Balwant Singh Rajoana’s Gift to the Nation

Balwant Singh Rajoana has been in jail since 1995 and was sentenced to death 5 years ago—but it was only recently, as the date of his execution started to loom closer, that a wave of indignation and concern swept over the Khalsa Panth, both in Punjab and the Diaspora. As others have written, this is a spontaneous response to the power of a Sikh fully in love with his Guru and Panth, completely at ease with the will of God and unequivocally unafraid of death. This popular movement leaves many of us in a predicament though. The dilemma we face is that we are socialized to view acts of violence as inherently immoral. How then are we able to express love for an individual who planned and helped carry out the suicide bombing of an unarmed old man? Balwant Singh’s case puts us in an uncomfortable position. Can we defend assassination? Can the killing of unarmed officials be justified? Are such acts true to Guru Nanak’s vision of compassion and respect for diversity?

Government Organized Operation Blue Star Left Akal Takht Demolished and Took the Lives of Tens of Thousands of Sikhs in Less Than One Week

Many have been asking why the Indian government attacked Sikhs in 1984 in the first place. How did we reach a point that Balwant Singh felt he had no choice but to assist in the killing of Chief Minister Beant “Singh” in August of 1995? We can go through the history of South Asia and clearly delineate the path from the Independence struggle, through Punjabi Suba and Emergency to the Amritsar Massacre of 1978, but the short answer is a simple one: It is the same reason the British tied Sikhs to cannons in 1885, the Mughals executed 200 Sikhs a day for weeks in the courtyard of the Red Fort in Delhi in 1716 and why Guru Arjan was burned alive for five days in Lahore four hundred years ago. It is because we did what Guru Nanak compelled us to do, to speak truth to power and not be silent in the face of tyranny just as he did when he condemned Babur the Mughal’s invasion of India. That act, enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib jee, of standing with the oppressed against the oppressor, has led to generations of Sikhs putting the principles of freedom and human rights above their own safety and well-being.

This is never a fair fight. The oppressor controls vast resources and commands huge armies that dwarf our meager numbers. This was true when Guru Gobind Singh’s forty Sikhs held off the entire Northern army of the Mughal Empire at Chamkaur for a long cold and wet night in December of 1705 and it was true when Baba Jarnail Singh and his band of a few hundred young men and women stood like a mountain against the technological might of the Indian army for a long, sweltering week in June of 1984. We will always be the minority for we take the uncomfortable, unpopular and dangerous position; we forsake the riches of collusion and collaboration for the principle of equality and justice, even if it means a tortured death.

And once the inevitable massacres occur, once the oppressor tires of our demands for dignity and human rights and we suffer another massacre, another Ghalughara (holocaust), then what? What are we left with as a people? Because we speak up for the rights of all, we must suffer the greatest indignities. And make no mistake about it, these vicious campaigns that we have suffered throughout our history serve only one purpose. Not our genocidal elimination, not in the sense that the Jewish people suffered in the Holocaust, but instead the end of our political strength, the breaking of our spirit. If it was about just killing us then there would be no need for these brutal tortures, things so depraved we are shocked that people could even fathom such cruelty. The government seeks to end us as a force for positive social, political, economic and spiritual change. They seek to humiliate us so thoroughly and to take away our own dignity that we dare not ever speak up again; that we grow so timid that while we may still exist in the nominal sense and while you may still see Sikhs walking around, they would dare not stand against the oppressor, they would dare not speak truth to power.

For, a Khalsa that fulfills its purpose and is true to its creation, that strives for freedom and equality, is capable of great acts.

For, a Khalsa that fulfills its purpose and is true to its creation, that strives for freedom and equality, is capable of great acts. That Khalsa can transform the face of Punjab through massive land reform, as the armies of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur achieved. That Khalsa can destroy the vast armies of the Mughal and Afghani armies, as the Misaldars demonstrated. That Khalsa can terrify the world’s largest colonial empire, forcing them out of their prized possession, as the independence struggle against the British did. Of course tyrants fear us. We have spent generations destroying them.

When my daughter hits my son, even if he isn’t hurt, he cries and expects consequences. As a parent I explain to her what she has done is wrong, ask her to apologize and if necessary give her a punishment. My son is not crying because he is in physical pain. He is crying because his rights, in a very minor way, have been assaulted and he wants justice. We all understand this basic impulse and this is one of the main reasons that governments exist: to create a justice system and ensure that citizens’ rights are respected and if they are not, there are consequences for unjust actions. Justice may be blind, but she also carries scales, for the act of delivering justice is a means of bringing balance to a society, giving dignity to those who have suffered, punishing those who have committed crimes. That’s all anyone wants when they’re hurt. Some respect, dignity and justice.

