Profile of an assassin

What prompted Sub-Inspector Beant Singh to assassinate Indira Gandhi? Was it only foreign money or a mere religious motivation to take “revenge” for the Army action in Golden Temple, or both?

Beant Singh was a husband, a father and a police officer with clean records. He and his wife, Bimal Khalsa, a staff nurse at Lady Harding Hospital, had been earning enough to look after their three children and themselves. Besides, Beant Singh had been living at 6, Ashoka Police Lines, a government house.

Born on My 4, 1950, at Maloya village in the house of Sucha Singh, a weaver and a Ramdasia Sikh, Beant Singh had his education at Government schools in Maloya, Teera, Hamirpur and Khalsa School, Kharar, before joining the Sector 23 Government Higher Secondary School in Chandigarh in 1967. In 1968 he passed the Higher Secondary examination of Panjab University in second division.

In 1969–70, he did a diploma in Russian from Panjab University, securing 186 marks out of a maximum of 300. In April 1971, he absented himself from the B.A. (final year) examinations of Panjab University as a student of the Sector 11 Government College for Boys. In September the same year, he cleared the examinations, missing the second division by just two marks.
After graduation, Beant went to Delhi, and in 1972 got into Delhi police as a Sub-Inspector against the reserve quota.

Though his uncle, Mr Bahadur Singh, had got all the children baptized in early 60s, Beant Singh turned a “patit amritdhari” on entering the college in 1968.

Malyoa a big village on the outskirts of Chandigarh was primarily village of Rajputs. In 1905, a Sikh preacher came to the village. The Harijans of the village, who were until that time called “ad dharmis” embraced Sikhism. It enraged Jhalam Singh, a Rajput, who attacked the Sikh preacher with a burning wooden log. The preacher left the village but Sikhism stayed. It was during this period that the grandfather of Beant Singh embraced Sikhism. Since then, a majority of the Harijans of the village has been going to a gurdwara, which was built just in front of Beant Singh’s house.

During his childhood, Beant used to play with Sukhwant Kaur, one of the three daughters of Mr Randhir Singh, also a Harijan Sikh and a distant nephew of Such Singh.

Sukhwant Kaur is now married to Harinder Singh, an Indian diplomat in Norway who resigned from the Indian Foreign Service in June, 1984. In protest against the Army action in Golden Temple. Harinder Singh’s elder brother, Butshikan Singh, is also in the I.F.S. and now posted in Bahrain.

During his maiden trip abroad with Indira Gandhi. Beant had met Harinder Singh in Oslo in October last year. Initially Sukhwant was reluctant to recognize him. It was a lukewarm reception from Harinder Singh’s family, Beant had told his brothers and father on return.

In fact, Beant’s father and four brothers were annoyed with him when he had gone to attend the marriage of the youngest daughter of Randhir Singh to Sarabjit Singh, an IPS officer allocated to the Karnataka cadre but now posted in Delhi. The marriage took place in 1980. The parents of Beant Singh did have good relations with the family of Randhir Singh, who, in 1955, was appointed to the Punjab Civil Service. Mr Randhir Singh has settled at Ludhiana after retirement. He had left Maloya in early 60s.

Beant’s eldest brother, Shamsher Singh, was also in Punjab Civil Service (Judicial Branch) before he resigned and started his own practice at Kharar, Kurali, Ropar and Chandigarh. He is Marxist and Beant was under his influence.

Gurdarshan Singh, who is younger to Shamsher Singh and older than Beant Singh, is a junior engineer in Delhi Telephones. He is married to Mohinder Kaur, a daughter of S. Darshan Singh, a former head granthi of Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. It was an inter-caste marriage as Darshan Singh was a Jat Sikh.

Before shifting to Ashoka Police Lines, Beant Singh lived at Vishnu Nagar. On his way to Ragbhir Singh bus stand. He used to pass by the house of Bimla Devi, the eldest of the three daughters of a carpenter, Gurbachan Singh. Beant fell for Bimla, who after her matriculation examination was doing a course in nursing at Lady Harding Hospital. It was sub-inspector Hardev Singh, a college of Beant, who proposed marriage between Bimla and Beant in 1976. The marriage was performed according to Sikh traditions in 1976 and Beant changed the name of the Bimla Devi to Bimal Khalsa.
Beant and Bimal named their eldest child a daughter. Amrit Khalsa, Bimal was allergic to the drinking habit of her husband. Beant, on the other hand, a carefree man, used to invite his friends home for drinks.

There was a sudden transformation in the thinking of Beant Singh after the Army action. He started accompanying his uncle, Kehar Singh, an assistant in the office of the Director-General, Supplies and Disposal, to Gurdwara Moti Bagh. In July, a noted ragi from Punjab performed “virag katha” at the gurdwara. Beant Singh was moved and reportedly started crying. It was at this stage that Kehar Singh told him not to cry but to take “revenge”.

