Today on April 9th we commemorate the 30th martyrdom anniversary of the 18 martyrs of Sewewala in Faridkot district in Punjab. They were all crusaders against the fascist Khalistani movement, striking every nail in the coffin to extinguish it. It also in no uncertain terms condemned the terrorism of the state. All the martyrs were part of the anti-repression and anti-communal front formed in September 1986.The major leaders were Megh Raj Baghtuana and Jagpal Singh, who were both members of the Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India. The other martyrs were not members but supporters of the CCRI.
At that time Punjab was ravaged or entrapped by the phenomena of Khalistani terror and State terrorism, which encompassed every nook and corner of the state, reminiscent of a civil war. It is hard to do justice to the scale or intensity of the tyranny unleashed, giving vibrations of Rome burning.
This front stitched the wounds by creating combat forces in regions where Khalistani forces had infiltrated most and waged mass revolutionary resistance. It nurtured or welded every democratic force into their struggles, be it the agricultural labourer, landed peasant, industrial workers, teachers shopkeeper or traders. Their practice was a perfect illustration of how to confront communal terror or fascism applying massline .Its struggle sowed the base for the mass revolutionary secular struggles or organizations of the farmers and agricultural labourers today, particularly infusing secular spirit of Shaheed Bhagat Singh in the youth. The Lok Morcha,Punjab had its genesis in the front, which was formed in March 1996,as a revolutionary political platform. The 12000 strong founding Lok Morcha gathering in Selbrah voiced the very soul of the Sewewala martyrs, held in the very village of martyr Comrade Jagpal Singh.
The galvanisation of huge forces after the massacre to confront religious politics and crystallize mass movements has its roots in the anti-repression and anti-communal front formed in September 1986. .It was truly remarkable how it spread like a spark turning into a Prairie fire. The martyrs wrote a new chapter in the annals of revolution in India and struggle against religious fundamentalism. The event also deeply touched me and over the last two decades I penned many a line resurrecting their glory. The Sewewala martyrs or Front literally took revolutionary courage or spirit to proportion sin regions of the sublime., continuing the great legacy of revolutionaries in Russia ,China or Vietnam.
The Front against repression and Communalism predominantly functioned in the Malwa region comprising Faridkot,Bathinda ,Muktsar ,Ludhiana etc.It hardly had any influence in the Northern regions like Amritsar,Jalandhar,Gurdaspur etc,
I reccomend all democratic cadre to read about the struggles waged by the anti-repression and anti-communal front and get hold of the report ‘Bleeding Punjab ‘of 1992 published by Punjabi journals Surkh Rekha and Inquilabli Jantak Leeh..A most valuable source also is the All India report of the All India Federation of Organisations for Democratic Rights, published in 1987 on ‘The People Fight Back which most vividly covers the historical genesis or background.Even the commemoration conferences were most memorable gatherings crystallising or shimmering mass revolutionary secular flame at a crescendo and vivid illustration of massline practice. Particularly notable was the dalit polarisation in those homage conferences and the flux in relations with the Jat landed peasantry. Before the conferences a section of Jats conspired with the Khalistani forces. Sadly today still there is a powerful current soft-pedalling with the Khalistani movement indirectly or Sikh separatism in the name of Punjabi nationality They fail to perceive that even the Anandpur Sahip resolution presented sectarian or communal interests and today ally with sections like Shiromani Akali Dal.It was Sikh seperatist or Akali Dal politics that diverted the revolutionary secular movement of the Punjab Students Union from it’s track in the early 1980’s ,splintering the Communist revolutionary forces. In the Communist revolutionary camp in Punjab only two forces tooth and nail oppose Sikh seperatist politics namely the C.P.I.(M.L.)New Democracy and the Communist Party re-organisation Centre of India (Marxist-Leninist).C.P.I.(Maoist) sections n Punjab or even Liberation group support Sikh trend. Today organisations like Lok Sangram Morcha which is a constituent of the Revolutionary Democratic Front align with Sikh separatist forces. This trend was even reflected in the seminar held in Delhi in February 1996 by the All India Peoples Resistance Forum. Tooth and nail democrats must expose the fascist nature of Sikh separatism.
I can never forget the intensity of the 1991 homage rally or the 1993 memorial conference where the effect of a tornado was created ,with 10000 participants. I reccomend someone translates the reports of Punjabi journals ‘Inquilabi jantak leh”and ‘Surkh Rekha’ into Hindi and English. The method of struggle of the front is an illustration and a model for confronting the brand of Hindu saffron fascism which i s engripping the nation today like the tentacles of an Octopus. This would be an ideal foil to the Gandhian practice professing ‘non-violence’ which morally creates no dent in the divisive forces of the classes that patronise them. The Front combated trends that deployed armed retaliatory actions against the Khalistanis to replace mass movements and the conversion of mass political fronts into party platforms. It was remarkable how the front shimmered the flame of resistance in so many spheres, even mobilising individual families to build self-defence. It succeeded in creating bastions of self-defence or resistance. It was remarkable the manner the front integrated into the ay to day lives of the common people, in the mist of fascist tyranny. It inspired people to set up their own platforms, who did not join the front. I hardly have space here to narrate the countless instances the Khalistani gangs were punished in people’s courts, literally being taken by the sword. Collective resistance was organised to the very core, enhancing people’s self defence. One got vibration s of the Soviet soldiers or youth brigades displaying death defying courage against the Nazis. The front blended the skill and methodology of an architect .with the innovation of an artist.In the view of AFDR secretary Parminder Singh it had overtones of the protracted struggle which Vietnam raised against America.It is unforgettable how Megh Raj and Jagpal succumbed to bullets in pursuit of saving lives of the participants of the conference.There is hardly an adjective to do justice to the extent the Front touched the very core of the soul of the Punjabi people ,as though infusing a new spirit within them. Mass political consciousness was elevated to its zenith. Giving an abject education to the people in arming themselves against the enemy.
