On the day of Vaisakhi 13 April 1978 The Legend – The Saint -The Warrior Amar Shaheed Bhai Sahib Bhai Fauja Singh Ji went to protest against the Nirankari procession and against Nirankari Gurbachan Singh’s apparent insults against the Gurus. 16 people including 13 Sikhs were Shaheed in the ensuing clashes.
On 13th April 1978 the Akhand Kirtani Jatha gathered together from all over India at Amritsar to hold their yearly Vaisakhi Smagam. Kirtan had started from Amrit Vela and at about 10 o’clock a message was received. The message said that the followers of Nakali Nirankari Gurbachan Singh were holding a procession in Amritsar and were shouting slogans against the Satguru and shouting insults against the Sikh religion.
All the Sikh Sangat knew very well that the Nakali Nirankaris had been doing these things for the past few years. The Nirankaris had given degrading names to some GurSikhs including Mata Tripta Ji, Bhai Gurdas Ji, Bibi Nanaki Ji, Baba Budha Ji, Bhai Lalo Ji, Bhagat Kabir Ji. They called the Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji a bundle of papers, and they called Kar Sewa, Bikar Sewa. The Nakali Nirankari leader said that Guru Gobind Singh Ji had made 5 Panj Pyarai, I shall make 7. Once he had even dared to place his foot on the Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji
Bhai Fauja Singh heard the news from the loudspeaker when he was kneading the dough for the langar. He washed his hands and rushed to the congregation. He delivered a short speech, explaining the dire situation and drew a line, asking for those who are willing to receive martyrdom to cross it. Bhai Joginder Singh Talwara asked children and women not to go. However many “Bibian” still insisted on going. After performing Ardas, the Gursikhs bowed before the Satguru and went off to Ramdas Niwas.
On 13th April 1978, the Akhand Kirtani Jatha gathered together from all over India at Amritsar to hold their yearly Vaisakhi Smagam. Kirtan had started from Amrit Vela and at about ten o’clock an important message was received. The message said that the followers of Nirankari chief Gurbachan Singh were holding a procession in Amritsar and were shouting insulting slogans directed at Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the Sikh religion. The Sangat knew very well that the Nirankaris had been doing such things for several years. The Nirankaris had even gone so far as to give degrading names to prominent Gursikhs including Mata Tripta, Bhai Gurdas, Bibi Nanaki, Baba Buddha, Bhai Lalo and Bhagat Kabir. They scornfully referred to Guru Granth Sahib Ji as “a bundle of papers”, and they called Kar Sewa “Bikar Sewa”. The Nirankari leader is on record as saying that Guru Gobind Singh had made only Panj Pyare (Five Beloved) and that he would make ‘Sat Sitaare’ (seven stars). He had even dared to place his foot upon Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Since 1943 the Nirankaris have annoyed the Sikhs by distorting Gurbani to promote their warped ideals; just as many Sant-led movements do today. However it was during the 1970′s that the then Nirankari ‘Satguru’ Gurbachan ‘Singh’, went even further. He published articles stating that, Gurdwara Sarovars are pools which serve no purpose and they should be filled-up; Guru Gobind Singh Ji was either fighting battles or hunting and that he knew nothing about meditation; that no sensible person can call the writings in the ‘bulky miscellany’ (referring to Guru Granth Sahib Ji) a divine revelation. Bhai Fauja Singh Ji heard the news from the loudspeaker when he was kneading the dough for the langar. He washed his hands and rushed to the congregation. He delivered a short speech, explaining the dire situation and drew a line, asking for those who are willing to accept martyrdom to cross it. Bhai Joginder Singh Talwara asked children and women not to go. However, many Bibian still insisted on going. After performing Ardas, the Gursikhs bowed before Guru Granth Sahib Ji and went off to Ramdas Niwas. Upon reaching Ramdas Niwas they found that the procession had finished. The Gursikhs then decided that they should go to the place where the Nirankaris had gathered to hold a peaceful but resolute protest against the blasphemous insults directed at Guru Sahib. It is known that Sikhs of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha and the Bhindra Jatha reached the Reego Bridge near Gobind Gar. Here, the Police stopped them. The Gursikhs demonstrated to the police about the insults being shouted at the gathering. These insults could be heard clearly from where they were standing. They told the police that they wanted to protest against the organisers of the gathering and the hurtful insults. A police officer told the Gursikhs that he would go and stop the Nirankaris and for them to remain there. The police officer went to where the Nirankaris had gathered and the Sikhs waited patiently for thirty minutes for him to return. On his return there were more policemen accompanying him. D.S.P Joshi told the assembled jatha to go back and that the procession had ended a long time ago. But provoking speeches could still be heard on the loudspeakers. Then about five to six thousand uniformed Nirankaris rushed towards the group of about two to three hundred Gursikhs. Within seconds the massive force of Nirankaris mercilessly attacked them with pistols, rifles, spears, swords, bow and arrows, sticks, stones, acid bottles and home made bombs. The Gursikhs that were hit with bullets fell to the ground and were brutally butchered with swords, spears and axes. As the ground became covered with the bodies of the dead and wounded the police fired tear gas and bullets, but even that was directed towards the jatha, causing further injuries and death. In this way, the Nirankaris received greater assistance and were emboldened.
