GURCHARAN SIṄGH, a Kūkā leader (formally designated sūbā, i.e. governor or deputy, by Bābā Rām Siṅgh) who attempted to seek help of the Russians against the British, was born in 1806 at Chakk Pirāṇā in Siālkoṭ district, now in Pakistan, the son of Atar Siṅgh Virk. He joined the army of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh as a trooper in 1833 and served the Sikh State up to its annexation in 1849. He was initiated into the Kūkā faith about 1870 by the Kūkā sūbā, Jotā Siṅgh, also of the Siālkoṭ district, and shortly afterwards was himself appointed a sūbā. After the deportation of Bābā Rām Siṅgh to Rangoon in 1872, Gurcharan Siṅgh travelled extensively preaching the Kūkā creed and making converts. He got in contact with Russians after they had firmly established themselves in the central Asian region. He knew Pashto and Persian languages and was fully familiar with Afghanistan and the territories beyond having visited Kābul several times. He possessed a strong physique capable of undertaking long and arduous journeys. His descriptive roll as given in the police records at the time of his arrest in 1881 was: "Light complexion, large eyes, aquiline features, white beard and moustaches, height about 5 ft 11 inches, age 75 years; general appearance -- a fine and handsome specimen of a Sikh."
In 1879, Gurcharan Siṅgh carried a letter to the Russian authorities purporting to be from Bābā Rām Siṅgh, the Kūkā leader. He reached Tash Kurghan in April 1880 where he was received by the Russian governor of Tashkent. The letter in Gurmukhī began with salāms to the Russian emperor, the governor-general and other Russian officers and among other things went on to say that Rām Siṅgh was the spiritual leader of 3,15,000 Kūkās, all brave soldiers; that the tyrannical British government had imprisoned him in Rangoon; that the British were afraid of losing the Punjab to the Kūkās; that Russians would go to India to expel the English and that both the Russians and the Khālsā would rule over all India. The Russian authorities showed keen interest in Gurcharan Siṅgh's mission, but they were non-committal and wished to proceed with caution. A letter was, however, given to the Kūkā leader:
Greetings from the Commander-in-Chief and the Governor-General to Baba Ram Singh and Baba Budh Singh. The letter was duly received from Gurcharan Singh, careful consideration was given it, and the contents were gratifying to note. Thanks for the informative communication, but it is desirable to have details, more fresh news about the affairs and situation in India. The prophecy of Guru Govind Singh and Guru Baba Nanak was noted for information. Everything will happen according to the Will of God. The prophets know best when the hour will strike.
Gurcharan Siṅgh reached Bhaiṇī Sāhib by a circuitous route via Peshāwar and Rāwalpiṇḍī and delivered the Russian letter with the accompanying presents to Bābā Buddh Siṅgh for onward transmission to Bābā Rām Siṅgh. The British government came to know about the movements of Gurcharan Siṅgh and began to keep a strict watch upon him. He was soon arrested and sent to Multān jail. After his release in 1886, he was kept under police surveillance in his native village in Siālkoṭ district.
M. L. Āhlūwālīā