Shaheed Jathedar Sukhdev Singh Babbar
Shaheed Jathedar Sukhdev Singh Babbar
Shaheed Jathedar Sukhdev Singh Babbar was the iconic leader of the Khalistan movement between 1978-1992. Bhai Sahib is ranked among senior Generals like Bhai Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala, Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma and Baba Gurbachan Singh Manochahal. However Bhai Sahib’s impact was legendary and was considered the backbone of the 20thcentury Sikh struggle. Such was the calibre of this Gursikh, everyone referred to Bhai Sahib as “The Jathedar”.
Shaheed Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar was born on 9th August 1955 in the house of Sardar Jind Singh and from the womb of Mata Harnam Kaur, in the village Dhassuwal. This is in the Amritsar area of Punjab. Bhai Sahib had three brothers, Bhai Angrej Singh, Bhai Rushal Singh, Bhai Mehal Singh, and three sisters, Bibi Swaran Kaur, Bibi Charan Kaur, and Bibi Jeet Kaur.
Bhai Sahib studied till 8thclass in Punjab, then worked on the family farms as a farmer with his brothers. From an early age, Bhai Sahib had a religious mind and a warrior spirit. Bhai Sahib met Jathedar Bhai Fauja Singh of Akhand Kirtani Jatha. Bhai Sahib was highly impressed by Jathedar Bhai Fauja Singh and with his guidance took Amrit at an Akhand Kirtani Jatha Smagam in 1977. Both became inseparable friends.
Many youth were highly influenced by Jathedar Bhai Fauja Singh, not only Bhai Sukhdev Singh, but Bhai Anokh Singh, Bhai Wadhawa Singh, Bhai Sulakhan Singh and countless others Great Sikhs were students at Bhai Fauja Singhs Khalsa Farm, where they undertook Spiritual education and Sikh martial arts in a camp-like atmosphere. It was at this camp, that the ideologue by which all these Singh lived their lives was instilled. Bhai Fauja Singh taught the Gursikhs that doing Naam Simran, Paath, and Kirtan was just as important as becoming fearless Sons of Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh.
Bhai Sahib wed Bibi Sukhwant Kaur in an Anand Karaj Ceremony on Visakhi, 13th April 1978. After the wedding, the couple arrived back at their house to receive distressing news. On the sacred land of Amritsar, a new-age cult called Nirankari had mercilessly killed 13 Sikhs protesting against their anti-Sikh activities and a further 150 Sikhs had been wounded. From the 13, many close companions of Bhai Sahib had been Shaheed, including Jathedar Fauja Singh. Bhai Sahib was greatly shaken by this event. Early next morning, Bhai Sahib caught a bus to Amritsar and after the cremation of the 13 Gursikhs, Bhai Sahib returned home a changed person.
The Punjab Government brought a murder case against the leader of the Nirankari cult called “Gurbachana”. However this case was intentionally moved from Punjab to Karnal, in Haryana. This Nirankari cult enjoyed the patronage of Indira Gandhi, who wished to use it to destroy the strong hold of Akali party control in Punjab. Indira Gandhi viewed Sikhs as the biggest threat to her ambitions of power. They were the only group who would be prepared to raise their voice against her. Hence she devised many strategies to weaken Sikhs internally and externally. The Nirankari cult was part of this plan.
Parkash Badal, the leader of the Akali Dal in Punjab, was also secretly helping “Gurbachana”. Parkash Badal`s role in the history of Punjab has been very dubious and it can be stated that he has been the Sikh version of Gangue Brahmin, who sent many Khalsa youth to their deaths. Parkash Badal further ensured that “Gurbachana” walked free from the courts. Previously it had came to attention of the Sikhs that Parkash Badal, had smuggled “Gurbachana” out of Punjab on the night of the murders on Visakhi 1978.
The charismatic leader of the Damdami Taksal, Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwale was infuriated by this. Sant Ji also held Jathedar Fauja Singh in high esteem and called for Sikhs nationwide to oppose all Nirankari activities.
Bhai Sukhdev Singh was by nature very quiet and very spiritually inclined. But at the same time Bhai Sahib was also a man of action. Bhai Sahib had realised while these Nirankari cult enjoyed the patronage of Indira Gandhi, Sikhs would never get justice for the murder of Gursikhs. By now a further 13 Gursikhs had been killed in Kanpur by the Nirankari cult and also two in Delhi. Another close associate of Bhai Sahib and very spiritual Gursikh, Bhai Jagjit Singh was one of those Shaheed in Kanpur.
In a quiet manner, with the help of Bhai Anokh Singh, Bhai Sulakhan Singh and Bhai Amarjit Singh Daheru, they began plotting and assassinating the leadership of the Nirankari cult. “Gurbachana” had held himself up as a modern “Guru Gobind Singh Ji”, to infuriate Sikhs. As Sikhism had “Panj Pyare” (5 beloveds), the Nirankaris set up their “Sat Sitaray” (7 stars). Bhai Sukhdev Singh began with them, and completely annihilated the Nirankari leadership. The main target was always “Gurbachana”, but he eluded them yet.