Bhai Fauja Singh s/o Surain Singh, Amritsar
Bhai Avtar Singh s/o Bhagwan Singh Kuda Kurala, Hoshiarpur
Bhai Harbhajan Singh s/o Jagat Singh, Bhattian, Gurdaspur
Bhai Piara Singh s/o Kishan Singh, Bhungrani, Hoshiarpur
Bhai Raghbir Singh s/o Nawab Singh, Bhagupur, Amritsar
Bhai Gurcharan Singh s/o Daleep Singh, New Model Town, Ludhiana
Bhai Gurdial Singh s/o Sohan Singh, Mode, Amritsar
Bhai Amrik Singh s/o Kundan Singh, Khujala, Amritsar
Bhai Dharambir Singh s/o Lal Singh, Ajeet Nagar, Amritsar
Bhai Kewal Singh s/o Amar Singh, Prem Garh, Hoshiarpur
Bhai Hari Singh s/o Gurcharan Singh, Kot Ralia Ram, Amritsar
Bhai Ranbir Singh Fauji s/o Kala Singh, Thraj, Faridkot
Baba Darshan Singh s/o Achhar Singh Ji, Mehtha, Amritsar
Parnam Shaheedan Nu
Shaheeds of 1978
The Punjab Government brought a murder case against the leader of the Nirankaris called “Gurbachana”. However this case was intentionally moved from Punjab to Karnal, in Haryana. This sect called Nirankaris enjoyed the patronage of Indira Gandhi, who wished to use it to destroy the strange hold of Akali party control in Punjab. She viewed Sikhs as the biggest threat to her ambitions of power. They were the only group who would be prepared to raise their voice against her. Hence she devised many strategies to weaken Sikhs internally and externally. The Nirankaris were part of this plan.
Prakash Badal, the leader of the Akali Dal in Punjab, was also secretly helping “Gurbachana”. Prakash Badal`s role in the History of Punjab has been very dubious, and it can be stated he has been the Sikh version of Gangu Brahmin, who sent many Khalsa youth to their deaths. Parkash Badal further ensured that “Gurbachana” walked free from the courts. Previously it had been Parkash Badal who had smuggled “Gurbachana” out of Punjab on the night of the murders on Vaisakhi 1978.
Youth Get Organised
The charismatic leader of the Damdami Taksal, Baba Jarnail Bhindranwale was infuriated by this. He also held Jathedar Fauja Singh in high esteem. He called for Sikhs nationwide to oppose all Nirankari activities.
Bhai Sukhdev Singh was by nature very quiet, and very spiritually inclined. But at the same time he was also a man of action. He had realised while these Nirankaris enjoyed the patronage of Indira Gandhi, Sikhs would never get justice for the murder of Gursikhs. By now a further 13 Gursikhs had been killed in Kanpur by Nirankaris, and also two in Delhi. Another close associate of Bhai Sahib, and very spiritual Gursikh, Bhai Jagjit Singh was one of those Shaheed in Kanpur.
