Although not always well told, these stories provide some telling insights—how the slide into terrorism, often an individual isolated act, ends up involving the whole family, with parents, siblings, others being exposed to pain and humiliation. They show that no matter how heroic the martyr may have been, no matter how much he believed himself to be acting in defence of the faith, or a cause, he was nonetheless deeply selfish and deeply self-centred. They show how, for those who spent long years in jail, prison became like a home, and the outside world something fearful. And they show how yesterday’s heroes and martyrs become people to be shunned when they return to ordinary lives, or cultivated if they enter the ugly world of politics. Both these aspects reveal themselves tellingly in the life of Bimal Kaur Khalsa, the wife of Beant Singh and her children.
These are stories worth reading, though the absence of women, scores of them, who took amrit in the name of the panth (wrongly translated here as baptism), and gave birth to its martyrs, is jarring.