Shaheed Bhai Avtar Singh Khalsa
Shaheed Bhai Avtar Singh Khalsa Jammu
All India Sikh Student Federation
The Sikh Freedom Movement started by Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwale towards the end of the 20th century has had many Sikhs give their lives to achieve freedom, one Jhujaru Singh from Jammu was Bhai Avtar Singh Khalsa has played a vital part in getting the people of Jammu and Kashmir involved in the Khalistan movement. Bhai Sahib was the main Jhujaru Singh of the All India Sikh Student Federation and due to this he was able to relay the message of Sant Ji in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Indian Government which was under the leadership of Indira Gandhi attacked Sri Harimandir Sahib in June 1984 to silence the Sikhs but this had failed miserably. After the attack on Sri Harimandir Sahib the Indian security forces had planted informants and black cats in various Sikh groups that wanted freedom but this did not affect many Jhujaru Singhs, who were true to the cause of Khalistan. The Indian security forces then tried to make Jhujaru Singhs fight against each other and they succeeded to some extent, Bhai Sahib was a victim of his tactic used by the Indian security forces. In 1978, Bhai Sahib met Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwale and had by now passed LLB, DBM and had done many tours to the west and was working as a FCI Inspector in Raaya Mandi, district Amritsar. In the few meetings with Sant Ji, Bhai Sahib was influenced by the truth Sant Ji spoke.
The Sikh Massacres of 1978 which took place in Amritsar and Kanpur made Bhai Sahib get involved with Sant Ji to get justice. It was from here Bhai Sahib started joining mass gatherings, protests etc. Bhai Sahib then attended an All India Sikh Student Federation training camp in Anandpur Sahib in 1979, after the training camp Bhai Sahib and Bhai Jagjeet Singh Poonchh revived the Sikh Student Federation back in Jammu and Kashmir along with their active members. Bhai Sahib held many similar camps across Jammu and Kashmir to wake up the masses. These camps were done by Bhai Amrik Singh Khalsa, Bhai Atinderpal Singh and from Jammu were Bhai Sahib himself, Bhai Jagjeet Singh Poonchh, Bhai Harcharan Singh Poochh and Professor Narinder Singh. Sant Ji could not attend these camps due to the actions in Chando Kalan.
Bhai Sahib always did sewa as an active member of Sikh Student Federation but whatever he said was always done. During the Dharam Yudh Morcha, Bhai Sahib was told to gather Jathas and following this Bhai Sahib gathered many Sikh youths, elders and even received the support of Mahant Baba Bachittar Singh and the Jatha would travel to Punjab to give their arrest. In August 1983, when Bhai Sahib was in Ludhiana Jail due to the Dharam Yudh Morcha, the police did an Independence Ceremony by flying the Indian flag and saluting it. Bhai Sahib did not like this and along with other Singhs made an orange flag out of their turbans and during the afternoon changed the Indian flag to the Khalsa flag. When the police realised that the flag had been changed in broad day light they got angry and felt embarrassed. Bhai Sahib was accompanied by Bhai Dalip Singh Hijacker, Shaheed Dr Gurdeep Singh Nepali and Prof Narinder Singh. Sant Ji and Bhai Amrik Singh Khalsa were impressed with Bhai Sahibs sewa and had a meeting with Bhai Sahib, he was given the duty along with other Singhs and Singhnia to highlight the injustices on Sikhs by the Government of Indian by using the international media. It was during this time the Asian Games were going on in Delhi. Bhai Sahib decided to use the media here and let the world know how India was oppressing its minorities.
It was at this time the Government of Indian had imposed an act to stop Sikhs going to the Asian Games all over India which were about to start. Bhai Sahib and his group were finding it difficult to get into Delhi, Haryana’s CM Bhajan Lal had banned the Sikhs from passing through Haryana. Any Sikh going to Delhi from Punjab was harassed by the Haryana police. The Indian security forces had so many guards deployed that even birds were being watched as they flew towards Delhi. Even after all this strict and heavy presence of Indian security forces, Bhai Sahib, Bhai Geja and two Singhnia reached Delhi but found it really hard to get into the stadium. Bhai Sahib used his intelligence and English he had learnt while in the west, he managed to get into a gallery where all the international athletics were and started to give English leaflets out. These leaflets gave information on how the Indian Government was oppressing the Sikhs and what rights the Sikhs wanted. Soon the police saw Bhai Sahib and as they got close to Bhai Sahib to grab him Bhai Sahib shouted “Sant Bhindranwala Zindabad, Bole So Nihal Sat Sri Akaal”. Now all the media had turned its cameras towards Bhai Sahib, by this time Bhai Geja had managed to get to the main ground and started shouting similar slogans. These two Singhs were then grabbed by the police and beaten really badly, but they fulfilled the sewa they were given by Sant Ji by putting their lives on the line.
Bhai Sahib and Bhai Geja had a smile on their faces because they knew they had achieved their goals, but Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and other MLA’s were seen shouting at the Indian security forces, who had failed their given duties. These two Singhs and the two Singhnia were arrested and locked up in one of the police stations in Delhi. Bhai Jagjeet Singh Poochh went to see this group and relayed the news back to Punjab.
