Amar Shaheed Bhai Amrik Singh Ji, the elder son of Sant Giani Kartar Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale and the president of the Sikh Students Federation, attained martyrdom while protecting the sanctity of Sri Darbar Sahib at Akal Takht Sahib. Under his leadership, the AISSF achieved remarkable prominence.
Bhai Amreek Singh was born in the village Bhura Kohna near the ‘Khemkaran’ town, famous in the border area in Patti Tehsil of Tarn Taran district. His grandfather, Jhanda Singh, a Gursikh Jathedar, had six sons. Jathedar Jhanda Singh, a leader in the Akali Morchas, had a son – ‘Sant Giani Kartar Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale’; who was later appointed as the 13th head of Damdami Taksal. Sant Giani Kartar Singh Khalsa Bhindranwala had an Anand Karja ceremony with Bibi Niranjan Kaur, the daughter of S. Kartar Singh from village Bhaini Jassa. Bhai Amreek Singh was born in the month of Harh (ਹਾੜ) in the year 1954 and was initially named ‘Harbhajan Singh’ by his grandfather Jathedar Jhanda Singh. However, later the Nanke family renamed the child ‘Amrik Singh’ with a Hukamnama from Guru Granth Sahib.
Sant Giani Kartar Singh Ji lived in the service of Damdami Taksal, and Sant Gurbachan Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala. In his absence, the child Amrik Singh was brought up under the guidance of mother Niranjan Kaur and other family members. When Sant Giani Gurbachan Singh Ji Khalsa visited their village Bhura Kohna, he started saying, “Bhai Kartar Singa! This Bhujhangi of yours will become a very talented Singh. Give him the gift of Amrit and place him at the feet of Guru; then your worries about your family will be reduced.”
Later, another child, ‘Manjit Singh,’ was born in the house of Sant Kartar Singh Ji. Both brothers rapidly grew from childhood to adulthood. Every year, Sant Giani Gurbachan Singh Ji used to organize the Gurmat ceremony in the village of Bhura Kohna. Bhai Amrik Singh also served in these functions along with the whole family. After listening to ancient historical accounts from grandfather Jhanda Singh, he became aware of Sikh history full of martyrdom and sacrifices. Jathedar Jhanda Singh used to attend Akali Morchas, so he also had a political understanding. He provided all kinds of information to Bhai Amrik Singh along with religious guidance.
After completing eight classes at the village school, Sant Giani Kartar Singh Ji came to take Bhai Sahib to Bhinder Kalan. Jathedar Jhanda Singh said, “Kartar Sian! Earlier, you used to live with the Jatha, but now you have taken Amrik Singh too. Who will take care of this house?” Saint Ji laughed and said, “Bapu ji, don’t worry, not only this house of yours but the whole village will be protected by Akal Purakh himself.”
Bhai Amrik Singh went to Bhinder Kalan along with his father. The great Sant Giani Gurbachan Singh said, “Bhai Kartar Singa, the next day after the fair, there will be Amrit Sanchar, and you must sprinkle Amrit on this bhujangi. Now he is able to handle the rehat mariyada.”
Saint Giani Gurbachan Singh Ji Khalsa himself also joined the Panj Pyare. Bhai Amrik Singh took Amrit and became a proper Gursikh. While staying with the Jatha, he continued to study Gurmat Vidya, understanding the pure and clear pronunciation and meaning of Gurbani.
Bhai Sahib’s village had a school only up to the eighth standard, so Bhai Amrik Singh was admitted to Government High School Khemkaran. He took exams for the 10th standard at the village Valtoha, near Khemkaran. After completing the 10th standard, he attended his high school in Patti City. To pursue a B.A., he was admitted to Khalsa College, Amritsar. During this period, his grandfather Jathedar Jhanda Singh passed away, shaking the pillar of the family.
Sant Giani Kartar Singh Ji became the head of Damdami Taksal
On June 15, 1969, the news arrived that Sant Giani Gurbachan Singh Ji Khalsa had passed away to Sachkhand. This news added more sorrow to the family, given the deep affection they had for Sant Ji. Bhai Amrik Singh reached Mehta, where the Saroop of Sant Gurbachan Singh Ji was held at the house of Dilip Singh Shah.
On July 8, 1969, during the Dussehra of Sant Giani Gurbachan Singh Ji Khalsa at Bhinder Kalan, Sant Giani Kartar Singh Ji Khalsa was appointed as the head of Damdami Taksal. He came to Mehta due to a dispute at Bhinder Kalan and began preparing the new building of Gurdwara Gurdarshan Prakash in Mehta Chowk itself.
Love for the Punjabi Language
Bhai Amrik Singh had immense love for his mother tongue. He cherished his old books and notebooks dearly. Even his rough copies have been preserved to date. He maintained a diary in which he wrote much more than just commandments; it was a guide to life. After every two or four pages, he would write a verse of Gurbani.
