Out of jail briefly after nearly 26 years to attend his father’s bhog ceremony, Balwant Singh Rajoana, one of the men convicted for the assassination of former Punjab CM Beant Singh, on Monday appealed to the people to vote for the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in the upcoming Punjab polls and asked ‘sangat’ to vote against the Congress to punish them for the ‘1984 anti-Sikh riots and murders of thousands of innocent Sikh youths.’ He is currently lodged at Patiala Central Jail.
Rajoana, who attended his adoptive father Jaswant Singh’s bhog ceremony for an hour after getting permission from the High Court on Monday, in his address at Gurdwara Baba Deep Singh of Ludhiana, said ‘Meri rooh akali, mera dal akali, main akali.. iss dharti tey sarkaar akali..’ (My soul is Akali, my heart is Akali, I am Akali.. there should be an Akali government on this earth).
Among those who attended the bhog ceremony were Akal Takht Jathedar Harpreet Singh, SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami, and former Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbachan Singh.
Balwant Rajoana, who hails from Rajoana Kalan village of Ludhiana and was adopted by Jaswant Singh in 1993 after his own father Malkeet Singh passed away, further said, “My father (Jaswant Singh) was an inspiration for many. He had dedicated himself to the country. He joined the Army and fought three wars in the years 1962, 1965, and 1971. But then some incidents happened that shook the lives of the entire Sikh community. In 1984, our Akal Takht Sahib was attacked. Thousands of innocent Sikhs were abducted and killed. Rajiv Gandhi stepped out of his palace and said that when a big tree falls, the earth shakes. These incidents have given deep wounds to the Sikh community.”
Talking about August 31, 1995, the day Beant Singh was assassinated, Rajoana said, “Qoumi Shaheed Dilawar Singh (suicide bomber who died in the blast) attained shaheedi and I was subsequently arrested. But my sister Kamaldeep Kaur has always stood by me like a pillar.”
Asking the residents of Punjab to vote for the SAD, Rajoana said that his father’s soul will rest in peace only if the “Congress is punished for its sins.”
“Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian ekta da prateek Akali, saarey dharman de satkar da prateek Akali, sab saanjhi baalta da sandesh Akali, meri rooh Akali, mera dil Akali, main Akali.. haan main akali.. chahunda haan iss dharti te sarkaar Akali..,” said Rajoana amid chants of ‘Jo Bole So Nihaal, Sat Sri Akal.’
Rajoana who visited his hometown Ludhiana after 26 years after his arrest in December 1995, further said, “Those killers who attacked our Akal Takht Sahib, who killed thousands of innocent Sikh youths, their rule on this land of Gurus is a blot and an insult of Khalsa Panth. It is the duty of all of us not to be lured by freebies, but to stand up against those who are coming from Delhi to loot our state. Our ancestors will rest in peace only if the Congress is wiped out from this state, this country.’
‘Iss vote paun de adhikaar nu apna hathiyaar samajh ke kaaqtalan dey khilaaf kardo (Use this right to vote as your weapon and use it against these killers),” said Rajoana, adding that people of Punjab should give justice to ‘thousands of Sikh youths who were killed’.
“Akali Dal is our own party and it is representative of our panth. End Congress’ rule,” said Rajoana, while thanking the SAD and the SGPC for the ‘legal help’ in his case.
Rajoana was a police constable who had joined the Punjab Police on October 1, 1987, and was sympathetic to the views of Babbar Khalsa International. He justified Beant Singh’s assassination, blaming the CM for “extra-judicial” killings of Sikh youth. It was he who tied the bombs on Dilawar’s body.
In his judicial confession recorded under Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code on January 22 and 23, 1996, Rajoana stated: “Judge Sahib, Beant Singh assumed himself [to be the] angel of peace after killing thousands of innocent people, compared himself with Guru Gobind Singh Ji and Ram Ji. Thereafter, we decided to kill Chief Minister Beant Singh.”
