Shaheed Bhai Avtar Singh Rupowali

Khalistan Liberation Force

In Punjab, the Sikh struggle to break away from the Indian chains of slavery many Sikhs took part and became martyrs. Within these names of shaheeds is the name of Shaheed Bhai Avtar Singh Rupowali which is said with pride. Rupowali village is situated in the Gurdaspur district, here a farmer Sardar Vir Singh and his wife Mata Gurmeet Kaur gave birth to their first child and named him Avtar Singh. Bhai Sahib was born in 1965, he had 3 younger brothers, Bhai Jagtar Singh, Bhai Mangal Singh and Bhai Gurmej Singh.

Bhai Sahib studied up till 5thclass at government primary school of Rupowali, and then passed his 10thclass from a school in Talwandi Rawia. After Bhai Sahib joined Guru Nanak College in Kala Afghana, it was during these days at the college Bhai Sahib regularly did darshan of Sri Harimandir Sahib and listened to the speeches of Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwala. Bhai Sahib would take one of his close friends, Bhai Tarsem Singh who was also from the village as him along. Soon Bhai Sahib made contact with the singhs from the Jatha of Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwala, now Bhai Sahib along with his friend, Bhai Tarsem Singh wrote their names in the very long list of Jhujaru Singhs. Due to some disputes Bhai Sahib stopped going to college and did not do his exams for 11thclass. Bhai Sahib started helping his family in the farms, but he continued to visit Sri Harimandir Sahib and Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwala regularly.

When the Indian army attacked Sri Harimandir Sahib in June 1984 and killed thousands of unarmed and innocent Sikh pilgrims, the whole Sikh world was left in shock and dismay. Groups of young and elder Sikhs from villages across Punjab started to move towards Sri Harimandir Sahib, but the Indian army was had curfews and checkpoints all over Punjab, the Indian soldiers were visible on every corner of Punjab. Bhai Sahib made the decision to do something and then attain shaheedi rather than be killed by Indian security forces unarmed. Some days after the attack on Sri Harimandir Sahib, the anti-Sikh elements in Bhai Sahib’s villages started being eliminated. The police raided the village of Rupowali and arrested Bhai Sahib. The police took Bhai Sahib to the Gurdaspur police station, he was blindly tortured but he stayed in high spirits. In the end Bhai Sahib was charged with many fake cases and sent to Gurdaspur jail.

The parents of Bhai Sahib would go and visit Bhai Sahib in jail. Mata Gurmeet Kaur would ask her son to give up the path of Jhujaru Singhs, but Bhai Sahib’s answer would be, “This is the Path of the Dharam Yudh, I cannot leave this path.” Bhai Sahib was bailed on the cases against him after 6 months, Bhai Sahib than returned home. Bhai Sahib continued to take part in the Sikh Freedom Movement, he came in contact with Bhai Tarsem Singh Kohar, Baba Ranjit Singh Dyalgarh and Bhai Sukhdev Singh Kot Molvi. Due to the daily raid by the Punjab police on Bhai Sahib’s house, he said his final Fateh to his family and home, then went underground. The police continued to harass Bhai Sahib’s family. Bhai Sahib’s father was sent to jail for cases related to the chanting of Khalistan Zindabaad. Younger brother, Bhai Jagtar Singh who was only 16 years old was also charged supporting the cause of Khalistan and possession of ammunition.

While underground, Bhai Sahib’s name was mentioned in many Jhujaru actions such as attacking the BSF headquarters in Kaddian and also looting police weapons from a train. Now Bhai Sahib found brotherly love in Bhai Sukhwinder Singh Pappu Gora. Bhai Sahib had been engaged to Bibi Kamaljit Kaur, daughter of Sardar Sardool Singh from the village of Arjunpura during his studies at college. The Gurmukh family of Sardar Sardool Singh did not break the engagement even after Bhai Sahib went underground. Then during Bhai Sahib was underground in April 1987, he was married to Bibi Kamaljit Kaur at the Dam Dami Taksal HQ in Chownk Mehta. During Bhai Sahib’s Anand Karaj many Jhujaru Singhs came such as Bhai Sukhwinder Singh Pappu Gora and Bhai Harjinder Singh Mode.

Even the family of Sardar Sardool Singh had to pay the price for marrying his daughter to a Jhujaru Singh. Sardar Sardool Singh and his wife Mata Amarjit Kaur were arrested by the Kaddian police and blindly tortured. When Bhai Sahib got this news he wrote a letter to the Kaddian police station which read, “For the last 10 days you have had my elders in custody. You are sikhs and I don’t want to kill fellow Sikhs, but if you don’t release the elders then we will be forced to deal with you accordingly.” After receiving this letter the Kaddian police released the in-laws of Bhai Sahib, Bibi Kamaljit Kaur also started staying with her husband on every step of his life.

On the dangerous path of the armed struggle, this couple kept each other in high spirits by joking and laughing together. In Bhai Sahib’s Jhujaru group, Bhai Lakhwinder Singh Malakpur was of very young age and called Bhai Sahib by the name of ‘Daddy’ and Bibi Kamaljit Kaur by the name of ‘Mummy’. Bhai Sahib also jokingly called his wife ‘Bhani’. Once Bibi Kamaljit Kaur bought vegetables and Bhai Lakhwinder Singh Malakpur asked, “Mummy, how you bought something sweet.” Bibi Kamaljit Kaur answered, “Yes, I have bought apples.” Then Bhai Lakhwinder Singh Malakpur said, “Ok then, please feed me.” Bibi Kamaljit Kaur cut apples and gave them to the Jhujaru Singhs of the group, but Bhai Sahib was doing some work and his hands were dirty and he opened his mouth, so his wife grabbed a piece of the apple and put it into the mouth of Bhai Sahib. After eating the apple Bhai Sahib said to his wife, “Don’t love me so much, I don’t know when they will make me shaheed. The more you’re attached to me, the harder it will be to on the news of my shaheedi.” This truth hurt Bibi Kamaljit Kaur like bullets even though she knew it, at times she would reply by saying, “If you so wanted to be a shaheed, then why did you get married to me?” Bhai Sahib’s answer would be, “Jhujaru Singhs should get married, so that their memory, children can carry forward their legacy. “ Beside the daily Nitnem, Bhai Sahib knew Sukhmani Sahib by heart also. Most of his time, Bhai Sahib spent reciting Gurbani. Bibi Kamaljit Kaur’s Mama was a worker at one of Jabalpur’s Gun Factory. Bhai Sahib went to Jabalpur with his singhni and learnt how to assemble guns.

