The Indian Government executed Bhai Harjinder Singh Jinda and Bhai Sukhdev Singh Sukha on October 9, 1992 in Pune. They were responsible for punishing General Vaidiya the architect of the 1984 attack on Sri Darbar Sahib. They had tracked him down and shot him dead and in the process, restored the honor and dignity of the Sikh people.
The following is a compilation of excerpts of their letters to their family members and friends, mainly from the last week of their lives, detailing their experiences and feelings as Shaheedi approached. These letters were secretly smuggled out of jail. The Indian Government did not want the Panth to know the Chardi Kalaa with which these two Singhs faced death.
But before we go into their final week, presented is the letter Bhai Jinda wrote to his mother after his death sentence was pronounced:
Letter by Bhai Jinda on October 27, 1989:
The day of October 21, 1989 was a day of great happiness for Khalistan. On that day, at 11 o'clock, we were taken from the jail to the courthouse. When we arrived at the courts, we were still in the car when the police came and told us that we would have to take our shoes off before entering the courthouse. We refused to take off our shoes. The judge was thinking that we might beat him to death with them. We sent the judge a message that we would never do such a lowly thing and that if he had any doubts, he could have us handcuffed, but we would never remove our shoes. The judge agreed to what we said and did not even have us handcuffed.
We were presented in the courthouse. The judge came and met us especially with folded hands. Right upon sitting down, the judge announced his not-guilty verdict for brother Nirmal Singh. Then the judge said to us that we were guilty in the General Vaidiya case. The judge asked our lawyers about a reduced sentence but we had already forbidden them that they should not say anything about it. Then the lawyers came to us and asked if they could ask the judge to reduce our sentences. We said that they should not and that we ourselves would talk to him about it.
The judge then called veer Sukhdev Singh to the stand. The judge said to veer Sukhdev Singh, "You have been convicted in this case. Say something about your punishment." Sukhdev Singh replied, "The day that the wicked government attacked Darbar Sahib, on that day I had decided that my life was the Panth's and it didn't matter if it went today or tomorrow. At that time I had thought that until I have taken revenge for the disrespect to Darbar Sahib, and do not achieve Khalistan, I will not sit in peace. When this life is the Panths, then what care do I have about the punishment? You may announce any punishment you like." Then veer started shouting jaikaras and slogans for Khalistan.
Then the judge called me. Sukhdev Singh had returned to his spot and sat down. The judge then said to me, "you have been convicted in the General Vaidiya case. Say something about your punishment." I said to the judge, "that day when I began to walk on this path, that day I wrote my life off to the Panth. While I live I will continue to punish the enemies of humanity like General Vaidiya and will fight until Khalistan is achieved. When this life and existence is the Panth's, then what do I fear of any punishment? You can announce any punishment."
The judge then asked us, "Are you prepared to sacrifice for Khalistan?" We replied, "yes, we are ready to sacrifice for Khalistan." By that time, journalists had also arrived. The judge then did not announce his sentence. The time for the sentence was set for one hour later at 1pm. When the judge was leaving, I said to him, "My mother and my other relatives are sitting at Shivaji Nagar Courts. Please call them." The judge then ordered the DSP that my mother and family should be brought and they should not be given any trouble. The judge said, "Until his family arrive, I will not announce the verdict." The judge then left. Mata Ji and the rest of the family couldn't be found at the courts because they had gone to the Gurdwara. Because of this, they couldn't come to the sentencing.
The judge returned at 2.05pm and began to read the sentencing. At 2.17pm, veer Sukhdev Singh was called to the stand and was awarded the death sentence. He accepted this award with jaikaray and slogans for Khalistan. Then Nirmal Singh was called to the stand and pronounced not guilty.
When the judge was reading his sentencing, his voice was shaking and his hands were trembling. He was having trouble speaking.
The judge then called me to the stand. He also gave me the award of death. Just like veer, I too shouted jaikaray in happiness and shouted slogans for Khalistan and Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. We also thanked him for sending us to the gallows.
We then said to the judge, "today is a very happy day for Khalistan. On this, our happiest occasion, we want to throw a party." The judge replied, "I am very thankful to you. You have helped me very much." We also thanked the judge. We told the judge that we wanted to meet the Press, but the judge requested that we not do so today but some other time. We agreed.
