Shaheed Bhai Dharam Singh Keshtival

Babbar Khalsa

In the Sikh history many sons and daughters of Dhan Dhan Guru Gobind Singh Ji have faught against the evil government of Delhi. May it be the Mughals or the Gandhi’s, Sikhs have drank the nectar of martyrdom to bring Delhi to its knee. Shaheed Bhai Dharam Singh Keshtival was one of many warriors who devoted their mind, body and soul to the Sikh struggle started by Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bindranwale for the Sikh rights. The information provided by Bhai Sahib’s family, Bhai Sahib did ardas that somehow he gets a pistol.

In 1980 after passing 10thclass, Bhai Sahibstarted working in Markfade, when Bhai Sahib came in contact with Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bindranwale. Bhai Sahib use to regularly go visit Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bindranwale with his childhood friends, Bhai Jasbir Singh Bittu and Bhai Ajit Singh Pardhan. Before Bhai Sahib had cut hair but as soon as Bhai Sahib met Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bindranwale, he had taken amrit from the Panj Pyare. When Bhai Sahib and Bhai Jasbir Singh Bittu came back to the village wearing a chola, the locals could not belive their eyes, soon the locals started calling Bhai Sahib ‘Baba’. Bhai Sahib only worked at Markfade for 6 months from their Bhai Sahib would go to Sri Harimandir Sahib after finishing work.

Once as Bhai Sahib was travelling on a bus near the village of Kaddian, he snatched a service pistol from an off-duty officer. The locals talked about this act of bravery for a while. Those days in the Gurdaspur area Baba Ranjit Singh Dyalgarh, Bhai Gurmej Singh Dilwan and Bhai Makhan Singh Shithh were in control of Sikh Freedom Movement in this area. After these 3 singhs attained shaheedi together in a great encounter against the Indian security forces.

June 1984, the massacre of thousands of innocent Sikh took place and left Bhai Sahib wanting justice. Bhai Sahib ran to catch the opportunity to do sewa within the Sikh Freedom Movement. Bhai Sahib had 4 brothers and 1 sister and was the eldest of them all. The responsibility of the whole family was on the shoulders of Bhai Sahib, but ignoring that, Bhai Sahib paid intention to his panthic family and left home to devote his life to the Sikh Freedom Movement.

As Shiv Sea was also heavily based in Batala, most of Khadku actions also happened in the Batala area. The police had teamed up with Shiv Sena on capturing and killing Sikh youth. When Gobind Ram was selected as the SSP of Batala, he terrorized the Sikhs in the local villages. Bhai Sahib was most wanted in his area for his successful actions, for this reason SSP Gobind Ram terrorized the locals of Keshtival. The SSP would surround Bhai Sahib’s village, gather all the villagers and threaten them to turn Bhai Sahib in, the SSP had tortured the singhs of the Keshtival village. The coward Gobind Ram trashed the house of Bhai Sahib and burnt it, leaving the family homeless. When Bhai Sahib came to the village, the elders told him what had happened. After hearing this Bhai Sahib planned on meeting SSP Gobind Ram, Bhai Sahib and the singhs of Babbar Khalsa prepared a written challenge, which was printed in the papers. Bhai Sahib had given a date to the SSP of Batala and stated that he, himself will be in his village Keshtival all day waiting for SSP Gobind Ram. Bhai Sahib also stated if SSP Gobind Ram is brave enough then come to Keshtival and arrest Bhai Sahib on that date.

Bhai Sahib had prepared himself for a battle and waited for the SSP of Batala to come. Most of the day had gone but the Gobind Ram or his officers were nowhere to be seen. Bhai Sahib then started challenging SSP Gobind Ram from the loud speakers of his village and also sent messages via locals to the police station. There was a time when the sheep Gobind Ram in a lions dress came to Keshtival to arrest Bhai Sahib but today the real lions of Babbar Khalsa were openly challenging SSP Gobind Ram from Keshtival. Gobind Ram was known to show authority on the weak and stay away from the strong and on this day he proved this statement by not coming in front of Bhai Sahib. Handful of singhs waited with Bhai Sahib all night in case Gobind Ram came but after being let down by the scared Gobind Ram all the singhs left the village of Keshtival. SSP Gobind Ram was so scared that for the next 15 days, he didn’t step a foot into Keshtival.

