Baljeet Singh Khalsa, Khandedhar, June 2003
Shaheed Bhai Surjeet Singh Behla
Shaheed Bhai Dilbaag Singh Behla
In the Taran Taaran area, there is a village, Behla. In Behla, Sardar Tarlok
Singh, a farmer, had two sons, Dilbaag Singh and Surjeet Singh. Because
Dilbaag Singh was of a religious bent of mind, he left his family in 1980
and began to stay with the Kar Seva Babas. His family tried to bring him
back many times, but he refused outright. In the end, the family was forced
to accept his decision.
When in 1981 the Dharam Yudh Morcha was reaching its climax, Sant Jarnail
Singh jee’s personality was coming into the spotlight and young Sikhs were
being drawn to him. While staying with the Kar Seva Babas, Dilbaag Singh
found out about Sant Jarnail Singh and left to join him. The Kar Seva Babas
complained to Sant jee that he had stolen their sevadaars, but Sant jee
replied, “I didn’t go and bring them here. If they go with you, then you can
take them.” The Babas tried with all their effort to convince the young
Singh's to come back, but who could convince them? Dilbaag Singh and his
friends stayed with Sant Jarnail Singh.
Because of Dilbaag Singh the entire Behla family became close to Sant
Jarnail Singh jee. Fifteen year old Surjeet Singh (Behla) also began to go
to Darbaar Sahib. When Surjeet Singh Behla returned after three months in
Ferozepur Jail due to having given his arrest in the Morcha, Saint-soldier
Jarnail Singh patted him on the back and said, while motioning to his older
brother, “Ok young lion, we’ve made an inseparable bond with this one
(Dilbaag Singh), what will you do now?” Surjeet replied, “I’m also here with
you Sant jee, you can give me whatever seva you want.” Then Surjeet Singh
also began to assist Saint-soldier Jarnail Singh with his brother.
In the middle of 1983, Dilbaag Singh and his two friends Soorat Singh
Harchovaal and Rayshem Singh Booh shot and injured Keval Krishan, the
Congress (I) leader of Harchovaal. It was well known in the area that Keval
Krishan spoke very insultingly about Saint-soldier Jarnail Singh. The boys
had very poor weapons but they managed to injure Keval Krishan. After this
action, the police began to pursue the three immediately and Dilbaag Singh
was arrested after being injured. Rayshem Singh and Soorat Singh ran into a
sugar cane field, which was then surrounded by the police and fired upon.
Soorat Singh was injured in the leg and was arrested, while Resham Singh
just barely escaped.
When Sardar Tarlok Singh Behla read about his son’s arrest in the
newspaper, he came immediately to meet Sant Jarnail Singh. Sardar Tarlok
Singh recalls that Sant jee was very upset and called all the Singhs to the
roof of Guru Ram Das Langar and in ire said, “Well, if you want to what
Dilbaag Singh and others have done, just do your own actions, then take
whatever money you need and just go home…”
All the Singhs were standing with hands clasped together and some said
“What is our fault? We’ll stay here and obey your orders and serve the Panth.”
At first, Sant jee refused to arrange for Dilbaag Singh’s defence but soon
his anger cooled. Dilbaag Singh was indicted in three cases, and in the time
it took to arrange bail, two more cases were registered. Bhai Tarlok Singh
tells us, “When I went to meet Saint-soldier Jarnail Singh in these days, he
said in sadness, ‘You are following and supporting our Singh Dilbaag Singh
at ever step. I wish I could repay you for all this…’
After saying this, Sant jee pulled out some money from his pocket and tried
to hand it to me. I then said ‘Sant jee, all my money is yours already.’
Then with a sweet rebuke, Sant jee motioned towards a cattle prod and said
‘you see that whip?’
I then said, ‘If your whips hit me, then it would be my good fortune.’ After
hearing this, Sant jee became serious and said ‘you should listen to what I
say’ In the end, I was forced to take the money. A nice judge dismissed all
but one case that was registered on Dilbaag Singh and called the other
illegitimate. Sardar Tarlok Singh then took his son to Sant jee. Sant jee
scolded him sweetly and told him not to repeat his mistake and then allowed
him to rejoin him, and Sardar Tarlok Singh returned to his village. Soon
after this, the Indian Army surrounded Sri Darbar Singh and Bhai Dilbaag
Singh Behla along with other Singhs was martyred fighting the Indian Forces.