Bhai Sahib was deeply engrossed in reading literature. In addition to the works of Tolstoy, Shakespeare, and Russian authors, he delved into topics like Kamagatamaru, Ghadar Lehar, books about Bhagat Singh, and other revolutionary movements. He also sought complete knowledge about Christianity. In his diary, he penned Prof. Puran Singh’s lines: “Punjab lives in the name of Guru.”
Sant Giani Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale, or any other Singh, would come to him at Khalsa College with messages. At that time, Sant Jarnail Singh was still a student of Taksal, and he shared a close bond with Bhai Amrik Singh. Once, Sant Jarnail Singh even prepared a special Panjiri for Bhai Amrik Singh from his village Rode. During their time together, they would walk from Khalsa College to Darbar Sahib in the evening. Little did they know then that in 1984, they would sacrifice their lives at that very place.
At Khalsa College, Bhai Sahib encountered many atheists, idlers, and seemingly worthless students. His Gurmukh Birti had such an effect on them that their lives underwent a transformation. Students guided by his intentions became his companions forever.
Fake Nirankaris and Communists
In the 1970s, fake Nirankaris, Communists, and other anti-Sikh forces began influencing the Sikh community. Supported by the government, these forces caused a rapid distancing of common people from Sikhism. To counter the anti-Sikh movement, Sant Kartar Singh Ji organized 37 grand Nagar Kirtans. There was a clash between the fake Nirankaris and Sikh ideology. The activities of Sant Giani Kartar Singh Ji and other Gurmukhs were greatly opposed by the Nirankaris. Sikh Sangat was undergoing considerable mental distress due to false propaganda against Sikh principles. It was evident that if the government did not intervene, Sikhs would inevitably clash with the fake Nirankaris.
Joining the AISSF
While preachers like Sant Ji were active in spreading Sikhism in general society, there was a crucial need for religious education among students. Principals, professors, and Sikh enthusiasts were concerned about the flourishing atheist forces even within Khalsa colleges. In 1966, Balwant Singh became the first Sikh boy to cut his beard at Khalsa College.
Although there was an organization, the All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF), working among students, its influence diminished over time. Various small groups considered themselves a “complete federation.”
Gurmeet Singh Brar, an Akali leader, and former minister from Muktsar, greatly influenced by Sant Giani Kartar Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala, suggested to the federation leaders, “If you really want to make progress in AISSF activities, request Sant Giani Kartar Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala to bring his son Bhai Amrik Singh into the federation. He is studying at Khalsa College Amritsar.”
Sant Giani Kartar Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwala also recognized that although the federation was currently limited to meetings, demonstrations, and booklets, it had the potential to raise more awareness. Sant Ji asked Bhai Amrik Singh and his companions if they would like to join the federation.
Thus, Bhai Amrik Singh became a member of the AISSF. After joining, he thoroughly studied and understood the organization’s history. Bhai Sahib organized his first federation camp from June 20 to 27, 1976, at Anandpur Sahib, where he was appointed as the Publicity Secretary. With a B.A. already completed and pursuing an M.A. in Punjabi, he aspired to become a professor in the Punjabi department at Khalsa College.
In November 1976, Bhai Amrik Singh and Bibi Harmeet Kaur Ji were married. Bibi Harmeet Kaur proved to be not only proficient in Gurmati but also a supportive life partner who stood by Bhai Sahib in every aspect of his challenging life.
Sachkhand Gaman of Saint Kartar Singh Ji
On August 3, 1977, while Santji was traveling from Malsihan in Jalandhar district to Solan in Himachal Pradesh, his car met with an accident near Ludhiana. He passed away on August 16, 1977, in a Ludhiana hospital. On his Dussehra, on August 25, 1977, at Gurudwara Gurdarshan Parkash Mehta Chowk, Sant Giani Jarnail Singh Bhindranwalia, a resident of ‘Rode’ village near Bagha Purana and associated with Taksal for a long time, was appointed as the next head of Damdami Taksal.
Both Bhai Ameek Singh and Sant Jarnail Singh held immense love and respect for Sant Giani Kartar Singh Ji. Since Sant Kartar Singh had played a leading role in the struggle against the Nirankaris, the next head of Damdami Taksal had to follow the same path. Sant Jarnail Singh considered it his responsibility, and Bhai Amrik Singh Ji also deemed it his duty to be his companion. In fulfilling this responsibility, both Gurmukhs intensified their activities and started awakening the Sikh Sangat. Due to their efforts, many people began embracing the Khalsa identity, giving up drugs and becoming Amritdharis.
While Sant Giani Kartar Singh Ji Khalsa spoke with ease and a calm manner, Sant Giani Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa used straightforward language that could humble even an atheist or a depraved person, turning them into Gursikhs. On Baisakhi of April 13, 1978, the Nirankaris perpetrated a massacre of Sikhs in Amritsar, leading to a widespread upheaval in the Sikh community.
