On October 31, 1984, Beant Singh, a sub inspector in the Delhi Police was on Prime Minister Ms Indira Gandhi’s security duty, along with Satwant Singh.
Beant Singh was known to the Prime Minister for last ten years or so and always a duty bound bodyguard. Satwant Singh, who was younger than him, had been assigned to Gandhi’s guard just five months before the assassination.
Beant Singh had never shown any aberration or aggression during his years in Delhi Police.
Walking on the small cemented path of around 20 metres, towards the gate separating the official residence and her office, Ms. Gandhi noticed Beant Singh on duty and greeted him.
Within seconds, Beant Singh drew his .38 service revolver and fired three shots into her abdomen. After she had fallen to the ground, Satwant Singh fired rounds from his Sten gun into her.
After the shooting, both threw their weapons down and Beant Singh said: “I have done what I had to do. You do what you want to do.”
Indo-Tibetan Border Police Commandoes caught Beant Singh and took him into their office inside the premises.
Within six minutes of his capture. While waiting for senior officers to interrogate them, Beant Singh was shot dead inside the ITBP office, by the commandoes, in what circumstances actually, was never probed so far.
Satwant Singh was also caught on the spot and later hanged with another accused Kehar Singh in Tihar Jail, in 1989.
Ram Jethmalani, the senior Lawyer, who pleaded for Satwant Singh, at the final stage, in the Supreme Court, said:
“…They did it under misguided anger, and maybe even some indoctrination. After gunning her down, both threw away their arms and surrendered. Beant Singh was then shot on the spot”.
“I would argue that after a man has surrendered, you cannot shoot him down in cold blood. That is mob justice, but funnily enough it wasn’t even a mob, the guardians of the law were responsible for his death. Beant Singh was an assassin, but even he was entitled to the protection of the law and it created a mystery about the whole thing: Why did they have to kill a man who was already in their custody?
There was obviously a religious motivation for the two bodyguards. Everyone knows what the Golden Temple means for the Sikhs, and we also know what had happened in the Golden Temple. It was an invasion and a massacre”. Jethmalani said.
Beant Singh was gone on that fateful day, without giving any statement, why he had killed Ms. Gandhi. But the other assassin Satwant made his position clear, in the court.
Satwant Singh was hanged with one bullet which was lodged near his spine and it was never removed. The interrogation was obviously a torture, as Kehar Singh, the another accused in the case, told in a rare interview to the “Illustrated Weekly”, from his detention in Tihar Jail.
But Satwant Singh had always maintained that there was no bigger conspiracy. The two had acted alone, guided by deep anguish, caused by desecration of the holiest Sikh shrine, Akal Takht in Amritsar, by the Army.
He said, “This is the Khalsa tradition to avenge those who try to desecrate our holy places. We were happy to take this task. The Sikh Nation will be proud of us.”
He said that he was more than content to accept martyrdom for avenging Operation Blue Star.
“I have no hatred for any Hindu, Muslim, Christian, neither hatred for any religion. After my Shaheedi, let no Sikh throw any rock at any Hindu. I am not in favour of any retaliation or bloodshed over my Shaheedi. If we do create bloodshed, then there is no difference between us and Rajiv Gandhi. I am proud of the task that I did! I do ardas in front of Waheguru! If I am blessed with a human life, then give me a death of the brave when I am hanged. “
The Man And His Family
Beant Singh Malowan was born to Sucha Singh and Kartar Kaur on May 8, 1950 in village Maloya near Chandigarh.
Beant Singh’s grandfather Giani Partap Singh was an active participant in religious activities and took part in many such agitations including the ‘Nankana Sahib Morcha’ and ‘Gurdwara Sudhar Lehar’ (Reform Movement) during the British period.
Beant Singh was quite an educated person. After his primary education in the local village school he studied for a short time at Hameerpura and passed passed from Khalsa School (Kharar). Beant Singh completed his diploma in Russian language from Punjab University and received Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1970.
After Graduation, Beant Singh moved to Delhi in 1972, in search of a job and got employed as a sub-inspector in Delhi Police and worked in the Security Branch of the Central District and north Delhi areas.
During his service, Beant Singh was staying at a Sikh dominated locality in west Delhi, Vishnu Garden and became acquainted with another sub-inspector Gurdev Singh, who proposed his marriage to Gurcharan Singh’s daughter Bimal Kaur.
On January 23, 1976 Beant Singh was married to Bimal Kaur .The couple had three children Amrit Kaur born in 1977, Sarbjeet Singh. Jaswinder Singh was the last, born in 1983.
Beant Singh’s uncle (Fufa), Kehar Singh of village Mustafabad near Fategarh Sahib in Punjab, was also employed in Delhi as an Assistant in the ‘Directorate General of Supply and Disposal’. The two families were close and often met.
According to those who knew him, Beant Singh was a warm, caring and ready to help kind of person. A few who knew him in Delhi Police told, he was hard-working and honest, and this, helped him to proceed through his career in the police. His last employment was as the personal bodyguard to Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister.
