Shaheed Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel
Shaheed Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel
Khalistan Liberation Force
After the attack on Sri Harmandir Sahib in June 1984, the Sikh nation made an open declaration for freedom and just like our predecessors history was once again written. From a young age we would regularly read and learn about our Sikh Generals of the 18th century. And here we are today, writing about the sacrifices and martyrdoms of the 20th century. When looking at pictures of Jathedar Avtar Singh Brahma (KLF) and Jathedar Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala, we would pay close attention to the other Jhujaru Singhs beside them and would get the urge to know more about them.
One such Singh who struck out to us the most from amongst the pictures was Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel. A radiant face, pristine turban and persona; every time we looked at his image, we would feel uplifted at such awe-inspiring character. We spent much time researching in an attempt to find out more on who he was. But there was no sufficient information available in any book, resource, or website. His face in the picture continued to have an impact on us and we were determined to find out more in whatever way possible. So, we decided to visit his home village of Maniala Jai Singh on 26th July 2021.
His family home was easy enough to locate in the village. Approaching the house, I was greeted by Bhai Gurdeep Singh’s wife Bib Balwinder Kaur along with her other family members. We were offered a cold drink after which the family sat with us to share the life story of Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel. We made sure to make notes and put pen to paper, informing their family that this would be shared far and wide for the Sikh community.
Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel was born in the year 1960 to father Jathedar Raghbir Singh and from the womb of a blessed mother Mata Charan Kaur, in the village of Maniala Jai Singh, near Patti, district Tarn Taran. Bhai Gurdeep Singh was the eldest of four children; a younger sister Bibi Paramjit Kaur, a younger brother Bhai Malkit Singh and the youngest sister, Bibi Jaswinder Kaur. He completed his studies at the local village school up to tenth Grade. He then went onto join his father in agriculture, cultivating their five acres of family-owned land. Bhai Sahib was of a spiritual nature from a young age and was blessed with Amrit early on in his young life. Soon after, he was married to Bibi Balwinder Kaur (daughter of Sardar Jagir Singh, village Seeto Chuggian, district Ferozepur). Both were blessed with 3 children – Bhai Avtar Singh, Bibi Palwinder Kaur and Bhai Arjinder Singh.
As part of his spiritual growth much time was spent doing selfless service at a spiritual centre for a saintly soul – Maharpursh Sant Baba Tara Singh Sarhali Wale, where he served as a Gurvai. Bhai Gurdeep Singh led a very spiritual lifestyle here dedicated to humble service and meditation. Yet, he was always of an astute mind supporting the idea of a larger Sikh family and nation. He was fully aware of the oppression looming over the people by the Indian government. He would regularly attend the large congregational gatherings at Sri Akaal Takht and Sri Harimandir Sahib, Amritsar.
Mahapursh Sant Baba Tara Singh had many times said, “Bhai Gurdeep Singh! Besides the selfless Sewa that you do with us, The Guru has a bigger and larger purpose in store for you. These hands in which you carry buckets full of water, the same hands will be needed to pick up arms and serve justice to the enemies of the Sikh Nation. Heavy times are expected ahead and brave ones like you will be needed to serve the Panth (Sikh nation). Continue to do as much Sewa and Simran as you can, our tenth master Dhan Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj will protect you, as so will the immortal spirits of other Shaheed Singhs.”
In the year 1986, whilst Bhai Gurdeep Singh was busy with his selfless service at the spiritual centre of Sarhali, an unexpected occasion was met by no other than the Jathedar of Khalistan Liberation Force – Jathedar Avtar Singh Brahma. This was the calling Bhai Gurdeep Singh had been waiting for, especially following the attack on Sri Harmandir Sahib, Sri Akaal Takht and numerous other Gurdwaras, torn down with tanks and ammunition. This led to a very grave anti-government movement by the Sikhs and its supporters. Bhai Gurdeep Singh had been deeply affected by these events. So, it didn’t take much for a decision to leave this centre and fight against this oppression, following his first meeting with Jathedar Avtar Singh Brahma. Bhai Gurdeep Singh then spent the following four years fighting with the Sikh freedom fighters for the establishment of Khalistan.