Bhai Sukhdev Singh would always lead from the front. Bhai Sahib was involved in every action and always behaved to highest ideals of the Khalsa. However the Indian Security Forces and right-wing Hindu groups were providing protection to the Nirankari and also helping them hunt young Sikhs who were standing up to the Nirankari cult.
The trail led them to the house of Bhai Amarjit Singh Daheru. He was a very Chardi Kala Gursikh, who was providing all the Sikh youth with weapons and training. His house was surrounded by the Punjab Police and Security Forces. Bhai Amarjit Singh Daheru was very skilled in fighting. He wanted to make sure he was not caught, because he did not want the youth he had trained to be exposed. So he fought with great courage. When he was eventually Shaheed, his Singhni demonstrated how miraculous Guru Ji`s daughters are. She single-handedly fought the Police and Security Forces for 48 hours. Only when all her ammunition finished did she also attained Shaheedi.
The Shaheedi of Bhai Amarjit Singh Daheru led the Indian Security Services to realise that many of the actions against the Narakhdharis, had not been done by Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bindranwale, as they had widely began to demonise him in the national press. Instead they had been done by a small group of organised underground youth from the Akhand Kirtani Jatha. Therefore they began rounding up Sikhs at Akhand Kirtani Jatha smagams.
Bhai Sukhdev Singh greatly felt this. He did not want elderly and highly spiritual Sikhs to be harassed in police cells. The Sikh sangat goes to smagams for Gurbani Rass, and they should not be treated wrongly.
At this time, Bhai Sahib read a book by Giani Tarlok Singh. It was called “Babbar de Vithaya, Golee Chalde Rahe”, (Legend of the Babbar – keep the bullets firing). It was a novel about Babbar Akali movement against the British Raj in India. It had stories about the Great Sikh, Shaheed Bhai Kishan Singh Babbar and his companions. During the Indian Independence movement, they fought against the British Raj, their cruel officers, their touts, spies, Jagirdars, etc, in a guerrilla campaign with amazing feats. Bhai Sukhdev Singh saw this as a model which could be used effectively to organise modern youth.
In 1981, a meeting of active Sikh youth warriors was called. It was announced that the Sikh Youth fighting the Nirankari cult was not the Akhand Kirtani Jatha. This was to ensure harassment of elders stopped. Instead this was a new separate organisation called “Babbar Khalsa”.
The Babbar Khalsa was a secret underground organisation. The Singhs in India felt the Jathedar needs to be active on a front-line level. Someone who knew the workings of India and could affect things on the front-line, and also inspire the youth to be better Gursikhs.
There was no-one more front-line than Bhai Sukhdev Singh. It was unanimously decided by the youth that the Jathedar would be Bhai Sukhdev Singh. Other deputy Jathedars were also chosen. They were Bhai Anokh Singh, Bhai Sulakhan Singh, and Bhai Wadhawa Singh.
Every member of this Jathebandi must be Amritdhari, and strict in Amrit vela and Sikh code of conduct. They must have knowledge and be practicing in Gurbani recitation. They must have memorised all the Nitnem, to ensure it is not missed, even in the heart of battle. They must be regular in Sangat Sewa, like cleaning shoes, so they always remain humble. Anyone who tries to destroy the Sikh religion or nation would be opposed and eliminated by Babbars. To ensure they are capable of doing this sewa, they must be Abhyassi, humble and always lead a Pure Gurmat lifestyle. Communications by Babbar Khalsa would be via a magazine called “Vangaar”, which would have their missions documented and current news.
When Babbar Khalsa was announced to the world, its enemies in the form of Indian Security Forces, Right-wing Hindus and the Nirankari cult, now had a visible enemy to track down. No longer was it a case of a handful of Sikh youth among thousands, but specifically hunting Babbars, as well as the Gursikhs with Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bindranwale.
A key Babbar Khalsa activist who was very active in the universities of Punjab was Bhai Kulwant Singh Nagoke. He was a very strict Sarbloh Bebeki Singh, a fearless fighter, and someone who did a lot of “Parchar” to take young Punjabis away from intoxicants, and make them Khalsa.
After a successful action against anti-Panthic forces, the trail followed by Police led to his arrest. He was severely tortured by the Security Services desperate for information on Babbar Khalsa. Bhai Kulwant Singh revealed nothing, and became the first Sikh youth to be Shaheed in police cells from torture. The dawn of the false encounter had arrived.
