While S. Harbhajan Singh Lakha is no longer present among us, his words echo in our ears ,”I was born as Hindu, but won’t die as one.” These words cause a shiver to run through every sensitive Sikh as God almighty fulfilled his last wish to become initiated as an Amritdhari Sikh. Just four days ago, he took Amrit from the Panj Pyare, five beloveds of Guru, on the historical day of June 6th. He chose the day consciously, as as he wanted to give proper respect to Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, and other Sikhs martyred fighting against Indian army on the historical day of June 1984 .
His second wish was to bring members of Dalit community into the fold of Sikhi. Although his second wish could not be fulfilled, he inspired many of them to have belief in a religion which gives the message of “En Gareeb Sikhan Ko Deo Patshahi’ (Guru will give supreme authority to financially weak, but true Sikhs).
On the previous evening to his sad demise, he talked on phone to Jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh, the Jathedar of Takht Sri Damdama Sahib Talwandi Sabo, and told him that some members of the Dalit community based in Rajasthan want to become Sikhs and receive Amrit. This shows how much he wanted to launch a campaign to bring Dalit people into the fold of Sikhism.
Harbhajan Singh was born on August 25, 1941 in the village of Karnana located in the City of Nawanshahr in the State of Punjab. A naturally intelligent student, he was the first man in his family to receive an education after having worked in a brick factory at a young age. Despite various obstacles, he successfully completed his education and graduated in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering Aircraft Aviation. Harbhajan Singh then joined the Indian Air Force in 1961 as an electrician, and was stationed in numerous locations around India. He resigned after 15 years of service in 1976, and was soon hired as an electrical engineer in civil aviation at the Safdarjung Airport in New Delhi.
Kanshi Ram visited him at his house in 1977 with a notion to start a self respect movement with a goal of ending the thousand year-old Manuwadi system in India whereby low caste Hindus are deprived of basic human rights which are secured only for upper caste Hindus. Being a firm believer in equality and human rights, it did not take Harbhajan Singh much convincing before he t quit his government job and joined the movement.
Having just entered the political arena, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) wasted no time. BSP contested Nawanshahr Punjab Legislative Assembly elections and did extremely well, receiving 18 thousand votes. It was a successful campaign following which Harbhajan Singh was made the BSP general secretary of Punjab. He was given full responsibility of running the movement and appointing BSP district heads. His swift rise in politics continued and eventually resulted in his being appointed as BSP’s first Member of Parliament in 1989, the 9th lok sabha, and also being re-elected for 11th lok sabha in 1996.
Bhai Harpal Singh Cheema, acting president of Shiromani Akali Dal (Panch Pardhani) said that Harbajan frequently visited Canada and held discussions with human rights activist Harkirat Singh and others at Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar. Very much impressed by Sikh principals preached at Canada based Gurdwaras, including Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar, Harbajan prepared himself becoming Singh.
Bhai Cheema said that When he met Harbajan Singh at Banga on June 3, 2014, he told him, “I want to form an organization using the name of Sant Jarnail Singh Bindranwale to engage Dalits with Sikhism.”
“He frequently shared his inner feelings with me that he born as a Hindu, but he would like to die as a Sikh. He also said Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had decided to join Sikhism, but capitalist Sikhs retrained him from doing so,” Bhai Cheema explained.