Battles of the Khalistan Movement, A continuing Series
The Bolowali encounter is the encounter between 5 Khalistan Armed Force soldiers and 12,000 Indian Armed Force. All 5 were shaheed but caused much damage to the enemy. The general at the KAF soldiers side was KAF chief Shaheed Seetal Singh Matewal.
Seetal Singh joining Khalistan movement
In 1989, Seetal Singh Matewal joined the Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan in their quest for justice and freedom. After Bhai Seetal Singh Ji picked up his sword in defence of Sikhi, the security forces began to harass his family and friends. But Bhai Sahib’s determination and commitment to the Panth and to Khalistan was so strong that he never looked back. The only thing he put all his energy, all his love, and all his life into was the Panth.
In order to take the movement to the next level Bhai Seetal Singh Ji formed a new Jathebandi. This Jathebandi consisted of highly motivated young Sikh men and women who had sworn to aright the wrongs done to the Sikh Kaum with their lives. As this new Jathebandi took birth it was initially called the Khalistan Armed Force but later on the Jathebandi took on a new name as it began to be known across Punjab as the Dashmesh Regiment. This is not the Dashmesh Regiment which in the early 80s killed many innocent bus passengers and burned train stations. Even though the Indian Security Forces were provided with many modern weapons, as well as armoured vehicles and helicopters they always feared coming face to face with the forces of the Dashmesh Regiment.
A True Saint-soldier
Bhai Seetal Singh Ji always walked with his head held high and he firmly fought a war based on the principles of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Bhai Sahib would constantly tell those around him, “Mera Police Naal Muqabla Abadi Vich Na Hova, Khula Kheta Vich Hova, Phir Main Delhi Dia Forca Nu Das Du Ki Muqabla Keva Hounda” – “My encounters with the police should not take place where innocent people may get hurt, they should take place in empty lands where I shall show the forces of Dehli what a real encounter feels like.”
The Government's Black Cats
During the 80s as jeeps upon jeeps of Indian Security Forces were beginning to be destroyed, and many areas becoming inaccessible to Indian Security, the Hindustani government was afraid that Punjab was fast slipping away. To discredit the Sikh Movement, the Indian Government had introduced gangs of thieves and murderers who dressed like Singhs but committed horrendous crimes upon innocent Sikh villagers. In addition to this they began to use all means at their disposal to separate the various Sikh Jathebandis who were fighting for independence. Due to the lies spread by agents of the Indian Government an encounter took place towards the end of 1991 between the Singhs of Bhai Seetal Singh Matewal and the Singhs of Bhai Sukhwinder Singh Pappu. During this firefight between brothers, rumours began to spread throughout Punjab that the Jathedhar of Dashmesh Regiment/Khalistan Armed Force, Bhai Seetal Singh Matewal was fatally injured.
Operation Vadi Padhar
These reports spread like wildfire throughout India. When they were flashed to Dehli a huge meeting was arranged which was attended by many high-ranking Police and Army personnel. During this meeting it was decided that a huge force consisting of soldiers from the Central Army, the Central Reserve Police Force, the National Guard and the Border Security Force should be assembled and dispatched in an attempt to either arrest or kill Bhai Seetal Singh Matewal and his Singhs. This operation was given the name “Vadi Padhar” and was sanctioned by the Indian government.
The Villagers Plea
As the armored vehicles and trucks of the Indian Army began to appear, villagers left what they were doing and rushed to the village where Bhai Seetal Singh and his Singhs were. In a collective voice they told Bhai Sahib that a huge force of soldiers and police were coming and that he along with his Singhs should leave immediately so that they wouldn’t fall into the hands of the tyrannical oppressors.
Leaving the village but not the battlefield
But how could this lion of Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj leave the battlefield? Bhai Sahib and his Singhs performed an ardas and decided to stay and exchange bullets with the collective might of the Indian Armed Forces. As soon as this decision was reached by the Singhs they picked up their weapons and began to walk away from the village they were staying at to a nearby open field. Many villagers were puzzled by this action and as a consequence they asked the Singhs what they were doing. Bhai Seetal Singh Ji explained to the villagers that as soon as the Indian Armed Forces arrived they would begin shooting at any person who possessed the roop of a Sikh. The Indian security forces had done this time and time again and in this way they had managed to kill tens of thousands of innocent Sikhs in fake encounters.
