Bhai Satnam Singh Hijacker

The first plane hijacking in the Sikh history was done on 29th September 1981 and the hero of this jacking was Bhai Satnam Singh who was born on 29th August 1951 in the house of Sardar Kashmir Singh, who was the well-known doctor of Sri Paonta Sahib and from the womb of Mata Bhagwan Kaur. Bhai Satnam Singh had two older brothers and two younger sisters.

Bhai Satnam Singh was only 13-14 years of age when he witnessed the killing of Sikhs at Sri Paonta Sahib by the Indian police on 22nd May 1964. The police marched towards the Gurdwara Sri Paonta Sahib and police announced on loud speakers informing the Nihang Singhs to come out but no one did as they were reciting the Holy Scripture. At last, the police broke the doors and windows of the Gurdwara and entered the premises with shoes on. As soon as the police walked in they started firing at Sikhs. Many of the Nihang Singhs cooking langar and doing sewa were shot dead. Nihangs Singh reciting the Holy Scripture were also not spared and shot dead by the police. Guru Granth Sahib was drenched in the blood of the Sikhs. One Nihang Singh, who was reading Guru Granth Sahib raised his hand as a sign of stopping the police from shooting and interrupting the Sri Akhand Paath Sahib, but the police shot his hand and he became wounded. Even then the same Nihang Singh continued to recite but the police went a step further and shot him in the chest. Nihang Singh died at the spot and fell on the saroop of Guru Granth Sahib. Baba Nihal Singh was standing next to him and wanted to take his place but the police shot him as well and he too severely became wounded.

Total of 8 Sikhs were martyred inside the Gurdwara. The police loaded up their bodies in the truck and took them to a forest to be burnt. Three bodies were lying outside of the Gurdwara which were later cremated by the Sikhs. The entire Gurdwara was filled with empty gun shells and walls were full of bullet marks. The floor had turned red with blood. The police took saroop of Guru Granth Sahib, Dasam Granth and weapons of Guru Sahib with them. The Nagara (war drum) also bore bullet marks. It was revealed later that one Sikh was beating the Nagara to call other Sikhs and warn them of the attack but the police filled his body with bullets. The police tried to clean up the floor and walls but left after unsuccessful attempts. The Gurdwara Sahib was later repaired by the Sikhs. Total of 11 Nihangs of Tarna Dal sacrificed for the sanctity of the Gurdwara. Baba Nihal Singh, a wounded Sikh, became the next head of Tarna Dal and became known as a 'Jinda Shaheed' (Living Martyr). This bloody massacre gave a glimpse of what Mughal invaders had done to Darbar Sahib in 18th century. It leaves no doubt that although the government had changed but their oppressive policies against the Sikhs had not and they continued to exist.

Bhai Sahib had seen this Sikh massacre with his very own eyes and this bought the Jhujaru Singh within Bhai Sahib out and wanting to do sewa for the Sikh Panth. Bhai Sahib's first arrest was on 21st July 1973, at the Karnal protest, after this Bhai Sahib went jail many times. When on 15th June 1975, a man named Jeevan Singh of Umrah Nangal challenged to establish Khalsa Raj by planting a Nishan Sahib outside the office of the Amritsar Deputy Commissioner and other high profile locations in Punjab. Bhai Sahib was also a part of this sewa, even when Jeevan Singh pulled out, Bhai Sahib continued the sewa.

0n 13th April 1978, the Narakhdharis killed Bhai Fauja Singh along with another 12 singhs for peacefully protesting against the anti-Sikh activities and wounded over 150 Sikhs, which included Baba Gurbachan Singh Manochahal. On 23rd April 1978, a protest was held in Sri Paonta Sahib, which was organised by Bhai Sahib and other Singh's. This protest was against the 1978 massacre of Sikhs in Amritsar and to push the government to serve the Sikhs justice. Then on 14th May 1978, Bhai Sahib too part in the protest in Delhi, also regarding the 1978 Sikh massacre and Bhai Sahib was a part of the team of Singh's that presented the memorandum to the Delhi government. This was the same memorandum that was scrapped by Akali Coalition's Desai government.

