By Harsh Thakor
COMMEMORATION CONFERENCE IN 1993
Two years later a commemoration programme was launched which depicted a classic example of mass line. After a considerable study of the political situation it was decided to launch a commemoration programme for the Sewevala martyrs. The Harijan basti region was where the programme would be launched.
After reaching a general consent of villagers and the residents of the Harijan Basti a secret meeting of 7-8 pro-party militants was held. The local mass militants were bitterly critical of the inadequate security arrangements at the time of the massacre, 2 years previously and felt humiliated, but they shared their intense hatred for the Khalistani terrorists. The political activist of the revolutionary group made a self-critical appraisal of their earlier approach which reduced their anger and brought them closer to the revolutionary group. He pledged that now the masses would be organised to enable them to receive much stronger self-defence, and Front leaders would be far more vigilant of enemies. A list of potential allies and enemies was drawn out. A calculated action programme was chalked out to win over the maximum support of the Harijan Basti.
The survey of the village revealed that Khalistani terror broadly existed over both the landed and landless peasantry. Only a small section of the landed peasantry sympathised with the Front and even these sections would not openly identify with the Front Programme. The rest of the peasant households remained neutral. The Harijans (backward or scheduled caste-India has a history of the Caste System and this Harijan Sect was the most degraded section known as the ‘Untouchables’. In the villages they were the principal landless or poor peasantry and were the majority of the agricultural labour force) were unwilling to take the risk again. However, as a result of their social class the Harijans were easy to win over. It was now decided to deploy a plan of work whereby the advanced elements of the youth would be won over followed by the middle and backward layer. This plan proved most fruitful, as a great section of revolutionary youth were won over.
However the Harijan elders were reluctant to join. The Front organised family meetings to combat this obstacle as well as promised greater security plans for them at meetings. Weapons were displayed in the basti for this purpose. The Front, giving concrete examples, explained what revolutionary resistance to the 2 pronged Khalistani and State terror was about giving vivid examples of their experience. The class hatred of such families was strengthened by this method. It was explained to the Harijans how they would be liberated from the tyranny of the rich Sikh Landowners and pro-Khalistani sections.
During these meetings each participant was allotted a particular duty after being assessed. Male members were given duties involving preparations, while women and children were allotted the task of obtaining information about the enemies. In less than 2 weeks, almost the entire Harijan Basti supported the Front. However a self-styled leader of the basti as well as pro-Khalistani elements opposed the programme stating that they would lathi charge the programme. An enraged section of the youth retaliated trying to give those reactionary elements a sound thrashing but the Front curbed them, explaining them they needed to adopt a correct approach.
Khalistani elements mainly belonging to the Jat peasantry continued to threaten this programme through terror methods over villagers. They carried out a campaign of deliberate lies against the Harijans inciting class hatred against the Dalits. The landed peasantry was told by these elements that the Harijans would snatch their lands. They also spread rumours that an attack similar to the one at Sewewala would take place and hundreds would be killed.
Now the Front organisers concentrated on winning over sections of the Jat peasantry. Unfortunately when a group of Harijan youth went on a propaganda campaign the communalised sections of the Jat Peasantry misbehaved and tore up their pamphlets and posters. However the youth kept calm and thus foiled the attempt of these reactionary forces in creating a clash between the Jat peasants and the Harijans. After this incident 2 contrasting events took place. One section of Harijans was depressed by the aggressive behaviour of the Jats. They wanted to postpone the programme. However another section were outraged and were impatient in holding the programme. This attitude was predominant in the youth who stated that there was no need to win over the Jat peasantry to hold the programme.
Now all efforts were concentrated on the mobilisation of the Harijan basti. A huge range of family meetings took place. There was now even a great response from women.
After this state-wide preparations were made for the programme-the State Committee of the revolutionary organization representing the mass line issuing a leaflet explaining the history of the Punjabi masses in combating the communal terror and the State terror. On March 21st a mass meeting of activists was held to pay homage to the Sewewala Martyrs and chalk out plans for the conference on April 9th. A 10 member preparation committee was elected which facilitated this propaganda in labour colonies. A shaheedi (martyrs) conference was held on April 4th to pay homage to the heroes where 800 people participated. The families of 2 martyrs of the Sewewala massacre were presented with momentoes.
A massive security programme was launched by the Front. The Harijan masses of the basti played a major role in gathering information about the role of the enemies. The women and children played a major role in this. They made a thorough study of the enemy's moves, motives and movements. The deployment of adequate and proper weapons was given emphasis. However the emphasis was given on the broad masses asserting their right to self-defence. Trained volunteers were also to play an instrumental role. Two dozen youth of the basti associated themselves as guards, couriers and vigilance keepers as well as by spying on the enemy.
A day before the programme security was installed on the roofs of the exterior of the basti. Trained volunteers manned them. Barricades were installed in the lanes and by-lanes to prohibit the entry of suspicious elements. The Barricades were provided cover by armed volunteers positioned on rooftops. All security posts were covered with a special signal system. A network of couriers was organised which raced from one spot to the other exchanging information. All posts had their own commanders and an operational zone operating under a unifying higher command.
