PUNJA SAHIB INCIDENT – AN EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNT
In 1922, during the “Guru kaa Baagh” morcha a great incident occurred at Siri Punja Sahib in Hasan-Abdaal, Pakistan. The singhs arrested during the Akali Morcha of Guru kaa Baagh, were being taken to the jails of Attock and Kamalpur. The Rawalpindi sangat found out that the trains taking the prisoners of morcha were going through the Punja Sahib railway station. Sangat decided to serve langar to the passing Sikh prisoners.
The British government found out that the sangat of Rawalpindi was going to prepare langar for the prisoners of Morcha of Guru kaa Baagh, and as such decided not to stop the train at the Punja Sahib railway station. When the sangat found out that they were not going to stop the train at the railway station, they said that they would stop the train at any cost. Bhai Partaap Singh jee who was their able Jathedaar (leader), said fearlessly that an ardaas (Formal prayer) has been performed to provide langar to the Sikh prisoners of the morcha and as such Guru Sahib will himself stop the train at the Railway station.
BEGINNING OF THE INTERVIEW
Giani Bhajan Singh, a very good Sikh writer, himself went to Bibi Harnaam Kaur the wife of Shaheed (martyr) Bhai Partaap Singh and interviewed her on what exactly happened at Punja Sahib railway station. Following is the the translation of Giani Bhajan Singh jee’s interview with Bibi Harnaam Kaur jee:
Giani Bhajan Singh: Mata jee (wife of Shaheed Bhai Partaap Singh jee), could you please tell us something about the Punja Sahib incident? I have specially came to see you to get first hand information from you.
Bibi Harnaam Kaur: Why won’t I tell you what happened on that fateful day at Punja Sahib? I remember the whole incident as if it occurred yesterday. I was one of those people who were sitting on the railway tracks to stop the train. I was sitting just behind my martyr (shaheed) husband. I have been getting the urge for long time, to tell the true story of Punja Sahib incident but no one took the effort to write what I had to tell. I am glad to hear that you came specially to hear about this incident and would be writing the story as I tell you.
Giani Bhajan Singh: How did this whole incident occur? Please tell me in detail. Assume that I don’t know anything and you are telling a new person this incident.
Bibi Harnaam Kaur: This was the time of Guru kaa Baagh Morcha (1922). Police had arrested the singhs and trains of these arrested singhs of Morcha, were being taken to the Attock and Kaimelpur jails. Two trains had passed Punja Sahib. My shaheed (martyr) husband approached the station master, who was a very kind Hindu gentleman and asked him why he was not informing the Sangat of the arrival of the trains carrying the Sikh prisoners. My husband told him that the sangat wanted to do some sewa of the Sikh prisoners.
At that time my husband was the member of the managing committee of Siri Punja Sahib and he served in the capacity of the treasurer. Prior to that he served as the general secretary of the committee. Anyway, one day, the Hindu station-master informed my husband that next day at 8am the train was scheduled to arrive at the Punja Sahib railway station. As soon as the sangat heard of this, they started preparing langar for the Sikh prisoners. After the completion of the morning congregation (diwaan), an ardaas was performed as follows:
“O Sache Paatshah (True King), we have prepared Parshaada (food) for your Gursikhs. Please fulfill our wish of feeding langar to our gursikh brothers and grant us the boon that we come back to the Gurdwara Sahib only after serving langar.”
After the ardaas (prayer) when we arrived at the station, we were informed by the station master that as per orders from the top, the train will not stop at the station. The sangat was at once overwhelmed by sadness and anger. They got together and decided through a Gurmata that langar would be served to the sangat at any cost and that they would not let the train proceed further without this. After this decision, the despondence that the sangat was in, at once disappeared.
Giani Bhajan Singh: What was the total number of sangat?
Bibi Harnaam Kaur: It must have been about 300.
Giani Bhajan Singh: Then what happened?
Bibi Harnaam Kaur: When the train arrived, all the sangat sat on the railway tracks with their legs crossed and started doing paath. Some men sat by the signal.
