Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity 0199467099, 9780199467099

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Title Pages

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

Title Pages J.S. Grewal

(p.i) Master Tara Singh in Indian History (p.iii) Master Tara Singh in Indian History

(p.iv) Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries. Published in India by Oxford University Press

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Title Pages 2/11 Ground Floor, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi 110 002, India © Oxford University Press 2017 The moral rights of the author have been asserted. First Edition published in 2017 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by licence, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above. You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer. ISBN-13: 978-0-19-946709-9 ISBN-10: 0-19-946709-9 Typeset in ScalaPro 10/13 by The Graphics Solution, New Delhi 110 092 Printed in India by Rakmo Press, New Delhi 110 020 Every effort has been made to trace the copyright holder of photographs 1, 16, 35, and 37. The publisher would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner so that proper acknowledgement can be made in future editions.

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Frontispiece

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

Frontispiece J.S. Grewal

(p.ii)

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Frontispiece

Master Tara Singh, 20 September 1956 Source: FPG/Getty Images.

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Dedication

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

Dedication J.S. Grewal

(p.v) To Punjabi University, Patiala, with which I have remained closely associated in several capacities for over a decade (p.vi)

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Illustrations

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

(p.ix) Illustrations J.S. Grewal

Photographs Frontispiece image: Master Tara Singh, 20 September 1956 ii 1. Master Tara Singh as a young man 703 2. Master Tara Singh (in chair on the extreme left) as a member of the hockey team, Khalsa College, Amritsar 703 3. Master Tara Singh (fourth from the right in the row of chairs), Headmaster, Khalsa High School, Kallar, in 1917, with Sant Teja Singh on the right 703 4. Master Tara Singh (second from the left in the row of chairs) with some Akali leaders after their release from jail in September 1926. The chair in the middle has a photograph of Sardar Teja Singh Samundri who had died in jail 703 5. Master Tara Singh leading a jathā of 100 Akalis from Amritsar to Peshawar amidst a huge crowd in 1930 704 6. Master Tara Singh leading the jathā for Peshawar near Khalsa College, Amritsar 704 7. Master Tara Singh (in the middle) with Akali leaders at the time of a meeting of the Central Sikh League at Amritsar on 8 April 1931 704 8. Master Tara Singh (third from left) listening to Sir Stafford Cripps in March 1942. Sitting from left to right are Sardar Ujjal Singh, Sardar Jogendra Singh, and Sardar Baldev Singh 705 9. Master Tara Singh at a party after meeting Sir Stafford Cripps 705 (p.x) 10. Master Tara Singh sitting in a rickshaw amidst a crowd of people in Simla at the time of the Simla Conference in June–July 1945 705

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Illustrations 11. Master Tara Singh (third from right) in conversation with Jinnah while Lord Wavell is talking to the other Indian leaders at the time of the Simla Conference 705 12. Master Tara Singh (third from left) listening to Lady Wavell at the time of the Simla Conference 705 13. Master Tara Singh talking to Maulana Azad at the time of the Simla Conference 706 14. Master Tara Singh with Jinnah and Khizar Hayat Khan at the Simla Conference 706 15. Master Tara Singh in discussion with Sardar Mangal Singh at the time of the Simla Conference 706 16. Master Tara Singh (in chair in the middle) as Commander of the Akal Regiment, with Jathedar Udham Singh Nagoke, Ishar Singh Majhail (on the left), and Darshan Singh Pheruman and General Mohan Singh (on the right) in 1947 706 17. Master Tara Singh (on the mike) addressing the annual conference of the All India Sikh Students Federation at Ludhiana on 24 April 1948 707 18. Master Tara Singh (seated fourth from the right, facing the camera) addressing a press conference at Delhi on 2 August 1948 707 19. Master Tara Singh after his release from jail in October 1949 707 20. Master Tara Singh with Jathedar Pritam Singh Khuranj on the right and Sardar Gian Singh Rarewala on his left after the election of Jathedar Khuranj as President of the SGPC in 1952 707 21. Master Tara Singh addressing a joint meeting (in connection with the general election) sponsored by the Hindu Mahasabha, Jan Sangh, and the Shiromani Akali Dal on 8 January 1952 708 22. Master Tara Singh with visitors from Pakistan in May 1955 708 23. Akali procession at Amritsar on 11 February 1956 at the time of All India Akali Conference 708 24. Master Tara Singh welcomed by his friends in his native village, Harial, in Pakistan early in 1960 709 25. On behalf of Master Tara Singh, Sardar Bakshish Singh is thanking the residents of Harial 709 26. Master Tara Singh listening to C. Rajagopalachari during the latter’s visit to the Golden Temple in March 1960 709 27. Master Tara Singh sitting by the side of Sant Fateh Singh on fast on 5 January 1961 709 28. Master Tara Singh accepting juice from Yadvindra Singh of Patiala and Sant Fateh Singh to break his fast on 1 October 1961 710 29. Master Tara Singh and Sant Fateh Singh listening to the verdict of the Panj Pyaras at the Akal Takht on 29 November 1961 710 (p.xi) 30. Master Tara Singh performing penance at the Golden Temple after the verdict by the Panj Pyaras 710

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Illustrations 31. Master Tara Singh cleaning shoes of the sangat at the Gurdwara Rakab Ganj in Delhi as part of his penance 710 32. Master Tara Singh cleaning utensils at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj in Delhi as part of his penance 711 33. Master Tara Singh with U.N. Dhebar at the Golden Temple in February 1966 711 34. Master Tara Singh having a walk in the park near the Post Graduate Institute for Medical Education and Research at Chandigarh on 13 November 1967 711 35. Giani Bhupinder Singh and Sardar Atma Singh looking at the face of Master Tara Singh before his funeral 711 36. The funeral procession of Master Tara Singh at Amritsar on 23 November 1967 711 37. Master Tara Singh busy writing in his home at Amritsar sitting on a cot, the seat of his day-long routine 712 38. Master Tara Singh with his wife, Shrimati Tej Kaur 712 39. Master Tara Singh with his family 712 40. A popular portrait of Master Tara Singh 712

Maps 14.1 The British Punjab: The Radcliffe Line 367 20.1 The Punjab in 1956 513 25.1 The Punjab in 1966 613 (p.xii)

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Foreword

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

(p.xiii) Foreword Jaspal Singh

I have a memory of an incident that introduced me in a way to Master Tara Singh. As a young boy I saw people flocking to a railway station to have a fleeting glimpse of Master Tara Singh who was travelling in a train that was to stop there for a few minutes. My later awareness of his role in Indian politics as a Sikh leader confirmed the impression that Master Tara Singh remained the tallest leader of the Sikhs for several decades. I could think of no other leader who caught the imagination of the Sikh people in the way that Master Tara Singh did. As a student of Sikh politics, and in touch with a number of friends among scholars, including historians, I also became aware that much had been written on Master Tara Singh, especially in Punjabi, but not enough to do justice to his multifarious activities, which were underpinned by an intense desire to serve his country and his community. I shared the feeling of several Sikh scholars that a thorough study of Master Tara Singh was called for in the light of his importance and the conflicting views of his admirers and opponents in politics among the Indian leaders of his time, a crucial period in the history of modern India. After becoming Vice Chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala, I began to think of a project on Master Tara Singh. The first step was to identify a historian of known competence to undertake a detailed study. There was a general impression that Dr J.S. Grewal was best qualified to take it up. He had already written a general history of the Sikhs (The Sikhs of the Punjab, a volume of the New Cambridge History of India series) and a short history of the Akalis. As a Visiting Professor at the Punjabi University during 2006–8, he had given public lectures on the political, social, and cultural history of the Punjab (which the University is publishing in four volumes). After a brief consultation, Dr Grewal Page 1 of 2

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Foreword was invited to be Professor of Eminence in the Department of Punjab Historical Studies and to formulate a project on Master Tara Singh with support from the Punjabi University. (p.xiv) The scope of the study expanded with the exploration of relevant sources in Punjabi and English. Master Tara Singh was fond of writing about his political, social, and cultural concerns in various forms. This evidence has been used by Dr Grewal rather thoroughly for the first time. This is a most valuable part of his study as it reflects Master Tara Singh’s response to the changing situations in his life. Equally valuable is the evidence coming from the most important leaders of the Indian subcontinent, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, and M.A. Jinnah. It is not surprising that the work took six years to be completed. I was keen to ensure that a book based on such a wide range of evidence, and written by an eminent historian, should be easily accessible to the readers the world over. I feel happy that the Oxford University Press has agreed to publish this book within a year. I have no doubt that it would be received well by the general reader as well as the social scientists and researchers. I am thankful to Dr Grewal for undertaking this project on behalf of the Punjabi University. He had complete freedom to plan and pursue the project. He has placed Master Tara Singh squarely in the wider context of Indian history in a volume of over 400,000 words, touching upon all aspects of Master Tara Singh’s long political life. The subtitle of the book aptly refers to its comprehensive scope. It is a study of colonialism, nationalism, and the politics of Sikh identity. It demonstrates that Master Tara Singh was a great Indian patriot, deeply concerned with the welfare of the Sikhs as citizens of free India. Jaspal Singh Vice Chancellor Punjabi University, Patiala

