Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale (1947 - 1984)

Timeline of Events Leading up to Operation Blue Star

Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in Center
Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in Center. Photo © [Courtesy Cosmic Dust]

Birth, Family, and Early Life (1947 - 1976):

On June 2, 1947, Jarnail Singh Brar was born in the village of Rode and the district of Faridkot, to father Joginder Singh Brar, a Jatt Sikh farmer, and his wife Nihal Kaur. Jarnail Singh had one sister, Manjeet Kaur, and six elder brothers:

  • Jagir Singh
  • Jagjit Singh
  • Jugraj Singh
  • Harjeet Singh
  • Veer Singh
  • Captain Harcharan Singh Rode

The family of devout Sikhs were strict vegetarians.

In 1952, Jarnail Singh became initiated as an Amritdhari at age five.

In 1953, Jarnail Singh began his education and studied at the government primary school until fifth grade. He worked at farming until age 17.

In 1964, Jarnail Singh joined the Bhindran Jatha of Dam Dami Taksal (DDT), a traveling university based out of Mehta Chowk, and studied Sikh scripture, theology, and history, for a year under the tutelage of 12th Jathedar Sant Gurbachan Singh Khalsa Bindrawale of the village Bhinder Kalan. Jarnail Singh spent most of the year studying at Gurdwara Sis Asthan Patishahi 9th, near Nabha Village, south of Chandigarh.

In 1965, Jarnail Singh returned to his village and farming.

In 1966, at age 19, Jarnail Singh married at Bibi Pritam Kaur, the daughter of Bhai Sucha Singh from Bilaspur. The couple had two sons:

  • Ishar Singh born 1971.
  • Inderjit Singh born 1975.

Jarnail Singh continued with religious studies, and eventually his learning and knowledge earned him the title of Giani.

Jathedar of Damdami Taksal (1977):

On August 16, 1977, Taksali Jathedar Kartar Singh Khalsa, who had succeeded Sant Gurbachan Singh Khalsa, was injured while traveling. Before succumbing to his injuries, he named Giani Jarnail Singh as the new leader of the Damdami Taksal. Jarnail Singh was formally elected to the position of Jathedar in Mehta Chowk at the Bhog ceremony honoring the life and death of Kartar Singh Khalsa.

As the new Jethadar of the Bhinder Jatha, Giani Jarnail Singh began touring villages of Punjab. He preached against the evil affects of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and prostitution, and made it his personal mission to encourage Sikh youths keep their hair and beards, to embrace the tenets of Sikhism, and accept the lifestyle of Amritdhari and live according to the Khalsa code of conduct. He spoke out rigorously against the offshoot defectors Nikali (exiled) Nirankari Sect who refused to recognize the lineage of Guru Granth Sahib. Because of his enthusiasm and ability to inspire, he became known as Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

Sant Nirankari Incident (1978 - 1980):

On Vaisakhi Day, April 13, 1978, Damdami Taksal Bhindran Jatha and Akhand Kirtan Jatha affiliates of Babbar Khalsa banded together to peacefully protest a Sant Nirankari convention being held the same day. The Sant Nirankari's had been shouting Anti-Sikh propaganda, and their Gurbachan leader had desecrated the Guru Granth Sahib. Along the way to the protest site, Bhindranwale and several of his close associates left the group.

As neared their destination, about 200 Singhs were stopped by authorities who told them that the Sant Nirankari assembly had ended, however insults to Sikh gurus could be heard over loudspeakers.

Unarmed Sikhs waited peacefully while police investigated, when suddenly they were attacked by thousands of armed Nirankaris and assaulted with a variety of weapons.

Bhai Fauja Singh, a devoted Gursikh, was shot in the chest by the Superintendent of Police. Two Sikhs who attempted to carry the mortally wounded Singh to a medical facility were prevented from doing so, and he was taken from them and placed on a police wagon with the dead. In all, 13 Sikhs were martyred, and 78 wounded in the 1978 Nirankari clash. Only 64 arrests we made, and culprits were released the same day.

On April 15, 1978, Bhindranwale attended the shaheed martyr's funeral and supported survivor Amolak Singh whose brother had been martyred in the skirmish. Bhai Fauja Singh's widow Bibi Amarjit Kaur apparently expressed the sentiment that Bhindranwale had acted in a cowardly manner by leaving the procession, and not having been present during the assault.

However, gurdwaras influenced by the motives of Congress played up Bhindranwale's participation, and promoted his behavior as heroic.

In an attempt to downplay the entire incident, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and the Akali Dal Party, supported a court motion that trial proceedings be held outside of Punjab in Haryana.

In January of 1980, Gurbachan and his disciples were acquitted.

In April of 1980, Gurbachan was assassinated. Bhindranwale bitterly and publicly celebrated the assassination as a victory for the Sikh nation. Consequently the government viewed him as a suspect in the incident, however Bhai Ranjit Singh surrendered, confessed to the deed, was imprisoned for 13 years, and appointed Akal Takhat Jathedar while interred.

Don't Miss:
13 Martyrs of the 1978 Nirankari Clash

Government Suspect (1981):

In September of 1981, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale made headlines because of his open disdain for the handling of the Nirankari incident, and suffered highly critical press reviews published by Jalandar journalist Lala Jagat Narain.