Giani Bhajan Singh: Did anyone flee after seeing the train arriving?
Bibi Harnaam Kaur: There was no question of fleeing. Everyone had decided unanimously. At that time, those present there did not have any fear of death. Motivating lectures and motivated everyone to die for this noble cause.
Giani Bhajan Singh: Then what happened:
Bibi Harnaam Kaur: The train arrived, it whistled but no one got up. At the front of everyone, my shaheed husband Sardar Partaap Singh jee was sitting. Along his side was Sardaar Karam Singh. The train hit my husband and crushed him and Sardar Karam Singh. Many were thrown off the track by the bumper of the train.
My husband and Sardaar Karam Singh got shaheed there and six others who had been crushed under the train did not die but had their legs and arms severed. I too suffered massive wounds and stayed in the hospital for many months.
Giani Bhajan Singh: Did Sardar Partaap Singh get shaheed right at the spot, or later? Please tell me everything.
Bibi Harnaam Kaur: Shaheedi did not occur right on the spot. When the train stopped, people rushed to see the singhs crushed under the train. My shaheed husband, who was very seriously injured at that time said: “First go and serve langar to the gursikhs prisoners, then come for our care. If you take us out of from under the train, the driver would take the train away and we will not be able to serve langar to our brothers”.
After serving langar to the prisoners, then my husband was taken out. Bhai Karam Singh left his body within few hours but my husband gave his life at amritvela, next day.
Giani Bhajan Singh: Please tell us something about the time between he got crushed under the train and till he died the next day.
Bibi Harnaam Kaur: When I tried to go near him, after he got severely injured, he said, “If you are my wife, then don’t come to me crying, rather be happy because I have passed my test of Gursikhee”. His jaw was severely injured and had been ripped apart from one side. His forehead had a very severe and deep cut. He himself kept thanking Vaheguru that he was able to fulfill his vow of serving langar to Gursikh brothers.
Giani Bhajan Singh: Please tell me some incident of his life. How old was he?
Bibi Harnaam Kaur: At the time of shaheedi his age was about 24 or 25. We had been married for about 4 years. He was serving in the military back then but had to leave job for wearing Black turban. We came to Rawalpindi (a city near Punja Sahib, Pakistan) and started living there. He was in the forefront when the jatha went to free the Punja Sahib Gurdwara Sahib. After relinquishing Mahant control from the Gurdwara Sahib, my husband was appointed the first Manager Secretary of the Gurdwara Sahib. He kept working without any pay or salary. At that time, we got by, by selling our possessions. We did not have any money with us but my husband did not care about these things. When he attained martyrdom, at that time too he was working in the management.
Before shaheedi, we had a son who died when he was 2 years old. At his death, my husband gave proof of obeying will of Vaheguru by accepting the will of Vaheguru. He did not cry at all and not only that but he called a band group and played the band in the front of the procession as my son’s dead body was taken for cremation. I gave birth to our second child, few months after the shaheedi of my husband. That child is our only daughter – Joginder Kaur (She was standing by us).
A GREAT MIRACLE
Giani Bhajan Singh: Can you mention any other significant incident related to this great Saaka (incident) of Punja Sahib?
Bibi Harnaam Kaur: The driver of the train was an Araayeen Muslim from Gujrat city of Pakistan. I don’t remember his name. The government had filed a case against him and he was investigated by a retired judge as to why he stopped the train despite orders not to do so. That driver gave a statement in front of that tribunal and this statement is of great historical significance. His statement was as follows:
“I had been given orders to not stop the train at any cost. As per the orders, I did not stop the train and it was moving at full speed. When the train hit shaheed Partaap Singh, I felt as if it had hit a huge mountain. I fell down and my hand got lifted from the speeder and the train stopped. After investigating the engine, it was found that the brake had not been applied. I felt that some unseen, hidden power (Vaheguru) stopped the train”.