They both crossed the border into Pakistan, where they undertook full firearms training. During this time, Bhai Gurdeep Singh became acquainted with Jathedar Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar, Bhai Wadhawa Singh Babbar, Bhai Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala, Bhai Piara Singh, Bhai Amarjeet Singh Shahzada, Bhai Kanwarpal Singh Bittu, Bhai Iqbal Singh Babbar, Bhai Harjinder Singh Para (Canada), Bhai Balbir Singh Khera (Calgary), Bhai Mohinder Singh Khalsa (Toronto), Bhai Bhupinder Singh Kooner (British Columbia), Bhai Surinder Singh Ravi (UK) amongst many others who Bhai Gurdeep Singh was blessed to meet and spend time with. At this point all of the Singhs were staying in Lahore. Bhai Gurdeep Singh was blessed enough to travel to the Sikh historic locations – Gurdwara Sri Nankana Sahib, Gurdwara Sri Panja Sahib and Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib. The pictures available of these holy visits show Bhai Gurdeep Singh with Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma and the rest of his Jhujaru brothers. Bhai Gurdeep Singh was known to be the advisory to Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma. Any planned actions would always be strategically vetted and agreed by Bhai Gurdeep Singh.
In the area of Chohla Sahib, there was a police officer by the name of Shibu Ram, who was known to have brutally tortured many families of the Sikh freedom fighters. He would also taunt and insult Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma saying, “I want to see who is this so-called Brahmi (giving a female connotation to demean) whoever she is have the courage to come in front of me…” The other policemen would say to him many times that this Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma is no small feat or personality. In fact, he is very much someone who has clout and runs a high-level group of Jhujaru Singhs. They have countless firearms, ammunitions, even rocket launchers. Do not mess with this group, you will get killed! But Shibu Ram did not take heed and continued to taunt and harass the name and members of Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma’s family. So, it was inevitable that the day would come to put an end to his taunting.
Due to his hatred against the Sikhs, he was commonly known as Shibu Ram, but his birth name was Shiv Singh. The Jhujaru group took it upon themselves to prepare a plan of action. One Singh by the name of Bhai Durga Singh Arifke, disguised himself as a tea seller at the local tea shop where Shibu would go on a daily basis. As expected, he came strolling by with his fellow police men and sat down for some tea. During his conversation with his peers, he told them, “If we ever get hold of this Brahmi then our promotion is guaranteed, I’d go straight from an ASI to a DSP, I will get the stars, the accolades, you name it…!” From the other side of the bench, the tea seller (disguised Bhai Durga Singh) proclaimed, “Oh Sir, if I’m able to find him and hand him over to you, would I be rewarded? So that I may be rid of the poverty-stricken life I live…?!” Shibu Ram replied, “Should you have any inkling or know of his whereabouts, do not hesitate to share it with us in confidence, we will make sure you are showered with all the material goods you seek, the government will be indebted to you, you name a price by mouth and we shall give you that…!”
Bhai Durga Singh says, “Look Sir! I am not going anywhere near them, I am very fearful of these Singhs. But what I will do is tell you from a far where they are hiding.” Shibu replies, “Whilst we are here you have nothing to fear, just tell me at once exactly who and where this Brahmi is and leave the rest with me…”
It was September 15th 1986, and the rest of the Jhujaru Singhs (Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma, Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel, Bhai Pipal Singh Dolewal, Bhai Bohar Singh Kalian Sakatran and Bhai Jarnail Singh DC Kirthowal) were ready and waiting for Shibu Ram to appear. They had set up spikes on the road from Chohla Sahib to Sarhali village and positioned their attack stations.
Bhai Surinder Singh Shinda was given the duty of attending the police station at Chohla Sahib and acted as the associate of the tea seller. He openly reported to Shibu Ram and said, “O Sir, the tea seller has sent me to you. Today, we have seen the freedom fighter Brahma near village Khara. He is alone and unarmed. Go and get him straight away or else he will be making his way towards Sarhali to join the rest of his group and will leave. Heed the moment now…!”
Shibu immediately jumped into his jeep along with 6 other policemen and sped their way towards village Khara. He quickly approached the village of Khara and arrived at the sewer. There standing, was Bhai Durga Singh and a Nihang Singh. Shibu Ram called out, “Jatta! Where is this Brahmi hiding? Let’s see this so-called big freedom fighter and have it out in a confrontation…”
Bhai Durga answered back and said, “O police officer! Here come and meet your Fuffar (uncle – a taunt) Brahma, this man stood here as a Nihang Singh is the one and only Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma!”
At that very moment, Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel and Bhai Jarnail Singh Kirthowal began firing shots in his direction. Shibu shrieked and shouted to his fellow policemen, “O we’re going to die, someone save us, quick let’s flee in the car!” In that instance, two policemen were shot down, the remainder four were wounded and thrown off the bridge. Whilst screaming, Shibu, scrambled beneath the jeep and begged for his life, “O respected ones, please have mercy on me, forgive me and let me go…”
Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma grabbed Shibu Ram by the stars on his coat and dragged him out from beneath the jeep, ripping his uniform. He was taught his lesson and subjected to a well-deserved beating by the Singhs. Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma picked up his firearm and punished this evil-doer to his death. The Singhs then gathered all the firearms which the policemen had carried. Once the local villagers heard of the news, they were ecstatic that this traitor had been put to rights. Songs were sung in praise of the Singhs.
