Bhai Fauja Singh was born on 17th May 1936 in District Gurdaspur. His father Sardar Surain Singh was a middle class farmer. After the formation of Pakistan they moved to the village of Gazneepur, which is 6 miles on the Gurdaspur Dera Baba Nanak road.
Bhai Fauja Singh. ‘Fauja’ means soldier, and he truly lived to his name. Much of his life was spent in fighting against unrighteousness and standing up for the true principles of Sikh Dharma.
Here Bhai Fauja Singh speaks about the unfailing strength of Khalsa during the kirtan program with the American Sikhs at the Gurdas Pur jail. (As a prisoner, he was not permitted to wear his full bana of swords and other requirements)
History of a Friendship
It was just a few months ago that many- Sikhs from the Western Hemisphere had the opportunity to visit Amritsar, to be among the people there and to feel the spirit which prevails among the Khalsa of the East.
That spirit is especially evident and shared by the Sikhs of the Bhai Randhir Singh group, and during this particular visit to India, the western born Sikhs found a great sense of kinship with the Bhai Randhir Singh brothers and sisters.
Bhai Fauja Singh, the main leader of the Bhai Randhir Singh people was at that time in prison. He had been jailed over a pending case, but in reality he was being kept in prison as a means of containing his powerful leadership amongst a powerful group of Sikhs. Nonetheless, his spirits remained always high and his wife Amarjit Kaur often visited us at Guru Nanak Nivas, with words of support, appreciation and encouragement for our inspired efforts to learn and live the life of Khalsa.
Arrangements were made, and many of our people went to the jail to perform Gurbani Kirtan for the prisoners there, and to give a chance for others to visit with Bhai Fauja Singh. Bhai Fauja Singh had been a great friend and source of inspiration to some of our Khalsa family who had visited India in earlier times. Now the opportunity was there to return the spirit of brotherhood which we shared.
Tours were also arranged, to go out and perform kirtan at the main villages where the Bhai Randhir Singh people were living. And those times were most inspiring, as west and east joined in devotional singing. Then there was the opportunity to demonstrate ‘gatka’, the art of Indian sword fighting, and each group took turns in demonstrating their proficiency, with the rising energy of Khalsa brotherhood uplifting everyone.
We understood the basis of our brotherhood, which is sadhana, and it was clear that because these brothers and sisters practice a strong spiritual sadhana, because they have made it the base of their life, that our kinship runs strong. These are Sikhs who are prepared to live and die for righteousness, who exemplify the courage of Guru Gobind Singh in their daily life, who love Nam Simran as their life breath and who recognize the same spirit, the same love and the same infinite vibration of Nam which flows through all brothers of the Khalsa.
Baisakhi Day, 1978 and the Martyrs of Amritsar
It was out of this spirit of devotion, this sense ‘ of duty towards the Guru and towards the essence of the spirit of `Khalsa’ that these beloved ones felt the call on Baisakhi Day, the 13th of April, 1978. It was in the city of Amritsar, and official permission had been given to the-,’Sant Nirankaris to hold a procession through Amritsar, carrying the man they call their ‘guru’, Gurbachan Singh around the city on a palki, waving a chouri over his head. It would not take much wisdom to imagine that in the very city of Amritsar, the holiest of holy places for Sikhs. a renegade sect of Nirankaris being allowed to demonstrate their exaltation of a human being over and above the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, that such an action might cause some reaction among the Khalsa.
However, nothing was done on an official level to prevent the procession or the subsequent meeting which was to take place.
Watching this insult, a group of Sikhs met to discuss a way of dealing with the situation. They determined to send a group of 100 peaceful protesters to do kirtan outside of the Nirankari meeting. They requested that the leadership and officials of Amritsar give them their support and assistance but this was denied. Nonetheless, the 100 protesters set out, unarmed except with their required Kirpans.
Approaching the meeting place, the police stopped the protesters, under the guise of granting them official and safe passage. During this half-hour stop, an ambush was set in motion. Trucks filled with acid-soaked bricks and acid-filled bottles pulled in behind the peacefully protesting Sikhs. Armed units of Nirankaris surrounded the area, and when the 100 protesters were allowed to pass through the police lines, they were barraged on every side, first with bricks and bottles of acid, then with shot guns, rifles and pistols, even machine gun fire and an automatic arrow shooter were used.
There was none there to defend these courageous Sikhs, except their God and Guru, and each one who fell uttered ‘Wahe Guru’ and surely was received into the arms of the Guru as he died this martyr’s death. Bhai Fauja Singh himself was fired upon by the District Superintendent of Police, who accused him of being responsible for all of this trouble, and emptied his 32-calibre pistol into Bhai Fauja Singh’s chest. These were not the only bullets he was to receive that day, but he kept standing, uttering only `Wahe Guru’. Two Sikhs attempted to carry the still breathing and chanting Bhai Fauja Singh to the hospital for treatment, but those two men were arrested by Police, and Bhai Fauja Singh’s body was taken by the police and put into the `Dead Wagon’. Again, another Sikh came upon Bhai Fauja Singh and found him breathing and still uttering Wahe Guru’. He called for someone to help, but half an hour later, Sardarni Amarjit Kaur, his wife, found Bhai Fauja Singh dead.
He was just one out of the 13 known dead on that day, and even today there are some people who are missing, who never returned from that peaceful protest in Amritsar. The Sikhs of the Punjab are outraged. The Sikhs of the world watch in horror: Right in the Punjab, right in the Sikh stronghold, with our own leadership in power, this atrocity could happen.
In reality, this is the greatest massacre of Sikhs, perhaps ever, because they were shot in cold blood, they were unarmed, and they were singing the Guru’s Bani. They had come to request that the ‘Sant Nirankaris’ stop their abuse and public slander of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib and of Guru Gobind Singh, and they had come to ask them to stop calling themselves Sikhs. They had come to defend the honor and the spirit of the Khalsa. They were met with treachery and they were butchered.
“This day must not be forgotten. This is the day to remember the Martyrs of Amritsar. This is the day to be proud of, that at least there were men among us who could live to the very tradition of the Khalsa. There were men among us while alive who could live and who could take eleven bullets in their body and still say, ‘Waheguru’. They went as a true son goes to defend the grace of the father.” – Siri Singh Sahib Ji
Read In Punjabi
The bodies of the Martyrs were garlanded and respectfully adorned, then were available for viewing by the Sikhs who traveled from all parts of India and the world to pay homage to those who had given their lives in defense of their Guru’s honor.In India death is not a mysterious stage of life, it is accepted as a fact of life and acknowledged as the greatest opportunity for merging with the Divine. Sardarni Amarjit Kaur stands at the side of her martyred husband, Bhai Fauja Singh.