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Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale's Mission

Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was born in village Rode located in Faridkot District of Punjab, in 1947. From his childhood, he had a religious bent of mind. Sant Gurbachan Singh Khalsa, head of the Damdami Taksaal, the premier Sikh religious school, visited the child's village and suggested to Joginder Singh, Jarnail Singh's father, that his son join the Taksaal as a student. Coming to the Taksaal in 1965, Jarnail Singh received instruction in Sikh theology and history under Sant Gurbachan Singh's tutelage and later Sant Kartar Singh Bhindranwale's. He grew up to be an effective preacher of the faith. On August 25, 1977, upon the death of Sant Kartar Singh, he became head of the Taksaal.

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.'