We were then taken back to jail. We came back and began to distribute barfee (Indian sweet). When the people in the jail found out we had been sentenced to death, they didn't eat it. So we ate it ourselves.
After two days, Balwinder Singh and Nirmal Singh went to the court in the bank case and the lawyers told them that the night of the sentencing, the judge could not sleep at all. All night the judge kept calling the lawyers and kept saying he could not sleep because it was the first time he had ever sentenced anyone to hang. "I did not want to sentence them to death. I had no choice. I have affection for them (Jinda and Sukha) from my heart. I have never met such people before. They are very good people. I will put up their photos in my house."
But mother, your sons slept very happily that night. It was just like a farmer sleeps happily after having taken care of his crop.
Then that day, in front of everyone, the judge said to Balwinder Singh and Nirmal Singh that he wanted our and their photos because he wanted to put them in his home. The judge said he felt affection for us from his heart. Saying this, the judge began to cry.
The lawyers told Nirmal Singh that at first the judge had written a 20 year sentence in the Vaidiya case but when he came to announce his sentence and Harjinder Singh and Sukhdev Singh began to shout Khalistan slogans, and said that they were willing to sacrifice for Khalistan, the judge cut the 20 years and replaced it with death. Because of this, he wanted an extra hour to announce the sentence. The judge was compelled to announce the sentence of death. Today we have ordered a Diwali card for the judge and tomorrow we'll send it to him.
Mother, Father, veer ji, at this happy time, do not feel sad. Mother, remain in Chardi Kalaa just like you were in Poona. What greater happiness can a mother have than for her sons to be executed for their faith? To celebrate this happy moment, ladoos should be given out. Mother, you gave the newspapers in Poona Chardi Kalaa statements. Reading those statements, everyone was amazed. Mata ji, only our hearts knows how much happiness we felt after reading your statements. You all should always remain in Chardi Kalaa.
This world is a play. Like a performer has put on a show and people see it and feel happy. After a short while, that performance is over. Just like that, the world too is a big show. For a while we see the show but its end does not take long at all. Know it for certain that one who is born will certainly die. Just like night naturally follows the day, death certainly follows life.
How long can someone run along a wall? It's end will eventually come. Like this, life's limited breaths also finish. Whatever we see in the world, besides God, is transitory. The eternal and life-giving Naam-nectar is pouring down everywhere though. But it only falls in the mouths of those who are sanmukh to their Guru. Those who have attached their consciousness to the Guru's bani have their lives become sacred. They are accepted before God.
Otherwise Mata Ji, we will not appeal to the Supreme Court. You already know about this. I read your statement and was very happy to see you say that you will not appeal to the Supreme Court. If we did, it would not only be our disgrace, but the Panth's as well. Even if someone asks you to, do not appeal. I am proud of you. Our spirits are with your spirits. Mother, your sons have passed the real test of life.
Bhai Jinda also notes how their conviction was based on their own admission. Of the 170 witnesses presented against them, only one managed to recognize Bhai Sukha. The rest were proven to be fakes and liars. The government's case was a total disaster.
"The end of these evil Gangus is not far now [Gangu was the Brahmin who betrayed Mata Gujri and the Sahibzadas]. We have won. The entire Sikh community has raised its voice against oppression. Whoever fights against oppression has already won. We are not enslaved: we are free because we did not accept slavery. We are fighting enslavement. We may be imprisoned in jails but our hearts and minds are free to recite Naam and do ardaas for the Chardi Kalaa of the Panth. These evil Gangus can chain our bodies but they cannot chain our minds. They cannot change our beliefs with their oppression and torture."
"If today we face the gallows, do not think that we are being sent there. We are going to the gallows by our own will. Even after accepting responsibility for our actions [killing Vaidiya] we could have easily been acquitted. If we wanted, we could have bought out our death (for only one lakh). But we consider going to the gallows as the best thing for the Panth. Your veers will happily kiss the noose that will hang us. What is this one life? We could give one lakh lives for this cause. For Khalistan, we will shed every drop of our blood and will rest only after having achieved it."
The following are excerpts from letters sent by Bhai Sukha and Bhai Jinda in the final week before their Shaheedi on October 9, 1992.
