(Based on ਜੁਝਾਰੂ ਯੋਧੇ By Maninder Singh Baja)
One of the most famous and effective Khalsa generals to have taken part in the Sikh Liberation Movement was Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma. The name of 'Brahma' used to strike terror into the hearts of Indian Security Forces. Bhai Brahma also had a very special relationship with Canadian and other Western Singhs who had gone to fight for Sikh Freedom. Bhai Avtar Singh was a true Nihang Singh of Guru Gobind Singh and when the Panth needed his head, he was prepared to make the sacrifice.
Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma was born in 1951 in village Brahmpura, which falls in the Tarn Taran area of Amritsar district. Bhai Brahma's parents were S. Sohan Singh and Mata Chanan Kaur. Bhai Avtar Singh was the youngest of four brothers. His three elder brothers, S. Balkar Singh, S. Sadha Singh and S. Hardev Singh continue to live in the village and farm for a living.
Bhai Avtar Singh completed his early education until the fifth grade in the village primary school. After this, he began to work in the family's farm.
In 1966, Baba Daya Singh jee from the Sursingh Nihang Jatha (Baba Bidhi Chand Dal) came to village Lohar along with his Singhs. There was a week long Gurmat Samagam in which there was an Akhand Patth Sahib, gatka demonstrations and finally at the end, an amrit sanchar. Bhai Avtar Singh and his brother Bhai Sadha Singh worked until noon time one day and then decided to go to nearby village Lohar to watch the gatka. Bhai Avtar Singh was so impressed that he decided to become amritdhari at the amrit sanchar being held. After this, Bhai Avtar Singh began to live a strict Gursikhi jeevan and stayed with the Bidhi Chand Dal. He would only occasionally take a leave from the Dal to meet with his family and parents.
The Jathedar of Bhai Bidhi Chand Dal, Baba Daya Singh, saw the seva and simran of Bhai Avtar Singh and because he was also from village Brahmpura, began to call him Bhai Brahma Singh. After this Bhai Avtar Singh began to be called either Bhai Brahma Singh or Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma.
With the Nihang Singhs
Bhai Avtar Singh used to do seva in the langar and also took care of the Dal's horses. Bhai Avtar Singh was a master of Shastar Vidiya. He could do a gatka demonstration for two hours straight, all by himself. Bhai Avtar Singh was also famous for being able to ride on two horses at once and then stand up, with one leg on each. He would even do a demonstration in which he would lie down on the backs of two horses and have them run at top speed. Bhai Avtar Singh was a master of all weapons including swords, spears, pistols and even rocket launchers.
Once, Baba Daya Singh was talking with Baba Bishan Singh, Jathedar of Tarna Dal (Baba Bakala) when they began to discuss an article in the newspaper which said that a French horse rider had such skill that he could race a horse at full speed and be able to spear a target on the ground with a lance at the same time. The Singhs began to discuss if this was even possible, when Bhai Avtar Singh entered the conversation. Bhai Brahma had been sitting quietly but then spoke up and said 'If the Frenchman can do that, then a Guru ka Singh can ride TWO horses while standing and do the same thing.'
The Singhs were surprised by this claim and challenged Bhai Avtar Singh to prove it. Bhai Avtar Singh brought two horses and while riding one, held the reigns of the other. He began to race the horses and when they had reached top speed, he stood up on both. Bhai Brahma with his neja (spear) then pierced a stake in the ground, which was placed as his target, and threw it up into the air. Everyone watching was amazed at the skill and after this incident, Bhai Avtar Singh became very well known not just among the Nihang Dals, but also amongst the common villagers.
Baba Daya Singh and Baba Jarnail Singh
Baba Daya Singh Sursinghvale and Baba Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale were very close and the two used to meet quite often. Baba Jarnail Singh had begun the Dharam Yudh Morcha to fight for Sikh rights and this movement had become very popular amongst the Sikh youth. Baba Jarnail Singh's words had spurred Sikh pride and revived the Sikh spirit in Punjab. Bhai Avtar Singh too heard Baba Jarnail Singh speak and felt the urge to help free the Sikh people from the clutches of the Brahmin government.
Sri Darbar Sahib had been surrounded by now and it was clear that the government was preparing for a fight. On May 30, 1984, Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma and Bhai Amreek Singh JauRa decided that as Khalsa warriors, it was their duty to fight for Sikh freedom. They asked for leave from Baba Daya Singh and after saying their final Fateh to the other Singhs in the Jatha, left Sursingh for Sri Darbar Sahib.
Bhai Avtar Singh and Bhai Amreek Singh went directly to Sri Akal Takhat Sahib and presented themselves to Baba Jarnail Singh. With Baba jee were other Singhs such as Baba Thara Singh, Bhai Amrik Singh, Bhai Durga Sigh, Bhai Major Singh Nagoke, etc. Bhai Avtar Singh explained that they had come to defend Sri Darbar Sahib and give their Shaheedee. After some discussion, Baba Jarnail Singh addressed the Singhs and said, 'Your Shaheedee here will not be of as much value is it could be. The army has surrounded us and is ready to attack. Who knows what will happen in a few days. Go back to your villages and do simran. When the time is right, Singhs will come get you themselves. I am sending some other Singhs out of the complex today as well to continue the struggle after us. Jathedar Durga Singh will come get you when the time is right. You must go now so that the fight can continue.