This driver was subsequently fired from his position. His statement proves that Satguru jee himself stopped the train.
END OF INTERVIEW.
MORE ON LIFE OF SHAHEED BHAI PARTAAP SINGH JEE
BIRTH AND CHILDHOOD
Sardar Partaap Singh jee was born on September 21, 1898, in district Gurjraanwala in present day Pakistan. His father's name was Sardar Saroop Singh and mother's name was Bibi Prem Kaur. He was brought up in pure Gurmat atmosphere as both his parents were gursikhs.
From early age, his outlook was very different. Not that we believe in going to pandits but many astrologers and sants who saw him predicted that this child will grow up to be a king, bhagat or someone great. When ever Bhai Sahib saw any opportunity to do sewa or if there was ever talk of independence movement, he would jump to do sewa.
JOB AND MARRIAGE
When he passed his 10th grade, his brother who was working in the military and stationed at Simla, called him over. He was afraid that Bhai Sahib would indulge in political activities and get in trouble. He had him hired in the military.
At age 19 he got married to Bibi Harnaam Kaur who was 15 years old at that time. Bhai Sahib used to do a lot of paath and was quite oblivious of worldly things.
AN INTERESTING INCIDENT
Shaheed Partaap Singh jee had a friend who worked as a doctor. One day his friend's son who was two years old died. That doctor was a very good Gursikh and he totally accepted the bhaana of Vaheguru and did not let anyone to cry.
When Bhai Sahib saw his doctor friend’s such great state of accepting will of Vaheguru and not crying at the death of his son, he made a pledge to himself that he too would not cry if he has to face a similar situation. He said to himself that if he ever has a son born to him and if he was to die, he too would not cry and would accept bhaana of Vaheguru.
Soon a very beautiful son was born to the Bibi Harnaam Kaur, wife of Bhai Partaap Singh jee. When his son grew to age two years, he died in an accident. The accident was horrible as the kid got almost boiled in hot water. I am not sure of the details how this accident occurred but basically he died as a result of pouring of boiled water on him.
Bhai Sahib at that time was not home and was informed of this accident by his neighbour’s wife. Bhai Sahib by now had a good spiritual state and used to do massive paath. He remembered his pledge of not crying over his son’s death and to accept the will of Vaheguru. He stopped everyone from crying and said that Guru Sahib was testing him and he did not want to fail this test. He not only did not cry but he called a music band to be played in front of the funeral procession.
Such was the spiritual state of Bhai Sahib that he accepted the bhaana of Guru Sahib with open heart. Not once did he complain or cry. He stayed in full chardi kala.
During these days, Bhai Sahib was transferred to Rawalpindi and his family came along with him. This was the peak time of the Akali movement and the government did not let anyone wear Black turban. Bhai Sahib went to work wearing a Black turban. His British officer objected to him wearing a Black turban and told him that he would not be allowed to come to work wearing a Black turban. Hearing this Bhai Sahib gave his resignation and came home.
After getting free from job, Bhai Sahib became a staunch Akaali. He burned his normal clothes and started wearing only baana and that too of Khaddar fabric only. Khaddar is hand-woven cotton that Akalis used to wear and later Mahatma Gandhi too adopted this fabric for his followers.
He started participating in all Akali movements and on the fateful day of November 16, 1922 he along with other sangat decided to serve langar to the prisoners of Jaito kaa Morcha, who were to pass through Punja Sahib. When he and the sangat heard that the government had decided to not stop the train at Punja Sahib, they decided to stop the train at all cost.
Bhai Sahib and the other sangat sat right on the railway tracks and got crushed by the train. The details of his shaheedi have already been posted above. He had an amazing shaheedi. It seems like he did not feel pain. Even after getting crushed, he refused to be helped unless his brothers – the prisoners – were served langer.
He stayed alive till next day – amrit vela. He recited whole of Siri Jap jee Sahib himself and did ardaas himself. After ardaas he left his body. He must have gone straight to Sach Khand. What a great life!!