Shaheed Bhai Satwant Singh was born in 1962 in the house of Sardar Tarlok Singh and Sardarni Pyaar Kaur, in the village Agwaan Kurd, district Gurdaspur. Village Agwaan Kurd is only 3km from the India – Pakistan border. Bhai Sahib had 2 elder brothers, Gurnam Singh and Waryam Singh, and a younger brother and sister, Swaran Singh and Ranjit Kaur. Bhai Sahib was educated to a higher secondary level at Dera Baba Nanak School.
In 1981, Bhai Satwant Singh moved from Burail jail in Uttar Pradesh to a new posting with the Delhi Armed Police. He was a very handsome young man, and an excellent sharp shooter. As a result he was later posted to the personal protection force of the Prime Minister. From the period of 1981 to 1984, he was the personal bodyguard of Indira Gandhi.
In 1983, Sarabjit Kaur, the wife of his elder brother Waryam Singh, asked her Massi (maternal aunt) for the hand in marriage of her daughter, Surinder Kaur, for Satwant Singh. Soon both of them were engaged. Both families had scheduled the wedding in 1984, but due to the fact that Satwant Singh could not get holidays, it was delayed.
In June 1984, the Sikh Nation witnessed the power-drunk Brahmin Indira Gandhi send the Indian Army, on the sacred day of the Shaheedi-purb of Sahib Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, to attack Sri Darbar Sahib, Sri Akal Takht Sahib, and 40 more historical Gurdwaras. They used many battalions of Army and tanks, and attacked the thousands of innocent pilgrims who came to pay respects of the Shaheedi of Guru Ji, and many, many Sikh Sangat, Singhs, Singhnian, children and elders became Shaheed. Sri Akal Thakht Sahib was desecrated by tanks. This army action by Indira Gandhi burned in the heart of every Sikh. It was like a great challenge had been placed before the Sikh Nation.
The Sikh Nation was extremely angry at the action. As well as the genocide, Sri Harmandar Sahib had been dishonoured, Sri Akal Thakht Sahib had been desecrated. The times of Massa Rangar had returned, and the Sikh Nation required a Bhai Sukha Singh and Bhai Mehtab Singh.
Bhai Beant Singh Malowan went to see some of his relatives. His uncle (Phuffer ji) was called Kehar Singh and was very knowledgable of Sikh philosophy. Beant Singh was in a state of shame, mixed with anger and depression. He asked, “Phuffer ji, will Waheguru send a Sukha Singh and Mehtab Singh to avenge this sin of desecration of Sri Darbar Sahib?” While handing him a book on Sant Jarnail Singh Bindranwale, his uncle replied, “do not grieve, if you have love with Sikhi, then learn that giving your head, and taking a head for Sikhi are equal. After all, someone has to be the sons of Sukha Singh and Mehtab Singh. They took Khande de Pahul Amrit from Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh, and then went and took the head of Massa Rangar to stop the desecration of Sri Darbar Sahib and 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. Now Bhai Beant Singh was looking for a companion who would sacrifice all to avenge the action on Sri Darbar Sahib. Eventually Beant Singh’s eye fell on Satwant Singh, who was in Indira Gandhi’s protection force with him. When he carefully approached Satwant Singh, the young Singh responded “Elder brother, for this sacred task, not only this life, but even if I have to sacrifice several lives, I would to kill a brutal murderer like Indira Gandhi!”
First Beant Singh and Satwant Singh wanted to see with their own eyes what Indira Gandhi had done in Punjab, and at Amritsar. The three Singhs shocked at the scene at Sri Akal Thakht Sahib, made their minds up and went to Sri Darbar Sahib and did Ardaas, “Oh Akaal Purkh, give us strength!”
After seeing the state of Sri Darbar Sahib, both Satwant Singh and Beant Singh returned to Delhi back to their duty. On 24th October 1984, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh took Amrit at a Gurdwara in Delhi. Neither were particularly knowledgeable on Gurbani, but Operation Blue Star and the legend of Sukha Singh and Mehtab Singh were foremost in their mind. This is what led them to take the blessing of Amrit.
Satwant Singh always had the late shift, and Beant Singh always had the early shift. They had to work out a way to both be on duty together. On 31st October, Satwant Singh faked a stomach bug, and swapped duties with another guard. Now they had to decide how to do the task. They decided the best time was when Indira Gandhi was doing her walkabout.