A predominant weakness in the front was it’s limited area of work and inability to consolidate itself. In the 1991 conference it also exhibited lack of adequate preparations for self-defence against the enemy. In practice it was unable to guve equal emphasis to challenging state terror even if it gave equal importance morally. Militarily it was weak and could not launch armed retaliatory actions with required intensity. It also lacked a consistent leadership or cadre in many areas.
Significant that a sizeable section of landed or rich peasantry sided with the Khalistani forces. Another significant feature was the execution through retaliatory armed actions of Khalistani fundamentalists by armed teams of the Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Sarabhai brigades .
Most articulately it created the link of work between villages and towns to mantain scular revolutionary fervour and influenced significant secular protests of industrial workers like Electricity workers led by Technical Services Union.
The Sewewala massacre was the breeding ground for activists like Lachhman Singh Sewewala ,who is now secretary of the Punjab agricultural labourers Union and Harinder Bindu .who is the president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union women’s wing. It sparkled an energy that mainfested spiritually, rekindling flame of revolution. It particularly inspired dalit youth cadre and educated ranks of how the Khalistani forces were pro-landlord and had no democratic or liberal content. Today the secular cadre of the BKU(Ugrahan) has its roots in the Sewewala incident or activities of the Front, which shaped or carved it.
Today on a village scale a memorial programme is being staged in the vey village of Sewewala to rekindle their memory bu the martyrs memorial Commitee,Ironically yesterday the presence of nine student organisations protesting closure of educational institutions reverberated the very secular spirit of the martyrs and illustrated that their aspirations were intact.
Today Surkh Leeh chief editor Jaspal Jassi still has vivid memories of the event and so does former Lok Morcha secretary Amolak Singh and former Lok Morcha president Narinder Kumar Jeet.All have even composed memorial poems for Sewewala martyrs.Former Punjab Students Union(Shaheed Randhawa) leader and now Surkh Leeh editor ,Pavel Kussa spoke about the significance of the event even today to me ,in context of fundamentalist saffron terror and Punjab.Journal Surkh Leeh still publishes memorial articles defending the sacred role of the Sewewala martyrs. Vehemently all these comrades condemn the Khalistani and Sikh separatist trends even today. Pavel Kussa told me about how one brand of Communalism accentuated or branded another one, virtually working on tandem.
Internationally Editor of massline blog of America,Scott Harrison also revered the contribution of the Sewewala martys as well as late Nick Glais of Democracy and Class Struggle. blog and anti-imperialist camp blog. In India Naxal revolution blog also showed deep appreciating publishing a series of reports. as well as Journal ‘Frontier weekly.’Many an admirer of the crusaders still exist in Canada.
The Front against Repression and Communalism leaders and activists asserted that they were not a Communist Revolutionary front or belonged to any particular revolutionary group, even if different Communist revolutionary factions worked within them. It was classic example of correct practice of amass political platform.
I was particularly impressed with the massline approach and practice of the Centre for Communist Revolutionaries of India and the Central Team of the C.P.I. (M.L.) which most dialectically and methodically guided the Front., not imposing party politics and maintaining democratic functioning. Without doubt the Tarimela Nagi Reddy line had an important influence on the mass resistance. I recommend all cadre to read the issues of Journal The Comrade’ of the CCRI in the 1988-94 period. The 1989,1991,1992 and 1993 issues have detailed reviews, championing cause of massline.
I can never forget how as a student cadre in late 1990’s I recall how sections within the ranks of the C.P.I.(M.L)Peoples War Group even upheld Bhindranwale and the Anandpur Sahib resolution. It was also predominant amongst revolutionary ranks in Kerala ,particularly of the Central Re-Organisation Commitee..Today in the Delhi farmers agitation the Khalistan impact was ressurected in a more subtle or pernicious manner than three decades ago. In Mumbai there was a sizeable secular section amongst left cadre but sadly they did not condemn state terrorism. Ironically even Comrade Kobadh Gandhy till today supports Punjabi nationality line advocating Sikh separatist politics. The Students for Society(SFS) has strong Sikh identity politics today. Today even in facebok groups there is a predominant trend to portray Khalistani trend by comrades like Malwinder Singh Mali who had his roots sin the split created by Comradae Ajmer Singh.Lok Sangram Morcha which is a constituent of Revolutionary Democratic Front too seeks alliance with Sikh separatist forces like Shiromani Akali Dal.as well as Bharatiya Kisan Union.(Krantikari).Significant that the 1996 All Indi aPeoples Resistance Forum seminar too when defending Punjabi nationality had similar overtones. Even Centrally Maoist trend allies with Sikh separatism.