October 2, 1992
That blessed hour which we were awaiting impatiently for such along time , will come at 4am on 9-10-1992. God has been very merciful to us. We consider ourselves very lucky. The preparations for your brothers weddings are complete but the world doesn't know about it [Singhs see Shaheedi as a wedding to death]. Look at the fear of these rulers!
One day their senior doctor came and said he wanted to weigh us, etc. He measured our height, weight, and neck-span. The next day he came again. We thought perhaps he had found out by now. We said, "Doctor Sahib, what do you come to see every day? We'll go to the gallows laughing. You'll be there too. You'll see, there aren't many days left now."
The doctor was stunned and swore he had no idea what were talking about. He said no one had told him yet. He then remarked that his presence was necessary at the hanging and that it was necessary for him to be told once the date of the hanging had been set, but he didn't know why he hadn't been told yet. We said, "Look at the power of these rulers. Even when they're going to hang someone, they tremble that no one find out about it."
Beloved brothers, it is very strict here now. We only have four sheets of paper with us and we got those with great difficulty after putting a lot of pressure. They don't let us write letters to anyone. It is so bad that they haven't even let us write to our parents about the date being set yet. The date has been finalized for three days now, but no newspaper has been allowed to carry the story."
"Even while imprisoned by the enemy, we wanted to teach them such a lesson that even just seeing a Sikh should make them shake. Quite a while ago, their Defense Minister Sharad Pawar came to the jail. At that time he was Maharashtra's Chief Minister. He came to our area and we said, "If you give us grief, just think about what will happen to you." His face went pale and he replied, "No, no trouble will be given to you." It was during Sharad Pawar's time in office that Maharashtra's jails had new yards built, which had iron bars even on top of them to make them like cages. No fresh air could come into them. Lots of regular Sikhs were arrested under TADA and thrown in these yards. None of them had hearings in courts. Seeing all this, it came to our mind that why not get some weapons and while sitting here, teach these dushts a lesson. Lots of other big Ministers used to also come to the jail. During our stay in jail we stayed here with pride and belligerence but the jail officials would harass the regular Sikhs a lot. They tried to commit excesses on us as well. Many times they tried to force us to wear prisoner uniforms, but we refused. We said, "we don't accept your laws, so why should we wear prisoner's uniforms?" We used to grab the Jail DIG and Superintendent by the neck and ripped many uniforms and slapped some other officials. We roughed them up with resolution. We humiliated them in every way. We've pushed them so far that they start to shake just thinking about coming into our yard.
The day the Superintendent told us about our execution date, we said that we wanted to send a telegram to our relatives but he said that he had orders from the top that forget outside people, even within the jail the date was to be kept a secret. He said that he had no choice and that we could swear at him or whatever else, he controlled nothing. He said, "one promise I will make is that I will let you see your family for a final meeting. We replied, "we don't care about any meeting and these worldly relationships aren't that important to us. But we're astonished that you people have fallen from even basic humanity and your rulers are such cowards that they are afraid of even telling our families." We said a lot of other things and embarrassed the Superintendent. We said, "you have good fortune otherwise even in your custody we would have sown you what happens when you oppress Sikhs. We didn't have a weapon reach us and you've all been shaken to the core, if we got it, then you already know what would have happened."
Brothers, On 22-9-92, our jail was turned into a police cantonment. On all four sides, commandos surrounded us. Our yard itself was surrounded by more than 100 commandos. At that time we were doing paath when suddenly they pounced. The jail DIG, IG (jail), Commissioner of Police Poona, three DSPs and many other officials came. They came to us and said that we should be handcuffed because they wanted to search our cells. We grabbed the DIG and the Superintendent by the necks and began to beat them all. We refused to be handcuffed and said they could search the place but couldn't touch anything. We would show them ourselves. We said, "if you try to use force, until we have breath in our bodies we will not let you enter our rooms. If you have the strength to take us, come on." But they quickly accepted our conditions and said that we could show them everything.