Sant Jarnail Singh ji had by now become a pivotal figure in India. The murder of Bhai Kulwant Singh Nagoke, and many other injustices, false cases against Sikhs, rape of Sikh girls, etc, led him to now openly speak on stages against the Indira Gandhi Government. His Dharam Yudh Morcha had gained a lot of momentum, and he was inspiring youth throughout Punjab to take Amrit. However his speeches documenting human rights abuses against Sikhs were by now seen to be shaking the foundations at Delhi.
By now, the Babbar Khalsa had hatched a successful plan to assassinate “Gurbachana”. A young Sikh carpenter called Ranjit Singh gained a job in his house in Delhi doing general building work. At the most opportune time, Bhai Ranjit Singh with some associates killed “Gurbachana” as he got out of his car, which had returned home from a rally. They then escaped by jumping a very high wall, when hunted by Police. Bhai Ranjit Singh was later arrested and sentenced to long term imprisonment, then released as the Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib.
Since 1980, the Indian Security Forces had come to know of a youth called Sukhdev Singh, and had began to hunt him. So Bhai Sahib permanently shifted all command operations to Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar. It was here that stayed from 1980 till 1984. Babbar Khalsa had come into existence here.
Sant Jarnail Singh had established the Dharam Yudh Morcha. Bhai Sahib fully supported this movement. He also wished all the youth of Punjab to leave intoxicants and become Sikhs of the Guru.
Sant Jarnail Singh ji was also a highly spiritual and visionary Gursikh. He knew since the Shaheedi of Jathedar Fauja Singh, that hard times would fall on Sikhs and they needed to become Shahstardhari (armed). He also knew anti-Panthic forces would do everything to divide the Sikh Youth to ensure that Sikh demands are not met. The Sikh youth who were brave and full of spirit were in two Jathebandis; – Damdami Taksal and Akhand Kirtani Jatha. During the early 1980s, a meeting occurred between Sant Jarnail Singh ji and Bhai Joginder Singh Talwara. Bhai Amolak Singh was also sent to represent the youth as no organisation had formed at the time of this meeting. In this meeting it was agreed that no issues that divided these two groups would ever be allowed stop the common cause of the Sikh Nation.
Later as Babbar Khalsa came into existence, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale held them in high respect, and they are often mentioned in his lectures. Names like Bhai Kulwant Singh Nagoke, Bhai Manjit Singh Babbar are mentioned frequently.
When Sant Jarnail Singh ji was in prison after being arrested in Chowk Mehta, it was national news. Bhai Sukhdev Singh and Bhai Wadhawa Singh walked into the police station armed with guns. The police realising who had just walked in, ran for their lives. Bhai Sukhdev Singh asked Sant ji to come with them and continue his Parchar. Sant Jarnail Singh ji said he appreciated their courage, but has no need to go underground. Sant ji said his release had already been arranged legitimately.
Sant Ji respected the way Bhai Sukhdev Singh had quickly dealt with the Nirankaris “7 Sitaray” (their equivalent to our Panj Pyare). Also how he had planned how Bhai Ranjit Singh would infiltrate Nirankari Baba Gurbachana house, and numerous other high profile actions.
During 1983-84, the security services tried to divide the Singhs. It had been the wish of the security services that Sikh youth fight amongst themselves, creating enemies, and opportunities which could be used to gather information from rivals, and start them eliminating each other.
Some infiltrators dressed up as Singhs and robbed a Hindu mans store in Amritsar. They told him to leave Punjab or he will be killed. They pretended to be Sant Bhindranwale’s men. The distraught Hindu shop keeper went to Darbaar sahib, and was told by sangat to see Bhai Sukhdev Singh, who was based at Baba Atal Sahib Gurdwara. Bhai Sukhdev Singh was upset that people are doing this is Gursikhi Bana (clothes), as it gives Gursikhs a bad name. When the Babbar Khalsa Singhs located these infiltrators, Bhai Sukhdev Singh got a laathi, (a long Danda- wooden stick), tied them upside down from a tree and beat them with it. He made them give all the money back, and told them never to threaten any innocent again.
Other infiltrators tried to stoke up the Taksali Singhs against Babbars saying Sukhdev Singh had beat up these Singhs. Many rumours were circulated to get one group against another. Some of these rumours later even got published in books, to ferment differences between the groups. But Sant Ji knew this was not correct, and instead started referring to Jathedar Sukhdev Singh ji as “Saccha Sukha”, (The Truthful Sukha).
Both Sant Ji and Bhai Sahib knew their fight was not against innocents. Sant Ji, too was called in press as a Hindu hater, but facts show he was highly respected by many Hindus. The fight was only against those who choose to destroy Sikhism.
Even today, in books written about the Operation Bluestar refer to differences between the two leaders, which are baseless. Sant Longowal and Gurcharan Singh Tohra, both key Akali leaders at that time also sought to divide Sukhdev Singh and Sant ji. They were afraid of the growing prominence of Sant ji and the amount of youth with him. The only person capable of standing against him, who also had a lot of youth with him, was Bhai Sahib. So these leaders also indulged in rumour mongering to divide the two Gurmukhs, and associated themselves with the Babbars.
