Jathedar Sardar Kartar Singh ji Jhabbar
Jathedar Kartar Singh ji Virk (alias Jhabbar) was born at Village Jhabbar in District Sheikhupura in the month of September 1874 A.D. He was grandson of Sardar Mangal Singh Virk who had accepted the rule of Sarkar Khalsa of Ranjit singh. Earlier Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s father Sardar Mahan singh had attacked Virks of Jhabbar but lost two battles. Ranjit Singh decided to form an alliance with Virks and Sardar Mangal singh virk was more than happy to serve Sarkar Khalsa. Sardar Mangal singh virk was given rank of Kumedan in the army of Khalsa.
Bhai Kartar Singh was brought up as a classic Punjabi peasent, where youngsters would apart from working in fields, spent their time measuring their chests and biceps, learning how to fight with a staff, eating drinking milk, lassi and other Punjabi goodies. Sardar Kartar singh was a tall and manly looking. His attire was also a classic Punjabi Jutt’s attire of Kurta, Chadra , Pagri and a heavy staff ( Summan wali Daang ). God has given him a body and voice which was built to lead armies instead of common Punjabi folks. He would neither talk bad neither listen bad from anyone, neither was he easy going. Simply in few words "A born leader"
His endeavor with preaching Sikhism started when he met Bhai Mool Singh Gurmuula in 1904 A.D. In those days Sikh preachers would visit village to village and give lectures about Sikhism. Situation of Sikhism was bad, Gurdwaras were under control of Mahants, Sikhs were fastly assimiliating into Hinduism. At one such lecture he listened to Bhai Mool Singh when he was speaking at village virn . Bhai Mool Singh’s lecutre gave him such enthusiasm to serve Sikhism that anytime a need of preacher arose in any village he along with his party would reach there. He was a fierce worker (Sewadar) of Singh Sabha movement. At one such incident at village Kotli Dasu Singh when a muslim who wanted to convert to Sikhism and about 40-50 muslims attacked the ongoing ceromony. Sardar Kartar Singh Jhabbar and his party defended this ceromony with their staffs. Singh Sabha movement was actively converting Low caste Hindus and Muslims to Sikhism at this time all over Punjab. Normally in such a ceromony after a lecture of Sikh leaders and Gurbani, a Jathedar would call to a congregation that if anybody wants to become a Amritdhari Sikh he/she should come forward. Kartar Singh Jhabbar visited numerous villages all over Punjab and give his lecture in many congregation. Then Jhabbar started making members of Singh Sabha. In two months he made 500 members, during his lectures at Gurdwara Baoli Sahib everyday about five six thousands Sikhs would gather. Later he shifted his headquarters to Lahore. Chief Khalsa Diwan at this time was creating Khalsa Colleges schools as well as involved with all the academic activites associated with Sikhism. In 1912, Sardar Kartar Singh Jhabbar established a Khalsa Middle school at village Sacha Sauda, distt Sheikhupura. He appointed Sardar Arjun Singh as Principle of this school. He was back to his original job of touring villages and lecturing about Sikhism. Then in 1913 on 13th april, a british troops opened fire on a congregation at Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar. Then rioting and activities against British army, police, administration offices, and railways started all over Punjab. Eventhough Jhabbar and other Sikh leaders did not led any rioters which were spontaneous after massacre at Jalianwala Bagh, still they were arrested. Few days later, a sessions judge sentenced death to Kartar Singh Jhabbar, Teja Singh Chuharkana, Kahan Singh Chuharkana and Jagir Singh muridka and sentence at Andaman and nicobar island for seventeen other Sikhs. Jhabbar greeted judge with "Sat Sri Akal" after his sentence was read. Sardar Kartar Singh Jhabbar claimed later that in jail at this time he was visited by Guru Gobind Singh who gave him more power to lead Sikhs. Kartar Singh Jhabbar’s sentence was reduced to life term after police found no evidence of his involvement in riots and he was sent to remote Islands in bay of bengal. Jhabbar was released from jail in 1920 and he was back in Punjab actively visiting villages and lecturing about Sikhism.
