Baba Gurbachan Singh was the last major Sikh Resistance leader to fall. The Indian Govenrment had put a RS 25 lakh reward on his head and was searching the entire Tarn Taran area for him, conducting 45 raids at one time to trap him. Baba Ji escaped each time and continued to be a painful thorn in India’s side. When all the other Singhs had been martyred and the entire Indian Security Force was on his trail, he refused the order to go and hide in Pakistan and spit on the offer to surrender. He simply could not be caught. Even in the end, he was martyred not by police bullets, but by the betrayal of those he considered his own.
Baba Gurbachan Singh Manochahal was born on June 6, 1954 at village Manochhal in Amritsar district. His parents were Bapu Atma Singh and Mata Gurmej Kaur. His parents were simple farmers but their family had a heritage of struggle against injustice. Bapu Atma Singh’s uncle had become shaheed in the Jaito Morcha, marching against the British Raj.
Baba Gurbachan Singh was from childhood a very strong and muscular boy. He enjoyed wrestling and other sports. The family moved from village Manochahal to Naushera Pannuan when Baba Ji was still young because his mother’s brothers had left for Singapore and left behind a large farm that had to be maintained.
Baba Ji was in the tenth grade when once he saw a boy inappropriately teasing and harassing a group of girls. Baba Ji grabbed the troublemaker and beat him badly. The teacher found out and in front of the entire class asked the young Gurbachan Singh to explain why he had beaten the other boy. Baba Ji explained, “Sir, he was harassing the bibis and after all, all women should be like our sisters. So, I couldn’t help myself and I did what I had to.”
The entire class began to laugh at Gurbachan Singh’s use of the word “bibis” for the schoolgirls. The teacher laughed and said, “I see! These girls are “bibis” and you would be the “Baba Ji. All students! From now on, everyone will call Gurbachan Singh, Baba Ji!”
After that day, the nickname “Baba” stuck and everyone began to call him Baba Gurbachan Singh. In the entire area, people began to know him as “Baba Ji”.
Baba Gurbachan Singh completed his education and at his father’s wishes, decided to join the army. Baba Ji was 6”1 and over 200 pounds. The army happily enlisted him as an “A level” recruit.
Even in the army, the name “Baba” Gurbachan Singh stuck. He was known for doing paath and being a devoted Sikh, even though he was not yet Amritdhari. Every day he dedicatedly did his nitnem. One day, as Baba Ji was doing nitnem, he fell into deep samadhi (meditation). The time for the daily military parade came and went and Baba Ji had no awareness of it. The officer in charge of the parade demanded to know where Baba Gurbachan Singh was. The other soldier tried to explain that he was meditating but the Hindu Officer had a bias against Sikhs and refused to understand.
The officer went to Baba Ji and shook him into awareness. Baba Ji apologized for missing the parade and explained he was reciting Gurbani. The officer responded by making fun of the Sikh faith and insulting the Gurus. Baba Ji’s anger couldn’t be controlled and he tackled the officer. His fists flew and the officer shrieked for someone to help him. The other Sikh soldiers watching did nothing as they knew how much the officer hated Sikhs. The beating continued for some time when finally other officers came and stopped Baba Ji. Baba Ji had broken the Hindu officer’s arm and his nose.
Baba Gurbachan Singh was arrested and court martialled. After a year of prison, Baba Ji left the army and returned home with a desire to dedicate his life to Sikhi.