In a quiet manner, with the help of Bhai Anokh Singh, Bhai Sulakhan Singh and Bhai Amarjit Singh Daheru, they began plotting and assassinating the leadership of the Nirankaris. “Gurbachana” had held himself up as a modern “Guru Gobind Singh ji”, to infuriate Sikhs. As Sikhism had “Panj Pyares” (5 beloveds) , the Nirankaris set up their “Sat Sitares” (7 stars). Bhai Sukhdev Singh began with them, and completely annihilated the Nirankari leadership. The main target was always “Gurbachana”, but he eluded them yet.
Bhai Sukhdev Singh always lead from the front. He was involved in every action, and always behaved to highest ideals of the Khalsa.
However the Indian Security Forces, and right-wing Hindu groups were providing protection to the Nirankaris, and also helping them hunt young Sikhs who were standing up to the Nirankaris.
The trail led them to the house of Bhai Amarjit Singh Daheru. He was a very Chardi Kala Gursikh, who was providing all the Sikh youth with weapons training. His house was surrounded by the Punjab Police and Security Forces. Bhai Sahib was very skilled in fighting. He wanted to make sure he was not caught, because he did not want the youth he had trained to be exposed. So he fought with great courage. When he was eventually Shaheed, his Singhni demonstrated how miraculous Guru Ji`s daughters are….. She single-handedly fought the Police and Security Forces for 48 hours. Only when all her ammunition finished did she also attain Shaheedi.
Forming of the Jathebandi
The Shaheedi of Bhai Amarjit Singh Daheru led the Indian Security Services to realise that many of the actions against the Nakli Nirankaris, had not been done by Sant Jarnail Singh, as they had widely began to demonise him in the national press. Instead they had been done by a small group of organised underground youth from the Akhand Kirtani Jatha. Therefore they began rounding up Sikhs at Akhand Kirtani Jatha smagams.
Bhai Sukhdev Singh greatly felt this. He did not want elderly highly spiritual Sikhs to be harassed in police cells. They went to smagams for Gurbani Rass, and they should not be treated wrongly.
At this time, Bhai Sahib read a book by Giani Tarlok Singh. It was called “Babbar de Vithaya, Golee Chalde Rahe”, (Legend of the Babbar – keep the bullets firing). It was a novel about Babbar Akali movement against the British Raj in India. It had stories about the Great Sikh, Shaheed Bhai Kishan Singh Babbar and his companions. During the Indian Independence movement, they fought against the British Raj, their cruel officers, their touts, spies, Jagirdars, etc, in a guerrilla campaign with amazing feats. Bhai Sukhdev Singh saw this as a model which could be used effectively to organise modern youth.
In 1981, a meeting of active Sikh youth warriors was called. It was announced that the Sikh Youth fighting the Nirankaries was not the Akhand Kirtani Jatha. This was to ensure harassment of elders stopped. Instead this was a new separate organisation called “Babbar Khalsa”.
There was no-one more front-line than Bhai Sukhdev Singh. It was unanimously decided by the youth that the Jathedar would be Bhai Sukhdev Singh. Other deputy Jathedars were also chosen. They were Bhai Anokh Singh, Bhai Sulakhan Singh, and Bhai Wadhawa Singh.
Every member of this Jathebandi must be Amritdhari, and strict in Amrit vela and Sikh code of conduct. They must be knowledge and practicing in Gurbani recitation. They must have memorised all the Nitnem, to ensure it is not missed, even in the heart of battle. They must be regular in Sangatee Seva, like cleaning shoes, so they always remain humble. Anyone who tries to destroy the Sikh religion or Nation would be opposed and eliminated by Babbars. To ensure they are capable of doing this seva, they must be abyassi, humble and always lead a Pure Gurmat lifestyle. Communications by Babbar Khalsa would be via a magazine called “Vangaar”, which would have their missions documented and current news.
False Encounters Begin
When Babbar Khalsa became announced, its enemies in the form of Indian Security Services, Right-wing Hindus and the Nakli Nirankaris, now had a visible enemy to track down. No longer was it a case of a handful of Sikh youth among thousands, but specifically hunting Babbars, as well as the Gursikhs with Sant Jarnail Singh ji.
A key Babbar Khalsa activist who was very active in the universities of Punjab was Bhai Kulwant Singh Nagoke. He was a very strict Sarbloh Bebeki Singh, a fearless fighter, and someone who did a lot of “Parchaar” to take young Punjabis away from intoxicants, and make them Khalsas.