We knew why they had come. That police officer from whom we had asked for a weapon had been caught because of his misdeeds a couple days ago. The weapon had reached him, but for some reasons he could not get it to us. After the confirmation of the Vaidiya case in the Supreme Court, the jail had become very strict and because of this, he was afraid and his intentions changed. If he wanted, despite the strictness, he could have given it to us. No one comes to our yard and if someone does come, he is searched. But when we are in front of the guard room, the person on duty doesn't have the courage to search anyone. We used to give the prisoner that cleaned up our yard letters we wanted taken out. That officer had the job of pressing clothes and we used to send that prisoner to him [to find out about the weapon]. The prisoner knew everything and was even ready to bring it for us because we had given him some money. But we've found the truth now about why the police officer wasn't giving the weapon to us. He had given the weapon to some thug who began to commit robberies with it and when he was caught, spilled everything. That police officer is now in remand. He has turned in four others from the jail who are also in remand. The newspapers were telling this story with extra zest and were saying that if Sukha and Jinda got the weapon, they would have escaped from jail. But this is not the case. We had a big dusht in our sights and we think we would have been successful. If we weren't, the jail's DIG, Superintendent along with the deputy and senior jailer weren't going anywhere. We could've punished them any time we wanted.
The original DIG and Superintendent were alright with us but ever since these new ones have come, we humiliated them to the limit but they still wouldn't stop trying to do lowly things. It's because of this that we had thought about punishing them.
Nowadays, the atmosphere in the jail is very changed. Poona Police along with the MRP and other agencies have taken control of the jail. Besides the Superintendent, everyone is very badly searched. They don't even let a bird come to our yard. All the work that prisoners used to come and do like sweeping, etc. is now done by police officers. The officers and the Hawaldars have been given fixed duties and no new police officer ever comes. Ever since the commandos searched our cells, everyone, including the Superintendent, is afraid of coming to our yard. If someone does come, it is with special arrangements and they are still very afraid. Since that day, quite a few big officers from the agencies came but they didn't have the courage to come into the yard. They stayed behind the bars. We said that we wouldn't harm them and they should come in, but no. Now we have said that we won't speak to anybody. Now no one comes. One DIG said, what interrogation do you think we're here to do? We just come to see you. We asked, "What do you think after seeing us?" He stayed quiet for a moment and then we asked, "You don't see any fear on our faces do you?" He said no. We said, "come see on our final day. We'll be laughing just like this."
(Bhai Sukhdev Singh Sukha & Bhai Nirmal Singh)
October 3, 1992
We don't know why the jailers have taken a hating to our clothes. Today they came again with 20 or 25 police officers along with the jail's DIG. We were stubborn and said "Who's going to come forward first?" They want that we should be hung while wearing prisoner's uniforms. But we will try to go while wearing kesri dastaars, cholas and kacherras. We have full faith in Satguru Ji that our wish will be certainly fulfilled.
Today the police DSP came and asked for a Kara as a momento. We said "We'll give you the Kara, but then you're going to have to do good things with your hands." He replied, "I already do good things." Two inspectors also took Karas.
Today we've locked down early. Otherwise for the past few days we used to lock up at 11 or 12 because the jail officials would cause some problem and we'd refuse to be locked up. Until today, we've broken about 80 tube-lights in our yard, along with four cameras which used to always show on jail TV's what was going on.
One night, we refused to be locked up and it was 10pm. Veer Harjinder Singh began to read the newspaper. I said, "what have you grabbed the newspaper for? Let's talk. After all, how many days are left now? Veer replied, "We went into the struggle together, have stayed together in jail and will ahead too."
October 4, 1992
"The battle for Khalistan is different from all other wars that have been fought or wars or movements that are being fought now. This is because other struggles are based on worldly values while our war is based on truth and freedom for the individual. The struggle for Khalistan is not just political or subscribed to worldly values, it is truly a dharam-yudh. We color ourselves with dharam before going into battle and our only support is Akaal Purakh. The Sikhi principles for which we have started this dharam yudh are beloved to us. We don't want to achieve any worldly kingship that forces us to lose our dharam. Any such Khalistan which is devoid of the colour of dharam and which was established by abandoning our faith will be suicidal for the Sikhs."
"For our principles, we must fight a war that has a high character. For those who travel this path, it is essential that they have a very high character. The right to punish a dusht only goes to that Gurmukh who's own life and character is much higher than that dusht. Only by traveling on these lines will Satguru Ji have mercy on us. We have no strength of our own. Akaal Purakh will only give us power and strength if we stay within the divine principles [of Sikhi].
