Shaheed Bhai Sulakhan Singh Babbar
Shaheed Bhai Sulakhan Singh Babbar
Bhai Sulakhan Singh born in 1963 in the village of Vairowal near Khadur Sahib. His parents were Sardar Mohan Singh and Mata Kulwant Kaur. Although Bhai Sahib’s immediate family was not Amritdhari, his uncle (his Father’s younger brother) was a Gurmukh and had a great influence on Bhai Sahib’s life. His uncle would tell Bhai Sahib stories of Sikh Gurus and Shaheeds. Hearing these stories from a young age helped create love for Gursikhi in Bhai Sahib. In 1976, at the age of 13, Bhai Sahib was blessed with Amrit at the Hoshiarpur Shaheedi Smagam.
Bhai Sahib was still a teenager when the Sikh massacre of Amritsar on Vaisakhi 1978 happened. In the 1978 massacre, thirteen Singhs became martyrs in a confrontation with the Narakhdhari cult. On the day of the massacre, Bhai Sahib’s older sister was in a hospital in Amritsar for an operation. Bhai Sulakhan Singh and his family were at the hospital to visit her when the wounded Singhs from the protest were brought in. Dozens of Singhs were wounded and brought in.
Bhai Sahib witnessed the wounded Singhs, many of whom had horrific injuries. Sant Jarnail Singh Ji had also arrived at the hospital with his Jatha and was attending to some of the wounded Singhs. Bhai Sulakhan Singh saw Sant Ji and followed him around the hospital as he went from Singh to Singh. The events of that day had a deep effect on Bhai Sahib’s spirit. He made a promise to himself that with Guru Ji’s blessings, he will work to serve justice to the people that perpetrated this horrific attack. And so started Bhai Sahib’s journey on the path of the Sikh movement.
Bhai Sahib’s village Vairowal is in close proximity to the villages of Nagoke and Virhing Subha Singh. These villages produced a great number of martyrs of Sikh nation. The Gursikhs from these areas all became closely acquainted with each other and would spend a lot of time together. Bhai Sulakhan Singh soon became very close to Bhai Anokh Singh Babbar, who needs no introduction. These two Singhs became closer than siblings and spent all of their time together. Both Bhai Anokh Singh and Bhai Sulakhan Singh had very high morals and ideals. They would not do anything outside of the jurisdiction of Gurmat. They told their families to never take any money from the Sikh nation. They felt that the Sikh nation’s money should be used directly in the work for Sikh nation.
Before long, these two Singhs had formed relationships with other Gursikhs with a similar mindset. These Singh’s believed that all legal avenues to bring the murderers of the Amritsar massacre had been exhausted and that there was no justice to be obtained from the Indian government. Justice could now only come from Khalsa traditions and would have to be served by the Khalsa Panth. In addition to Bhai Anokh Singh Babbar and Bhai Sulakhan Singh Babbar, some of the Singhs who began to organize around these ideas included Bhai Talwinder Singh Babbar (Canada), Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar, Bhai Mehal Singh Babbar, Bhai Mengha Singh Babbar, Bhai Kulwant Singh Nagoke and the Nagoke Jatha, Bhai Amarjeet Singh Daheru, Bhai Amarjeet Singh Khemkaran, Bhai Wadhawa Singh and Bhai Tarsem Singh Kala Sanghia.
When Bhai Talwinder Singh Babbar arrived from Canada to Punjab to organize Singhs for the armed struggle, meetings were organized between the various Singhs. In those early days, Bhai Sulakhan Singh was very young, between the ages of 16-17. Seeing how young Bhai Sulakhan Singh was, Bhai Talwinder Singh remarked to the Singhs that Bhai Sulakhan Singh accompanied that they should not bring young kids like him to these meetings. The following day, there was another meeting and Bhai Sahib once again accompanied those same Singhs. During this meeting, Bhai Sahib spoke up and put forward several important points. Seeing this, Bhai Talwinder Singh was quite impressed and said, “Make sure you always bring kids like this.” Bhai Sahib was very intelligent and wise for his age. Although he was the youngest member of the Jathebandi, he was appointed vice-chief to Bhai Sukhdev Singh.
The Singhs of this freedom fighting group, which became known as the Babbar Khalsa, took on the duty of serving justice to and punishing the evil Narakhdharis responsible for countless Beadbi cases of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj and the martyrdom of dozens of Sikhs, including the 13 martyrs of the Amritsar massacre of 1978. They eliminated 35 Narakhdhari leaders between the years of 1979-1982.