A special CBI court in Chandigarh awarded him the death penalty on July 27, 2007.
Rajoana’s hanging was scheduled for March 31, 2012. But resentment and anger in some sections of the society led to the Punjab government, then headed by Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal, making efforts to stop it. On March 28, 2012, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) filed a mercy petition before the President, and the Union Home Ministry ordered a stay on his execution.
On the occasion of the commemoration of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the Centre in September 2019, recommended processing the case of Rajoana for commutation of death sentence under Section 72 of the Constitution (under which the President is empowered to commute death sentence) and correspondence to this effect was sent to respective states/UT in September 2019 by the Union Home Ministry. In December 2019, Union Home Minister Amit Shah stated in the Lok Sabha that no pardon had been granted to Rajoana after Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, grandson of Beant Singh, during the Question Hour sought a response from Shah as to why Rajoana had been pardoned.
Since then, an appeal filed by Rajoana is pending in the Supreme Court. His sister Kamaldeep Kaur, said, “In 2019, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had recommended that the death sentence of my brother be commuted into life imprisonment. But the said proposal is still pending with the Central government. We had filed a subsequent petition in the Supreme Court. The Apex court had directed the government to implement the proposal at the earliest but nothing has been done, even though my brother has spent more than 26 years in jail now. He has been punished enough.”
Kaur said that after the death of Rajoana’s parents, her father Jaswant Singh had adopted him in 1993 and since then she has stood by him. “While he [Rajoana] was in jail, our mother Surjit Kaur also died in 2013. His own parents had died way back. He came out of jail after 26 years, which is a very long time. Today also he was not allowed to come home. He was only taken to the gurdwara where the bhog ceremony was held. We had filed the petition in the Supreme Court because our father was bedridden and he wanted to spend some time with his son. But now, even he is no more. It is time that they should take a call on my brother’s case.. what are they getting by keeping him in jail even after 26 years?”
Rajoana in his Monday address also mentioned the names of Harpinder Singh Goldy and Amandeep Kaur, two other children of Jaswant Singh, who were allegedly abducted and killed by the police. “I lost my two siblings — Harpinder and Amandeep — who were killed by the police at a very young age. I have no one now except veer ji,” said Kamaldeep,
On Rajoana making an appeal to the people to vote for the SAD, she said, “We have always been given legal aid and other help by the SGPC and the SAD. It wouldn’t have been possible to fight this case alone and it is the Akali Dal who always helped us. He was also given the title of ‘zinda shaheed’ by Akal Takht in 2012. It is the SGPC that moved a mercy petition for him in 2012 before the President and his execution was stayed. So for us, SAD is our own party.”
SAD spokesperson Dr Daljit Singh Cheema said: “He (Rajoana) is in jail for 26 long years and it seems he has learned a lot. It is his free will to support any party because we are a democratic country. But his address reflects his mature thoughts and he spoke of communal harmony in Punjab. It is an injustice to keep someone in jail for 26 years, which is nearly double the term people serve for a life sentence. The SAD and the SGPC have always demanded his release.”
Beant Singh’s grandson Ravneet Singh Bittu, however, had a different view.
“I am sad and startled that people like Harpreet Singh, who is Akal Takht Jathedar appointed by the Badals, shared langar with a convict who had assassinated a state’s Chief Minister. Today, a terrorist even misused the Guru’s name and the Akal Takht Jathedar was sitting alongside him to protect him. SGPC is spending the people’s money to protect and get aid for a terrorist. Such killers are being used by SAD to ask for votes. Punjabis sacrifice their lives for this country. Probably Rajoana has been given money to ask for votes for the SAD. If the SAD is elected in the upcoming polls, then more such people will roam free. It is now a matter of probe to figure out how Rajoana and the Badals are linked. Even if we pardon him, Beant Singh was not just our family member. He was the CM of Punjab,” said Ludhiana MP Bittu.