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The 2 Holocaust's in Sikhi


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The Great Holocaust (Wadda Ghalughara)

In 1761 the Sikhs under Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia occupied Lahore. They proclaimed him king. He coined money in the name of the Guru. The Khalsa gathered that year at Amritsar to celebrate their annual day of Diwali. They passed a resolution to capture the strongholds of the allies and helpers of Ahmad Shah Abdali. The nearest helper and ally of the foreigner was Aqil Das Niranjania of Jandiala. He was a sworn enemy of the Sikhs. He had always aided their enemies. Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Jassa Singh Ramgarhia informed him of the decision of the Khalsa. It was a thought that he would submit and make a compromise with the Sikhs. But he did nothing of the kind. He at once wrote to Ahmad Shah and invited his help. Ahmad Shah was already on his way to Hindustan. Aqil Das's messenger met him Rohtas. He hurried towards Jandiala. He found that the Sikhs had raised the siege and gone away towards Sarhind. The reason for their hurried withdrawal was this: before meeting the invader they wanted to take their families to a place beyond his reach. There was another reason also. The governor of Sarhind, Zain Khan had recently killed Sardar Dial Singh Brar. The Sikhs wanted to avenge his death. They began to gather in villages close to Malerkotla. The chief of the place invited Zain Khan to help him. At the same time he informed Ahmad Shah about gathering of the Sikhs near Malerkotla.

From Jandiala Ahmad Shah had gone to Lahore. When he heard the news of the Sikhs' gathering near Malerkotla, he started from Lahore on the third of February, 1762. By making hurried marches, he reached the village of Kupp, near Malerkotla by the morning of the 5th of Feb. About 30,000 Sikhs were encamped there with their families and all their belongings. He had already sent instructions to Zain Khan that he should attack the Sikhs on the front. He himself was to fall upon them from the rear. He ordered soldiers to kill all people found in Hindustani dress. In order to distinguish Zain Khan's forces from those of the Sikhs, the former were told to wear green leaves in their turbans. Several thousand Sikhs were killed. Most of them were women and children. The Sikhs had been taken by surprise. Immediately they held a council. They decided to die fighting. Of course, they could have saved themselves by surrendering and giving up their faith, but the thought never crossed their minds. They threw a cordon around their women and children, and began to move forward. They moved on fighting. Ahmad Shah wanted to have a pitched battle with the Sikhs. But they went on moving as they fought. They moved on fighting from village to village. The people of the places through which they passed gave them no shelter. They feared invader. On the contrary, they fell upon them and killed a large number. The Sikhs continued to move on. Their aim was to reach Barnala. They hoped that, at that place, they would get help from Baba Ala Singh. If they got no help from him there, they were to pass on to the dry desert of Bhathinda.

But before they could reach Barnala, their cordon was broken by Ahmad Shah's soldiers. A wholesale massacre of Sikhs followed. At least ten thousand Sikhs were killed in this action. The wholesale destruction of the Sikhs occurred on the 5th of Feb 1762 . It is called Wadda Ghalughara or the Great Holocaust. In all, over 20,000 men, women and children perished in this campaign of slaughter . We should remember that these heroic Sikhs were massacred because they had tried to rid their country of cruel fanatic and despotic rulers. They were inspired with patriotic urges and emotions of the noblest type. They were freedom fighters in a most real sense. They were men of unshakeable faith, unbeatable courage, unbreakable will, and unmatchable capacity to do and suffer for their faith and ideals. They died heroic deaths in order to create conditions in which their countrymen could live with honor and self-respect. They achieved their glorious martyrdom.

In this greater holocaust, ten to twelve thousand Singhs attained martyrdom and about twenty thousand women and children were murdered . Every Singh had suffered some injury that day. Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia had 64 wounds on his body. In only three months Sikhs avenged this defeat by attacking Abdali's general, stationed at Amritsar and massacring his 20,000 troops, 5-10,000 troops that surrendered were forced to clean up Golden Temple and other Gurdwaras.

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Lesser Holocaust

The Mughal government had vowed to destroy the Sikhs, root and branch. A large number of Sikhs, like Bhai Taru Singh, Bhai Mani Singh and Bhai Mehtab Singh had been martyred. General orders had been issued that no one should give any help or shelter to any Sikh. Mughal armies went about killing every Sikh found anywhere. A band of Sikhs, driven from place to place, came to Eminabad, now in the district of Gujranwala, Pakistan. They wanted to pay a visit to Rori Sahib, a Gurdwara there sacred to the memory of Guru Nanak. They had been without food for several days. They wanted to purchase foodstuffs from the town. They wrote a letter to the chief officer of the place. In it they sought his permission to purchase foodstuffs from the town. His name was Jaspat Rai. He was a bitter, sworn enemy of the Sikhs. He ordered them to go away at once, or he would drive them away himself. The Sikhs pleaded, 'We have had no food for several days. We shall stay for only one night to feed ourselves. We shall do no harm to anybody. We shall go away tomorrow morning.'

