To most Indians, the two Sikhs accused of assassinating Indira Gandhi are evil incarnate. But in Sikh dominated Punjab state, they are extolled by radical youths as martyrs, praised by neighbors as God-fearing and adored by their parents.

Satwant Singh, the surviving 22yearold accused in the slaying, is remembered in this tiny northern village as encouraging children to study hard so they could rise above poverty and join the police or the army.

Beant Singh, who the government alleged was the mastermind in the Oct. 31, 1984, assassination, was killed by commandos. He is remembered in his village of Maloya near Chandigarh as quiet and reserved. He never mentioned he was one of Mrs. Gandhi’s most trusted guards.

Satwant Singh, also a security guard, is on trial for murder and conspiracy along with two other Sikhs, Beant Singh’s uncle and a policeman charged with conspiracy in the slaying.

At a rally Thursday at the Sikhs’ holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, some 20,000 Sikhs commemorating an army assault last year on the shrine denounced Mrs. Gandhi and extolled the two accused men as martyrs.

Leaflets praising the two are sold outside the shrine, and Sikh politicians have hailed them as heroes. Beant Singh’s widow recently was honored at a public meeting and presented a religious scarf and Sikh warrior’s sword.

Satwant Singh’s mother Piaro Kaur, milking a cow, said in AgwanKhurd: “We are sad and tense. We are suffering. God alone knows why we are in this troublesome situation.”

She said the family was looking for a bride for her son when the slaying occurred. “Now who will marry him?” she asked. “The tragedy is that we have been staunch supporters of Indira’s Congress Party.”

In nearby hamlet, young Sikhs openly praise Satwant and Beant Singh for Avenging the assault on the Golden Temple. The attack was ordered by Mrs. Gandhi to suppress Sikhs agitating for greater autonomy for Sikh majority Punjab state.

“I think Satwant did a good thing,” said Surjit Singh, 20, in Harowal village. “He is from our area and we are proud of him.”

In Maloy, Beant Singh’s father, Sucha Singh, said he is ostracized because neighbor’s fear police reprisal.

On the day of the slaying, “the police raided my home, searched it upside down and took me away at 1 o’clock in the morning,” said the 75yearold cloth weaver. “They pulled my beard, hurled terrible abuses and released me after about a week.”

He said the police suspected that his son was linked. With the CIA and repeatedly asked the father, one of the poorest residents, “Where are the dollars?”

People in Maloya speak of Beant Singh. “He was a quiet, reserved, God-fearing man. People thought he was a good chap,” said Sarup Singh, the village council chief.


Until the assassination, he said; “Villagers did not even know Beant was her bodyguard. If we had known we should have utilized his closeness to the prime minister to rapidly develop our village. But to Hindus in Punjab, the names Satwant and Beant Singh are accursed. In Maloya, when Hindus were asked in the evening how to find Beant Singh’s house, one exclaimed: “Oh, God, what a name to (mention) at this holy hour of sunset.”

Article extracted from this publication >>  June 14, 1985