The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the Sikh community’s apex elected religious body, recently installed a portrait of Dilawar Singh, one of the assassins of ex-Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, in the Central Sikh Museum in the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
On the evening of August 31, 1995, a 25-year-old Punjab cop Dilawar tied a belt of explosives around his waist, leading to a blast that killed the then CM Beant Singh and 16 others at the Punjab Civil Secretariat.
Dilawar’s portrait has been put on display at the Harmandir Sahib museum ten years after he was recognised as a “qaumi shaheed” by Akal Takht – the supreme seat of temporal authority of the Sikh community – during the tenure of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Punjab.
He was among the three Punjab Police constables, including Balwant Singh Rajoana and Lakhwinder Singh, who executed the plan to kill Beant Singh after coming in touch with the Babar Khalsa International (BKI), the oldest and most organised Sikh militant outfit.
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Dilawar, who was recruited as a special police officer in the Punjab Police in 1992, was then waiting for his permanent recruitment in the Punjab Police. He was unmarried.
Rajoana was sentenced to death for his role in Beant’s assassination, while Lakhwinder was sentenced to life imprisonment. Rajoana was on standby in case Dilawar had failed in his assassination bid. They were close friends.
Dilawar’s parents are based in Canada. His brother Chamkaur Singh was present at the SGPC function in which his portrait was installed.
On March 23, 2012, Akal Takht had declared Dilawar Singh “qaumi shaheed”, while declaring Rajoana as “jinda shaheed (living martyr)”. Its move had come as part of a campaign to stall the death penalty awarded to Rajoana that was fixed for March 31, 2012. Finally, his death sentence was deferred after widespread protests across states, and it continues to be on hold.
Akal Takht’s recognition of Dilawar strengthened the demand of Sikh bodies, including Dal Khalsa, to install his portrait at the Central Sikh Museum.
Explaining the reason behind installing his portrait at the Golden Temple museum, SGPC president Harjinder Singh said, “Dilawar Singh had put an end to the atrocities and gross human right violations committed against the Sikhs by then government. The decision of sacrificing self is not possible without the Guru’s blessing and whenever atrocities were committed on the Qaum, Sikhs have always made history by making sacrifices.”
The move has come in the run-up to the June 23 Sangrur parliamentary seat bypoll in which Kamaldeep Kaur, Rajoana’s sister, is contesting on the ticket of the SAD (Badal), which controls the SGPC.
The release of “Bandi Singhs (Sikh prisoners)”, who have been languishing in various jails for many years, is the sole campaign issue of the SAD(Badal) in the Sangrur bypoll.
Sources said that one of the reasons behind the delay in installing Dilawar’s portrait at the Central Sikh Museum was that he used to trim his beard. Besides, the erstwhile alliance between the SAD and the BJP had also proved to be an obstacle.
The installation of Dilawar’s portrait there has been seen in state political circles as another attempt of the SAD (Badal) to woo the Panthic vote bank, which has shifted from it to other parties over the last several years. The SAD(Badal) has now also been urging the families of former militants to campaign for Kamaldeep in Sangrur.