In 1981, Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale was arrested in connection to the assassination of Lala Jagat Narain. Large numbers of Sikhs protested Sant Ji’s arrest in different ways. On one of those days, there was a confrontation between Hindu fascist supporters of Jagat Narain and Sikhs in Patti. Gunfire was exchanged. Bhai Sulakhan Singh was also present along with other Singhs from Nagoke. The next day, their names were published in the newspapers. These Singhs were labeled fugitives by the Indian government and its media.
When Bhai Sulakhan Singh found out that their names had been published, he informed Singhs from the neighboring village of Nagoke. He then informed his family that he was going to go visit his aunt in another village. However, Bhai Sahib realized that returning home was no longer possible and staying with his relatives would also not be safe. Instead of continuing to his Aunt’s house, he spent the night elsewhere.
Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale was respected as a leader for the Jhujaru Singhs who were involved in armed actions. Sant Ji provided assistance to these Singhs and took them to stay at Mehta Chownk, the headquarters of Damdami Taksal. However, due to them being pursued by Indian government forces, they were unable to remain for long at Mehta Chownk. Sant Ji took Bhai Sulakhan Singh and a group of Singhs to take up residence at Nanak Nivas within the Sri Darbar Sahib complex. Eventually, a large number of the Jhujaru Singhs were residing at Nanak Nivas. Nanak Nivas became a central base for many Jhujaru Singhs. From here, Singhs planned and carried out their Jhujaru actions of serving justice to those that had attacked the Sikh nation, the struggle that these Singhs had pledged their lives to.
In July of 1983, Bhai Sahib was married to Bibi Maninder Kaur. The wedding took place inside the complex of Sri Darbar Sahib on top of the roof of the Langar Hall. Bhai Sahib had been very hesitant to get married and had initially declined the marriage offer. He had explained to his mother that due to his role in the Sikh struggle, he may die at any time. What will happen to Bibi Maninder Kaur in that case? Where will she go to shed her tears? But Bibi Maninder Kaur was resolute that Bhai Sulakhan Singh was the only Singh she would agree to marry. Her brother had met Bhai Sahib and was highly impressed by his high-character and devotion to Gursikhi. Eventually, Bhai Mehal Singh, who was seen as an elder amongst the Singhs of their group, spoke to Bhai Sulakhan Singh and convinced him that this marriage was the right decision. The Anand Karaj was performed in high spirits and all the responsibilities of the Anand Karaj was carried out by the Singhs.
Bhai Sahib was a very open-hearted Gursikh. He used to smile all the time and liked to have a laugh with his fellow Gursikhs. One could not imagine that these Singhs were fugitives and had death hanging over their heads. There was no sense of fear whatsoever. People who met Bhai Sahib describe him as a Singh that was always happy and laughing and would make those around him laugh. In addition to his kindness and lighthearted nature, Bhai Sahib was respected for his intelligence and wisdom. Although he was the youngest of the Babbar Khalsa Jhujaru Singhs, he was the Vice Chief of Babbar Khalsa and remained in the high command group of the group until his martyrdom.
Whilst staying at Sri Darbar Sahib, Bhai Sulakhan Singh and Bhai Anokh Singh would perform the nightly cleaning service at Sachkhand Sri Darbar Sahib. These two Singhs, as before, remained inseparable. Even for secret Jhujaru actions that had to be carried out outside the Sri Darbar Sahib complex, Bhai Sulakhan Singh and Bhai Anokh Singh would go together.
In one particular instance, Bhai Sahib met with his Singhni prior to leaving on his mission with Bhai Anokh Singh to leave his large Sri Sahib and his Chola for her to take home. Both Singhs went out for this action knowing they would likely not return. They had set their minds and were determined to complete their mission even if it meant that they would become martyrs. However, the other Singhs eventually told them that they were now needed at Sri Darbar Sahib and they must return.
During the battle of Amritsar in June 1984, when India launched a full-scale attack on Sri Darbar Sahib and the Sikh nation, Bhai Sahib along with the rest of the Jhujaru Singhs of Babbar Khalsa fought bravely from their positions at Nanak Nivas, Akal Rest house and Bunga Sahib Baba Atal Rai Ji. Even during this battle, Bhai Sulakhan Singh and Bhai Anokh Singh fought together.
