It is not easy to be a Shaheed. An abhyaasi Gursikh once told me that a Shaheed does find a place in Sachkhand but only if his last moments are free from ego and he has died not for glory or out of stubbornness but for the sake of the Panth. In the final moments of the Shaheed's life, if his consciousness is absorbed in Naam, Guru Sahib does kirpa and jyot vigas (enlightment) occurs at that moment.
The example of Bhai Ravinder Singh Babbar's life is that of a Gursikh life and glorious martyrdom.
Bhai Ravinder Singh was born in village Shatrana, Amritsar. His parents were Giani Harbhajan Singh and Mata Gurnam Kaur. He was the youngest of six brothers. From birth, Bhai Sahib was raised in a Gursikh environment. His father, Giani Harbhajan Singh jee was a close companion of Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh jee. Bhai Ravinder Singh was given amrit at a very early age and also kept the rehet of bibek as a child.
Bhai Ravinder Singh was not an ordinary child. He, from an early age, had dedication and love for Gursikhi and his family recalls that his bravery and courage were unparalleled.
Once, when he was just four or five years old, Bhai Ravinder Singh fell off a wall and broke his arm in two places. His father, Giani Harbhajan Singh said to him as he was being taken to have his arm set, 'Puratan Singhs would be cut apart, piece by piece but they would not even make a sound. You too should be brave like them.' The two reached the home of the person who set broken bones and showed him the arm. He said that because the bone was broken in two places, he would need to twist the bone back into place. Giani jee had bought some grapes for little Ravinder Singh and told him that while his arm was being set, he could eat them. As the man twisted the boy's arm, Ravinder Singh calmly ate the grapes and did not make a sound.
After the arm was set, Giani ji asked how much he should pay. The man replied, "I will take no payment from you. I feel like I should give this boy a reward from my own pocket. I have seen big burly men scream in pain while I am setting a bone that is this badly broken. I used to wonder about the stories of Singhs in old times not crying out in pain, but if Sikh children can be like this now, what were those Singhs like?"
Moving to Panjokhra Sahib
Puratan Singhs like Bhai Atma Singh Panjokhra, Dr. Surinder Singh jee and Baba Surain Singh jee used to regularly come to Gianiji's home and Bhai Ravinder Singh had the opportunity to do their Sangat. Bhai Atma Singh used to call the little boy 'Jathedar.'
Dr. Surinder Singh jee was quite close with Gianiji. On one occasion in 1978, he told Gianiji that in the future, Darbar Sahib would be attacked and the parkarma would be bathed in blood. He also encouraged Giani jee to move away from Shatrana and go somewhere else. So in 1979, Giani jee took his family to Panjokhra Sahib in Haryana. Gianiji's younger brother also moved with them. (Later, Shatrana village would be very hard hit by the Indian Security forces and many of the young boys were tortured and killed. The picture of Bhai Avtar Singh Shatrana's body is one of the main exhibits of Punjab Police torture techniques and is very commonly displayed.)
Avtar Singh Shatrana 'Jathedar'
When Bhai Ravinder Singh started school at Panjokhra Sahib, the local boys considered him and his cousins outsiders and were unfriendly. One day, a boy came to him at school and said, 'Do you know what happened today? Someone slapped your cousin! He got slapped like THIS!! With this, he slapped Ravinder Singh across the face. Bhai Ravinder Singh pounced on the boy and began to beat him. The other local boys joined in the fight and thought there was strength in numbers. Bhai Ravinder Singh broke a branch off a nearby tree and chased the group of boys away. The Physical Education teacher was watching all this and called the young boy and patted him on the back and said he should be proud. He then called all the boys who had attacked Ravinder Singh together and punished them. He also asked them, "How is it possible that one boy chased all of you away?" After this day, everyone began to call Bhai Ravinder Singh 'Jathedar', just as Bhai Atma Singh had been doing from a very early age.
Bhai Sahib & The Drunk
Once, Bhai Ravinder Singh was on his tractor at night, coming from his fields, when he saw someone run towards him with a sword. Ravinder Singh was still a young boy and it would have been natural for him to be afraid and run away, but he took a crow bar from the tractor and began to run towards the man with the sword. When he came near, the man yelled, 'No! Don't hit me! It's me!!' It was a drunk who said that his enemies were after him and he carried the sword to protect himself and he had mistaken Ravinder for one of them. Ravinder Singh came home and everyone was amazed at the young boy's daring.
