10 October 2012: Close on the heels of the attack on Lt-Gen K.S. Brar, an army officer who led Operation Bluestar in June 1984, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) bestowed honour on the family of the assassins of General A.S. Vaidya.
Vaidya was the Army Chief when the army carried out an armed operation to flush out militants from the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
The SGPC is the highest body managing several Sikh shrines and religious matters of the community. It honoured the kin of Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha on the occasion of their death anniversary on Tuesday.
Sukhdev Singh Sukha and Harjinder Singh Jinda
It also convened the bhog of the Akhand Path in their memory in which Jinda's brother Bhupinder Singh and Sukha's kin Surjit Kaur took part. They were presented siropas (robe of honour).
Both assassins were hanged to death in Pune Jail on October 9, 1992. The SGPC had declared them martyrs in 1996 and displayed their photos at a museum among other 'prominent' Sikhs.
However, the high priest of the Akal Takht - the supreme temporal chair of Sikhism - and the SGPC president were not present at the occasion. Jinda and Sukha were affiliated to the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) - a militant organisation.
They tracked Vaidya's movement in Pune and shot him dead on August 10, 1986. The KCF had claimed responsibility for the assassination.
Jinda and Sukha were also involved in two other high profile murder cases - the murder of Congress MP Lalit Maken and Congress leader Arjan Dass. They killed Maken on July 31, 1985, in Kirti Nagar, New Delhi, and Dass on September 5, 1985, for his alleged involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Several Sikhs had named Dass before the Nanavati Commission, which was probing the anti-Sikh carnage. They were also involved in India's 'biggest bank robbery involving Rs 5.70 crore on February 13, 1987.
They had targeted the Miller Gunj branch of the PNB in Ludhiana.
SGPC honours Gen. Vaidya assassins, stirring up controversy
Punjab parties concerned over pro-hardline sections getting increasing space
The apex clergy of the Sikh community and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) appeared to have stirred up another controversy as they once again honoured the assassins of the former Chief of Army staff, General A.S. Vaidya, at the Akal Takht on Wednesday.
While Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh did not participate in the ‘bhog ceremony’, SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar has been indisposed for some time.
The kin of Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha, who were hanged in Pune on October 9, 1992, six years after the assassination of Gen. Vaidya, were honoured by the manager of Darbar Sahib. SGPC secretary Dalmegh Singh was present.
Others who participated in the event that marked the 20th anniversary of the hanging of the duo included the spokesmen of the Dal Khalsa and the Damdami Taksal, Kanwarpal Singh and Bhai Mokham Singh.
Both Jinda and Sukha, who had killed Gen. Vaidya on August 10, 1986, were declared ‘martyrs’ of the Sikh community for avenging “Operation Blue Star.” Their portraits figure in the paintings museum in the Golden Temple complex. The anniversary of their hanging has been observed at the Akal Takht since 1992.
On Wednesday, “siropas” (robes of religious honour) were presented to Jinda’s brother, Bhupinder Singh, and Sukha’s mother, Surjit Kaur. The event, which comes on the heels of the attempt on the life of the only surviving commander of “Operation Blue Star,” Lt.-Gen. K.S. Brar, has created ripples in Punjab, where the opposition Congress and the ruling alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party, have expressed concern over the increasing space being given to pro-hardline sections in Sikh politics.
The event is being connected to the SPGC decision to allow construction of a memorial for those who died defending the faith in “Operation Blue Star” as well as recent incidents of honouring militants inside the Golden Temple complex.