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Bhai Subeg Singh and Shahbaz Singh

Bhai Subeg Singh, Shahbaz Singh
Sardar Subeg Singh was an influential zamindar of Jambar, in the district of Lahore. He was also a government contractor. He was great scholar of Persian, a wise and upright man. He proved useful to Zakriya Khan on a number of occasions. For many years the Mughal government pursued a policy of persecuting the Sikhs. It was determined to root them out completely. Thousands and thousands were murdered in cold blood. But the Sikhs just continued to grow. They never thought of giving up their faith to save their lives. The martyrdom of persons like Bhai Taru Singh produced a wave of indignation among Sikhs of the Majha. They decided to retaliate. They resolved to take revenge. They began to fall on government treasuries and caravans. Parties coming with chests of revenue meant for Lahore were waylaid and looted. As a result for some years no money from revenue could reach the government treasury. The forces of government tried to punish the offenders. But they were unable to contact them; for the Sikhs did not live in houses or forts. After each attack, they used to run away to their camps in the forests. The story of persecution and revenge went on for some time. The government, at last, felt tired of this method of dealing with rebels. It decided to pacify and conciliate them. Accordingly, in 1733 Zakriya Khan represented his difficulties to the Delhi government. He suggested that a policy of conciliation should be given in a trial. with that end in view, he proposed that a grant be made to the Sikhs and a title be conferred on their leader. The proposal was accepted. The next thing needed was to persuade the Sikhs to agree to the proposal. Zakriya Khan felt that to persuade them would not be an easy task. He turned to Sardar Subeg Singh for help. He said to him, 'If you succeed in bringing them round, you will receive good service to me and my government. It will be remembered, appreciated and duly rewarded.'

Sardar Subeg Singh agreed to do his best. He agreed to meet the Sikhs and try his skill. At that time the Khalsa had assembled at the Akal Takhat, Amritsar. He went there and held discussion with them. He informed them of the offer made by the government. He offered them the title of 'Nawab' for their leader, along with a Jagir of about one lakh rupees. They would not accept the offer. They were about to reject it outright. But Sardar Subeg Singh succeeded in overcoming their objections. Then they accepted the offer. In this way, some sort of peace was made between Mughal government and the Sikhs. Zakriya Khan felt relived a good deal. He appreciated the part played by Sardar Subeg Singh in bringing about the reconciliation. But after some time, the campaign of persecution was started once again. In the heat of that campaign even Sardar Subeg Singh was not spared. He was arrested along with his son, Sardar Shahbaz Singh. This is how it happened. Sardar Subeg Singh had a son named Sardar Shahbaz Singh. He used to read in a Muhammadan school under a qazi. The boy was usually handsome, bright and promising. The qazi took a fancy to him. He wished to convert him to Islam. He wanted to marry his daughter to him. The qazi tried his utmost. He used all his skills. But Sardar Shahbaz Singh was firm in his faith. Neither threats nor tempting offers could make him change his resolve. Because of this, the qazi's fondness for the bright, handsome boy diminished. He became determined to finish him. He reported unfavorably to the government against him. He said, 'The boy has used disrespectful words against his prophet. He has said foul thing against Islam. This kafir deserves no mercy. He deserves death.'

On the basis of this report, Sardar Shahbaz Singh was arrested and taken to Lahore. He was to stand trial before the governor. At the same time, his father, Sardar Subeg Singh, was also arrested and imprisoned. It was said against him that he supplied information to the Sikhs. But Zakriya Khan died before he could see the end of his victims. He was succeeded by his son, Yahiya Khan. This person was more cruel than his father. He had no soft corner in his heart for Sardar Subeg Singh. He took up his case and pursued it to the bitter end. Sardar Subeg Singh was asked to give up his religion or suffer death at the wheel. He refused to give up his religion. Thereupon, he was put on the wheel and turned on it. The pain was sharp and intense. But it did not break his spirit. Then his son, Shahbaz Singh, was told, 'You can save your life by accepting Islam.' He refused to give up his faith. Thereupon, he was bound to the wheel. He was turned on it before his father's eyes. Both bore the torture with great patience. They went on shouting, 'Akal' all the time. At intervals, the wheels were stopped and the two were asked, 'Do you agree to embrace Islam ?' Every time they shook their heads and shouted, 'NO'. The wheels were set in motion again. The two kept on shouting 'Akal' ! 'Akal'. The wheels had sharp knives arranged around them. They went on working mercilessly. The shouts of Akal grew feebler and feebler. Then they ceased altogether. Both left their bodies. They went away to join the ranks of illustration Sikh martyrs.

This occurred in the year 1745.

Source - Sikh History Book 5 by Kartar Singh, Hemkunt Press, New Delhi