Warriors of Faith

Jathedar Sukhdev Singh Babbar

Shaheed Jathedar Sukhdev Singh Babbar was the iconic leader of the Khalistan movement between 1978 to 1992. He ranked among senior Generals like Bhai Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwale, Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma and Baba Manochal. However his impact was legendary, and was considered the backbone of the struggle. Such was the calibre of this Gursikh, that everyone referred to him as “The Jathedar…”. (one and only).
This is his story………

Taking Amrit
Shaheed Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar was born on 9th August 1955 in the house of Sardar Jind Singh and Mata Harnam Kaur, in the village Dhassuwal. This is in the Amritsar area of Punjab. Bhai Sahib had three brothers, Angrej Singh, Rashal Singh, Mehal Singh, and three sisters, Swaran kaur, Charan kaur, and Jeet Kaur.
Bhai Sahib studied till level 8 in Punjab. He worked on his own land 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 (Shaheed). He was highly impressed by Jathedar 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 Gathka education 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, Kirtan was just as important as becoming fearless Sons of Sahib Siri Guru Gobind Singh.

Vaisakhi 1978
Bhai Sahib wed Bibi Sukhwant Kaur in an Anand Karaj Ceremony on Vaisakhi, 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 sect called Nakli Narankaries had mercilessly killed 13 Sikhs protesting against their anti-Sikh activities. A further 150 Sikhs had been injured. 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 the next morning, he caught a bus for Amritsar, and after the Saskar (funeral) of the 13 Gursikhs, he returned a changed person.
The Punjab Government brought a murder case against the leader of the Nirankaries called “Gurbachana”. However this case was intentionally moved from Punjab to Karnal, in Haryana. This sect called Nirankaries enjoyed the patronage of Indira Gandhi, who wished to use it to destroy the strangehold of Akali party control in Punjab. She 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 Nirankaries were part of this plan.
Parkash Badal, the leader of the Akali Dal in Punjab, was also secretly helping “Gurbachana”. Praksah Badal`s role in the History of Punjab has been very dubious, and it can be stated he has been the Sikh version of Gangu Brahmin, who sent many Khalsa youth to their deaths. Parkash Badal further ensured that “Gurbachana” walked free from the courts. Previously it had been Parkash Badal who had smuggled “Gurbachana” out of Punjab on the night of the murders on Vaisakhi 1978.

Youth Get Organized…
The charismatic leader of the Damdami Taksal, Sant Baba Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale were infuriated by this. He also held Jathedar Fauja Singh in high esteem. He 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 he was also a man of action. He had realised while these Nirankaries 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 Nirankaries, 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 Nirankaris. “Gurbachana” had held himself up as a modern “Guru Gobind Singh ji”, to infuriate Sikhs. As Sikhism had “Panj Pyares” (5 beloveds) , the Nirankaris set up their “Sat Sitares” (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 always lead from the front. He 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 Nirankaries, and also helping them hunt young Sikhs who were standing up to the Nirankaries.
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 training. His house was surrounded by the Punjab Police and Security Forces. Bhai Sahib 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 attain Shaheedi.

Forming of the Jathebandi

The Shaheedi of Bhai Amerjit Singh Daheru led the Indian Security Services to realize that many of the actions against the Nakli Nirankaries, had not been done by Sant Jarnail Singh, as they had widely began to demonize him in the national press. Instead they had been done by a small group of organized 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 highly spiritual Sikhs to be harassed in police cells. They went 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 Nirankaries 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 gupt underground organization. The Singhs in India felt the Jathedar needs to be active on a front-line level. Someone who knows the workings of India and could affect things on the front-line, and 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 Jathebandie must be Amritdhari, and strict in Amrit vela and Sikh code of conduct. They must be knowledge and 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 Sangatee Seva, 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 seva, they must be abyassi, 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.

Jathedar Sukhdev Singh's Jeevan
Bhai Sahib had a very high Jeevan. His eyes shone, and his stature was like Purataan 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 there 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 realized he was the backbone of the movement. As other Generals were being Shaheed, they were being replaced, however Bhai Sahib was so iconic and organizationally effective, he would be irreplaceable. Many Singhs were tortured in the cruelest of manner to find out the whereabouts 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 Jeevans. Both when captured were severely tortured. Bhai Anokh Singh jis 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 anthing 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 organization 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 there 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 there 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.

Discipline Amongst the Ranks

It is essential in any successful organisation to have discipline amongst the ranks. Bhai Sahib would initially only allow Spiritual and Rehitvaan 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 Jujahroo 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 Jujarhoo 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 Jujarhoos, 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 succume 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.

Punjab Police and the Movement
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 Jujahroo 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 Ribero 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 Manochal group, and others. The policy worked in many ways, it stopped villagers sympathising with groups, 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 annihilate 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.

Jathedar Jee's Capture and Shahidi

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 arrested on night of 8th August 1992. 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. Police officers, led by KP Gill took a severly tortured and wounded Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar near Ludhiana and shot him point blank range, showing a false encounter.

This way, the great and legendary leader of Sikh Sangharsh attained Shaheedi on same say he was born.

Parnaam Shaheedan Nu

Posted by Kamaljeet Singh Shaheedsar on Saturday, August 9. 2014 in History

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