Intellectuals must understand that the Sikhs have not been discriminated as the Muslims in all spheres of life, be it employment or housing. Still thy form an integral part of the armed forces. Unlike the Muslims, they are not an oppressed minority, in my view.
In 1988 and 1991 Speakers like Parminder Singh of Association for Democratic Rights in programmes staged by the platform Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana ,narrated how the ruling class parties like Congress and Akali Dal played the communal rule and divide card and how the genuine democratic forces counter attacked them with mass resistance. Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana held a most qualitative programme addressed by AFDR secretary Parminder Singh after the Sewewala massacre in Mumbai. .I was impressed with the manner Parminder refuted a youth Comrade of the Lok Jagruti Kendra who advocated utilising contradictions of the Akali Dal against the Congress. Adamantly the Vidhyarti Praghati Sanghatn and the Naujwan Bharat Sabha affiliated with the Peoples War Group still sung the tunes of the Khalistanis,defending their anti-state actions.
In West Bengal late Comrade Gundahar Murmu organised programmes in solidarity with the anti-communal Front and Sewewala martyrs.
I feel it is worth translating all the reports of Journals Surkh Rekha and Inquilabi Jantak Leeh into English and Hindu in the treasurehouse for revolutionary cadre.
Late revolutionary playwright Gursharan Singh upheld the glory of the Sewewala martyrs with no limitations .They is still so popular that till today calendars are sold in their memory.
It is my firm view that irrespective of the magnitude of state terrorism Sikh separatist ideology has to be torn apart at the very core as it can infiltrate and hijack genuine secular movements. Who can forget how it derailed the democratic secular movement of the 1970’s, under leadership of ruling Akali Dal.
Today we have to resurrect such comrades and their work to fight Hindutva saffron fascist terror in its very backyard and at its strongest point.Self-defence anti communal committees mist be built confronting all RSS or VHP elements.
KHALISTAN MOVEMENT AND STATE TERRORISM
Jagjit Singh Chauhan was the founder of this movement in the late 60’s abroad. Natively from Punjab he had settled abroad, and in Britain formed Sikh religious groups advocating a new state for the Sikhs. The Khalistani dictates included a ban on cigarettes, a ban on eating meat, a ban on drinking liquor, a ban on beauty parlours, prohibition against shaving and compulsion of women to wear Salwar Kameez. The people had to observe the Khalistani code in all ways of life. In Punjab the Akali Dal represented the religious Sikh politics through the Akali movement which had its origin in the Singh Sabha movement of the late 1920’s which tried to communalise a secular anti-imperialist movement. To divert it, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak committee was formed with the blessings of the British.
The Akali movement professed the Anandpur Sahib resolution that converted several democratic issues into Sikh demands. Democratic demands of the people like the arrest of the Jodhpur detenues, the sharing of river waters with Haryana, the transfer of the capital from Chandigarh to Amritsar, and the punishing of criminals during the Delhi riots were taken up as religious issues.
However the fundamental difference of the Akali Dal from the Khalistanis was that they wanted to gain power within the Indian State through electoral means, while the Khalistanis advocated a total religious liberation struggle.to de-throne the Indian State. There were forces within the Akali Dal which openly supported the Khalistani armed actions and election boycott, like the United Akali Dal faction led by Baba Joginder Singh. In the mid 80′ Sant Longowal, the Akali Dal president was assassinated by the Khalistanis for collaborating on a settlement with the ruling Congress.
From the early 80’s to the early part of the 90’s the state of Punjab was ravaged by Khalistani terrorism. Communal fascists were a great threat to the people’s democratic movement. The Akali Dal represented the Sikh communalists while the Congress represented the Hindu communalism. Both parties used the communal terrorist gangs against each other.
Indira Gandhi created and patronized Bhindranwale, a Sikh communal fanatic, to electorally defeat the Akali Dal. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale belonged to a Sikh fundamentalist sect which opposed the electoral Akali Dal politics. In the earlier phases the Akali Dal patronized the Sikh fundamentalist forces, harbouring several terrorists in religious temples. However when the contradiction between the Khalistani liberation and Akali Dal ideology became acute, the Congress won Bhindranwale to their side to de-stabilise the Akali Dal, the ruling party.
The Khalistani movement was an agent of the Indian state. Heavy state terrorism took place in Punjab against the common people in the name of combating the communal terrorists. Often a truckload of weaponry sent for arming the Khalistani terrorist forces was allowed by the Police. The situation was reminiscent of the Vietnam war and in no post-partition period was such communal terror experienced. The rays of darkness had extinguished the light from the land of Punjab.
The Khalistanis were armed to the core. Innocent Hindus were shot in buses by bullets from AK-47 machine guns. Women were raped who disobeyed the Khalistani dictates, houses razed to the ground. Villagers were forced to bow to Khalistani dictates at the butt of the gun. Jounnalist Lala Jagat Narain, of the Hindu Samachar was assassinated when he condemned Bhindranwale.