On the day of the programme, entry was entitled only by identity passes. A Harijan Dharamshala staged the programme. Slogans such as "Down with Khalistani and State terrorism" and "Long Live the Sewewala Martyrs" were painted on the boundary walls of the building. The ground was decorated with red flags and a bed of red sand. Amidst flower petals name plates of martyrs were placed. A community kitchen served cooked and sweet packed rice to the participants. From the home village of martyred comrade Megh Raj Baghtuana, a contingent of 70 men, women and children carrying red flags and escorted by girl volunteers reached Sewewala. The women participants numbered more than 150 in the conference. By 12 o'clock, 3,000 people had arrived, more than 2/3 from the agricultural labourers, industrial labourers, electricity workers and other working sections. Leaders Amolak Singh and Jaspal Jassi addressed the gathering. At 12.30 the family members of the martyrs came on stage. Amolak explained to people the anti-people nature of the Khalistani terrorists and the State. He explained how the Jat peasantry (middle Sections of the peasantry) had fallen victim to the Khalistani poisonous propaganda.
five was the exact time of the attack on the Sewewala Martyrs 2 years
previously. At that time there was perhaps one of the most emotional scenes in
the history of the Communist movement in
The winning over of the Harijan peasantry was a great achievement but the inability to influence the Jat Peasantry was a major setback. The Front issued an ordinary appeal to the Jat Peasantry. The Front projected its pro-people policies and explained that the Khalistani elements were only trying to poison their minds with lies and false propaganda regarding the Front. It was explained that such elements were trying to wedge the gap between the Jat peasantry and the Harijan labourers. However as these programmes took place, reports took place about the movements of suspected terrorists. This became a major threat and security was strengthened. The Front persuaded supporters to contribute a day's labour in donation. While the harvesting was taking place a bunch of suspected elements were tracked. A red alert was issued. At night such elements were observed near a Harijan basti. An attack was anticipated and the volunteers resorted to firing to thwart the suspected elements. Again there was a totally contrasting reaction between the Jats and the Harijans. The landed Jat peasantry took it as an attack on the Harijans against them as a provocation while the Harijan peasantry defended the firing of weapons by the volunteers. The latter were now more confident of repulsing attacks by class enemies.
The great achievement of the martyr’s conference was that a most unfavourable situation was turned into a favourable situation reminiscent of the Viet Cong who heroically defeated the American forces in the Vietnam war. The campaign also effectively answered the question of the mass revolutionary line over the line of squad actions. An earlier supporter of squad actions stated "What we achieved here can not be achieved by a squad action." Another student leader stated "Mass revolutionary line is invincible and armed squad action cannot substitute for it". A volunteer student group stated "We have gained a valuable experience in the mass revolutionary line.
COMPLETE LIST OF SEWEWALA MARTYRS:
1. Megh Raj Bhagtuana
2. Jagpal Singh Selbrah
3. Mata Sadan Kaur
4. Gurjant Singh
5. Karam Singh
7. Tejinder Singh
8. Bagga Singh
9. Buta Singh
10. Jagseer Seera
11. Jagdev Singh
12. Harpal Singh
13. Lakhbir Singh
14. Gurdev Singh Debi
15. Charanjit Singh
16. Manjit Singh
17. Makhan Singh
18. Gurnam Singh.
MEGH RAJ BAGHTUANA
Megh Raj Baghtuana
The revolutionary spirit was in his blood. His family has been deeply involved in the Pepsu Tenants’ Movement (Muzara Lehar). He took to revolutionary ideology at a young age and became active in Naujwan Bharat Sabha. He was sent to jail many times during Emergency, Randhawa Agitation, and agitation against the murder of Parbati at Jaitu and faced brutal police torture. But the police repression failed to deter him from serving the people. He was one of the most active leaders of Front Against Repression & Communalism. Under his guidance, Bhagtuana became a shining example of mass resistance against repression and Khalistani terrorism. He was very popular amongst the landless and agri-laborers of the area. Since the days of Bhinderanwale, he was on the top of terrorist’s hit list. They made many unsuccessful attempts on his life. During Sewewala massacre he sacrificed his life challenging the AK-47 wielding Khalistani terrorists, with a double barrel gun.
JAGPAL SINGH SELBRAH
Jagpal Singh Selbrah
Jagpal was State Committee member of the Front Against
Repression & Communalism. His father Shri Mohinder Singh was a very
brilliant and active worker of Bharti Kissan Union.Jagpal came in the fold of
revolutionary democratic movement in
MATA SADAN KAUR
Mata Sadan Kaur
Mata Sadan Kaur, who was more than 70 years old, was deeply involved in revolutionary democratic movement for more than two decades. She remained in the forefront in mobilizing masses against the State repression and Khalistani terrorism. She used to say, “Boys, whenever there is danger, put me in the forefront.” When Khalistani terrorists started shooting indiscriminately at Sewewala, she surged forward and said, “Dogs, why are you killing innocent persons. Before killing them, kill me” And the Khalistani terrorist were quick to retaliate. They shot her dead. Thus she died a hero’s death.
Gurjant Singh was born in an agricultural labourer’s family. He
was Secretary of Kotkapura unit of Front Against Repression & Communalism
and Circle level leader of Technical Services
Other important martyrs:
years, was an active front worker and member of the agricultural workers
Bagga Singh-26yrs ,was affront volunteer who manned the checkpost.
Karam Singh of a Harijan family was leader of the ‘Chakki ‘Mazdoor Union of Rampura.
Harpal Singh was an FCI inspector and Front supporter.
Lakbir Singh and Gurdev Singh Debi were supporters of the Front.
2 schoolchildren pf peasnt families, Charnjit Singh and Manjit Singh
perished. So too was Gurnam Singh of
—I thank the invaluable sources like Journal the Comrade issues of 1989-93 and reports like ‘Bleeding Punjab’ of Surkh Rekha and Inquilabi Jantak Leeh of 1992 as well as AIFOFDR report ‘People fight back’ in 1987.
is a political commentator or freelance Journalist who has toured
India ,particularly Punjab and written articles on democratic blogs like ‘Ottos War Room’ and ‘Democracy and Class Struggle.’ and ‘Frontier weekly’ on a range of topics.
He has particularly written on the mass movement against Khalistani terrorism