Shyam Bhatia in London
While the British Police continues their efforts to round up all those involved in the knifing of Lt General K S Brar, discussion in Southall is dominated by questions about the real motives of those behind the attack.
Also known as Little Punjab, Southall is close to London’s Heathrow airport and has seven gurdwaras serving the local Sikh population , including those who live in the adjoining areas of Hounslow and Greenford.
This is where supporters of Khalistan mix freely and easily with other Punjabi NRIs in the area, making this London suburb a unique listening point for views on the incident.
One surprisingly held view is that the Brar affair was a “false flag” operation, another way of suggesting that this was a put up job for political reasons. “The Congress is weak and they need something to galvanise the votes before the next election”, one unnamed Sikh told me at the popular Singh Sabha Gurdwara on Park Road, Southall.
He and his family make a weekly pilgrimage to this gurdwara where they take langar every Sunday before settling down to listen to the day’s kirtan. “Otherwise how is it possible that four people failed to overcome and kill one old man? There is more to this than meets the eye.”
A similar kind of argument also resonates with supporters of the militant Dal Khalsa movement in the UK. “We are facing a mass anti-Sikh media campaign by Hindutva India,” says a statement published on behalf of Dal Khalsa. “This is being done to finish off our morale to speak out against human rights abuses, to create suspicion amongst each other to divide us and to instill fear within the community up and down the UK.”
But not all Sikhs share this perspective. Another elderly Sikh, a retired teacher, also visiting the Park Road gurdwara, told me: “There is another side to the community, the educated Sikhs, and they feel that this kind of action (stabbing Lt General Brar) gives a bad reputation to Sikhs abroad. We can convey our message through media platforms that the action of the Congress government in 1984 was not fair and it brought dishonour to the whole country.”
At the bigger, gold domed Singh Sabha Gurdwara on the Havelock Road, opinions are similarly mixed. But the same is not true in the smaller Miri Piri gurdwara in another part of Southall. The Pradhan here is a self-proclaimed Khalistan supporter, Jaswant Singh Thekedar. He wants the revival of the kingdom of Banda Singh Bahadur, a disciple of Guru Gobind Singh, who defeated the Mughals in Sirhind, abolished zamindari and created a sikh kingdom based in Lohgarh.
“I am a Khalistani, I want independence, the Khalistan movement is not dead, nor will it die”, says Thekedar. “We are not an underground movement, we are open. We are not afraid of anyone.” When queried if the attack on General Brar is linked to a revival of Khalistani sentiments, Thekedar replies: “It is nothing to do with Khalistan, it is purely a religious issue. Brar did wrong.”
There are also Sikhs in the UK who strongly disagree with Thekedar but do not wish to be quoted. One of them, the former head of another Southall gurdwara, commented, “Remember what Guru Gobind Singh told Saif Khan: ‘I cannot attack an unarmed man.’ As far as Brar is concerned, the guy was on holiday with his wife. What happened to him is not right.”
Those community leaders willing to be quoted include Mahinder Singh Mandair, a businessman who lives in Birmingham, more than 100 miles from Southall. “Of course the Khalistanis will applaud what happened to Lt General Brar, but any decent human being will say its bad, it is wrong.. Whatever Brar did in 1984, he was only obeying instructions from his superiors. He was a General and he fulfilled his duty.”
Path in memory of Vaidya’s assassins
Amritsar: The SGPC on Tuesday performed “bhog” of Akhand Path in memory of Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha, assassins of former Army Chief General A S Vaidya, the architect of Operation Bluestar, at the Golden Temple Complex in Amritsar. Jinda’s brother Bhupinder Singh and Sukha’s kin Surjit Kaur were presented “siropas” on the occasion.