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Preface

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

(p.xv) Preface J.S. Grewal

Dr Jaspal Singh, Vice Chancellor, Punjabi University, Patiala, persuaded me in 2010 to undertake a study of Master Tara Singh who, he rightly thought, had been neglected by historians though he could be regarded as the greatest Sikh leader of the twentieth century. Since then I have worked on this study as Professor of Eminence at the Punjabi Unversity, which provided the support required for this project. Dr Jaspal Singh’s personal interest in this work has enabled me to collect a wide range of sources for a comprehensive study of the life of Master Tara Singh in the wider context of modern Indian history. This book is divided into two parts due to the fundamental difference between the era of colonial rule and the era of independence. During the first era, Master Tara Singh contended essentially with the British rulers in collaboration with the Congress. In the second era, ironically, he had to contend essentially with the Congress Party and the Congress government at the centre and in the Punjab. It needs to be underlined that he was not anti-Hindu but anti-Congress. The first two chapters of the first part outline the colonial context up to 1919, after which Master Tara Singh left the teaching profession for politics as a fulltime vocation. The first thirty-five years of his life, taken up in the third chapter, are related to the colonial context and serve as the background to the developments from 1920 to 1947, analysed later in eleven chapters. The larger context of the region and the country is kept in view for marking the important phases in his life. The second part opens with a discussion of the new context from 15 August 1947 to the adoption of the new Constitution on 26 January 1950 in two chapters. Master Tara Singh’s responses to this new situation are taken up in Page 1 of 3

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Preface the third chapter. Before the end of 1950, he was in confrontation with the Congress government and this confrontation lasted till his (p.xvi) death in 1967, except for a short period of truce in 1956–7. The fundamental demand of the Shiromani Akali Dal under the leadership of Master Tara Singh was for the creation of a unilingual state in the Punjab, which was ultimately created in 1966 under the leadership of Sant Fateh Singh. These developments are taken up in nine chapters. In the last year of his life Master Tara Singh put forth the idea of a ‘Sikh Homeland’ within India, with larger autonomy for the state. The focus in the conclusion is on the political ideas of Master Tara Singh in relation to Sikh identity, leading to his advocacy of pluralism in free India. Photographs related to the life of Master Tara Singh from about 1907 to 1967 are given together after the appendices, followed by a glossary, a bibliography, and an index. For the collection of source materials, both primary and secondary, I am indebted to Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha Library of the Punjabi University, the library of its Department of Punjab Historical Studies, and the Punjab State Archives at Patiala; Bhai Gurdas Library of Guru Nanak Dev University, the library of the Research Department of Khalsa College, and the Sikh Reference Library at Amritsar; the A.C. Joshi Library of the Panjab University, the Dwarka Das Library, and the Punjab State Archives at Chandigarh; and the National Archives of India and Nehru Memorial Museum and Library at New Delhi. Some archival material acquired from the British Library at London and the Cambridge University Library turned out to be relevant for this project. It is a matter of pleasure for me to thankfully acknowledge the courteous help received from the custodians and staff of all these institutions. I may particularly mention Dr Devinder Kaur, Dr Saroj Bala, Dr Mehar Kaur, and Dr Harinder Singh Chopra. I may add that Dr Lionel Carter and Professor C.A. Bayly were very helpful in England. The Sikh scholar Prithipal Singh Kapur and Dr Kirpal Singh, both of whom have shown interest in Master Tara Singh, generously lent a number of rare books and pamphlets from their personal libraries. Sardar Gurtej Singh, a former member of the Indian Administrative Service, who is deeply interested in Sikh history, provided some rare photographs as well as books, pamphlets, and other materials from his own collection. Sohan Singh Pooni, author of the Gadri Babe, sent me the private papers of Baldev Raj Nayar, mainly the records of his interviews with a number of political leaders of the Punjab in the early 1960s. Raghuvendra Tanwar, Professor Emeritus at the Kurukshetra University, a professional historian who has written most empathetically on Master Tara Singh, gave me one of his books based almost entirely on contemporary evidence for the year of Partition. I am extremely thankful to all these scholars.

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Preface I am grateful to Professor Indu Banga, Professor Emeritus, Panjab University, Chandigarh, for her deep interest in this study from the beginning to the end; she offered valuable suggestions on all aspects of this study. I am deeply indebted to Dr Karamjit K. Malhotra, Assistant Professor in the Department of Punjab Historical Studies, Punjabi University, Patiala, for her concern with the progress of this project, her useful suggestions, and active support at all stages. I am extremely thankful to Dr Sheena Pall, Professor of History, Panjab University, Chandigarh, who has helped me in the pursuit of this study over these years. (p.xvii) Personal interest taken in this work by my daughters, Professor Reeta Grewal and Dr Aneeta Minhas, and several other members of the family and personal friends was gratifying in its own way. Several drafts of this work were typed out and diligently corrected, particularly by Komal and Savitri. I am thankful to them. I greatly appreciate the interest taken by the team at the Oxford University Press in the publication of this work. Finally, I am thankful for the gracious permission received from Manohar Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi, for maps 14.1, 20.1, and 25.1; from Singh Brothers, Amritsar, for photo 8; from Government of India (Photos Division) for photos 10–13; from National Institute of Panjab Studies (Bhai Vir Singh Sahit Sadan), New Delhi, for photos 15 and 21; from Sardar Manbir Singh (son of the late S. Jaswant Singh), Amritsar, for photos 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 31, 32, and 38; from Sardarni Ajit Kaur (widow of the late S. Gur Rattan Pal Singh) for photos 3, 7, 17, 18, 20, 27, 29, 30, 33, 36, and 39; and Sardar Gurtej Singh for photo 34. I am thankful to Professor Chetan Singh, Director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, and Dr Mohinder Singh, Director, National Institute of Panjab Studies, New Delhi, for obtaining some of these photos. I feel sorry that I could not use any of the photographs sent by S. Amarjit Chandan but I am thankful to him nonetheless. J.S. Grewal Chandigarh 21 March 2017 (p.xviii)

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Introduction

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

Introduction Historiographical Legacy and Our Approach J.S. Grewal

DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199467099.003.0001

Abstract and Keywords Master Tara Singh became a subject of study in his lifetime. A wide range of historical writing on Master Tara Singh has been produced in Punjabi and English in the past three quarters of a century, both by his admirers and his critics. However, this historiography has been based on a small part of the total evidence now available on Master Tara Singh, including archival sources and his own works. The range of evidence used in the present study is much larger. Furthermore, ample space has been given not only to Master Tara Singh but also to his opponents. Consequently, the image of Master Tara Singh that emerges from this comprehensive study is likely to be more authentic and refreshing. Keywords:   Master Tara Singh, historiography, own works, range of evidence, image of Master Tara Singh

Legacy Master Tara Singh became a subject of study in his lifetime. Durlab Singh published an account of the major events of Master Tara Singh’s life in a book of about 40,000 words in 1942. He saw Master Tara Singh as a ‘remarkable man’ who fought for the people irrespective of their caste, creed, or profession. A valiant fighter, he filled the heart of his community and the people of his country ‘with boundless hope and confidence’.1 Durlab Singh emphasized that Master Tara Singh became a remarkable man despite having no privileges attached to birth. He came to occupy the most responsible position in his community as its foremost leader. ‘We can safely say Page 1 of 15

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Introduction that after the Sikh Raj no Sikh could ever capture such vast influence in the community as has come to the lot of Master Tara Singh.’2 Master Tara Singh’s decision to become a Singh through initiation of the doubleedged sword was an event of great significance in his life. The name ‘Tara Singh’ was actually given to him by Sant Attar Singh who was believed to have said: ‘Young man, you are no more Nanak Chand: you are Tara Singh henceforth, may God help you finding salvation for yourself and also for your community.’3 This, indeed, was a genuinely sought conversion and it had a profound influence on Master Tara Singh throughout his life. In 1921, he was asked by some of the Akali leaders to take part in the Akali movement as a full-time worker, and he continued to work for the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and the Shiromani Akali Dal for the rest of his life.4 In the Akali Leaders’ Case, Master Tara Singh stated in the court that he was the person ‘most responsible’ for the Nabha agitation and for the decision of the SGPC to take up the Nabha issue.5 The courage of Master Tara Singh was equally evident from the support he gave to the Akalis of the Patiala state against its Maharaja.6 (p.2) Durlab Singh appreciated Master Tara Singh’s stand against the Nehru Report of 1928 and his decision to work with the Congress, unlike Baba Kharak Singh who insisted on total dissociation. Master Tara Singh’s decision to take an Akali jathā to Peshawar in sympathy with the Pathans who had been brutally treated by the bureaucrats during the civil disobedience in 1930 marked the fall of Baba Kharak Singh and the rise of Master Tara Singh to the top of Sikh politics. Master Tara Singh was in jail when he was unanimously elected President of the SGPC in 1930.7 Appreciating Master Tara Singh’s stand against the Unionist premier Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, Durlab Singh observed that Master Tara Singh was the one man and Shiromani Akali Dal the only organization in the province to remain unshaken in spite of the harsh treatment by the rulers of the province.8 Master Tara Singh groomed a large number of Akali leaders who played an important role in Sikh affairs.9 Master Tara Singh’s autobiographical Merī Yād (My Recollections) was published in 1945 at the instance of some friends. He had no time to search for newspapers or other records, and he wrote solely from his recollection. He tried to avoid talking about matters that were not of public interest.10 His autobiography is largely a narration of political events in which he participated or which had a close bearing on his life. Soon after Independence appeared Mahinder Singh’s Sardār-i Ā‘zam (The Great Leader) with its open admiration for Master Tara Singh. The whole of India was indebted to Master Tara Singh for his contribution to the struggle for its freedom. It was a great tragedy that he was put behind bars when he asked for Page 2 of 15