The idea appealed to Beant Singh. He reportedly discussed it with his friend, sub-inspector Amarjit Singh Sagi, a clean-shaven Harijan. They conspired to “liquidate” Mrs Gandhi before August 15.

Beant later told Kehar Singh that Amarjit had let him down. He, however, reiterated his determination to “kill Mrs Gandhi”, saying he had found a reliable partner in constable Satwant Singh. Satwant then started frequenting his house.

With the passage of time, Beant was turning more religious. On October 10, Beant told Bimal that he would soon become a “martyr”. Bimal could not understand what he was talking about.

On October 14, Beant left his house in a kurta pyjama and a flowing beard. He went to Kehar Singh’s house, from where he went to Gurdwara Moti Bagh and then to Sector 6 Gurdwara in R.K. Puram for taking “amrit”. He was punished for not maintaining himself as an “amritdhari Sikh” after baptism in childhood. He was asked to sweep the floor of the gurdwara and recite Sukhmani Sahib. Beant Singh promised that he would get his wife, Bimal, baptised within a week. On October 17, Beant took Bimal to Gurdwara Sis Ganj and got her baptised there.

On October 20, Beant, Bimal and their three children reached the house of Kehar Singh in Sector 12, R.K. Puram, early in the morning. Beant Singh had four railways tickets for Delhi-Amritsar sector with him. Kehar Singh and his wife, Jagir Kaur distant aunt of Beant Singh from Maloya village, agreed to accompany Beant’s family to Amritsar by the superfast train a few hours later.

In Amritsar, Beant Singh took a vow at Akal Takht on October 21 to “assassinate Mrs Gandhi”. An “ardas” was performed and Beant was given five flowers of marigold. Though Beant wanted to meet Satwant Singh at the Golden Temple, the latter failed to turn up. A final meeting was held at the house of Beant Singh and was attended also by Kehar Singh and Satwant Singh.

Whether Beant Singh came in contact with Harinder Singh, again through Sarabjit Singh, is yet to be established. Who other than Kehar Singh provoked him to take the decision to assassinate Mrs Gandhi has also be found out.

Shamsher Singh, however, maintains that his brother killed Mrs Gandhi not for money but for religious reasons. Beant, he says, was left with no spirit of nationalism after his return to the fold of amritdhari Sikhs.

When the police questioned Sucha Singh and his four sons (Shamsher Singh, Gurdarshan Singh, Kirpal Singh and Bhagat Singh), they asked them about the “foreign money” Beant might have received.

Sucha Singh, at 76, works from 6 am to 8 pm on his handloom to earn Rs 15 to Rs 30 to make ends meet. His wife, Kartar Kaur, had been staying with him until September, when Beant came to the village for the last time and persuaded her to go to Delhi to look after his children as he and his wife, Bimal, had to attend to their duties from morning to evening.

Beant had come to the village in June again to attend the marriage of his youngest brother, Bhagat Singh. That time Bimal and his children had accompanied him.

Everyone in the village was surprised to learn about the role Beant played in the assassination of Mrs Gandhi.

“He was not that type Barring Shamsher Singh, our family had been a Congress (I) supporter. It was because of the reservation policy pursued by the Congress (I) government that Beant got into Delhi police as a “Sub-Inspector” says Kirpal Singh.

“Beant would have been in Punjab Civil Service in 1974 if he had been given the benefit of reservation. I even spoke to Mr Bansal, the then Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission, but he expressed his inability to help him as no one from Chandigarh could be considered under the reserved quota”, adds Shamsher Singh.

Beant had refused to draw the Rs 100 as Divali gift given to each member of the Prime Minister’s Security staff.

The plot of “assassinate Mrs Gandhi” was an open secret among several members of security staff. The Crime Branch of the Delhi Police questioned Sub-Inspectors Balbir Singh, Amarjit Singh, Ajaib Singh and Gurdev Singh and Constable Jagtar Singh, besides others.

Beant had sounded sub-inspector Balbir Singh, a Ramgarhia, about his intention to kill Mrs Gandhi and sought his help. Balbir had given a positive response but Beant reportedly did not pursue the matter further.

Meanwhile, Balbir had come in contact with another group of conspirators who wanted Mrs Gandhi to be “liquidated”. Balbir had reportedly demanded Rs 6 lakh and a dynamite to accomplish the target. One of the conspirators, an industrialist, offered Rs 20,000 in cash. Besides promising another Rs 50,000. The conspiracy, however, fell through.

It is strange that intelligence agencies were unaware of who was conspiring against the Prime Minister. The turning of Beant and Satwant Singh into amritdhari Sikhs and the refusal of Beant to take his Divali gift should have aroused suspicion.

According to reliable sources the posting at Prime Minister’s house for security is considered a “punishment” for the policemen. No one willingly goes there.

Most of the policemen deployed at 1, Safdarjung Road, had been in police stations before the change in the top brass of the Delhi police in 1981.
The police also questioned Bimal’s father, Gurbachan Singh and her brother, Narinder Singh. All relations of Beant, Satwant and Bimal have been released.