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Shaheed Bhai Mehtab Singh ji

After the invasion of Nadir Shah, and acting on the advice of the Governor of Lahore, Nawab Zakaria Khan decided to totally wipe out the Sikh People once and for all. To achieve this objective, he issued instructions to his officials and village heads to kill or arrest any living Sikhs, wherever and whenever they are found. He also announced cash rewards of ten rupees for informers, fifty rupees for killers and eighty rupees for those who arrest and detain Sikhs.

As a result of these orders of Zakharia Khan, thousands of Sikh men, women and children were indiscriminately killed and arrested. Yes, woman were killed and rounded up as well. How were they differentiated from the fellow Hindu Panjabi women? Hindu Panjabi women wore chunnis (head-scarves) and kept their head covered, so how were Sikh women targeted and killed? It is from their Sikhi Saroop (Sikh appearance and uniform)! Women observed the Rehat (discipline) laid by the Guru and protected their Kesh with a Keski (turban) and kept their heads donned with their turban as a crown. Many Sikh women were killed and sold for a better rate, posing them to be the heads of young (beardless) Sikh men.

The notorious village heads and officials who carried out the orders of the Governor to gain his favours were Karma of village Chheena, Rama Randhawa of village Talwandi, Sahib Rai Sandhu of village Naushehra Dhaala, Har Bhagat Niranjania of village Jandiala, Dharam Daas Topi of Jodhnagar and village heads of villages Naushehdra Punuan and Majitha. They sent cart loads of heads of Sikh men, women and children to Lahore, in addition to thousands arrested alive and sent to Lahore for cold-blooded execution. The executions had become a daily practice and entertainment for the cruel rulers.

Massa Rangar, the village head of Mandially exceeded all limits and behaved in a most hated, mischievous and offensive manner, hurting religious sentiments of Sikhs, after he was made incharge of Sri Harmandar Sahib, in Amritsar. The Gurdwara premises were captured earlier by the Mughal Government forces.

He used the parkarma (the area surrounding the Sarowar - the pool tank) as a stable for his horses and used the main Darbar Sahib as Dancing Room, where prostitutes entertained Massa Rangar and his guests. He would seat himself on a beautiful canopy (Palang), smoke hukka (tobacco) and watch the prostitutes in the place which was built as the centre of the Sikhs where the praises of Waheguru (god) should have been vibrating day and night. Around the building and premises he had posted armed guards to prevent the entry of anyone and everyone without permission.

Due to persecution in Panjab, the Sikhs had moved to the jungles, woods and deserts. One such group (Jatha) of Sikhs was temporarily camping near Jaipur City in Rajastan. A Sikh named Bhai Balaaka Singh Ji witnessed the beadbi (violation of sanctity) of the Guru’s property and Sikh Centre, he travelled to Bikanner to the camp near Jaipur City to tell the Sikh Sangat the sad news. The heart wrenching account of the misdeeds of Massa Rangar sent shock waves through the hearts of all the Sikhs present there. Just as nowadays we are disheartened and shocked when we hear of Gurdwara Management Committees drinking sharaab, organising parties, dancing to lurid music and people smoking tobacco on Gurdwara premises in modern day Gurdwaré.

One brave Sikh among them, Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji, immediately jumped to his feet and volunteered himself to punish the culprit Massa Rangar. He announced that he would cut the head off of the wretched Massa in Amritsar and bring it back to Bikanner to show all the Sikhs present there, and remind the world that no-one should dare ever to desecrate or misuse the premises, property, land or building of the Sikh Sangat and Guru Sahib for their perverted non-Gurmat ways.

Another Sikh named Bhai Sukha Singh Ji volunteered to accompany Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji, to help him accomplish the sacred task. Both were granted permission by the Jatha chief and special Ardaas (prayer) was held for the success of their mission to upkeep the honour and dignity of the Sikh Gurdwara and of Guru’s Khalsa.

