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Author: Pavit Kaur
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN/UPC (if available): 9788184004427
From the BOOK:
In 1984, Simranjit Singh Mann resigned from the Indian Police Service in protest of Operation Blue Star, the Indian Army operation ordered by Indira Gandhi, then prime minister, that cleared the Golden Temple complex of Sikh militants. Mann was subsequently charged, among other things, with conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. A passionate Sikh whose radical beliefs were honed by his family, Mann went underground and was apprehended while trying to flee the country. He spent five years in prison, after which all charges were dropped. Three decades after Blue Star, his daughter Pavit Kaur looks back on the years her father spent in prison. In this disarmingly honest and emotionally charged account, Pavit Kaur documents her father’s hellish journey through the Indian prison system. This is also a personal story and the story of a family during one of the most fraught times in India’s history.
When operation Blue Star happened on June 3, 1984, I was at Qila, my parents’ home. With Bibiji and Dadaji (which is what Papa called his father). I had been summoned to Chandigarh by the government for a departmental enquiry about the issuing of arms licenses. My posting in Faridkot was a laugh because I had the power to recommend an arms’ license but not issue one as only the deputy commissioner of the district could do that. I was only the senior superintendent of police (SSP).
I was sitting in the office of Harjit Singh inspector general (IG), CID Punjab, answering questions, when the phone rang on his desk. ‘Mann is in Punjab and right now with (Sant Jarnail Singh) Bhindranwale,’ said the advisor to the governor, Surendra Nath.
‘Not possible, sir,’ replied the IG. ‘How do you know?’ asked the voice on the other end of the line. ‘Well, because Mr Simranjit Singh Mann is sitting in my office right across the table. So I can assure you that he is not with Bhindranwale.’ The IG hung up, exclaiming, ‘This is preposterous,’ and looking at me said, ‘This is the height of persecution. They are after you.
I drafted my resignation letter and the next morning, on July 18, 1984, sent it off to the President of India, ironically also a Sikh, Giani Zail Singh. I got no reply, so I wrote another letter explaining the expediency of accepting my resignation. This time around, an officer from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) came to inform me that I had been dismissed from service and formally served me the dismissal notice at my office in Bombay. I handed in my shocked staff, some of whom were crying openly and some, like my personal secretary Mr Kutty, barely able to contain themselves. I thanked all of them and walked out for good.
Some days later I got word from a reliable source in the Prime Minister’s Office that the government wanted to have me eliminated. I believed the source because this person was close to the prime minister, and also an old friend of mine. Then Dadaji rang and begged me to go underground for he had also heard the same.
We had been in Calcutta for about three months when we heard that .Indira Gandhi had been gunned down by her bodyguards in Delhi. It was October 31, 1984, and I was sitting in Charan Singh’s ?at when news about her death started trickling in. I rang up a journalist friend 'in Bombay who con?rmed the news. My ?rst thought was that Indira Gandhi had lived by the sword and ?nally died by the sword. That was it. Then the pogroms against the Sikhs started in earnest. Many Congressmen were responsible .for stirring the cauldron and for the brutal murders and rapes of innocent Sikhs. The bloodbath had started. Hindus were openly proclaiming ‘Khoon Ka Badla Khoon’. Eventually, the men in charge of looking after me, including Kamikar Singh, head of the local Gurdwara later my co-accused and fellow prisoner, decided that Calcutta wasn't safe for me any longer, and that sooner or later, the cops would ?nd me. So a plan was made. A great escape plan. I was to be smuggled. Into Nepal, and then via Bangladesh across to Europe and eventually to America where it was though I would be finally free.