Gurdwara reform movement was started in 1920 A.D. by Singh Sabha’s political wing later called Akali Dal. Another Sikh preacher was a close friend of Kartar Singh Jhabbar named Teja Singh Bhuchar. Both were called by Akali dal party to reach Gurdwara Babe ki Ber as the first Gurdwara to be reformed. At this time this gurdwara was under Mahant Harnam singh’s widow, she resisted as Gurdwara was her all income but Akali leaders give her pension and this Gurdwara was put under an elected committe led by Baba Kharak Singh. Then akali party decided to take over Golden Temple at Amritsar. Kartar Singh’s party i.e. Jatha when reached Golden Temple, the priest was not letting in some low caste people who had converted to Sikhism. Jhabbar ran and after letting these people in went upto Akal Takht and started speaking to Sikh congregation. He told the sikh congregation that these priests do not let in low caste converts from Hindus to golden Temple, neither do they give them Karah Prasad, in his lecture he told about Gurus and their movement to eradicate these evils., and need to reform Gurdwaras by taking over from heriditory Mahants. Thus on 28th June 1920, Golden Temple and Akal Takht was under control of Singh Sabha and democratically elected committe called Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee. Then Gurdwara Panja Sahib at Hasan Abdal was next. At this town the majority populatin was Hindu who resisted activities of Singh Sabha. One Hindu leader of this town even called Jhabbar and Virks as "person from savage tribe of virk who are worse than pathans who loot and kill mercilessly." This Gurdwara was under control of Mahant Mitha Singh., he had given contract to a Hindu confectioner inside the Gurdwara where cigaretts as well as prasad was sold. Often Sikhs would fight with this confectioner over his smoking inside the Gurdwara. Kartar Singh Jhabbar’s party reacher Hasan Abdal on 19th November 1920. And next day at congregation Jathedar Kartar Singh declared that this Gurdwara is also under control of Akalis. Same night about five six thousand Hindus sorrounding Gurdwara Panja sahib. Police also reached there and dispersed Hindus. Then next day about 250-300 Hindu women came into Gurdwara and declared that they will not leave and that this is theirs. Kartar Singh Jhabbar did nothing after after few hours these women left. Then first congregation of Gurdwara under Singh Sabha was called and Punja Sahib Gurdwara was formally initiated into SGPC. On 24th December, at a meeting at Sheikhupura where Akali party was formed and named "Akali Jatha Khara Sauda Bar", Jhabbar was elected a jathedar of this party. Jhabbar and his party also freed Gurdwara Sacha Sauda. At Sacha Sauda a Sikh told Jhabbar about a sorry state of Gurdwara at Nankana Sahib and how Mahant Narain Dass was looting and raping innocent pilgrims. Akali party decided to take over Gurdwara TarnTaran Sahib where Mahants were involved in activites like (1)members of Arya Samaj who was publishing material against Sikhs and Guru Nanak, (2) drinking and smoking inside premises of Gurdwara, (3) Mahants would have dancing girls inside Gurdwara (4) any visiting girl to Gurdwara was harassed. Jhabbar and his ally Bhuuchar immediately took their parties Jathas to TarnTaran. After Ardaas and initial declaration when party was sleeping at night the Priests of Gurdwara threw a crude bomb and bricks in the courtyard in front of Gurdwara. Many sikhs were wounded., and some reformers started running. Sardar Kartar Singh Jhabbar and Teja Singh Bhuchar stopped their people. Next morning, Sikhs from sorrounding villages were there and Gurdwara was taken over by SGPC. Then Jhabbar freed Gurdwara Guru Ka Bagh which is close to Amritsar city and Gurdwara Bave ki Ber as well as four other Gurdwaras.