President of the AISSF
The Federation became a powerless organization. Many Sikh youths, such as Birdwinder Singh, Balwant Singh Ramuwalia, Jaswant Singh Grewal, Manjit Singh Nabha, Harjinder Singh Dilgir, and Harsimran Singh, tried to raise the name of the Federation, but they didn’t succeed. After the Nirankari incident, there was an uproar of anger among Sikh youth, who were getting organized in every city. In these circumstances, a gathering was called at Tagore Theater in Chandigarh on July 2, 1978, in which a large number of Sikh youth attended under the influence of Nirankari Massacre.
In this gathering, on the suggestion of Bhan Singh, Bhai Amrik Singh was appointed as the President of the Federation. With this, there was a revolutionary turn in the federation, and the organization woke up from a long slumber. The units of the federation began to be formed from place to place. The name of the Federation started echoing everywhere in protests against the anti-cult movements. Wherever there was an attack on Sikh philosophy and principles, the youth of the Federation began to give a sweeping response. On September 25, 1978, 12 Singhs were martyred by police firing at the front against the Nirankaris in Kanpur. Among those martyred here was the active worker of the Federation, Jagjit Singh from Kanpur, who was very popular among the youth of that time. This martyrdom shocked all the collegiates.
Clashes with Comrades
When federation units started forming in every college, the communists, who had been ensnaring Sikh youth by spreading atheism in colleges for a long time, suffered a lot. Disputes took place with the student organization of comrades in Guru Nanak College Moga, G.N.E., Ludhiana, and many other places. But Sikh sentiments had now awakened, and the ranks of the communists were divided.
The CBI tried to apprehend those responsible for the Gurbachan case. Other government agencies also initiated crackdowns, especially targeting the AISSF and Damdami Taksal in Punjab. Many Singhs were arrested and subjected to torture. The general consensus was that the government was gearing up to arrest Sant Ji. On 7th June 1980, under the leadership of Bhai Amrik Singh, the Federation organized a torchlight procession in Amritsar. The Federation mobilized people in Punjab and Delhi against this state oppression.
On July 20, 1980, more than one lakh Sikhs participated in a procession in Delhi. The Federation expressed so much anger that Union Home Minister Giani Jail Singh had to make a statement in Parliament – “No connection of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala could be established in connection with the murder of Nirankari leader Baba Gurbachan Singh. Therefore, Sant Ji is innocent, and the government has no intention of arresting him. They can go to any part of India to preach religion.” This was the result of Bhai Amrik Singh’s hard work.
Declaration of Amritsar as a Holy City
In 1981, the AISSF played a leading role in launching the struggle for holy city status for Amritsar, the holy city of the Khalsa Panth. Jathedar Gurdayal Singh Ajnoha (Jathedar Akal Takht Sahib), Sant Jarnail Singh Ji, head of Damdami Taksal, Federation President Bhai Amrik Singh, and other Singhs had a meeting, and an 11-member committee was formed to take action on this issue.
Dal Khalsa and AISSF Singh were very excited. On May 1, 1981, it was decided that urban Hindus should also be included, and paan, beedi, and cigarette shops should be removed. The status of a holy city was given to Haridwar, Kashi, and many other Hindu shrines in India. This demand of the Sikhs was justified. Sant Ji had a visit to Hazur Sahib, and Bhai Amrik Singh and S. Harminder Singh Sandhu were leading it. In this regard, a procession was also called for on May 31 to put pressure on the government.
On May 25, 1981, the DC of Amritsar called a joint meeting of Hindu-Sikhs, where Durgiana Mandir Committee president Gopi Chand Bhatia, Arya Sabha leader Bhola Nath Dilawari, Mr. O.P. Pubhakar, and Seth Ram Nath joined. In the meeting, Hindu leaders suggested that along with paan and beedi shops, meat shops should also be removed. Bhai Amrik Singh and other Sikh leaders immediately agreed to that. It was decided here that Hindu leaders would also participate in the procession on May 31, with everyone’s signature on the resolution to support it.
However, the Hindu leaders reneged on the promise. Hindus took out a provocative procession in the city on May 29. Sikhs were teased by tying cigarettes to bare kirpans, and the slogans were also very provocative. The slogans were also very provocative – “Cigarette beedi pienge, hum shan se jienge” (we will smoke cigarettes and beedi, by it we will live in pride) & “Kash Kara Kirpan, Ehnu Bhejo Pakistan” (through away (Sikhs) Kshehra, Kara and Kirpan, to Pakistan). Harbans Lal Khana was leading all this procession.
On the morning of May 31, Amritsar city was flooded with pilgrims, and there was no place to step. Along with traditional weapons, guns, pistols, and carbines plagued the administration. The saints said in the Diwan Hall Manji Sahib that the procession should be kept peaceful, and even if someone throws stones, just stay peaceful. Approximately 50 thousand Sikhs participated in this procession, and the advance of the procession resembled the advance of the Khalsa army. This historic procession ended by going to Ram Bagh (Company Bagh). Anti-Sikh media labeled this procession the “Khalistan March.”