Even though the decision to leave the village meant that the lions of Guru Sahib would have to starve for days on end they left with a smile on their face. These beautiful Singhs didn’t have any desires of their own. It didn’t matter how long they had to go without food, or how much pain they had to endure or how much blood they had to spill, so long as no innocent person was hurt and the Kesri Nishan sahib was kept flying that’s all that mattered to them.
The Indian Armed Forces arrive
As this was happening the Indian Armed Forces began to sift through the fields of Punjab in an attempt to capture these lethal lions who had been wreaking such havoc amongst their ranks. On the 11th of September 1991 the armored units of the Indian army finally reached the outskirts of the fields in which the Singhs had been living for the past few days. Bhai Tarsem Singh, Bhai Gurdial Singh, Bhai Gurmukh Singh and Bhai Gurnam Singh stood along Bhai Seetal Singh Matewal as they embraced each other and readied one another for their marriage party and for their journey back home to the feet of Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj.
The battle begins
The quiet before the storm
On that particular morning the Singhs were at Bolowali village in Majitha. They were sat next to the field motor of Sardar Santokh Singh Ji. It had been 14 hours since the last time they had eaten any food. At 9am as the Singhs were testing their weapons, the daughter of Sardar Santokh Singh Ji came to the field motor with food for the Singhs. The Singhs seeing their sister do this seva were extremely happy. They put their weapons to one side and started to do an ardas to Maharaj to thank him for the food they were about to eat.
As soon as the ardas had finished, Bibi Ji glanced over the fields of oranges and caught sight of several armored vehicles and jeeps with machine guns mounted on top. The Singhs looked at their sister’s face and they immediately knew something was wrong. Before eating a morsel of food the lions of Guru Sahib stood up and saw the same scene, which Bibi Ji was looking at. They knew that the Indian Armed Forces would be within shooting distance soon. As a result of this the Singhs quickly told their sister to go back to her house as they left their food and picked up their weapons.
As Bibi Ji ran through the fields back to her house she was caught by the Indian Army. They began to question her about what she was doing and where she was going. The shameless Indian Armed Forces began to harass this daughter of Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj. The Singhs could bear all the pain in the world but they could not bear the pain of seeing their sister being disrespected in this way. As a consequence of this a hail of bullets started to fly through the Hindustani Terrorists who had dared to insult the daughter of Guru Sahib.
The Singh’s response
The ‘brave’ armed forces of Hindustan began to fear for their lives as they saw their comrades dropping to the floor under the fire of Bhai Seetal Singh Ji’s Dragnov Rifle.
The commanders of the Indian Army recognized the sound of Bhai Sahib’s Draganov (standard, deadly accurate, Russian sniper issue) Rifle and they immediately radioed their superiors to inform them that they had found Bhai Seetal Singh Matewal and that they would require reinforcements as they were coming under very heavy fire. On hearing of this news officials in Dehli began to celebrate and they quickly sanctioned the release of more soldiers and armored vehicles, which were deployed to Bolowali in an effort to turn the tide.
Despite sending hundreds of soldiers to face Dharam Raj, these five Singhs of Guru Sahib began to notice that they were being encircled by the Indian Armed Forces, as bullets were now beginning to fly in all directions.
Rather than becoming disheartened the lions of Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj began to smile even more as they saw martyrdom close in on them. In fact before this battle began to rage the Singhs did Bhangra and made many jokes about it. These lions had no fear of death, it didn’t matter if they died today or tomorrow, they had already cut off their heads and placed them at the feet of Guru Sahib.
Bhai Gumukh Singh Bagga would often say, in a joking manner to his brothers, “Sada Naal Muquabla Vich Dushmana Nu Gambeer Seeta Bhugtne Pehnge”. Bhai Sahib repeated this phrase so often that his brothers in arms began to call him, “Gambeer Seeta”.
Sava Lakh Sio Ek Ladaunn, Tabai Gobind Singh Nam Kahaun
One important point to note is that during this particular battle Bhai Sahib and his Singhs had one Draganov rifle, one GPM rifle, and three AK47 rifles between them along with a few rounds of ammunition. With these limited weapons and ammunition the five hungry Singhs of Guru Gobind Singh Ji started to fight the combined might of the Indian Armed Forces who had amassed over 12,000 men.
Some villagers who witnessed this unique battle say that when Bhai Seetal Singh Matewal would press the trigger on his Draganov rifle all that would remain were dead Indian soldiers, whose blood painted the fields red. Hour after hour ambulance sirens would be heard taking the dead and injured back to the city hospital. After a while the Indian Armed Forces began to think that it was they who were outnumbered and outgunned. Not in their wildest dreams could they have imagined that it was only 5 Singhs who were holding them and pushing them back towards Dehli.
