The American who lived with Bhindranwale
By Anju Kaur, SikhNN staff writer, Washington Bureau
Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014 | 08:14 pm
Norman Kreisman, of California, was known as Baba Nam Singh Khalsa when he was living at the Guru Nanak Niwas with Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, from 1982 to 1984.
Photo Source: Norman Kreisman
“I took him to see Sant Jarnail Singh,” Kreisman said. “He met him once or twice… Maybe he got inspired by him and his men.”
The first time Guru Sant Singh met him, Jarnail Singh was drinking tea, surrounded by many supporters.
“He was interested because I was a white Sikh, and asked how I became a Sikh,” he said. “He was cordial, polite and very humble. I got a good feeling about him.
“I told him that I was a Christian before, and that I really liked the Sikh life style, belief in one God, and that Sikhs fought for freedom.
“I did not understand what he was saying, but just by the manner of his speech, I could see he was a good Sikh.”
Guru Sant Singh called Yogi Bhajan and asked him if he could stay in Amritsar with Jarnail Singh. At the time, he was attracted to the sant-sipaayee (saint-soldier) aspects of Sikh history.
“It was important to me how Sikhs were ready to defend their religion," he said.
He also was attracted to Sikh weaponry, and other weapons such as rifles and guns, he said. Gursant Singh had graduated from a military academy and was an expert marksman. And he often served as Yogi Bhajan’s bodyguard.
“Sant Jarnail Singh’s bodyguards carried AK47 and other intimidating weapons," he said. "I talked to them about their guns.”
Many of the firearms that Jarnail Singh's men are often pictured carrying include American-made World War II .30 caliber M1 carbines, which are considered old technology, he said.
“From what I can gather, Sant Jarnail Singh's men had very few AK47s, and most of their weapons were outdated and of World War II vintage.”
But he still wanted to stay and fight. The idea of fighting and defending oneself with weapons was important to Guru Sant Singh.
“There are lots of things going on here,” he told Yogi Bhajan’s secretary, by phone. “They are fighting for freedom, and I want to stay here and help.”
Yogi Bhajan sent back the message: “Absolutely not! Get back to the U.S.”
The visitors returned to the U.S. at the end of their yatra. And Baba Nam Singh remained at the niwas, studying to be a gyaanee.
Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale (left), Yogi Bhajan (center) and Baba Nihal Singh (right), a nihung of the Tarna Dal. The picture was taken in Guru Nanak Niwas, in Baba Nam Singh Khalsa's room. "It was weird that all three were there at the same time," he said.
Source: Norman Kreisman
The Indian army prepares for the invasion
By the end of 1983, Amritsar began to be fortified. Gurkha soldiers from the Indian army formed a ring around the Darbar Sahib complex, at the marketplaces. They set up several checkpoints along its perimeter. A checkpoint was basically a stand surrounded by sandbags, inside which heavily armed Gurkhas were stationed.
“We could see that from the roof, their checkpoints,” Kreisman said.
“And they were really mean little guys, I mean these Gurkhas, never smiling. They were stationed there probably for six months before the attack. Instead of getting to know the local people, they just were very standoff-ish, very unfriendly. Besides having their guns, they had their Gurkha knives on their belts.
“Everybody could see that there was a military presence there.
“We had our Kirpans and Sri Sahibs (long swords). (But) at that point we started having our own armed-guards on the roof of the niwas.”
Newspapers began to report that Jarnail Singh was talking about a separate Sikh state.
“I had mixed feelings,” Kreisman said. “If you think about it, and I would ask them: So if we have Khalistan do we also have like a dharma police? Are you going to make sure that men keep hair and don’t drink wine, just like in a Muslim country where you have, like the Taliban, where you have a police, that their job is to uphold the moral standards?
“Even though I wasn’t doing anything that was anti-Sikhi or anything, it should be really up to the individual to be dharmic. I kind of did not like the idea.
“These guys wanted a Sikh state. What goes along with that? And what about the religious rights of people who live there who were not Sikh, or who were Sikhs but were not devout? …Do we really need it?
“They said that is what we want - a fundamentalist Sikh state.
“But the idea for a separate state was floating around Punjab,” Kreisman added. “It was not exclusive to Jarnail Singh.”
Baba Nam Singh never had a personal conversation with Jarnail Singh about a separate state. The two rarely talked one-on-one. But he often heard the sant speak from the rooftop. Although his men talked about a separate Sikh state, Kreisman could not recall ever hearing Jarnail Singh using the word “Khalistan” in any of his conversations or lectures.
“He definitely thought Sikhs were being mistreated, especially in Punjab, even though they were the majority," Kreisman said. "He saw the solution to make Punjab a separate country.
"But I think the emphasis was on the mistreatment.”
At the Darbar Sahib, “they wanted some exclusionary zone where there wouldn’t be any tobacco selling or wine shops,” he added. “I mean, I agreed with that. I didn’t see why we needed tobacco sellers within the shadow of its walls.”
But now, the walls were also surrounded by Gurkhas.
Jarnail Singh’s men
“They had very old homemade rifles, country-made pistols that used shotgun shells,” he said. “One of Jarnail Singh’s men was checking this homemade pistol, he opened it, took out the shotgun shell, examined it, put the shotgun shell back in. And when he closed it, it fired. And he shot himself in the leg. So, he was in the niwas with a gunshot wound in his leg.”
Kreisman could not remember his name but he remembered that he was from Singapore. He came from a middle-class family and worked at the Singapore airport. He left his life and family to come to Amritsar and be with Jarnail Singh. And because English was his first language, he and Baba Nam Singh became good friends.
When his sister found out about the gunshot wound, she flew from Singapore to take him home, he said. She begged him to come back home.
“He talked to us, with his sister, but he refused. She left without him.”
Kreisman also remembered Jarnail Singh’s other men. They had a unique way of tying their dastaars, called 'Bhindranwale style.' It had a certain design on it. They showed Baba Nam Singh how to tie their style of dastaar, and also gave him their style of kurtas.
“They were very nice and very, very giving,” he said.
Every group had its own style. When Baba Nam Singh was living with the nihungs, he took on their uniform of blue cholaas and dastaars that were high on top.