CONFRONTATION AT CHAMKAUR SAHIB
The entire Jatha, including ladies, used to visit Chamkaur Sahib during annual commemoration of Martyrdom Day of the two elder sons of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. We used to travel by foot up to Doraha and then on it was through ferry-boat in canal. The Smagams at Chamkaur Sahib offered many blissful events. However, it was most unpleasant that during procession of Hola-Mohalla, the then controlling Nihang Singh priests did not allow Sangat entry into Gurdwara Katalgarh Sahib historical place of Martyrdom of Elder Sahibzadas, Baba Ajit Singh Ji and Baba Jujhar Singh Ji. We could only circumambulate at the outer periphery. Though Jatha was ever irresistable, yet we were restrained by humble request made by convenor of these Smagams, Babu Vir Singh Ji and Bhai Hira Singh Ji ‘Ragi’. This was repeated every year. However it was a different story during pilgrimage in 1914.
When we de-embarked from the ferry-boats at the Canal-bridge, we were received by a large gathering of local sangat, including Babu Vir Singh Ji and Bhai Hira Singh Ji. Some fiery Singhs informed us that priests have gathered hundreds of Nihang Singhs and they were spoiling for trouble. They had already pushed out of the Gurdwara a party of pilgrim-ladies most disgracefully. Like the proverbial saying, “When pierced by an arrow, then alone full fury is evoked,” the entire Jatha got infuriated and charged with religious fervour. It was announced there and then that no earthly power could hold back Jatha from paying homage inside the Gurdwara by making circumambulation of inner periphery; ‘Parkarma’. Thus started Kirtan in do or die mood and Jatha was proceeding towards Gurdwara. Hearing the irrevocable decision, even the peacemakers felt helpless. None dared to intervene, even Bhai Hira Singh Ji commented that none could stop them now. Following the Jatha was multitude of people in thousands.
The lion-hearted, Bibi Joginder Kaur Ji, holding an arrow in hand was leading the Jatha. A mere sight of her splendorous Glory was unbearable for me. Like a river in spate the entire assembly singing Kirtan neared the Gurdwara. Many more people joined there. Gurdwara was being guarded by Nihang Singhs. They were armed with arrows and bared swords. The sinners were haunted by their sinful thoughts. Their claim to hold back sangat from paying homage inside Gurdwara was hollow. Who could hold back surge of emotional religious love of the devout with firm determination? It was decided to carry on the march to enter Gurdwara while singing Kirtan. One mindless burly Nihang Singh of good build shot an arrow aimed at my neck, but it missed with Provision-Divine. Bhai Surjan Singh Ji, accompanying me stopped the arrow with his hand. His injured hand bled profusely. The on-lookers thought that a murder had been committed. The Nihangs were also frightened, thinking consequences of a murder. It was a mere flow of blood that did not amount to murder, yet not in vain!
Seeing this stage of violent confrontation, Bibi Joginder Kaur Ji leaped into action like a lioness. Challenging my attacker, she snatched away arrow from the giant-like Nihang Singh and said, “O’ evil-being! Have you no fear of the Piety of Gurdwara Sahib and the holy congregation, Sangat, that you shoot arrow at your own brethen?” This single act of boldness was enough to arouse reaction from Singhs and they attacked the priests to push them out of Gurdwara Sahib. We continued to advance and singing Kirtan. All the Nihang Singhs fled away. Their abandoned weapons came as booty to the Jatha. We circumambulated around both inner and outer peripheries, singing Gurbani Kirtan. It was now time for evening prayer, So-Dar. Bibi Joginder Kaur Ji in her mood of bravery and Love-Divine requested for Chaupae Sahib Kirtan, Gurbani Supplication to Lord by Guru Gobind Singh Sahib Ji. This was done with utmost devotion and gusto. All enjoyed the rare Bliss of this Soulful Kirtan.