Bhai Avtar Singh and Bhai Amreek Singh returned to their villages and waited. Three days later, the Indian Government attacked Sri Darbar Sahib along with 37 other Gurdwaras. Thousands of Sikhs were butchered and Sri Akal Takhat Sahib was destroyed.
The Next Phase
Baba Jarnail Singh had prepared for the next phase of the battle. Singhs like Bhai Durga Singh, Bhai Manbir Singh ChaheRu, Baba Gurbachan Singh Manochahal, Bhai Sukhdev Singh Sakhira, Bhai AruR Singh, Bhai Gurdev Singh Usman Vala, etc. had been sent out of the complex to organize the resistance. As promised, Bhai Durga Singh came and met Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma. A meeting had been organized in which a new Jathebandee, the 'Khalistan Liberation Force' was created. The central Singhs of this jathebandee were Bhai Durga Singh, Bhai Kuldeep Singh Muchal, Bhai Gurdeep Singh Vakeel, Bhai AruR Singh and Bhai Gurdev Singh.
Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma was an active Sikh fighter but when Bhai Arur Singh was captured by the Police and then martyred, Bhai Brahma rose to prominence as he was appointed the next Jathedar of the Khalistan Liberation Force.
War on Invaders
Indian Security Forces had now flooded Punjab. The Central Army, Central Reserve Police Force, National Guard, Border Security Force, RAW, etc. had been deployed in full force in Punjab. These outsiders already had a dislike for Sikhs and now as they began to roam the villages and roads of Punjab, took special pleasure in humiliating Sikhs. Rapes became common and the sight of jeeps filled with soldiers became an all too regular terror.
Bhai Avtar Singh decided that these invading forces had to be taught a lesson. It was decided by the Jathebandee that a direct war should be waged. When CRPF, BSF or Army jeeps would come on a round, the Singhs would attack. The jeep was either stopped by a bomb and then showered with bullets or simply surrounded by Singhs.
In one instance, in village Baler, Bhai Brahama and the other Singhs surrounded a CRPF jeep. The CRPF men tried to flee while firing their guns, but were shot dead. The Singhs stripped them of their weapons and ammunition. The CRPF was furious. They went to village Baler and arbitrarily shot two farmers, Chatter Singh and Hazara Singh. To hide their ineptitude, the CRPF told reporters that in a major encounter, the CRPF men had been killed but they had also managed to shoot two 'terrorists'. Bhai Avtar Singh sent a personal message to the newspapers and made clear that those who had been shot were innocent and not part of the Sikh Resistance. The CRPF was put to shame.
Where before the Indian Security Forces patrolled the streets to terrorize the Sikh villagers, it was now their turn to be terrorized. The Jeeps stopped patrolling many areas. Sikh fighters began to conduct their own patrols and entire areas of the Punjab were under the Khalsa's control.
A Newspaper Report
Newspapers began to carry reports of the new Sikh rule and the powerlessness of the Indian Forces. One article carried the following report: 'Accompanied by the district flood committee members, the Deputy Commissioner began his tour from Harike on the banks of the Sutlej downstream. As the convoy of vehicles containing all the officials was a little short of the last vulnerable point of the Indian side on the river, the team spotted three 'babas' (a term used for terrorists) walking in the barata (sandy island on the river course).
Initially, there was panic as not many had actually seen a terrorist in real life. The three terrorists who had draped shawls around themselves obviously seemed to be carrying arms and were coming in from across the border as beyond that point was alien land.
On seeing the vehicles and the security personnel accompanying the DC, the three did not try to flee but just sat down. According to some, they took up positions.
An accompanying Superintendent of Police from Tarn Taran, Dharam Singh, took a few men and advanced towards the terrorists in an attempt to scare them, but the officials of the Irrigation and Drainage Department present suggested they avoid any provocation as very often repair work was being carried out in these areas and if the terrorist were harmed their accomplices would get even with these officials. The SP therefore came back and the plan to go any further for inspection was also dropped.
All this while, the three terrorists were sitting on the banks, but the moment the vehicles reversed to leave, they got up and began to cross the river, seemingly in a haughty mood.'
The report also says that Sikh fighters 'have also set up their own check points and persons who have to go beyond those points to work in their farms are frisked by them'. It concludes with the story of a CRPF patrol being intercepted by a tractor driven by Sikh fighters and the patrol being fired upon.
As jeeps upon jeeps of Indian Security Forces were beginning to be destroyed, and many areas becoming inaccessible to Indian Security, the Hindustani government was afraid that Punjab was fast slipping away.
To Be Continued...