After a successful action against anti-Panthic forces, the trail followed by Police led to his arrest. He was severely tortured by the Security Services desperate for information on Babbar Khalsa. Bhai Kulwant Singh revealed nothing, and became the first Sikh youth to be Shaheed in police cells from torture. The dawn of the false encounter had arrived.
Sant Jarnail Singh ji had by now become a pivotal figure in India. The murder of Bhai Kulwant Singh Nagoke, and many other injustices, false cases against Sikhs, rape of Sikh girls, etc, led him to now openly speak on stages against the Indira Gandhi Government. His Dharam Yudh Morcha had gained a lot of momentum, and he was inspiring youth throughout Punjab to take Amrit. However his speeches documenting human rights abuses against Sikhs were by now seen to be shaking the foundations at Delhi.
By now, the Babbar Khalsa had hatched a successful plan to assassinate “Gurbachana”. A young Sikh carpenter called Ranjit Singh gained a job in his house in Delhi doing general building work. At the most opportune time, Bhai Ranjit Singh with some associates killed “Gurbachana” as he got out of his car, which had returned home from a rally. They then escaped by jumping a very high wall, when hunted by Police. Bhai Ranjit Singh was later arrested and sentenced to long term imprisonment, then released as the Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib.
Bhai Sukhdev Singh’s Relationship With Sant Jarnail Singh
Since 1980, the Indian Security Forces had come to know of a youth called Sukhdev Singh, and had began to hunt him. So Bhai Sahib permanently shifted all command operations to Siri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar. It was here that stayed from 1980 till 1984. Babbar Khalsa had come into existence here.
Sant Jarnail Singh had established the Dharam Yudh Morcha. Bhai Sahib fully supported this movement. He also wished all the youth of Punjab to leave intoxicants and become Sikhs of the Guru.
Sant Jarnail Singh ji was also a highly spiritual and visionary Gursikh. He knew since the Shaheedi of Jathedar Fauja Singh, that hard times would fall on Sikhs and they needed to become Shasterdhari (armed). He also knew anti-Panthic forces would do everything to divide the Sikh Youth to ensure that Sikh demands are not met. The Sikh youth who were brave and full of spirit were in two Jathebandi’s; – Damdami Taksal and Akhand Kirtani Jatha. During the early 1980s, a meeting occurred between Sant Jarnail Singh ji and Bhai Joginder Singh Talwara. Bhai Amolak Singh was also sent to represent the youth as no organisation had formed at the time of this meeting. In this meeting it was agreed that no issues that divided these two groups would ever be allowed stop the common cause of the Sikh Nation.
Later as Babbar Khalsa came into existence, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale held them in high respect, and they are often mentioned in his lectures. Names like Bhai Kulwant Singh Nagoke, Bhai Manjit Singh Babbar are mentioned frequently.
Meeting In Jail
When Sant Jarnail Singh ji was in prison after being arrested in Chowk Metha, it was national news. Bhai Sukhdev Singh and Bhai Wadhava Singh walked into the police station armed with guns. The police realising who had just walked in, ran for their lives. Bhai Sukhdev Singh asked Sant ji to come with them and continue his Parchaar. Sant Jarnail Singh ji said he appreciated their courage, but has no need to go underground. Sant ji said his release had already been arranged legitimately.
Sant Ji respected the way Bhai Sukhdev Singh had quickly dealt with the Nirankaris “7 Sitarees” (their equivalent to our Punj Pyares). Also how he had planned how Bhai Ranjit Singh would infiltrate Nirankari Baba Gurbachana house, and numerous other high profile actions.
Sacha Sukha (Truthful Sukha)
During 1983-84, the security services tried to divided the Singhs. It had been the wish of the security services that Sikh youth fight amongst themselves, creating enemies, and opportunities which could be used to gather information from rivals, and start them eliminating each other.