Bhai Sahib realised these forces that were at work and so did Sant ji. Both shared a mutual respect and their common cause. However no differences directly arose between the two Gursikhs, despite the attempts of many. Both fought together at Operation Blue Star, as the story continues………
During this period of 1980-84, Bhai Sahibs family was blessed with children. Bhai sahib had one daughter, Amrit Kaur, and two sons called Tejinder Singh and Gurwinder Singh.
Bhai Sahib elder brother, Bhai Mehal Singh also joined the ranks of the Babbar Khalsa. He is an exceptional individual, especially capable with electronics. These skills became very valuable to the Movement.
Bhai Sahib had been based in Sri Darbar Sahib for some year now. All the Singhs based in Sri Darbar Sahib knew that the Government were sending troops and a conflict would soon happen. General Subheg Singh ji commanded all the Singhs during Operation Blue Star.
Bhai Sahib was accompanied by 90 Babbar Khalsa Singhs during the Operation. General Subheg Singh had asked the Babbar Khalsa Singhs to position themselves at the Guru Nanak Niwas, Guru Ram Das Niwas, and Baba Atal Sahib.
Bhai Sukhdev Singh and Bhai Mehal Singh were positioned at Baba Atal Sahib Gurdwara. Bhai Mehal Singh ji, is a genius with electronics, and had created an elaborate communication system around the whole complex, so all Singhs knew what was happening all the time.
When the Operation Blue Star began, the first Singh to be Shaheed was Bhai Mengha Singh ji Babbar.
Bhai Mengha Singh Babbar was a very high jeevan wale Gursikh, who spent most of his time doing jorian de sewa ( sewa of shoes). He had been shot in the skull, however just sat down, ignored the blood from his head. He started singing Sukhmani Sahib very loud. Only when he had completed the whole Sukhmani Sahib did he leave this world. When the initial firing ceased, all the Singhs including Sant ji, and Bhai Sukhdev Singh were together at his funeral.
The Singhs all fought together for the next two days. They fiercely held the Battalions of the Indian Army. They were expertly directed by and under the guidance of General Subheg Singh ji. Every time the army thought they had made some advance, the Singhs would go into the sewer systems, come up behind the army and attack them from both sides.
Another Babbar, Bhai Avtar Singh was the one who did kirtan in Sir Harimandir sahib as part of a jatha. He continued kirtan during the fighting for many hours, and never stopped, giving strength to the Gursikhs fighting, and also wishing the maryada of continuous kirtan in Darbar Sahib to remain. He was shot in the chest and attained shaheedi on the second day of Operation Blue Star.
Bhai Anokh Singh Babbar was given the sewa of ferrying innocent sangat out of the complex during the 3 days of fighting. He and his unit saved hundreds of sangat from the inevitable slaughter. For 3 days, they kept coming in and out of the complex saving sangat, and passing vital ammunitions.
After fighting for 3 days, the Battalions of the Indian Army had suffered many losses. Frustrated they brought in tanks and a helicopter gunship to attack the Singhs at Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Jathedar Sukhdev Singh saw from his position at Baba Atal Sahib, that the Sri Akal Takht sahib was totally desecrated, and the only Singhs left were the ones fighting around the well underneath Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Bhai Mehal Singh sent a message to Sant Ji on the communication system stating, that we can send 2 Singhs down the sewage systems, to the well and get you out. But you have to tell us now, otherwise it will be too late. Sant Ji sent a message back, stating, “He had done Ardas never to leave, and will stay until Shaheedi”. A few hours later, Sant Ji accepted Shaheedi.
Much of the focus of the army was also on Baba Atal sahib and Guru Nanak Niwas, but now with Sri Akal Takht Sahib subdued, the Army shifted the tanks to their direction. The Singhs had now seen what had happened at Sri Akal Takht Sahib. The Singhs told Jathedar Sukhdev Singh, we must leave now, and continue the fight. Bhai sahib did not want to leave, and said he would cover their escape. But they insisted, and Panj Gursikhs did a hukam on Jathedar Sukhdev Singh. They were totally surrounded. A signal was sent out to all Singhs still fighting at Baba Atal Sahib, Guru Nanak Niwas and Guru Ram Das Niwas. They got suitcases from the Niwas (hotel), and tied one on the front, and one on the back, with ropes. All the Singhs came running out together fighting under a hail of bullets at the same time. Many Singhs were shaheed, but many also managed to get to the side streets of Amritsar.
The whole area was under curfew. But many Singhs were given sanctuary by the local residents. The same Hindu shop keeper, that Jathedar Sukhdev Singh had helped before, helped Bhai Sahib escape. The Army was going from house to house and flat to flat, gathering all Sikh men, as part of Operation Woodrose to massacre them either inside Darbar Sahib, or in surrounding areas. Hundreds of Sikhs were being killed. When the Army came to check the building in which Bhai Sahib had gone to, they did not search the flat. The Hindu shop keeper opened the door, and because he was a Hindu, he convinced them to ignore the flat.