Jhabbar received more reports from his confidential aide Sardar Waryam Singh at Nanakana sahib about debauchery of Mahant Narain Das. A noble Hindu sessions judge from Sindh had visited Gurdwara Nanakana sahib where his 13 years old daughter was raped by one of the Mahants. Akali party decided to free up this Gurdwara from Mahant Narain Das. Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabbar’s Jatha and other Jathas were sent to free up this Gurdwara. Saka Nankana Sahib happened when Mahant Narain Das killed 50-100 Sikhs who had gathered at Gurdwara at Nankana sahib under Gurdwara reform movement free up Gurdwara from Mahant. Noted activists like Bhai Dalip Singh ji were massacred by hooligans gathered there by Mahant. Mahant was later arrested by and was found guilty of crime.
At the same time struggle for Independence was spearheaded by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Later known as Mahatma Gandhi). Gandhi wanted to use Sikh’s resentment against British towards Independence struggle. On 22 February 1921, two days after massacre, Governor of Punjab, Gandhi and other Sikh and Hindu leaders visited Nankana Sahib. Initially British governor did not gave the keys of Gurdwara to Akali party but he had to bow to pressure from Jhabbar and his accomplice and thus Gurdwara Nankana sahib was freed. Then Punjab governor in a confidential memo to the government of India noted "The Akali movement is likely to be a cause of much greater concern than the civil disobedience campaign of Gandhi."
Thn two episodes during the year 1923 happened first deposition of Maharaja Ripudaman Singh of Nabha second Saka Gangsar Jaito was started by Akalis Jhabbar actively participated in these agitation. Akalis would take out Jatha from Golden Temple walk through villages and then at Jaito government would arrest them, so many people were arrested that all jails were full and government had to bow to pressure and hand over Gurdwara Gangsar to Akalis. Thus after long and peaceful struggle which cost the Sikhs 400 dead in police firing, 20,000 injured, 30,000 jailed men and women, besides dismissals from services, withdrawals of Jagirs and pensions, confiscation of properties, imposition of fines, Rs 15 lacs, the corrupt, and anti-Sikh maryada Mahants and pujaris were driven out from Sikh Gurdwara, which were not brought under the control of the Guru panth through this act. This added another glorious chapter of Sikh chronicles of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Jathedar Jhabbar, realizing the nature of long drawn out Morchas at Jaito and Bhai Pheru decided to remain outside jail so as to help arrange volunteers for this struggle. The 8th 500 strong Shaidee Jatha was sent by him from Gurdwara Sacha Sauda. He toured through out Punjab, delivered spirited speeches and exhorted Sikhs to get baptized to fight Govt. with heart and soul. But Jhabbar was arrested and sentenced 18 years of Jail, but released after four and half years of indescribable hardships in different jails, Jhabbar was released as a mere skeleton, thoroughly shattered in health., for the govt. would not take the risk of his dying inside a jail.
After Gurdwara act was passed in 1925, taking possession of all the properties in the name of different Gurdwara in Punjab was a Himalayan task. Several tenants accused Jhabbar of forcibly throwing them from properties, some even accused him of murder. But Jhabbar was exonerated of all these crimes. Jhabbar and his 25 member squad took possession of the properties worth annual income of a Lac and a half of Gurdwara Kot Bhai Than Singh, from local western educated nawab, in September 1937.
Jhabbar would now attend Panthic functions and speak on current subjects. Sometimes, he would expose Govt. misdeeds publicly. On one such report a warrant was issued against him in 1944. By then he had developed urinary trouble. He was arrested and later sentences to one year imprisonment. He was 70 years old then. On release, he again engaged himself in gurmat parchar and panthic activities. During the partition of 1947, Jhabbar came to India after every Hindu and Sikh had left Nankana Sahib area. He then occupied himself in resettlement of refugees on this side of border. Himself with the family he settled in village Habri in Karnal district. During his remaining 14 years of life, he got a High school, a paved road, a Hospital, and other similar amenities for the area sanctioned by govt. In 1962, after a brief illness, he passed away when he was 88 years old. Bhai Narain Singh records, "I frequently visited him during his illness. First of all he would always inquire about news regarding Panthic welfare."
Such is a life story, in brief of Akali Jathedar Kartar Singh Virk aka ‘Jhabbar’. The Sikh nation, as such, is eternally indebted to these Akali and Chief Khalsa Diwan crusaders for their acts of Panthic devotion, rare chivalry and wise leadership.