American Turban

Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana and the indomitable Sikh spirit

(source: thelangarhall.com)

(source: thelangarhall.com)

What manliness you have shown by extinguishing a few sparks. You have made the fire brighter and more furious.

~ Guru Gobind Singh, in Zafarnama – his letter to the Mughal emperor of India in 1705.

Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana is scheduled to be hanged on March 31 for his role in the 1995 assassination of Beant Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab at that time.

Balwant Singh’s story is available all over the web, but as a short synopsis, I refer to the Sikh Organization for Prisoner Welfare:

Balwant Singh Rajoana was a police officer and gunman for Chief Minister Beant Singh. Beant was responsible for overseeing the mass genocide of Sikhs and was responsible for giving police officers such as KPS Gill (known as ‘The Butcher of Punjab’), SSP Sumedh Saini, SSP Mohammad Izhar Alam (leader of the infamous Black Cats) and others a free reign to run operations that deliberately targeted the civilian population of Punjab. This lead to a period of forced disappearances, fake ‘encounter’ killings, brutal torture, illegal detention, mass rapes, illegal seizure of property and widespread intimidation of the Sikh population.

Balwant Singh Rajoana was arrested in 1995 and has never denied involvement in the assassination plot. He has refused to make any appeals and has not recognised the authority of the courts in what has been called a matter of Sikh National Security and Sovereignty. Balwant Singh Rajoana has openly called for the death penalty recognising it as the only form of justice available to him under the Indian legal system. This may seem strange, but Balwant Singh Rajoana is inspired by the rich history of the Sikhs and their Gurus who have laid down their lives in opposition to tyranny.

While Balwant Singh welcomes his sentence, protests are taking place in India and around the world (to my knowledge, rallies have been organized in London, Vancouver, San Francisco).  Some of those who are protesting are seeking clemency even though Balwant Singh himself is refusing to appeal his sentence.  Others are taking up this cause to protest capital punishment, or are using this cause to continue to rally for Khalistan (an independent Sikh state).

However, by far, Balwant Singh’s sentence only provides further evidence of Indian injustice. It is yet another example of the double-standard of the Indian state in which Sikhs convicted of crimes are given life or death sentences by the judiciary, while the state-sponsored killers and torturers of Sikhs over the last three decades have roamed free with impunity and are even promoted by the state.

A wonderful essay was written in The Langar Hall by blogger Jodha:

Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana has shaken the Sikhs.  From London to Ludhiana, from Surrey to San Francisco, Sikhs are showing that the spirit of the community is not dead.  We are not so focused on elections, careers, wealth, and family to forget the soul of the nation.

Despite decades of the greatest of human rights violations against Sikhs by the Indian state and obfuscation of due justice in that regard, Sikhs are still rising to make their voices heard. I do not celebrate violence and destruction, and indeed, the backdrop on this story is full of horror and tragedy.  What I celebrate now is one Sikh who, true to his Maker, resists injustice and is proudly making his stand in the full spirit of chardi kala.

Like Bhagat Singh, considered by most Indians as a national hero and who was executed by the British almost 81 years ago to the day, Balwant Singh Rajoana will be remembered in a similar way. To those who are taking up his cause, I applaud all of you.

Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal!

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15 comments

  1. Manmander Singh

    “Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana has shaken the Sikhs. From London to Ludhiana, from Surrey to San Francisco, Sikhs are showing that the spirit of the community is not dead. We are not so focused on elections, careers, wealth, and family to forget the soul of the nation.”

    says it all 🙂

  2. Mandeep Kaur

    It’s funny when Beant Singh’s own family members are asking for the clemency of Balwant Singh Rajoana. If the man’s family is asking to take back the sentence, then it clearly proves the discrimination against Sikhs in India. Again it is sad when the murderers of the mass killings of 1984 roam free and here a man who was rising against the wrong is being punished to the full extent. It truly is a sad time in humanity.

  3. Supporter for Peace

    This short synopsis does not actually include the most important part of this case…… why and what Balwant Singh did, it does not go into detail how protected all those teenagers… and how he got rid of the real villain in this…. Balwant Singh took a stand and put a stop to the killings of the innocent people of Punjab…. he stood be given a nobel peace award not an execution, what is wrong with this World…. It is time to make a stand , but NO violence because that means there is no difference between Beant singh and YOU… Violence does not solve anything…. Badal needs to take action on this or get lost….