Bhai Sahib realised that many valuable Gursikhs had been lost during the Operation Blue Star and Operation Woodrose. The Government had also attacked 40 other Gurdwaras, as well as Sri Darbar Sahib Complex, and in total many thousands of Sikhs had died.
The Babbars had to regroup a mount a long term sustainable guerrilla movement to establish Khalistan. The Babbars were instructed to cross the border into Pakistan. In Pakistan and other foreign countries, the Babbars started buying better quality weapons, and set up training camps. They created a plan to re-integrate into Punjab, under numerous disguises and set up an elaborate communication procedures.
The Indian Intelligence Services were always of the opinion that Jathedar Sukhdev Singh lived in Pakistan. They stuck to this theory for many years. However Bhai Sahib never went to Pakistan. He just sent a cell of Gursikhs there to organise activities. Instead he continued his practice of leading from the front, and took part in actions in Punjab.
Day by day as more and more missions were accomplished by the Singhs, daily reports came out in Press. Bhai Sahib was always quiet, but when he said something it had a lot of impact. People knew that everything he said happened, or Panthic dushts he targeted did get eliminated. Slowly his name from the press reports came unto the lips of every person in Punjab. Young boys in schools, when arguing in the playground, would say to each to other, “Who do you think you are? Are you Sukhdev Singh Babbar?” The name and the icon became born……
Bhai Sahib very cleverly became active under the disguise of a building contractor. He posed as a rich man, which allowed him to rub shoulder with those in power in Punjab. This way he kept in touch with all those, who made decisions to that affect Punjab every day. It is also allowed him to keep faxes, and other elaborate communication devices, by which he communicated with Gursikhs on a worldwide level, without raising suspicion.
As a building contractor, he was also in touch with those controlling the construction of the canals which led Punjab river waters to other states. He subtly ensured that the contracts would not be completed, and the projects are continuously delayed. Plus being a rich man, he made politic contacts which gave him access to information about which police officers were active against the Singhs, and who was torturing and killing the Singhs.
Further he began creating links with other Sikh Youth Jathebandis with like minded aims and objectives. This way he created a network called the “5 Member Committee”. This joined the forces of Babbar Khalsa, Khalistan Liberation Force, (Avtar Singh Brahma, then Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala), Khalistan Commando Force (Paramjit Singh Panjwar), Bhindranwale Tiger Force (Rashpal Singh Chandra), Sikh Students Federation (Daljit Singh Bittu).
Later after losing all confidence in the leaders of the Akali Dal like Badal and Tohra. Bhai Sahib set up the Babbar Akali Dal to give a political voice in Punjab and a voice for the widows of Delhi. However many of its leaders were given life imprisonment under TADA with no trial or charges.
Bhai Sahib had a very high Jeevan. His eyes shone, and his stature was like Puratan Gursikhs. He was very quiet, but was highly intelligent. He never raised his voice, and always spoke with a sweet voice. Jathedar jee was very close to Bhai Anokh singh. Both singhs would live for days on sholay de daane (chick peas) and Naam. Even during great hardship, moving by the night and living undercover they managed to keep their Bibekta and amrit vela.
His daily prayers would last many hours, as he meditated peacefully on God. He was a very humble and caring man, soft-spoken, yet very determined and strong of character. He was a perfect example of a Gursikh.
The Punjab Police and Indian Intelligence Services made capturing and eliminating Bhai Sahib their top priority. They realised he was the backbone of the movement. As other Generals were being Shaheed, they were being replaced, however Bhai Sahib was so iconic and organisationally effective, he would be irreplaceable. Many Singhs were tortured in the cruellest of manner to find out the where-about of Bhai sahib. However such was their love and respect for him, that they never uttered a word.
Both Bhai Anokh Singh and Bhai Sulakhan Singh had amazing spiritual Jeevan. Both when captured were severely tortured. Bhai Anokh Singh was tortured for many days, his eyes were removed, his tongue was cut off, and his insides were exposed and hot peppers pushed in. Bhai Sulakhan Singh was Shaheed just as Bhai Mani Singh ji was, as he was cut joint from joint.
Bhai Manmohan Singh just stated to his torturers that his name was Manmohan Singh. He said ask me anything else you want, that is all I will tell you. After many days torture, the only words the police heard from his mouth were “Waheguru”, until he also was ultimately Shaheed. Another Singh, close to Bhai Sahib had his legs tied between two jeeps, which drove off, ripping him in half.
For 14 years Bhai Sukhdev Singh led the Khalistan movement in Punjab. He ensured many responsible for the genocide against Sikhs, met there suitable ends. During the late 80`s and early 90`s, the Singhs were so strong, that they virtually ran a parallel government in Punjab.