1984 Memories: Hordes of Policemen After a Sikh, For What Reason?

But where do you turn if it is the government itself that has harmed you? If it is the state that has raped you? If it is the police that has grabbed you in the middle of the night and dragged you to a police station to be tortured for weeks on end? If it is your members of parliament who have come to your house, thrown tires around your neck and burnt you alive with gasoline while desecrating your beloved scriptures? What options do you have? How do you right that wrong, how do you take back your dignity and ensure that justice is served?

You have but one option. To take justice into your own hands. If the state is unjust than a true citizen must punish the state. And who represents the state? Innocent civilians or the population at large? No. The political and military leadership of the state are ultimately responsible for its actions.

That is why Bhai Mehtab Singh and Bhai Sukha Singh killed the Mughal administrator of Amritsar who hunted down Sikhs for bounty and desecrated our religious institutions, Bhai Mewa Singh killed the Canadian immigration officer Hopkinson who played an active role in the Komagatamaru incident, Bhai Udham Singh killed Michael O’Dwyer, the former Lieutenant Governor of Punjab during the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and Beant Singh and Satwant Singh cared not for their own lives and shot down the Prime Minister of India at the end of October 1984. This impetus begins from the time of the Gurus; in fact there is evidence that on three separate occasions Sikhs in Delhi tried to assassinate Aurangzeb for the execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur. These were restorative acts of justice, not petty acts of vengeance. Revenge is bloodthirsty. It stems from hate and anger. Justice flows from compassion and tries to ensure that those who have committed crimes are brought to account and are unable to commit them again. It is compassion for the Panth, to give it back its dignity and compassion for society at large, to bring a balance back to the world.

Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana

That is why Balwant Singh Rajoana is so at peace. That is why his words, spoken so eloquently through his graceful sister Kamaldeep Kaur, have spurred us to action across the globe. He is not conflicted about his actions. He does not doubt his choices, or worry that he has done wrong. We see the same poise and calm in Sukha and Jinda’s letters from jail, in Udham Singh’s statements in court, or Mewa Singh’s last words before he was hung in Vancouver. Balwant Singh’s actions were a result of his love for us, his sisters and brothers in the Khalsa Panth. He did what he had to, to serve justice, to give us back our dignity and allow us to return to our essential purpose, to better ourselves and by extension, struggle for a more just and equal world, whatever the cost. How then can he fear death? Why would he beg for mercy? He has committed a transformative act of love. He has made himself an instrument of the Guru’s grace in the world.

We fight so bravely for the rights of others, and many times must suffer terribly for it. But when the Panth is at its lowest, when we are near broken, unable to stand tall, it is the selfless acts of a few that are able to bring about a sea change in the community and allow us to raise our heads, not in pride but with dignity. We should not be ashamed of their deeds—or hide from them as inconvenient facts. Their actions were determined by love for their people and their nation. They were gifts to the Khalsa Panth, that gave us back our dignity, our self-respect and our purpose.


We can never thank them enough.

Long Live Baba Banda Singh Bahadur!
Long Live Bhai Mehtab Singh and Sukha Singh!
Long Live Bhai Nirbhau Singh!
Long Live Bhai Mewa Singh Canadian!
Long Live Baba Kishan Singh Gargajj and the Babbar Akalis!
Long Live Bhai Udham Singh!
Long Live Jathedar Ranjit Singh!
Long Live Bhai Surinder Singh Sodhi!
Long Live Bhai Anokh Singh Babbar & Bhai Jugraj Singh Toofan!
Long Live Sukha and Jinda!
Long Live Bhai Dilawar Singh!
Long Live Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana!
Long Live Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana!
Long Live Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana!

May we strive to be worthy of your sacrifice!


  1. First of all, well done, great article. The Indian Govt spends millions of dollars in propaganda against the Sikhs, and this is nothing new.

    We need more factual articles like yours. It would be more uselful for the Panth if there was an article on the late Beant Singh (Chief Minister) who ordered the execution of thousands of Sikhs, illegal detentions, mass torture and rapes, and the release from prison of hundreds of murderers and criminals who sole purpose was to kill Sikhs.

    We are all to blame for the lack of support in the West during the last three decades. We need to focus on writing intellectual articles to the worlds media rather than wasting energy on ourselves which the Indian Govt spies have been very successful in doing.

    Long Live the Khalsa Panth!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here