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Introduction an honourable place for the Sikhs in free India. Mahinder Singh’s narrative was meant to serve as a source of inspiration for the Sikhs to strive for a state within India in which Sikh culture could prosper without any threat or constraint. Mahinder Singh closes his book with the remark that Master Tara Singh’s position in the Sikh community was the same as that of Mahatma Gandhi in the Congress. Master Tara Singh was comparable indeed with the greatest leaders of the world.11 A few months later, in 1950, Gurcharan Singh wrote about Master Tara Singh as a self-respecting warrior (Aṇkhī Sūrmā) who had influenced Sikh history more profoundly than any other Sikh leader after Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Just as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Subhash Chandra Bose were known throughout the world as Indian leaders, Master Tara Singh was known as the leader of six million Sikhs. He was never prepared to dilute his love for the Panth for any worldly consideration. No other leader was accorded so much honour by the Panth as Master Tara Singh. He loved his country as a great patriot, and he alone could guide the Sikhs in the right direction.12 These four works carry a peculiar relevance for the life of Master Tara Singh. The three earliest biographers were highly appreciative of the Akali movement and admired Master Tara Singh as by far the most important Sikh leader. His autobiographical work has a significance of its own as a reflection of his selfimage and his understanding and assessment of the events in which he participated or which he witnessed. No such work on Master Tara Singh appeared in his lifetime after 1950. However, the editor of the Sant Sipāhī started a series of new instalments of Master Tara Singh’s recollections, starting with the Azad Punjab scheme and the Sapru Committee. The (p.3) second instalment appeared in September, followed by others in October–November 1950 and May–June 1951. In the Sant Sipāhī of March 1955 the editor mentioned that a book entitled Merī Yād was published covering the events up to 1954, and Master Tara Singh picked up the old threads in March 1955.13 All such articles of Master Tara Singh were incorporated by his elder son, Jaswant Singh, in his Master Tara Singh: Jīwan Sangharsh te Udesh, published in 1972. Large extracts from contemporary sources and his own longish notes, or even whole chapters, were added by Jaswant Singh to the text of Merī Yād. Therefore, he refers to himself as the ‘editor’.14 Master Tara Singh’s younger brother, Niranjan Singh, had already published a biography of Master Tara Singh entitled Jīwan-Yātra Master Tara Singh, in 1968. It was based largely on his own experiences and observations and some records in his possession.15 Only three more works written exclusively on Master Tara Singh in Punjabi have appeared in the last fifty years. Prithipal Singh Kapur’s Srimān Master Tara Singh (Itihāsik Pakh Ton) was published in 1968. In less than 25,000 words, Page 3 of 15

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Introduction Kapur outlined the most important events of Master Tara Singh’s life (1885– 1967) with an appreciative appraisal of his achievement as the man-of-the-age (yugpursh).16 Bimla Anand’s Master Tara Singh, published by the Punjabi University, Patiala, in 1995 has the distinction of including Master Tara Singh’s literary and journalistic activities and the use of some archival sources, but the narrative is not free from factual errors.17 Surinder Singh Batra, in his Master Tara Singh: Jīwan Te Rachnā, goes into greater detail of his autobiography, his novels, his Safarnāma, his political articles and pamphlets, his essays on Sikh faith, and other miscellaneous writings.18 In English, only essays and articles on Master Tara Singh have appeared in recent decades.19 A biographical sketch of the whole life of Master Tara Singh in an essay of about 15,000 words by Prithipal Singh Kapur is an English version of his booklet in Punjabi published in 1968.20 The latest work on the subject, Master Tara Singh and His Reminiscences, consists mainly of an English translation of the whole of Merī Yād by Dharam Singh, with an elaborate appraisal of Master Tara Singh by Prithipal Singh Kapur.21 Master Tara Singh figures prominently in Baldev Raj Nayar’s Minority Politics in the Punjab. As a political scientist, Nayar sets out to study ‘the Indian case’ in the context of the general problem of building a ‘nation’ out of the diverse groups in the erstwhile colonies of Europe in Asia and Africa. Nayar notes that the people of the Indian subcontinent suffered a setback in nation-building when India was partitioned ‘on the basis of religion’ in 1947. The new Constitution of India embodied a delicate balance between the need for a strong central government and the recognition of regional diversity. Furthermore, the Constitution established a ‘secular state’ in India, unidentified with any particular religion. Equality of opportunity was provided for all in public employment. The most important challenge to ‘national unity’ and ‘the secular state’ came from the growth of regionalism based on linguistic and cultural ties. Another type of threat to the existing political framework in India was religion-based communalism. The examples of communal groups given by Nayar are the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, the All-India Hindu Mahasabha, and the Muslim League. However, Nayar was concerned primarily with the demand for a new state in the (p.4) Punjab, its social and political context, and its nature: whether it was a language-based regional demand or a region-based communal one. The basis and the origin of the demand, and the motivating factors behind it, could throw light on the future development of the political conflict in the Punjab.22 In Nayar’s perspective, thus, ‘regional’ and ‘communal’ demands were obstacles in the path of nation-building.

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Introduction According to Nayar, the doctrine which provided the basic motive force for reform among the Sikhs was that of ‘a separate political entity’. It was argued that Sikhism was not a religion like other religions; it was concerned with the whole activity of man in the context of this world. ‘Religion and politics are said to be combined in Sikhism.’ Master Tara Singh maintained that the Panth was a political organization founded upon religion. ‘Without political organization and participation in politics, the Sikh religion cannot survive.’ Master Tara Singh was also reported to have said that ‘the Khalsa Panth will either be a ruler or a rebel. It has no third role to play’.23 Nayar argues that the Akali demand for a Punjabi-speaking province was a cloak for objectives that were not cultural but political or rather communal. He refers to a speech by Master Tara Singh during the elections of 1951–2 in which he said that it was wrong to allege that he wanted ‘a Sikh state’; he desired only ‘a state based on the Punjabi language’. But he also said frankly that his manifesto was ‘the Panth’ and he wanted ‘Sikh rule’. In one of his articles Master Tara Singh wrote that he wanted a Sikh majority state with internal autonomy like that of Kashmir. On yet another occasion he said that the Sikhs wanted āzādī. Nayar gives other instances where Master Tara Singh reveals more concern for the Sikh religion and the Sikh Panth than for the Punjabi language.24 Master Tara Singh made no secret of his motives even in 1961: ‘The Sikhs as a distinctive community,’ he said, ‘must be preserved and they could be preserved only in a “homeland” of their own.’ He asserted that in their present position ‘the Sikhs would be gradually “absorbed” by the majority community’. Thus, the Sikhs needed political power for the protection of the Sikh symbols of distinction.25 Nayar comes to the conclusion that the Akali demand for the Punjabi Suba was a continuum of the Akali concern for preserving Sikh identity from the very beginning of the Akali movement. The demand for Punjabi Suba represented ‘the political aspiration of a religious group to nationhood, especially in view of the historical memories of having been the sovereign rulers of the Punjab’. The ‘nationalist leadership’ opposed the demand as ‘a potential threat’ to the ‘secular regime’ and to ‘Indian national unity’. The conflict over the demand was not merely a conflict between Hindus and Sikhs, but between two groups of leaders among the Sikhs themselves: the Akali leaders, who made ‘communal demands’ in the name of the Sikh community, and the Congress-Sikh leaders who subscribed to ‘secular nationalism’.26 Nayar does recognize, however, that Master Tara Singh held a unique position among the Sikh masses till 1962 as the only consistent and long-suffering upholder of the doctrine of the Panth as a separate entity, and as ‘a selfless and dedicated leader without personal ambition’. After 1962, Master Tara Singh’s position changed, and his advancing age precluded the possibility that he could offer the vigorous and determined leadership he had provided in the past. Page 5 of 15

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Introduction However, Master Tara Singh’s political career did suggest that the Akali leadership in the future might seek to (p.5) project his image to secure popular support if it decided to persist ‘in the policy of challenging the forces of secular nationalism’.27 The image of Master Tara Singh could inspire popular support, but his ideas had no relevance for the future, according to Nayar. He was inclined on the whole to see Master Tara Singh as a protagonist of communalism and, therefore, an obstacle to nation-building in a secular state. In contrast to Nayar, Sarhadi identifies himself with the ‘minority’ and his primary concern is with the formation of a unilingual Punjab state. His interest is in minority politics within the general political framework. He views Master Tara Singh from a totally different perspective. His Punjabi Suba: The Story of the Struggle was based mainly on a large number of documents in his possession, as well as his personal knowledge. A lawyer by profession and an Akali leader in his own right, Sarhadi places Master Tara Singh at the centre of his story. After religious resurgence and the awakening of new consciousness among the Sikhs, Sarhadi takes up their part in politics when transfer of power was to take place. The main plot of the whole story began ‘with the great holocaust and culminated with the carving out a “homeland” for these people’. Master Tara Singh is at the centre of the story from 1942 to 1962. Sarhadi’s own participation in the struggle gave him the opportunity to watch the course of events and the men on the stage. Written without fear or favour, his narrative was primarily factual. He points out that he does not agree with Chaudhary Muhammad Ali, author of The Emergence of Pakistan, who held that the Sikhs were responsible for the holocaust of 1947. Nor does Sarhadi agree with Khushwant Singh who said that language was only the sugar-coating for the Akali demand for a Sikh state.28 Significantly, no professional historian or social scientist has undertaken a detailed study of Master Tara Singh. The Akalis in power, who trace their ‘political ancestory’ to Sant Fateh Singh, maintain a studied silence about Master Tara Singh even though he has been formally honoured by them as a ‘Panth Ratan’. There are the Sikh critics of Master Tara Singh who hold the view that he betrayed the Sikhs because he refused to accept a Sikh state being offered by the British, and by Jinnah. Among them is the most respectable Sikh intellectual Sardar Kapur Singh.29 Sardar Gurtej Singh, who has great respect for Sardar Kapur Singh’s view, sent on request a number of questions to indicate what went wrong with Master Tara Singh’s politics. He should not have ‘leaned upon the Congress’ during the Gurdwara Reform Movement, and then onwards up to 1947 he should have retained an autonomous position. For instance, he himself should have represented the Sikhs at the Round Table Conference. He should not have accepted leadership of the Hindus because it diluted the idea of a distinct Sikh identity. Master Tara Singh appears not to have been aware that Mahatma Page 6 of 15