  4. Certainly, the violence that erupted in Punjab in the 80s and 90s and the disappearance and encounters of the innocent youths can not be justified by any case, similarly, the assassination of 18 people including the CM in an explosion backed by Rajoana can not be justified. Evil for an evil is never a solution. I do not support violence and therefore I do not support the capital punishment too. In my view this has to be abolished. But, by any case Rajoana can not be a hero or a martyr and he surely is a militant who participated in a terror act that accounts to waging a war against the nation. Also, there is no question of injustice. I am sure you would know that the mastermind of the assassination, Jagtar Singh Hawara too was sentenced to death but post his plea it was converted into a life imprisonment, so there is no question of injustice in this case. Rajoana didn’t plead and hence his death sentence stay firmed.

    For you Rajoana is a hero and Beant Singh is a murderer and in similar manner who suffered in the hands of Sikh-militants and the families of 17 others killed in explosion, Rajoana is a militant. What if anyone from the families of others died then, kills Rajoan? Will you approve it? Of course not, because a murder of a human life has no justification and two wrongs can not make one right!

    • Harvir Singh

      What Bhai Balwant Singh did is an noble act, by killing the CM that was responsible for lives of thousands of people Bhai Balwant Singh and party did nothing wrong. I know Innocent people died on both sides, but just think of how many more lives would have been lost if CM Beant was still live. India has always been unjust to Sikhs since 1947, all the promises that were made to the Sikhs in 1947 were denied. The people responsible for the 1984 Sikh Genocide are still roaming the streets free, not to mention some have been given seats in the parliament disregarding all the proofs and witnesses testimonies that show their involvement in the 1984 genocide. On the other hand, Prof. Bhullar is given the death penalty by hanging without any substantial proof or witnesses, and when he plead to the higher court his appeal was denied, where’s the justice here? My only question to the person reading this is : Why is it when other people fight for justice and equality they are considered hero, but if a Sikh takes the steps he/she is considered a terrorist and/or militant? Finally, if India is a democratic country it needs to respect all of it people for who they are, and not to forget the reason there is India is because of the Sikhs. BHAI BALWANT SINGH RAJOANA a true leader, hero, human, and warrior!!!

    • Angad

      You are incorrect. He did not wage a war against the nation. He put an end to the mass killing of Sikhs alone. If he did wage war, he would not stop there.

      Talking about injustice, only sometime back the just Indian system pardoned butcher Kishori Lal who was convicted 7 times for death penalty. He my friend is a militant and not Balwant Singh Rajoana.

  5. samandeep

    my friends u cant understand, it means bhagat singh was also millitant ,yes he was millitant for those people who were ruling that time,if singh die for country then he is hero,and if singh die for his koum then he is terrorist or millitent then what is wrong with him ,very good thinking of some people.rajoana is a true hero u will understand later.

  6. simmi

    If standing up against violence and wrong doings is a bad thing then yes he is a militant or a terrorist but I guess that makes police officers, military people and everyone who protects us as humans against wrongful activities leading to death is a militant as well. If one person out of the millions who knew and were helpless and scared and could not do anything to have their loved ones saved and this man rose to the occasion knowing there was something he could do not once thinking about his family then he is nothing less than a hero. If someone can standup for what is right they are and always will be a hero no matter what. Yes an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind but sometimes thats the only thing that will work. In todays day and age its about making a statement through such means sometimes because staying silent does nothing. I recently went to india this year after 14 months and was stopped by every cop possible for means of money…and there was no getting out of any of that. If such places are corrupt what makes you think doing silent rallies or what not would have done anything back in the days. People do no automatically resort to violence as their number one choice but are given no other choice besides it. I oppose to violence as much as the next person but calling this man a militant is one of the worst things someone can do and if thats what you believe then you ought to be ashamed of yourself and if your indian then im disgusted that I even belong in your religion or culture or what be it. In my eyes and im sure in many peoples eyes this man did what many could not grow the balls to do and I appluad his actions he will for always be a martyr a modern day hero.

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