We must also talk about another action Bhai Sahib did while being an active Singh of the Sikh struggle. Due to not having many Gurudwaras in Jammu, Bhai Sahib made a demand to the Jammu Government to give Sikhs a Government land in the Gandhi Colony so they could build a Gurudwara and to start off this campaign the Singhs had already put up a Nishan Sahib on this land. The All India Sikh Student Federation Jammu unit had their office here also. One of the racist Hindu groups were annoyed with this demand, the leader of this group was an editor at one of the newspapers, he had put up a reward of one lakh rupees for anyone who pulled the Nishan Sahib out of the land. This article was printed in his newspaper, it is said that the racist Hindu’s also wanted this land to build a Mandir. Soon the Sikhs started doing sewa on this land but thousands of racist members of Shiv Sena armed with metal rods and swords came to attack the Sikhs. Bhai Sahib saw this and moved towards the racist Shiv Sena, Bhai Sahib threw a hand grenade into the Shiv Sena crowd and the racist Hindus started running for their lives. Bhai Sahib then grabbed his 9mm carbine and fired 2-4 warning shots into the air. These racist gangsters of Shiv Sena ran for their lives and ever since no one dared to come there, even the Jammu Government had given the land to the Sikhs but after the Shaheedi of Bhai Sahib, no one really took on the responsibility and today there’s is nothing built on this land.
In the village of Dablade Sikhs leaders were doing Sri Akhand Paath Sahibs in deras of pakhandi babas, Muslim peers and Hindu devte. The local Sikh Student Federation unit approached the Sikh residents and leaders of this village and told them that what they were doing was completely against Sikh code of conduct. Upon hearing this, the locals swore at the Sikh Student Federation youths and said, “You federationers, can’t make us do nothing, we can do what we want.” When this news got to Bhai Sahib, he along with his group of senior Singhs of Jammu Sikh Student Federation went to the village. Bhai Sahib got all the leaders, Sarpanchs and locals together and explained Sikhi is about Gurmat, after hearing Bhai Sahib no one ever did such Sri Akhand Paath Sahibs in that area. Tall structure, glowing like gold, always adorning the Bani and Bana, always armed, Bhai sahib was leaving positive footsteps everywhere he went.
Before attack on Sri Harimandir Sahib, Singhs had started to prepare for the worst case scenario at Sri Darbar Sahib. Bhai Sahib and Bhai Gurdeep Singh Nepali were given the sewa of buying weapons from Jammu and Kashmir and bringing them to Amritsar. Bhai Sahib took this task along with Bhai Gurdeep Singh Napali but before Bhai Sahib could deliver, the Indian Army had attacked Sri Darbar Sahib. Many Singhs, Singhnia, children and elders were killed by the Indian army, Sri Akal Takhat Sahib was demolished by Indian tanks and cannons. The Sikh youth were now angry and wanted revenge. It was during this time Bhai Sahib along with Bhai Parminder Singh Harafan Mola, Bhai Harminder Singh Khalsa, Bhai Dalip Singh, Bhai Gurdeep Singh and Bhai Ravinder Singh planned to hijack an Indian plane in Jammu which was travelling to Delhi. This action was done in retaliation to the Indian Army’s storming of Sri Harimandir Sahib.
Bhai Sahib was left of the practical of this action as he had other responsibilities the Indian plane was hijacked. The plane was flown to Pakistan and no passengers were hurt, this was to show the Indian Government that the Singhs are capable of a lot of things. The hijackers were arrested by the Pakistan Police and jailed in Kot Lakhput Jail. When Bhai Sahib got this news he somehow crossed into Pakistan and was one of the first Singhs to meet the hijackers in the Pakistani jail. Important actions done in Jammu, Kashmir, Delhi and Punjab had the involvement of Bhai Sahib. Even the hijacking action, it is believed that Bhai Sahib was the mastermind behind it. This was the reason the Indian security forces so badly wanted to arrest Bhai Sahib. In the end Bhai Sahib was arrested along with Bhai Mohan Singh Jammu near the Vijaypur border of Jammu. The newspapers boasted about how brave the police was in arresting Bhai Sahib etc. After six months of many intelligence agencies questioning Bhai Sahib, he was sent to the Central Jail of Jammu. Even in jail Bhai Sahib was chosen to represent many prisoners and the basic rights of the Sikh in prisons, this was in 1986. Bhai Sahib forwarded the demands of prisoners such as, clean food and bedding, places of worship for all prisoners should be available, political prisoners should be treated the same as other prisoners.
Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and even Christian prisoners went on hunger strike to have these demands met by the Indian prison service but this hunger strike was broken by the CRPF, as they beat the prisoners up with rods. Bhai Sahib then got the prisoners to rebel and the place could not control the situation. The police then agreed to send a magistrate judge to Bhai Sahib to form negotiations. In the end all demands of Bhai Sahib were met.
Bhai Sahib had many cases against him of terrorism in Jammu, a special court was set up in Jammu’s Central Jail to listen to Bhai Sahibs cases. As Bhai Sahib was LLB graduate, he represented himself in the court. Bhai Sahib fought his case with such confidence that the judge agreed to have Bhai Sahib’s bail accepted but the Government of India was not happy about this hence Bhai Sahib was changed with Pubic Safety Act (PSA) and sent back to jail for another 2 years. It was in 1988 Bhai Sahib was bailed from the High Court, after being released Bhai Sahib started gathering the Sikh Student Federation units and picked up the momentum of the Sikh Freedom Movement once again.
In the end on 28th December 1991, Bhai Sahib was shot dead by black cats as the Indian security forces knew that if they killed Bhai Sahib the people of Jammu would totally go against the system so they decided to have Bhai Sahib killed by black cats who portrayed themselves as Jhujaru Singhs. Bhai Sahib’s Shaheedi was a loss to the whole Sikh Panth and not just to Jammu and Kashmir. Locals say that after Raja Ranvir Singh, it was Bhai Sahib cremation in which more than 20,000 people attended to pay their respect. Many leaders who attended the cremation also said that today Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale’s ideas had been made Shaheed with Bhai Sahib. When we went to Bhai Sahib’s family to write his biography, we were asked, “How comes it took us 15 years to come?” This biography should have been written years ago.
Safar-E-Shahadat – Manmohan Singh Jammu