TARU SINGH, BHAI (1720-45), the martyr, was a Sandhu Jatt of Puhia village, now in Amritsar district of the Punjab. He was a pious Sikh who tilled his land diligently and lived frugally. Whatever he saved went to his Sikh brethren forced into exile by government persecution. Spied upon by Harbhagat Niranjania of Jandiala, a government informer, Taru Singh was hauled up before Zakariya Khan, the governor at Lahore (1726-45). As the Prachm Panth Prakash narrates the story, Zakariya Khan once asked his men, “From where do the Sikhs obtain their nourishment ? I have debarred them from all occupations.

They realize no taxes. They do not farm, nor are they allowed to do business or join public employment. I have stopped all offerings to their gurdwaras. No provisions or supplies are accessible to them. Why do they not die of sheer starvation.” Harbhagat, a sworn foe of the Sikhs, remarked, “There are Sikhs in this world who would not eat until they have fed their brethren. They may themselves go without food and clothing, but cannot bear their comrades` distress. They would pass the winter by fireside and send them their own clothes. They would sweat to grind corn and have it sent to them.

They would do the roughest chore to earn a small wage for their sake. They migrate to distant places to eke out money for their brothers in exile.” In the village of Puhia in Majha,” continued Harbhagat, “lives one Taru Singh. He tills his land and pays the revenue to the officials. He eats but little and sends what he saves to his brothers in the jungle. His mother and sister both toil and grind to make a living. They eat sparingly and wear the coarsest homespun. Whatever they save, they pass on to the Sikhs.” Taru Singh was arrested, imprisoned and tortured.

Eventually, when presented before the governor, he defiantly greeted him with the Sikh salutation: Vahiguru jika Khalsa Vahiguru ji ki Fateh. Charged with sedition, he stated : “If we till your land, we pay the revenue. If we engage in commerce, we pay taxes. What is left after our payments to you is for our bellies. What we save from our mouths, we give to our brethren. We take nothing from you. Why then do you punish us?” The governor was in a rage and pronounced the usual alternatives, Islam or death.

To quote again from the Prachin Panth Prakash, Taru Singh calmly asked, “Why must I become a Mussalman ? Do not the Mussalmans ever die ?” A torturous death by scrapping the scalp off his head was the verdict announced by the qadi, the court lawgiver. The sentence was carried out on 1 July 1745. Taru Singh was then barely 25 years of age. The dead body was cremated outside Delhi Gate at Lahore, where a shahidganj, or martyrs` memorial, was later constructed. It became a place of pilgrimage for the Sikhs.

References :

1. Bhangu, Ratan Singh, Prachin Panth Prakash. Amritsar, 1914
2. Gian Singh, Giani, Panth Prakash. Lahore, 1880
3. Lakshman Singh, Bhagat, Sikh Martyrs. Madras, 1928
4. Gandhi, Surjit Singh, Struggle of the Sikhs for Sovereignty. Delhi, 1980
5. Ganda Singh and Teja Singh, A Short History of the Sikhs. Bombay, 1950
6. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983