FROM MIL­I­TANT TO MAR­TYR

A me­mo­rial in hon­our of Bhin­dran­wale will come up in­side Golden Tem­ple

India Today - - NATION - By Asit Jolly

Twenty- eight years af­ter he died bat­tling the In­dian Army, Sikhism’s most revered mod­ern- day ‘ mar­tyr’ will fi­nally have a me­mo­rial in his name.

Jar­nail Singh Bhin­dran­wale and nearly 250 heav­ily armed fol­low­ers were killed in Op­er­a­tion Blues­tar— the Army’s all- out June 1984 as­sault to flush out sep­a­ratist mil­i­tants from Amritsar’s Golden Tem­ple. Some 800 com­mon devo­tees also died in the mil­i­tary ac­tion. Large sec­tions of the Sikh com­mu­nity, how­ever, hail Bhin­dran­wale as a “hero” who died pro­tect­ing their holi­est shrine.

Planned as a ceno­taph of sorts, the mon­u­ment is promi­nently po­si­tioned in­side the Golden Tem­ple com­plex, barely 15 feet from the spot where the mil­i­tant leader fell on the morn­ing of June 6, 1984. Chris­tened “Sha­heedganj”, the three- floor struc­ture ad­ja­cent to the Akal Takht will in­clude an au­dio- vis­ual rec­ol­lec­tion of Blues­tar, a gur­d­wara for prayer and a gallery of ar­ti­facts in­clud­ing a bul­letrid­den copy of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs.

Con­struc­tion will com­mence on May 20 su­per­vised by cus­to­di­ans of the Dam­dami Tak­sal, a Sikh sem­i­nary once headed by Bhin­dran­wale.

Rad­i­cal Sikh groups that have long been de­mand­ing such a me­mo­rial have hailed the Shi­ro­mani Gur­d­wara Par­band­hak Com­mit­tee’s ( SGPC) decision to build Sha­heed- ganj. Sig­nif­i­cantly, Pun­jab’s rul­ing Shi­ro­mani Akali Dal has an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity on the com­mit­tee.

Kan­warpal Singh, sec­re­tary­gen­eral of the sep­a­ratist or­gan­i­sa­tion Dal Khalsa, says the me­mo­rial is an “es­sen­tial trib­ute not just to Bhin­dran­wale and his fol­low­ers but also to hun­dreds of in­no­cent pil­grims who were killed”. San Fran­cis­cobased Amer­i­can Gur­d­wara Pra­band­hak Com­mit­tee chief Prit­pal Singh says it is in keep­ing with 500 years of Sikh tra­di­tion.

THE MON­U­MENT WILL COME UP BARELY 15 FEET FROM THE SPOTWHERE BHIN­DRAN­WALE WAS KILLED ON JUNE 6, 1984.

But the move has un­nerved the Akali Dal’s coali­tion part­ners. While Pun­jab’s BJP unit chief Ash­wini Sharma was non­com­mit­tal, say­ing the party would “wait and watch”, for­mer min­is­ter Manoran­jan Kalia rued the no­tion of a me­mo­rial. “Ev­ery­one in Pun­jab wants to close that dark chap­ter in our his­tory,” he said, ques­tion­ing the no­tion of a me­mo­rial nearly three decades af­ter Blues­tar.

De­fend­ing his decision to al­low con­struc­tion of the me­mo­rial, SGPC chief Av­tar Singh Makkar says Sha­heed- ganj would be a sym­bol against zulm ( op­pres­sion). “More peo­ple died in­side the tem­ple in June 1984 than in Jal­lian­wala Bagh,” Makkar told IN­DIA TO­DAY.

RAD­I­CAL SIKH AC­TIVISTS DE­MAND ABLUESTAR ME­MO­RIAL, IN 2009

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