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Parnaam Shaheeda Nu

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Today commemorates 20 years since the Shaheedi of a great Sikh General.

Shaheed Bhai Sukhwinder Singh Pappu Gora - 27th January 1992

Deputy Chief of the Khalistan Commando Force

Bhai Sahib was one of the great leaders of the movement, here is an extract from two interviews given by Shaheed Bhai Sukhwinder Singh Pappu Gora.

Former mechanic. General of the Majha region (KCF) and deputy commander of the KCF until his death. Ancestral village Dadiala, District Gurdaspur. Background: artisan, born 1964, with eight years’ schooling. His is one of four brothers and has four sisters, one of whom is younger to him. Our brother is a motor mechanic, another works as a welder, a third is in the bank and their father farms five acres. Circumstances of death: killed 27 January 1992 in a shoot-out with the police and army in which he killed one SP, 2 sub-inspectors of police plus six others, before he himself was killed.

First Interview

Due to the continuing struggle, my sisters were married very quickly and I left school early. Only my elder brother was educated properly and we had to pay quite a lot to get him a job. Seeing this I became quite disenchanted. It seemed that education alone was pointless. Even though my brother was educated we still had to pay to get him a job. We tried to get him into the BSF, but they wanted 5,000 rupees. I hated them for that. My brother said to them, ‘I’m handing over my body to you and on top of that you’re wanting 5,000 rupees. Better to stay at home than do your government service!’

After leaving school, I became a trained motor mechanic [for tractors]. I had taken Amrit at the age of twelve but I’ve taken it again, subsequently, for the struggle [i.e. a conscious reason]. There is a Gurdwara near our house and I used to go there to recite the scripture every day, in the evening. A granthi there used to recite about our national heroes.

I was twenty in 1984 and running a small machine-tools shop. In 1984 all the Amritdhari Sikhs started being arrested and cruelty inflicted upon them. I was affected by what I saw. So in 1985 at a big gathering in Metha Chowk I took Amrit there. I started wearing the kesri [saffron] turban and the clothes of the Khalsa and because of doing sewa [voluntary collective work] in the Gurdwara, the BSF chaps in the village [there was a police picket in the village] labelled me a terrorist. My uncle’s [father’s elder brother’s] sons were involved in the struggle and they were beaten up. This made me mentally committed to the struggle. However, at that stage, I was not personally involved in any way. However, the BSF questioned me where I had taken Amrit and whom did I see. On hearing these sorts of questions I realised our honour and status was challenged and I joined the struggle. At that time I was arrested five or six times but, with the grace of God, not beaten. I got peace through reading bani. My thoughts stopped wavering, my earthly desires were eliminated and I stopped thinking of the family. The intoxication of prayer gives me strength and direction. There I can face all difficulties. Our Guru Gobind Singh and his Khalsa went through problems and today we are grateful we go through the same problems and serve the Panth. Our Guru Granth Sahib is there to guide us. This government therefore cannot challenge us in any way.

My sisters had encouraged me to join the movement. Sukhdev Singh Jhamke [a noted guerrilla killed in May 1989] used to come to the house and the family used to feed him and those whom he brought. In the early days I went Darbar Sahib and met some Singhs there. We sheltered them at our tube well. My family never stopped me serving the nation, but warned me to be careful. All of my family have been taken to prison by now. I was influenced much by the local President of the Sikh Student Federation who was from our village. The meetings that he organised filled those who attended with strength. We village people don’t go out much, but after 1984 we went to Darbar Sahib and the political meetings of the Federation. Soon I became an activist, supplying them with information. For two years I was underground. I mean by this I was not on the run, for I had joined the movement openly and hence was free. I joined the KCF. At first I was supplying information and hiding their weapons. No one had done any organisational or political work in my family before, though father had been a sarpanch [head of the village council] and he used to go on Akali morchas. My own political education came from my attendance at Federation meetings. I came to realise that Sikhs were not Hindustanis. I learned there of our ambitions and the reasons for our ill treatment.

There are many ways to join a struggle, why did you choose the armed struggle?

I simply fell in love with the Shastras [weapons of Guru Gobind Singh]. Then in 1982, I had attended the very big convention called by Bhindranwale at Mehta Chowk. Bhindranwale announced before his arrest that the gathering must be peaceful. But some agent provocateur among the Sikhs fired at the police. The police returned the fire. There was a mother killed in that shooting. She died while trying to escape and her small child was still clinging on to her. One can protect oneself and others only by being armed.

After taking Amrit in1985 I no longer was interested in the household. I took a pledge that whenever the Sikh nation needs my head I shall give it. As I saw the intensity of violence and of the grief and suffering increase there was therefore only one way to go. A Sikh cannot be oppressed. That is imprinted on his heart. The life of a Sikh is like the water flowing in a stream, each time you utilise it, it will replenish itself. But when you try to stop this flow, the water will become stagnant and its level will rise. Similarly, if you heat water to boiling point it will spill over. And if, on top of that, you contain it as well, it will turn into stream and explode. First, the government heated us up, and now we are hot and have joined the struggle, they are increasing their oppression, killing innocent Sikhs and arresting many from their homes. Now we’ve been turned into steam! How can you contain steam?

