On this day, on March 22nd 1964, 11 GurSikhs were gunned down at Gurdwara Paonta Sahib (Himachal Pradesh) by the henchmen of the Mahant (caretaker) occupying the Gurdwara Sahib.
The Sangat of PAONTA SAHIB GURDWARA had requested head of TARNA DAL to visit the Gurdwara (this is before Baba Nihaal Singh Ji became leader of Tarna Dal). They complained that the residing MASAND (corrupt caretaker) was ABUSING the GURDWARA PREMISES through drinking, raping women that came alone, and making prostitutes dance inside.
After several such requests Baba Ji decided to visit Paonta Sahib accompanied by 13 GurSikhs. They left from Gurdwara Haria Welaa(n) Hoshiarpur riding horses and horse drawn carts. When they arrived near Gurdwara Paonta Sahib two GurSikhs carried Baba Ji's message for the Masand, which requested initiation of a AKHAND PAATH at the Gurdwara Sahib. The Masand did not give a definitive answer, instead he assured to respond before the next morning. Meanwhile the Masand confided with the LOCAL POLICE CHIEF, one of his corrupt friends who ENDORSED and PERMITTED his evil and sacrilegous acts.
Baba Ji started the Akhand Paath next morning which proceeded uninterrupted for 2 days. On the 2nd day, the Masand came with the police. They ARRESTED Baba Ji who was outside at that time and FIRED at the GurSikhs inside who were conducting the Akhand Paath. The GurSikhs had NO GUNS. For they had not come with the intent to fight, but rather to hear the Sangat's concerns. As a result they were BRUTALLY MASSACRED. Eleven died and two survived.
As each Paathi (Scriptural Reader) was shot WHILE RECITING Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, another simply pushed his body and CONINTUED the UNINTERRUPTED recitation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Baba Nihaal Singh Ji, who was 21 years old at the time, continued with his CHAUR SAHIB DI SEVA (even when he had been shot 3 times) until the last GurSikh was shot. As the Akhand Paath was interrupted, Baba Nihaal Singh Ji finally fell. The ONLY SURVIVOR was the youngest GurSikh, a 11 year old, who was found hiding behind a NAGARA (drums). Besides him all others were PRESUMED DEAD.
Baba Nihaal Singh Ji (1973) - Photo from MrSikhNet.com
It wasn't until the bodies were being loaded up in a cart that a small child saw Baba Nihaal Singh Ji breathe and informed the local sikhs. The local sikhs who had gathered by now, screamed to get him some medical attention. Fortunately they succeeded in their efforts. He received medical attention and survived with Vaheguru's grace. He was subsequently honoured by many gurdwaras as "JINDA-SHAHEED" (a Living Martyr) Jathedar. The Masand was finally removed. Akhand Paaths are held each year in the commemoration of this event.
May we remember our history and honour those who LIVED with DIGNITY and DIED with HONOUR. Shaheedaa(n) Nu Lakh Lakh Parnaam. Dhan Guru, Dhan Guru Piyaare.