A common line of a song would be regularly sung in religious congregations in praise of these heroic Singhs – Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma, Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel and Bhai Durga Singh Arifke.
“Shibu would say I want to see Brahmi, and sure enough he met the one and only Brahma…”
Another mission on January 16th 1987, Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma and Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel and their fellow Jhujaru Singhs took action to punish the Lieutenant of the Indian armed forces, Colonel Sant Singh. This perpetrator was responsible for the attack on Gurdwara Sri Mukhatsar Sahib in June 1984, where many innocent Sikhs were killed.
Following the martyrdom of Jathedar Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma on July 22nd 1988 near the border of village Chanda Singh Wala (near Rajasthan police station Hindu Malkot), Bhai Gurdeep Singh took on leadership of the Khalistan Liberation Force for a few months. After which, Bhai Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala took on command and responsibility to lead this group and Bhai Gurdeep Singh continued to be an advisory and serve the cause selflessly with his fellow brothers.
A key duty then given to Bhai Gurdeep Singh was to systematically attack the police stations in the Majha area near the Border to Pakistan. Bhai Gurdeep Singh accomplished this strategically and successfully, where he targeted Amritsar, Atari, Wagah, Tarn Taran, Bhikhiwind, Valtoha, Amarkot, Khemkaran, Sursingh, Chabal, Ghariala and many more areas. The police stations, check points, CRPF points were all attacked punishing the government slaves for what they were doing to the Sikh youth. Many high-ranking police personnel, army men, congressmen, comrades and black cats were also given a one-way ticket to deaths door, all planned and orchestrated by Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel. Another perpetrator who the freedom fighter of Khalistan had attempted many times to attack was a fake Nihang by the name of Ajit Phoola Nang. His fate allowed him to escape pretty much every time. (He was finally assassinated in 2008).
The fear Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel had created having managed to target so many and escaping many missions, sieges and confrontation was unreal. When the police would hear the name of Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel, it would have them shaking in their boots. As needs permitted for the progression and continuation of the Khalistan Liberation Force, Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel made many journeys across the border into Pakistan. There he would obtain the most high-quality firearms at the borders of Afghanistan. His group had access to AK47s, AK74s, Drum Machine Guns, Rocket Launchers, various types of ammunition, bombs etc.
His way of life and character was of a high standard and a very devote Sikh of the Guru. For this reason, the doors of many homes were always open to him for respite. These Jhujaru Singhs and their groups were successful in controlling the law of land in Punjab and the citizens supported them. The government were in a no-win situation and resorted to deploying central forces, BSF, National Guards in conjunction with CRPF and spent three years battling with these Sikh freedom fighters on the ground in guerrilla warfare. Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel was always successful in missions and not just in orchestrating the action and defeating the enemy but in obtaining all firearms and weapons from the opposition. This would keep the Sikh militia groups equipped with as much ammunition/firearms as possible.
Before undertaking any mission, the Singhs of this militia would bow down and seek blessings from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj. Afterwards, they would complete 50 readings of a specific prayer named Choupai Sahib and would thank the Guru in this way for protecting and leading them to victory for every accomplished mission. Ultimately, the real strength comes from the Guru’s words.
Bhai Gurdeep Singh was also inspired and took heed from the order and declaration proclaimed by Shaheed Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale, “Should they, the Indian state government, attack Sri Darbar Sahib (Sri Harmandir Sahib) then that will be the day which will lay down the foundation for a Sovereign state – Khalistan.” Bhai Gurdeep Singh kept the movement of guerrilla warfare continuous and alive to uphold this order.
During the years Bhai Gurdeep Singh was fighting for the cause and a part of the Sikh Militia group Khalistan Liberation Force, his family was regularly harassed and even tortured by the wretched police and government agents who were on a rampage to find Bhai Gurdeep Singh. His father Jathedar Sardar Raghbir Singh and brother-in-law Bhai Hardeep Singh were severely tortured and then kept in Ferozepur jail. Even his mother was not spared humiliation and torture. On many occasions the police would pick up and arrest his mother and keep her at the local police station in Patti for days at a time. Not forgetting the saintly individual with whom Bhai Gurdeep Singh served selflessly for many years, Baba Tara Singh Sarhali Wale. He too was harassed and his complex raided. Bhai Gurdeep Singh’s in-laws’ were also not spared. Their village home in Seeto Chuggian, district Ferozepur was raided by the police on information that the Jhujaru Singh were staying here. This resulted in a full-on confrontation and siege, which the Jhujaru Singhs successfully fought and won. The police constable Buta Singh was shot dead. The remaining police officers failed to get hold of these Singhs and in anger lit the house on fire and left.