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Introduction Gandhi had accepted Pakistan much before 1946. He could have taken help from the Sikh rulers like the Maharaja of Patiala and the leaders of the Chief Khalsa Diwan ‘to negotiate more meaningfully with the British’.30 Soon after Independence it was clear that the Hindus wanted ‘to annihilate the Sikhs’ but Master Tara Singh does not appear to have been aware of this. When Nehru asked Master Tara Singh in September 1947 whether the Sikhs wanted Khalistan, he should have told Nehru that the Sikhs required political safeguards. Master Tara Singh should not have allowed the Akali Dal to be merged with the Congress first in 1948 and then in 1956. Finally, he did (p.6) not understand that his agitational approach was wasteful and rather counterproductive. In the present study, there is no attempt to address these views directly but answers to most of these are built into its text. The ‘nationalist’ historians have little appreciation for Master Tara Singh primarily because they see him essentially as a ‘communalist’. Bipan Chandra, one of the foremost historians of modern India, brackets the Gurdwara Reform Movement with the struggle for temple entry in Kerala. Both illustrate for him the influence of nationalism on the struggle ‘to reform Indian social and religious institutions and practices’ leading to confrontation with the colonial authorities. The struggle for reform tended to merge with the anti-imperialist struggle. The Akali movement related initially to a purely religious issue but ended up as ‘a powerful episode of India’s freedom struggle’.31 In other words, the motivating force for the Akalis was the Congress. Under the influence of the Non-cooperation Movement the Akali Dal and the SGPC accepted complete non-violence as their creed.32 The government adopted a two-pronged policy in view of the emerging integration of the Akali movement with the national movement: to win over the moderates and to suppress the extremists. Heartened by the support of the nationalist forces, the Akalis began to see their movement as a part of the national struggle. The nationalist section within the SGPC passed a resolution in favour of non-cooperation in May 1921. Master Tara Singh at this time was one of the prominent ‘militant nationalist leaders’ of the SGPC.33 The SGPC took up the cause of the Maharaja of Nabha who had been forced to abdicate in July 1923. The Jaito morchā launched by the SGPC did not get much support from the rest of the country. The government succeeded in winning over the moderate Akalis with the promise of legislation, and the Gurdwaras Act was passed in July 1925. Apart from its own achievement, the Akali movement made ‘a massive contribution’ to political awakening among the Punjab peasantry, and the people of the princely states.34 The Akali movement was commendable for Bipan Chandra in so far as it was aligned with politics of the Indian National Congress. But it encouraged ‘a certain religiosity’ that was used later by ‘communalism’. While the moderates Page 7 of 15

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Introduction went back to loyalist politics to become a part of the Unionist Party, and as the nationalist Akalis joined the mainstream nationalist movement as part of the Gandhian or the leftist Kirtī–Kisān and Communist wings, the ‘stream’ which kept the title ‘Akali’ used the prestige of the movement and became the political organ of Sikh communalism, ‘mixing religion and politics and inculcating the ideology of political separatism from Hindus and Muslims’. The politics of the Akali Dal constantly vacillated between nationalist and loyalist politics before 1947.35 In India after Independence, written jointly by Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, and Aditya Mukherjee, it is stated that the Akali leadership from the very beginning had adopted certain ‘communal themes’, which became ‘the constitutive elements of Sikh communalism’ in all its phases. This was reflected in the movement for a Punjabi-speaking state. Denying the ideal of a secular polity, the Akalis asserted that religion and politics could not be separated, and that the Sikhs were being subjected to discrimination, humiliation, and victimization. No evidence other than that of the denial of a Punjabi Suba, however, was offered in support of the (p.7) charges. A significant feature of Akali politics was the use of the institutions and symbols of Sikh religion in order to harness religious sentiments and fervour to communal ends. Hindu communalism was very active in the Punjab at the same time as a counterpoint to Sikh communalism.36 For our authors, Nehru was ‘more than aware of the fascist character of extreme communalism, including its Akali variety under Master Tara Singh’s leadership’. At the same time Nehru was sensitive to the feelings of the minorities, and he tried to conciliate the Akalis by accommodating, as far as possible, their secular demands. The examples of this accommodation are the pacts of 1948 and 1956 when the Akali Dal agreed to shed its communal character. The pact of 1948 was meant to absorb the Akali legislators into the Congress Party. It isolated Master Tara Singh from the former Akali leaders. But this strategy failed to stem the growth of communalism in the Punjab. Neither Prime Minister Nehru nor Chief Minister Kairon took steps to launch an ideological campaign against communalism, nor did they confront communalism directly at a time when it was not difficult to do so.37 Bipan Chandra and his co-authors emphasize that Master Tara Singh gave ‘a blatantly communal character’ to the demand for a Punjabi Suba. They contend that the Sikhs wanted a state of their own in which they could dominate as a religious and political community. Nehru refused to concede the demand because of its communal underpinnings. When Sant Fateh Singh ousted Master Tara Singh from the top leadership of the Akali Dal and declared that the demand for the Punjabi Suba was based entirely on language, the ground was prepared for its acceptance, and the Punjabi Suba was created in 1966. It was a correct step, but no solution to the Punjab problem. The heart of that problem Page 8 of 15

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Introduction was communalism and unless that was eradicated the problem would remain and take new forms. The authors go on to discuss ‘Akali politics and militancy’ after the creation of the Punjabi Suba on the assumption that militancy was an extension of Akali politics.38 Bipan Chandra and his co-authors represent nationalist historiography with an explicit hostility towards Master Tara Singh’s ‘communalism’. S.S. Bal wrote a booklet to discuss ‘Sikh communalism as channelised by the Shiromani Akali Dal, 1920–1947’ as a topic of great contemporary relevance. ‘Properly studied, it helps us in understanding the travails, that the State of the Indian Union bearing the name of the Punjab since 1 November 1966, had undergone in the last decade or so.’39 Sikh communalism for Bal was not related in any way to the pre-colonial Sikh past. ‘It has nothing to do even with Guru Gobind Singh creating the Khalsa on the Baisakhi of 1699 or with the new form he gave to the followers of the Great Nanak.’40 As elsewhere in India, British rule provided the basis for communalism in the Punjab. It was reinforced by the reform movements. Nevertheless, the Central Sikh League and the Akali Dal acquired the image of ‘great freedom fighters’ early in the 1920s. The demands of the Central Sikh League were addressed to the Congress and not to the British Government. But the Akali leaders seldom missed the opportunity to emphasize their separate identity from the Congress. At the end, Bal agrees with Bipan Chandra that communalism was a phenomenon of modern Indian history. It was not a religious but a secular phenomenon, catering to vested interests of the feudal and the educated classes. However, Sikh communalism in the Punjab, nurtured (p.8) and guided by the Akali Dal, was different from the Muslim communalism promoted by the Muslim League. In the first place it was addressed primarily to the Congress. The demands of Akali Dal were a counterpoise to the demands of the Muslim League, and it did not act as a brake on India’s fight for freedom.41 Despite these qualifications, Bal regards Sikh communalism as the source of the travails of the Punjab in the 1980s, and remains pretty close to Bipan Chandra’s Communalism in Modern India.42 Talking of the paradox of ethnic identities and statehood, Raghuvendra Tanwar looks upon Master Tara Singh as an upholder of ethnic identity with an implicit empathy with the movements led by him. Tanwar says that he does not subscribe to the view that ‘the Sikhs had developed from a distinctive religious and ethnic group to the level of a conscious nationality’. However, they had moved speedily towards becoming ‘a more distinct, self conscious community’ before 1947, drawing its bonding elements from symbols of heritage, shared history, culture, and religion. There was an urge to protect the exclusive interests and specific identity of which the Sikhs were increasingly becoming conscious as an ‘ethnic group’.43

