Shaheed Bhai Fauja Singh | 13th April 1978 | Shaheedi Purab | 1978 Vaisakhi Massacre
Bhai Fauja Singh was born in 1936 in the district of Gurdaspur. Bhai Sahib’s father S. Surain Singh was a farmer and after the partition of Punjab, he moved the family to the village of Gazneepur in Gurdaspur. In 1964, Bhai Fauja Singh received the blessing of Amrit and a year later on Vaisakhi, Bhai Sahib married Bibi Amarjit Kaur in a ceremony where the kirtan was performed by Bhai Jeevan Singh.
In 1964, Bhai Fauja Singh learnt Gatka and persuaded other young Sikhs to learn it as well. Bhai Sahib was the best Gatka player in the area and there was nobody around who could beat him. After 1970, Bhai Fauja Singh started to immerse himself in seva around Amritsar. He would spend all the wages he and his wife earned for the good of others. Bibi Amarjit Kaur recalls, he would say “any money we spend on ourselves is wasted, but the money we use for seva is saved in our bank”. Bhai Fauja Singh believed the tenth Guru formed the Khalsa by shedding his blood. When the plant of the Khalsa dries up, it requires more blood. Then, it is the Guru
s Sikhs who must spill their blood to keep the Khalsas flag flying high. Bhai Fauja Singh would say to his companions that there is a growing disrespect of our religion and future generations will ask “what were our forefathers like, who accepted everything so quietly?
In 1972, An incident took place in the Misri Bajar, Amritsar in which the Guru Granth Sahib Ji was treated with disrespect showed Bhai Fauja Singh’s true personality. He was a farm inspector at the time. Even the police were scared to arrest the criminals. Bhai Fauja Singh intervened and caught the criminals and punished them accordingly. On 17th October 1975, The Sikh Sangats were celebrating Sangrand at Gurdwara Bhai Salo Ji. The Langar was being served at the time. Some thugs came and treated the Guru Granth Sahib Ji with disrespect and beat up the Sevadar and Granthi of the Gurdwara. They also made plans to burn down the Gurdwara Guru Keh Mehal that night. When Bhai Fauja Singh heard about this incident in the evening he got together some Singhs and went there straight away.
First they went to see the disrespectful treatment of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji at Gurdwara Bhai Salo and the damage done to the Gurdwara. After seeing this incident the Singhs started shouting “Sat Sri Akal” and went off to protect Gurdwara Guru Keh Mehal. The thugs surrounded the Singhs from tall buildings on all four sides and started throwing stones, bricks and acid bottles at them. Even though the Singh’s clothes and bodies were covered in blood, they did not care for their own lives and protected the Gurdwara from being burnt down. After 1972, this was the second painful event to happen at the Sikh headquarters, Amritsar.
The result of these actions by the Singhs was that the troublemakers now knew that one lion among sheep was more than enough. After this second incident in 1975 Bhai Fauja Singh did not sit quietly at home. Guru Maharaj stopped his daily presence at the office at the end of October 1975. He received money sitting at home, and he assumed this to be God’s blessing. He said laughingly in Jan 1978 to Prof. Gurmukh Singh, -‘Satguru is having his Seva done and is giving my wages from the Punjab Government.’
After the 1975 incident, Bhai Fauja Singh organized many new programs. In June/July 1976 a group of Singhs commenced religious preaching in 10 villages in Gurdaspur over 10 days. Prof Gurmukh Singh was lucky enough to be among this Jatha. Bhai Fauja Singh had a very bad impression from the previous incidents regarding Sikhs living in the cities, and thought that they were not prepared to sacrifice their lives.
So he turned his attention to the villages, so that perhaps the sleeping Panth, which was asleep in village life, may be awakened by telling them; about Satguru`s history, performing Gurbani Kirtan and taking Amrit. This Jatha also held Gatka demonstrations. After the Kirtan, Bhai Fauja Singh would talk to the Sangat and this had a good effect on the Sangat. A similar Smagam was held in March 1977 for 15 days at Khalsa Farm, where Bhai Fauja Singh persuaded young Sikhs to learn Gatka and told them of the problems of the Sikh Panth today, they also performed Kirtan and meditated.
During this period, another incident happened which again showed the courage and spirit of Bhai Fauja Singh. The Police arrested a Hindu woman. During her interrogation, the Police officers began to rape her. Her husband, unable to stop her from being gang-raped, went to the magistrates to secure her release and file a complaint about the Police. However, they refused to intervene. He then went to various pandits and mullahs for help, but none wanted to go against the Police. Eventually he went to the Singhs. People had informed him of a Singh called Bhai Fauja Singh of Amritsar. Bhai Sahib had become very prominent due to his fearless attitude. He immediately went to see Bhai Sahib, who at once with some Singhs went to the Police station. On seeing the pitiable state of the woman, he immediately released the woman, and severely punished the guilty police officers. Later he was sent to prison for this action. However, he showed that the Khalsa which rescued innocent women in Sikh History, is still alive today to save humanity from injustice.
In August-September 1977 in Gurdaspur Jail, he wrote a poem under the title of ‘Kurbani’. This was probably his first and last poem because as far as it is known, he was not a poet. This poem was written 7-8 months before his Shaheedi. In the poem “Kurbani” Bhai Sahib warns the Khalsa Panth about the disrespect of the Shri Guru Granth Sahib takes place everywhere, which he could not tolerate. He could not accept the insults at Guru Maharaj from the Nakali (fake) Nirankaris. At the end of the poem Bhai Sahib writes that my head is yours, Vaheguru, and I shall offer it to you. Bhai Fauja Singh was a great soldier, who selflessly and joyfully spent his life in fighting against injustice and standing up for the truth.
For over 30 years the Nakali Nirankaris have tried to oppose the Sikhs. They would speak wrongly in front of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji; they would call the Kar Seva in Harmander Sahib, Bikar Seva; make fun of the Rehat-Rehni; say that Gurbani was meaningless, and insult the Panj Pyarai. Even though all this was happening the Sikh leadership closed its eyes and ears and did not care about the deeply hurt minds of the Sikhs. Because of this stance taken by the Sikh Panth, the Nirankaris grew in confidence. They grew so much in confidence that on the day of the birth of Khalsa, the Vaisakhi of 1978, in Amritsar, their leader sat under a canopy with a fan being waved over him, and held a procession through the streets boasting that Guru Gobind Singh Ji made 5 beloved ones and I have made 7 stars, (Sat Sitaraes).
At this time the Akhand Kirtani Jatha Smagam was taking place and Bhai Fauja Singh was doing the Seva of kneading the flour for the Langar. Immediately after hearing the news he went outside to where everybody was gathered. Together with some other Singhs, he made a decision on what to do and then started the Ardas. This was his Shaheedi Ardas and the last Ardas that he ever did.
On the day of Vaisakhi 13th April 1978 about 125 Singhs went to peacefully protest against the Nirankari procession and against Nakali Nirankari Gurbachan Singh’s insults against the Gurus. Bhai Fauja Singh was barefooted and all the Singhs were reciting Gurbani. The Nakali Nirankari army fired at the unarmed Singhs, and Bhai Fauja Singh and 12 other Singhs became Shaheeds and 70-75 Singhs were wounded.
After his Shaheedi, Sikh leaders stated that – ‘the 13 Singh’s had sacrificed their lives for the great task from which everyone had been hiding. Their sacrifice had not only awoken the Panth, but also made us stronger and more aware for the future.’