Category: The British and Sikhs [1849 - 1947]
SAKA PANJA SAHIB, the heroic event which took place at Hasan Abdal railway station, close to the sacred shrine of Pahja Sahib on the morning of 30 October 1922 and which has since passed into folklore as an instance of Sikh courage and resolution. A nonviolent morcha or agitation to assert the right to felling trees for Guru ka Langar from the land attached to Gurdwara Guru ka Bagh in Amritsar district, already taken over from the priests by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee after a negotiated set dement, had started on 8 August 1922. At first Sikh volunteers were arrested and tried for trespass, but from 25 August police resorted to beating day after day the batches of Sikhs that came.This went on till 13 September when, on the intervention of the Punjab Governor, the beating stopped and the procedure of arrests resumed.
The prisoners were tried summarily at Amritsar and then despatched by special trains to distantjails. One such train left Amritsar on 29 October 1922 for the Attock Fort which would touch Hasan Abdal the following morning. The Sikhs of Pahja Sahib decided to serve a meal to the detenues but, when they reached the railway station with the food, they were informed by the station master that the train was not scheduled to halt there. Their entreaties and their plea that such trains had been stopped at other places for the prisoners to be fed went unheeded.
Two of the Sikhs, Bhai Pratap Singh and Bhai Karam Singh who were leading the sangat went forward as the rumbling sound of the approaching train was heard and sat cross legged in the middle of the track. Several others, men and women, followed suit. The train driver slowed down suddenly and brought the train to a screeching halt, but not before it had run over eleven of the squatters. The worst mauled were Bhai Pratap Singh and Bhai Karam Singh, who succumbed to their injuries the following day.
Their dead bodies were taken to Rawalpindi where they were cremated on 1 November 1922. They were hailed as martyrs and, until the partition of 1947, a three day religious fair used to be held in their memory at Pahja Sahib from 30 October to 1 November every year.
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