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Introduction Master Tara Singh’s differences with the Congress over the Nehru Report were resolved when the Congress gave assurance to the Sikhs in 1929 ‘that in future no constitutional solution that did not give satisfaction to the Sikhs would be acceptable to the Congress’. Master Tara Singh welcomed this assurance, declaring that the Sikhs would stand at the forefront in the fight for freedom.44 Tanwar refers to Master Tara Singh’s ‘nationalist role’ in the 1930s even though his rivals talked in ‘communal terms’. Master Tara Singh wanted the Sikhs to join the British Indian Army for the sake of the Panth as the Sikhs in the army could be ‘a great support’ when the struggle came. About the Azad Punjab scheme, he made no secret of his purpose: to cripple the Pakistan scheme. His own scheme was meant to ensure integrity of the Indian state.45 Tanwar outlines the events that indicate how the Sikhs saw their future in India, and why Master Tara Singh insisted on the partition of the Punjab. He was not happy with the 3 June 1947 Award which provided no political safeguards for the Sikhs. Early in June he said: ‘It is not a matter of mere political power for us. Our very existence is at stake.’ A fortnight later he said that the Sikhs were facing extinction because ‘they have been thrown bound at the mercy of others’. The plan for the partition of the Punjab was understood by Master Tara Singh and the Congress leaders ‘to mean completely different things’. The Sikh perception that they had actually made a sacrifice by siding with India was of no concern to the Congress leadership. By the end of 1947, Master Tara Singh was clearly an undesirable element as far as Nehru and Gandhi were concerned.46 The Akali leaders were disappointed with the indifference of the Congress leaders to the promises made before 1947. Nehru declared at Jalandhar on 24 February 1948 that ‘in this country weightage is not to be given to anybody’. He frankly told the people that it was ‘nonsense’ to demand weightage. Master Tara Singh reacted: ‘I want the right of self determination for the Panth in matters religious, social, political and others. If to ask for the existence of the Panth is communalism, then I am a communalist and I am prepared to face repression.’ Repeatedly he spoke of a space for preserving ‘our culture and traditions’. What the Sikhs sought (p.9) was a ‘province within the federation of India’.47 Master Tara Singh’s arrest for the first time in free India on 19 February 1949 according to Tanwar was unwarranted. Master Tara Singh was to be in and out of jail in the years that followed, and the problem of the Congress in the Punjab was that it had no one to rival Master Tara Singh in popularity. Tanwar outlines the developments leading to the inauguration of the Punjabi-speaking state on 1 November 1966. But as soon as it was done, the Akalis led by Sant Fateh Singh condemned the common links like Chandigarh and the Bhakra works. Several new dimensions came to be added to the politics of the Punjab.48

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Introduction Tanwar concludes that the Sikhs as a minority with a strong sense of identity did not fall in line with a homogeneous national identity which they did not find to be sufficiently reassuring. Indeed, he makes the general observation that pride in one’s culture, ethnic identity, and participation in the political system of the region and the nation are natural processes that need to be appreciated in multiethnic states like India The ‘setting of “pan-Indian” goals was and would be even today completely out of the pace with liberal, democratic, secular and federal ethos, which are important concerns of Indian polity’.49 Tanwar is far more empathetic than Bipan Chandra and his co-authors. He has an inkling that there could be honest differences of outlook and political attitudes among leaders with different historical and cultural heritage. For him, the construct of ‘communalism’ does not clarify issues. ‘Unity’ is not to be confused with ‘uniformity’. Tanwar presents Master Tara Singh as a patriot who was seriously concerned about the interests of his community within the constitutional framework of the country.

Approach The range of evidence used in this detailed study of Master Tara Singh is far wider than in the published historical literature on Master Tara Singh, whether in Punjabi or in English. Master Tara Singh’s own writings, other than Merī Yād, are most important for our purpose. This material consists of essays on Sikh religion and Sikh ethics, historical novels, pamphlets, public addresses, and a posthumously published travelogue. These writings reveal his thoughts, values, and attitudes rooted in the Sikh tradition as he understood it. Apart from some fresh information, his writings also reveal his perspective on important historical situations and events. To these sources are added the autobiographies of some of his older and younger contemporaries, both in English and Punjabi. The second category of important materials that have been used systematically in this study comprises the collected and selected works of some of the most eminent leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad, and M.A. Jinnah. These works contain significant evidence on the Sikhs and the Sikh leaders in general, and Master Tara Singh in particular. A close reading of these sources reveals the assumptions of these leaders about the Sikh faith and the Sikh past. Significantly, they regarded Master Tara Singh as the most important Sikh leader even when his independent stance was not to their liking. Over 200 in all, these volumes add new dimensions to our understanding of the situations which Master Tara Singh had to face. Equally important are over two scores of volumes of published official documents. Much smaller in volume but (p.10) nonetheless significant are the documents of the SGPC and the Shiromani Akali Dal. Thus, the use of published and unpublished primary sources in this study is comprehensive. It has a strong empirical base.

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Introduction Some scholars have reminded me that Master Tara Singh is a highly controversial figure in modern Indian history. Paradoxically, this makes him all the more important as a subject of historical study. Partly due to the supposedly controversial subject, ample space is given in this study to what Master Tara Singh has said and also to what has been said by his antagonists. This may enable the reader to appreciate the viewpoints of all the actors in the story. Inevitably, interpretation is involved in the selection of evidence. This selection has been made quite deliberately, keeping in view the whole range of available evidence. All the time Master Tara Singh is sought to be placed in the context of Indian history, with special reference to the Punjab. The image of Master Tara Singh that emerges from this voluminous and varied evidence is understandably quite different from what we see in the published historical literature on him. Master Tara Singh was undoubtedly a devout Sikh and a staunch patriot. Faith and patriotism were two sides of the same coin for him. In his own words, to be a Sikh was to be a patriot. He loved the Sikh Panth and he loved his country. Service of the Panth was service of the country, and service of the country was service of the Panth. He firmly believed that this was the legacy left by the Sikh gurus for their followers down the centuries. This basic conviction and commitment underpinned Master Tara Singh’s political activity. For about four decades he sympathized with or participated in antiBritish movements to free the country from foreign rule. His cherished wish was that the Sikhs should fight at the forefront for the freedom of the country. His basic concern—service of the Panth and service of the country—remained operative after 1947 when the Congress came into power. The Sikhs had been partners in the struggle for freedom and Master Tara Singh wanted them to be partners in power. Only this could ensure an honourable position for the Sikhs in free India. Notes:

(1.) Durlab Singh, The Valiant Fighter: A Biographical Study of Master Tara Singh (Lahore: Hero Publications, 1942), p. 13. (2.) Durlab Singh, ‘Master Tara Singh: The Valiant Fighter’, in Verinder Grover (ed.), Master Tara Singh (New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications, 1995), p. 176. (3.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter’, p. 9. (4.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter’, p. 25. (5.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter’, p. 32. (6.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter’, pp. 41–8. (7.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter’, pp. 48–66.

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Introduction (8.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter’, p. 70. (9.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter’, pp. 69–102. (10.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād (Amritsar: Sikh Religious Book Society, 1945). (11.) Mahinder Singh, Sardār-i Ā‘zam (Jīwan Master Tara Singh Ji) (Amritsar: Panthak Tract Society, 1950), pp. 6–8, 149–50, 176. (12.) Gurcharan Singh, Aṇkhī Sūramā (Jīwan Master Tara Singh Ji) (Amritsar, 1950), pp. 9–10, 13–14. (13.) Sant Sipāhī (August 1950): pp. 38–44; (September 1950): pp. 31–5; (October 1950): pp. 27–9; (November 1950): pp. 47–50; (May 1951): pp. 7–9; (June 1951): pp. 58–61; (March 1955): pp. 15–18. (14.) Jaswant Singh (ed.), Master Tara Singh: Jīwan Sangharsh te Udesh (Amritsar, 1972). (15.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh (Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 1968). (16.) Prithipal Singh Kapur, Srimān Master Tara Singh (Itihāsik Pakh Ton) (Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 1968). (17.) Bimla Anand, Master Tara Singh (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1995). (18.) Surinder Singh Batra, Master Tara Singh: Jīwan Te Rachnā (n.p.: n.d.). Besides the blessings (ashīrvād) of Giani Bhupinder Singh and Giani Gurmukh Singh, who praise Master Tara Singh as a leader, the foreword by S. Bharpur Singh, Registrar, Guru Nanak Dev University, highlights Master Tara Singh’s deep interest in the Sikh faith and Sikh history. (19.) For an anthology of essays and articles, see Master Tara Singh, edited by Verinder Grover. A number of other articles are listed in the bibliography of the present study. (20.) Prithipal Singh Kapur, ‘Master Tara Singh—A Biographical Sketch’, in Master Tara Singh, ed. Verinder Grover (New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications, 1995), pp. 116–48. (21.) Prithipal Singh Kapur, Master Tara Singh and His Reminiscences (Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 2015). (22.) Baldev Raj Nayar, Minority Politics in the Punjab (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), pp. 1–9. (23.) Nayar, Minority Politics in the Punjab, pp. 68–70. Page 13 of 15

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Introduction (24.) Nayar, Minority Politics in the Punjab, pp. 35–8. (25.) Nayar, Minority Politics in the Punjab, pp. 107–8. (26.) Nayar, Minority Politics in the Punjab, pp. 118–19. (27.) Nayar, Minority Politics in the Punjab, pp. 143–4, 149. (28.) Ajit Singh Sarhadi, Punjabi Suba: The Story of the Struggle (New Delhi: U.C. Kapur and Sons, 1970), Preface. (29.) Kapur Singh, Sikhs and Sikhism (Amritsar: SGPC, 2002), p. 20. See also his Sāchī Sākhī (Amritsar: Gurmat Pustak Bhandar, n.d.), pp. 101–23 and his ‘Panjab dā Batwārā te Sikh Netā’, in Bikh Meh Amrit (a collection of essays by Kapur Singh), ed. Baldev Singh (Kapurthala: Published by Editor, 2013, fourth edition, first published in 1972), pp. 68–74. (30.) The Chief Khalsa Diwan was an organization working generally in cooperation with the government. (31.) Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, Sucheta Mahajan, and K.N. Panikkar, India’s Struggle for Independence (New Delhi: Penguin Books India Ltd, 1989, reprint), p. 224. The chapter discussed here was written by Bipan Chandra. (32.) Chandra, M. Mukherjee, A. Mukherjee, Mahajan, and Panikkar, India’s Struggle for Independence, pp. 225–7. (33.) Chandra, M. Mukherjee, A. Mukherjee, Mahajan, and Panikkar, India’s Struggle for Independence, pp. 226–9. (34.) Chandra, M. Mukherjee, A. Mukherjee, Mahajan, and Panikkar, India’s Struggle for Independence, pp. 227–9. (35.) Chandra, M. Mukherjee, A. Mukherjee, Mahajan, and Panikkar, India’s Struggle for Independence, p. 229. (36.) Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, and Aditya Mukherjee, India after Independence 1947–2000 (New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2003, fifth impression), pp. 324–5. (37.) Chandra, M. Mukherjee, and A. Mukherjee, India after Independence 1947– 2000, pp. 325–6. (38.) Chandra, M. Mukherjee, and A. Mukherjee, India after Independence 1947– 2000, pp. 326–8.

