Born to Mata Punjab Kaur and S. Natha Singh judge Nabha High Court on 8th July, 1878, at village Narangwal, Ludhiana, Basant Singh, had a wonderful journey on this earth finally to become Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh.
When young Basant Singh was to appear for his graduation, his father S. Natha Singh wrote him a letter advising him to recite Japuji Sahib everyday if he wanted to clear his exams. The letter proved to be a turning point in his life. He was not in the habit of doing path everyday, neither had he any insight into Gurbani, but an obedient son as he was, he started reciting Gurbani regularly following his father’s instructions. Blessings of the Guru were with him. He started experiencing a blissful exhilaration in Gurbani. Reciting Gurbani became the sole motive of his life. The whole day he was immersed in Gurbani. He would eat and drink the Name of the Lord with tears flowing from his eyes. Partaking of Amrit in 1903 changed the whole course of his life which was completely dedicated to the Guru.
This total dedication made him a sachiar, a truthful being. Bhai Vir Singh, another sachiar sikh, while expressing his opinion about Bh. Randhir Singh in the foreword of Jail Chithian says, “His name has been appearing in panthak circles in many contexts and the one impression that he carries everywhere is of being a sachiar sikh. If one was to define his personality in fewest words, one would say ‘the truth’.
A true Sikh, Bhai Randhir Singh remained wedded to truth throughout his life. Whether it was the question of handling corrupt officers in government departments, or the issue of turning an approver, he never wavered from his path and maintained his stand even in the face of severe oppression and threats to his life.
This truthful personality appeared on the scene when the country was waking up from the centuries old slumber to the freedom consciousness. In 1911, the office of the Viceroy was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi and his residence was located in front of Gurudwara Rakab Ganj. In the process of straightening the road in front of Viceroy’s residence, the wall of the Gurudwara was demolished. Members of the Sikh community felt agitated and troubled over the move. For them it was not a question of the wall but of the dignity of a community. They feared that this will pave the way for the government for further interference from the government and might one day lead to the demolition of the gurduwara itself. The saddest part was that some Sikh organizations were hand in glove with the government in the making of this decision. The situation appeared hopeless and the community was in a state of depression.
At this crucial juncture the leaders thought of approaching Bhai Randhir Singh, who they knew was very bold, sincere and would in no conditions waver from the path of truth. Once in the know of the whole situation, Bhai Sahib decided to fight the battle to the end. He formed an organization by the name of ‘Tat Khalsa Sangat Narangwal’ and as a spokesman of the organization warned the government against the decision.
In 1914, on the Vaisakhi day, Bhai Sahib organized a massive conference at Patti. A resolution demanding the reconstruction of the wall was passed. Bhai Sahib offered to sacrifice himself along with his five hundred followers if the government failed to meet their just demand. The same year, another conference was organized at Lahore on the martyrdom day of the fifth Guru. According to Master Tara Singh, this was the start of Gurdwara reform movement.
This was the time when Harimandir Sahib and other historical Sikh shrines were under the control of mahants who had gone corrupt and were indulging in all sorts of malpractices. Sikh community was deeply in pain over the misdeeds of the mahants in their holy shrines. The episode of the demolition of the wall of Gurudwara Rakab Ganj had shaken the community to the core and the question of bringing reform and stopping malpractices in other historical shrines came to the core of Sikh thought process.
Guruwaras in the Anandpur Sahib region too were facing similar problems and had become the centers of all sorts of anti Sikh practices. Nihang mahants would not allow the pilgrims to have prikarma of the Gurudwara Katalgarh Sahib at Chamkaur Sahib. When Bhai Randhir Singh, who was there in 1914, to commemorate the martyrdom of the Sahibzadas, came to know that Mahants had not allowed the women devotees to enter the Gurudwara, he along with the members of his Jatha, challenged the mahants over these malpractices without asking for anyone’s support. The nihangs attacked them with the bows and arrows. A lady by the name of Joginder Kaur attacked and snatched an arrow from a nihang. Bhai Surjan Singh was badly injured and he started bleeding profusely. Thinking that a murder had been committed, the scared nihangs took to their heels. The police intervened and the decision was taken in the favor of the Sangat. As a result everybody could freely enter and have the parikarma of the Gurudwara. This was the first victory of the Gurudwara reform which was spontaneously undertaken single handedly by Bhai Randhir Singh ji.
Slowly and gradually the movement took roots and spread to all the Gurudwaras where malpractices were going on. After many agitations the Guruwaras were freed from the stronghold of the corrupt Mahants. Mahatama Gandhi declared the victory to be the onset of the freedom movement.
Around this time only, the Sikhs who had migrated to foreign lands and had experienced the glow of freedom there, started feeling the acute pain of slavery in their homeland and were desperate to free their homeland from the foreign yoke. With this mission they started from Canada and landed at Bajbaj in Calcutta. Aware of their mission, the British attacked and killed most of them. The remaining members of the group called gadarites went underground. During this time came in contact with Bhai Randhir Singh.
Bhai Randhir Singh did not agree with all the means that the gadarites wanted to adopt to get freedom. But keeping the broader interest of the nation in mind he decided to give them limited support. He held a number of meetings with Kartar Singh Sarabha. Finally all these freedom fighters decided to overthrow the foreign rulers. The action was to start on 19th February, 1914.
Bhai Randhir Singh undertook to start action in Ferozepur cantt. Unfortunately someone who knew the plan betrayed by informing the Govt who took preventive measures and the whole plan was foiled. Many arrests followed and enquiries were instituted following which Bhai Randhir Singh was arrested. A case was filed against him. He was awarded life sentence and the whole of his property was confiscated.
Convicted in the Lahore Conspiracy case 2, Bhai Randhir Singh was arrested in May, 1915 and was kept in different jails till October 1930, where he underwent severe oppression. Bound in chains, he had to go without food sometimes for forty days at a stretch because as per his self imposed discipline he would not eat food from the hands of a person who had not taken Amrit. In Oct, 1930, when he was released from jail he was given a rousing welcome by the whole community. He was honored at Sri Kal Takhat Sahib and also at Takhat Sri Kesgarh Sahib. Many other panthak organizations showered honors on him.
He spent the rest of his life in experiencing the bliss of Gubani in the soulful gurbani recitation in the spiritual company of other Gusikhs, before leaving this mortal world on 16th April, 1961.