Incidentally, Beant Singh’s family was politically inclined toward the Congress party, as in those days, Congress was the only Party in power, in the State.
In fact, Beant Singh’s employment was also the result of Congress backed reserve quota. Naturally the family’s political support was tipped into the balance of the Congress party. The family belonged to a backward Sikh community.
But all this was to change, when after the turmoiled years of extremism in Punjab, Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi ordered the attack on the centre of the Sikh Faith, Sri Darbar Sahib in June 1984.
Beant Singh was not an overtly religious person.
So, his decision to take the extreme action came as a surprise to many.
Beant Singh’s eldest brother Shamsher Singh (81) was a known lawyer at the city court in Chandigarh. He says that, despite being the Sikhs, due to their backward class category, the mainstream Sikhs were not very comfortable with them.
“We were never “fanatic” Sikhs. We have a mixed religious background. My wife is a Hindu, and I belong to Scheduled Caste”.
The youngest brother, Bhagat Singh works with ‘Punjab Mandi Board.’ He recalled Beant as a very generous person. He would always help people and often used to give money and clothes to the poor and destitute.
“My father had killed Indira Gandhi neither at the behest of any organisation nor to make any Sikh ‘jathebandi’ (group) happy. This extreme step was the outcome of intense feelings that carried away my father, and under the circumstances we all respect his feelings,” Sarabjeet Singh, the elder son of Beant Singh, told in an interview to a news agency, few years back.
The family was almost outcasted for years. Under constant police surveillance for a long time. Even the wife of Beant Singh was picked up by the police in the past, for interrogation.
Though, these days, there is the ‘Shaheed Bhai Beant Singh Trust Gurdwara’ in Maloya, which organises a Bhog ceremony every year on October 31.
In an interview, in the year 1993, Bibi Bimal Kaur, the wife of Beant Singh, shed some light.
Did she know that Bhai Beant Singh was going to assassinate Indira Gandhi?
She replied in details: “No. He did not divulge this information to me. After the attack in June 84, as all Sikhs at that time, we were hurt, shocked and confused by the actions of the government.
Sardar ji(Beant Singh) took leave from work and we visited Sri Darbar Sahib. The extent of the devastation, the number of innocent Sikhs killed and atrocities committed was incomprehensible. It shook Sardar ji to his core. He felt that it was done to suppress the Sikhs. He spent hours walking the Parikarma, through the blood soaked rubble, trying to absorb what happened that day.
Later on when he became more religious, I would always note his voice tremble during his Ardaas, when he would come to the reference to the Shaheeds “Jehna ne Sikhi layee kurbanitaan dittiyaan” (blessed are those martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the survival of Sikhism).
The earliest and most significant clue as to his later actions and intentions was when at Sri Darbar Sahib, he randomly stated “I want to become a Shaheed”.
I asked him what would happen to our children, the youngest of whom was two at the time. He responded “what about the young children that were made Shaheed here, what about the children that lost their parents here, they will have to manage, and so would our kids”. He didn’t say much else, and I didn’t take it serious, for after all people say a lot in grief”.
Bibi Amrit Kaur, elaborated the situation, that led to the extreme step by Beant Singh:
“One day he came home and said “I am going to take Amrit”. I was surprised by this and said that how come he didn’t discuss it like we usually discussed things. His reply was “you know how I used to drink with my friends before, and sometimes I would drink a bit too much, you used to get angry…” I thought to myself well at least he won’t drink again and was pleased.
Around September 1984 (just around a month before the assassination), he would go to the Gurdwara every day, he became disinterested with worldly affairs and became very sincere and passionate in his Sikhi”.
The Final Step
On October 20, 1984 Beant Singh along with his wife Bimal Kaur, Kehar Singh and his wife Jagir Kaur went to Amritsar on a pilgrimage.
After paying obeisance at Darbar Sahib they performed Sewa in the Langar hall.
The following day Beant Singh reached Akal Takhat where Satwant Singh was awaiting him.
As of October 12, 1984 the Kar Sewa of the Sarovar (holy pool) had begun, they took part in the Kar Sewa then returned to Akal Takhat where reportedly Beant Singh and Satwant Singh did ardaas(Sikh prayer that is a done before performing any significant task).
In the evening, on October 21, 1984 Beant Singh, Satwant Singh and Kehar Sigh came back to Delhi.
October 24, was the day of Diwali. On this day Ms Indira Gandhi distributed gifts to her staff and the security personnel. A box of Barfi (Sweets) and Rs. 100 each.
Beant Singh did not accept the Diwali gift.
On the morning of October 31, 1984 Beant Singh left for work earlier than usual. While his wife asked for the change, he told her that he would be visiting Gurdwara before joining the day’s duty.
When joined duty, Satwant Singh had been stationed further from Beant than expected. Satwant Singh reputedly spoke to another security personal and asked him to switch positions as he had an upset stomach and needed to be near a toilet.Incidentally, Indira Gandhi was not wearing a Bullet Proof Jacket that day, as she was going for a TV interview and that also at a walking distance within the premises.
She was shot at 9.09 in the morning.
By Deep Basu
Images are author’s self-contribution.