On 6thAugust 1978, a convention was held at Gurudwara Akal Garh in Sector 35 of Chandigarh, with the objective of establishing an independent Sikh state outside the Union of India. A number of Sikh Youth organisations had participated in the convention to discuss affairs of the Sikh Panth. This convention was organised by Bhai Balwant Singh, general secretary of Sikh Association and all Sikhs were invited to this convention on 29th April 1978. Sikhs such as Bhai Jaswant Singh Thekedar of Gurdaspur, Bhai Harjinder Singh Dilgeer of Jalandhar, Bhai Mohinder Singh of Delhi and many Sikhs from Patiala, Nabha, Amritsar, Sangrur, Chandigarh and from other major Sikh populated cities. Akali Dal of Harmachal Pardesh was also present at this convention, at this time Bhai Sahib was the leader of this Akali Dal party. All the Sikh youth organisations decided to merge into one group and Dal Khalsa was formed under the guidance of Baba Gurbachan Singh Manochahal. In this group of united Sikhs, five singhs were chosen to lead Dal Khalsa, these five singhs were Bhai Satnam Singh of Sri Paonta Sahib, Bhai Harsimran Singh of Chandigarh, Bhai Jaswant Singh Thekedar of Gurdaspur, Bhai Harjinder Singh Dilgeer of Jalandhar and Bhai Mohinder Singh of Delhi. The history of Dal Khalsa is the same amount of history that Bhai Sahib has. Bhai Sahib was involved in almost everything that Dal Khalsa had organised, such as the first annual conference held in Gurdaspur during December 1979, where the Dal Khalsa passed a resolution demanding the city of Amritsar to be officially declared a "holy city". This demand that was supported by other Sikh organisations such as the Sikh Students Federation and one which was later taken up with the Indian government by the SGPC in 1980. However, the Indian government made no decision on the demand to declare Amritsar a "holy city" which prompted the Dal Khalsa and the Sikh Students Federation to organise a procession on 31st May 1981. The Hindu community was opposed to the demand of declaring Amritsar a "holy city" and held their own parallel procession in Amritsar on 29th May 1981.

For the first time the flag of Khalistan was hoisted on August 1, 1980, by Bhai Sahib and other fellow singhs of Dal Khalsa at the spot in Amritsar where 13 Sikhs had been killed during a clash with the Narakhdharis on April 13, 1978. Shortly after singhs of the Dal Khalsa again raised the flags of Khalistan at various places in the Punjab state during India's Independence Day on 15th August 1980.

Then on 27th August 1981, Bhai Sahib and Bhai Sukhjinder Singh Kahnuwal protested outside the Punjab assembly, Chandigarh by shouting "Khalistan Zindabaad", both singhs were arrested and jailed in Ropar for 9 days. After being released on 5th September 1981, Bhai Sahib straight away went to Batala to attend a Khalistan march.

On 9th September 1981, the poisoness, racist and a Sikh enemy Lala Jagat Narayan was assassinated by the Jhujaru Singhs. Due to this, Indira Gandhi made plans to have Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwale arrested. On 15th September 1981, Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwale reached Chownk Mehta, here Bhai Sahib met Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwale behalf of Dal Khalsa to talk about the panthic issues. The following day, on 16th September 1981, Bhai Sahib returned back to the headquarters of Dal Khalsa, in room number 37 of Guru Nanak Niwas. On 20th September1981, Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwale announced that he will be giving his arrest.

On 19th September 1981, a plan was made to hijack an Indian plane by the singhs of Dal Khalsa, including Bhai Sahib. On 20th September 1981, Bhai Sahib and another singh caught a plane from Amritsar at 3pm to Srinagar. Bhai Sahib did not have enough many to return to Amritsar, so he sent the fellow singh to Amritsar on a plane and Bhai Sahib himself caught the bus back to Amritsar from Srinagar. Bhai Sahib reached Amritsar at 5am on 23rd September 1981. In this time Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwale had been arrested and the police had killed eleven unarmed Sikhs in doing so.