This was a fore-runner victory of Panthic-Control of Gurdwaras and first event of Gurdwara Sudhar Lehar (Movement for improved - Management of Gurdwaras). Sri Bibi Joginder Kaur Ji was a living example of old-timer Sikh ladies of Guru’s House, who had fought shoulder to shoulder with their Singh brethren in soaring spirits. She had impressive and commanding personality.
In 1915 leading personalities of Jatha had been arrested in connection with ‘Lahore Conspiracy case.’ Warrants were also issued to arrest Bhai Surjan Singh, husband of Bibi Joginder Kaur. A police party arrived in village Gujarwal to search Bhai Surjan Singh’s house. However he was not present there. Bibi Joginder Kaur put a lock on her outer gate and stood on guard like a lioness. She warned the police party that they could not search in absence of her husband. She roared further, “Be warned and stay away! Any attempt to approach shall lead to serious consequences.” Blue turban adorning her head and a sword in hand, she presented an awe-inspiring personality. This discouraged the police from any action. The law also prevented search in absence of a male member, but the law was never cared for then or even now. It was only the bold challenge of Bibi Joginder Kaur that restrained the police. Many other houses had been searched in absence of male members. Only Bibi Joginder Kaur proved exception and worthy example of an outstanding Sikh-lady! She faced police courageously and checked their nefarious activity.
She was the embodiment of brimming Spiritual Divine-Love, pining with utmost yearning. She was blest with soaring spirit of high spirituality. When she found that many of the Jatha Singhs were arrested, she too felt the urge to volunteer for being arrested and join them. What held her back was the absence of her absconding husband. She was filled with fury of indignation hearing of the acts of cruelty of British Government in dealing with arrested Singhs. Most of us had been arrested, but Bhai Surjan Singh was still absconding. One day he came home. Immediately the brave-hearted Bibi proposed to him, “Let us join our brethren in jail. What have we to gain from remaining outside?” Vir Surjan Singh Ji was able to refrain her from this after great struggle. However he presented himself in jail. This was the result of promptings of his wife. Our case was under trial in Lahore jail by Britishers heavily biased against us and one Indian, adulating his foreign masters. With court in session there was heavy guarding outside the jail. That is the time when Bhai Surjan Singh presented himself before the Jail-Superintendent for being taken inside. He was highly suprised with his and asked, “Who are you and what brought you here?” Bhai Surjan Singh replied, “My companions are under trial and my warrants have also been issued, so please take me inside. I was not aware of all this, but as soon as I came to know I have come here.” Superintendent enquired, “Did our family members not stop you from coming to jail?” Bhai Surjan Singh replied, “There is none other than my wife.” Superintendent, “Did your wife to try to hold you back?” Bhai Surjan Singh replied that, “On the contrary her strong pleas only have brought me here.” This astounded all the jail officials. Bhai Surjan Singh was presented in jail along with the rest of us. The Chief Judge, Mr. Scott, wanted the accused be handcuffed before bringing him to the court. However, Jail-Superintendent, E.L. Ward, commented, “Don’t you realise that the accused has presented himself voluntarily? You are just exhibiting your cowardice by getting him handcuffed.” Well, Divine-Will came to pass. All the Jatha Singhs were sentenced to life-imprisonment and some of us were sent to Central Jail, Multan.
AN EVENT AT MULTAN
Bhai Surjan Singh was imprisoned with me in Multan Jail, locked up in different cells. Sri Bibi Joginder Kaur came to the Jail for interview. She had requested for meeting me first and then her husband, Bhai Surjan Singh Ji.
