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Op/Ed: Murder of Leftist Leader Leads to Rise of Anti-Sikh Propaganda in Punjab

An old photo of Balwinder Singh Sandhu with Sikhs’ butcher KPS Gill

Even as no link has surfaced in the murder case of left-wing leader Balwinder Singh Sandhu who fought against armed Sikh struggle in 1990s on behalf of Indian State and its security forces, anti-Sikh propaganda is on in wake of the murder.

Sandhu was shot dead by two unknown bike-borne persons on October 16 in village Bhikhiwind of Tarn Taran district, which remained a hotspot of the Sikh militancy.

Most of the hardcore leftists of Punjab, who acted as tools of the Indian state in crushing the Sikh militancy, hailed him “Shaheed” (martyr) soon after his killing in their statements, though it is not clear yet as to who killed him and why.

It is an open truth that these leftists and Hindu extremists had joined hands to help the government to counter the Sikh movement. Positions of both sides were the same in dealing with the Sikh concerns. Both have a history of adopting a parochial view toward the Sikh cause in Punjab and they launched institutional attacks on the Sikh struggle even when it was peaceful and democratic.

Once again, Amritsar-based veteran leader of BJP Laxmi Kanta Chawla who is known for her hatred remarks and anti-Punjabi approach took no time to pay tribute in her own words to Sandhu who was conferred third highest gallantry award ‘Shaurya Chakra’ along with three other family members including wife Jagdish Kaur in 1993 by the then President of India, Shankar Dyal Sharma.

File Photo: Balwinder Sandhu

Ironically, the grieving wife clearly linked this murder to the Khalistani militants. She saw hands of those running 2020-referendum drive for Khalistan behind this murder, citing that her husband was on the hit list of the “terrorists”.

However, Sandhu was not well known anywhere except his area presently. Secondly, he no longer remained as active in left politics. And the militancy ended in 1994 against which he fought. These facts expose her claim keeping her husband on the hit list.  Nor was there any threat to his life, not from any Khalistani activist at least. That is why his security was withdrawn on several occasions. As he made requests to the Police officials repeatedly, his family was given a single gunman. The gunman was also called back by the Police.

She also claims that the militancy still prevails citing that the Police have recently busted several “militant modules”. The Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira and former Patiala MP Dr. Dharamvira Gandhi had exposed this practice airing Facebook live from the houses of those arrested by the Police and proved that the cases registered against the Sikh youths were false. Later, the Police had to release some of them under pressure. Thus, the exercise of Police and other Indian agencies to bust the “terror modules” in Punjab is highly controversial.

The glorification of Sandhu-like tout of the Police means vilification of the Sikh struggle that was launched peacefully for rights of Punjab, but took violent turn as a result of army attack on the holiest Sikh shrine, Sri Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple) and highest Sikh temporal seat, Akal Takht Sahib in June, 1984.

In a letter written to President of India Ram Nath Kovid, Congress MP Partap Singh Bajwa, also known for vocal against the Sikh struggle, said, “India has lost a national hero and let down a family who has time and again put their lives at risk for the nation. Every perpetrator must be brought to justice. I write to you with the goal of ensuring that adequate safety and security measures are given to those who have fought for the country and received commendations from the Government of India”.

The citation of the gallantry award is enough to clarify that he was tout of the government. It said, “Undaunted, Sandhu brothers and their wives fought terrorists with pistols and sten-guns provided by the government”.

His pictures with Sikhs’ butcher former Punjab DGP KPS Gill are seen displayed at Sandhu’s residence.  

It further said, “The family had faced the deadliest attack on September 30, 1990 when around 200 terrorists surrounded their house from all sides and attacked them continuously for five hours with deadly weapons including rocket launchers”.

Whereas the militants don’t get together in such a large number at one place in guerilla warfare. “Sandhu was never attacked by the militants in such a manner. While passing near his house, they opened one or two fire sometimes”, said the old people of the area.

While investigating the matter, the local Police officials have assessed that personal enmity is behind this murder as Sandhu’s both sons have criminal record. Several criminal cases have been registered against them and they are out on bail.  In 2014, Sandhu was also booked for allegedly raping a woman working at the school run by him. However, this case was cancelled later after the complainant withdrew her complaint.

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