Kartar Singh Jhabbar
Jathedar Kartar Singh ji Virk (alias Jhabbar), (1874-1962), was born at Village Jhabbar in Gujranwala District, in Punjab, (Now In Sheikhupura District) in the month of September 1874. He was the son of Sardar Teja Singh Virk and was the grandson of Sardar Mangal Singh Virk who had accepted the rule of Sarkar Khalsa of Ranjit singh. Earlier Maharaja Ranjit Singh's father Sardar Mahan singh had attacked the Jatt Virks of Jhabbar, but had lost two battles. Ranjit Singh decided to form an alliance with the Virks and Sardar Mangal Singh Virk was more than happy to serve the Sarkar Khalsa. Sardar Mangal singh virk was given the rank of Kumedan in the army of the Khalsa.
Jhabbar village was one of the strongholds of the fiercely independent-minded Virks, they Inhabited en masse of the southern portion of Gujranwala, Present day Sheikhupura District, villages were named after the clan. which according to some historians was known as the Virk Portion. His personal diaries say little about his early years, which, in all likelihood, were spent working the family farm. That is not to say that his rural rearing isolated him from the winds of religious and political change that were sweeping the Punjab landscape.
Bhai Kartar Singh was brought up as a classic Punjabi peasant, where youngsters would, apart from working in fields, spend their time measuring their chests and biceps, learning how to fight with a staff, eating drinking milk, lassi and other Punjabi goodies. Sardar Kartar Singh grew to be over six feet tall with manly looks. His dress was the classic Punjabi Jutt's attire of Kurta, Chadra, Pagri and a heavy staff ( Summan wali Daang ). God had given him a body and voice which was built to lead armies instead of common Punjabi folks.
He was a serious in all his endeavors had no time to listen to or spread gossip and had no patience for foul language. He was in a few words "a natural born leader of men".
His sharing of the Sikhi panth began when he met Bhai Mool Singh Gurmula in 1904, belonging to village of Gurmula also, in Gujranwala District. In those days Sikh preachers would travel from village to village giving lectures on Sikhism, to the native Sikhs. During this period, a small number of Gurdwaras were under control of Udasi Mahants, who were adding many elements of Brahmanism to the Gurdwaras. At one of Bhai Mool Singh's village lectures he was inspired with a burning desire to share Sikhi. Such was his enthusiasm that anytime the need of a preacher arose in any village he and some like minded friends would do whatever it took to answer the call.
He was a tireless worker (Sewadar) of the Singh Sabha movement who was ready to put his life on the line if the need arose. At one meeting at village Kotli Dasu Singh, In Sialkot District, of Punjab when a Muslim expressed the desire to be Initiated as a Sikh, Bhai Mool Singh, at that time was speaking on the stage, when a group of fifty to sixty Muslims attacked the ongoing ceremony, to their surprise Sardar Kartar Singh Jhabbar and his party used their staffs to put a quick end to the interruption.
The Singh Sabha was actively converting thousands of Hindus and Muslims of the lower castes to Sikhism at the time all over Punjab. Normally in such a ceremony after a lecture of Sikh leaders and Gurbani, a Jathedar would ask those assembled if anyone wished to become an Amritdhari Sikh and ask those who answered yes to come forward. Kartar Singh Jhabbar visited numerous villages all over Punjab and give his lecture in many congregations. Then Jhabbar started making members of Singh Sabha. In two months he made 500 members, during his lectures at Gurdwara Baoli Sahib everyday about five - six thousands Sikhs would gather. Later he shifted his headquarters to Lahore.
Chief Khalsa Diwan at this time was creating Khalsa College schools as well as being involved with all the academic activites associated with Sikhism. In 1912, Sardar Kartar Singh Jhabbar established a Khalsa Middle school at village Chuharkana, distt Sheikhupura. He appointed Sardar Arjun Singh as Principle of this school. He went back to his original job of touring villages and lecturing about Sikhism. Then in 1913 on 13th April, some British troops were ordered to open fire on a peaceful congregation that had gathered, despite a curfew at Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar. Some rioting and other activities had lead to the curfew. After this there were increased attacks on the British army, police, administration offices, and railways, this riots had spread over the entire Punjab.