In 1984 in June the Indian Army carried out Operation Bluestar to suppress the Forces of Khalistani terrorists that had taken refuge in the Golden Temple (a Sikh religious temple). It was one of the most repressive anti-democratic acts that took place in the history of post-Independence India. 100 innocent Sikhs were shot with their hands tied down behind their backs. Various religious shrines were destroyed. Bhindranwale was killed. At that time in Jodhpur in anxiety Sikhs belonging to the Army in sheer desperation left Jodhpur to ensure their families were safe in the chaos that was created. They were frightened that their families could be attacked. These soldiers were arrested in the name of treason! In retaliation in October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by 2 Sikh fanatics. One of the people charged, Kehar Singh who was awarded the death sentence, was innocent.
After Indira Gandh’s assassination the worst massacre ever in post-independence India took place. 5000 Sikhs, were massacred by communal forces led by Jagdish Tytler and L.K Bhagat. Innocent Sikhs were chopped or burnt alive. Several Hindu families came to the rescue of Sikhs by sheltering them and saving them from being trampled by the iron feet of oppression. To this day the perpetrators of the massacre have not been imprisoned.
In the later phase, through military combing operations in Operation
Woodrose, the police tortured several innocent families, under the pretext that they had been harbouring terrorists. In villages in Punjab several innocent Sikh people, mainly youth were killed in staged encounters. The police falsely claimed that they were communal terrorists killed in encounters.
ANTI-REPRESSION AND ANTI-COMMUNAL FRONT
The anti-repression and anti-communal front Punjab,displayed exemplary examples of mass revolutionary resistance against the twin terrors of State and Khalistani terrorism. The front was originally backed by various communist revolutionary groups like the UC.C.R.I.M.L-Nagi Reddy group (later merged into the C.C.R.I. in 1988), THE C.T group, C.P.I.M.L.(Party Unity), the R,C,C.I (M.l.) etc. Below I am submitting a biographical sketch and a brief report of the event and the post-martyrdom conference. The purpose of he Front was to organize mass revolutionary resistance against Khalistani and state terrorism. It initiated a programme to combat the Khalistani terrorism in building ‘cores’ of revolutionary resistance. No political leader could use the image of the front to project their political image. The Front would also not play a role of mass sectional organizations nor be attached to any group as ‘front’ organization. It would have it’s independent structure, in order to pool all the possible resources against the twin enemies of Khalistan and State terrorism. It was reviewed that mere propaganda was in sufficient and a separate organization had to be created as a mass political platform to combat the enemy.
On April 10 the first sign sof resistance was demonstrated by the Punjabi people led by Front leader Megh Raj BahtuanaIn March in 1987 the ringleaders of the United Akali Dal and the A.I.S.S.F,in the course of a conference at village Chaina,near Bhagtuana,threatened to assassinate front leader Megh Raj Baghtuana,who was holding meetings against them.Despite these threats Megh Raj,a front organiser, refuted the fascist ideology of the communal terrorists programme. The masses in Bhagtuana responded heroically, organising a demonstration armed with traditional weapons, surrounding the supporters of the Khalistani ideology. material.
Those supporters had to beg mercy from the people Semi-secret mass meetings were organised and a score of volunteers armed with conventional weapons and under-cover illegal firearms toured the villages to raise funds and to propogate anti-Khalistani material. 9units of the Front in Goniana,Rampura,Malout, Lambi, Lehra, Kotkapura, Nihalsinghwala, Moga and Jaitu organised a massive med conference in Jaitu on April10th.Thousands
of people assembled in the conference shouting Slogans” a Hindu Raaj na Khalistan,Raaj Kare Mazdoor,Kisan.(Neither Hindu Rule or Khalistani rule, we want the rule of Workers and peasants)They were armed with traditional weapons like Lathis,swords,and spears.The village of Jaitu seemed to be staging a festival of the masses. From various towns and villages people approached leaders of the front to hold such programmes at their places. In Bishnandi and Bazakhana,terrorists destroying tombs of the dead were beaten ercilessly by the masses.At Jaitu,an Amrithdari Sikh who tried to forcibly close a cigarette shop was beaten up by the villagers.Similar incidents took place in Kotli,Chaina,Matta,Sedh SinghWala Villages. with people armed with traditional weapons showing mass defiance Such mass resistance reminded people of the heroic resistance and courage of ranks formed from common people during the Great Patriotic War against the Nazi Fascists On April 14th a truckload of terrorists armed with naked swords and firearms came to attack the house of Front leader Megh Raj.They were met with a shower of
brickbats and stones from the housetops. T he Front workers armed with traditional weapons, forced the terrorists to retreat.5Khalistanis were literally beaten by the villagers. In the end the police raided the office of the Front in Rampura Phul showing whose side they were on July 10th Rally(From Bleeding Punjab report)
On July 10th the scene was reminiscent of The resistance the Vietnamese masses staged combating the American oppressor enemy.. The people thronged from all over Punjab. The rally was ld when the Khalistani terrorists were at the peak of the onslaught and t did not permit any democratic cultural activities.Silmuntaneously the ruling Barnala govt.did not permit any democratic assembling of people under the pretext of curbing terrorist activities. In the same area where the rally was being held an activist of the Front namely’Lal InderSingh Lalli was murdered by the terrorists. The entire family of a C.P.I.worker was eliminated. The Front’s understanding and perspective was projected and explained. Later a massive demonstration was held in the city. The demonstration was a great success in 3 ways:
1.In respect of projecting the basically correct revolutionary perspective of the resistance against both types.