Her first request was not acceded, but she was allowed to meet Bhai Surjan Singh Ji. During the meeting Dr. Ram Lal Ji was also present as one of the jail officials. The words conveyed by Sri Bibi Joginder Kaur Ji were most astonishing to all the jail officials. Dr. Ram Lal Ji narrated all this to me as follows:
“I read books like Bijai Singh and Sundri of Bhai Sahib Vir Singh Ji repeatedly, I thought of these as mere flights of imagination and failed to believe that such bold Sikh-ladies could have existed in flesh and blood. However, in beholding and listening to a Bibi, who came for an interview today, I am not just astonished beyond measure but also extremely delighted. The reason for my delight is that all my earlier doubts have been banished. What I had thought to be mere fiction about bravery of Sikh-ladies, I saw in this lady of flesh and blood. I am now fully convinced that there are souls blessed with ‘True Khalsa Spirit’ in full measure. This lady has surpassed all that I read in books like Bijai Singh, Sundri, etc. about bravery of Sikh-ladies. Whatever I witnessed with my own eyes and heard with my own ears leaves no room for any further confirmation.”
He described all that was said during that meeting, however, only a sample of those words is presented to avoid lengthy presentation. “Facing Bhai Surjan Singh Ji, Bibi told him that he was blessed to agitate against British rule. She too wished with all her heart to be able to participate. She reminded him that he was the Sikh of Guru Sahib, who had sacrificed all his four sons and the entire family in service of the Panth and country. That he must remain unshaken in pursuit of his Gurmat ideals and never bring the Spirit of Bravery of Gursikhs to disgrace. She assured him that she was safe in Hands of the Lord and there was nothing to worry about her. There could never be any obstacle to the spiritual meeting between the two. The gifted Nam-Fearless, bestowed by SatGuru on Baptism was enshrined in the hearts of both and must become their life-sustaining Force. Thus fear of any kind had to be shunned. In any case body was perishable and would come to an end. If one could dedicate life to religious duty what could be better end than that? Here in this world and in the hereafter Nam-imbued souls were bound together in Bliss. That the Sacrificing Services must bear fruit and bring freedom to the Country one day. She stressed to make Divine-Nam as the only support in life. That adversity was the testing time of firmness in Faith. That following in the footsteps of Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh Ji would ensure radiance of one’s face both in glory both here and in the hereafter. At this Bhai Surjan Singh Ji disclosed inadvertently that Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh Ji had not taken any food or drink for last twenty-one days. This disclosure ended the meeting abruptly. The interviewees were sternly told to part away immediately. Bhai Surjan Singh Ji wanted to say something in protest. However Bibi Ji checked him from pleading with the cruel. She assured him that they would talk to each other every other day at will and who could ever stop them? The spiritual meeting was irrevocable. The jail officials threatened Bibi Ji that if she failed to leave immediately, she would be pushed out. Hearing the insulting words, Bibi Ji’s face reddened with Divine-Fervour and challenged the threatening officials to approach her. She warned that she would tear anyone making such an attempt to pieces. None could bear the look of her face in fury and splendours with Divine-Glory. Jailor then requested her humbly with folded hands to leave. Dr. Ram Lal Ji described that all the jail officials were shivering from head to foot in fear! Such was the unbearable sight of her face in fury, like a lioness. This became talk of the day throughout the jail and mere thought was causing shivering in the cowards.” Dr. Ram Lal Ji resolved that he too would speak Baptism of Gurmat with all his family and sought my blessings for bestowing of Sikh Faith by the Guru. I hope this would suffice as specimen of what thoughts were transpired.
After that day, I envisioned the glorified face of Sri Bibi Joginder Kaur Ji everyday during my jail period. Finally I envisioned the sight of her moment of death in Hazaribag jail. I noted the date and it was confirmed after a lapse of many weeks that Sri Bibi Joginder Kaur Ji had indeed departed from this world on that very day. Too many are the miraculous events of her life to write about. Dedicated to selfless service, ever-ready for any sacrifice. She was always soaring in Spirit. Rare are such souls. Her life would verily serve as a Lighthouse for coming generations of Sikh-ladies. She was an embodiment of patience and gratitude to Lord-Divine in her last moments.
(Extract from Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh Ji’s book “Rangle Sajjan” translated by Bhai Jaspinder Singh Ji)