhism: kesh, kangha, kara, kachera and kirpan) had better luck and was successful in persuading Bhindranwale to surrender. He chose the date himself: He would surrender on 20 September.
On that day, as per his wishes, Bhindranwale was driven to Amritsar by a senior officer of Punjab state in his official car and brought back to Chowk Mehta after he had his holy dip in the Sarovar (pool of nectar) at the Golden Temple and paid his obeisance.
Bhindranwale returned from Amritsar before the break of dawn. By then, a large crowd of followers had collected at Chowk Mehta. Akali leaders, including Tohra, Akal Takht Jathedar Gurdial Singh Ajnoha, pro-Congress Delhi Gurdwara Committee chief jathedar Santokh Singh and many others, also reached the venue of the public gathering—it was an opportunity to earn political capital.
In fiery public speeches, they espoused Bhindranwale’s cause and lambasted the state government. A criminal matter pending in the court of law assumed the color of a political slugfest.
As the rally concluded, Bhindranwale accompanied the police to the state guest house which was to serve as a detention centre. At his arrest, the large crowd at Chowk Mehta turned violent, clashing with the police and the BSF with swords and lathis.
To control the mob, the police opened fire, which resulted in the death of eight persons. This set off a chain of violent events in the state, with the state government eventually caving in.
The court where Bhindranwale was produced remanded him to police custody for custodial interrogation, and during this period he was detained in government rest houses, first at Bessain and thereafter at Garhi.
At the end of the period of police remand, he was confined for a few days in judicial custody at the Central Jail, Ferozepur. The officiating deputy commissioner, Shivinder Brar, had a ticklish situation at hand—Bhindranwale declined to eat jail food and insisted that be served food cooked by a Gursikh (a baptized Sikh). The jail manuals do not permit service from outside.
The ingenuity of the administration, however, was remarkable; Shivinder, the good fellow that he was, persuaded Bhindranwale to have his garwai (attendant) with him. The garwai was arrested under what is popularly called in Punjab 107/151 (Section 107 and 151 of the CrPC) for the possibility of breach of peace, and sent to the jail to keep Bhindranwale company. Now Bhindranwale had food cooked by a Gursikh and Shivinder had peace of mind.
The police, however, failed to find evidence against Bhindranwale. He was released unconditionally on 15 October 1981 after twenty- five days of police and judicial detention.
The credibility of the government took a severe beating, and the episode also divided people on communal lines. While some viewed that Bhindranwale had been wrongly let off, others felt that he was arrested erroneously and therefore rightly released by the court. The flip-flop in the arrest and the subsequent release of Bhindranwale emboldened the radicals.
Why was he arrested if there was no or inadequate evidence against him? His release by the court and the earlier police firing at Chowk Mehta at the time of his surrender forced the state government to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry to probe the alleged police excesses.
Justice Pritam Singh Pattar, a retired judge, Punjab High Court, was notified on 27 October 1981 to inquire into circumstances leading to the police firing which resulted in deaths on 20 September at Chowk Mehta.
Pattar gave the police a clean chit on 9 May 1984 but the officers were kept on tenterhooks for over two years, affecting their morale, while the radicals drummed up the charge of state excesses.
After his release, an emboldened Bhindranwale toured Punjab, and even visited Delhi and Bombay with his armed followers. He went to Delhi on 21 December 1981 in connection with the bhog of Jathedar Santokh Singh, a pro-Congress Sikh leader who was assassinated by his political rival, Pritam Singh Sandhu, a member of the Delhi Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee. At this bhog, Bhindranwale met Zail Singh and Buta Singh, and some of them allegedly touched his feet as a mark of respect.
The communist leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet was to lament that Bhindranwale stayed in Delhi with about a hundred armed followers ‘as the guest of the Congress (I)- supported Delhi Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, and in spite of the demands made by the Opposition, no effort was made to collect the unlicensed weapons. This happened right under the nose of the Central government’.
Ramesh Inder Singh, Former Chief Secretary and chief information commissioner, Punjab
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