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Jagjit Singh: Parkash Badal’s Marred Legacy Is What Sikhs Will Remember
"He will always be remembered for how he ultimately betrayed the Sikh Panth on numerous glaring occasions - a sly chameleon-like character who misled sincere Sikhs that generationally voted Akali Dal"
April 26, 2023 | 4.5 min. read | Opinion
The unforgiving reaction from Sikhs around the world to the news of Parkash Badal’s death exposes the true feelings many had for the man.
When I look at Badal’s legacy, I see the Gangu Brahmin of our times. Just as Gangu Brahmin took the younger Sahibzade to their Shaheedian in the Moghul Darbar, Parkash Badal played the same role in bringing the Sikh youth from the 1970s onwards to genocide, gulammi, foreign countries, and the drug epidemic.
While he had a long political career, it was in the early 1970s that he really rose with the Akali Dal - a Sikh political party with a storied history. He was the youngest person in India to hold the title of Chief Minister when he first won, and later became the oldest person to run for office when he lost a few years ago. He held the position of Chief Minister in Punjab for five terms.
Over his career, he rode the wave of Sikh frustration at the loss of significant lands during partition, attacks on the Punjabi language, and the loss of Punjab’s water rights. In 1975, he courted arrest with others during morchas for Punjab and challenged The Emergency.
However, he will always be remembered for how he ultimately betrayed the Sikh Panth on numerous glaring occasions - a sly chameleon-like character who misled sincere Sikhs that generationally voted Akali Dal as their Panthic party.
He was pivotal in allowing the highly controversial Nakli Nirankaris to Amritsar in 1978. As the Chief Minister of Punjab, he could have stopped it and the tensions it would bring. This led to the Vaisakhi 1978 clash in which 13 Singhs were Shaheed, including highly respected Shaheed Bhai Fauja Singh ji, and hundreds were injured. A monumental event that would eventually lead to the armed struggles of the 80s and 90s. According to reports at the time and then later narrated by veteran Akali leader Jathedar Talwandi, Parkash Badal smuggled the Nirankari Baba out of Punjab in his car.
Before the 1984 Battle of Amritsar, Badal schemed with Indira Gandhi’s government on army action at the Darbar Sahib complex, which would lead to the Shaheedi of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and many others, as well as the Sikh Genocide.
While sending his own son, Sukhbir Badal, abroad to California, he allowed thousands of other sons of Punjab families to be killed from the 80s onwards. Badal proclaimed he was in jail during the 1984 invasion; however, reports claim he was arrested on June 10, 1984, from Chandigarh and was flown in a Border Security Force airplane to a guest house in Panchmari.
After 1984, Badal led the Akali Dal to many election victories. He used the name of Panth to win elections but could not stop the genocide of Sikh youth from continuing to extreme levels. Even Siri Akal Thakht Jathedar Gurdev Singh Kaonke was tortured and killed for simply speaking against genocide.
The election boycott of 1992, in which Badal also played a role, led to the Congress government of Beant Singh, which was, in turn, relentless in the genocide of Sikhs. Bhai Jaswant Singh Khalra, who collated evidence of this genocide, was disappeared by the Punjab Police.
Later when Badal won political office again, he gave political positions to notorious murderers of Sikhs, especially police officers Mohammed Izhar Alam and Sumedh Saini, who had hit squads guilty of wiping out entire Sikh families. In the meantime, Badal amassed immense generational wealth and assets.
He consistently interfered in Sikh affairs, weakening Sikh institutions and reducing the Akali Dal from the historical political party of the Sikhs to nothing more than his personality cult in the name of a Punjabiat party.
Allegations were made against Badal for conveniently removing senior Akali Dal leaders so that his immediate family members could be appointed in their place and put a grip on the Sikh political party.
There were also allegations involving Captain Kanwaljit Singh's car accident in 2009, and the claim that a proper investigation was not carried out by the Akali Dal. Captain Kanwaljit Singh was seen as the next leader of the Akali Dal after Badal.
The Sucha Sauda incident of 2015 did further damage to Badal’s legacy. Badal had arranged a pardon, which was not even sought from the controversial, and now criminally convicted, leader of the Dera, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan. It led to clashes and beadbi in Punjab. However, it also had the impact of galvanizing the Sikhs of Punjab, which would go on to hold a Sarbat Khalsa in which Jagtar Singh Hawara was selected as the Jathedar of the Akal Takht. The Sarbat Khalsa removed the award of Panth Rattan Fakhr-e Kaum from Badal as well.
Badal is symbolic of the decline of the Panth and Panjab. He never dared to venture into the Sikh diaspora because he knew what Sikhs really thought of him. To the Indian government, he was a very convenient ally for eradicating the Sikh resistance movement. In 2015, Badal received the Padma Vibhushan from the President of India; however, he later returned it as his party was under severe pressure during the Farmers' Protest.
While he leaves his wealth, amassed on the backs of Sikhs and Punjab, he must give his lekha for his crimes. Many Sikhs may be relieved and happy he is gone, but ultimately the damage he caused to the Sikh Nation, its institutions, Punjab’s youth, and every level of its society has been done.
Jagjit Singh hails from the UK and is a well-respected Sikh educator for last 25 years. An award-winning healthcare professional and sevadaar at 15 different Sikh organisations including World Sikh Parliament, Khalsa Foundation and Share Charity. He runs the Sikh Parenting Course. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram at @jagjitvaheguru.
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