Joining the Movement
Bhai Ravinder Singh studied until the tenth grade and completed it in 1987. He then worked on the family farm for a year. The Sikh Liberation Movement was growing in these days and Bhai Ravinder Singh was interested in joining. He asked his father whether he should join. Gianiji told him that the path he was interested in was very difficult."This is not something easy. If you are captured and falter, not only will you commit the sin of turning in others and having them killed, but you will also disgrace your family and the entire Sikh community."
After this, Bhai Ravinder Singh began to keep to himself more. He increased his Nitnem and Naam Abhyaas. Before becoming a 'Sipahi', he would first become a 'Sant'. He wanted to reach a stage where he would be confident that he could face torture and be able to withstand it. He wanted to be spiritually prepared for the battle ahead. Slowly, he made links with Singhs from Babbar Khalsa. The family home was raided in 1988 by the police and the next day, Bhai Sahib left home, never to return. His beard had still not grown in and the picture above is the final picture Bhai Sahib's family had taken.
Focus on Gurmat & Chardikala
Bhai Ravinder Singh made frequent trips to training camps in Pakistan and became a trusted member of the Jathebandi. Although he was young, everyone respected him and knew that his decisions were always firmly based on Gurmat. There was once a group meeting in which many senior Singhs were in attendance. Bhai Sahib was also present. The issue being discussed was how to fund the movement. Some suggested robbing banks and other means. Ravinder Singh rose after all had had their say and asked, 'May I speak?' Although permission was granted, because he was the youngest person at the meeting, some Singhs did not think a youngster like him would have anything worthwhile to say. Bhai Ravinder Singh said, 'We are all fugitives here, and our properties are useless to us. Why don't we sell those first, to make money?" Everyone at the meeting was amazed at how Gurmat oriented and wise his suggestion was.
In 1989, Bhai Ravinder Singh met one of his brothers. He was in chardikala. His elder brother encouraged him to do as much Naam Abhyaas as possible. Bhai Sahib confided that with Guru Sahib's kirpa, whenever he woke up in the middle of the night, he noticed that he was either reciting bani or his Naam Khanda was going automatically. Bhai Ravinder Singh asked his brother to take him into town on the back of his bike. His brother recalls that although there were security forces all around, Bhai Sahib kept smiling and showed no sign of fear.
Joins High Command
After some time, Bhai Ravinder Singh rose to the high command of Babbar Khalsa. He was still very young and one well known area commander complained that it didn't make sense that such a young man could be his senior. After some time however, that Singh too recognized Bhai Sahib's qualities and began to respect him.
Babbar Khalsa was organized in a manner by which the High Command was isolated and separated from the workers. So an area worker would not be familiar with the senior Singhs in the Jathebandi. This was the most wise arrangement in order to maintain secrecy and security. Bhai Ravinder Singh was given the duty of being an intermediatary between the High Command and local workers. He was thus in the sensitive position of knowing both levels. He supplied and distributed arms to the Singhs.
Faith & Dedication
Once, Bhai Sahib and a companion were taking arms to their companions. They performed an Ardas for the success of their mission and left. They had packed the guns and ammunition in a bundle of sugarcane and placed it on the back of their motorcycle. On the way, they saw that at a distance, there was a major Police checkpoint (naka). The Singh accompanying Bhai Sahib suggested they turn around. Ravinder Singh replied that they had done Ardas and that they should now have faith. The police motioned for the motorcycle to slow down. Bhai Ravinder Singh slowed the motorcycle's speed, making it seem as though he was pulling over but all of a sudden he stepped on the gas and drove through. The police opened fire and began to give chase, but the Singhs entered the village streets and threw the police off their trail. Bhai Sahib had full faith that Guru Sahib would himself help them in their cause.
On another occasion, Bhai Sahib and a companion were staying at a home in the Patiala area. It was the time of Amrit vela and Bhai Sahib said that they should go to Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib for Darshan and listen to keertan. Bhai Sahib's companion said that it was dangerous to go out and that they could listen to keertan on the radio. Ravinder Singh replied that it was better to go to Guru Sahib's hazoori. As the two left, they saw that the village was going to be surrounded and searched by the security forces. The Singhs reached Dukh Nivaran Sahib and after paying obeisance, Bhai Ravinder Singh said he would right away return. The Singh with him asked, "First you were so eager to come, now why are you going back? You yourself saw that the village was being surrounded." Bhai Sahib replied that if the police had come for them after being tipped off, and they were not there, the family they were staying with would be harassed, and so it was better to go back. Bhai Sahib returned and since the security forces were monitoring just those leaving the village, they did not take any notice of those entering. Bhai Sahib returned to the house. The search operation never reached the house he was staying at as it was one of the last and it was decided that it was not worth searching.
To be continued...