After 15 days had passed, the coward SSP of Batala, Gobind Ram returned to house of Bhai Sahib’s Nani Ji in Keshtival with a big force. SSP shouted, “Old women, where is Dharam?” Bhai Sahib’s Nani Ji replied, “When he waited all day and night for you, where were you?” upon hearing the truth, the SSP once again terrorized the villagers and went back. As Bhai Sahib’s family were scattered everywhere due to the harassment of the police, Bhai Sahib’s younger sister was married at the age of 16. Bhai Sahib’s brothers and family members would be arrested and for many months be tortured at the police station, but this did not stop Bhai Sahib from punishing the anti-Sikh elements.

When extreme Hindu gangs such as Shiv Sena disturbed the peace of Chakri Bazaar of Batala, by banning the Nagar Kirtan, Bhai Sahib taught them a lesson and Shiv Sena went into hiding. Bhai Sahib was good at making bombs and fitting them into mouse traps. These bombs became popular in explosions that the police started arresting the makers of mouse traps. These bombs were exploding at headquarters of Shiv Sena as well as the headquarters of the security forces of India. Once an officer who was in charge of the BSF in the village of Charanwali came to the father f Bhai Sahib and said, “Baba Ji, please tell Dharam Singh not attack us and we will not come in their way also.”

The CRP had been deployed all over Punjab, Bhai Sahib sent all the CRP checkpoints a message, that if they have the strength to step into a battle with the singh of Guru Gobind Singh Ji then state a time and date. After this the CRP personnel were scared and the locals told us, whenever the CRP did something wrong, Bhai Sahib would pay them a visit at their headquarters and the officers would say, “Please Dharam Singh, we have small kids, please don’t kill us.”

On 16thMarch 1989, Bhai Sahib married Bibi Sandeep Kaur, daughter of Sardar Kulwant Singh of village Sarchoor. Bibi Sandeep Kaur knew she was getting married to a Khadku Singh who put Sikh panth first. Knowing this Bibi Sandeep Kaur stood shoulder to shoulder with Bhai Sahib in the Sikh Freedom Movement. Shortly after the marriage, on 5thMay 1989 in the village of Shahjanpur in the Utter Pardesh state of India, the police of 3 states had surrounded Bhai Sahib and his Singhni, Bibi Sandeep Kaur. Bhai Sahib only had a 455 revolver with 25 bullets, an encounter had started at 4am which lasted all the way up until 3pm. Bhai Sahib and Bibi Sandeep Kaur both showed bravery in the intense encounter that lasted 11hrs. While the police started to pull back, Bhai Sahib and Bibi Sandeep Kaur managed to break the surroundings and escape with minor injuries. It was this encounter where Bhai Sahib realised that his Singhni can handle herself in an all-out encounter, after this encounter the couple came back to Punjab.

Sikh nation has been and is facing many leaders that had betrayed the Sikhs for their own lives of luxury and power. The Sikh Freedom Movement had taken some steps back in progression due to such leaders, but in the area of Bhai Sahib the movement was alive and kicking. The locals loved Bhai Sahib for the sewa he was doing, Bhai Sahib would always encourage the youth to recite gurbani and do sewa for the panth, without the need for going undercover. That may have been the reason why most of Bhai Sahib’s group were students from colleges and universities. Bhai Sahib’s group was not only based in Punjab but also spread all over the country.

Once Bhai Sahib was travelling to Amritsar from Ludhiana in a car with some of the singhs of Babbar Khalsa, when all of sudden the car was stopped by the police at a checkpoint near Lodowal. As the police was suspicious they took the car and the singhs to the police station. Bhai Sahib gave his identity as a son of a retired police officer. This retired police officer’s house was where Bhai Sahib sometimes spent time and gained trust. The police asked Bhai Sahib to call his father to come and identify Bhai Sahib. Bhai Sahib rang the retired police officer and spoke to him by calling him father. The retired police officer came to police station to identify Bhai Sahib as his son, which led to Bhai Sahib and the singhs being released. The acting was so good of these 2 singhs that police really thought that they were father and son.

