“‘Cowards die many times before death

The valiant taste of it but once.”


Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and Gurcharan Singh Tohra had died a moral death when they ignominiously surrendered to the Indian Army on June 6, 1984 despite their brave and repeated assertions that army or police would enter the Golden Temple only over their dead bodies. In the darkest hour of Sikh history when thousands of praying pilgrims were being mercilessly butchered and the divine sanctity of the Golden Temple was being diabolically outraged, their surrender almost compulsively made one remark,

“Oh, what a fall was there, my countrymen,”


 “From Sublime to ludicrous fallen.”

Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s heroic defense of the Akal Takht presented a sharp contrast to their cowardice and partly contributed to the suspicion that the decision to launch army attack, perhaps, had their tacit approval. The Akali leaders generally, Longowal, Badal and Tohra particularly had on many occasions betrayed their jealousy and hatred for Sant Bhindranwale who had emerged as the undisputed leader of the Sikhs articulating their collective aspirations. Sikhs had, after a long time, got a leader who had an ascetic’s disdain for worldly glories and possessions and who had an incredible understanding of Gurus Sacred Word — “‘Bani.”’

Sant Jarnail Singh’s politics of truth and his commitment to the Sikh cause had gradually rendered all office hungry politicians irrelevant and also exposed all those who in the name of “Dharam Yudh” were actually conducting a “Kursi Yudh.” It was exclusively his charismatic personality that transformed a dying “‘Morcha”’ into Sikh history’s most powerful movement. The old leadership was filled with blinding envy and their basic insincerity turned them against the man who had become a serious hurdle in their way of negotiating a hotchpotch bargain with the authorities, hence their anxiety to get rid of him.

Awkward donning of lion’s apparel by Tohra and Longowal after their nine months detention turned out to be a transparent gimmick to live up to the angry mood and hurt psyche of the Sikhs. Both failed to sustain the cumbersome posture. During his Delhi tour Longowal once again degenerated to his original cowardice (sin) and refused to recognize Beant Singh and Satwant Singh as martyrs after publically applauding their action in rural Punjab.

Longowal’s reluctant withdrawal from the Sikh political scene, even though belated, is the finest thing that could happen to Panth at this crucial hour. He has gone most unceremoniously — unwept and unsung. But it is a pity that S.G.P.C. has not accepted Tohra’s resignation. Tohra’s credibility graph today has touched the lowest notwithstanding his refutation of the charge of conniving with the Governor in the decision of Army attack on the Golden Temple. None, outside his own close circle, is prepared to exonerate him. S.G.P.C. members, therefore, must recognize the imperatives of the situation and instantly accept his resignation in order to save the image of this most august Sikh body. They should realize that pushing against the swelling popular current would only spell disaster both for them self and for the S.G.P.C. Future historians would record it as an act of treason and betrayal of the trust put in them by their electors.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 17, 1985