Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwale born 2 June 1947
Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrenwale was a (and to some extent still is ) Sikh hero of modern times. He was born in the family of Brar-Jatt Baba Joginder Singh and Mata Nihal Kaur of the village Rode in Faridkot District.
Baba Joginder Singh was a farmer of moderate means. Bhindrenwale was youngest of the seven brothers.
After primary education took up farming in his village. He engaged himself in farming until 1965 when he joined the Damdami Taksal of Bhinder Kalan village, about 15 km north of Moga, then headed by Sant Gurbachan Singh Khalsa.
Hence the epithet Bhindrenwale. But his association with Bhinder village was only notional because Sant Gurbachan Singh, though associated with Gurdwara Akhand Prakash at Bhinder Kalan, usually took out his group of pupils on prolonged tours. Jarnail Singh underwent a one-year course in scriptural, theological and historical studies, at the hands of Sant Gurbachan Singh Khalsa partly during one of his tours but for the most part during his stay at Gurdwara Sis Asthan Patshahi IX, near Nabha Sahib village, 15 km south of Chandigarh along the Chandigarh-Patiala road.
In 1966, he rejoined his Family and settled down to farming again. He was married in 1966 to Bibi Pritam Kaur, daughter of Bhai Sucha Singh of Bilaspur, and had two sons, Ishar Singh and Inderjit Singh, born in 1971 and 1975 respectively. He continued his religious studies and also kept his close association with the Taksal, which after the death of Sant Gurbachan Singh Khalsa, in June 1969, was headed by Sant Kartar Singh Khalsa, who established his headquarters at Gurdwara Gurdarshan Prakash at Mehta Chowk, 25 km northeast of Amritsar along the road to Sri Hargobindpur. Sant Kartar Singh khalsa was killed in a road accident. Before his deadh on 16 August 1977, he had mentioned the name of Sant Jarnail Singh as his successor as the new head of Damdami Taksal. Sant Jarnail Singh was formally, elected at the bhog ceremony in honour of Sant Kartar Singh Khalsa at Mehta Chowk on 25 August 1977.
He had a meteoric rise to fame and his photographs began to be avidly displayed on the front pages of newspapers and journals across the continents. Trained in a Sikh seminary to preach the holy word of the Gurus, he stood face to face with history at several critical moments. Bhindrenwale within his seven brief years of a total of 37, marked by a precipitous course, emerged as a man of extraordinary grit and charisma. Soon he came to be talked about in the far-flung academe as well as in political forums.
From July 1977 to July 1982
Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale extensively toured cities and villages of Punjab to preach the Sikh faith. He also visited other states and cities in India. Wherever he went, he carried Siri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib’s message to every home exhorting Sikhs to take Amrit, observe the Sikh appearance, and live according to the teachings of Siri Guru Granth Sahib. As Tavleen Singh tells us: ‘His philosophy in six words was Nashey chaddo, Amrit chhako, Gursikh bano (Give up addictions, Take Amrit, Bec ome good Sikhs)’.
Explaining his mission, he said: ‘My mission is to administer Amrit, to explain the meanings of Gurbani and to teach Gurbani to those around me; … and (to tell people) that a Hindu should be a firm Hindu, a Muslim should be a firm Muslim, and a Sikh should be a firm Sikh’. His preaching was based on love. He said: ‘If we speak to someone with hatred and try to assert our superiority, it will create hatred in the minds of everyone. So long as we have the spirit of love, so long as we have the support of Satguru Hargobind Sahib, the Master of Miri and Piri, is there any power on earth that can subdue us?’ He wanted the Sikhs to ‘come back to Anandpur, their home’ by taking Amrit, and become his brothers and sons of Siri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib.
