Shaheed Bhai Gurnam Singh Pehlwan Dabbanwal

Babbar Khalsa

Normally to join the police or any Indian security force, one must be physically fit and strong. But when a movement started by Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bindranwale to break the shackles of slavery, Sikhs joined the Khalsa army, Sikhs who had a true heart and felt the pain of Sikh nation. The soldiers of Guru Gobind Singh Ji shook the government of Delhi and at the end gave their lives protecting the universal truth. Bhai Gurnam Singh Pehlwan Dabbanwal’s name is high up the list of such Sikh soldiers.

Bhai Gurnam Singh Pehlwan Dabbanwal was born on 20thSeptember 1961 in the house of Sardar Shingara Singh and from the womb of Mata Mahinder Kaur. Bhai Sahib was the youngest of 4 brothers, Bhai Rashpal Singh, Bhai Avtar Singh and Bhai Hardial Singh. Bhai Sahib from a young age was into sports that tested his strength. Bhai Sahib studied up till metric at a local school of village Dabbanwal, while studying Bhai Sahib played Kabbadi at a national level.

In 1978, the Indian government allowed the Nirankari cult to carry out activities that had offended the Sikh nation and when Sikhs peacefully protested against the Nirankari cult, they were fired upon by the security of Nirankari leader, Gurbachana. 13 Sikhs attained shaheedi on the spot and wounded more than 150 Sikhs. After this broad daylight massacre, many Sikhs around the world rose up and demanded the Indian government gives justice by punishing the Nirankari cult. Bhai Sahib was only 17 years old at that time. Bhai Sahib joined the Akali Dal Youth Wing along with Master Sukhwinder Singh Dabbanwal, who was also from the same village in Punjab. Soon Akali Dal Youth Wing merged into Sikh Student Federation and started taking part in Dharam Yudh Morcha.

June 1984, news spread that the Indian government had attacked Sri Harimandir Sahib and killed many innocent Sikhs. After the attack on Sri Harimandir Sahib CRP, BSF and the army were searching to Sikh youth all over Punjab and arresting them. Bhai Sahib’s name and Master Sukhwinder Singh Dabbanwal was amongst the names on the list of Dabbanwal that the army should arrest. 18th June 1984, at night the army raided the village of Dabbanwal, Master Sukhwinder Singh had escaped but Bhai Sahib was arrested and taken to Batala police station and blindly tortured. Bhai Sahib was told to give information on other Sikh youths of Sikh Student Federation, but Bhai Sahib did not admit to anything and also didn’t give any information that would lead to a Sikh being arrested. After a great amount of torture Bhai Sahib was released after 1 week. Bhai Sahib stayed at home for 6 weeks after being released. Bhai Sahib had left home and secretly joined the Sikh Freedom Movement and did many actions. No one knew where Bhai Sahib had gone. Year and a half passed, in April 1986 Bhai Sahib returned back to the village home and fearlessly declared doing actions along with Babbar Khalsa. From here onwards the police started to harass the family of Bhai Sahib but no matter what the police did, they could get close to Bhai Sahib.

30th January 1988 was the day of Bhai Sahib’s first encounter with the security forces of India in the village of Dheer. Bhai Sahib and Bhai Dharam Singh Keshtival were stationed at the electrical water tubal of village Dheer. Around 6:40am the police and BSF surrounded the area. Bhai Dharam Singh Keshtival was in the farms and had spotted the police, he started firing bullets from his Thompson gun which killed 4 BSF officers. Bhai Dharam Singh Keshtival had escaped from the back and Bhai Sahib had broken the curfew and made it to Dabbanwal, here Bhai Sahib changed clothes and got out of the area.

Bhai Sahib was the man of discipline and thought positively for the Sikh Freedom Movement. Bhai Sahib didn’t blindly kill innocent people may they have been an officer from the police or the army. Bhai Sahib had kept the killings to a minimum but if someone needed to be punished then Bhai Sahib will be ready and will not back out. Bhai Sahib along with the singhs of the group were preparing for an action, when all of sudden Bhai Sahib fell ill and was put on glucose drops. The day came when the action was going to happen, Bhai Sahib really wanted to be a part of this action. Bhai Sahib asked the doctor if it is ok for him to leave for a few hours, but the doctor said no. Bhai Sahib took off the glucose drops and left the hospital to join the singh and carry out the action. When the Shiv Sena declared that the nagar kirtan for Guru Nanak Dev Ji will not be allowed to be carried out through Chakari Bazaar of Batala. The singhs of Babbar Khalsa punished Shiv Sena for this and Bhai Sahib played a major part in this action also.