How are targets picked?

Some people in the village spy on us to the police. We find out, after a while, who they are. More Sikhs [than Hindus] are touts now. You often hear, these days, that an innocent Sikh has been killed in a village. He’s not innocent; he’s an informer. We do warn them to stop their activities. Many of them do stop. One of our difficulties was that when people had their own personal rivalries they would inform against each other. So it became very important for us to be sure who we were hitting. Some Hindu informers still remain. But they are not the very poor Hindus. There’s only one group among them who are informing – the banias [traders, merchants]. Only these informers were chased out of our villages. Our struggle is not sectarian one against any particular group of people.

The KCF has a Punjab wide network but the government has infiltrated into armed organisations at every level and they are fomenting dissent among us. Fortunately our Sikh soldiers bring in a lot of information and reports which we check and verify.

Is there any truth in the allegations that the KCF forces villagers to feed them?

In our struggle we are making a home for all Sikhs. We have a lot of sympathy from the villagers. But there is much polite infiltration of the guerrilla movement. They send out letters in our name demanding money in order to discredit us. They intimidate Amritdharis and the general public. We call such people black cats. They carry the same weapons as we do, the AK-47, for which we have another name – ant karni – it brings your end. In fact we get a lot of support from the public. When we go and knock at someone’s door and they don’t help us, it is only because they are worried about whether we are cats. If people do give food to the cats they are killed by them. In the morning they are all arrested. With some villagers we have long chats to win them over. Our Sikhs will tell you about the background of the struggle, Sikh history and the bani. However, these cats cannot do that. They are recruited from criminal elements and know nothing of our history. We do try and warn the people about them.

For a Singh [a baptised Sikh, one who is committed to the cause] who is on the run, it is essential to read bani. Reading history is now not so very relevant – that is for free men. Now is the time to create history. We live outdoors in the tall grass and among the sugar cane. On cold nights, as we lie awake, we read the bani. Also, some people who give us shelter in deras [out-houses] would get the impression we were not true Sikhs if we did not. It’s difficult to form links with others because we’re constantly on the run. I’ve been on the run for two and a half years, since the time I went to kill a police informer. My identity was leaked. I had to leave. They destroyed my house. They broke out tractor. When the police came to the village the villagers hid our family. Usually, when family members get arrested, not only the people from our village but also the nearby surrounding villages as well, surround the police station and they wait outside until the detainees are released.

To a large extent we’ve been successful. We’ve stopped the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) moving around the villages and confirmed them to their pickets and they therefore don’t trouble the villagers so much. They don’t move out of their posts at night. Ninety per cent of the problem is caused by informers. The few cats who do work for them are under close protection. They live in the Hindu cities and not in the villages. It is easier in the village to propagate our struggle from the Gurdwara as we’ve got speakers. Now our plan is that the underground government [a reference to the Panthic Committee] must issue policies and we, the KCF, as its armed wing, must see that they are implemented. Sympathisers of the movement ask us to implement certain policies such as stopping the teaching of Hindi. We’ve done this! Then, too, lots of Sikhs were cutting their hair for jobs. This was happening to many boys from ordinary landowning families. They were selling their honour. We’ve bought changes in that respect, too. Now people are returning to their identity and not stooping so low to get jobs.

What precise help comes from the military?

I don’t know. However, there are police force people who inform us in advance of raids. There is no need for us to make links with army personnel because they come and talk to us on their holidays and they ask us what they can do for us. The soldiers themselves make efforts to form links with us. And, when do any action in towns, we live in the houses of the Bhapas [a term rural people use for the urbanite Sikhs]. As far as I am concerned, Khalistan is already achieved [because of this solidarity of feeling]. All sorts of people from many different social groups are making sacrifices. All are fighting and dying equally. And we get it in a future Khalistan. And we will help other movements who are struggling like ourselves once we attain independence. As to helping the poor and the needy, there is no question that we shall do that, as whoever lives in Khalistan must subscribe to the principle of equality.

[He was asked about help needed from the outside. He replied that the movement needed help from all fields.] We ourselves are looking after the orphans and we have to remarry the widows. We need weapons. Now we need rocket launchers to attack jeeps and pickets and we shall need constant monetary help to buy them. Additionally, there certainly has to be a political movement working alongside the armed struggle.

‘As to our present life, what can I say about that? When we have weapons we are free and independent! All these forces that have been despatched to put us down, have surrendered in the end. All we need now is some international lobbying for our struggle, for we ourselves never get demoralised. Every time one dies, four join. We don’t take them directly into the force; we make them work underground for a while. We’re happy. We’ve made a pledge, and that’s why we’re fighting for the nation and will sacrifice our head for the nation. So what is there to worry about? We have to make every effort to achieve Khalistan. Only within Khalistan can our rights be secure. The central government has, at present, a programme to persuade us to come back within the constitutional fold, promising that they’ll give us jobs. However, before we never got any jobs. This is just a ruse to tempt some of us away from the movement, divide it, and destroy our way of life. When we boys meet, we hug each other, because we haven’t seen each other for such a long time. Such comradeship is more important to us than anything Delhi can give us. There is much affection binding us together. [He confides to the interviewer details about this actions against the CRP and the various supply lines.]