The attack on the Sri Darbar Sahib woke up the sleeping Sikh youth and the
young Surjeet Singh Behla had already received the company and love of
Saint-soldier Jarnail Singh jee. His whole being was shaken. His feet began
to walk automatically on the path of the Sikh Struggle. First he joined
Shaheed Bhai Gurdev Singh Usmaanvalaa and Badala’s group and then later he
joined with Baba Gurbachan Singh Manochahal. After some time, someone
informed the police and Surjeet Singh was arrested. Surjeet Singh was taken
to Maal Mandee and the Tarn Taaran Central Investigation Agency (CIA) Staff,
where he was inhumanly tortured by Sita Ram. The police weren’t able to get
any information from Surjeet Singh nor could they change his firm mind (to
turn away from the freedom struggle). When the second attack on Darbar Sahib
took place (Black Thunder), Surjeet Singh was in jail.
After being released from jail, Surjeet Singh resumed his militant
activities and on many occasions, despite being surrounded, he ran firing
out of the police cordons. Surjeet Singh became a “Class A” militant. He was
now the Lieutenant of the Bhindranwala Tiger Force under the leadership of
Baba Gurbachan Singh Manochahal, and was most close to Baba Manochahal. In
the 1991 elections, Baba Manochahal group made the farsighted decision to
support the Sikh Student Federation group and participate in the elections.
But this decision was opposed by some militant groups. They did not
understand the earlier Government strategy of cancelling the elections and
decided to boycott the elections, which proved to be a suicidal decision.
After the Beant government came to power, the genocide which took place in
the villages left international human rights organizations horrified, but
these atrocities did not affect the freedom fighters’ determination and
faith even in the slightest.
In these days, Surjeet Singh made a secret bunker in an empty building in
his village, and lived there with one companion. The mason who helped
construct this bunker informed the police and the Tarn Taaran SSP Ajit
Sandhu (later, the killer of human rights activist of Jaswant Singh Khalra),
SP Operations, Khoobee Ram, DSP Gurjeet and other well known police officers
led a group of soldiers and police to the bunker.
This was June 7, 1992. The Police believed that this hidden bunker only had
weapons and not Behla himself. But Behla and the other Singh were present in
the bunker along with another Singh who supplied them food. The terrified
police officers took the Village Head and other innocent villagers as
shields and entered the building to search it. The mason began to break the
bunker and Behla and his companions heard this and understood what was going
on. These beloveds of the Guru performed an Ardaas in their mind and decided
to become martyrs. They took their weapons and opened the inner door of the
bunker. When they stepped out, they immediately let out a burst and the
searching army/police team ran away. The Officers went on the highest roof
of the building and once the encounter began, were stranded there.
After the Police had run away, Behla and his companions searched the ground
floor of the building, where they found the Village Head. Behla was shocked
to find him here and asked why he had come. The Head and others explained
how the police had brought them as shields. Behla told them he would give
them cover fire and help them escape the building. Before helping the
Village Head leave, he gave him a final letter for his family which had
three main messages:
Tell my father not to leave Behla village
Tell my wife to obey my mother and father.
At a certain place, I have put Rs. 20,000 and tell my father to take that
money and arrange Akhand Paaths for us.
After giving this message, Surjeet Singh gave the innocent villagers
cover-fire and sent them out. Taking inspiration from them the Chamkaur
Sahib’s historical battle, a unique type of fight began. At the start of the
encounter, the Punjab Police and the “brave” soldiers of the Indian
army took innocent villagers as human shields and fired a shower of bullets
towards the building.
The villagers still become emotional when they tell
how the security forces made the villagers stand around the building and the
police fired while lying between their legs. They also tell us how Behla in
a thundering voice was yelling Jaikaras and also curses, saying “Fight us
straight! Why are you putting innocent people in front of you?” However,
these insults could not make the “brave” Indian soldiers nor the Punjab
Police feel any shame.
The villagers smile and tell us how Behla’s bullets avoided the villagers
but kept hitting the police officers. The army and police brought bullet
proof tractors, armoured cars and mortar guns, but the two hungry and tired
Singh's fought this amazing force for 36 hours, and were finally martyred.
That building which held the bunker is still standing today in ruins as a
witness to the heaving fire and bombing that took place.
When the Security Forces saw that only two Singh's had fought them, they
took 6 innocent villagers who had been wounded and killed them and told the
press that 9 militants had been killed.
Because of the slaughter of these
innocents, the police was heavily criticized and the bravery of Surjeet
Singh Behla was discussed in every village of Punjab.
Baba Gurbachan Singh Manochahal heard about Bhai Behla’s martyrdom and said
“Today my right arm has been broken.” He wrote an emotional poem on the
martyrdom of Bhai Behla, and when reciting it, he would begin to cry.
Perhaps today no one speaks about the martyrdom of these Singh's openly, due
to fear, but that time will come when ballads of their bravery will again be
openly sung on stages.