Some infiltrators dressed up as Singhs and robbed a Hindu mans store in Amritsar. They told him to leave Punjab or he will be killed. They pretended to be Sant Bhindranwales men. The distraught Hindu shop keeper went to Darbar sahib, and was told by sangat to see Bhai Sukhdev Singh, who was based at Baba Atal Sahib Gurdwara. Bhai Sukhdev Singh was upset that people are doing this is Gursikhi Baana (clothes), as it gives Gursikhs a bad name. When the Babbar Khalsa Singhs located these infiltrators, Bhai Sukhdev Singh got a laathi, (a long Danda- wooden stick), tied them upside down from a tree and beat them with it. He made them give all the money back, and told them never to threaten any innocent again.
Other infiltrators tried to stoke up the Taksali Singhs against Babbars saying Sukhdev Singh had beat up these Singhs. Many rumours were circulated to get one group against another. Some of these rumours later even got published in books, to ferment differences between the groups. But Sant Ji knew this was not correct, and instead started referring to Jathedar Sukhdev Singh ji as “Sacha Sukha”, (The Truthful Sukha).
Both Sant Ji and Bhai Sahib knew their fight was not against innocents. Sant ji, too was called in press as a Hindu hater, but facts show he was highly respected by many Hindus. The fight was only against those who choose to destroy Sikhism.
Even today, in books written about the Operation Bluestar refer to differences between the two leaders, which are baseless. Sant Longowal and Gurcharan Singh Tohra, both key Akali leaders at that time also sought to divide Sukhdev Singh and Sant ji. They were afraid of the growing prominence of Sant ji and the amount of youth with him. The only person capable of standing against him, who also had a lot of youth with him was Bhai Sahib. So these leaders also indulged in rumour mongering to divide the two Gurmukhs, and associated themselves with the Babbars.
Bhai Sahib realised these forces that were at work and so did Sant ji. Both shared a mutual respect and their common cause. However no differences directly arose between the two Gursikhs, despite the attempts of many. Both fought together at Operation Blue Star, as the story continues
Bhai Sahib’s Family
During this period of 1980-84, Bhai Sahibs family was blessed with children. Bhai sahib had one daughter, Amrit Kaur, and two sons called Tejinder Singh and Gurvinder Singh.
Bhai Sahib elder brother, Bhai Mehal Singh also joined the ranks of the Babbar Khalsa. He is an exceptional individual, especially capable with electronics. These skills became very valuable to the Movement.
Amritsar 1984 Rainsbai
Rainsbai Kirtan in Amritsar, just before the 1984 attack on Darbar Sahib by the Indian Government. If you look towards the bottom left hand corner, you’ll see Singhs from Babbar Khalsa International in full Bana (all are wearing Kesri Dumallai). Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar and Bhai Anokh Singh Babbar were sat there too. Just a few days later, many of these Singhs gave their lives to protect the attack on Sri Darbar Sahib.
Operation Blue Star – Background
On 13th April 1977, head of Naqli Nirankaris named Gurbachan led a procession in Amritsar. Earlier he had declared that “If Guru Gobind Singh can make five beloved one’s., he will make seven stars” . Naqli Nirankaris are strongly associated with Arya Samajis and other such organization which came out of need to reform Hinduism, from its age old superstitions and rituals., but these movements instead of targeting common Hindu individuals spearheaded their movement against Sikhism. Arya Samajis and Naqli Nirankaris wanted Sikhs to start shaving and to drop their individuality and assimilate into Hinduism (or their form of Hinduism with rituals like “Havan”). So on this occasion of Vasakhi, Gurbachan Nirankari led a procession in Amritsar.Bhindrenwale at this time was a small time preacher, who would visit villages and preach to youngsters to adopt Sikh practices. Akhand Kirtani Jatha with its leaders set out from Akal Takht to stop Gurbachan Nirankari for his act of “Creating five stars”. Gurbachan and his armed accomplice fired at these Akalis and one by 13 Akalis were killed.
After this incident, Bhindrenwale’s reputation as a fierce emerging Sikh leader rose tremendously in Sikh political circles. From 1977 until 1983, Bhindrenwale led his agitation against Arya Samajis and other fanatic Hindu organizations who were working against Sikh and ncept of Punjabiat as well as many Sikhs who opposed him for his fanatical views. Many of his followers were young rural Sikhs, who had been disappointed with state and central government due to unemployment, poverty and other problems. After 3-4 years of trial, Gurbachan of Nirankari sect was acquitted by Indian court, even though more then 10 person testified against him in court, it was clearly evident that there were political heavy weights behind him.