- In respect of expressing the militant mood and valiant spirit of the Punjabi people against both form sof terror.
3.In respect of demonstrating positive hopes to he massses in successful combating the enemy.
Village Sewewala is located on the Bathinda-Jaito-Faridkot road 2 km from Jaitu town to one side and Baghtuana to another. What was significant was that in a recent wage-hike struggle, the Sarpanch had tried to woo the Jat peasants and pit them against the Harijan of the village, who were mainly agricultural labourers. The Sarpanch tried to use the rural caste-divide for mobilizing the Jat peasants against the new organization. The entire Harijan basto became staunch supporters of the front. This has class-significance .
On April 9th in 1991, a local assembly was organized in the village by the ‘front.’ In Sewewala village. State –level leaders of the front were invited to participate in the platform. Five hundred people assembled in the compound. A popular anti-communal play was staged and a volunteer force team with pistols and fire-arms guarded the compound.
Khalistani terrorist forces camouflaged themselves and came through the village sarpanch’s house wearing green military uniforms carrying 3 assault rifles, 2 stun guns at least one 7.62 bore gun, and H-E 36 grenades. They attacked the manning members and moved from check post to check post. They lobbed a grenade onto the roof and destroyed the wall of the compound. They had discovered the minute details of the volunteer force like their positions, weaponry and numbers. Mata Sada Kaur, a woman activist from Bhatinda and Jagpal Singh, a state committee member of the front were the first to be killed. Mata Sada Kaur daringly challenged them to shoot her before they shot the young, while Jagpal Singh was shot when moving the children out of the range of fire .
The Khalistanis lobbed another grenade at the dais but it failed to burst. Megh Raj who had not been hit, snatched a 12 bore gun from a comrade and fired 2 shots. However by now his gun was empty and while re-loading his gun the terrorist showered bullets on him. Comrade Megh Raj could have saved his life had he not launched himself in hot pursuit of the Khalistanis, challenging and firing upon them as they were retreating after the attack. Mother Sadana could have saved her life, had she not stretched out her chest against the Khalistanis while unleashing her wrath, while Paapi invited his death by raising slogans against the Khalistani terrorists, amidst the shower of bullets.
Post-massacre summary and resistance
In this encounter, the Khalistanis remained superior, in the military context of killing men, came out winners, but in the political context of causing demoralization, they have failed. In fact the ‘Front ‘ became more popular after the attack.
The failure in thwarting the bloody attack has brought to light the serious weaknesses, limitations and defects of the ‘Front.’ However this cannot deny that the Front launched a protracted fight against the Khalistanis. The Front should have conducted the fight with more seriousness, preparation and vigour.
This attack was not on the ‘Front’ alone. It was an attack on the rural labourers (the Harijans) and was specifically mentioned in the handout of the Khalistanis. Above all it was an assault on the entire democratic movement of Punjab.
On the day of the assault of the Khalistanis it looked like it was a victory for them and a loss to the Front but reflecting on the overall history of the period the Front had overlapped the enemies and gained many notable victories. The achievements of the front were fare greater than it’s defeats. The Khalistani forces felt that Megh Raj and his fellow-comrades would repent their doings and their families would be intimidated. But the Khalistani bombs and rifles could not fulfil their political plans, as the martyr comrades were not horrified by death, but mocked by it.
To combat the oppression of the communal –fascist forces activity was undertaken by party platforms and mass organs. Special issues of the ‘The ‘Inquilabi Jantak Leh’ and the ‘Surkh Rekha ‘ were printed as well as messages and statements of other Communist revolutionary groups. A printed statement of the Central Committee and the state committee of the C.C.R.I was brought out in a leaflet and a poster was also printed by the same organization.
Hundreds of people gathered at Baghtuana, Rampura, Selbrah and Dhilwan to bid farewell to the martyrs, marching to the cremation grounds, raising militant slogans. At Baghtuana, bodies of 4 martyrs were cremated in a common pyre, encased in red flags. The slogans raised reflected the resolve f the people to combat the communal fascist forces.
Bog Samagams(conferences) of individual martyrs were held in Bhatuana, Dhilwan, Selbrah and Rampura. In spite of terrorist threats they were successfully held. In these meetings, speakers from a huge range of mass organizations of agricultural workers, peasants, labourers employees etc displayed their resolve to combat the communal-fascist forces. Taking into consideration the earlier threats issued by the terrorists, great priority was given to security arrangements. They planned to foil any terrorist onslaught on the activists and that to thwart tan attack the democratic forces would retaliate in a more comprehensive manner, literally giving back the enemy a taste of their own medicine. One major problem was that it was not possible to move all men and material to smagams in 4 different places –all within 10 days of the massacre. Thus volunteers and arms had to be arranged locally. Effective measures were deployed to provide security cover not only to the pandal and procession but also to the participants on their way coming from all over the state.
