A very few Indians know about General Baghel Singh (1730-1802). He paid the Islamic fundamentalists in their own coins and made them construct Gurdwaras in Delhi in 1783. He paved the way for self assertion of Indians after the slavery of nine centuries under Islam.
At the formation of the Dal Khalsa in March 1748, Karora Singh, a Virk Jat of village Barki in the district of Lahore, was the head of the misl (Sikh fighting group). About 20 years earlier, Karora Singh had been forcibly converted to Islam by Zakariya Khan’s officials. But after six months he again took pahul (amrit) from Darbara Singh and returned to Sikhism. Since then he became a foe for Mughals. Karora Singh generally confined his activities to south of the Kangra hills. In emergency he could seek shelter in the hills. In 1759, after the death of Adina Beg Khan and by killing his Diwan Bishambar Mal, he seized large territories in Punjab and parts of Delhi. Karora Singh was killed in the battle of Taraori in 1761 against the Nawab of Kunjpura.
Since Karora Singh had no son, he adopted his servant Baghel Singh who succeeded the headship of the misl. Baghel Singh Dhaliwal belonged to village Chabhal, 21 km from Amritsar. He grew into the most powerful Sikh leader in the Cis-Satluj region. He dominated the Sikh politics in this area in last quarter of the 18th century. Baghel Singh had seen the rotten condition of the Mughal empire. His aim was to establish Sikh rule over the Mughal Empire under the nominal suzerainty of Emperor Shah Alam II. The Emperor was inclined to appoint him regent of the Empire. Had he accepted this position, the Sikh rule would have extended up to the Ganga as far south as Mughal Sarai, Bundelkhand, Rajasthan and Sind. He was endowed with the ability and capacity to play a major role in building up the political power of Sikhs over the whole of northern India. As he had risen from extreme poverty and penury and from the position of a domestic servant, the Sikh would not have supported him against Jassa Singh Ahluwalia in such an ambitious scheme. It was with this idea that he persuaded the Sikhs to enter the Red Fort and seated Jassa Singh Ahluwalia on the throne. Baghel Singh remained in charge of capital for the sole purpose of building seven Gurdwaras.
In February 1783, Budha Dal numbering about 60,000 under the leadership of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Baghel Singh marched towards Delhi. They commenced their depredation in Ghaziabad, 20 km south of Delhi. The Sikh army won whole of northern India including Bulandshahar, Khujra, Aligarh, Hathras, Tundla, Sikohabad, about 241 km from Delhi. They also ransacked Farrukhabad and Sikohabad. From Farrukhabad, they rushed back. They arrived Delhi on March 8, 1783. The enormous booty acquired during this expedition was sent to their homes under the custody of 10,000 men. Just at this time Jassa Singh Ramgarhia arrived Delhi from Hisar. He had been driven out of Punjab by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and others. After devastating the walled city and its suburbs, the Sikhs on March 12, 1783 turned to Red Fort to seize the property of the refugees who had taken shelter there. They stopped before Diwan-e-Aam. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia’s force of 20,000 people desired to place their leader on the throne. By this time, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia arrived on the throne. He demanded immediate withdrawal of Ahluwalia from Diwan-e-Aam. Both sides drew out their swords. Ahluwalia at once got down the throne and ordered his men to vacate the fort. All returned to their respective camps.
The same day, Begham Samru reached Delhi. She had friendly relations with Baghel Singh who had saved her during a Sikh incursion of Mirath. The Emperor gave her full authority to settle terms with the Sikh in order to save the city from further misery and misfortune. She called on Baghel Singh in his camp at Tis Hazari. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia had declined to represent the Budha Dal. This authority was assigned to Baghel Singh. The following terms were settled between her and Baghel Singh and were approved by the Emperor:
‘The Dal Khalsa should retire from Delhi immediately. Baghel Singh would stay in the capital with his 4,000 troops. He would be responsible for maintaining law and order in the city. He would establish his camp in Sabzi Mandi. The Sikhs would not misbehave in any way during their stay in the capital. Baghel Singh would charge six anna (37.5%) of all the octrois in Delhi to meet the expenses for maintaining peace.’