On 24thDecember 1987, Bhai Sahib, his wife and a fellow singh, Bhai Lakhwinder Singh Malakpur were staying at Bhai Sahib’s Nanake in the village of Sangatpura. An informant had told the police about Bhai Sahib’s location and at 8pm that day the BSF raided the house. Bhai Lakhwinder Singh Malakpur was unarmed and standing outside the house. When the BSF were about to enter the house, Bhai Sahib spotted them and took his position. The BSF were walking like brave soldiers when Bhai Sahib opened fire and killed one Hawaldar. Bhai Sahib grabbed his and Bhai Lakhwinder Singh’s assault rifles and escaped from the village.

Meanwhile Bibi Kamaljit Kaur was sitting on the other side of the house with Bhai Sahib’s Mami Ji, her daughter and sister chatting when all of a sudden they heard gun fire. The women ran outside to see what had happened, they saw a dead body on the ground surrounded by BSF soldiers. Bibi Kamaljit Kaur went see whose body it was and upon seeing the body she accidently said, “It’s one of them (BSF).” Hearing this, the BSF started swearing and cursing the women and searched the house. They grabbed the Bhai Sahib’s Nana, Sardar Tara Singh and lined him up against a wall outside. As the BSF stared at Sardar Tara Singh, some soldiers all of sudden shot him and made him shaheed. Watching this hideous crime take place Bibi Kamaljit Kaur and others women from the household started screaming.

Bhai Sahib had escaped but did not reach very far, but when he heard the screams of the women from his family, his steps stopped. Bhai Sahib thought that the BSF soldiers had started harassing the women to avenge the dead Hawaldar. Soon as this thought entered Bhai Sahib, he loaded his assault rifle and reached the house of his Nanake. Bhai Sahib was roughly 10 yards away from the house and he clearly could see the BSF soldiers. Bhai Sahib kneeled on the ground to get a better hold of the assault rifle and after that all that was heard was ‘Bang Bang’ and many of the BSF soldiers were sent to hell. The BSF had thought that the battlefield was empty and had targeted the women, but when Bhai Sahib returned and opened fire killing the soldiers the BSF were running for cover like headless chickens.

Saying, “He’s (Bhai Sahib) back.” The BSF soldiers were shocked and were falling over each other. Then some BSF soldiers climbed up the roofs of houses and a battle started. Bhai Sahib was ready to die for the Panth, but the fear and worldly attachments had filled into the paid BSF soldiers. For half an hour both sides fought and heavy firing was exchanged. In the end after killing many BSF soldiers, Bhai Sahib attained shaheedi. When Bhai Sahib was made shaheed and fell to the ground, his both assault rifles were empty.  Bhai Sahib’s revolver which was tucked into the waist was fully loaded, but Bhai Sahib could not use the revolver as it was for short range shooting.

The scared BSF soldiers used the women as a shield as they moved close to Bhai Sahib’s dead body. This was done so that if the Jhujaru Singh was acting dead he could not cause damage to them, but Bhai Sahib had done his sewa of killing the enemies that Akaalpurakh had assigned to him and after attained shaheedi. Looking at her husband’s shaheedi saroop, Bibi Kamaljit Kaur was left heartbroken and in tears. The BSF and police officers immediately knew that she was the wife of the Shaheed Singh. One of the BSF soldiers hit Bibi Kamaljit Kaur with the butt of his rifle and said, “Who are you crying now? When our soldiers were killed, you didn’t cry then.” After this all of the BSF soldiers started beating Bibi Kamaljit Kaur. One Sikh Thanedar saw that Bibi Kamaljit Kaur was pregnant and stopped the BSF soldiers from physically assaulting her, but one Hindu BSF soldier shouted, “She is only going to give birth to another snake, might as well kill her too.” But the Thanedar from the Punjab police managed to save Bibi Kamaljit Kaur from the hands of BSF. Bibi Kamaljit Kaur and Bhai Sahib’s Mami Ji were taken to the local police station and charged with harbouring terrorist case. Bibi Kamaljit Kaur was charged with additional cases such as, the murder of one BSF Hawaldar and in possession of illegal pistol and ammunition, this is the same pistol that Bhai Sahib carried but did not use.

The Punjab police got Bibi Kamaljit Kaur’s finger prints onto the pistol by fraud. Police officer asked Bibi Kamaljit Kaur if it was her pistol, to which she answered no. then the police officer asked Bibi Kamaljit Kaur to hold the pistol and then the police officer took the pistol of her with a handkerchief, keeping the fingerprints of hers on the pistol. After being charged Bibi Kamaljit Kaur was detained at Gurdaspur jail, it was after 4 months in Gurdaspur Jail that she gave birth to Bhai Sahib’s daughter. Bhai Sahib’s daughter was named Bibi Avjot Kaur. Then 21 days after the birth of Bhai Sahib’s daughter, Bibi Kamaljit Kaur was moved to Sangrur jail and a year later she was released on bail.  

Vangaar – September 2013