Close friend of Bhai Sahib, Bhai Satnam Singh Satta was arrested by the Patiala police. To get Bhai Satnam Singh Satta released, Bhai Sahib kidnapped the son and daughter of the SP of Sangrur. The negotiations were taking place when the news came that Bhai Satnam Singh Satta had been killed in a fake encounter. Bhai Sahib was devastated, but to make a plan on how to release the son and daughter of the SP of Sangrur, Bhai Sahib came to Sangrur. On the way to Sangrur, Bhai Sahib’s car was once again stopped and told to park it up on the roadside for a search. On purpose Bhai Sahib backed his car in to a wheat field, which led to the car being stuck. The police stopped a bus and got the passengers to get the car out of the field. As the passengers were getting the car out, Bhai Sahib told one of the young Sikh passengers to go to a certain village and give the message, “The 2 singhs who were coming in the car has been arrested”, to the certain singh of the certain house. The passenger delivered the message to the rightful recipient. When the police asked Bhai Sahib for identity, Bhai Sahib gave an SDO identity letter, which stated that Bhai Sahib was an officer of the Indian government. But as Bhai Sahib’s statement did not match with the other singh who had been arrested with Bhai Sahib, the police locked them up. The Bhai Sahib’s message was received by Bhai Madha Singh Babbar via the young Sikh passenger, Bhai Madha Singh Babbar rang the SP of Sangrur and said, “The 2 singhs arrested in a car must be released and we will release your children.” The police was shocked upon hearing the ransom on Bhai Sahib, the police knew that Bhai Sahib must have been a class a Khadku Singh. The police tortured Bhai Sahib but got no information out of him, when Bhai Sahib found out that Bhai Madha Singh Babbar has rang the SP, he fearlessly said, “I am Dharam Singh of Keshtival.” Upon hearing this the SP was furious, on knowing that they had caught one of the most wanted Khadku Singhs but all the police can do is release him. The SP said to Bhai Sahib, “My chest is on fire letting you go, there is a 50 lakh rupees reward on your head.” The SP of Sangrur tried to play it clever with Bhai Sahib and said, “As soon as you release the children I will let you go from here.”But Bhai Sahib replied, “You have to release me, so I, myself can go and let your children go free.” As the SP was in no position to negotiate, he agreed the terms of Bhai Sahib but he still didn’t stop risking the lives of his own children. The SP had contacted the police of Batala and told them the situation regarding Bhai Sahib and his children. As soon as Bhai Sahib was released, big numbers of Batala police came to Sangrur to track Bhai Sahib down and arrest him after he had released the children. But Bhai Sahib was a top Khadku Singh, he was always 2 steps ahead of the police. Bhai Sahib released the children in Batala and escaped safely and back into the battlefield. The police of Batala and Sangrur were left hand in hand thinking where Bhai Sahib had gone.

In the last days of Bhai Sahib, many things happened that would break an average man, but a singh of Guru Gobind Singh Ji such as Bhai Sahib did not stop doing the sewa for the panth. 16thMay 1992, young brother Bhai Sahib, Bhai Sahib Singh Keshtival had been arrested and blindly tortured. The police had hammered nails into Bhai Sahib Singh’s head and on the same day Bhai Sahib Singh Keshtival attained shaheedi. This evil treatment of Bhai Sahib’s younger brother did not stop Bhai Sahib from doing actions within the movement. Bhai Sahib had got singhs to keep an eye on the Bhai Sahib Singh Keshtival‘s shaheedi saroop which was at Batala Civil Hospital.

Then on 21stJuly 1992, the Amritsar arrested the Singhni of Bhai Sahib, Bibi Sandeep Kaur. Bibi Sandeep Kaur had been in Amritsar to see some singhs of the Babbar Khalsa who were from the same group as Bhai Sahib. But a true Khadku Singh cannot sit quiet and watch the injustice take place. Bhai Sahib had to go to Jalandhar on some business, the people Bhai Sahib was to meet in Jalandhar had joined hands with the police, some say that KPS Gill was himself involved in what was to happen. The civil clothed police was following Bhai Sahib before he came to Jalandhar. As Bhai Sahib arrived at the house of the people he had come to meet, the CRP and BSF officers pounced on to Bhai Sahib. The general, who easily and calmly escaped when being surrounded by the Indian security forces, was today smiling in the faces of the traitors who for little sum money had turned their backs on the Sikh nation. At this moment Bhai Sahib had kept a capsule of Sy-Nyde in his mouth wrapped in plastic. Bhai Sahib bit hard on to the wrapped capsule and attained shaheedi. The forces that had come to arrest Bhai Sahib alive were left only with the dead body of Bhai Sahib. Bhai Sahib had once again left the Indian security forces wondering what had happened.

When Bhai Sahib’s father went to see Bibi Sandeep Kaur in jail, he said that the whole family is giving the local villagers the courage to carry on with their lives, as everyone was devastated on hearing about Bhai Sahib’s shaheedi. All of the local villagers felt like orphans now that Bhai Sahib had attained shaheedi.

We do Ardas that the Sikh nation keep memories of such fallen soldiers. When the system failed to deliver justice only then, as Guru Gobind Singh Ji says is right to lift the sword. Shaheed Bhai Dharam Singh Keshtival was a true son of Kalgidhar Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who lived according to the principles and code of conduct of a Khalsa.

Purja Purja Kat Maray – Baljit Singh Khalsa