Historical Sikh Events: Saka Punja Sahib
The heroic event which took place at Hasan Abdal railway station
Trains carrying prisoners stop only after crushing 11 Campaigners.
On the 8th August, 1922 A.D., the police arrested five Singhs for cutting Acacia wood for langar (community kitchen) from uncultivated land attached to Gurdwara Guru Ka Bagh. Everyone was sentenced to a fine of rupees fifty and mprlsonment for six months on charge of stealing wood from the land of the Vlahant. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee started an agitation against this excess of the Government. Mr. B.T., the additional police superintendent started beating with clubs the Singhs taking part in the agitation. On the 13th September, the beating was stopped on motivation from Reverend C.F. Andrews and Singhs were arrested and sent to prisons.
One day a squad of army pensioners led by Subedar Amar Singh Dhaliwal from Kapurthala state courted arrest. Magistrate Aslam Khan sentenced those Singhs to imprisonment of two and a half years and a fine of one hundred rupees each. Those Singhs were boarded on a train from Amritsar to Attak on the night of the 29th October, 1922 A.D. The train stopped at Rawalpindi on the 30th October and moved on after change of staff and taking water for the locomotive. The Sikh community of Gurdwara Panja Sahib on that route got ready food and drink to serve the Singhs of the squad, took it to the railway station early in the morning of the 31st October and started waiting for the train to arrive.
The station master told them, "The train shall not stop at this station. You have made these arrangements for nothing." Bhai Karam Singh replied, "Baba Nanak had stopped a mountain with one hand. Cannot his Sikhs stop a train ?" At ten o’clock, seeing the train approaching, Bhai Karam Singh lay on the railway line. Next to him Bhai Partap Singh, Sardar Ganga Singh, Sardar Charan Singh, Sardar Nihal Singh, S. Tara Singh, S. Fakir Singh, S. Kalyan Singh and many other Singhs and Kaurs (female of Singh) squatted on the track. Seeing the Singhs lying on the track, the driver of the train blew the whistle time and again but the Singhs did not budge as if they had not heard the whistle at all. The engine ground the bones of Bhai Karam Singh and Bhai Partap Singh to pulp and the others suffered injuries. The train stopped. Bhai Karam Singh said to Sangat (Sikh devotees), "Serve the hungry Singhs in the train first. You can take care of us afterwards." The train halted for one and a half hours. The Sikhs served the Singhs in the train whole-heartedly and then turned to the injured. Bhai Karam Singh, thirty year old son of Bhai Bhagwan Dass Mahant of Kesgarh Sahib died after a few hours. On the next day Bhai Partap Singh, twenty-four years of age, son of S. Sarup Singh goldsmith of Akal Garh, Gujranwala attained martyrdom.
when the train-driver was asked the reason for stopping the train, he replied, ‘When the train hit the Singhs lying on the track, vacuum lever dropped out of my hand and the train stopped. I did not apply the brakes."
Close to the sacred shrine of Panja Sahib on the morning of 30 October 1922 and which has since passed into folklore as an instance of Sikh courage and resolution. A non-violent morcha or agitation to assert the right to felling trees for Guru ka Langar from the land attached to Gurdwara Guru ka Bagh in Amritsar district, already taken over from the priests by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee after a negotiated settlement, had started on 8 August 1922. At first Sikh volunteers were arrested and tried for trespass, but from 25 August police resorted to beating day after day the batches of Sikhs that came. This went on till 13 September when, on the intervention of the Punjab Governor, the beating stopped and the procedure of arrests resumed.The prisoners were tried summarily at Amritsar and then despatched by special trains to distant jails.
One such train left Amritsar on 29 October 1922 for the Attock Fort which would touch Hasan Abdal the following morning. The Sikhs of Panja Sahib decided to serve a meal to the detenues but, when they reached the railway station with the food, they were informed by the station master that the train was not scheduled to halt there. Their entreaties and their plea that such trains had been stopped at other places for the prisoners to be fed went unheeded.
Two of the Sikhs, Bhai Pratap Singh and Bhai Karam Singh who were leading the sangat went forward as the rumbling sound of the approaching train was heard and sat crosslegged in the middle of the track. Several others, men and women, followed suit. The train-driver slowed down suddenly and brought the train to a screeching halt, but not before it had run over eleven of the squatters. The worst mauled were Bhai Pratap Singh and Bhai Karam Singh, who succumbed to their injuries the following day. Their dead bodies were taken to Rawalpindi where they were cremated on 1 November 1922. They were hailed as martyrs and, until the partition of 1947, a three-day religious fair used to be held in their memory at Panja Sahib from 30 October to 1 November every year.