The Singhs shouted, “We have done what we needed to, now you can do what you have to.” Then both placed their weapons on the floor. Only then did the other guards come and arrest them. Both Singhs were taken to a room, while they waited for a senior officer to interrogate them. While waiting the commandos started swearing at the Singhs. Not tolerating this, Bhai Satwant Singh slapped the commando, and a struggle ensued, in which Satwant singh grabbed the commandos handgun. The other commandos started shooting at the Singhs. Bhai Beant Singh died there from gunshot wounds. Bhai Satwant Singh was seriously injured.
On arrival of a senior officer, Bhai Satwant Singh was taken to hospital. The officers wanted to know who else was part of the conspiracy. They did not know that these Singhs were acting alone because of the attack on Sri Darbar Sahib, Sri Akal Thakht Sahib, and the 40 Gurdwaras, the Sikh genocide of Singhs, Singhnias, children and elders, and the legend of 6th June 1740, when Sukha Singh and Mehtab Singh took revenge on Massa Rangar. The Government had saved Bhai Satwant Singh’s life, but intentionally did not remove one bullet which was lodged near his spine continuously causing him great pain. Despite this and other interrogation torture, Satwant Singh always maintained that there was no conspiracy, and the two were acting alone. He said, “This is our Khalsa tradition to avenge those who try to desecrate our holy places. We were happy to take this task. The Sikh Nation will be proud of us.”
The Government did not accept this, and took two innocent Sikhs, Kehar Singh and Balbir Singh and framed them with the assassination case aswell. They were jailed.
Bhai Satwant Singh was kept in Tihar jail in Delhi. His family and his fiancé, Bibi Surinder Kaur were only allowed to meet him 3 times. The bullet near his spine was still causing him great pain. The authorities would not allow doctors to see him. So one day he used his own finger nail to cut his skin and remove the bullet. After the bullet was removed, he regained his health and was in a state of Chardi Kala!
The authorities witnessing his better health and shining face, thought of new methods to affect him and his family. They stopped his fiancé from visiting him, stating that she can only visit once they have married. Bibi Surinder Kaur decided she would marry a photo of Satwant Singh, so that they could not use this excuse. Their relatives were unhappy with this decision. Bhai Satwant Singh’s father, Sardar Tarlok Singh stated, “Dear daughter, we will marry you to our youngest son Swaran Singh. The Khalsa Panth has had to deal with this brutal Indian Government. How can you ever expect any justice from such a brutal regime? Even courts are just pawns in the hands of Rajiv Gandhi. There is no hope that Satwant Singh will ever be free!”
Bibi Surinder Kaur replied, “Bapu Ji, a woman only ever loves one man. I have already accepted Satwant Singh as my beloved husband. He is my husband, and I am his wife. That is how it shall remain. The brother of Satwant Singh, will be my brother.”
Bibi Surinder Kaur’s father, Sardar Virsa Singh said, “Daughter, if you do not change your decision to marry the photo of Satwant Singh, then I will commit suicide by taking poison!”
Bibi Surinder Kaur replied, “Dear Father Ji, Gurbani states, Marran Lekiaee Mandal Mae Ayee, – every person has their death written by Akaal Purkh Waheguru before they are born on this earth. Waheguru has already written your last breath, and in the same way the decision on my marriage to Satwant Singh cannot change either. If it is written that he is going to die by hanging, then that will happen also. I am ready to face whatever comes my way in the future. Until my last breath, I will never let any stain come on respect due to the dastaar of Satwant Singh, your dastaar father, and the dastaar of my father-in-law.”
It was now the year 1988, the role of Sri Akal Thakht Jathedar was held by the dubious Jasvir Singh Rode. Due to the fact that Bibi Surinder Kaur would not change her mind to marry the photo of Satwant Singh, both families decided to take her to the Jathedar so he could convince her. Jasvir Singh said to her, “Bibi, do not rush to make such a big decision. There is no hope that the authorities will not give Satwant Singh a sentence of hanging. So do not make such a big life decision, without thinking it through…”
Bibi Surinder Kaur replied, “Singh Sahib Ji, you are right. The authorities will give Satwant Singh the hangmans noose. Both our families had decided to marry me and Satwant Singh. Due to Satwant Singh not getting holidays, the wedding was delayed at the last moment. However if Satwant Singh killed Indira Gandhi after our marriage, then he would have been sentenced to hanging aswell. I, as Satwant Singh’s wife would have had to see every hard time in the future. My husband, Satwant Singh did a great and brave task! The integrity of the Sikh Nation, it’s dastaar, was ripped off by Indira Gandhi and she stamped on it with her feet in June 1984. My husband took the dastaar of the Sikh Nation and replaced it on its head. Even in my worst dreams, I could never turn my back on such a great man. It can never happen! I have accepted Satwant Singh as my husband. I will never let a stain come on his Dastaar. I will spend my whole life as the widow of Satwant Singh!”
