Punjab: Shaurya Chakra awardee, who fought Khalistanis, shot dead
Balwinder Singh Sandhu, a brave civilian who fought Khalistani terrorists for years, was today shot dead by unknown assailants in the Bhikhiwind village of Tarn Taran district in Punjab. He was honored with the Shaurya Chakra Award. The bereaved family said Singh's security was withdrawn by the Punjab government last year, on the recommendation of local police. Here are more details.
As terrorism rose, Singh picked up arms
Through the 1980s-90s, when Punjab was infested with Khalistani elements, Singh fought bravely, creating an army with his family members to take on the separatists. As his village remained one of the worst-hit, Singh took up arms. An India Today article from 1991 gave an idea about the fear the family lived in — they assumed every night would be their last.
His house was attacked 12 times, even with rocket launchers
According to the report, Singh's home had been attacked a record 12 times, twice by rocket launchers, prompting him to spend Rs. 70,000 in robust infrastructure. Singh's family army, from years ago, consisted of his brothers and cousins. At the time, he even roped in his two-year-old son Gagandeep. He had said he was forced to do so as police never helped.
Singh wondered why police didn't give him light machine-guns
"Whenever we are attacked the police never come to our help. At least they can give us a light machine-gun. Or flares to attract attention when we are attacked," Singh, who was associated with CPI(M) back then, had told the publication.
He was awarded the Shaurya Chakra in 1993
Singh's fearlessness in the face of Khalistani terrorism earned him accolades from Indian and foreign media alike. He once featured in a National Geographic documentary as well. In 1993, the Ministry of Defense honored him with the Shaurya Chakra, a rare honor for a civilian. The citation revealed that once Singh's house was attacked by 200 terrorists. He still didn't bow down before them.
Terrorists attacked them for five hours, his family fought bravely
Once in September of 1990, scores of terrorists had surrounded their house and attacked them for five hours. The road to the house was blocked and underground mines were laid to keep the police away. "Undaunted, the Singh brothers (including the deceased's brother Ranjit) and their wives fought the terrorist with pistols and sten-guns provided by the government," the citation said.
Assailants shot him, fled from the scene
Tragically, Singh has passed away in the same village which he protected at the peak of terrorism. Reportedly, two bike-borne assailants pumped five bullets into him, just as he opened the gates of the school he started. He was rushed to a hospital but was declared dead on arrival. Ranjit said Singh's security cover was removed, despite the family being on terrorists' hit-list.
Retired IAS officer remembered Singh's bravery
However, Ranjit isn't certain if Singh was attacked by terrorists. He revealed his brother was attacked last year as well, in connection to the school he started. Mourning his demise, retired IAS officer KBS Sidhu tweeted, "I had seen that he was the sole person in village Bhikhiwind who had taken arms, quite literally, against terrorists. He was very courageous and fearless."