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Introduction (39.) S.S. Bal, Political Parties and Growth of Communalism in Punjab (1920–47) (Chandigarh: Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development, 1989), p. 1. (40.) Bal, Political Parties and Growth of Communalism in Punjab, p. 7. (41.) Bal, Political Parties and Growth of Communalism in Punjab, pp. 57–8. (42.) Bipan Chandra, Communalism in Modern India (New Delhi: Vani Educational Books, 1984). (43.) Raghuvendra Tanwar, The Paradox of Ethnic Identity and Statehood: Reassessing the Role of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Master Tara Singh (Kanwar: Indian History Congress, 2008), ‘Presidential Address’, Contemporary History of India, p. 5. (44.) Tanwar, The Paradox of Ethnic Identity and Statehood, p. 9. (45.) Tanwar, The Paradox of Ethnic Identity and Statehood, pp. 9–10. (46.) Tanwar, The Paradox of Ethnic Identity and Statehood, pp. 16–20. (47.) Tanwar, The Paradox of Ethnic Identity and Statehood, pp. 31–2. (48.) Tanwar, The Paradox of Ethnic Identity and Statehood, pp. 33–40. (49.) Tanwar, The Paradox of Ethnic Identity and Statehood, pp. 40–1.

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The Colonial Context

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

The Colonial Context (1849–1919) J.S. Grewal

DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199467099.003.0002

Abstract and Keywords The British evolved an elaborate administrative structure to ensure peace and order for exploiting the material and human resources of the Punjab. The new means of communication and transportation based on western technology served their economic, political, and administrative purposes. A new system of education was introduced chiefly to produce personnel for the middle and lower rungs of administration. The Christian missionaries were closely aligned with the administrators in this project, primarily for gaining converts to Christianity. The socio-economic change brought about by the colonial rule led to a number of movements for socio-religious reform, followed by a new kind of political awakening in the Punjab as in the rest of British India. The political aspirations of Indians were met only partially by the Government of India Act, 1919. Keywords:   Punjab, administrative structure, communication and transportation, education, Christian missionaries, socio-religious reform, political awakening, Government of India Act, 1919

After annexation, the Punjab was increasingly integrated with the rest of British India and, consequently, with the global political economy. A new imperial ethos informed the policies and measures of the colonial administrators of the Punjab after 1858. They introduced Western education and brought about technological and economic changes to serve imperial interests, resulting in an unprecedented social change that marked the emergence of new middle classes in the province. Their responses to the colonial situation led to a widespread cultural resurgence among all the major religious communities of the Punjab. This resurgence Page 1 of 25

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The Colonial Context became the basis of political articulation, particularly by the middle-class leaders. The growing political concerns of the people of the Punjab were recognized to some extent by their new rulers, and embodied in the Government of India Act of 1919.

The Punjab Administration In its hierarchy and functioning the Punjab administration tended to be centralized and autocratic. The key functionary was the Deputy Commissioner in charge of the district as the most important administrative unit. It generally consisted of four tehsils, and was placed in a division under a commissioner. The Lieutenant Governor was at the head of the three branches of the provincial government: executive, judicial, and revenue. He had a strong secretariat, controlled only by the Governor General in Council, thus giving ‘the advantage of one man government’ to the Punjab, according to James Douie, an experienced administrator of the province. The Commissioner combined revenue powers with the executive and was under the Financial Commissioner. While the Deputy Commissioner and the Tehsildar exercised (p.16) executive, revenue, and judicial (criminal only) powers, the Assistant Commissioner, the Extra Assistant Commissioner, and the Naib Tehsildar performed all the three functions. Thus, there was a tendency ‘for powers in all the three branches to be concentrated in the hands of single individuals’.1 The other departments under the Lieutenant Governor were irrigation, roads and buildings, forests, police, medical, and education. The departments of railways, post offices, telegraphs, and accounts were under the Government of India. The judicial administration functioned independently, with a chief court consisting of two subdivisions: civil and criminal. Established in 1865 with two judges, it came to have five in 1909. The number of divisional and sessions judges increased from twelve to sixteen. In both the subdivisions, there were district judges, subordinate judges, and munsifs.2 Half a century of effort, admits the British administrator Douie, had failed to make local self-government a living thing in towns and districts. In 1911–12 there were 107 municipalities and 104 ‘notified areas’. About 90 per cent of their income came from octroi. It was spent largely on public health and convenience. The effect of the British administration had been a weakening of self-government in villages. Even the district boards were treated as consultative bodies. Their income was derived mainly from a surcharge of one-twelfth of the land revenue. About 60 per cent of the income was spent on public works and education. Public spirit was lacking and, generally, the franchise for the members to be elected was regarded with indifference except when party or communitarian considerations were involved.3 In its financial relations, the Punjab province was subordinate to the Government of India. The income from railways, post offices, telegraphs, salt, Page 2 of 25

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The Colonial Context and sale of opium went entirely to the Government of India. The total revenue of the Punjab in 1911–12 was Rs 75,856,000, out of which the province got only Rs 39,933,000. Assignments of Rs 3,777,000 from the centre raised the total income of the Punjab to Rs 43,710,000. The total expenditure in 1911–12 was Rs 40,379,000. Of the gross income of the province, more than 75 per cent was derived from land, 46 per cent from land revenue, 29 from irrigation (chiefly canal water rates), and 1.75 per cent from forests. The rest came from excise, stamps, income tax, and other heads.4 Douie takes pride in the roads and railways developed by the British, resulting in 2,000 miles of metalled and more than 20,000 miles of unmetalled roads, and over 4,000 miles of open railway lines by 1912. Railways beyond the Salt Range and the Sind Sagar railway were built primarily for military considerations.5 As a historian of both the Punjab and the Indian Railway system, Ian J. Kerr has recently suggested that it would be useful to see the development of railways in the province as ‘an integral part of the colonial project to master the Punjab and Punjabis’. Along with other innovations, it helped to ensure the security of British rule in the Punjab, to integrate it with the British Indian Empire, and to develop its commercial potential. Increase in agrarian production in the region on an unprecedented scale was reflected in the huge volume and value of trade. Agrarian production was geared largely to the needs of export not only through Bombay (present-day Mumbai) or Calcutta (present-day Kolkata) but also through the new port of Karachi which was linked up with the Punjab.6 Equally important was the fact that the railways, roads, telegraphs, and post offices (p.17) were interdependent, contributing significantly to the making of the colonial ‘dominant space’. This mega structure of transportation and communications was closely tied to the needs and concerns of the British Empire. These ‘revolutionary technological changes’ accelerated the pace of change. Places which took twenty hours to cover in the 1840s took only one hour by the end of the century. This ‘space–time compression’ had effects on all aspects of the colonial situation.7 Among the greatest achievements of British rule in the Punjab, says Douie, was ‘the magnificent system of irrigation canals’. The network of canals in the province irrigated more than eight and a quarter millions of acres in 1911–12. From 1850 to 1880 the government had constructed new canals to shore up petty commodity production. Their principal function was to even out seasonal differences in rainfall to give greater security to small proprietors of the thickly populated central Punjab. These early canals came to be called ‘protective’. In the 1880s the colonial government began to make massive capital investment in agricultural production to enhance the land revenue and export trade. With British capital and indigenous labour, ‘protective’ irrigation was replaced by ‘productive’ irrigation in largely uninhabited wastelands. In 1904, the Lower Chenab Colony alone had 1,800,000 acres allotted to peasants and yeomen. The Page 3 of 25

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The Colonial Context great part of the colony was covered by the Lyallpur district which had a population of 857,511 in 1911. Before 1892, when colonization had started, it had only a few nomad owners of large herds of cattle.8 Richard G. Fox looks upon these irrigation projects as more important than the railways for bringing about a fundamental transformation of agrarian production and labour in colonial Punjab. During the first fifty years of their rule, the British harnessed the region’s agricultural production and labour to the world system without radical transformation and major capital investment. Peasants in the central districts of the Punjab began to produce wheat for export and became ‘petty commodity producers’. In this manner, a precapitalist system of family labour and domestic capital was geared to the capitalist world economy. By the 1920s, over 10 million acres of desert land were under irrigation. The canal colonies had become a new recognizable ‘region’ which specialized in the production of export crops. Apart from the export of wheat and cotton, the canal colonies produced a large amount of revenue. Not controlled or threatened by merchant capital, the canal colonies grew stronger in contrast with the worsening condition of the cultivators of central Punjab. In the first decade of the twentieth century, net outmigration from the central districts increased from 1.52 to 4.72 per cent, a percentage higher than that in the south-western and south-eastern districts.9 Outmigration was linked up with the growing indebtedness in the late nineteenth century. Merchants and moneylenders had been advancing cash to cultivators for payment of the land revenue and for purchase of the factors of production in the market. The moneylenders made such loans against jewellery, crops, land, or even against premature rights of purchase. The high interest rates made it extremely difficult for the peasant to repay the capital. The creditors took land on mortgage in payment of defaulted loans, and reduced the small proprietor to a tenant on his own land. As the petty commodity producers became increasingly debt-ridden, the merchants and moneylenders became increasingly affluent. Thus, prosperity and debt went hand in hand. Debt bondage and (p.18) the tyranny of the market made military service more attractive and also obliged the Punjab cultivators to seek opportunity of wage labour abroad.10 The colonial authorities intervened to protect the system of agrarian production, their own creation, through legislation. The Alienation of Land Act of 1900 prevented cultivators from transferring their lands or mortgaging them for extended periods to non-agriculturists. This legislation addressed at least the immediate threat of transfer of land to non-agriculturist moneylenders. Dungen goes into the details of transformation of official opinion in the Punjab from 1869 to 1909 in which the Punjab administration exercised a decisive influence on the Government of India and the India Office with regard to the revenue policy and measures. The loyalty of the peasantry to the British was taken for granted, even Page 4 of 25