Sant Bhindranwale had a charismatic personality and spoke in simple village idiom. Those who listened to him, were impressed by his simple living, personal charm, and clear thinking. Joyce Pettigrew, who met him in 1980, writes: ‘There was a very close association between the Sant and the people, as I myself witnessed on a visit to meet Sant Bhindranwale in Guru Nanak Niwas.’ According to Shiva, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale ‘gained his popularity with the Punjab peasantry by launching an ideological crusade against the cultural corruption of Punjab. The most ardent followers of Bhindranwale in his first phase of rising popularity were children and women, both because they were relatively free of the new culture of degenerative consumption, and they were worst hit by the violence it generated. In the second phase of Bhindranwale’s popularity, men also joined his following, replacing vulgar movies with visits to gurdwaras, and reading the ‘gurbani’ in place of pornographic literature.
The Sant’s following grew as he successfully regenerated the ‘good’ life of purity, dedication and hard work by reviving these fundamental values of the Sikh religion’ ;s way of life. The popularity of Bhindranwale in the countryside was based on this positive sense of fundamentalism as revitalizing the basic moral values of life that had been the first casualty of commercial capitalism. During the entire early phase of Bhindranwale’s preaching, he made no anti-government or anti-Hindu statement, but focused on the positive values of the Sikh religion. His role was largely that of a social and religious reformer.’ According to Khushwant Singh: ‘Within a short period of becoming head of the Taksaal, Jarnail Singh came to be recognized as the most effective instrument of renaissance of Sikh fundamentalism. He toured villages exhorting Sikh youth to return to the spartan ways of the Khalsa started by Guru Gobind Singh: not to clip their beards, to abstain from smoking, drinking and taking drugs. Wherever he went, he baptized young men and women by the hundreds. An integral part of his preaching was that all Sikhs should, as had been required by their warrior Guru Gobind Singh, be shastradharis – weapon-bearers.’ Tully and Jacob state that: ‘In spite of the Government’s propaganda, to many people Bhindranwale remained a sant, or holy man, not a terrorist.’ The religious revival lead by Sant Bhindranwale resulted in a large number of Sikhs, especially the youth, receiving initiation into the Sikh faith. According to Khushwant Singh: ‘Bhindranwale’s amrit prachar was a resounding success. Adults in their thousands took oaths in public to abjure liquor, tobacco and drugs and were baptized. Video cassettes showing blue films and cinema houses lost out to the village gurdwara. Men not only saved money they had earlier squandered in self-indulgence, but now worked longer hours on their lands and raised better crops. They had much to be grateful for to Jarnail Singh who came to be revered by them as Baba Sant Jarnail Singhji Khalsa Bhindranwale.’
When Sant Bhindranwale was staying in the Darbar Sahib complex during 1982 and 1983, four to five hundred persons were administered Amrit each Wednesday and Sunday. On April 13, 1983 over ten thousand were initiated and during the month ending on April 13, 1984, forty-five thousand Sikhs received Amrit. This revival was extremely significant and Sant Bhindranwale was emerging as the leading figure in the Sikh faith and a role-model for the youth. I was once told by a relative that his two sons had stopped taking tea. I asked him why, and if they had been to see Sant Bhindranwale. The reply was: ‘No, it is just the way things are in Punjab. The young people love and admire him so much that if they come to know what the Sant does or doesn’t do, they like to follow his example.’ People sought his advice and intercession for personal problems and conflict resolution. Khushwant Singh reports: ‘On a later visit to Amritsar I got an inkling into the reasons of Bhindranwale’s popularity. I will narrate two incidents to illustrate this. One day a young girl came to see Bhindranwale. ….. She clutched his feet and sobbed out her story of how she was maltreated by her husband’s family for failing to extract more money from her parents and of her husband’s unwillingness to take her side. Bhindranwale asked her name and where she lived. “So you are a daughter of the Hindus,” he said. “Are you willing to become the daughter of a Sikh?” She nodded. Bhindranwale sent a couple of his armed guards to fetch the girl’s family. An hour later a very frightened trio consisting of the girl’s husband and his parents were brought to his presence. “Is this girl a daughter of your household?”, he demanded. They admitted she was. “She tells me that you want money from her father. I am her father.” He placed a tray full of currency notes before them and told them: “take whatever you want”. However, the three instead craved forgiveness.’