Once Bhai Sahib and Bhai Davinder Singh Jago from the village of Nathwal were secretly following a traitor on a scooter. The traitor went into ITI College, Bhai Sahib also went behind him, but the CRP was also stationed at this college. As soon as the CRP saw Bhai Sahib and Bhai Davinder Singh Jago, they stopped the scooter and were to search the singhs. Bhai Sahib had a Thompson gun in a bag that was hanging of the handle of the scooter, the CRP officer asked, “What is in the bag?” as he reached for the bag, Bhai Sahib calmly answered, “See for yourself.” After this reply the CRP weren’t suspecting the singhs of anything, but they took the took the bag anyway to be checked as the officer put his hand into the bag, Bhai Sahib and Bhai Davinder Singh Jago got off the scooter and jumped over the wall. As there was a barbwire on top of the wall, the hands of singhs were bloodied. The CRP chased the singhs, but both singhs went into the same village and then split up into 2 different houses. The house Bhai Davinder Singh Jago had gone into had a metal gate which the CRP heard close. The CRP went into the house and arrested Bhai Davinder Singh Jago meanwhile Bhai Sahib escaped untouched.

Bhai Davinder Singh Jago was tortured and was asked to name the singh with him by the officers of CRP. The CRP officers asked for the locations of the Khadku Singhs, but Bhai Davinder Singh Jago said, “I was with Bhai Avtar Singh Rupowal, as he owed me money and I was on his scooter to get the money.” After much torture Bhai Davinder Singh Rupowal, he was sent to jail. Locals said that if Bhai Davinder Singh Jago had told the police, that he was with Bhai Gurnam Singh Pehlwan Dabbanwal, he’d probably be killed in a fake encounter.

The police was continuously harassing the family of Bhai Sahib, due to this torture Bhai Sahib’s family moved out of their home to avoid being harassed and even arrested. The parents of Bhai Sahib were very brave, once when a Thanedar entered the family house, he shouted, “Old woman, where is Gurnam?” Bhai Sahib’s mother replied, “You should know.” The Thanedar was angry at this reply from the brave mother, he said, “Why? He gives you the money not me.” Mata Ji replied, “If he had given me the money, then there would have been a metal gate, which you would have to knock before you enter the house.” (The house did not have gate at the family house). The Thanedar struggled to control his anger upon hearing this harsh truth from an old lady, he replied, “OK, old women, today your voice is very loud. I’ll see how loud your voice is when his (Bhai Sahib) body is lying dead on the floor of this house.” After hearing this Mata Ji had tears in her eyes, but fearlessly answered, “Son, now you have said that, make sure you don’t go back on your word. You didn’t return the dead body of one of my son already.” Son of Mata Ji’s relative was killed by the police and the dead body was not returned to the family. The words of truth poked the Thanedar like petals, he smashed stuff around the house and swearing at the elderly couple, the Thanedar marched out of the house. Then once again the same Thanedar had arrested the father of Bhai Sahib and was torturing the elderly man. The Thanedar told Sardar Shingara Singh, “Old man, when I get your son, I will shoot him 50 times and not one less.” Sardar Shingara Singh replied, “Who knows, if you will shoot him or he will shoot you.” The Thanedar was angry at this reply and with a spanner opened the head of Sardar Shingara Singh. The torture of Bhai Sahib’s family did not stop him from doing sewa for the Sikh nation and kept on punishing such Thanedars.

An inspector of Batala police station was known for his brutal treatment of Sikh youths. Bhai Sahib took to the roads of Batala to punish the inspector. One of the singhs from Bhai Sahib’s group shot at the inspector as he walked out of the Batala police station, but the inspector ducked and took cover, but the singhs ran up to the inspector and killed him at the gate of the police station with a Mauser and then safely got away.