When we go to the villages all the small children come running towards us asking us for guns which they call ta-ta-ta [an expression for the sound of the Ak-47 going off]. Even ten-year-old children, when they find us, beg us to let them come along. We always persuade them not to come and to continue with their studies. It’s not the right time, we tell them. However, we find that many of them want to join us.

How would you describe an underground Singh?

Someone who is not on police files. We are not underground in the usual sense of the term. We have weapons joust as the paramilitaries have. We are the Sikhs of the 10th Guru and we don’t hide when we fight. We forewarn our enemy that we’re there. Those who are underground are those who work quietly and confidentially. Actions in the urban areas would not be possible, for example, if we did not know beforehand who was with us and where we could go. We need food and directions when we are carrying out actions in urban areas. Urbanities help us in planning and the targets are those who are obstacles to our freedom and those who are informers. Our struggle is not with any sectarian or caste groups. For example, there are some Brahmins in the villages who are not obstacles. However, whoever is blocking our freedom – Even if it be my own father and he is a tout – I cannot spare him and thereby give him a special favour. Now, there are very few informers in the village for we have been successful in getting the support of the people. We don’t harm the poor because for our success we need the support of very ordinary people. Once I had kidnapped the relatives of five policemen. I did so because the police had arrested seven innocent villagers and tried to convict them of being engaged in an armed action. Each time the villagers applied for their release the SHO would say they were terrorists. We sent letters to the police constables’ homes and we sent one too, to Gobind Ram which said ‘Son! If you want to kill our brothers, go ahead. We want them released without bail. If the government if India agrees to release them, the relatives of the five policemen will be returned unharmed. If not, the five constables – they were all Sikhs – must resign. If they do that, we’ll also release their relatives.’ For six days they carried out very intensive searches. By the Guru’s grace and the support of the villagers they were not found. Then the seven villagers were released. But we knew that Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh were going to be hanged and we knew four police touts. We hanged the four the same day.

Second Interview

Meeting a year and four months later (April 1991) his voice reverberated with excitement at what he took to be upturn in the KCF’s fortunes. The interviewer asked him how they had managed to reorganise and expand the KCF.

This time last year our links went only as far as out district. They were limited. Now we have units operating all over Punjab at tehsil and district level, and in other states as well, for example Haryana, UP. Mainly this expansion took place through relationships. There are those of us who have kin in Patiala and Chandigarh. Then there are the networks of relations in schools and colleges. Young people need no persuasion to join. We use the withdrawal of weapons to discipline groups and their personalities. One of our biggest problems has been that each group wanted to fight on its own. I think they see now that victory cannot come in that way. It can only come about through coordination.

What do you say to reports accusing the KCF of intimidation?

For the last three years our policy has been not to take money from the Sikhs. We’re not worried about this propaganda. If Sant was a badmash than we are all badmashs as well. In any case at village level we counteract this propaganda. You cannot take money from any poor person, ever. We’re clear on that. However, we impose a tax of the Khalistan government on the wealthy. We don’t force money out of them. We tax them. We persuade Hindus and Christians to join the struggle. We must protect them. They are minorities. At first when we went to Ludhiana district people were not helping us. Now they trust us considerably more. Previously they were victims of government propaganda, and thought us to be thieves, and they were intimidated by criminal elements. Now we've developed a system of codes so that they know who they are dealing with. Their doors are now open. We’ve killed a lot of the criminal element. We also ask people to get in touch with if they are being troubled by the police. Many have approached us. Government agents in the garb of freedom fighters have been the main problem. The KCF boys carry identity cards now. We shoot only criminal elements, not other kharkhus [fighters]. Should a KCF boy be doing something wrong, it is up to other guerrilla groups to inform Zaffarwal as the head of the organisation. Likewise if one of them is doing wrong, we should report it to their head. A lot of these killings take place to give us the image of being murderous and violent. This will stop support from overseas Sikhs and demoralize those at home. I’m not saying we don’t kill. We kill informers. However, we have got nothing to do with this cultural policy of interfering in each and every person’s affairs, as have some organisations. Our struggle is with the government and if we get involved in condemning those who drink or who make other small mistake s, people will not support us, and indeed will turn against us. Certainly we will not shoot anyone on these small matters. Our struggle is against the government of India. If we get involved in small things such as the killing of immoral men and women, this will harm our national struggle. This is accepted by all our soldiers.

There are very few informers from the public now. There are only informers infiltrated by the police and intelligence. Now our force is in all parts of Punjab, reaching into every home and down to each little child. So everyone knows about us. When we have a new recruit we trace him. People in his village inform us, through our networks, whether he loves the movement, or is an infiltrator. Whoever loves this movement, keeps an eye on what’s going on, for us. If someone has a bad reputation in his village, those in his village inform us. Due to the support coming from the people we feel safe and protected. Much support these days is coming from UP and Rajasthan because the Sikh there know that they stay there by grace of the Delhi government and that should anything happen they’ll all be murdered.

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Amazing Sikh. I remember reading his life story a few years, A real Gem , and loss for panth.

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