The Singhs had pledged that they would fight until their last breath or their last bullet, whichever came first. And so, they did. By June 6th, the Jhujaru Singhs of Babbar Khalsa had completely exhausted their ammunition. They had nothing left with which to fight the Indian forces. The senior Singhs that were still alive, which included Bhai Sulakhan Singh, held a meeting as to their next steps. Bhai Sukhdev Singh, the Jathedar, was initially kept out of the meeting. These Singhs decided that the fight could not end here. They decided that Jathedar Bhai Sukhdev Singh should leave and rebuild the Babbar Khalsa group and continue the fight against those responsible for murdering thousands of innocent Sikhs and destroying Sri Akaal Takht Sahib.
Bhai Sukhdev Singh agreed to leave, but also told the Singhs that they needed to come with him to continue this Sikh struggle. All of the remaining Singhs did an Ardas that they would leave today to continue their fight against the tyrannical Indian state. They would never again return to their homes until the struggle for Sikh homeland was complete. They would inform their families that from this day forth, their families were to consider them as martyrs. True to their Ardas, these Jhujaru Singhs left Sri Darbar Sahib that night but never returned home. Each of them dedicated their lives in the truest sense for the Sikh nation. They continued their Seva tirelessly and lived difficult lives as fugitives until they attained martyrdom.
In August of 1984, only a couple of months after the battle of Amritsar, Bhai Sahib’s Singhni was due to deliver a baby daughter. Bibi Ji had been present at Sri Darbar Sahib during the battle. The extreme circumstances of going through the battle and the harrowing exit from Sri Darbar Sahib had taken a toll on Bibi Ji’s body. In accordance with god’s doing, the baby survived for only a few days. Bibi Maninder Kaur was unconscious following the delivery and never saw her only child.
At this time, Bhai Sahib, along with his companions, was among India’s most wanted. These Singhs had to be extremely careful with their movements and any meetings with family members were highly risky. He managed to make it into the hospital undetected and arrived unannounced. Upon arriving, Bhai Sahib was greeted with the news that, his child had passed from this world. Neither Bhai Sahib nor his Singhni were able to lay eyes on or hold their only child. Bhai Sahib and his Singhni had only stayed together for about 7 months following their Anand Karaj and until the Battle of Amritsar in June of 1984. After this, due to Bhai Sahib’s deep involvement with the Sikh struggle, they would see each other on only rare occasions.
Bhai Sulakhan Singh and Bhai Anokh Singh both played an instrumental role in bringing rise to the Sikh freedom movement following India’s attack on Sri Darbar Sahib. Both Jhujaru Singhs had the duty of organizing logistics between all the different freedom fighting groups and bringing everyone together. The role of these two Singh’s in the Sikh struggle was well known throughout the different groups of the Sikh nation. They worked tirelessly organizing and planning, while on the run from Indian government forces, and also took part in missions in aid of the Sikh struggle. Bhai Anokh Singh was arrested for the first time around February of 1987. Bhai Sulakhan Singh planned his escape and the Singh’s successfully executed the plan, freeing Bhai Anokh Singh. However, Bhai Sulakhan Singh himself was arrested in late March of 1987.
Bhai Sahib used to occasionally stay in the Ferozepur area as he had some relatives there. On one of these occasions, Bhai Sahib intended to cross the border from the Ferozepur area into Pakistan. He set off from Zira, which is near Ferozepur, and headed towards the border. On the way, Bhai Sahib saw a trolley loaded with people from a nearby village. It was headed in the same direction as he was. Bhai Sahib quietly jumped onto the trolley and sat with the villagers. The police in that area was quite active in doing random stop and searches of people and vehicles as well as in setting up checkpoints. The police stopped the truck and trolley that Bhai Sahib was riding in. One by one, they questioned the passengers, asking them where they were from. Each of the passengers told the police that they were from the same village and heading to the same location.
The police, as is their habit in India, became aggressive and abusive towards the passengers until one person broke down and told them that they were all from one village except for the one young guy. He boarded the trolley later, while it was travelling. The police gathered around Bhai Sahib and demanded to know where he’s from and where he’s headed. Bhai Sahib gave them the name of a village in the area. The police began to ask follow-up questions. They asked for the name of the Sarpanch for that village. Bhai Sahib gave a name but it was the wrong name. The police arrested him and took him to the Zira police station for further interrogation. It took around two weeks for the police to find out the true identify of Bhai Sahib, after Baba Joginder Singh Rode (father of Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale) had released in the media that Jhujaru Singhs have been caught and named Bhai Sahib. Only then the Police had realized that they had a highly wanted Babbar Khalsa Jhujaru Singh in their custody. The alias that Bhai Sahib went by in those days was Gurmeet Singh.