October 5, 1992
Beloved veers, yesterday they were asking your brothers about our final wishes. We said, "if you have the courage to fulfill the final wishes of us Khalistani's, then we want that we should be hung in front of the entire world so that people know how Sikhs go laughingly to the gallows for the sake of truth and dharam." We've written this down for them too. Yesterday the newspapers carried news of our execution date, that too was because of the Supreme Court. They [jail officials] had wanted that the world find out only after the hanging. No one has come to meet us yet. Perhaps they haven't sent out a telegram yet.
From Bhai Jinda:
I just finished doing paath. Sukhdev veer is in front of me, lying in his room reading the newspaper. We sent messages for you all to come meet us, I don't know if they sent them out or not. Today, because of Dussehra, it was a holiday in the jail. Lock down took place a bit early today, but we always lock down when we feel like it. The past couple weeks have been very tense. Every day we locked down about four or five hours late, so about 11pm. No one even had the courage to come tell us to lock down. We used to lock down ourselves when we used to think that the guards were hungry and thirsty for the whole day and also, we used to start to feel sleepy. The Superintendent and the rest of the staff used to stay until we locked down.
October 6, 1992
Let me tell you what happened today. I was doing paath from the gutka at around noon time when a call came from the guard room, "Sardar Ji, Sat Sri Akaal!" They then called for me to come near. Sukhdev veer had fallen asleep while doing paath. When I came near the guardroom, the DSP and the IG from the CBI were standing there. The DSP laughed and said, "Jinda Ji, your face is beginning to glow more and more!" I replied, "This is because of Satguru's blessings. Come look on the day of the hanging, it will glow even more." The CBI's IG had met me before in Naasak Jail. I asked why he had come and he said that he just thought he'd ask how we were doing. We talked for quite some time. After a while, Sukha veer also came.
The IG said, "You are brave. Even after being so close to death, there is no sign of fear on your faces. There is in fact a glow." I laughed and said, "Otherwise you call us extremists and terrorists, and today you are calling us brave?" The IG then replied, "You too have some reason for which you are going to the gallows with laughter. We can say whatever we want about you, you are still lions." When leaving, he spoke very warmly and said, "I will pray for you." I said, "Don't pray just for us, pray for the well being of everyone." A lot of things were said, but because I don't have enough paper, I can't write them down.
Mother, Father, your sons have been greatly blessed by Satguru Ji. Today even death is afraid of your sons. We feel a weird sensation of happiness and consider ourselves very lucky that Satguru Ji has given us so many blessings. Mother, I think about you and feel so proud that I have received a godly mother with whose teachings I have now reached my goal in life. It is my Ardaas that in every life, I stay your son. Mother, Father, always stay in Chardi Kalaa and meditate on Naam. I am proud of my entire family. Only two days remain until the hanging and I don't know if you will reach Poona or not. It seems that we'll only be able to meet only once on the last day. It doesn't matter. God has given us many meetings already. Even if it doesn't happen, it doesn't matter.
The entire family, relatives and those in our town should stay in Chardi Kalaa and keeping japping Naam. Sukhdev veer is also writing a letter. Outside it is raining a bit. It is really beautiful weather.
Now let me tell you something funny. Yesterday or the day before, the jailer came and asked in a quiet voice, "What is your final wish?" I replied with a laugh, "hang the Superintendent in my place". He laughed very hard. I told two jokes to the IG as well. One was the Superintendent one and the other was this: someone sentenced to hang is asked his final wish and he says, "I want to eat a cantaloupe." They reply, "it's not the season for cantaloupes the prisoner then says, "That's ok, I can wait."
October 6, 1992
It's nine at night. We haven't locked up yet. All the officers are sitting outside, cross-legged. I want to send everyone a separate letter, but there isn't enough time and our paper has run out. The jail officials won't let us send letters either. They took away all the paper. Even our pen and paper look like AK 47s to them. Here, these people's sleep has been ruined. Everyone is terrified, but with all your Ardaases and Satguru Ji's blessings, we are roaring [like lions]. That great hour which we have been awaiting will come on 9-10-1992 at 4AM. We can't control our excitement.