Even international magazines, such as article in India Today had reported that Bhai Sukhdev Singh Jee was the “most prominent militant leader since 1978, who had, over the years, acquired an aura of Invincibility”. With Bhai Sukhdev Singh at its helm “Babbar Khalsa had acquired a reputation as the most puritanical, austere, and ideologically committed militant organisation”. Most Indian journalists regarded the organisation as above the other groups as it owned up to its assassinations and condemned the killings of innocent civilians. There was another report in India Today where an un-named Police officer told the paper that when they tortured Gursikhs by cutting their muscles and pouring chilli powder into the cuts and also using hot poke into the eyes and muscles and ripping the muscles of the bones he used to hear Naam-Simran and also Paath. In one such case was when he witnessed the death of Bhai Anokh Singh Jee Babbar. He left the police shortly afterwards due to stress and mental problems.
To really understand what Bhai sahib was you have to consider one thing. If we youth today, most of whom are the same age as these Singhs were when they did all this Seva, had intelligence services, police, black cats, Sikh informers after us. How long do you think we would last? Probably a few days. Bhai sahib lasted 14 years. Virtually hundreds of Singhs were shaheed under torture in efforts by Punjab police to find Bhai sahib. They had their families annihilated. But such was the love and respect for Bhai sahib, no-one ever spoke. How much love does someone have for someone to do that? They saw their families killed, and were tortured limb by limb themselves, but never told where Jathedar Sukhdev Singh was. Then you understand what he was, and how highly he was held by so many. To become a singh with him, meant death, not only of you, but your whole family. There was no culture of fear around him, it was a culture of Love and Respect.
Another mark of Jathedar ji, was after his Shaheedi, no group was for many years capable doing any major operation in India, until Bhai Dilawar Singh Babbar blew up the genocidal Beant Singh, Congress Chief Minister of Punjab. Even after that, the movement has never been the same. So many Dushts against Sikhi are still alive and active today. The Panth needs Gursikhs of the Calibre of Jathedar Ji.
Never was there a better example of a Gursikh worthy of the title “Jathedar Ji”. This was the mark of his Jeevan, the mark of the man and the Legend.
It is essential in any successful organisation to have discipline amongst the ranks. Bhai Sahib would initially only allow Spiritual and Rehitvan Gursikhs into the ranks of Babbar Khalsa. However over the years, many of the diamonds of the Movement became Shaheed such as Bhai Anokh Singh, Bhai Sulakhan Singh, etc. Some say joining forces with other Jhujaroo groups led to Babbar Khalsa losing its Rehit. It is easy to sit back and criticise and hard to do Seva.
When the first generation of Singhs became Shaheed, the new recruits that were coming in, were not fighting as much because they Khalsa, and wanted to establish a homeland Khalistan on high ideals. They were coming in because of Police excesses, rape & torture in villages. As a result all Jhujaroo groups lost Singhs who had full faith in Gurmat, and never compromised their ideals. Many of the new recruits were mere kids, and the experienced Jujharoos, themselves such as Jathedar were just in their late twenties, early thirties.
So in this new atmosphere maintaining discipline was very important. It was difficult to do, because without exposing who you are, how can you directly communicate with the ranks? You never know which youth will give in to torture in the future, or maybe a spy infiltrating the group.
The way Bhai Sahib would keep an eye on the ranks was to sometimes pretend to be a simple Singh fighting with some cells. He would go on missions with grass roots Singhs. But these Singhs never knew that this six foot, well built Singh was the Jathedar. This way he kept an eye on the ranks, without exposing himself.
Between 1978 till the late 1980`s, many Punjab police officers actually helped the Singhs, or ignored their activities. The government was aware of this, which is why during the early days they relied more on the army. When the 5 Jhujaroo groups joined forces, one of the first statements was made by Jathedar ji. In this statement, he asked all freedom fighting Singhs to not kill innocent Police Officers, and no one was to harm any families of Police Officers. This was a visionary statement, and went along way to reducing tensions between them. Jathedar ji knew the fight was not against other Punjabis, but it was against the Brahmins who used the Indian Government machinery to destroy Sikhi.
Security Services realising the impact of this statement, and also realising that the Singhs were now during the period of 1986-1989, completely controlling Punjab, they changed their tactics. The Security services via Police Commander Rebeiro created groups called “Black cats”. These were security services personnel, cruel police officers, some Nihangs, and criminals. They would dress up as Singhs, and commit heinous crimes against innocents in Punjab. This would include kidnapping, murder, rape, torture, looting, etc. They did this dress as Singhs in Bana, and after their crimes drop names of leading freedom fighters to give them a bad name in the Punjab villages which sympathised and protected the Singhs. This policy was used very effectively against Baba Manochahal group, and others. The policy worked in many ways, it stopped villagers sympathising with groups, and it caused problems within groups, who were not sure if the tales of woe were true. Plus the victims were those who need most protection, and the “black cats” were always richly rewarded. Many times, it was the same police officers who dressed as Singhs at night to pare and loot, then in the morning they would go and investigate, only to get recognised by the victims.