When Babbar Khalsa was split up into 3 zones, Bhai Sahib was put into the group of Majha zone. Bhai Sahib was very clever and intelligent that he could cross CRP checkpoints with ease and no one suspected him. Sometimes Bhai Sahib would go to checkpoints on purpose and stop his car and tell the singh he was with, “You want to drive then here you are, come and drive.” The police did not suspect a thing.

After considerate thinking, the Babbar Khalsa of Batala opened Guru Nanak Academy for the children of the shaheeds and the sewa was given to Baba Balkar Singh. Here a family asked Bhai Sahib to marry their daughter, even the Babbars pressured Bhai Sahib to accept the marriage but Bhai Sahib clearly said, “No.” When the singhs of Babbar Khalsa got together, they asked Bhai Sahib why he doesn’t want to get married. Bhai Sahib replied, “Life of a Khadku Singh is very short. If I get married today or tomorrow and I become shaheed then the life of someone’s daughter would be wrecked.” This was the thinking of Bhai Sahib and did not get married.

One of the singhs of Babbar Khalsa was arrested and after being tortured, he agreed to co-operate with the Indian security forces and started to cause damage for the Babbar Khalsa. So many guns and ammunition were taken by the police, but even in this time the Babbar Khalsa did not stop in doing their panthic sewa and serving justice.

10th December 1988, Bhai Sahib was staying at the water tubal within the farms in Hargobindpur, district Batala, Bhai Sahib slept the night here. Bhai Sahib was brushing his teeth when all of a sudden Bhai Sahib was surrounded by the officers of police and CRP. Bhai Sahib was arrested while he was in his vest, Kachera, Kirpan and bunga. The police asked for his name, Bhai Sahib replied, “You have caught the big fish, I’m Pehlwan.” The CRP took Bhai Sahib to the Batala interrogation centre, here Bhai Sahib was blindly tortured but gave no information of Babbar Khalsa. One singh was being tortured in front of Bhai Sahib and gave all the information that he knew but Bhai Sahib stayed quiet. At this interrogation centre many of the prisoners were from the Babbar Khalsa, Bhai Sahib would recite nitnem while others listen.

21st January 1989, a singh from the Kar Sewa Jatha was arrested and bought to the same interrogation centre as Bhai Sahib and was mercilessly tortured. On this day the food had been served early to the prisoners. Time for Reheras Sahib came and Bhai Sahib told the prisoners, “Singhs, from today you must do your own Nitnem, because I might get taken anytime now.” Everyone recited Reheras Sahib and at the time of Ardas, the police entered the cell of Bhai Sahib and took him away from other prisoners. The fellow prisoners gave Bhai Sahib a blanket for the usage in the interrogation room after the torture, as winter nights it was very cold. Today the fellow prisoners did not know that Bhai Sahib was not going be taken to the interrogation room. Bhai Sahib’s hands were cuffed and his face was covered and under the command of Thanedar Harbhajan Singh, Bhai Sahib was taken to an unknown location. One thing was for sure that this unknown location was not the interrogation room. The Sikh fellow prisoners were worried for Bhai Sahib, the room next to the prisoners was the room for wireless communication, where the news came of local encounters.

In the morning, one of the officers told the prisoners,“Your Pehlwan was killed last night.” Upon hearing this, the Sikh prisoners were hit with lightening. Close friends of Bhai Sahib such as Bhai Gurmej Singh Sipahi gathered his courage to ask, “Did Bhai Sahib say anything when he attained shaheedi?” The officer replied, “Pehlwan and Bhai Sukhdev Singh Sukha of village Mangaya both were killed together. They were shot in the chest, at this time Bhai Sukhdev Singh Sukha Mangaya attained shaheedi but Bhai Sahib got up and moved towards the officers, until he was shot in the head and attained shaheedi.” As the news spread in the jail, all prisoners fell quiet and did Choupai Sahib. The promise Thanedar made to the family of Bhai Sahib to put the dead body on the floor of his family house was not fulfilled. The fake encounter of Bhai Sukhdev Singh Sukha Mangaya was explained to the family but the shaheedi of Bhai Sahib was not completely explained to Sardar Shingara Singh’s family.

Purja Purja Kat Maray – Baljit Singh Khalsa