Both Bhai Sukha Singh Ji and Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji immediately got on their horses and proceeded towards Amritsar and arrived there in the month of August, 1740. They put on the dress and guise of village chief tax-collectors and carried with them a bag, which was full of broken pieces of pottery, which from the outside of the bag appeared to be a bag full of coins.

The brave Sikhs of the Guru headed for Harmandar Sahib. On arriving there, they told the guards who checked their entry into the premises that they were village heads and had come to deposit land revenue with Massa Rangar. So they managed to befool the guards and gained entry to Harmandar Sahib. They tied their horses to a tree near the entrance of the Harmandar Sahib now known as ‘Lachi Ber’ and proceeded further.

They found Massa Rangar sitting on his cot fully intoxicated, smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, and watching dancing prostitutes. The scene enraged them. However, sadly this is a common site in the 21st century, with Gurdwara managed community halls and premises holding functions and parties, with men getting drunk and our sisters and mothers dancing on the dance floor.

Bhai Sukha Singh Ji remained near the door of Darbar Sahib, while Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji went inside. He threw the bag infront of Massa who was settling in on his seat and said, “Here is land revenue.” Massa Rangar happily bent down to pick up the bag supposed to be full of coins. Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji drew out his Sri Sahib (Kirpan) swiftly and with its single blow, cut off the head of Massa Rangar. Those present inside were stunned by the sudden development and ran for help. In the meantime the two brave Sikhs took away the severed head of Massa Rangar, rode their horses and vanished from the scene before the guards could recover and realise what had happened inside Harmandar Sahib. They went straight towards Jaipur to Bikanner, and showed Massa’s severed head to their Jathedar (elected leader) and to the rest of the Sikh Sangat present there just as they had promised.

When Zakharia Khan, the Governor of Lahore, came to know of the murder of Massa Rangar he was enraged and felt his honour had been hurt. However, nowadays Gurdwara Management Committees feel enraged and feel an insult to their honour when Gursikhs peacefully come to plea that alcohol should not be promoted, or drunkards should not be harboured on Gurdwara land. May Waheguru help us all, and bless us with wisdom!

Zakharia Khan immediately summoned village heads of all villages around Amritsar and ordered them to find and arrest the culprits. Harbhagat Niranjania suspected it to be the handiwork of Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji of Minarkot village. He told Zakharia Khan of his suspicion. Noor-Udin Faujdar, proceeded to Mirankot village accompanied by a band of soldiers with orders to arrest Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji. Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji was not present at his home but his infant son, Rai Singh was there. While leaving the village, Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji had left his son in the safe custody of a noble person and his friend Natha Khaira. When Natha Khaira came to know of the arrival of Government soldiers for arresting Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji, he escaped from the village accompanied by Mehtab Singh Ji’s son Rai Singh with the help of his friends.

Noor-Uddin Faujdar come to know of the escape of the child Rai Singh and hotly pursued Natha’s party and caught up with the escapees. Natha and his trusted friends put up a brave fight and died fighting. The child Rai Singh was also gravely injured. Taking the child as dead, the Government soldiers went away. A kind woman passing that way happened to notice the child, who was still alive. She took the child home, and with her care and proper treatment, the child recovered from the injuries fully.

Five years later, in 1745, Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji visited his village home to see his son. He was arrested with the help of some informers and brought to Lahore. Zakharia Khan ordered his execution through a most dreadful method.

Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji was put on the Charrkhri (which is a torture method, consisting of two wheels fitted with sharp nails). The Charrkhri (the two wheels) were rotated and the body of Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji was cut by the iron nails fitted on the wheels, bit by bit. Thus Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji became Shaheed (martyred) in a brutal manner, but he was happy to lay down his life with the satisfaction that the desecration of the premises of Sacred Harmandar Sahib had been avenged by him by the killing of Massa Rangar.

By Bhai Mehtab Singh Ji’s and Bhai Sukha Singh Ji’s action, they proved that Sikhs do not tolerate desecration of their holy places, the Guru’s property or misuse of the Guru Ghar’s premises, and hold the sanctity of their holy places and institutions dearer than their lives.

with thanks to Gurmukh Singh of Panthic Weekly