On May 18th,one of the most memorable conferences or samagams (in Hindi) was held in memory of the Sewewala martyrs. The main aim was to project the revolutionary mass –political message of offering revolutionary mass resistance to the twin onslaught of Khalistani and State terrorism. The objective was to pool in all the revolutionary democratic allies and exclude forces like Paigam group that supported the Khalistani Movement. The aim was to narrow down the differences between the different communist revolutionary forces. It was decided that no revolutionary group should use the conference to project it’s political image and that it was not a forum to project party politics. This trend was predominant in the K.Ramchadran group which refused to differentiate between the party and mass-political platform and believed that mass organizations were only needed to propogate economic demands. This trend was predominant in the K.N Ramchadran group which refused to differentiate between the party and mass-political platform. Some groups talked of mere class struggle, some gave less emphasis like the RCC on Khalistani terrorism while some like Ramchandran group insisted on participating only on the ‘party’ plane. The samagam organizers insisted that no party should participate in it’s own name or it’s own banner.
For the conference great preparations were made for adequate security arrangements. The firepower of all the Communist revolutionary groups was pooled together. Due care was taken to ensure that the communist revolutionary groups were not forced to expose their men and material. Some groups did not wish to expose their armed preparedness/squads. To satisfy these parameters, the participant groups were asked to specify only the number of volunteers and the quantity of arms and ammunition with them.C.C.R.I, (Centre of Communist revolutionaries of India)C.T .(Central Team)and R.C.C.groups acted collectively in this. It was planned that a volunteer force equipped with about two-thirds legal and one-third illegal weapons would be deployed.However,the number of armed volunteers and weapons grew beyond expectations. No armed licences from the state would be procured.
A committee of prominent mass leaders, intellectuals, writers ,editors and democratic rights leaders were formed to conduct this programme. The purpose was to achieve maximum possible mobilization of communist revolutionary, democratic and secular forces. It included Gursharan Singh (dramatist), Amolak Singh (editor, Surkh Rekha), Japal Jassi(editor, Inquilabi Jantak Leh), Sujan Singh (short story writer), Mohunder Singh Sandhu, Jagmohan Singh(Association for democratic Rights) etc. The people of Jaitu were greatly encouraged when they saw the security arrangements. Besides volunteers with firearms, hundreds of volunteers were armed with traditional weapons. As it was routinely apprehended that the terrorists in the garb of police personnel may hit at the participants while the latter were on their way to Jaitu, the police authorities were asked to inform the Samagam (conference) organizers about the deployment of their checkposts.The police refused permission for this. Mobile patrolling was undertaken by volunteers on jeeps and 2 –wheelers.
The function started at 9.a.m on May 18th.Militant slogans were raised and about 10,000 people assembled. At first only around 250 people assembled but like a spark turning into a prairie fire the number increased to 10,000. The speech that touched the hearts of most of the participants was that of Amolkak Singh (State convenor of the Front. The stage secretary Jaspal Jassi spoke about the need for combating both types of terrorism and also exposed the tendency in the revolutionary camp with either state or Khalistani terrorism. He explained the correct approach of mass revolutionary resistance against both kinds of terrorism. The masses responded warmly, continuously raising militant slogans. After the function, Jaspal Jassi discharged the responsibility of the stage secretary. After the conclusion of the Samagam, a militant demonstration was held in the town escorted by volunteers. At the parking place adequate security arrangements were made to thwart attempts of Khalistanis gangs to plant bombs in the trucks.
What was important was that the revolutionary democratic message was so effectively conveyed and that the conference was not utilized as a forum for projecting the line of any communist revolutionary group. It promoted the unity of communist revolutionary and democratic force s and combated any trend to convert mass –political platforms into party platforms. The samagam and the demonstration increased the confidence among people that a successful protracted fight can be waged. One was reminded of the spirit of the Vietnamese people when combating the Americans and the confidence they gained from the Vietminh combat forces. Please consider for publication nad confirm receipt. The front martyrs and activities sowed the seeds for later revolutionary developments in Punjab.
The red armed Shaheed Bhgat Singh or Sarabhai brigade avenged the assignation of the Sewewala martyrs by assassinating the Khalistani gangs responsible.
COMMEMORATION CONFERENCE IN 1993
Two years later a commemoration programme was launched which depicted a classic example of mass line. After a considerable study of the political situation it was decided to launch a commemoration programme for the Sewevala martyrs. The Harijan basti region was where the programme would be launched.
After reaching a general consent of villagers and the residents of the Harijan Basti a secret meeting of 7-8 pro-party militants was held. The local mass militants were bitterly critical of the inadequate security arrangements at the time of the massacre, 2 years previously and felt humiliated, but they shared their intense hatred for the Khalistani terrorists. The political activist of the revolutionary group made a self-critical appraisal of their earlier approach which reduced their anger and brought them closer to the revolutionary group. He pledged that now the masses would be organised to enable them to receive much stronger self-defence, and Front leaders would be far more vigilant of enemies. A list of potential allies and enemies was drawn out. A calculated action programme was chalked out to win over the maximum support of the Harijan Basti.
