The Nankana Sahib Massacre refers to the grim episode during the Gurdwara Reform Movement or Akali Movement in which a peaceful batch of reformist Sikhs were subjected to a murderous assault on 20 February 1921 in the holy shrine at Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. In October 1920, a congregation was […]
The Nankana Sahib Massacre refers to the grim episode during the Gurdwara Reform Movement or Akali Movement in which a peaceful batch of reformist Sikhs were subjected to a murderous assault on 20 February 1921 in the holy shrine at Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
In October 1920, a congregation was held at Dharowal, District Sheikhupura to inform the Sangat of the misdeeds being committed inside Gurdwara Nankana Sahib. This shrine along with six others in the town had been under the control of Udasi priests ever since the time the Sikhs were driven by Mughal oppression to seek safety in remote hills and deserts. The priests not only treated the Gurdwaras as their private properties but had also introduced practices and ceremonial which had no sanction in Sikhism.
At the meeting, it was unanimously resolved that the Mahant be asked to mend his ways. When Mahant Narian Dass was asked upon to do so, he started making preparations to oppose the Panth instead. He did not feel it necessary to pay heed to the suggestions of the Committee. He was the owner of the estate attached to the Gurdwara with an income of one hundred thousand rupees besides the offerings of the Gurdwara. Almost simultaneously a Sikh shrine, Gurdwara Babe di Ber, at Sialkot, was liberated from priestly control and taken over by the Sikhs on 5 October 1920, which marked the beginning of the Gurdwara Reform movement. Darbar Sahib and the Akal Takht were occupied on 13 October 1920.
Narain Das, with the help of the Government started recruiting a private army and laying in arms. The Government was using every available weapon to make Akali movmement of Gurdwara reform, a failure. Narain Das got the Gurdwara gate strengthened and got holes made in it so that bullets could be fired through them. In the meeting of Parbhandak Committee on 17 February 1921, it was decided that two jathas one led by Bhai Lachhman Singh and the other by Bhai Kartar Singh Virk (alias Jhabbar) should meet at Chander Kot on 19 February.
From there they were to reach Nankana Sahib early in the morning of 20th February, to talk to the Mahant, Narain Das. Upon seeing the preparation of the Mahant, the Parbhandak Committee held a meeting on 19th February, in which it was resolved that the jathas should not be taken to Nankana Sahib on the 20th February. Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabbar was present in the meeting. He was informed about the changes and was told to inform Bhai Lachhman Singh. Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabbar immediately dispatched Bhai Waryam Singh to Chander Kot so that other jatha could be stopped.
Bhai Lachchman Singh, in accordance with the original programme had reached Chander Kot on the night of 19th February with his jatha of 150 Singhs and waited for Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabbar and his jatha.
Bhai Waryama Singh arrived with news not to lead the jatha to the Gurdwara, Bhai Lachchman Singh said to the Singhs of his jatha, “When we have started for a good cause, we should not waste time.” All members of the jatha agreed. Bhai Lachhman Singh got a promise from the Singh’s not to strike and remain peaceful no matter what. After that the jatha prayed for their success of their nobel resolve. After the prayer, as the jatha was about to move forward, Bhai Waryam Singh arrived. He showed them the letter about the new decision of the Committee. Bhai Tehal Singh Said, “Dear Khalsa, we have taken our resolve at the prayer (Ardaas)and cannot turn back now. It is imperitive for us to move forward.” The jatha as a whole moved forward following Bhai Tehal Singh.
Thus on the morning of 20 February 1921, the jatha of 150 Sikhs lead by Bhai Lachhman Singh entered the sacred precincts. People bathed in the holy pool (sarowar) and entered the premises of Gurdwara at 0600 hrs. Bhai Lachchma Singh sat in ‘Taabiya’ (Behind Guru Granth Sahib). The Mahant had got the news of their arrival at Chander Kot on the evening of 19th February. He had gathered his men at night and briefed them about their duties.
After the jatha of Singh’s had sat down, the Mahant signalled his men to carry out the predetermined plan. The Sikhs were chanting the sacred hymns when the attack started. Bullets were mercilessly rained on them from the roof of an adjoining building. Bhai Lachhman Singh was struck down sitting in attendance of the Guru Granth Sahib. Twenty-six Singhs became martyrs to those bullets in the courtyard while another sixty or so sitting inside the Darbar Sahib became targets of bullets. When the Mahant’s men saw no one moving, they came down with swords and choppers. Any Singh they found breathing was cut to pieces.