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Bhai Sukha Singh and Bhai Mehtab Singh

Bhai Sukha Singh and Mehtab Singh
The Mughal government had started an all-out campaign against the Sikhs. As a result, most of the Sikhs had left the plains. They had taken shelter in places like the Shivalik hills, jungles and sandy deserts. Sometimes, however, they used to come out of their hiding and make their presence felt. One such occasion was Nadir Shah's invasion of India. Nadir Shah of Persia had overrun the Punjab and plundered Delhi in the early months of 1739. On the way back, he decided to avoid the heat of the plains. So he took a northerly route under the Shivalik hills. A number of Sikhs were passing their days in those hills. They decided to plunder the invader and plunderer. They fell on the rear of the hindermost part of his army. They took away much of his booty. This action astonished Nadir Shah. He called a halt at Lahore. He enquired from Zakriya Khan 'Who are these people who have dared to interfere with my onward march? Who are these bold mischief-makers?' Zakriya Khan replied, 'They are a group of fakirs. They visit their Guru's tank at Amritsar twice a year. After bathing they disappear.' 'Where do they live?' asked Nadir Shah. 'Their saddles are their homes,' replied the governor. 'Take care', said Nadir Shah, the day is not far off when they will take possession of your country.'

Nadir Shah's remark cut Zakriya Khan to the quick. He resolved to intensify his campaign against the Sikhs. He restarted the practice of offering rewards for their capture and destruction. Thousands of Sikhs were killed. Soon, the plains seemed to have been cleared of them. However, another action still was taken against them. The Darbar Sahib of Amritsar was occupied. Its approaches were guarded by military pickets. The latter prevented the Sikhs from assembling in their favorite sacred place. Massa Ranghar of Mandiali was put in charge of the Darbar Sahib. He was the most active of the Chaudries engaged in capturing and destroying Sikhs. The inmost Gurdwara was turned into a notch-house (dance hall). He used to smoke and drink, and enjoy the dance of public women there. The news of this disrespectful used of the sacred Gurdwara was conveyed by some persons to a party of Sikhs living in Jaipur, Rajputana. One of those Sikhs was Bhai Mehtab Singh. He was a GurSikh of Mirankot, near Amritsar. He was astonished at the news. He said to the messenger, "You have heard of this outrage to the sacred place, and yet you still live and go about telling the news to others ! Why was not Massa killed then and there? Is there no Sikh left?" 'No, 'replied the messenger. 'There is no Sikh there with a greater sense of honor then those who have run away to places like Jaipur in order to save their lives.' Bhai Mehtab Singh was a strong bodied brave young man. The messenger's taunt stung him like a scorpion. He stood up at once, took his sword, and said, 'I shall go and cut off Massa's head with this sword, and bring it here. He saddled his horse and got ready to gallop away. Bhai Sukha Singh of Mari Kambo offered to go with him. Both galloped off towards Amritsar. When they arrived close to the sacred city, they disguised themselves as Muhammadans. They filled two bags with well rounded pieces of broken earthen pots. Each of them placed one of the bags before him on the horse. They looked like Muhammadan Lambardars come to pay their land revenue. 

They reached Amritsar in August 1740. They entered the precincts of the Gurdwara. To the guards they said, 'We have to come pay land revenue to our Chaudri.' They were allowed to go in. They tied their horses outside the main gate. The ber tree to the which horses were tied still exists. They came to Massa Ranghar. He was seated on a cot, smoking a hukka. He was intoxicated with wine. With half closed eyes he was listening to the music of dancing girls. The sight made their blood boil. Bhai Sukha Singh stood watch near the door. Bhai Mehtab Singh went in and fell on the tyrant like lightning. With one stroke of his sword he cut off Massa's head. Massa's companions were taken by surprise. They ran about in terror. Before they could recover from their surprise and shock, Bhai Sukha Singh and Mehtab Singh had made good their escape and galloped away. Zakriya Khan soon heard of Massa Ranghar's end. He was beside himself with rage on hearing of the daring deed of the two Sikhs. He summoned all Chaudhries of the pagans  around Amritsar. He ordered them to find out and bring him the murderer of Massa. A handsome prize was promised for his capture. Harbhagat Niranjinia of Jandiala was a sworn enemy of the Sikhs. He had helped the government to hunt them. He came forward and promised to do his best in this case, too. He discovered that Bhai Mehtab Singh had murdered Massa. He conveyed his information to the governor. Thereupon, Bhai Mehtab Singh's village, Mirankot, was surrounded by a strong force under the command of one Nur Din, Harbhagat accompanied the force.

Bhai Mehtab Singh, of course, was not found there. But his little son, Rai Singh, was there. Before leaving the village, Bhai Mehtab Singh had placed his little son under the protection of the village Lambardar. The latter's name was Natha Khaihra. Nur Din sent for him. He was told to bring the child with him. But Natha did not want to hand over the child to those butchers. Lifting him on his shoulder, he left the village by the back door. Three or four other villagers were with him. Nur Din's men learnt of his escape. Harbhagat, together with some soldiers, hurried after Natha and his companions. He overtook them soon and attacked them. A fierce fight took place between the two parties. Nathanand and his companions were killed. Rai Singh was seriously wounded. Harbhagat took him for dead. He went back, leaving the wounded child there. A Kambo woman happened to pass that way. She saw the wounded child and finding him still alive, she took him home. Under her motherly care, Rai Singh recovered in due course. In the year 1745, Bhai Mehtab Singh came to his village in order to see his family and friends. Some evil person informed the local Muslim official that he was there. Bhai Mehtab Singh was captured, chained, and taken to Lahore. There he was told to choose between Islam and death. He stoutly refused to give up his faith. He chose death. He said, 'No true Sikh can ever agree to give up his faith, to turn his back on the Guru. I shall die a Sikh.' Thereupon, he was publicly broken on the wheel. That was a most painful mode of killing. Bhai Mehtab Singh remained calm all the time. He did not utter even a single groan or cry of pain. He kept meditating on God and repeating His name.

His head then was cut off. It was hung up in Hiramandi. His body was thrown into a ditch. Bhai Mehtab Singh was killed, and killed, with the utmost brutality. But he is not really dead. Like all martyrs, he is still alive. His memory will last as long as the holy Harmandar at Amritsar still stands. We know that he tied his horse to a ber tree outside the holy place. That tree still exists. Visitors to the Golden Temple respectfully touch and salute the said ber tree. They recall and admire the daring, noble deed of the great Sikh martyr. In this way he lives and shall live forever.

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