25th September 1981, Bhai Harsimran Singh went to Delhi and checked out the security procedures at Delhi airport, he then returned to Chandigarh on 27th September 1981. Here he met the five hijackers Bhai Sahib, Bhai Tajinder Pal Singh, Bhai Gajinder Singh, Bhai Karan Singh Kini and Bhai Jasbir Singh Cheema. All the 5 singhs were ready to carry out this action. After fully planning the hijacking all 6 singhs headed towards Delhi airport. At the airport the five singhs got onto the plane and Bhai Harsimran Singh came back to Amritsar, who at night held a press conference from room 32 of Guru Nanak Niwas.

It is said that the tickets of the 5 singhs were funded by the Sikhs of Canada. On 29th September 1981, Bhai Sahib and singhs managed to hijack the Air India plane (Boeing 737) under the command of Bhai Gajinder Singh from Delhi. The plane was forcefully landed in Lahore, Pakistan on 30th September 1981 at 8 o'clock in the morning. This was a form of protest against the arrest of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who had been accused of being involved in the murder of Jalandhar based Hindu newspaper owner Lala Jagat Narain. All the hijackers were under the leadership of Bhai Gajinder Singh who a few years later was nominated as Chairman of the organization, Dal Khalsa while on asylum in Pakistan. The Dal Khalsa activists including Bhai Sahib demanded the release of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in addition to demanding the release of all persons who had been detained in connection with the Khalistan movement, a ransom of 5 lakh dollars and compensation of 100,000 Indian Rupees for the families of each Sikhs that had been killed on 20th September 1981, at Chowk Mehta after the arrest of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

A day after the hijacking Pakistani commandos under the command of Brigadier Tariq Mohammed arrested the Dal Khalsa activists. The hijackers were identified as Bhai Gajinder Singh, Bhai Satnam Singh of Paonta Sahib, Bhai Jasbir Singh Cheema of Ropar, Tajinder Pal Singh of Jalandhar and Karam Singh Kini of Jammu.

After the arrest Bhai Sahib and the singhs were jailed for three years at the army base of Lahore, Pakistan. In 1984, after the attack on Sri Harimandir Sahib by the Indian government, the singhs were moved to Lailpur jail, Faisalabad and then in 1985, all singhs were moved to the central jail. Bhai Sahib was charged with the Pakistani act 402 and act 34. The case started in the Pakistani courts on 20th April 1985 and on 20th January 1986, a sentence was served. Special Judge of Pakistan, Faisal Karim sentenced all singhs to a life sentence.

It is notable that Bhai Gajinder Singh, after serving his life sentence in Pakistan, did not return to India. He reportedly went to Germany in 1995 and was detained at an Airport there. The government asked Germany to handover Bhai Gajinder Singh to India but Germany did not oblige India as it said that Bhai Gajinder Singh, would be deported to from where he had come. He is still abroad, but where, nobody knows. Two others Bhai Karan Singh Kini, a resident of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir and Bhai Jasbir Singh Cheema, a resident of Khanna in Punjab are said to be in Switzerland since 1995. Both have got asylum in Switzerland, it has been learnt. Bhai Sahib, after serving his sentence in Pakistan had gone to USA where he had sought asylum. However, his request for asylum was denied and Bhai Sahib was deported back to India in the year 2000. The fifth Sikh hijacker is Bhai Tajinder Pal Singh, who after serving his life sentence in Pakistan had gone to Canada and filed a petition for asylum. He tried the same for 4 years but was deported back in 1999 after the rejection of his petition for asylum.

It may be recalled that after Bhai Satnam Singh Paonta Sahib got deported to India he approached a court here seeking quashing of the case registered here regarding hijacking of the plane. Bhai Sahib pleaded that he could not be put on trial for the same offence twice as per the principle of double jeopardy. But just recently the government of India have put out a warrant against all five singhs:

Ludhiana (September 02, 2012): A Delhi based Indian Court is reported to have issued "non-bailable" warrants against five Sikhs who were involved in hijacking an Air India plane to Pakistan in 1981. It is notable that only two of the five persons currently reside in India.

According to reports the warrants against five Dal Khalsa mean were issued on August 30, 2012 after Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Sameer Bajpai took cognisance of Delhi Police charge-sheet filed in the case in 2011.
(The Indian Express)

Sant Sipahi - May 1989