Remembering The Great Jathedhr Balbir Singh Of Fiji
By Gurmit Singh
Jathedhar Balbir Singh was born 16th August 1934 at Lovu, Lautoka Fiji. He
completed his primary education at Lovu Sangam School to Class 8 with a good command of English. He completed his Punjabi language to Granthi level at LTK Sikh Temple under the guidance of Bhai Harnam Singh (Granthi).
Later served as part time Granthi at LTK and did a lot of Seva as a Akhand Paathi on a regular basis all over Fiji. He had a good command of the Punjabi language – both spoken and written.
As a young Sikh scholar he was popular with the youth who looked up to him.
Being the eldest in the family he grew up caring and loving us all. His favourite sister was Ginda (Jagindar Kaur). We all, his younger siblings, looked up to him and were all proud of him as a Big Bira Jee.
At the very young age of 20 years, he left for India in March 1955, reaching Punjab in April 1955 travelling by sea. After a year or so, at the village due to certain circumstances he left the village home, never to return.
We all lost touch of him for many years. We searched for him but we were unsuccessful.
By sheer luck, in 2007, after many years of unfruitful searches, through one Mr Hundal, we finally tracked him down. At last, our elder brother was still alive and in Hoshiarpur India.. It was such a delight and over-joyous occasion to catch up with him as we had lost touch with him from 1956 to 2007 – over 50 years.
Balbir Singh was a man of very high status but very humble and down to earth and a true Sevadaar. Over those years he had found an adopted a poor family but never got married. His other adopted brothers passed away but he performed the marriage ceremonies for their 2 daughters and son.
- In 1956 after leaving the village he joined the Akali Dal Party and fought for the human rights for the Punjab state and protested and for that he served 2 months in prison.
- In 1960 he was in jail for 5 months for human rights protest. He paid his bail of 500 Rs to be released.
- On 15th August 1961 he fought for the Punjab state by hunger strike
- In 1966, he marched in locked hands in a protest
- In 1967, he served as Chief auditor of Punjab Bank of India
- In 1971, he fought for Sant Fateh Singh’s leadership battle
- In 1974, he became a Freedom Fighter, along with Jathedaar Mohan Singh in the Karnal district.
- In 1975, during Punjab’s Emergency Period he served 8 months in jail in Amritsar and Patiala.
- On 4th August 1982, he again fought for the leadership battle with Prakash Singh Badal, serving 3 months in jail in Ludhiana.
- On 16th August 1984, he fought for independence for Golden Temple and again jailed in Ferozpur for a short period.
- In 1980, Bira Jee stood for election as a member of SGPC and won with a landslide victory in his district of Hoshiarpur, earning him a title of Jathedaar SGPC.
- He stood for election again in 1996 and again won the title of SGPC Jathedaar.
- In 2001, and again in 2004 and 2009 as Jathedaar until today.
– In 2001 he was presented the highest award for the Human Rights Services by SGPC and was presented a Gold Plated 3 Foot Kirpan by the Chief Minister of Punjab, Prakash Singh Badal.
He sadly passed away at 2:30pm 24th April 2014 at the ripe age of 80 years.
It was such a joyous occasion finding Jathedhar Balbir Singh (Beera Jee) after over 50 years and the whole family is proud of his achievements and how far he was able to come as a true and dedicated Sevadaar. May Waheguru bless his departed soul and give us all the strength to accept his passing – the things which we cannot change.
Jathedhar Balbir Singh is survived by Sister Jagindar Kaur in Modesto, California, USA, Brother Harbhajan Singh in Sydney Australia, brother Kewal Singh in Yuba City, USA, Sister Gurdiyal Kaur in Lautoka, Fiji Island and Brother Gurmit Singh in Surrey, Canada. He also left behind 10 nieces and eighteen nephews, eight granddaughters and ten grandsons. He also had an adopt family in Hushiarpur, India, Mr & Mrs Kuljit Singh and grandson Sukha Singh and daughter Raman.
He will be deeply missed and remembered by his beloved families and friends all over the world.