The Bone-Chilling Qila-Baddowal Massacre Of Hindus
Disclaimer: The following content describes violence, murder & bloodshed. Do not continue further if you are triggered by violence or death.
I, as a young South Asian, wish to delve deeper into remembering the victims of the Punjab Insurgency, the innocents lost on all “sides”. And so I begin this short, descriptive article in memory of my fellow Hindus on the anniversary of the incident, where Hindus were brutally executed on the fateful night of June 15th in the heart of Punjab by armed separatists.
By the time June 1991 approached, the militant aspect of the Punjab insurgency had been haunting the populace of Punjab in India for well over 6 years. The fear was so solidified and engrained in the psyche of the common civilian that certain aspects of normal life became clouded with fear of a terror attack as a retaliation for the Indian state’s brutal tackling of the pro-Khalistan forces. It is well known in Punjab today that most of the victims of the insurgency were Sikhs.
However, it is often forgotten to recognize the sheer bloodshed and terror that Hindus faced simply because of their religion. Coupled with anti-Hindu violence, many “Moneyh”, (Sikhs who have defied Sikh law and cut their hair) were murdered along with Hindus by fringe-factions of Pro-Khalistan forces. Although virtually every Sikh and most Khalistani groups vehemently opposed the targeting of Hindus during the insurgency, the targeted killings unfortunately continued ravaging the Hindu of Punjab.
By 1991, several Hindu temples were desecrated, including an incident where an iconic Shaiva Mandir in northern Punjab was bombed. Between 20,000-25,000 Hindus fled the Punjab countryside citing persecution by militants that firmly held villages, villages where Sikhs and Hindus lived in harmony for decades. Make no mistake, militancy was painful for people of all faiths in Punjab.
One way of targeting Hindus was through hijackings of public transportation. This fear tactic has been observed time and again, and it has proved efficient in inducing fear and terrorizing the public. Many families in Punjab began cutting their “kalaavas” (sacred red threads worn by Hindus) and adorning the Sikh turbans in order to protect themselves from persecution by militants.
In the years prior to 1991, there had been over 5 major incidents where public-transport was hijacked, and consequently used to systematically eliminate all Hindus on the bus/train.
The Night Of The Massacre
On the night of the 15th of June, an estimated 126 men, women and children were showered with bullets and killed by militants on two different trains that were flagged down and hijacked by the Khalistan Commando Force. On the second train, Hindus onboard were also killed.
Baddowal Bloodbath: The group, identified by the Indian authorities as the Khalistan Commando Force, flagged down the train that was packed with families, children and the elderly. They indiscriminately fired at the train using automatic weapons. The physical state of the train was so bad that initially it was not possible to tell whether they fired from the outside or from the inside. The militants killed an official estimate of 62 people, mostly Hindus travelling from Ludhiana to Ferozepur (Both Hindu majority cities). A number of Sikhs were also killed.
Qila Rai: This is the traumatic incident involving the specific targeting of Hindus onboard, including the killings of ethnically Punjabi Hindus as well.
Around 10:15pm, as the night began to set in and midnight approached, a second train near Qila Rai was halted by the same group of twelve militants. The militants stormed the train compartments filled with Hindus, Sikhs and Christians and identified all Hindus onboard, regardless of their age or gender.
The Hindus onboard the Dhuri-Hissar train were physically dragged off by militants armed with military-grade automatic weapons, and these Hindus were systematically lined up outside of the train and instantly shot dead.
Towards the end of the incident, over 48 Hindus had been massacred in front of their shocked, helpless Sikh co-passengers who were allowed to live because of their difference in faith.
By the end of the night, an unofficial estimate by locals put the total count of the dead at 100+ Hindus. All in all, a total of 126 Indians were killed in one night by the KCF. These attacks were an attempt to scare the public of Punjab into not stepping out and participating in the upcoming elections. A leader of the Congress Party in Punjab, Tajinder Khanna, suggested that the elections carry on. However, by midnight, the state of Punjab was under a full red-alert.
Picture: India Today, Injured Hindus outside the Shivala Bhaiyan Temple shortly after it was hit with a large explosion, a bomb planted by Sikh separatist groups.