Sikh Organization For Prisoners Welfare (SOPW) has pointed out that prior to 1984, the Indian state indulged in the killing of innocent Sikhs. When the Sikhs turned to the justice system for recourse, they found the law sided with the perpetrators, regardless of the evidence. There are so many examples of when justice was denied to the Sikhs, years before the horrific events of June 1984 began to take shape:
* The April 1978 killing of 13 innocent unarmed Sikhs in a peaceful protest led by Bhai Fauja Singh against a cult leader who openly attacked the Sikh faith, resulted in cult members and the police opening fire, attacking, and shooting Sikhs.
* In September 1981 Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale offered himself for arrest to the police in the presence of a large public gathering at Mehta Chowk. Before his arrest, Jarnail Singh addressed the Sangat (congregation) in an appealed for peace. Chowk Mehta was heavily surrounded by the police and Border Security Force. Following Sant Ji’s arrest, police harassment, cane-charges, and shooting left 12 innocent Sikhs dead.
* The 1982 arrest of Kulwant Singh Nagoke, who was ‘wanted’ simply for being an associate of Shaheed Bhai Fauja Singh. He was so brutally tortured that when it was time to be presented in court, his battered and bruised body could not stand, or get out of the police jeep, unaided. To avoid detection of the mistreatment, the Judge declared the prisoner was too ‘dangerous’ to be produced in court and granted the Police a further 5 days of remand. When Kulwant Singh was returned to jail, his unconscious body was thrown into the cell and the torture continued. When after 5 days, Kulwant Singh was again not produced in court, the police announced that he had escaped from custody. The news spread like wildfire and the state of Punjab was put on red alert, advertisementss appeared in the national newspapers looking for the ‘fugitive’ Kulwant Singh. But, all along Kulwant Singh’s body had been disposed of by the Police who had finally ended his life by putting a bullet through his head. Locals recall hearing gunfire the night before his body was discovered. However, the official statement released by police talks of “an intense encounter which ended in the death of terrorist Kulwant Singh who had escaped custody with 2 other detainees, who remain at large.”
* 1982 also saw the killing by fake encounters of; Amarjeet Singh Daheru, Baljeet Singh Sultanpur, Kashmir Singh Ladhwal, Bhola Singh whose every limb was broken, Gurmit Singh Dhulkhot whose finger and toenails had all been removed before he was killed.
Despite the almost daily killings of Sikhs with no recourse to justice, Sant Bhindranwale vehemently condemned any acts of communal violence. Sikhs were well aware that many of these acts were prompted by state agencies who had a vested interest in raising tensions in Punjab to deflect attention from the real issue of how the State of Punjab and India were governed.
In the run up to the 1984 attack, rumors abounded that the Indian government was planning to eliminate Sant Bhindranwale. Prime Minister Gandhi had asked Lt Gen SK Sinha to provide men to abduct Bhindranwale from his base at Chowk Meta. Sinha wisely pointed out the folly in this venture. Recent cabinet papers released by the British Government show that India sought Britain’s advice as early as October 1983 about how best to conduct the raid to remove Bhindranwale from the Harmandir Sahib complex. Further comments made by retired Indian General’s have substantiated claims that the Indian commandos were indeed training on a replica of the Golden Temple.
The Indian Governments preparations were not unknown to Bhindranwale, who by now had a couple of ex-senior service men in his camp and they still had contacts within the Indian Army. The government’s moves prompted Bhindranrwale’s group to first move into the Golden Temple complex and then later, to fortify their positions for the expected assault.
The Indian media like to paint Bhindranwale’s residence at the Golden Temple akin to a takeover, but it could not have been further from the truth. The steps taken by Sant Bhindranwale were defensive manoeuvrings against the terror unleashed by State forces. In the meanwhile, life within the complex continued as normal, in fact, journalists who visited the Golden Temple in the months leading to the attack, state they were free to roam around the Gurdwara as were other members of the public.
In the lead up to the assault on the Harmandir Sahib, Indian media went into overdrive, acting as a mouth piece for the State, printing whatever lurid stories they were being fed. The whole purpose of this sham reporting was to justify the impending attack on the Golden Temple and many other Gurdwaras.