Bhai Sahib had once shared his thoughts on being caught with a close Gursikh associate of his. He said that either he will be caught, likely at the hands of traitors, and killed, or he will be shot. This, he said, is his destiny. If caught, he said he will tell the police to use their worst torture methods right away. Don’t waste his time trying lesser methods. Bring on the most gruesome and horrific tortures they have. These were Bhai Sahib’s thoughts and words. He did not know fear and was well aware that his destiny, as set by Waheguru, was martyrdom.
After his arrest, there was no further news about Bhai Sulakhan Singh. The Babbar Khalsa Jhujaru Singhs quickly made plans to break Bhai Sahib out of Zira police station. They had sent Singhs to scout the police station for several days. Unfortunately, as would be the case with Bhai Anokh Singh, Bhai Sulakhan Singh was secretly transferred to different stations so that the Singhs could not locate him. Many efforts were made, particularly by his closest brother, Bhai Anokh Singh Babbar. It was to no avail. Bhai Sulakhan Singh became a martyr but the time and location of his martyrdom were known only to the Punjab police. News of his martyrdom would eventually reach the Jhujaru Singhs although no official announcement was made by the Indian authorities. Some Gursikhs who had been caught and tortured had heard directly from police officers that they had killed Bhai Sulakhan Singh. These police officers would boast about it and taunt other Jhujaru Singhs with these boasts.
By the time Bhai Anokh Singh Babbar was captured for the second time in August of 1987, Bhai Sulakhan Singh had already become a martyr. Some time prior to his second arrest, Bhai Anokh Singh had taken part in an Amrit Sanchar organized by Akhand Kirtani Jatha. The Hukamnama at the conclusion of the Amrit Sanchar was:
That day which comes, that day shall go.
You must march on; nothing remains stable.
Our companions are leaving, and we must leave as well.
We must go far away. Death is hovering over our heads. ||1||
Why are you asleep? Wake up, you ignorant fool!
You believe that your life in the world is true. ||1||Pause||
The One who gave you life shall also provide you with nourishment.
In each and every heart, He runs His shop.
Meditate on the Lord, and renounce your egotism and self-conceit.
Within your heart, contemplate the Naam, the Name of the Lord, sometime. ||2||
Your life has passed away, but you have not arranged your path.
Evening has set in, and soon there will be darkness on all sides.
Says Ravi Daas, O ignorant mad-man,
don’t you realize, that this world is the house of death?! ||3||2||
The Singh doing Granthi duties had tears in his eyes as he read the Hukamnama. Bhai Anokh Singh asked why he was emotional. Bhai Anokh Singh remarked that this was the destination of the path they were on as willed by Waheguru. There was nothing to mourn or be sad about.
Although the Singhs were aware of Bhai Sulakhan Singh’s martyrdom, news about it was no released by the Indian government and it was not well known publicly until around the time of Bhai Anokh Singh’s martyrdom following his arrest and brutal torture. Bhai Anokh Singh’s martyrdom was announced in the papers almost immediately and news about Bhai Sulakhan Singh began to circulate amongst the public around the same time. It’s believed he was held and tortured for several months. His body was never provided to the family, as was the case for many Jhujaru Singhs.
Bhai Sulakhan Singh was a special jewel of Sikh nation. He had high morals and a character free of stains. From a young age, he dedicated his every strand of hair and every breath to the cause of Sikh struggle. Whilst doing such immense service for the cause of Khalistan, he had one wish. He did not want to be known. He used to say that he wants to do his service anonymously; no one should know what he does. He worked actively to avoid bringing attention onto himself. All credit and glory belonged to the Guru. Such humility is a great quality and one found in those rare Gursikhs who have truly laid their life at Guru Sahib’s feet. Too often, we seek attention for the most miniscule actions. We have let humbleness become our leader in today’s world. We need to look to the lives of Gursikhs like Shaheed Bhai Sulakhan Singh Babbar to see examples of what service for the Sikh nation truly looks like.
Panthic Media – Canada