Modi Government is the biggest eliminator of the colonial slavish mindset. PM Modi said-‘We are rectifying mistakes of history which didn’t honour deserving leaders and warriors.
In this context Jammu Kashmir’s Lt Governor Manoj Sinha’s proposed tour to Dera Baba Banda Singh Bahadur in Reasi district on 8th March holds a great significance that goes beyond a mere visit by the state’s head of governance. Manoj Sinha himself is a democratic warrior, having trounced the communists in Gajipur, (UP), a bastion that had never seen their defeat post 1947. He is a civil engineer and an IIT-BHU alumnus and also remained president of the BHU students union. He understands what the unparalleled sacrifice of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur means to India.
The fact that Manoj Sinha is the first J&K head to visit Dera Babab Banda Singh Bahadur is an event of national importance that must be recognised beyond the boundaries of J&K.
Baba Banda Singh Bahadur is a national hero, whose battles and sacrifices under the benign blessings of Guru Govind Singh ji, are unparalleled in the annals of world history. He was a Bairagi, Sanyasi became Guru Govind Singh’s Sikh and defeated savage Mughals.
He did his tapasya at Reasi, at an ashram like village on the beautiful banks of river Chenab and the tree, under which he used to sit, gives berry fruits with many mysterious stories woven around it. There is an ancient Gurdwara show casing weopens used by Banda Bahadur, a school, and all Sikh traditions are followed strictly to inspire devotees and visitors alike.
Few would know that Jammu Kashmir state, once a suzerainty under Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Sikh kingdom, has a very special relation with Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. This place must appear in all J&K tourism websites with glorious saga of the saint warrior. A road to reach the Dera is also pending since decades and no one has taken any serious note of it.
Baba Banda Singh Bahadur was born on 16th October 1670 at Rajouri in the Punchhh district of Western Kashmir as Lachhman Dev. His father Ram Dev was an ordinary farmer. The story of his becoming a Sanyasi and then receiving blessings of Guru Govind Singh to become a Sikh warrior is too inspiring and must be an essential part of school curriculums in J&K and elsewhere.
Baba Banda Singh Bahadur aimed at National awakening and Libration of the country from the oppressive rule of the Mughals. He killed Wazir Khan, Governor of Sarhind in battle of Chappar Chiri on May 12, 1710 A.D. avenging the cruel act of the Mughals and served his Sacche Patshah Guru Govind Singh.
As we know young Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh, sons of Guru Govind Singh ji, attained martyrdom on December 26, 1705, when they were brutally murdered by Wazir Khan the Mughal Governor of Sirhind by bricking them alive in fort wall for refusing to convert to Islam.
Baba Banda Singh took in his hands the administration of conquered territories. Baj Singh, was appointed the Governor of Sirhind, with Ali Singh as his Naib, Bhai Fateh Singh Governor of Samana and Ram Singh, was appointed Governor of Thanesar jointly with Baba Binod Singh. He issued coins and official seal, not in his name but in the name of Guru Nanak Dev ji and Guru Gobind Singh ji. Baba also introduced new samvat or the era commencing with the victory at Sirhind. He made Lohgarh his capital. He also established Sikh Thanas at various important towns, created sub-divisions and placed them under the charge of honest Sardars.
Hugely overpowered by Mughal armies, he along with his 740 Sikh companions was captured from fort of Gurdas Nangal, brought to Delhi via Lahore, where all Sikhs were executed mercilessly, in the ground facing the Kotwali of Chandni Chowk. Their dead bodies were hung on trees and gates leading to the city to petrify people and to discourage them from following Dharma. But not even a single Sikh embraced Islam or withdrew their allegiance to Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. Here even an English testimony is available. The members of English embassy John Surman and Edward Stephenson had come to represent their case about the privileges to Mughal king Farrukh Siyar. They saw the executions themselves and wrote about it in their despatch, dated March 10, 1717 A.D. to Robert Hedges, President and Governor of Fort William. They wrote that about one hundred of them were beheaded each day.
Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and his 6 years old son Ajai Singh were martyred on 9 June, 1716 A.D. along with his other 18 companions near a gate en-route the tomb of a so-called Sufi Qutub-ud-din Bakhtiar Kaki at Mehrauli. The butchers first killed his son Ajai Singh in his lap. His soft body was cut into pieces which were hurled on the face of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. The heart of the child was thrust in the mouth of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, but Banda Bahadur remained unmoved and sat in a composed state. Not even a single word of regret was uttered by him and he kept on saying:
‘Hukme Andar Sab ko, Bahar Hukam Na koe’
(All by the ordinance are governed, none exempt)
After Ajai Singh, it was the turn of this saint soldier who remained blissful even in the hour of distress. The butcher removed his right eye with a sharp knife and then the left one. His left foot was cut off next, but he continued to remain calm. Next, the butcher severed both his hands. However, his face was shining as before. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur’s flesh was torn with red hot pincers and finally, he was decapitated and hacked to pieces limb by limb, on his refusal to accept Islam. His glorious martyrdom validates Bhagat Kabir’s rendition in Guru Granth Sahib.
‘Soora so pehchaniye jo lada deen ke hait
Purja Purja kat marey kabhu na chode khet’
A place related to such a great warrior and martyr ‘s tapasya in Jammu region should have been declared a national Pilgrim Centre , and a national monument of importance . Dera Baba is the original place where Baba Banda Bahadur spent his time for meditation after fighting against the tyranny of Mughal Empire. There is a Saffron colour flag(Nishan Sahib), one single Deodar ( Himalayan Cedar ) log with sword at top about 50 feet high, hoisted by Baba Banda Bahadur in 1715 AD. It bears the testimony to the bravery of great Saint Warrior.
Interestingly, there is an old ber tree (Ber Sahib) in the Gurdwara under which Baba Banda Bahadur meditated to be in communion with God. There are four old Banyan trees around this Gurdwara. It is said that BIRS ( original hand-written copies of Shri Guru Granth Sahib) of Baba Banda Bahadur still ‘reside’ there. Recently a marble statue of Baba Banda Bahadur has also been established at Dera Baba village which adds glory to this place. On Baisakhi Mela thousands of devotees visit Dera from across the nation.
Presently Baba Jatinder Paul Singh Sodhi, the 10th descendant of Dera Baba Banda Bahadur and a personified saint, who is leading a very simple and austere life in service of Wahe Guru.
He has established a large number of Gurdwaras, schools, dispensaries and other centres of public welfare in different states of the country. Lt Governor J&K Manoj Sinha is serving a national cause and rekindling the fire of patriotism by saluting the memory of a great Sikh warrior Baba Banda Singh Bahadur.
(The author is researching on the life and martyrdom of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. He is a former Member of Parliament, originator of Sindhu Darshan Ladakh)