For being the native of village Rode, Bhai Joginder Singh Rode had the opportunity to spend his childhood with one of the greatest Sikhs of 20th century Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale. He was active during the Dharam Yudh Morcha initiated by Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale and the Shiromani Akali Dal. Besides the historical Manawala Kand, he is an eye witness to many significant and historical incidents of pre and post 1984 episodes of the Sikh struggle.
He had seen the martyrdom scene of Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale on June 6, 1984. Following is translation of an interview conducted with Bapu Ji.
Question: Bapu Ji, could you tell us about your family?
Answer: My mother’s name is Bibi Sant Kaur and father name is S. Kaka Singh. I am the third kid in my family of seven children.
Question: When did you get acquainted with Sant Jarnail Singh ji Khalsa Bhindranwale?
Answer: We were both natives of the same village, we both were familiar with each other, but I was clean shaved and used to drink (alcohol). After 1978, my relation with Sant Ji became robust. Sant Ji was habitual of reciting gurbani every time, so people often used to mock on him by taunting ‘What is he muttering?’. But Sant Ji never replied to such taunting and continued to recite Gurbani.
Question: What was your age in 1978?
Answer: I am born in 1963 and was 15 years old in 1978.
Question: Why did you start drinking at an early age of 15 years?
Ans: The majority of youth in our area were addicted to drinking alcohol, so the influence on society was normal.
Question: So how your life changed?
Answer: In 1978, Sant Ji asked Bhai Bhola Singh to collect wheat from the village and deliver it to Mehta Chowk. About 40 youth collected wheat and brought it to Mehta Chowk. Watching us, Sant Ji smiled and said ‘Do you remember?’. We said, “Yes! You used to recite Gurbani and we used to mock on you, taunting of muttering.” Sant Ji laughed and inspired us to adopt Sikhi. All of us took an oath of not cutting hairs at that time and returned to our homes.
Question: How did you join Dharam Yudh Morcha?
Answer: Bhai Amrik Singh was contesting the election of SGPC in 1979 from Beas constituency. Sant Ji was delivered us a message from his brother Bhai Jagjit Singh Rode and we departed for Mehta Chowk. When we reached Mehta, Sant Ji questioned us that where would we want to get appointed. I said, “Send us to place where nobody goes”, Sant Ji smiled and sent us to Khilchian. We stayed in a Gurdwara there.
Traitor Nihang Kahan Singh was also preaching in favour of Umranangal who was in opposition of Bhai Amrik Singh. He tried to make us get out of the Gurdwara but I challenged him openly. The Police Inspector appointed there was honest and he strictly warned the Nihang Kahan Singh.
Question: When did you start living with Sant Ji permanently?
Answer: After the SGPC election, Sant Ji invited us to Mehta Chowk for the Barsi samagam of Sant Kartar Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale and we went to attend the smagam. During his travels of preaching Gurmat, Sant Ji also stayed at the village Rode for one month and we took pahul of Amrit. Sant Ji was to depart for Sabo Ki Talwandi and other places, so 5 singhs decided to accompany him. During this visit we heard of the murder of Narakdhari Chief in Delhi. So, we immediately had to depart for Mehta Chowk. We lived there for 4-5 days, then SGPC President Gurcharan Singh Tohra facilitated Guru Nanak Niwas to Sant Ji and we also moved there along with Sant Ji.
Question: Would you like to share any incident you remember while you’re living with Sant Ji?
Answer: When Bhai Nachhattar Singh Rode and Swarn Singh Rode murdered Lala Jagat Narayan near Jagraon on September 9, 1981, we were in village Chando Klaan of Haryana. Bhai Swarn Singh came in a car and delivered Sant Ji to Mehta Chowk during the night. About 15-20 of us Singhs were following the car on a truck and I was sitting on the tool of truck.
Question: Do you remember the scene when Sant Ji was apprehended in the murder case of Lala Jagat Narayan at Mehta Chowk?
Answer: We were feeling sad at that time. But reading our faces, Sant Ji motivated us to remain in high spirit. He asked us to pray to Waheguru when we had problems. Soon after this, Sant Ji was arrested by the police.
Question: After the arrest of Sant Ji, where did you live?
Ans: We remained in Gurdwara Gurdarshan Parkash in Mehta Chowk. Before arrest we were living in Room No. 6 but later we moved to Room No. 2.
Question: After getting released from Jail, how long did Sant Ji stay at Mehta Chowk?
Answer: Sant Ji did not stay at Mehta Chowk even for a day after his release. He started his storming visits to Punjab villages and we were along with him. Then with Sant Ji we moved to Guru Nanak Niwas. Sant Ji was staying in room no. 5 and we were allotted to room no. 7.
Question: Are there any unforgettable incidents of your life in the Sikh struggle?
Answer: Manawala Kand, in which the police ambushed us.
Question: How did this incidence take place?
Answer: There were five of us Singhs and we departed from Sri Darbar Sahib to punish SSP D.R. Bhatti appointed in Ludhiana, but unfortunately the police ambushed us near Manawala.
Question: Can you tell us the names of the other four Singhs?