We were talking to the jail officials just now about you. We said, "everyone must have arrived by now, but you haven't let us meet them." There isn't anything called humanity in these people. The souls of Chandoo and Gangu are live in them. We haven't locked up, but we're still sitting inside. Veer Harjinder Singh is also writing a letter. It's raining a bit. Before it was raining quite hard.
No one should feel sad at our Shaheedi. This is a happy moment for all of us and we've prepared boondee [Indian sweet] to distribute in celebration. We've always got so much love from all of you. It is because of all your ardaases that today we are in total Chardi Kalaa.
October 7, 1992
Last night I stopped my letter in between. We locked up at twelve last night. I took my bedding outside and veer said, "you sleep, I'll keep guard." At 11pm, the Superintendent and his other people came. Veer got angry and like wrestler took his chola off and got ready. He grabbed the Deputy Superintendent by the neck and roughed everyone up pretty badly. We said, "we don't care about the meetings, but we didn't think you all would fall so much. You are such cowards. Your treachery and excesses are the reason we are fighting. We have never bowed and will never bow in the future. Look at your humanity, in the end, you have even stopped letting us meet Nirmal Singh."
We started to feel sleepy, so we locked up by our own will at 12. Say Fateh to our aunts from Jandiala and Rana. Veer has come up to stand by the bars and his eyes have fallen on this letter as well. Now, with a load of love, let us end this letter. Forgive our faults.
Sukhdev Singh, Harjinder Singh 7-10-1992.
October 8, 1992
Bhai Jinda and Bhai Sukha did not write any further. From 10am till 10pm on October 8th, they met with their families. During these meetings, they showed no fear at all. In fact, they were happier than usual. They forcefully told their family that after their Shaheedi, no one should try to take political advantage and no one should build a memorial or Gurdwara for them.
Bhai Jinda's mother asked the girl family members who came to do a gidhaa as her son was going to be married tomorrow. Before leaving, Bhai Jinda's mother took her son's face in her hands and said, "Wherever you go, be happy. And know that I am proud of you." She did not cry. Her face was red with emotion.
From 10pm until 12 am Bhai Jinda and Bhai Sukha rested.
Bhai Sukha and Bhai Jinda woke up at 12am. The bathed and until 3am they did paath. They had prepared some dahee (yogourt) which they then ate along with one apple each. They then did their final ardaas and keertan sohila paath.
They dressed in white cholas with kesri dastaars and kamarkassas. Bhai Jinda shook hands with the jail officials and thanked them for keeping them for 5 years. Bhai Sukha and Jinda also asked about their 30+ relatives who were in Poona. When they were lead to the gallows, they shouted jaikaras. They walked with long strides. Bhai Nirmal Singh who was in a cell near the gallows also replied to the jaikaras.
The two Singhs climbed the gallows with smiles. They had wanted to bring sweets for the executioners, but perhaps they were not allowed. They kissed their nooses and even though they wanted to put them around their own necks, were not allowed to do so. The time had come and according to Bhai Nirmal Singh, Bhai Jinda shouted loudly to Bhai Sukha, "Veer Sukhiaa! Roar a Fateh!" He then heard jaikaras. And then they stopped.
Bhai Sukha and Bhai Jinda were kept hanging for 30 minutes. They were hung together. For the execution, 4 Deputy Police Commissioners, 10 assistant Police Commissioners, 14 inspectors, 145 sub-inspectors and 1275 officers had been assigned.
At quarter to 5 in the morning, police vehicles came to the Poona Gurdwara Sahib where the families were staying. They took the family to a police station outside Poona from where they were taken further.
The family was then taken to a spot near the Moola River where a part of a sugarcane field had been cleared. Bhai Sukha and Bhai Jinda's bodies had been brought to the site in a truck. The family brought clothes and items for the cremation and despite police protests, insisted on doing everything themselves. They washed the bodies and Bhai Jinda and Bhai Sukha's fathers lit the pyres at 6.20am. No relative showed any sadness but instead congratulated each other. Three bibis from Jammu did keertan. The ashes were not given to the family.
Compiled & Translated by Gurdwara Tapoban Sahib Sewadars