Sant Harchand Singh Longowal (January 2, 1932 - August 20, 1985)

Dharam Yudh Morcha Timeline

Bhindranwale and Longowal Two Top Figures in Sikh Struggle for Freedom from India
Bhindranwale and Longowal Two Top Figures in Sikh Struggle for Freedom from India. Photo © [Courtesy Cosmic Dust]

Early Life:

In 1932, Harchand (Harcharan) Singh Longowal (Laungoval) was born on January 2nd to mother Karam Kaur and her husband Mansa Singh in village Gidariani of Patalia Sangur District Punjab.

In 1937, His early eduction began at age five when he attended classes at a nearby gurdwara. By the age of six he started formally learning kirtan and other courses in Sikh Religious Studies when enrolled and boarded at a school in Maujo of Bathinda.

There, he studied for ten years with Sant Jodh Singh who was involved with the Akali Political movement.

Religious Life:

In 1947, Harchand Singh left his studies and returned to his parent's home home, where at age 16 he became very involved with kirtan. He encouraged other Sikhs to embrace the Amritdhari lifestyle and took part in administering the baptism of Amrit during initiation ceremonies at the gurdwara in Gidariani.

In 1953, Giani Harnam Singh of Heron Kalan visited Gidariani where he heard Harchand Singh perform inspirational kirtan and invited Harchand to return with him to Heron. At age 21 Harchand Singh took up granthi duties in the local gurdwara where he remained based for a period of four years.

On March 4, 1953, Harchand Singh participated in a protest against the government interference with the Akali party.He was arrested along with other demonstrators, and jailed in Faridkot for three months.

A year after in Heron, Harchand Singh was invited to visit Longowal located a few miles from Sangrur where he initiated construction of a gurdwara to honor of the birthplace and hometown of martyred shaheed scribe Bhai Mani Singh, one of the original scribes at Dam Dama Sahib. Harchand Singh then became known as the saint of Longowal, and bestowed the title Sant which he retained for life.

During the mid 1950's and early 1960's, the Indian government arrested 26,000 Sikhs who agitated for a separate state of Punjab in the Punjab Sooba Jindabaad movement under the direction of Akali party Master Tara Singh and Akal Takhat. Sant Longowal joined protesters and was arrested again, and jailed for a time at Hisar.

In 1962, Sant Harchand Singh Longowal was appointed head of Dam Dama Sahib at Talvandi Sabo.

Early Political Career:

In June of 1964, Sant Harchand Singh Longowal became politically active when he began agitating for Sikh rights in Paonta Sahib.

In 1965, Harchand Singh was made president of the Shrimomani Akali Dal (SAD) political organization. Punjab officially gained statehood status in 1966, and the Akali party rose to power.

In 1969, Harchand became an Akali candidate and was elected to The Punjabi Legislative Assembly.

In 1975, former Prime Minister Indira Ghandhi declared an Internal Emergency rather than being forced to resign, and began arresting opposition leaders.

In June of 1975, until January 1977, Harchand Singh took command of the Akali agitation against suppression of civil liberties.

In 1978, Harchand Singh declined nomination as Akali Candidate for Lok Sabha elections.

In retaliation to the 1978 Nirankari Clash and martyrdom of 13 Sikhs, Sant Longowal demanded a ban of blasphemous Nirankari literature.

In 1979, Harchand Singh Longowal visited Vancouver BC to summon support of Canadian Sikhs.

Dharam Yudh Morcha Peaceful Protests:

In 1980, Harchand Singh Longowal was in charge of the Akali political party and began to organize civil disobedience campaigns. He undertook a challenging series of unsuccessful interchanges, in attempts to negotiate and perhaps even plot with various government agents.

In July of 1982, Akali party president and former head of Dam Dama Sahib shrine, Sant Harchand Singh Longowal aligned himself with Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and encouraged him to take up residence at Darbar Harmandir Saibh Golden Temple complex.

On August 4, 1982, Harcharan Singh launched the Dharam Yudh Morcha agitation against injustices of the Indian government run by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Longowal declared a demonstration plan of peaceful protest boycotting Delhi Asian Games which had a starting date of November 19, 1982. Government agent's interference with Sikhs traveling from Punjab to the Delhi games in order to prevent attendance of the boycott, resulted in a backlash of increased anti-government sentiment. In Amritsar, retaliations, agitations, demonstrations, along with failed negotiations, lasted 22 months, and led to the arrest of more than 200,000 protestors:

  • On January 4, 1983, agitators organized by Longowal retaliated by shutting down traffic on major roadways.
  • On June 17, 1983, activists led by Longowal interrupted train transportation at railway stations.
  • On August 29, 1983, an agitation commanded by Longowal initiated a statewide workers strike.
  • On January 26, 1984, Harchand Singh Longowal promoted a campaign against the Anandpur Resolution, and instigated a public burning of the constitution article 25 (a) which stated Sikhs to be Hindus.
  • On April 24, 1984, demonstrating complicity and conspiracy, a letter signed, "Sant Harchand Singh Singh (Dictator Morcha)", addressed to R.K. Dhawan, outlines a plan involving the army in regards to Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale:
    "Sant Jarnail Singh is not going to give up and now I strongly feel that we have to do what we planned earlier...Most of Bhindranwale men will run away when they see the army and most probably he will too...Stop Sikhs living abroad before they organize and start supporting Sant Jarnail Singh...I am sure that our plan will work."
  • On June 3, 1984, Longowal declared a demonstration of civil disobedience in which Punjab protestors stopped paying land taxes, water, and electricity utilities, and initiated a blockade which interfered with the exporting of grain.
  • On June 4, 1984, Indira Gandhi ordered Operation Blue Star troupes into Darbar Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple complex, where Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and other Akali leaders along with Gurcharan Singh Tohra, president of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) were flushed out and surrendered, arrested and imprisoned. Meanwhile Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale continued resistance and was martyred along with his followers and thousands of innocent men, women, and children who were present on pilgrimage for the martyrdom day anniversary of Fifth Guru Arjun Dev. During the Operation Blue Star Massacre, the Indian army wantonly murdered innocents in an appalling act of genocide, destroyed and desecrated both the Akal Takhat, the Sikhism seat of spiritual and secular sovereignty, and Darbar Sahib the Golden Temple international worship center and surrounding sarovar, or sacred pool.

    Assassination:

    On July 23, 1985, Harchand Singh met with Rajiv Ghandi, who had succeeded his mother as Prime Minister. Longowal signed an 11 point memorandum which resolved issues of concern to the Akali Party, but held little substance to amend the grievances of common Sikhs, and was considered to be a dishonorable act by rival constituents.

    On August 20, 1985, during an assembly promoting peace in Punjab at the Sherpur Gurdwara not far from his namesake town of Longowal, Sant Harchand Singh was martyred when shot dead by resentful assassins of a rival political faction who disagreed with his politics, and considered him suspect in the army invasion of the golden temple and subsequent martyrdom of Bhindranwale.

    Although considered a controversial figure by many Sikhs who suspect him of selling out Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to Indira Ghandi and the Indian Government, Sant Harchand Singh Longowal is remembered for his important role agitating against the government in the Dharam Yudh Morcha. He is commemorated on his death anniversary as a shaheed martyr in the month of August according to the amended Nanakshahi Calendar.

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