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Here, Balwant Singh Rajoana is still a hero

Last updated on: April 11, 2012 15:17 IST

Here, Balwant Singh Rajoana is still a hero

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Author Amandeep Sandhu visited Balwant Singh Rajoana's village in Punjab and found that village Rajoana Kala stands by the death row convict. He shares his experiences with Vicky Nanjappa

The Union home ministry is currently examining the mercy petition of Balwant Singh Rajoana, the prime convict in the assassination of Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh in 1995, who was sentenced to death earlier this year.

The mercy petition has been filed by the Shiromoni Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee.

But the people of Rajoana Kala, his village in Punjab, believe that the mercy petition will be accepted and Rajoana will one day return to his native place.

Author Amandeep Sandhu, whose upcoming book Role of Honour is about Operation Blue Star, has visited Rajoana Kala.

Sandhu spent a considerable amount of time with Rajoana's mother and the rest of the villagers. He shares his experiences with rediff.com.

"The people of Rajoana Kala say that nothing bad can happen to this village and they narrate a historic incident. Years ago, when Guru Gobind Singh was leaving on one of his historic journeys, he met three brothers and sought to stay with them. He then asked the brothers to place him on a bed and carry him on his historic journey. When the journey commenced, the Guru found a side of the bed tilting and when he looked down, he found that the fourth person carrying him was the mother of the three boys. Touched by her gesture, he urged the mother to ask him for anything. The mother wanted her sons to get married and to get good work. The Guru granted her wishes. Since that day, it is believed that nothing bad can happen to the village.

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Image: Members of the Sikh community take part in a demonstration against the death penalty to Balwant Singh Rajoana
Photographs: Yves Herman/Reuters

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'Rajoana was destined to do something big'

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"The other interesting point to note is that Rajoana's father, Malkiat Singh, was killed by terrorists. His father, a former army man, was also the sarpanch of the village.

The terrorists had an axe to grind against Malkait Singh's brother, who was the sarpanch before him. One night, Rajoana's father heard a noise from his brother's house. He rushed to the house and found terrorists there. He tried stopping one of the terrorists and was shot dead.

The villagers believe that Rajoana Kala is the Guru's bakshish (gift) and there is a force that protects them all.

They say that Balwant Singh Rajoana was destined to do something big. They believe that terrorism in Punjab came to a halt after the assassination of Beant Singh.

The villagers believe that in spite of being in prison for 17 years, death has eluded Balwant and hence he is not destined to be hanged.

Even on the day of the assassination, Balwant could have very well been the suicide bomber who blew up Beant Singh.

Just before the assassination, he, along with Dilawar Singh, had to choose the person who would carry out the assassination. They flipped a coin and Dilawar Singh was chosen as the assassin.

The villagers argue that Balwant should have been charged with abetment as he was the back-up person in the case, and he cannot be hanged.

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Image: Members of the Sikh community take part in a demonstration against the death penalty to Balwant Singh Rajoana
Photographs: Yves Herman/Reuters

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'The entire village stands by him'

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"Those who know Balwant personally say that he will never ask for forgiveness, pointing out that he himself had pleaded guilty. The entire trial was based on his confession.

Today, even the government is thinking twice before carrying out his death sentence.

Authorities are also apprehensive that Balwant's hanging could trigger violence in Punjab again.

In case Balwant ever returns to his village, he would be pleased as it is an island of purity. The menace of politics, land grabbing and narcotics trade, which Punjab is notorious for, has not yet touched this village.

His mother Gurmeet Kaur has left her son's future to fate.

'How would a mother feel about all this? I have accepted it. No mother will be happy to see her son die. The entire village stands by him. The issue is not about the politics of the Khalistan movement. The villagers just stand by Balwant,' said Kaur.

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Image: A banner invoking Rajoana's words is seen at a protest march
Photographs: Ritu Jha/Rediff.com

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'A Sikh will never bow down'

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"When asked if Balwant held terrorists responsible for his father's death, she says he never felt that way.

He felt that his father died due to a mistake as he was never the terrorists' target. According to the villagers, many innocent people had lost their lives because of Beant Singh.

They point out that even the family of the late chief minister has forgiven Balwant.

Most of Punjab had forgotten Balwant. Now, the issue has once again become the subject of a debate.

Stating that not a single person from the media or the political fraternity had come to meet her, Kaur says, 'Although no mother wants to see her child die, I am still very proud of the fact that he has not sought a pardon. The Akali Sat has called him a living martyr and no one wants him to be hanged. Whatever is the stance of my son is also my stance on the issue. A Sikh will never bow down or seek a pardon when he has not done anything wrong. My son has donated his eyes and he never once felt any sort of intolerance towards any other religion,' said Kaur.

A villager says, 'This is not about the Khalistan cause as none of us believe in it. This is about Balwant, who has had a closer look at the law and felt that there is something wrong with it and hence has rejected the law'.

The village, which is hoping for Balwant's return, is also hanging on to every word by the death row convict. Balwant had urged them to hang saffron flags from their houses on the day of his hanging. Before the Centre stayed his hanging on March 28, they had bought saffron flags to comply with his wish".

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Image: Members of the Sikh community take part in a demonstration against the death penalty to Balwant Singh Rajoana
Photographs: Ritu Jha/Rediff.com

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