Answer: Bhai Hardev Singh Rode, Bhai Kukku Singh Rode, Bhai Anokh Singh Uboke, Bhai Gurumukh Singh Bhoore and me.
Question: Some people alleged that the AISSF’s General Secretary Shaheed Bhai Harminder Singh Sandhu was informing the Police about the action. Is it true?
Answer: No, this blame is totally false and baseless. It was creation of government agencies. Only Sant Ji and Bhai Amrik Singh were familiar with our plan of action. Secondly, we didn’t depart for the action according to plan. We got late by a day. Secondly, Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale’s speech is a testimony of Harminder Singh Sandhu’s innocence.
Question: Then how the police get information about the action?
Answer: While departing for the action, we secured a stengun and 20 bullets from a sevadar of Nihang Chief of Harianwelan. So, only he was familiar with our departure and none else. He was later punished for spying.
Question: How did the police attack you near Manawala?
Answer: Police had parked two trucks on the on the bridge over GT road near Manawala. One of trucks were parked straight and the other was crooked. On the dawn of day around 4 am, when we tried to cross the trucks by slowing down our speed, the police immediately fired burst. With intention of targeting the driver of Jeep, the police fired on Bhai Hardev Singh Rode who was sitting adjacent to the driver. The jeep was imported from abroad and it’s steering on left side Bhai Gurmukh Singh Bhoore was driving. Bhai Hardev Singh Rode attained shaheedi on spot. Bhai Anokh Singh Uboke got seriously injured. When we fired back on police, SSP Pandey also got injured. The left side tires of the jeep deflated and blew due to excessive firing by Police but Bhai Gurmukh Singh Bhoore succeeded to escape from the Police besiege.
Question: Did police chase you?
Answer: No, as SSP Pandey was injured so the other Police personnel were scared.
Question: How did you get back to Sri Harmandir Sahib?
Ans: We parked the jeep in Bhai Jarnail Sngh Dodhi’s house in a village situated on connecting way of Tarn Taran and Jandiala Guru. We reached Sri Harmandir Sahib in car of Jathedar of Takht Sri Damdama Sahib. The jeep was later destroyed by Baba Gurbachan Singh Manochahal and Bhai Major Singh. Dead body of Bhai Hardev Singh Rode was sent to village Rode while Bhai Anokh Singh Uboke was treated in Amritsar.
Question: During the armed invasion of Military in Sri Darbar Sahib where were you positioned?
Answer: We were positioned in between Sri Akal Takht Sahib and Tharha Sahib.
Question: After the beginning of battle, were you able to meet Sant Ji?
Answer: Yes we always continued to meet him.
Question: Do you remember any of Sant Ji’s last utterings?
Answer: On June 3, Sant Ji said that those who want to flee from here, should depart immediately. He further said that the army will not allow anyone to move outside after tomorrow and this happened.
Question: Can you explain about the war details on your position?
Answer: The army reached our area on the night of June 5 when the tanks arrived in parikarma, but the Singhs in our position killed great numbers of military men.
Question: Can you estimate how many army men were killed in the Parikarma?
Answer: I saw a vast amount of dead bodies of army men lying one over another in parikarma from one shabeel to another. The Singhs killed a large number of army men during the battle.
Question: How much tanks did the army use?
Answer: There were three tanks firing at Sri Akal Takht Sahib from the principal gateway, while the two others were wandering in Parikarma. There were lot tanks outside the Ghantaghar.
Question: During the martyrdom of Sant Ji, were you still on your position?
Answer: Yes, I had seen the whole scene of Sant Ji’s martyrdom. When Sant Ji came outside to fight, bullets were being fired by the army like rain, the Singhs present there echoed ovations loudly. Some of Sant Ji’s accompanying Singhs got martyred on spot, while Sant Ji paid obeisance to Sri Harmandir Sahib and took his position near two Nishan Sahibs. In firing by the Army, Sant Ji attained martyrdom.
Question: What policy did you adopt after the martyrdom of Sant Ji?
Answer: Experiencing helplessness in fighting against the tanks, we decided to move out of the Sri Darbar sahib. Five or Six Singhs, named Bhai Parsa Singh, Bhai Pala Singh, Bhai Kashmir Singh etc. moved outside from the way situated on left hand side of Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Army surrounded us and a Muslim officer asked us to surrender our guns. We surrendered as we had lost all our bullets and he moved us to Dharam Singh Market via the way to Jalliawala Bagh.
Question: Where did they detain you?
Answer: Firstly, they moved us to Kotwali and then moved to an Army camp where they tortured us.
Question: Were they torturing you in annoyance or with intention to get information?
Answer: They tortured us in annoyance, but some of them were even Questioning ‘Where is Bhindranwala?’
Question: For how many days were you at the army camp and then where were you transferred?
Answer: After 15 days, we were transferred to Ajmer Jail. We were later moved to Jodhpur jail after Nine months. We got released after imprisonment of near about 5 years.
This interview was conducted by Bhai Baljit Singh Khalsa. It was transferred by Bhai Pritpal Singh.