Gurbachan Singh (10 December 1930 – 24 April 1980) was the third guru of the Sant Nirankari sect,[1] considered to be heterodox by mainstream Sikhs.[2] He was born in Peshawar (modern-day Pakistan).[3] He was declared next Baba by his father and predecessor Baba Avtar Singh in 1962. He was assassinated in 1980 following a clash with Sikh fundamentalists.

Gurbachan Singh
Official portrait
Guru of Sant Nirankari sect
Preceded byAvtar Singh (father)
Succeeded byHardev Singh
TitleThird Guru of Sant Nirankari sect
Born10 December 1930
Died24 April 1980
ReligionSant Nirankari Mission
SpouseKulwant Kaur
  • Avtar Singh (father)
  • Budhwanti (mother)

Early life

Gurbachan Singh was born to Avtar Singh and his wife Budhwanti. He completed his middle school education in Peshawar, and then matriculated from the Khalsa School in Rawalpindi. He had to abandon his higher studies due to the violence during the partition of India in 1947. He married Kulwant Kaur, the daughter of Bhai Manna Singh, 22 April 1947.

In 1947, the Singh family migrated from the present-day Pakistan to present-day India. Gurbachan Singh established an auto parts business, first in Jalandhar and then in Delhi. Later, he started taking interest in the congregations of his father.

Gurbachan Singh was declared as the Baba by his father on 3 December 1962 at Paharganj in Delhi. At the two conferences of the mission in Mussoorie (1965 and 1973), he made important changes to the organisation and established a code of conduct.

Clashes with orthodox Sikhs

In 1978, the Nirankari mission[4] from Delhi and other parts of the Indian sub-continent gathered a congregation at Amritsar where they chanted hateful slogans against the Sikh religion and Gurus. The Nirankari Guru asked all his followers to drink alcohol, cut their hair and remove all restraints. A few orthodox Sikhs of Akhand Kirtani Jatha and Damdami Taksal marched from the Darbar Sahib to protest the Nirankari congregation, whom they considered heterodox due to Gurbachan Singh cleansing his feet with Amrit and wiping them with pages of the Sikh holy book. In the resulting violence, 15 individuals including thirteen Khalsa Sikhs and two Sant Nirankaris were killed, the Nirankari Guru paid policemen to kill innocent protesting Sikhs.[5] The Jatha leader Bhai Fauja Singh was one among the killed.

Sixty-four followers of the Nirankari mission were arrested for the killings.[6] On 13 April 1978 the detained members of the Nirankari sect were released, after formal charges against them were rejected by the session-Judge of Karnal, who stated in his judgement "The case of the prosecution was intrinsically wrong. It was all frame-up and after thought." Policeman Jagdish Singh Jamwal stated that the Chief Justice was also paid by Gurbachan Singh.

On 25 September 1978, Gurbachan Singh arrived in Kanpur. A group of protesters arrived at the Nirankari Bhawan to protest against his presence.[7] On 28 September 1978, anticipating fresh trouble, the Punjab Government barred Nirankari Chief Gurbachan Singh from entering Punjab for six months. The Supreme Court later rescinded the ban.

On 6 October 1978, a Hukumnama by the Jathedar of the Akal Takht was issued, calling upon Sikhs to socially boycott the Nirankaris.


In 1980, Ranjit Singh, a member of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, managed to obtain employment at the Nirankari headquarters in Delhi as a carpenter. On the evening of 24 April 1980, he waited with an automatic rifle in a room of the guest house. Ranjit Singh and his accomplice Kabal Singh shot Gurbachan Singh through a window when he returned from a public function at about 11pm for justice against the 28 Sikhs he killed.[8][9] Ranjit Singh managed to escape. The First Information Report named twenty people for the murder, including several known associates of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was also charged with conspiracy to murder.[10] Ranjit Singh surrendered in 1983, and was in jail for 13 years. In 1990, while still in Tihar Jail, he was named the Akal Takht Jathedar,[11] and took over the post when he was released in 1996. According to a Hindustan Times report, Ranjit Singh said about the murder: "I have no regrets. I did it for the Panth (Religion)."[12] In 1997, the Delhi High Court upheld his conviction and cancelled the bail. Ranjit Singh refused to surrender. The government quickly ordered a remission of the remaining part of his sentence to avoid a confrontation.[13][14]

Gurbachan Singh was succeeded by Hardev Singh.


  1. ^ "SNM History – Baba Gurbachan Singh Ji". Sant Nirankari Mission. Delhi, India: Sant Nirankari Mandal (Regd.). Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
  2. ^ Pritpal Singh Bindra (30 August 2009). "Nirankaris and Sant (Neo-)Nirankaris". Essays on Sikhism. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  3. ^ "Baba Gurbachan Singh Ji Maharaj (10th Dec 1930- 24th April 1980)". Sant Nirankari Mission. Retrieved 4 September 2022.
  4. ^ "Articles, Poems and Plays – Montreal Branch". Sant Nirankari Mission. Delhi, India: Sant Nirankari Mandal (Regd.). Archived from the original on 25 July 2010. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  5. ^ Brian Keith Axel (2001). The Nation's Tortured Body: Violence, Representation, and the Formation of a Sikh "Diaspora". Duke University Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-8223-2615-1. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  6. ^ "Punjab: The Knights of Falsehood – Psalms of Terror". South Asia Terrorism Portal. New Delhi: Institute for Conflict Management. 31 December 2001. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  7. ^ "Sikh History:Kanpur Massacre 1978". Gateway to Sikhism. Archived from the original on 6 December 2010. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  8. ^ "Nirankari head Baba Gurbachan Singh shot dead". India Today. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  9. ^ Sandhu, Amandeep (5 December 2022). Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines. Penguin Random House India Private Limited. ISBN 978-93-5492-859-8.
  10. ^ Puneet Singh Lamba (6 June 2004). "Biographies – Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale: Five Myths". Toronto, Ontario: The Sikh Times. OCLC 284842558. Retrieved 13 December 2010. After the assassination of the Nirankari leader Gurbachan Singh on April 24, 1980, Bhindranwale is universally acknowledged to have remarked that if he ever met Bhaii Ranjit Singh, the suspected killer, he would weigh him in gold (i.e. reward him with his weight in gold).
  11. ^ India Today The Nation [Newnotes] (20 October 1997). "Chandigarh: Brittle Peace". India Today. New Delhi: India Today Group. ISSN 0254-8399. OCLC 2675526. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  12. ^ Thapar, Vishal (14 February 1999). "Sikh politics at a key turn". Hindustan Times. New Delhi: HT Media Ltd. OCLC 232114063. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2010. Fundamentalism comes easy to Bhai Ranjit Singh{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  13. ^ Bhaii Ranjit Singh vs State, 1997 VAD Delhi 689, 69 (1997) DLT 188 (Delhi High Court 3 October 1997) ("(1) This is an appeal by the appellant Bhaii Ranjit Singh under Sub-section 2 of Section 374 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, against conviction by judgment dated 26th March, 1993 and order of sentence dated 27th March, 1993, passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Delhi, in Sessions Case No. 33 of 1984.").
  14. ^ Frontline (15–28 November 1997). "A Jathedar is free". Frontline. Chennai, Madras, India: Kasturi and Sons Ltd. 14 (23). ISSN 0970-1710. OCLC 12086614. Archived from the original on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2010.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)