Sarabjit Pandher

CHANDIGARH: Culmination of two separate “Khalsa” marches marked the beginning of the three-day event to commemorate the tercentennial of an important event in Sikh history, when the legendary warrior Baba Banda Singh Bahadur defeated the Mughal Governor and razed the then provincial capital of the Mughal empire, Sirhind, to avenge the martyrdom of the younger “Sahibzadas” of Guru Gobind Singh.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and other leaders received the “Fateh March” which traversed nearly 2,500 km from Takhat Hazoor Sahib at Nanded in Maharashtra. The procession, which was led by tastefully decked up vehicle carrying the holy Guru Granth Sahib, traced the route that Baba Banda Singh Bahadur followed almost 300 years ago to reach Punjab and challenge the tyrannical rule by the Governor of Sirhind. The city has since been renamed Fatehgarh Sahib in memory of the youngest Sahibzada, Baba Fateh Singh, who at the age of seven was buried alive in a brick wall.

Braving the scorching heat, devotees from different walks of life converged at Sambhu town along G.T. Road at the border with Haryana to welcome the march and have a glimpse of the rare historic shastras (weapons) brought from Nanded in a separate vehicle.

A cavalcade of four and two wheelers followed the n agara (drum)-beating while the repeated slogan of “Jo Bole So Nihal - Sat Sri Akal” charged the atmosphere with religious gusto.

Roadside langars were organised by villagers of the region while various religious and social organisations distributed free literature and calendars to highlight the importance of the event.

The “Fateh March” was organised by Punjab's ruling party, Shiromani Akali Dal, and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), conglomerate of religious seminaries under the banner of Sant Samaj, dominant faction of the Damdami Taksal and some other Sikh organisations.

Mr. Badal said Baba Banda Singh Bahadur was still revered as one of the most hallowed martyrs in the Sikh history as he demonstrated the indomitable spirit of Khalsa who never bowed before the tyranny.

Simultaneously, various radical Sikh organisations held “Khalsa Raj March” from Chappar Chiri to Fatehgarh Sahib. On May 12, 1710, the Sikh forces led by Baba Banda Singh Bahadur defeated the Mughals under the Governor of Sirhind, Wazir Khan, who was killed in the battle at Chappar Chiri, located on the outskirts of Mohali town, which has been recently renamed as Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar in memory of Guru Gobind Singh's eldest son. On May 14, the Sikh forces captured Sirhind, which was razed.

Participants at this parade sported pro-Khalistan flags, posters and photos of Sikh "martyrs" that included the fiery Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and fallen leaders of militant outfits like Sukhdev Singh Babbar, Talwinder Singh Parmar and Gurbachan Singh Manochal.

Pictures of Dilawar Singh, the suicide bomber who assassinated Chief Minister Beant Singh, evoked curiosity among onlookers.