Shaheed Bhai Kehar Singh

Shaheed Bhai Kehar Singh also known as Phuffer Ji was tried and executed for conspiracy in the plot to assassinate Indira Gandhi, carried out by his nephew Beant Singh and Satwant Singh both part of the elite bodyguards of Indira Gandhi. Known for his knowledge of Sikh philosophy and history his nephew had asked Phuffer ji, will Waheguru send a Sukha Singh and Mehtab Singh (famed Sikhs who had killed Massa Ranghar for his attacks on Amritsar and the Harimandir Sahib) to avenge this sin of desecration of Sri Darbar Sahib?” While he handed his uncle a book on Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwale.  His uncle replied, “Do not grieve, if you have love of Sikhi, then learn that giving your head, and taking a head for Sikhi are equal. After all, someone has to be the son of Sukha Singh and Mehtab Singh. They took Khande ki Pahul Amrit from Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh, went and took the head of Massa Ranger to stop the desecration of Sri Darbar Sahib and thus became legends in Sikh History. We need to remember them, and become like them.”

These words from his uncle were like a spear in his heart. After the assassination of Indira Gandhi, despite Beant Singh’s confession that only he and Satwant Singh were responsible for the death of the Prime Minister, Kehar Singh was charged as well.

Operation Bluestar, on the Shaheedi Purab of Guru Arjan Dev

The assassination was motivated by Operation Blue Star (which was carried out on the very day of the ‘Shaheedi Purab’ of Guru Arjan Dev) the military action against the Sikh “Golden Temple” in Amritsar. During the operation there was significant damage to the temple which caused the death of hundreds of innocent civilians including women and children. These violent events which led to the desecration of the Sikh holy shrine Golden Temple / Harminder Sahib caused outrage amongst the Sikh community, which claimed that the attacks were pre-planned and that the anti-Sikh violence which followed was government orchestrated.

Beant Singh and Satwant Singh were Sikh bodyguards of Indira Gandhi, and on 31 October 1984 they assassinated her in her garden, putting sixteen bullets into her chest and abdomen.

Beant Singh was killed by gunfire at the scene of the assassination. Satwant Singh who was wounded as well was arrested. Later Kehar Singh, Beant Singh’s uncle was arrested for conspiracy in the assassination. Both were sentenced to death and after all appeals were exhausted they were hanged in Tihar jail in Delhi.

The Day of the Execution

On the 6th of January 1989, at 4am – the time the Sikhs call Amrit Vela, the authorities walked Kehar Singh and Satwant Singh towards their noose, their voices could be heard from outside the jail, shouting, “Jo Bole So Nihal ! Sat Sri Akaal (God is truth – he who says this will be saved!)” Then after a few moments silence, as both of them stepped forward and kissed the noose, a very heavy rainfall started to fall.

Just as the British had done with Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru. Their bodies were taken to Ferozpur, and cremated on the banks of the Satluj River. Similarly, the Indian Government did not hand over the bodies of Shaheed Satwant Singh and Shaheed Kehar Singh to their next of kin. Their bodies were cremated within Tihar jail.

As the bodies burned, the authorities did not have the heart to hand them back to the families, the men’s’ lawyer, Sardar Bhupinder Singh Sodhi said to the authorities, “I can understand you have hatred for those spirits who killed Indira Gandhi, but how can you even have hatred for their corpses?”

The last wish of both Shaheed Satwant Singh and Shaheed Kehar Singh was that their ashes be taken to Sri Kartarpur Sahib. Citing concerns about possible violence, the authorities refused to turn even the ashes over to the relatives for use in religious ceremonies. The Police forced the families of the two Shaheeds into jeeps and vans and drove them to Hardwar. Throughout the whole journey to Hardwar, it rained heavily.

Then at gunpoint, giving the families no choice, the final ardas for the Shaheeds was done. Just as the ardas began, the rain stopped. It was like nature was also paying respect to the Shaheeds. Bhai Satwant Singh`s father, Bapu Tarlok Singh, and the son of Bhai Kehar Singh, Sardar Rajinder Singh, poured the ashes in to the river at Hardwar.

Innocence Proclaimed

Many people felt that the 54 year old Kehar Singh was innocent and falsely accused. During the execution as crowds protested, jostling with policemen there was no violence. At one point Kehar Singh’s sons grabbed and muffled the mouths of those shouting slogans, urging restraint.

Information given by the family of Shaheed Bhai Kehar Singh