Akal Takhat Jathedar Jasvir Singh Rode said to both fathers of Satwant Singh and Bibi Surinder Kaur, that due to the strength of will of Bibi Surinder Kaur, we should allow her to marry the photo of Satwant Singh, in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
Every court in the land, only gave the sentence that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had wanted. In the Supreme Court, Bhai Satwant Singh made a statement. He said, “Let any part of my body, after my Shaheedi, be removed and used by anyone who may need. However if you need my eyes, let the authorities tell my parents. I have no hatred for any Hindu, Muslim, Christian, neither hatred for any religion. After my Shaheedi, let no Sikh throw any rock at any Hindu. I am not in favour of any retaliation or bloodshed over my Shaheedi. If we do create bloodshed, then there is no difference between us and Rajiv Gandhi. I am proud of the task that I did! I do Ardaas in front of Waheguru ! If I am blessed with a human life, then give me a death of the brave when I am hanged. Forget one life, if I could I would give up a thousand lives to kill dushts like Indira Gandhi, and laugh as I become Shaheed by hanging….”
His lawyer, Sardar Bhupinder Singh Sodhi was the last to meet Satwant Singh in Tihar jail. Sodhi said, “Beloved Satwant, I am so sorry I was unable to save you from the death sentence. Now this is the last time we will ever meet.” The lawyer said as he became emotional.
Sardar Satwant Singh replied, “Vakeel Sahib, you should be making me strong. We will meet again. Promise me you will fight my case next time aswell!”
Bhupinder Singh Sodhi replied, “Pyare Satwant, I do not understand what you are saying? All your appeals have failed. Tomorrow morning, 6th January, at 6am, both you and Kehar Singh will be hanged.”
Satwant Singh replied, “Vakeel sahib, whenever Waheguru gives me a human life, I will once again destroy the enemies of the Sikh Nation like Indira Gandhi. The again you will come and fight my case. Those who believe in truth and human rights, will always have to fight these brutal regimes. I will keep taking births! I will keep killing dushts! You will keep meeting me!”
Seeing Satwant Singh in such Chardi Kala, lawyer Bhupinder Singh Sodhi says, “Pyare Satwant, Great are you, Great is your Sikhi, so blessed am I who was able to fight a case of a Lionheart, brave warrior such as you. Waheguru Ji has blessed me just to have the darshan of you. Any nation that has warriors like you, Satwant Singh, brave, mard, soormas. That Nation can never be controlled, intimidated or suppressed.”
On 6th January 1989, it was raining. Nature was giving Bhai Satwant Singh and Bhai Kehar Singh a blessing, like one gives a garland around a neck. The thoughts of the whole Sikh Nation were with Bhai Satwant Singh and Bhai Kehar Singh. They had taken this most important task, and with it all this heartache had come on them and their families. Both were in Chardi Kala as they walked towards the noose. It was like the blessings of the whole Sikh Nation were with them as they walked.
In the end, on 6th January 1989, early at 4am, the authorities walked them towards the noose, their voices could be heard from outside the jail, shouting, “Bole So Nihal ! Sat Sri Akaal !” Then a few moments silence…………… As both of them stepped forward and kissed the hangmans noose, a very heavy rainfall started……….
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 Sutluj 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. When the cruel authorities started cremating the bodies, the rain suddenly stopped. Nature was doing its bit to respect the Shaheeds. As the bodies burned, the authorities did not have the heart to hand them back to the families. The 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?
Then to further insult the Shaheeds, the authorities dreamed up another stunt. The last wish of both Shaheed Satwant Singh and Shaheed Kehar Singh was that their ashes be taken to Sri Kartarpur Sahib. However the Police forced the families of these 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 Ardaas 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.
The thoughts of the whole Sikh Nation are with Bhai Satwant Singh and Bhai Kehar Singh. The brutal Indian regime may have killed Bhai Satwant Singh and Bhai Kehar Singh, but in the hearts of all Sikhs, they will forever live. They are immortalised in paintings on the walls of Sikh Gurdwaras, and they have recorded their names in the Volumes of Sikh History. They were the modern day Bhai Sukha Singh and Bhai Mehtab Singh.
Bibi Surinder kaur passed away a few years ago from cancer. She was widely respected in the Panth for the dedication with which she stayed with Bhai Satwant Singh.
Based on Jujharoo Yodhay by Bhai Maninder Singh Baja.
Translated by Bhai Zorawar Singh.