Shaheed Bhai Paramjit Singh Panjwar: Reflecting on a Generation of Sikh Struggle
Shamsher Singh | @anandpur_exile
Bhai Paramjit Singh Panjwar, chief of the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF), was assassinated on May 6, 2023 around 6:00 AM. He was shot at by gunmen on a motorcycle whilst he was out for his morning walk near where he lived in Johar Town, a suburb of Lahore; he died at the scene. Bhai Paramjit Singh had been declared ‘one of India’s most wanted’ for his prominent role in the Sikh resistance for over 35 years.
Bhai Paramjit Singh had a long history of commitment to the Sikh struggle. Bhai Sahib left his career in 1986 and joined the revolutionary struggle under the leadership of legendary guerrilla commander, Shaheed Jathedar Bhai Sukhdev Singh Ji, widely known by his nom-de-guerre ‘General Labh Singh’. Through General Labh Singh’s careful mentorship, Bhai Paramjit Singh was introduced to the struggle in a disciplined environment, committed to ensuring focus and unity on the collective goal of establishing Khalistan. Bhai Paramjit Singh personally witnessed General Labh Singh’s astute leadership during this turbulent period while he worked to ensure politicians and others were not able to misuse the armed struggle for their personal pursuit of political power. The KCF and other jujharoo jathebandiyan were unequivocally clear that the fight was for Sikh liberation through the establishment of Khalistan, not the politics of subedari (borrowed power) subordinated to the Indian state.
In the aftermath of the Indian state’s invasion of Darbar Sahib in 1988 (codenamed “Operation Black Thunder”), General Labh Singh played a key role in eventually reconstituting the Panthic Committee after its fragmentation. This process was imperative to maintaining internal cohesion within the armed struggle and giving meaningful political direction to the Khalistan movement more broadly. This body jointly coordinated logistics and insurgent strikes against Indian security forces while also mobilizing important avenues of popular struggle in conjunction with Sikh dharmic institutions, intellectuals, and political activists.
Bhai Paramjit Singh assumed command of the KCF and joined the Panthic Committee soon after the shahahdat (martyrdom) of General Labh Singh. Upon receiving these leadership responsibilities, Bhai sahib went underground, from where he was able to command Sikh insurgent strikes in India for many years. Alongside this, he played an important role in charting out the political course of the Khalistan struggle–examples which can be seen in the thoughtful policy statements coming from the Panthic Committee during this period. Alongside armed struggle, the Panthic Committee provided cohesive political direction to snap ties with the Indian state and successfully consolidated all Sikh political parties around the demand for Khalistan. This was most clearly seen in the resounding success of the 1992 electoral boycott, and political declarations made by all parties during Hola Mohalla celebrations at Sri Anandpur Sahib that year.
The Panthic Committee contributed to developing the core of radical Sikh politics, laying the foundations for an egalitarian society in Punjab built on the revolutionary ethos of Sikhi and the sovereignty of the Khalsa. A key cornerstone of this vision is the committed solidarity with the armed struggles of oppressed and colonized peoples around the world, and the concrete engagement with marginalized groups around the subcontinent in particular. During the controversies around India’s Mandal Commission for example, the Panthic Committee strongly supported affirmative action as a temporary measure, but implored all resistance movements to unite against Delhi as the ultimate solution would only be in the collective liberation of all oppressed peoples by overthrowing the Bippar once and for all.
In response to Bhai Paramjit Singh’s unrelenting commitment to Khalistan, his 75 year old mother, Bibi Mohinder Kaur, was abducted from her home and ‘disappeared’ by Indian police officials in November 1992. In 1994, a case was finally brought against then SHO Jagdeep Singh and DSP Ashok Kumar. Jagdeep was promoted to Assistant Inspector General, and Ashok died of natural causes during the decades-long so-called investigation. It was not until 2023 that Jagdeep was declared a ‘proclaimed offender’. It is suspected that he had been relocated to Canada, just like numerous other police officials responsible for various atrocities against Sikhs.
