A “hard-working and committed student who spoke very less and never harmed anyone” — that is how convicted Khalistani militant Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar is remembered by his colleagues and friends at Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College (GNDEC), Ludhiana.
Out from jail after two decades of confinement, little has changed for his friends and colleagues who still believe Bhullar was “framed”. Bhullar, convicted for the 1993 Delhi bomb blast, was released on parole for three weeks Saturday.
He graduated in mechanical engineering from GNDEC in 1987. He then worked as a professor in the mechanical engineering department of Guru Nanak Dev Polytechnic College, an autonomous body under GNDEC – till 1991.
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Joga Singh, a senior professor who was his colleague at the polytechnic college, remembers him as a “talented hockey player and who “respected his seniors ”.
“He had just joined as a teacher. Students saw him as a friend; he laughed with them, shared jokes but never spoke too much. He was always an introvert. When his name cropped up in the Delhi blast, it was a shock for us,” said Joga Singh.
Darshan Singh Dhillon, his senior, says Bhullar was never a leader in anti-government activities. “Right after the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, there were protests everywhere. Students were protesting against the government and the situation was no different in GNDEC. But Bhullar was never a front runner. He supported the protests but never led them. He was committed towards his studies. We were shocked when he was accused of terrorist activities,” said Dhillon.
Dhillon, along with then GNDEC Alumni Association president Joginder Singh Kular, had written a plea to the President in 2013 explaining “Bhullar’s good conduct” and demanding his release “on sympathetic grounds” after years of confinement.
“We are happy that he can finally breathe freely. He has suffered so much. He is no danger to anyone. We appeal to the government to release him permanently,” said Dhillon.
He added, “In those days, students were influenced by Khalistan militants but Bhullar showed no interest in it. He raised his voice against small wrongs, like if a boy was beaten up or if food was not good on campus. We never saw any inclination towards militancy in his views.”
However, the death of a classmate in Chandigarh – who was the son of IAS officer Darshan Singh Multani – had hit Bhullar hard, he said. “He was allegedly killed by the police. This encounter had provoked him a bit,” said another acquaintance.
Bhullar was very close to Daljit Singh Bittu, a veterinary sciences graduate from Punjab Agricultural University. Both had gone “underground” to hide from police during the militancy days. Speaking to The Indian Express, Bittu said “their commitment towards the Sikh nation, Khalistan, remains intact”.
“I welcome the move to grant parole to Bhullar. He spoke little and believed in actions. The attack on our holiest Golden Temple (Op Bluestar) was what moved us. Majority of students who joined the Khalistan movement were educated and calm and Bhullar was no different. We both motivated each other and our commitment towards Khalistan will continue till it is achieved. I will meet him soon,” he said.