The Indian Armed Forces retreat
In an attempt to save their soldiers from what had become a killing ground, the commanders of the Indian Army ordered their troops to take defensive positions under the cover of fields, which were over 7 feet high.
As the Singhs saw the Indian soldiers retreating they decided to break up. One by one they would make their way into the fields which the soldiers had taken cover in. When they caught sight of troops belonging to the Indian Armed Forces they would let out a burst of fire whilst bellowing Jaikaray. After killing a dozen soldiers in this way they would then turn around and head back to their place.
An announcement by the Indian Army and the Singhs' reply
After hundreds of thousands of bullets had been fired the Indian Army began to think that most of the Singhs that they were fighting against were dead or injured. As a consequence of this a loudspeaker system was brought on to the battlefield. The chief commander of the Indian Armed Forces then began to speak. In his announcement he asked the Singhs to lay down their weapons and to come out. As he was making this announcement the Singhs began to increase the intensity of their fire. Every time such an announcement was made, the lions of Guru Sahib would respond with a rain of bullets.
The Bombardment Begins
The Commanders of the Indian Army then authorized the use of mortar shells and bombs, which began to be lobbed on what they thought were the Singhs positions. Despite hundreds of bombs being launched at the Singhs, the rain of bullets did not stop. The soldiers of the Indian Army who were ordered to take up offensive positions refused to do so. They told their commanding officers that as soon as they stepped foot on to the battlefield, they would be cut to pieces like so many of their fallen comrades.
The commanders who had authorized the use of mortar shells and bombs were shocked that despite such heavy bombardment the Singhs continued to rain down bullets as the army continued to lose more and more men. After several meetings the officers came to the conclusion that the Singhs must have underground bunkers, which they were hiding in as the bombardment was taking place. These Commanders who had fought in many wars and had undergone lots of training in warfare did not know that Singhs fight like lions in the jungle without any fear. They did not know that these lions didn’t need any bunkers to protect them as they already had the biggest protection of all provided by their king, Dhan Dhan Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj.
After many hours of bombardment the Indian Army commanders decided to bring in bulletproof tractors. When Bhai Seetal Singh Ji saw one of these tractors coming towards him he immediately opened fire towards the doors of the tractor.
Bhai Sahib was such a good marksman that most of the bullets he fired hit the hinges which held the doors in place. After a few minutes Bhai Sahib managed to remove both doors from either side of the tractor. When this happened the CRP soldiers who were inside the tractor began to scream as they quickly retreated. As they reversed the Singhs showered the tractor with bullets until it had gone past their firing range. In this way, Bhai Seetal Singh managed to neutralize three other, not so, bulletproof tractors. These tractors came under such heavy fire from the Singhs that they caught on fire and exploded. The Punjab Police used to claim that these tractors could kill Chador when it came in range and that they could not be stopped. In their eyes the tractors were indestructible.
Darkness sets in
As the fields were being painted red with the blood of Indian Soldiers the sun began to set. In a few minutes darkness spread everywhere and the battlefield only saw flickers of light as bullets continued to cut through the air. The Indian Armed Forces did not know where to shoot anymore; they began to fire in all directions with little success. In an attempt to find the Singhs who were still cutting down any soldier who dared to step on the battlefield, the Indian Army began to fire chemical bombs into the air which were made to light up the sky. Whenever such a bomb flew into the sky within a few seconds it would come crashing down due to the fire of Bhai Seetal Singh Ji’s Dragunov Rifle.
The Indian Government was becoming increasingly frustrated at the army’s inability to crush the resistance of what they thought was a group of a hundred Dashmesh Regiment fighters. The government had placed all the legions in Northern India at the disposal of the Indian Commanders who were involved in this ‘anti terrorism operation’, and yet for every bullet which was fired towards the Khalsa ten would come back.
The Khalsa’s Reinforcements Arrive
The Indian Army was not the only side that could call on reinforcements. As news spread from one village to the next about the 5 brave hearts of Punjab who were holding and repelling the army of Dehli tears of happiness began to fall from the eyes of other Jhujahroo Singhs. These Singhs performed an ardas in front of Guru Sahib and taking his name on their lips and his weapons in their arms they headed in the direction of the battlefield to fight alongside their brothers.
