Shaheeds Garja Singh and Bota Singh

Dr. Kulwant Singh Khokhar

Garja Singh and Bota Singh fighting the Mughals

Shaheeds Garja Singh, Bota Singh

Khalsa will remain ever alive.
Oppression they will always fight.

The first half of the eighteenth century was very harsh for the Sikhs. They made unparalleled sacrifices during this period. The Mughal government decided to finish the very name of the Sikhs from the Punjab, the land of their birth. There was legal permission to loot and rob the house of any Sikh. Rather, handsome cash awards were given for killing a Sikh or getting him caught. This forced the Sikhs to leave their homes and pass their days in inaccessible places, i.e., hills in the north, deserts in the south or the bushes along the rivers.

In their daily prayer, the Sikhs requested Akal Purakh to grant them the gift of Amritsar de darshan ashnan. For this they would visit the Golden Temple during night or other odd hours to bathe in the sarovar. While making such attempts many Sikhs were killed by the government forces guarding the approaches to the Golden Temple. The Sikhs did not move about openly in the villages lest the police know about their presence.

Taking advantage of the migration of the Sikhs to secret places, Zakria Khan, Governor of Punjab, announced in all the villages that Sikhs were extinct in Punjab. The government thought this would break the will of the Sikhs and would also discourage people from taking Amrit and joining the wave of the Khalsa Panth.

It was in 1739 that two Sikhs, Baba Garja Singh and Baba Bota Singh, while going to Amritsar were hiding in the bushes along the Tarn Taran-Amritsar Road. During those days the Sikhs used to travel at night and hide during the day. Two travelers passing on that road saw them from a distance. One said to the other, "They appear to be Sikhs." The other replied, "I think you are mistaken. They cannot be Sikhs. Didn't you hear the announcement, made with the beat of the drum, that all Sikhs have been killed."

Baba Garja Singh and Baba Bota Singh heard that talk and adopted a unique technique to demoralize the government. They decided to prove that the announcement made by the government was wrong. They were lying and fooling the people. The two Sikhs occupied the road and declared that Khalsa were the rulers of Punjab. To spread this message to the people in the region, they started collecting a nominal toll from travelers using the road. They also sent an open message to the Governor, the Khan, just to make a joke of the government.

"Tell poor Khan that Baba Bota Singh is ruling the state with his heavy stick. He charges one nickel for a cart load and a penny for a donkey-load."

The people would pay this small amount without any grudge. They talked about the bravery of the Sikhs and the lies of the government when they went to their villages. After some days, the government sent well armed troops to catch the Sikhs. The Sikhs fought bravely, killing many soldiers, finally obtaining martyrdom themselves. They established the heroism of the Sikhs and proved that Sikhs were active and alive.

State terrorism can never kill the people's voice of truth.