Sikhs must work together to stop our own from suffering torture

Jagtar “Jaggi” Singh Johal resides in a prison cell in Punjab after having been hooded and bundled into a van by plain-clothes officers. He was then allegedly tortured at the hands of Punjab’s police. When filmed in custody, he had his face covered, igniting suspicions that he was being forcibly gagged.

According to Jaggi’s legal team, he has been subjected to various types of horrific acts, and has experienced third degree torture, in police custody.

“Jaggi told me that he was tortured physically and mentally as his legs were forcibly stretched beyond limits, and he was given electric shorts on nipples, ears and private organ,” legal advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur told Sikh Siyasat News.

This type of treatment is designed to induce confessions, but can result in mental health disorders, paralysis, organ failure and impotence. His treatment has caught the attention of the British media and the Houses of Parliament, where MP Michael-Doherty Hughes raised his concerns.

No person, regardless of what they have done, should be subjected to this kind of cruelty. And if there is any community that ought to know better, it is the Sikhs.

Violence has been perpetrated against our people for centuries, of which Sikhs today are fully aware. The entire Sikh population was targeted by India in 1984. Decades earlier, in 1919, was the massacre that took place at Jallian Wala Bagh in Amritsar, at the hands of British forces.

Prior to that, 100,000s of Sikhs were killed when the British invaded the Sikh Empire. And before that, Sikhs suffered abhorrently under the Mughal regime. So many of our ancestors’ lives were ended with the immense cruelty of torture, yet today, the Sikhs are torturing each other.

At such a time, Sikhs worldwide ought to reflect on the notion of torturing another being, and what Sikhi teaches us on this topic.

Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji

The Fifth Guru, Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji was the first of many Sikhs who have been tortured and martyred throughout our history.

On October 17, 1605, Mughal Emperor Jahangir was crowned, following the death of his father, Emperor Akbar. Jahangir was a person of loose morals who was fond of drinking alcohol.

Jahangir faced much ire from the religious clergy due to his carefree attitude. He sought to win over the orthodox Muslims by punishing leaders of other faiths, in contrast to the tolerant attitude that his father Akbar had previously displayed.

Jahangir explained his intentions in his memoirs, called Tuzak-i-Jehangiri. Loosely translated, he wrote: “At Goindwal on the banks of the river Beas, lived a Hindu, Arjan by name, in the garb of a Pir or Sheikh. Thus, many innocent Hindus and even foolish and ignorant Muslims he brought into his fold who beat the drum noisily of his self-appointed prophethood.

“He was called Guru. From all sides, worshippers came to offer their homage to him and put full trust in his word. For three or four generations, they had warmed up this business. For a long time I had harbored the wish that I should set aside this business of falsehood or I should bring him into the fold of Islam.”

Jahangir explains in the memoirs that his son Khusro, who had rebelled against his Emperor father, even went to meet Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who applied a tilak to Khusro’s forehead.

Jahangir heard this account personally and ordered that Guru Ji be brought to him, that his property be confiscated and he be dealt with in accordance with the political and common law of the land; at a time when non-Muslims were given the option of death or Islam.

Jahangir demanded that Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji revise the Adi Granth Sahib Ji, which would later become the foundation of our living Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The Emperor wanted Sache Paatshah to remove all references to Islam and Hinduism in the Granth. Of course, Guru Ji refused to do so. Thus Jahangir then ordered Murtaza Khan to deal with Guru Ji.

Murtaza Khan immediately jailed Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji and ordered them to be tortured to death if Guru Ji did not agree to remove the alleged derogatory references. Guru Ji was made to sit on a red hot iron sheet, while Mughal soldiers poured burning hot sand on their body. Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji was then dipped in boiling water. For five days, they bore all of these brutalities with calm serenity.

On May 30, 1606 the Guru asked for a bath in the river Ravi by the side of the Mughal fort, it was here that they ascended into Sachkhand. Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji had been named as Guru Ji’s successor before they left to meet Murtaza Khan, and were given the Hukam to form an army.

Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji

Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji was not the only Guru to have been martyred, the 9th Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, was also executed by a Mughal leader.

Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji had purchased the land consisting of the villages of Lodhipur, Mianpur and Sahota, and ordained that a city be constructed there. The original name of the city was Chakk Nanaki. However, later Guru Ji renamed the city Anandpur, meaning the City of Bliss, and this was where the Khalsa was born.

At a time when the Mughals were torturing, converting and killing millions of Hindus, the Pandits of Kashmir had been given an ultimatum to convert or die. For help they traveled to Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji.

Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji decided to stand up for the Pandits right of freedom of worship and told the delegation to send a message to Aurangzeb that if he could first convince Guru Tegh Bahadur to become a Muslim, that they too would gladly convert.

Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji were taken into custody by Nur Muhammad Khan Miraza of Ropar Police on July 12th 1675, at Malikpur Ranghran, Pargana Ghanaula. Along with Guru Ji, two brothers; Bhai Mati Das Ji and Bhai Sati Das Ji, and a third Sikh, Bhai Dyal Das, were taken in chains to Delhi. Guru ji and his 3 companions were tortured and not given food for several days.

Bhai Mati Das was chosen first. Their method of torture was to be sawed in half, vertically from the head down. Bhai Ji told the executioners not to flinch or jerk when they were sawing him in half, and to make it a clean cut, as they did not want the Sangat to think it was he who had flinched.