The survey of the village revealed that Khalistani terror broadly existed over both the landed and landless peasantry. Only a small section of the landed peasantry sympathised with the Front and even these sections would not openly identify with the Front Programme. The rest of the peasant households remained neutral. The Harijans (backward or scheduled caste-India has a history of the Caste System and this Harijan Sect was the most degraded section known as the ‘Untouchables’. In the villages they were the principal landless or poor peasantry and were the majority of the agricultural labour force) were unwilling to take the risk again. However, as a result of their social class the Harijans were easy to win over. It was now decided to deploy a plan of work whereby the advanced elements of the youth would be won over followed by the middle and backward layer. This plan proved most fruitful, as a great section of revolutionary youth were won over.
However the Harijan elders were reluctant to join. The Front organised family meetings to combat this obstacle as well as promised greater security plans for them at meetings. Weapons were displayed in the basti for this purpose. The Front, giving concrete examples, explained what revolutionary resistance to the 2 pronged Khalistani and State terror was about giving vivid examples of their experience. The class hatred of such families was strengthened by this method. It was explained to the Harijans how they would be liberated from the tyranny of the rich Sikh Landowners and pro-Khalistani sections.
During these meetings each participant was alloted a particular duty after being assessed. Male members were given duties involving preparations, while women and children were allotted the task of obtaining information about the enemies. In less than 2 weeks, almost the entire Harijan Basti supported the Front. However a self-styled leader of the basti as well as pro-Khalistani elements opposed the programme stating that they would lathi charge the programme. An enraged section of the youth retaliated trying to give those reactionary elements a sound thrashing but the Front curbed them, explaining them they needed to adopt a correct approach.
Khalistani elements mainly belonging to the Jat peasantry continued to threaten this programme through terror methods over villagers. They carried out a campaign of deliberate lies against the Harijans inciting class hatred against the Dalits. The landed peasantry were told by these elements that the Harijans would snatch their lands. They also spread rumours that an attack similar to the one at Sewevala would take place and hundreds would be killed.
Now the Front organisers concentrated on winning over sections of the Jat peasantry. Unfortunately when a group of Harijan youth went on a propoganda campaign the communalised sections of the Jat Peasantry misbehaved and tore up their pamphlets and posters. However the youth kept calm and thus foiled the attempt of these reactionary forces in creating a clash between the Jat peasants and the Harijans. After this incident 2 contrasting events took place. One section of Harijans was depressed by the aggressive behaviour of the Jats. They wanted to postpone the programme. However another section were outraged and were impatient in holding the programme. This attitude was predominant in the youth who stated that there was no need to win over the Jat peasantry to hold the programme.
Now all efforts were concentrated on the mobilisation of the Harijan basti. A huge range of family meetings took place. There was now even a great response from women.
After this state-wide preparations were made for the programme-the State Committee of the revolutionary organization representing the mass line issuing a leaflet explaining the history of the Punjabi masses in combating the communal terror and the State terror. On March 21st a mass meeting of activists was held to pay homage to the Sewewala Martyrs and chalk out plans for the conference on April 9th. A 10 member preparation committee was elected which facilitated this propaganda in labour colonies. A shaheedi (martyrs) conference was held on April 4th to pay homage to the heroes where 800 people participated. The families of 2 martyrs of the Sewewala massacre were presented with momentoes.
A massive security programme was launched by the Front. The Harijan masses of the basti played a major role in gathering information about the role of the enemies. The women and children played a major role in this. They made a thorough study of the enemy’s moves, motives and movements. The deployment of adequate and proper weapons was given emphasis. However the emphasis was given on the broad masses asserting their right to self-defence. Trained volunteers were also to play an instrumental role. Two dozen youth of the basti associated themselves as guards, couriers and vigilance keepers as well as by spying on the enemy.
A day before the programme security was installed on the roofs of the exterior of the basti. Trained volunteers manned them. Barricades were installed in the lanes and by-lanes to prohibit the entry of suspicious elements. The Barricades were provided cover by armed volunteers positioned on rooftops. All security posts were covered with a special signal system. A network of couriers was organised which raced from one spot to the other exchanging information. All posts had their own commanders and an operational zone operating under a unifying higher command.
On the day of the programme, entry was entitled only by identity passes. A Harijan Dharamshala staged the programme. Slogans such as “Down with Khalistani and State terrorism” and “Long Live the Sewewala Martyrs” were painted on the boudary walls of the building. The ground was decorated with red flags and a bed of red sand. Amidst flower petals name plates of martyrs were placed. A community kitchen served cooked and sweet packed rice to the participants. From the home village of martyred comrade Megh Raj Baghtuana, a contingent of 70 men, women and children carrying red flags and escorted by girl volunteers reached Sewewala. The women participants numbered more than 150 in the conference. By 12 o’clock, 3,000 people had arrived, more than 2/3 from the agricultural labourers, industrial labourers, electricity workers and other working sections. Leaders Amolak Singh and Jaspal Jassi adressed the gathering. At 12.30 the family members of the martyrs came on stage. Amolak explained to people the anti-people nature of the Khalistani terrorists and the State. He explained how the Jat peasantry (middle Sections of the peasantry) had fallen victim to the Khalistani poisonous propaganda.
2.05 was the exact time of the attack on the Sewewala Martyrs 2 years previously. At that time there was perhaps one of the most emotional scenes in the history of the Communist movement in India.