The Regiment Singh’s of Bhai Kulwant Singh Ji and the Tiger Force Singh’s of Bhai Hardev Singh Ji and Bhai Balwinder Singh Ji surrounded the same Indian troops who had encircled the five lions of Guru Sahib. In this way battles began to rage on four separate fronts as Indian troops fell to the floor under the constant fire of the Khalsa’s bullets. As this was happening Baba Gurbachan Singh Ji Manochahal, general of the Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan arrived at the village Oudoka where he joined the Singhs in all out war.
Bhai Sukhwinder Singh Pappu and his Singh’s also joined in the Khalsa’s fight as they broke through the cordon of the Indian troops. Upon seeing Bhai Sukhwinder Singh Pappu return to help his brother the local villagers spirits began to soar with love and pride.
The Indian Generals became worried that the local villagers may join the Jhujharoo Singh’s who were helping Bhai Seetal Singh Ji. As a consequence of this they spread a rumor that Bhai Seetal Singh Ji Matewal and his Singhs had escaped and left the battlefield.
3 soldiers of Khalistan return home
When morning broke the Indian Commanders began to see the devastating results of exchanging bullets with the Khalsa. The once green battlefield had become a mass graveyard of Indian troops as the stench of blood and death filled the air.
Reports began to flood Dehli as Indian Commanders demanded the release for the first time of Vijayanta main battalion tanks in addition to other armored reinforcement units. As the sun rose, the cover of darkness deserted the Singhs and the Indian Gatling guns began to spray so many bullets into the air that it looked like a dark cloud had descended on Bhai Tasem Singh, Bhai Gurdial Singh and Bhai Gurmukh Singh. Without any fear these brave beloved sons of Guru Sahib drank the nectar of martyrdom.
The last stand
After Bhai Seetal Singh Matewal’s saw his brothers in arms kiss the noose of death, he stopped firing his Dragunov rifle. Bhai Sahib decided to wait for the Indian Armed Forces to come and pick up their dead and injured. As the Indian Army began to do this Bhai Seetal Singh Ji and Bhai Gurnam Singh Ji sat in the fields where they did a final ardas to Maharaj. They knew the end was near. When the Singhs finished their ardas Jaikaray began to bellow through the skies. Upon hearing the thunderous voices of these two brave hearts of Punjab the Indian Army directed their assault and fire towards the fields the Jaikaray were coming from. As bullets began to fly once again, the Jaikaras continued. The Indian Commanders knew that the Singhs had almost run out of ammunition. As a consequence of this another bulletproof tractor was readied and sent onto the battlefield.
Upon seeing the tractor approaching, Bhai Gurnam Singh Ji who was badly injured ran out of the fields he had taken cover in as he let loose with his AK47 rifle. On seeing this Singh of Guru Sahib make his final stand, even the commanders of the Indian Army stood in awe.
In the end Bhai Gurnam Singh Ji ran out of bullets. This Singh had terrorized the Indian Army so much that even as he stood in the battlefield without any ammunition the soldiers were too scared to approach him. It was only after the ‘brave’ soldiers of Hindustan had made sure that Bhai Sahib posed no threat to them, that they mustered the courage to apprehend this Saint-soldier. In a shameful ploy to kill Bhai Seetal Singh Ji, the Indian Army used the fatally wounded Bhai Gurnam Singh Ji as a human shield. As Bhai Sahib watched his brother in arms walk on the battlefield with Indian soldiers hiding behind him, he knew that if he began to shoot, Bhai Gurnam Singh Ji would be injured in the cross fire. The Indian Army took full advantage of this beautiful love between brothers as they riddled Bhai Seetal Singh Matewal’s chest with hundreds of bullets.
As Bhai Sahib began to make his final journey back to the home of his king he shouted out, ‘Khalistan Zindabad’, one last time.
After this battle in which thousands of Indian Soldiers were sent to the court of Dharam Raj, the Indian Armed Forces sent a group of soldiers to Bhai Seetal Singh Ji’s house. When the soldiers reached Bhai Sahib’s house they found Bhai Sahib’s two younger brothers, Bhai Amreek Singh and Bhai Darshan Singh, along with Bhai Sahib’s wife, Bibi Narinder Kaur.
All three Gursikhs were beaten up before they were arrested. They were then taken to a police detention center, where only Guru Sahib knows what was done to them. These beloved Sikhs of Guru Sahib were never seen again as they took their place at the feet of Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj. Bhai Sahib’s two young sons were given to his younger brother’s widow who still looks after them to this day.
- Shaheed Bhai Seetal Singh Matewal
- Shaheed Bhai Tarsem Singh
- Shaheed Bhai Gurdial Singh
- Shaheed Bhai Gurmukh Singh
- Shaheed Bhai Gurnam Singh