Till 1983 newspapers all over Punjab reported daily killings of innocent bystandards by armed brigades of young motor cycle driving terrorists who would suddenly appear and with one burst of machine gun kill few people. Congress Punjab government came out with a law banning the pillion(double) riding of a motor bike. Prominent Arya samaji leaders and news paper publishers of Hind Samachar group like Lala Jagat Narain was killed by unidentified persons and Government of India implicated Bhindrenwale and arrested him at Chowk Mehta in 1982, but he was released in two days. Then, in later half of 1982 he moved to Golden temple complex where he setup his headquarters in Guru Ram Das Sarai. In 1984 he moved to Akal Takht. Indira Gandhi and government of India declared president rule in Punjab and deployed 4 division of Army through out Punjab, in a desperate attempt to flush out Bhindrenwale and his accomplice from Golden Temple complex. Then it all started, I quote from much accomplished book called “Amritsar Mrs. Gandhi’s Last battle”, by Mark Tully and Satish Jacob “At Seven o’Clock on the evening of 5th June, tanks of the 16th Cavalry Regiment of the Indian army started moving up to the Golden Temple complex. They passed Jalianwala Bagh, the enclosed garden where General Dyer massacred nearly 400 people. That massacre dealt a mortal blow to Britain’s hopes of continuing to rule India and was one of the most inspirations of the freedom movement. When Mrs. Gandhi was told that Operation Blue Star had started,she must have wondered whether it would provide the decisive inspiration for the Sikh independence movement, a movement whch at that time had very little support outside Bhindrenwale’s entourage and small groups of Sikhs living in Britain, Canada and the United States. Major-General Brar was leading a mixed bag of troops, representative of the widespread recruiting pattern of the modern Indian army, which has broken with British tradition of limiting recruitment to certain ‘martial castes’. There were Dogras and Kumaonis from the foothills of the Himalayas, India’s northern border. There were Rajputs, the desert warriors from Rajasthan. There were Madrasis from Tamil Nadu, one of the most southern states. There were Biharis from the tribes of central India, and there were some Sikhs. Major Brar had joined Maratha Light infantry 30 years ago in 1954 as a lieutenant. He had fought in Bangladesh under Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora, the Sikh general who was most outspoken critic of the Operation Blue Star.”
Bhindrenwale and his group had moved to Akal Takht, the highest seat of Sikh authority few weeks before Army attack. He had been criticized for this act as he became the only person after Guru Hargobind to live in Akal Takht. He was obviously spearheading the last showdown with Indian army and had knowledge that sooner or later Army would attack and he himself wanted to go down in Sikh history as a martyr and not deserter or negotiator as other Akalis political leaders. He had support of Major General Shabeg Singh, unofficial hero of Bangladesh war., as well as thousands of rural Sikh youth.
Brar’s superior officer was Lt-General Krishnaswamy Sunderji, who asked his chief staff Officer, Lt-General Ranjit Singh Dayal, to draw up the plans for Operation Blue Star. Dayal, like Brar was a Sikh, but he had not shaved his beard or cut his hair, and still wore a turban. Dayal was also an infantry soldier, having served in the Ist Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, which was to spearhead the attack on the Golden Temple Complex. During the 1965 war with Pakistan, Dayal became legend by capturing a pass which had previously been thought to be impregnable, and blocking off one of the most important routes from Pakistan-Controlled Kashmir into Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. A frontal assault was impossible and so Lt-General Dayal climbed up the mountains towering over Haji Pir pass and came down on top of the Pakistanis.
Dayal, Sundarji and Brar drew up at twofold plan. The essence of this plan was to separate the hostel complex from the Temple complex so that the hostels could be evacuated without becoming involved in the main battle. To achieve the prime objective to get Bhindrenwale out of the temple complex they had planned a commando operations. Commandos were to be supported by infantry, Tanks were only to be used as platforms for machine guns to neutralize fire on troops approaching the Golden Temple complex, and to cover the Temple exits in case anyone tried to escape. Armored personnel carriers were to be positioned on the road separating the hostels from the Temple complex to keep the two potential battle fields apart.