The winning over of the Harijan peasantry was a great achievement but the inability to influence the Jat Peasantry was a major setback. The Front issued an ordinary appeal to the Jat Peasantry. The Front projected it’s pro-people policies and explained that the Khalistani elements were only trying to poison their minds with lies and false propaganda regarding the Front. It was explained that such elements were trying to wedge the gap between the Jat peasantry and the Harijan labourers. However as these programmes took place, reports took place about the movements of suspected terrorists. This became a major threat and security was strengthened. The Front persuaded supporters to contribute a day’s labour in donation. While the harvesting was taking place a bunch of suspected elements were tracked. A red alert was issued. At night such elements were observed near a Harijan basti. An attack was anticipated and the volunteers resorted to firing to thwart the suspected elements. Again there was a totally contrasting reaction between the Jats and the Harijans. The landed Jat peasantry took it as an attack on the Harijans against them as a provocation while the Harijan peasantry defended the firing of weapons by the volunteers. The latter were now more confident of repulsing attacks by class enemies.
The great achievement of the martyrs conference was that a most unfavourable situation was turned into a favourable situation reminiscent of the Viet Cong who heroically defeated the American forces in the Vietnam war. The campaign also effectively answered the question of the mass revolutionary line over the line of squad actions. An earlier supporter of squad actions stated “What we achieved here can not be achieved by a squad action.” Another student leader stated “Mass revolutionary line is invincible and armed squad action cannot substitute for it“. A volunteer student group stated “We have gained a valuable experience in the mass revolutionary li
COMPLETE LIST OF SEWEWALA MARTYRS:
- Megh Raj Bhagtuana
- Jagpal Singh Selbrah
- Mata Sadan Kaur
- Gurjant Singh
- Karam Singh
- Tejinder Singh
- Bagga Singh
- Buta Singh
- Jagseer Seera
- Jagdev Singh
- Harpal Singh
- Lakhbir Singh
- Gurdev Singh Debi
- Charanjit Singh
- Manjit Singh
- Makhan Singh
- Gurnam Singh.
Megh Raj Baghtuana
The revolutionary spirt was in his blood. His family has been deeply involved in the Pepsu Tenants’ Movement (Muzara Lehar). He took to revolutionary ideology at a young age and became active in Naujwan Bharat Sabha. He was sent to jail many times during Emergency, Randhawa Agitation, and agitation against the murder of Parbati at Jaitu and faced brutal police torture. But the police repression failed to deter him from serving the people. He was one of the most active leader of Front Against Repression & Communalism. Under his guidance, Bhagtuana became a shining example of mass resistance against repression and Khalistani terrorism. He was very popular amongst the landless and agri-laborers of the area. Since the days of Bhinderanwale, he was on the top of terrorist’s hit list. They made many unsuccessful attempts on his life. During Sewewala massacre he sacrificed his life challenging the AK-47 wielding Khalistani terrorists, with a double barrel gun.
JAGPAL SINGH SELBRAH
Jagpal was State Committee member of the Front Against Repression & Communalism. His father Shri Mohinder Singh was a very brilliant and active worker of Bharti Kissan Union.Jagpal came in the fold of revolutionary democratic movement in Punjab, when he was a college student at Rampura. He joined Punjab Students Union. When a section of the PSU led by Major Matran, took the inglorious step of making it a lackey of Khalistani terrorism, he vehemently opposed it. He became active in the Front Against Repression & Communalism, since its inception. He was shot dead by Khalistani terrorists, when he was trying to save children, from their attack.
Mata Sadan Kaur
Mata Sadan Kaur, who was more than 70 years old, was deeply involved in revolutionary democratic movement for more than two decades. She remained in the forefront in mobilizing masses against the State repression and Khalistani terrorism. She used to say, “Boys, whenever there is danger, put me in the forefront.” When Khalistani terrorists started shooting indiscriminately at Sewewala, she surged forward and said, “Dogs, why are you killing innocent persons. Before killing them, kill me” And the Khalistani terrorist were quick to retaliate. They shot her dead. Thus she died a hero’s death.
Gurjant Singh was born in an agricultural labourer’s family. He was Secretary of Kotkapura unit of Front Against Repression & Communalism and Circle level leader of Technical Services Union, the struggling organization of electricity employees. Various Khalistani organizations issued edicts to disband this organization and directed their leaders to publicly resign from their posts or face death. But the members of this organization stood like a rock defying all such threats.
Tejinder Singh-21 years old,was a revolutionary singer.His father was president of the agricultural workers Union.
Pappy-25 years,was an active front worker and member of the agricultural workers Union.
Bagga Singh-26yrs ,was affront volunteer who manned the checkpost
Karam Singh of a Harijan family was leader of the ‘Chakki ‘Mazdoor Union of Rampura.
Harpal Singh was an FCI inspector and Front supporter.
Lakbir Singh and Gurdev Singh Debi were supporters of the Front.
2 schoolchildren pf peasnt families ,Charnjit Singh nad Manjit Singh too perished.So too was Gurnam Singh of Jidda village.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist.Toured India,particularly Punjab .Written on Mass movements ,,Massline,Maoism on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and frontierweekly .An avid cricket lover too who has posted writings on blogs like Pakpassion Indian Cricket Fans and Sulekha.com Emailfirstname.lastname@example.org