On September 9, 1981, Jagat Narain was assassinated. Bhindranwale had made no secret of his low opinion of press activities, and his outspoken attitude and criticism directed at the reporter made him a prime suspect. A government arrest warrant naming Bhindranwale was issued for the murder of Jagat Narain. Punjab police joined forces with Haryana authorities and mounted a raid in Chando Kalan of Hissar district where Jarnail Singh and his entourage were holding gurmat camp while on a mission tour. The police opened fire, shooting at worshipers, as they ransacked encampment and destroyed sacred scriptures. Bhindranwale managed to evade capture and made his way to Metha Chowk.

On September 20, 1981, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale voluntarily presented himself to authorities, was arrested, and booked for murder.

On October 14, 1981, Bhindranwale was released when, during a session of parliament, Giani Zail Singh the Central Home Minister of Punjab declared his innocence due to lack of evidence of his involvement in the assassination case of Jagat Narain.

Political Aspirations (1982):

In 1982, Jarnail Singh became an increasingly popular political figure with Sikhs suffering from the oppressive Indian regime. Radical youth who appreciated his uncompromising point of view referred to him as Sant Ji. Bhindranwale's growing popularity however, alarmed government officials who issued another order for his arrest.

On April 20, 1982, Sant Ji eluded authorities in Bombay (modern day Mumbai) when government agents attempted to take him into custody at Gurdwara Singh Sahba of Didar, and returned to his headquarters in Metha Chowk.

In July of 1982, the Indian government stepped up their harassment and arrest of devout Sikhs.

On July 19, 1982, law enforcement officers apprehended Amrik Singh, president of the All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF), along with several other Sikhs.

On July 20, 1982, constables picked up Baba Thara Singh the head sevadar at Metha Chowk. That same day, Sant Bhindranwale immediately shifted to Darbar Sahib in Amritsar where he took up residence in Guru Nanak Nivas of the Golden Temple complex.

On July 25, 1982, Sant Jarnail singh Bhindranwale held a Panthic council meeting and called for the implementation of a morcha agitation to campaign for release of all Sikh detainees. Soon after, Sant Jarnail Singh aligned himself with Sant Harcharan Singh Longowal, president of the Akali Dal political party, who had for several months been campaigning with a morcha against the government for diverting the water of Punjab.

On August 4, 1982, the two leaders merged their common interest into the Dharma Yudh Morcha and launched their agitation from Amritsar. Their alliance proved very powerful much to the chagrin of Indian government officials.

Don't Miss:
Sant Harchand Singh Longowal Biography with Dharam Yudh Morcha Timeline

Mounting Tensions (1983):

In 1983, tensions mounted between India government and Sikhs who in 1948 had been denied a large part of their original homeland during independence from British rule and the resulting partition. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi initially had attempted to destroy the power of the Akali Dal by promoting Bhindranwale. However as Sant Jarnail Singh's popularity grew, he roused oppressed spirits in a campaign that inspired radical youth to rally for Khalistan, a separately owned Sikh state. Bands of freedom fighters sprang up around Punjab.The government attributed their actions, and the incidents that occurred, to the influence of Bhindranwale. Hoping to undermine Bhindranwale politically, the prime minister took a different tact and began clandestine negotiations with Sant Longowal. When her subversive tactics proved unsuccessful, Gandhi and her generals began plotting an armed invasion of Darbar Sahib, and launched a military campaign with the code name Operation Blue Star.

On October 6, 1983, all of Punjab became subject to President's rule, and pressures facing Sikhs escalated. Publicly the government carried on with the pretense of negotiations all the while privately building up their military force and police presence.

On December 15, 1983, in response to the mounting military presence in Punjab, Bhindranwale and his contingent began to fortify the Akal Takhat and Darbar Sahib complex. Preparations for resistance against an assault, included stockpiling food rations, weapons and ammunition reserves needed to withstand a government military siege.

Don't Miss:
Khalistan Defined: Movement for Independent Sovereign Sikh State

Timeless Memorial (1984):

In late May of 1984, the Indian government sponsored six special forces divisions trained for military combat. The army commandos introduced into Punjab were provided legal immunity and licensed for search and seizure and permission to shoot at will.

On May 25, 1984, the Indian government launched its military invasion and sent troupes to surround the Golden Temple.

On June 1, 1984, the Golden Temple complex geared up for the June 3rd annual anniversary commemorative event observing the first Sikh martyr Fifth Guru Arjun Dev. Throngs of worshipers flooded the complex over the next several days. Snipers spot Bhindranwale and open fire.

On June 3, 4 & 5, 1981, in an unprecedented act of purposeful desecration using weapons of mass destruction, the Indian army massacred thousands of innocent worshipers in a wantonly murderous event which amounted to Sikh genocide.

On June 6, 1984, at 8:45 pm, an armored vehicle fired upon and killed Sant Bhindranwale as he went for evening prayers.

On June 7, 1984, government officials identified the body of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the ruins of the Akal Takhat basement. Captain Harcharan Singh Rode was permitted to pay last respects to his brother's body, but never officially confirmed the death. Unsubstantiated rumors perpetuated by Dam Dami Taksal abounded for decades that Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale yet lived.

The horrendous events exist in the minds and hearts of Sikhs everywhere around the world as a timeless memorial to all innocents whose blood spilled during the act of 1984 Sikh genocide perpetuated by India's government in Operation Blue Star.

Further Reading:
Golden Temple, Akal Takhat and Historic Timeline
Never Forget 1984: Anti-Sikh Government Sponsored Genocide
Never Forget 1984: Operation Blue Star Golden Temple Invasion Timeline