FROM MILITANT TO MARTYR
A memorial in honour of Bhindranwale will come up inside Golden Temple
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