November 24 every year is marked by many as Shaheedi Divas -an occasion to remember the ninth Sikh leader, Guru Tegh Bahadur. The youngest son of Guru Hargobind (the sixth of the 10 Sikh gurus), he held the position from 1665 to 1675. While differing accounts exist, is it believed that he was assassinated on Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s orders.
The ninth Guru had championed the rights of people to practice their own religion and is believed to have taken it upon himself to help a large group of Kashmiri Pandits who had sought his aid. It is believed that Guru Tegh Bahadur had issued an ultimatum of sorts, stating that these people would only have to convert if the Mughal ruler was able to convert him to Islam. Around this time, he is also believed to have appointed his son as his successor.
The ultimatum did not go down well with Aurangzeb and his administrators, with the Guru eventually being arrested and brought before the king. It is believed that he was tortured for several days, as the king held out hope that he would willingly convert. Guru Tegh Bahadur’s determination to protect people’s religion and human values is remembered with reverence. Many have also termed this as being the world’s first instance of martyrdom for human rights.
Guru Tegh Bahadur did not succumb to the pressures exerted on him, and eventually, he was killed publicly in 1675 on Aurangzeb’s orders. While the date is disputed somewhat, most hold that the ninth Sikh Guru dies on November 24 in what is now Delhi’s Chandni Chowk area.