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The Colonial Context though the peasant proprietors were seen as a political force. The Alienation of Land Act, which came into force in June 1901, has been called ‘a landmark in the Punjab political tradition’.11 James Douie regretfully observed the dismal progress of modern education after six decades of British rule in the Punjab. There was one boy in six and one girl in thirty-seven at school. However, the old indifference was weakening and interest in education was increasing in towns and cities. The government was directly or indirectly responsible for education. At the headquarters of each district there was a high school, controlled by the Education Department. In each district there were Anglo-vernacular and vernacular middle schools, and primary schools managed by municipalities and district boards. An institution of a special kind was the Punjab Chiefs’ College at Lahore for the sons of princes and men of high social position. For girls of the upper middle class there was the Victoria May School in Lahore, founded in 1908, which developed into the Queen Mary College. The Government Arts College, the Oriental College, the Medical College, the Law School, and the Central Training College at Lahore were in place before the Punjab University was established in 1882. Founded in 1864, the Government College, Lahore, grew to be the premier educational institution in the Punjab. The veterinary college at Lahore was the best of its kind in India, and the agricultural college at Lyallpur was expected to play a very useful role in agrarian production.12 Douie refers to the ‘honourable connection’ of the Christian missionaries with the educational history of the Punjab. Indeed, they were closely connected with the British administrators of the province. The Political Agent at Ludhiana had invited the Presbyterian missionaries from the USA in 1834 to take charge of a school started by him. Before the end of the year, John C. Lowrie arrived in Ludhiana to establish a missionary centre and a printing press. Another centre was started in 1846 at Jullundur which had been taken over by the British after the Sikh War of 1845–6. Soon after annexation in 1849 a missionary centre was opened in Lahore. New centres were established at Sialkot, Rawalpindi, and Peshawar in 1856. Thus, the missionaries characteristically followed the British flag. After 1858 the missions expanded, founding new churches, hospitals, and orphanages, as well as schools and colleges in cities and towns all over the Punjab. Education was an important area of cooperation between the missionaries and the Punjab administrators. The system of grants-in-aid for private initiative in education was introduced initially to help the mission schools. The missionaries were (p.19) pioneers in women’s education and the education of the Untouchables, later called the Depressed Classes and subsequently Dalits. The missionaries promoted English language, literature, and Western education; held compulsory classes in Christianity; and made participation in Christian worship obligatory for their students. Indeed, the primary aim of Christian institutions Page 5 of 25

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The Colonial Context was evangelistic. The missionaries subscribed to the view that God had saved the British in 1857–8 for the spread of Christianity. In the early decades of British rule there were a few conspicuous conversions to Christianity in the Punjab, but the total number of Christians till 1881 was only about 4,000. Their number shot up to 163,994 in 1911. By far the largest number of converts were Dalits, especially the Chuhras of the countryside, who wished to be free of the social and economic tyranny of the landholders. The mass conversions by the Christian missionaries gave a jolt to the social reformers of the province and goaded them into action.13 In higher education, English literature and the social sciences were combined with the natural sciences to form the core of the new, essentially Western, education. The medium of higher education was English. Urdu was introduced as the medium of instruction up to matriculation, and Urdu literature as a subject of study. The sole criterion for this measure was administrative convenience, because soon after annexation the British had adopted Urdu as the language of administration at the lower rungs. Most of the literate Punjabis came to know the Urdu language and literature, and used it as the medium for public communication, both written and oral. Though a large province, the Punjab did not have the same status as the older provinces. Instead of the Governor it only had a Lieutenant Governor, and instead of a High Court only a Chief Court. The Governor General in Council had greater control over the province than in the Governors’ provinces. A Legislative Council was formed in the Punjab rather late, in 1897, consisting of only nine members, all of whom were nominated by the Lieutenant Governor. The council was enlarged in 1909. It consisted of twenty-four members, of whom only eight were elected, one each by the Punjab University and the Chamber of Commerce, and three each by the officially controlled Municipal and Cantonment Committees and District Boards. At least six of the other sixteen nominated members were from outside the Government service.14 Direct election was introduced only in 1919, with a much larger number of members but a limited franchise. The colonial rulers felt gratified to think that they had introduced the rule of law in the Punjab, but their rule was based essentially on force. For the maintenance of law and order, police administration was developed as distinct from the army and placed under the civil authorities. The army could be called whenever the situation appeared to be critical in their eyes. The Punjab administration came to be called ‘paternal’ with reference to the authority and power exercised by the colonial administrators. They were proud of this tradition and keen to retain it as long as they could.

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The Colonial Context On the whole, colonial rule in the Punjab had a great impact on the life of its people. In the first place, the old jāgīrdārī system was replaced by a bureaucratic system. Europeans, mainly British, occupied the top positions, with a much larger number of educated Indians at the middle and lower rungs in each department, selected and promoted by and large according to rules and paid monthly (p.20) salaries in cash. The Europeans received far higher salaries than the Indians. In the early decades after annexation, the Indian personnel came mostly from the United Provinces (UP) and Bengal. In due course educated Punjabis began to compete with them to serve the new rulers. Apart from various other departments, Indians educated in the law in India or England came to be associated with the administration of justice, and a substantial number of Punjabis took to the profession of law.15 The network of transportation and communications was used by the people as well as the civil administrators and military authorities. The printing press was similarly put to use by all for various purposes. Its importance was enhanced by its use, particularly for the dissemination of information and ideas by an individual or an organization interested in influencing the public or the bureaucracy. The printing press encouraged journalism and publication of books and pamphlets. For example, in 1911, nearly 600 books were published in Urdu, over 450 in Punjabi, and 80 each in English and Hindi. These books included the new literary forms of drama and fiction. Both literature and journalism largely reflected the emerging concerns of the Punjabis, like religious and social reform, history and biography, and the sciences and arts. It is interesting to note that more than half of the total publications came out from Lahore. Next in importance was Amritsar, though it brought out only a fourth of the number of books published in Lahore.16 Commercialization of agriculture in the Punjab added two more components to the new middle classes. Both the petty commodity producers in the countryside and the merchants and moneylenders in urban centres can be seen as constituting the middle class. Though unconscious and unrecognized, the merchants and moneylenders were the most important accomplices of commercialization; they were unofficial agents of the British. Till the end of the nineteenth century they were the greatest beneficiaries of the agrarian policies of the colonial state. Thus, bureaucracy, the rule of law in principle, new forms of transportation and communication, canal irrigation, agrarian policies, commercialization of agriculture, and a new system of education led to a social transformation in which the middle classes emerged as the most important segment of the social order in the Punjab. The professional middle class consisted of two broad categories: individuals in the service of the colonial state and persons in professions outside the state service such as law and journalism, and private enterprise in education. The commercial middle class consisted of members of Page 7 of 25

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The Colonial Context the urban trading communities and the rural commodity producers. The middle classes played an increasingly important role in the social, cultural, and political life of the province.17

Socio-religious Movements in the Punjab As a region numerically dominated by Muslims but having substantial proportions of Hindus and Sikhs,18 the Punjab came to have a very large number of movements for socio-religious reform. While the Nirankaris and the Nāmdhārīs among the Sikhs had started their reformist endeavours before annexation, the Singh Sabha, Sanatana Dharma, and the Ahmadiya movements emerged during the last three decades of the nineteenth century essentially in response to the colonial situation. Indigenous to the (p.21) Punjab, these reform movements may be differentiated from the Arya Samaj originating in western India and the Muslim associations (anjumans) drawing inspiration from the Aligarh Movement located in the United Provinces. Though numerically not very important, the Brahmo Samaj was the earliest to find a foothold in Lahore, the provincial capital. A few Bengalis and Punjabis founded the Lahore Brahmo Samaj in 1863 under the leadership of Babu Navin Chandra Roy. He was a paymaster in the NorthWestern Railway office in Lahore and an advocate of socially radical Brahmoism and Hindi. From 1867 to 1874 Lahore was visited by the leading Brahmos like Keshab Chandra Sen, Debendranath Tagore, and Pratap Chandra Majumdar. They upheld Upanishadic thought and appreciated Western science and the Christian ethic. With their rational yet theistic outlook and their socially liberal attitude, the Brahmos stood for the freedom of the press and English education, and they espoused the cause of the low castes and the Hindu women. Though willing to make use of Urdu and Punjabi for the propagation of their own ideas, the leaders of the Brahmo Samaj had a decided preference for Hindi in Devanagri script. The Brahmo monthly Harī Hakīkat, launched in 1877, was one of the earliest periodicals to be published in the Punjab.19 Some of the Hindus and Sikhs of the Punjab, like Sardar Dayal Singh Majithia, Lala Harkishan Lal, and Professor Ruchi Ram Sahni, came to be associated with the Brahmo Samaj and played an important public role. However, the Dev Samaj, an offshoot of the Brahmo Samaj, proved to be relatively more lasting in the Punjab. It was founded by Pandit Shiv Narayan Agnihotri who had joined the Brahmo Samaj, and who used to expound its rationalistic and eclectic doctrine, and speak in favour of marriage reform and vegetarianism. In 1880 he was ordained as a missionary of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj established in Calcutta. In 1882, he took sanyās and changed his name to Satyanand Agnihotri. In 1886 he left the Brahmo Samaj, and founded on 16 February 1887 a new organization called Dev Samaj (Divine Society). He rejected rationalism and initiated the dual worship of God and the gurū (he himself). In 1895 the worship of God was dropped and the founder became the Page 8 of 25