When the Congress leader Beant Singh came to power he created a policy of “Shoot to Kill” any Sikhs, without any reason. To ensure the Punjab police do not lose their hunger for genocide. He took the “black cat” policy to another level. KPS Gill is able and highly violent Commander of Police, even went as far, as sending “black cats” to kill innocent Police Officers and their families. The horror of this motivated all police officers to wipe Punjab`s earth of any Sikh youth. It kept them motivated to mass murder, pillage, loot, and annihilates any family linked to any freedom fighter.
Fake Police encounters became everyday practice, and were treated as a points scoring game. Every evening for years, KPS Gill would phone each of his main officers in each district, and they would have to report numbers of Sikh youth they had killed that day. So one would say 25, another 30, another 45. Whoever was the lowest would be frowned upon, or told he was not patriotic enough. These were the genocidal days of 1989 -1992.
Punjab had by now become a state with Police, black cats, army positioned in every corner, road, village, etc. It was becoming very difficult for Singhs to move from place to place.
Bhai Sahib was actually arrested a few days before he was declared Shaheed. The police had traced him to his house in Patiala. When he was arrested, Bhai Sahib said, “The Sukhdev Singh you are looking for has left, all that is left now is this body. You may do with it as you please.”
He was tortured severely, but never revealed a word about his fellow Singhs, who after his Shaheedi took 6 months before they could regroup again in Pakistan.
In the end, on 9th August 1992, it was announced that Bhai Sahib was shaheed in a police encounter. Incidentally Bhai sahib`s birthday and Shaheedi day were on the same date. On the 10th August newspaper front pages were headlines that Babbar Khalsa Chief has been killed. The notorious KPS Gill made a statement, “The leader of Babbar Khalsa, Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar has been killed near Ludhiana in a Police encounter. Babbar was responsible for the murder of Nirankari Gurbachan and 1000 others.”
While using his fingers to twist his moustache, on national TV, KPS Gill further stated that now “Gurbachan Singh Manochahal, Paramjit Singh Panjwar and Wassan Singh Zaffarwal should now surrender, otherwise they would meet the same fate as Jathedar Sukhdev Singh Babbar and Khalistan Liberation Force Leader Bhai Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala.” (Who was Shaheed just months earlier). He further stated “Sukhdev Singh Babbar not only supplied Babbar Khalsa with weapons, but all the other groups as well. He was responsible for firstly, the liquidation of most of the Nirankari leadership, the Nirankari Baba Gurbachan, Niranjan Singh I.S.S in Chandigarh. Further major operations in Punjab, Delhi and Haryana, and was an expert in precise bombs explosions to kill targets. He also killed Agriculture Minister D.S. Tyagi, Ex-Cabinet Minister Joginderpal Painde in Ludhiana at Bhai Bala Chowk, Manjit Singh SHO, and many other dignatories & politicians.
A more accurate list of Bhai Sahib missions can be researched from “Vangaar” magazine copies. Many notorious names such as Radhe Shaam (Congress Leader), Khishi Raam Sharma (BJP Leader), and murderous police officers – Hargeet Singh S.H.O, Ghabar Singh S.H.O. of Ludhiana can be added to the list.
The Babbar Khalsa unit of Bhai Anokh Singh was sent to Delhi after the riots of 1984, under a plan drawn by Jathedar ji. They were credited with assassinations and explosions which killed many leading Congress politicians and planners of the riots.
Baba Gurbachan Singh Manochahal released a tape praising the character of Bhai Sahib. Politically their views differed. Bhai Sahib was in favour of boycotting elections, while Baba Manochahal was in favour of standing in them. Bhai Sahib saw this as accepting Indian supremacy and against the 1986 Declaration of Khalistan. However despite this difference the Pyar between the two Great Generals was clear to see.
When Police raided his Bhai Sahib house, where he had lived in disguise, they found numerous. Their books which detailed the Russian and French Revolutions. Other books on American Independence and its constitution, and books on English History and the workings of its Parliament. This showed how far Bhai sahib has studied into how nations are built and structured.
The day after Bhai Sahib’s shaheedi was announced, his body was taken to Ludhiana Civil Hospital under tight army security. A post mortem was done, and then quickly the body was taken to a commemoration ground and cremated. The authorities knew the popularity of Bhai Sahib in Punjab, and wanted to make sure no huge funeral could take place.
Worldwide numerous Akhand Paths & Rainsbhais were held in Bhai Sahib’s memory. The genocidal Chief Minister Beant Singh put a state wide curfew on the 20th August to ensure no Akhand Path Bhogs are held. This curfew was enforced with a “shoot to kill” policy on anyone seen walking the streets.