The day Bhai Gurdeep Singh left his home to fight for the cause, he knew he would never return home. Within the 3 to 4 years, he served with the Khalistan Liberation Force, he met his family only two or three times at undisclosed locations for maybe up to 15 minutes at the most. He did not witness his children grow up nor spent time with his wife during this time. His life purpose had become dedicated to fighting for a larger cause. He would always say, “If I’ve left to fight for a home for our nation, what is now the need for me to return to my family home? I would rather now attain martyrdom and be at the door of my beloved Waheguru (God), where I would happily enjoy the blessings and love sitting in the lap of my great father, our tenth master Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj.” There were no available sources which clearly confirmed the whereabouts and how Bhai Gurdeep Singh was martyred. To this day, his wife and mother do not know how and where he spent his final hours.
The only individual who had some information was the spokesman for Dal Khalsa, Bhai Kanwarpal Singh Bittu. He explained that in 1990, Bhai Gurdeep Singh had made his way back across the border from Pakistan and took respite at the residence of a family (detail unknown). It is said this family betrayed him and poisoned him with a sedative in a glass of hot milk. Bhai Gurdeep Singh became unconscious and the police took him. After this point, however, no further information is known of where, what or how the police killed him. There was no evidence of his body either and nor was it ever returned to the family.
Many news reports and papers were scanned for any information on his Martyrdom, but nothing was traceable. There was only one event flyer commemorating the martyrdom of these great souls, which stated the following:
-During this great movement as first spearheaded by the great martyr Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale – the following Singhs have now attained martyrdom – Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma, Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel, Bhai Sukhdev Singh Canadian, Bhai Surinder Singh Shinda, Bhai Harjinder Singh Para Canada and Bhai Jarnail Singh DC Kirthowal.
In commemoration of their martyrdom this event has been organised at village Maniala (Patti) Gurdwara Baba Veer Singh Ji on Wednesday 21st November 1990. We request all the congregation to gather in prayer and pay homage to these great martyrs. Also attending this event will be – Baba Thakur Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale, Baba Daya Singh Ji Sursingh, Bhai Puran Singh Ji, Baba Ghola Singh Ji Sarhali and Baba Avtar Singh Ji.
Then at the bottom of the flyer it states:
‘Invitation from us servants of the Sikh Nation – Bhai Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala, Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar, Bhai Paramjit Singh Panjwar, Bhai Rashpal Singh Chhandran, Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu, Baba Ram Singh Maniala, Bhai Kinderbir Singh Gill, Bhai Pipal Singh Dolewal, Bhai Tasbeer Singh Jhander, Bhai Resham Singh Thande. This flyer was distributed by Bhai Nishan Singh Makhu and Bhai Punjab Singh Khalsa-
Bhai Gurdeep Singh’s wife, Bibi Balwinder Kaur mentioned that in 1990, “All the people in our village openly claiming that Bhai Gurdeep Singh has attained martyrdom. But no one from the Sikh Militia group who he served with had personally given this news to us. So, I did not believe it and for a long while I continued to wait and believed he would appear. Until this day he still has not come back. Bhai Gurdeep Singh always desired to seek martyrdom whilst fighting in action. But now we’ll never know what and exactly how it happened, with no story to tell. He would say that were he to ever be captured he would rather his body be cut limb by limb than to disclose anything about the Singhs of the Sikh militia. His loyalty was unwavering. Only Waheguru knows where, how and under what circumstances he was martyred.”
There was another unaccounted version provided by another individual, that Bhai Gurdeep Singh was captured and arrested by the police then taken to the interrogation centre in Amritsar. He was tortured relentlessly. When the police could not get him to give in and disclose information about the Sikh militia group, the remaining Singhs and mission details, they cut his body limb from limb (such like Bhai Mani Singh Ji Shaheed), packed the remains into a bag and thrown into River Beas.
Shaheed Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel Ji’s wife, Bibi Balwinder Kaur informed us, “Till this day no Sikh authoritative body nor any other prominent Sikh group has ever bothered to ask about my husband or of the family he has left behind. For five years we were in hiding, at one time we had lost everything and it has taken us great struggles to get back and stand on our own two feet again. For many years the police and CID often harassed and bothered us.” Bibi Balwinder Kaur also said “Many came and went visiting me and my family. But never did I hear from them again. They would notate our story and leave without being told for what purpose they would be using it.”
As the author of this account, we explained to Bibi Balwinder Kaur that we do not know of these others, but what we can assure you of is that whenever we visit the family of a martyr we always publish the story. It is important we do this as we are forever indebted to these great martyrs. We will never be able to repay what they have done for our Sikh nation. These great martyrs are the real gems of the Khalsa and we are proud of them.
Information given by the family of Shaheed Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel