KARAM SIṄGH, BHĀĪ (1885-1922), who died a martyr in the Pañjā Sāhib episode, was the son of Bhāī Bhagvān Siṅgh, a priest of Takht Kesgaṛh, at Anandpur Sāhib. He was born on 14 November 1885 and given the name of Sant Siṅgh. He received instruction in the Sikh sacred lore and in devotional music from his father and grew up to be an accomplished singer of the holy hymns. At the time of the Gurū kā Bāgh agitation in 1922, Karam Siṅgh and his wife, Kishan Kaur, went on a pilgrimage to Gurdwārā Pañjā Sāhib where he so impressed the saṅgat with his kīrtan that the Gurdwārā committee employed him permanently as one of the choir. Here he also took the pāhul of the Khālsā and was renamed Karam Siṅgh.
The agitation at Gurū kā Bāgh, a shrine near Amritsar taken over by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee after a negotiated settlement with the erstwhile mahant or priest, had started on 8 August 1922 over the question of the right of felling trees from the Gurdwārā land for the Gurū kā Laṅgar. The mahant, going back on his word, sought help from police against the alleged trespass, and Sikhs had recourse to a non-violent resistance campaign. At first Sikh volunteers were arrested and tried for trespass, but from 25 August police began beating them with canes and lāthīs. The volunteers would go to the disputed site unarmed, in groups of four at a time, with the declared intention of felling trees and the police would beat them mercilessly. They would take the beating with a stoic calm and would not budge until rendered unconscious, removed and replaced by the next batch. As the news of police atrocity spread, the number of volunteers who came forward to take the beating increased. The reverend C.F. Andrews visited Gurū kā Bāgh on 12 September and reported what he had seen to the Punjab Governor, who visited Amritsar on 13 September. The beating stopped from the next day, but arrests recommenced. The prisoners were kept in the Gobindgaṛh Fort at Amritsar for a few days, and when they made a trainful of load, they were despatched to distant jails such as Multān and Mīāṅvālī. On 29 October 1922, one such special train left Amritsar for the Attock Fort. It was to touch Hasan Abdāl (Pañjā Sāhib) railway station the following forenoon. The Pañjā Sāhib Sikhs prepared a meal to be served to the detenues. But when they reached the railway station, they were informed that the special train was not scheduled to halt at Hasan Abdāl. The Sikhs pleaded that on earlier occasions such trains had been stopped at places like Jehlum and Gujjar Khān for prisoners to be fed, but the station master expressed his helplessness in face of the instructions he had received.
The signals were lowered and the sound of the train could be heard from a distance. There was no time for further pleading or argument. Bhāī Karam Siṅgh and his colleague, Bhāī Pratāp Siṅgh, treasurer of the local Gurdwārā committee, sat cross-legged in the middle of the railway track determined to stop the train. They were followed by several others, men and women, who sat next to them. The locomotive driver slowed down and whistled without knowing who the squatters were. The train steamed on, but the Sikhs did not move. As it came to a screeching halt, it had run over eleven of the squatters. The rest of the saṅgat rushed forward and pulled out the injured. Badly mangled but still retaining consciousness, Bhāī Karam Siṅgh and Bhāī Pratāp Siṅgh told them not to waste time on them, but first serve food to the prisoners.
The train whistled and moved on. The injured were brought to the Gurdwārā Pañjā Sāhib and given medical aid. Bhāī Karam Siṅgh and Bhāī Pratāp Siṅgh were, however, beyond recovery and they died on 31 October 1922. Their dead bodies were taken to Rāwalpiṇḍī on 1 November and cremated there on the bank of the Lai stream. Until the partition of 1947, an annual fair used to be held at Gurdwārā Pañjā Sāhib on 14, 15 and 16 Kārtik in memory of the martyrs.
Partāp Siṅgh Giānī