Jaspat Rai was proud, hot tempered man. He flew into a rage. He fell upon the Sikhs with the all the force that he had with him. They resisted the attack. A Ranghreta Sikh named Nibhau Singh, climbed on to Jaspat Rai's elephant. With one stroke of his sword, he cut off Jaspat Rai's head. Seeing this, the Mughal army ran away. Now, Jaspat Rai had a brother named Lakhpat Rai. The latter was a minister of Yahiya Khan, governor of Lahore. He was an active opponent of the Sikhs. When he heard the news of his brother's death, he became mad with rage. He went on Yahiya Khan. He flung his turban at his feet and said, 'I shall tie it on my head only when I have destroyed the Sikhs, root and branch. I am a Khatri. I shall not call myself a Khatri until all the Sikhs are destroyed, root and branch.' He had a general order issued for the destruction of the Sikhs. To begin with, all the Sikhs- men, women, and children- living in Lahore were arrested. They were handed over to sweepers for execution. A deputation of Hindus waited upon Lakhpat Rai. They tried to dissuade him from spilling innocent blood. But he would not listen to them. The terrible order was carried out. All the Sikhs of Lahore were murdered in cold blood. Their only fault was that they were Sikhs. They died for their faith. They became martyrs, all of those men, women and children. None of them agreed to save his or her life by giving up his faith.

It was announced with the beat of drum that no one should read the Sikhs scriptures. It was further ordered that anyone uttering the name of the Guru would be arrested and killed. The use of the word 'Granth' was also forbidden. The word 'Pothi' was to be used in its place. A huge army, under the command of Yahiya Khan and Lakhpat Rai, set out to destroy Sikhs. This army consisted of the Mughal army and thousands of soldiers sent by the Hindu and Muhammadan supporters of the Mughal government. About fifteen thousands Sikhs had taken shelter in the reedy marshes of Khanuwan. The heavily clothed troops and their artillery could not pass through the marshes to reach the Sikhs. But a way was cut through the reeds for the movement of the troops. With the help of guns, the Sikhs were pushed towards the Ravi. The Sikhs crossed the river. They were closely followed by Lakhpat Rai. The only course open to the Sikhs was to go to the hills of Basohli. They hoped that the Hindu population there would give them shelter. But their hopes proved false. The people there had already received orders from Lahore to give no shelter to the Sikhs. As the Sikhs approached, they were received with showers of stones and bullets. They had to cry a halt.

They were in desperate position. In front of them was a steep mountain. On that mountain were people who were against them and were showering bullets and stones on them. To their right was a fast flowing, flooded river. Behind them was the enmy in hot pursuit. They had no food and no ammunition. Their horses were weak with hunger and fatigue. They were too weak to go up the mountain. They decided to go back to Majha. But the Ravi was in flood. It was impossible to cross it. It was decided, therefore, that those who had no horses, should go towards the mountains and try their luck there. Those who had horses were to cut their way through the enemy. Those who went to the mountains managed to pass about six months in Mandi and Kulu. They had to face great hardships. But they were able, at least, to reach Kirtarpur and join the Khalsa there. The main body of the Sikhs rushed through the pursuing army. They were surrounded. Hundreds of them were killed. Some were taken prisoner. The remaining Sikhs were pursued into a jungle. There they were attacked by the army as well as the people-Hindus and Muslims-collected from the neighboring villages.

About two thousand Sikhs were able to cross the Ravi. They entered the Riarki tract of Gurdaspur. It was the month of June. They were hungry, barefooted, and wounded. The burning sand added to their sufferings. But they uttered no cry of pain. They never thought of surrender. They never thought of saving themselves by giving up their faith. They were determined to live and die as Sikhs. They tore off pieces from their clothes and tied them on their naked feet. In this way they crossed the hot sandy plain and reached the river Beas. They crossed that river near Sri Hargobindpur. Then they made straight for the Satluj. That river they crossed near Aliwal and entered the Malwa. Lakhpat Rai had got tired of fighting. He returned to Lahore. In this campaign he must have killed at least 10,000 Sikhs. This wholesale massacre of the Sikhs occurred in 1746. It was called Chhota Ghalughara or the Lesser Holocaust. Another much greater wholesale destruction of the Sikhs occurred in 1762. That was called Wadda Ghalughara or the Great Holocaust.

Over ten thousand Sikhs were brutally killed in this campaign. They could all have saved their lives by giving up their faith and accepting Islam. But none of them even thought of saving his or her life in that way. They chose not to live as apostates, but to suffer and die as Sikhs. They preferred suffering and death to apostates.

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