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Sikh History Timeline

Today in Sikh History – 8th December


8th December


1922 Letters of the Sikh solidiers printed in the "Babbar Akali Doaba".
1933 The Babbar Akalis murder Bela Singh of Zian. The early 20th century was a time of great turnoil for Sikhs in Canada – the first wave of immigration had arrived, the notorious Komagta Maru incident happened, Sikhs had to contend with openly racist laws and societies, and the Ghadar movement was underway.

In these tumultous times Bela Singh was a traitor, the first Sikh murderer in Canada, and one of the most notorious figures in the very early Canadian Sikh community. Very few people know of him now, but his story is interesting.

Many of the early events revolve around William Hopkinson, who was an Indian-born, Anglo-Indian (english father and punjabi mother) as well as an opportunist and profiteer who exploited Sikhs. He was an informer to the government and immigration authorities. He and Bela Singh ran a gang in the East Indian community for extortion and intimidation. On August 31, 1914, the murdered body of one of the gang of goondas, Harnam Singh (who had started out as a priest) was found in Vancouver with his turban tied around his ankles. Another friend of Bela Singh’s, Arjun Singh, also died of accidental gunshot that week. In retaliation, and immediately after the cremation, Bela Singh went to the Gurdwara and opened fire with two revolvers, hitting seven people. Two, Bhai Bhag Singh, and Bhai Battan Singh, died. Bela Singh was arrested and became known as the "Two gun East Indian" in the media.

With the help of William Hopkinson, somehow Bela managed to get acquited (self-defense claimed). The Sikhs were furious andHopkinson was killed by Sardar Mewa Singh in retaliation. At his trial, Mewa Singh paraphrased Guru Gobind Singh "He is truly a hero who fights on the side of the weak, gets questered and cuts limb by limb, but does not flee." On Jan 11, 1915 Mewa Singh became the first (and I believe only) Sikh executed in Canada. His portrait hands to this day in the Ross St. Gurdwara. Bela Singh continued his hooligan ways and was eventually sentenced to one year in prison for blowing up a house, and attempted murder on June 12, 1915. In the meantime, one Nawab Khan of Ludhiana who was a British spy in the Ghadar party managed to get Bela sent back to Punjab. In Punjab he was responsible for identifying many freedom fighters who were revolutionaries with the Babbar Akalis. At least six freedom fighters were hanged because of Bela Singh, who had an armed guard with him at all times, and used to say no one could touch him in the Raj. Finally, in 1933, fate and the Akalis caught up to him. He was shot by three Akalis, including a childhood friend of his, and his body decapitated.

1946 During the violence instigated by India’s partition, Muslims killed 102 members of a Sikh family in Ughi Nagar.
1990 International Conference on Sikh Studies was held at George Washington University, Washington, DC. Some of the topics covered at this conference include: "Sikh Fundamentalism and Punjab Problem; Western Approaches to the Sikh Tradition; Sikh Mysticism; Sikhs in Americam – Stress and Survival; Sikhism and Modern Technology; and Evolution of Sikh Philosophy and Misinterpretation of Sikhism in Western Writings". Nearly 200 people attended this conference.

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