In a dastardly attack on 16 October 2020, Shaurya Chakra awardee Balwinder Singh Sandhu was shot dead outside a school he was running in Bhikiwind village of Tarn Taran District, Punjab, not far from the Pakistan border. Various members of the Sandhu family, including Balwinder, his brother Ranjit and their wives, Balraj Kaur and Jagdish Kaur Sandhu had all been awarded the Shaurya Chakra in the 1990s for their fortitude in the fight against Khalistani terrorism. The Shaurya Chakra is, of course, India’s third highest peacetime gallantry award.
At a time when Punjab was in the throes of a violent secessionist movement, it was the common folk of the countryside who came together to counter terrorism. And the Sandhu family of Bhikiwindwere exemplary in this regard. As per records from the early 1990s, no less than 16 life-threatening attempts had been made on members of the Sandhu family between January 1990 and December 1991.
The most egregious of them all took place on 30 September 1990, when about 200 terrorists attacked the Sandhu family residence and for about five hours, the family including the women, fended off the assault with pistols and Sten guns that had been provided by the government. The ferocity of the family’s response, however, forced the terrorists to retreat, having suffered heavy casualties. It was this incident that led to four members of the Sandhu Family being decorated with the Shaurya Chakra. With the assassination of Balwinder Singh Sandhu, the counter terrorist movement in Punjab has lost one of its greatest heroes.
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