Even though Jhabbar and other Sikh leaders had not led any of the riots they were arrested. Few days later, a sessions judge handed down a sentence of death to Kartar Singh Jhabbar, Teja Singh Chuharkana, Kahan Singh Chuharkana and Jagir Singh Muridka with sentences at the Andaman and Nicobar Island being handed out to seventeen other Sikhs. Jhabbar greeted the Judge with "Sat Sri Akal" after his sentence was read. Sardar Kartar Singh Jhabbar claimed later that, while in jail, he was visited by Guru Gobind Singh who gave him more power to lead Sikhs. Kartar Singh Jhabbar's sentence was reduced to a life term after police found no evidence of his involvement in riots and he was sent to a remote Island in the bay of Bengal. Jhabbar was released from jail in 1920 and he was soon back in Punjab actively visiting villages and lecturing about Sikhism.
Gurdwara reform movement was started in 1920 A.D. by Singh Sabha's political wing later called Akali Dal. Another Sikh preacher was a close friend of Kartar Singh Jhabbar named Teja Singh Bhuchar. Both were called by Akali dal party to reach Gurdwara Babe ki Ber as the first Gurdwara to be reformed. At this time this Gurdwara was under Mahant Harnam singh's widow, she resisted as Gurdwara was her all income but Akali leaders give her pension and this Gurdwara was put under an elected committee led by Baba Kharak Singh. Then akali party decided to take over Harmandir Sahib at Amritsar. Kartar Singh's party i.e. Jatha when reached Golden Temple, the Sikh priest was not letting in some low caste people who had converted to Sikhism. Jhabbar ran and after letting these people in went upto Akal Takht and started speaking to Sikh congregation. He told the sikh congregation that these Sikh priests do not let in low caste converts from Hindus to the Harmandir Sahib, neither do they give them Karah Prasad, in his lecture he told about Gurus and their movement to eradicate these evils., and need to reform Gurdwaras by taking over from hereditary Sikh priests, who that time Sardar Arur Singh of village Naushera in Amritsar District, was the Manager of Darbar Sahib, appointed by the British, later he had to leave his office, and resign as ordered by the Sikhs of Punjab. Thus on 28th June 1920, Golden Temple and Akal Takht was under control of Akali Sikh Jatehbandi and democratically elected committee called Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee 1920-present. Then Gurdwara Panja Sahib at Hasan Abdal was next, which he freed from Mahant Mitha Singh, a corrupt priest, In 1920.
On 24th December, at a meeting at Sheikhupura where Akali party was formed and named "Akali Jatha Khara Sauda Bar", Jhabbar was elected a jathedar of this party. Jhabbar and his party also freed Gurdwara Sacha Sauda.
Then Jhabbar freed Gurdwara, Tarn Taran Sahib Sahib from the Corrupt Sikh priests in 1921 and Guru Ka Bagh from the Udasi Mahants which is close to Amritsar city and Gurdwara Babe ki Bair, in Sialkot, from the Sikh Mahantani as well as four other Gurdwaras.
During chaos of Partition of 1947 and Independence, Jathedar Kartar Singh Jhabbar, leaving his ancestral village, migrated to Dabri village, in Karnal District of Haryana State, in India, the majority of the Sikhs living In Karnal, were from Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Lyallpur districts, who had migrated after losing there Land etc. Dabri village was Where he spent his last days, and where he later died on the 20th November 1962.
- Further reading at book JATHEDAR BHAI KARTAR SINGH JHABBAR
- THE LIFE AND TIMES -
By Bhai Narayan Singh, M.A.
Tranalsted into English by Karnail Singh
Published by Dharam Parachar Committee, SGPC, Amritsar