Ram Singh (born 3 February 1816) born at Riayan, a small village in District Ludhiana (Punjab). He was a religious leader and social reformer, a spiritual teacher and national leader and the first Indian to use non-co-operation and boycotting of British merchandise and services as a political weapon. He was the religious leader of the Namdhari (Kuka) sect of Sikhism. Satguru Ram Singh launched his revolt against the British on 12 April 1857 by hoisting a white flag of freedom and announced a programme of far-reaching significance. Ram Singh initiated women with the Amrit Sanchar.
Sardar Jassa Singh was his father, who was carpenter by profession and Ramgarhia (Matharu) by cast. He got his early education at Bhaini Sahib in Gumukhi and Gurbani. He joined Khalsa army and served for several years under Kanwar Naunihal Singh (grandson of maharaja Ranjit Singh ). While serving in the army he came across Baba Balak Singh . The word and teaching of Baba Balak Singh sank deep into his mind. One day Ram Singh said goodbye to his job and started his spiritual life.
He called for the people to boycott government services, boycott British run educational institutions and law courts, boycott foreign made goods and defy British laws. He was the originator of the nonviolent and civil disobedience movement in Punjab in 1872.
Ram Singh's fight for independence was a turning point in world history for it eventually sounded the death-knell of colonial rule in the British empire. Mahatma Gandhi later used the concepts of non-co-operation and civil disobedience propounded by Ram Singh as political weapons against the British. His ideas played a key part in securing India's Independence from the British.
The open permission for slaughter of cows in the Punjab given to the Muslims by the British was resented bitterly by all sections of the non-Muslim population. The British and Muslims deliberately hurt the sentiments of their Hindu and Sikh neighbours.
Desecration of The Golden Temple and other Gurudwaras had already led to the sacrifice of Namdhari Sikhs in 1871- hanged without trial in Amristar, Ludhiana & Raikot. These instances ignited new realisations in the people of the Punjab i.e. freedom was not going to come cheaply. The British were alarmed and saw the Kuka movement as a pillar which could end their rule.
In Malerkota, an incident of a minor nature occurred in which Gurmukh Singh Namdhari requested a vegetable seller to show mercy on an Ox which was suffering at its owners orders. The ensuing verbal confrontation between the two led Gurmukh Singh to the court for punishment. A Muslim judge, instead of pacifying the excited feelings, ordered that the Ox be slaughtered before the eyes of Gurmukh Singh. The next day Gurmukh Singh went to Sri Bhaini Sahib and narrated the whole story. Revenge was high on the mind of the Sikhs and Satguru Ram Singh Ji said "If you can hold your emotions for a year more, I will achieve, without the help of weapons, the object for which you are drawing out your swords. I cannot however go against the orders of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji".
The Sikhs could not control themselves and on 13 January 1872, about 150 Namdhari Sikhs under the leadership of Sant Hira Singh and Lehna Singh proceeded to Kotla to avenge the wrong done by a fanatic Muslim judge. Fighting took place between the Sikhs and Malerkotla officials and many lives were lost. The Namdhari Sikhs voluntarily surrendered themselves to the authorities.
Meanwhile The Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana, The infamous Mr Cowan rushed to the scene and took over charge from the minor ruler of Malerkotla. Cowan ordered that the Namdhari Sikhs be brought before him and ordered that they be blown to bits. On 17 January 49 Namdhari Sikhs were blown away with cannon guns. Next day on 18 January a further 16 Namdhari Sikhs were blown to their deaths.
On the death role was 12 yrs old Master Bishan Singh. Cowen's wife begged him to show mercy on the little child. Cowen agreed but on a condition that Bishen Singh had to denounce that he was a Sikh of SRS. On hearing this Bishen Singh grabbed hold of Cowen's beard and did not let go till he was chopped to bits. Bishen Singh was the 50th shaheed on 17 January.
Today a 66 ft tall memorial khanda stands in the grounds where the shaheedes took place. The khanda is bulleted with 66 holes, some large and others small. The large holes denote adults and the smaller ones represent the minors who were barbarically slaughtered in 1872.
Sir Henry Cotton in his book, Indian and Home memories on page 112 says "For my part I can recall nothing during my service in India, more revolting and shocking than these executions and there were many who thought as I did and still think that the final orders of the establishments were lamentably inadequate".
The British seized this opportunity to arrest Satguru Ram Singh and many of his subas. They were put under arrest on the night of 17 January and next day taken to Allahabad. No trial against Satguru Ji took place. Satguru Ram Singh Ji was exiled to Rangoon in March 1872.
After Satguru Ram Singh his successor Satguru Hari Singh was followed by Satguru Partap Singh, and then Satguru Jagjit Singh ji, presently by Satguru Uday Singh ji.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license