A day before, in the village Dhassuwal, Amritsar, an Akhand path bhog was held for the longest serving leader of the Khalistan Movement. Realising the impact on this, roadblocks were set on a 35km radius. All the villages within the radius were evacuated. Anyone trying to get to the bhog ceremony was arrested or shot on sight. Thousands of Police and Army personnel were sent to the area to enforce this.
So the 37 year old leader of the Sikh Freedom Movement, who was six foot tall, with a good build, hawkish eyes, brave warrior, and creator of the Babbar Khalsa had no Shaheedi smagam in his home village, but all of the world it was commemorated.
In his house, surrounded by Police, 5 young Singhs, his father, Bapu Jind Singh, his wife Bibi Sukhwant Kaur, Bibi Gurmeet kaur – his sister-in-law and wife of Bhai Mehal Singh, brothers Rushal Singh and Angrej Singh, and sisters Swaran kaur, Charan kaur, Jeet kaur, and cousins Harbans Singh, Daljit Singh and Sukha Singh were allowed to stand in ardas at the Akhand Path Bhog. They were all surrounded by Police.
Outside the Police had arrested and taken to prison everyone who tried to attend or was already present at the bhog. This included over 100 men, over 200 bibian, Bhai Sahib`s relatives, his children:- Tejinder Singh (13 years old), Gurwinder Singh (9 years old) and Amrit kaur (11 years old). Bhai sahib nephews:- Balraj Singh (19 years old) and Pargat Singh (17 years old), and other relatives Baghel Singh, Rashpal Singh, Baljit Singh, Baldev Singh, Dalbir Singh were also arrested and put in cells. Eve those Gursikhs making langar were not spared police arrest.
The Indian Security Services and especially RAW (Research and analysis Wing) knew the Babbar Khalsa group were a puritan group whose fight was based on high ideals. Jathedar Sukhdev Singh was an iconic figure in Punjab and the backbone of the movement. They knew they had to discredit him to make sure no new Sukhdev Singh should rise from his ashes. This policy had already been used effectively on Deepa Heran wale who was hugely popular in his area.
So a detailed propaganda campaign was launched by the security forces, and spread via the press, and even via other agents amongst the Sikh leadership. In hindsight now it is easy to see who is who. In them days it was more difficult. Just compare the sacrifices of Jathedar Sukhdev Singh Babbar, Anokh Singh Babbar, Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala, Avtar Singh Brahma, and Gurbachan Singh Manochahal, with those who spoke against them such as Badal, Wassan Zaffarwal, Dr Jagjit Chohan and other Panthic traitors.
Jathedar Sukhdev Singh was attacked on two points which is important to be cleared, as the propaganda was done over a number of years to the Sikh masses and some many still question Bhai Sahib.
Firstly, comments were made on his lifestyle mainly due to the house in which he lived. The house was very large and well decorated. We have to understand for Bhai Sahib to live for 14 years and take guerrilla warfare to the level that he did, plus also co-ordinate efforts worldwide, he could not have done this living in a field, a ditch, or a shack. The house and lifestyle were part of his disguise as the rich building contractor, which gave him access to numerous telephone lines, faxes, and powerful contacts. This was essential to run a parallel government like he between 1986 -1989.
Secondly propaganda was spread that he remarried and had children. This is also not true. Bhai Sahib was only married once to Bibi Sukhwant kaur in 1978, and he had children with her. To maintain his disguise, he could not have his actual wife living with him. She was constantly under surveillance, and it would expose his disguise straight away. As part of the disguise, it was made to look like he had a family. This was with a Bibi Parcharak who was sympathetic to the cause, and a child was adopted from a Shaheed family.
Bhai Sahib was a Gursikh of high calibre, with amazing qualities and a Jeevan full of Sewa, Simran and Sacrifice. Today the Panth desperately needs more like him…
This period between mid 1992 to 1993 saw the capture of many of the Leadership of the movement. Within months, Bhai Rashpal Singh Chandra, Bhai Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala, Jathedar Sukhdev Singh Babbar and Baba Gurbachan Singh Manochahal were Shaheed. Other key figures shifted operations to Pakistan and other countries. Later Wassan Zaffarwal, Dr Sohan Singh and Dr Jagjit Chohan showed their true colours.
In the run up to the next election, Congress Chief Minister Beant Singh made a statement that he was higher the Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh, because he has killed all his Singhs. By now a new generation had joined this path. Bhai Jagtar Singh Hawara had set up a unit, which decided to show Congress leader Beanta that Singhs had not been finished yet. A young Singh called Bhai Dilawar Singh Babbar sacrificed himself to assassinate Beant Singh and many of his aides. KPS Gill still walks free today.
Zorawar Singh – Panthic.org