When given a final request, Bhai Mati Das asked to be faced toward Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji. His wish was granted. He was made to stand with his face toward the Guru. He was tightly tied between two flat logs of wood. A saw was placed on his head. Each end of it was held by a Mughal soldier. As they began to move the saw to and fro, Bhai Mati Das Ji did not utter any cry of pain. His face showed no sign of suffering, and instead Bhai Mati Das Ji calmly repeated Jap Ji Sahib. His body was sawed into two, and Mughal accounts note that for some time, both halves of this great Sikh continued reciting Jap Ji Sahib as though they were two separate people.

After having martyred Bhai Mati Das, the Mughals turned to Bhai Dyal Das. He was seated in a large boiling vessel, which was then filled with water. Then they lit fire to the wood piled beneath. Soon the water began to boil. Bhai Dyal Das was calm and cool all this while. He stepped into the boiling water, sitting down with no sign of suffering on his face. He did not give out even the faintest cry of pain and instead went on reciting Jap Ji Sahib. This went on until his soul left his body for Sachkhand to join Bhai Mati Das.
Bhai Sati Das, the brother of Bhai Mati Das, was next. Bhai Sati Das was wrapped in cotton, which had been soaked in oil. The cotton was then set afire and as the fire roared around him, his face was calm and cheerful, as he too continued reciting Jap Ji Sahib.

Through all of this Guru ji had watched as his Sikhs were tortured in such hideous ways. Nonetheless, Guru Ji refused to accept Islam. Then Aurangzeb, seeing that Guru Ji was indeed no ordinary man, had one last thought to spare such an obvious Godly leader. Aurangzeb offered Guru Ji a chance to live if only he would perform a miracle for him. Guru Ji reminded the Emperor that he had just shown him three miracles; the miraculous strength, determination and steadfastness that his Sikhs had just demonstrated. However, Aurangzeb went back on his word and then beheaded Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji in Chandini Chowk on the 11th of November, in 1675.

Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was beheaded on 24 November 1675. Their severed head was taken back to Anandpur Sahib by Bhai Jaita, where it was cremated by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Bhai Jaita Ji’s own father volunteered to be beheaded to cover the loss of the Guru’s body.

Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji had earned their acclaim as a personality who was a warrior as well as a family man, and a preacher of great understanding and vision. The achievements of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji are remarkable. Guru Ji founded Anandpur Sahib, went on tours to Uttar Pardesh and Bengal to spread awareness of Sikhi. Guru Ji also initiated welfare projects all over northern Panjab. Guru Ji was also a versatile poet and embodied a message of freedom, courage and compassion. They wrote Salok Mahalla 9 and taught Sikhs not to fear anyone, and nor to frighten either.

During the last period in Guru Ji’s life, Guru Ji sacrificed their life in a triumph of good over evil. Guru Ji’s martyrdom, unique in the history of mankind, inspired many Sikhs to lay down their lives for noble causes and moral values. Guru Ji’s torture and resulting martyrdom shattered the myth that Aurangzeb was a fair and just ruler.

Torture today

There are numerous instances of Sikhs being tortured throughout our history. Other notable examples include Bhai Mani Singh Ji whose executioner was ordered to dismember him from joint to joint. When the executioner started to begin with his wrists, Bhai Mani Singh sincerely reminded him of the sentence, and that he should start at the joints in his fingers. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s two younger sons, Sahibzaada Baba Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzaada Baba Fateh Singh Ji were also tortured, at the ages of 8 and 6 respectively, when they were bricked alive by Wazir Khan for refusing to accept Islam.

In our Ardaas, we remember those who were tortured, including mothers who had their babies’ limbs chopped off and strung around their necks like garlands.

ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਸਿੰਘਾਂ ਸਿੰਘਣੀਆਂ ਨੇ ਧਰਮ ਹੇਤ ਸੀਸ ਦਿੱਤੇ, ਬੰਦ ਬੰਦ ਕਟਾਏ, ਖੋਪਰੀਆਂ ਲੁਹਾਈਆਂ,
ਚਰਖੀਆਂ ਤੇ ਚੜੇ, ਆਰਿਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਚਿਰਾਏ ਗਏ, ਗੁਰਦਵਾਰਿਆਂ ਦੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਲਈ ਕੁਰਬਾਨੀਆਂ ਕੀਤੀਆਂ,
ਧਰਮ ਨਹੀਂ ਹਾਰਿਆ, ਸਿੱਖੀ ਕੇਸਾਂ ਸੁਆਸਾਂ ਨਾਲ ਨਿਬਾਹੀ, ਤਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੀ ਕਮਾਈ ਦਾ ਧਿਆਨ ਧਰ ਕੇ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਜੀ!
ਬੋਲੋ ਜੀ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ

Think of and remember the unique service rendered by those brave Sikh men as well as women, who sacrificed their heads but did not surrender their Sikh Religion; Who got themselves cut to pieces from each of the joints of the body; Who got their scalps removed; Who were tied and rotated on the wheels and broken into pieces; Who were cut by saws; Who were flayed alive; Who sacrificed themselves to upkeep the dignity of the Gurdwaras; Who did not abandon their Sikh faith; Who kept their Sikh Religion and saved their long hair till their last breath; Utter Wahe Guru (Wondrous God)!

The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was drafted in 1984. It requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction, and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.

Here in Britian, the Human Rights Act 1998 sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to. Article 3 protects us from torture (mental or physical), inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and deportation or extradition (being sent to another country to face criminal charges) if there is a real risk we will face torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the country concerned.

In light of this, it is absolutely essential that Britain’s government does its utmost to ensure the immediate safe return of Jaggi Singh.

When will Sikhs finally learn the lesson our Gurus have instilled into us since 1606, that torture is not acceptable in the civilised world? Our Gurus and Shaheed Singhs sacrificed their lives for us to learn that torture is barbaric behaviour. Yet hundreds of later, we are doing it to each other.