The impunity enjoyed by Indian forces in their treatment of the families of Sikh jujharoos and those sympathetic to the Sikh struggle is nothing new. In 1995, we saw the only measure of closure for Shaheed Bibi Mohinder Kaur when Shaheed Bhai Jaswant Singh located her remains among the 6,017 bodies secretly cremated by the Indian state. Alongside his mother, Bhai Paramjit Singh’s younger brother, Rajwinder Singh, was also killed by police forces while numerous other family members faced brutal state violence and torture. According to a report published in the Ajit during the mid-1990s, security forces forcibly turned Bhai Panjwar’s ancestral home into a police station after ransacking all of their belongings and forcing most of his family underground.
Despite all of these difficulties, Bhai Paramjit Singh remained committed to reformulating the movement, even following India’s genocidal counter-insurgency and the decline of the armed struggle. During the latter part of his life, Bhai Panjwar made numerous contributions to the struggle in cultural and academic spheres. He ran an underground radio broadcast program under a pseudonym, and produced a number of films (eg: Bali de Bakre, and Kersi Painda) about the oppression of Punjab and the Sikh liberation movement. He also made significant contributions to academic efforts committed to supporting Sikh knowledge production.
Bhai Paramjit Singh, like other underground Sikh guerrilla commanders, has long been a target of Indian security forces. From the initial reporting, it’s clear that the Indian media had an inside line to what occurred in Pakistan on the day of his assassination. News18 was the first media outlet to report, followed minutes later by Hindustan Times. Both outlets reported that there were two shooters involved and the exact location of the shooting– near his residence in “Sunflower Society Johar Town”. It’s obvious from this sequence of events and publicized information that the particular details can only have come from Indian intelligence sources. Other key indicators of the involvement of the Indian state is how widely verbatim reporting was proliferated across India media channels, the social media activity of Indian bot accounts, and prominent Indian nationalists, celebrating the death of “wanted terrorist and Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) chief”, a line that was repeated across accounts.
The assassination of Bhai Parmjit Singh Panjwar represents a larger pattern of Indian forces carrying out clandestine activities to target militant Sikh leadership. On 27th January 2020, Jathedar Bhai Harmeet Singh ‘PhD’ was assassinated by Indian operatives. His bhog was an important moment of reflection on the Sikh struggle.
Since then, the assassinations and shahadat of Bhai Paramjit Singh, Bhai Avtar Singh Khanda, and Bhai Hardeep Singh Nijjar demonstrate India’s clear intent to eliminate militant Sikh leadership in order to impose and maintain its political dominance over the panth and Punjab.
The Panth remembers Bhai Paramjit Singh’s commitment to the struggle and celebrates his life by recognizing Bhai Paramjit Singh as a shaheed (martyr) of the Khalistan struggle. We leave you with the fearful remembrances of the Indian state when they heard the name of the panthic warrior and general that was Bhai Paramjit Singh Panjwar.
“Leader of the separatist group, the Khalistan Commando Force, 41-year-old Paramjit is wanted for reviving the Sikh insurgency, murder, conspiracy and smuggling arms.”
- Indian Express, 4th Dec 2008, New Delhi
“Panjwar had been arranging arms training to youths in Pakistan and remained engaged in supplying of arms and ammunition and subsequent infiltration into India for targeting Very Important Persons (VIPs) and economic installations. He had been broadcasting highly seditious and separatist programmes on Radio Pakistan, intended to incite minorities against the Government of India.”
- Indian Express, May 6th 2023, Amritsar
“Panjwar was wanted for reviving Sikh insurgency, murder, conspiracy and smuggling of arms in India. He was also wanted for the murder of former army chief General AS Vaidya and for the country’s biggest bank robbery in Ludhiana.”
- News18, May 6th 2023, New Delhi
Watch a live discussion on the shahadat of Bhai Paramjit Singh Panjwar between members of the Khalistan Centre, National Sikh Youth Federation (UK), and The Undying Morcha.