1978 : Martyrs of Amritsar
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On 13th April 1978 the Sikhs gathered together from all over India at Amritsar to hold their yearly Vaisakhi Smagam. Kirtan had started from Amrit Vela and at about 10 o’clock a message was received. The message said that the followers of Nakali Nirankari Gurbachan Singh were holding a procession in Amritsar and were shouting slogans against the Satguru and shouting insults against the Sikh religion.
All the Sikh Sangat knew very well that the Nakali Nirankaris had been doing these things for the past few years. The Nirankaris had given degrading names to some GurSikhs including Mata Tripta Ji, Bhai Gurdas Ji, Baba Budha Ji and others. They called the Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji a bundle of papers, and they called Kar Sewa, Bikar Sewa. The Nakali Nirankari leader said that Guru Gobind Singh Ji had made 5 Panj Pyarai, I shall make 7. etc etc
When Bhai Fauja Singh heard the news from the loudspeaker he rushed to the congregation. He delivered a short speech, explaining the dire situation and drew a line, asking for those who are willing to receive martyrdom to cross it. After performing Ardas, the Gursikhs bowed before the Satguru and went off to Ramdas Niwas.
Upon reaching Ramdas Niwas they found that the procession had finished. The Gursikhs then decided that they should go to the place where the Nirankaris had gathered and do a peaceful protest against the insults shouted at the Satguru. It is known that some of the Sikhs of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha and the Bhindra Jatha reached the Reego Bridge near Gobind Gar, where they were stopped by the police authorities. The Singhs told the police about the insults shouted at the Sikh Gurus and the Sikh Religion in the procession, and which were being shouted at their gathering, which was taking place at that time. These insults could be heard clearly from where they were standing. They told the police that they wanted to do a protest against the organisers of the gathering about the shouting of these insults. A police officer told the Singhs that he would go and stop the Nirankaris and for them to remain there. The police officer went to where the Nirankaris had gathered and the Sikhs waited for 30 minutes for him to return. On his return there were more policemen with him. Joshi D.S.P told the Jatha of Singhs to go back and that the meeting had finished a long time ago. But at that time violence provoking speeches could be heard on the loudspeakers. Then about 5-6000 uniformed Nakali Nirankaris rushed towards the 200-300 Singhs carrying rifles, guns, spears, swords and within seconds attacked with stones, acid bottles, hand-made bombs. The Singhs that were hit with bullets fell on the ground and were butchered with swords, spears and axes. When the ground became covered with bodies of the dead and wounded, the police fired tear gas, but even that was towards the Jatha of Singhs, so the Nirankaris received even more help and the Singhs received even more injuries.
Bhai Fauja Singh was fired upon by the Superintendent of Police, who emptied his 32-calibre pistol into Bhai Fauja Singh`s chest but even then he kept standing, uttering only Waheguru. Two Sikhs attempted to carry the still breathing and chanting Bhai Fauja Singh to the hospital for treatment, but those two were arrested by the Police. Bhai Fauja Singh`s body was taken by the Police and put into the Dead Wagon. Again, another Sikh came upon Bhai Fauja Singh and found him breathing and still uttering Waheguru. He attempted to help, but half an hour later, when Bibi Amarjit Kaur arrived, Bhai Sahib had attained martyrdom.
The press also printed the news details of the incident incorrectly. The Singhs of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha and the Bhindra Jatha were called fanatics. Harbhajan Singh Yogi responded stating, Today I read the newspaper report in which it was said, a body of fanatic Sikhs. If doing kirtan and defending the good name of our father Guru Gobind Singh Ji makes us fanatics, then we welcome this allegation. Remember, those who do not defend the grace of their father are never worthy of respect on the earth. These martyrs of Amritsar have shown us that we shall live in grace; if it is not possible, we choose to die in grace.
In this bloody massacre 13 Singhs were martyred and there were more than 70 wounded.
PS: It should be noted that although Gurbachan Singh’s movement call themselves Nirankaris, they do not have anything in common with the original Nirankari movement that made enormous sacrifices and significant contributions for GurPanth’s reform .