Baghel Singh was allowed to build seven Gurdwaras at the sacred places of the Sikhs. The construction of Gurdwaras was to be finished within a year at the most. In consequence, most of the Sikhs left Delhi. Only Baghel Singh, as the head of 4,000 horsemen, stayed behind. They set up their camp in Sabzi Mandi-Tis Hazari area. Baghel Singh took charge of octroi posts as well as the Kotwali in Chandni Chowk. Five/eighth of the whole collection was daily deposited in the government treasury. Warren Hasting, the governor general, recorded in a minute presented to his council: “While I was in Lucknow, they (Sikhs) carried their depredations to the very suburbs of Delhi, where two of their officers actually reside in a quarter called Subzi Mandi, which is chiefly occupied by shopkeepers, for the double purpose of levying their rauky (which is the name given to that contribution) and of protecting the inhabitants from the marauders of their own nations.”
The first Gurdwara was built at Teliwara in the memory of Mata Sundari and Mata Sahib Devi, wives of Guru Gobind Singh. They had lived there for some time. The second Gurdwara was built in Jaisinghpura where Guru Harkishan had stayed. Four tombs were constructed on the bank of the Yamuna at the places of cremation of Guru Harkishan, Mata Sundari, Sata Sahib Devi and Ajit Singh, the adopted son of Mata Sundari. A Gurdwara was constructed there. There were two places connected with Guru Teg Bahadur. One was at the Kotwali where the Guru was beheaded. The other was at Rakabganj where his headless body was cremated by Lakhi Banjara. At both these places mosques had been built. In order to build Gurdwara, mosques had to be demolished. The Muslims had been most sensitive with regard to their mosques. But their fanaticism had grown weaker before the supremacy of the Sikhs.
Earlier, a small body of Sikhs under Sahib Singh Khondah, a small Sikh chief, visited Delhi. He was there on October 1, 1778. This was the Dussehra day and the Sikhs riding out went to the Guru’s bungalow near Rakabganj, and they demolished the mosque and ravaged the cultivated fields.” (Delhi Diarist, anonymous, in Delhi Chronicle, 31).
The diarist further observed that with the departure of the Sikhs, the Muslims again erected the mosque. When Baghel Singh planned to pull down the mosque, the Muslims of the capital grew furious and thousands of them gathered there to save the mosque.
Baghel Singh asked the mob to send their representatives to discuss the matter with him. About one hundred Muslim leaders met him. He gave them a fortnight to declare their final decision. Till then the construction was stopped. He sent his agents to the Cis-Satluj chiefs to be ready for an expedition. The details of which he would supply in a couple of days. He prepared a list of all the Jagirs held by Delhi Muslims in the Ganga-Doab and in the region north of Delhi in the district of Rohtak and Karnal. He marked certain Sardars for certain areas. They entered those villages and created havoc. The leaders finding themselves in ruin waited for Baghel Singh individually and gave in writing that they have no objection to the demolition of the mosque at Rakabganj. He laid the foundation of the Gurdwara before sunrise. The building was soon built.
At the Kotwali, a huge Muslim mob gathered to protect the mosque from demolition. The situation was grave. Baghel Singh did not touch the mosque, and pulled down only a portion of the compound wall which obstructed the construction of the Gurdwara. On its completion a Brahman Sikh was appointed Granthi, and a Jagir was assigned to it.
In the war of Independence in 1857, the Sikhs in general and Raja Sarup Singh of Jind in particular, had rendered help to British Government. The government allowed Sarup Singh to demolish this mosque and extended the Gurdwara in its place. The sixth Gurdwara was constructed at Majnu Ka Tila where Guru Nanak Dev with Mardana, Guru Hargobind and Ram Rae, son of Guru Har Rae, had stayed. The seventh Gurdwara was raised in Moti Bagh where Guru Gobind Singh had lived. All these seven Gurdwaras were constructed in eight months. The Emperor was pleased with his work. He granted Baghel Singh one/eight of the octroi of Delhi for life. Baghel Singh left Delhi in the beginning of December 1783. The contemporary Khair-ud-Din, secretary to royal princes, called him Raja.