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The Colonial Context sole point of attention as Dev Bhagwan Atma for members of the Dev Samaj. They were expected to abandon all caste restrictions, practise intercaste dining and intercaste marriage. Widow marriage was made acceptable. In 1899 a coeducational school was started at Moga in Ferozpore district. Much later, a Dev Samaj College for Women was opened in Firozpur city. In 1921 there were 3,597 members of the Dev Samaj, with a good proportion of graduates, magistrates, doctors, pleaders, moneylenders, landlords, and government servants. The influence of the Dev Samaj was greater than what the number of its members would suggest.20 Ruchi Ram Sahni, a contemporary who knew Agnihotri well, talks in some detail how a person who used to appeal vehemently in the name of reason and conscience came to believe in his own extraordinary powers and decided to form a new centre for his activities.21 Swami Dayanand Saraswati came to the Punjab in 1877–8. The first edition of his Satyārth Prakāsh (The Light of Truth) had been published in 1875, elaborating his concept of true Hinduism in Hindi in Devanagri script. He denounced orthodox Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism as false in comparison with Vedic (p.22) Dharma, the only true faith. For him all truth was found in the Vedas as he understood them. The Vedas, and the texts based on a proper understanding of the Vedas, provided the yardstick for judging all other scriptural texts. Swami Dayanand rejected almost all aspects of contemporary Hinduism: the Puranas, polytheism, idolatry, the role of Brahman priests, pilgrimages, nearly all rituals, and the ban on widow marriage. For the propagation of ‘purified’ Dharma, he had founded the Arya Samaj at Bombay in April 1875. The Lahore Arya Samaj, founded in June 1877, held its first meeting on 24 June at which ten simple principles were adopted as the basic creed of the Samaj. In a short time, Arya Samajes were organized in different cities of the province before Dayanand’s death at Ajmer on 30 October 1883.22 The Arya Samajes in the Punjab had agreed on founding a school as a memorial for Swami Dayanand to impart Arya Dharam. The Lahore Samaj drafted a plan in 1883 and set up a sub-committee to raise funds. Lala Hans Raj offered to serve as principal of the school without any pay. The Dayananda Anglo-Vedic Trust and Management Society held its first meeting on 27 February 1886, and the school was opened in June. On 18 May 1889, the Punjab University granted affiliation to Dayanand Anglo-Vernacular (DAV) College. However, the concrete shape being given to the Anglo-Vedic system of education became a source of internal tension. Pandit Guru Datta, who looked upon Swami Dayananda as a divinely inspired sage (rishi) and considered the Satyārth Prakāsh as a text to be taken literally without any questioning, wanted the school to focus on Arya ideology, the study of Sanskrit, and the Vedic scriptures. He was supported by Pandit Lekh Ram and Lala Munshi Ram (later Swami Shraddhananda). By 1893 the Arya Samaj was formally divided between the moderates, known as the ‘College’ party, and the militants, known as the ‘Gurukul’ party. The latter also insisted on Page 9 of 25

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The Colonial Context vegetarian diet while the former left it to the discretion of the individual to eat or not to eat meat.23 The moderates remained focused on the Managing Committee, with education as their primary concern. Slowly they were able to expand the DAV College. The Lahore school run by the Committee became the model for other Aryas in the Punjab. By 1910, the Managing Committee had a number of schools affiliated to it, and it became the formal head of a growing educational system. In 1903 was founded their own Arya Pradeshak Pratinidhi Sabha. In due course, they added other forms of service, notably orphanages and famine relief. The militants had gained control over most of the local Arya Samajes and the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of the Punjab. They laid emphasis on Ved-prachār for propagation of the new message. Pandit Guru Datta had died in March 1890, and leadership of the party was taken over by Lala Munshi Ram and Pandit Lekh Ram. They laid stress on shuddhī or reconversion of Hindus who had converted to Islam or Christianity. In view of the then current notion of ‘Hindus as a dying race’, the scope of shuddhī was extended to ‘purifying’ anyone whose ancestors had once been Hindus (Indians). Pandit Lekh Ram wrote books against Islam, portraying it as a religion of murder, theft, slavery, and perverse sexual acts. Angered Muslims appealed to the courts but failed to silence him. On 6 March 1897, Pandit Lekh Ram was assassinated by a Muslim, leading to communal tension. The programme of shuddhī included the Sikhs and a number of Rahtias (Sikh weavers from outcaste (p.23) background) who were ‘purified’ at Lahore, and their heads and beards were shaved in public.24 In addition to Ved-prachār and shuddhī, the militant Aryas turned their attention to education. A girl’s school, the Arya Kanya Pathshala, was established in Jalandhar in the early 1890s. A women’s hostel, Kanya Ashram, was also founded. In June 1896 the Kanya Mahavidyalaya was founded, which finally became a women’s college. It published literature for women’s education and founded the Hindi monthly Panchāl Panditā in 1898 to propagate the cause of female education. The purpose of this education was to produce a new ideal Hindu woman. The militants advocated widow remarriage, restricting it initially to virgin widows. In 1898 the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha voted to establish an institution where the student would lead a life of celibacy (Brahmacharya), discipline, and Vedic learning. This institution opened in March 1902 in the form of Gurukula Kangri in Hardwar, with Lala Munshi Ram as its manager and moral guide. With this, the militant Aryas completed their own system of religiously oriented education for both women and men.25 The two wings of the Arya Samaj created a wide variety of institutions, offered new forms of worship, introduced proselytism, a conversion ritual, and a simple statement of their fundamental creed. The Arya Samaj reinforced the lines

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The Colonial Context drawn between Hindus and others, with an aggressive promotion of Vedic Hinduism. A defender of Hindu orthodoxy against attacks from Christianity had appeared in the early 1860s in the person of Pandit Shardha Ram Phillauri. He started preaching Vaishnava Hinduism, denounced Christianity as ‘trivial and gross’, and organized a Hindu Sabha in 1867–8 to sustain sanātana dharma. In 1872–3 he preached at the Guru ka Bagh in Amritsar and spoke against the Namdhari programme of Anand marriage, the killing of Muslim butchers, and the rejection of Brahmans for the rites of passage. The Sikhs who heard him carried the impression that he denied the sanctity of the Sikh Gurus. For the remainder of his stay in Amritsar he required police protection to ensure his safety. He had written his Sikhān de Rāj dī Vithiā (An Account of Sikh Rule) for the British bureaucracy in 1866. In 1876 appeared his Dharma Raksha, a defence of sanātana dharma against the Brahmos, arguing that scriptural authority was above human reasoning. At the same time, Phillauri rejected the practice of Ras Lila on his own reasoning. He broke his alliance with Kanhiya Lal Alakhdhari who was a critic of traditional Hinduism. Pandit Shardha Ram was not overawed by Swami Dayananda’s knowledge of Sanskrit. He countered the Swami’s call for restructuring of Hinduism in 1878. Pandit Shardha Ram died early in 1881 after founding a few sanātana dharma institutions for worship and Sanskritic education.26 Pandit Din Dayalu Sharma of Jhajjar (in present-day Haryana) formed an association at Hardwar in 1886 and toured the Punjab to organize Sanatana Dharma Sabhas, goshalas (cow-houses), and Sanskrit schools. In April 1887 he organized a meeting at Kapurthala to plan a new organization to represent all Hindus and bring together the leaders of Hindu orthodoxy. A new society called Bharat Dharma Mahamandala met at Hardwar from 29 to 31 May 1887 and passed resolutions on the need to protect varnashrama dharma in general, and on the urgency for religious preaching, establishment of Sanatana Dharma Sabhas, and the defence of Hinduism against its critics. The office of the Mahamandala (p.24) was established in Delhi (which was then in the Punjab) under Din Dayalu’s supervision. Its conferences were held in Amritsar in 1896 and at Kapurthala in 1897. The Hindu College at Delhi was opened in 1899. In March 1901 the Nigama Mandali, founded by Swami Gyanananda in 1896, became part of the Mahamandala. In 1902 Pandit Din Dayalu resigned from the secretaryship of the Mahamandala. Under Swami Gyanananda’s leadership, its headquarters moved to Benares (present-day Varanasi) in 1903. In the next three decades the Mahamandala developed as a subcontinental organization which it was meant to be.27 The Bharat Dharma Mahamandala presents an interesting case of an organization originating in the British Punjab and becoming pan-Indian.

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The Colonial Context New Islamic influences reached the Punjab from Delhi and the United Provinces. Abdul Minan Wazirabadi brought back from Delhi the ideology of Ahl-i Hadis (laying emphasis on the practices associated with the Prophet). Another prominent supporter of Ahl-i Hadis was Maulavi Muhammad Husain of Batala near Amritsar. In Lahore, Abdullah Chakralwi founded the Ahl-i Qurān, rejecting traditional Islam and all movements based on any authority other than that of the Qur’ān. Understandably, the Ahl-i Qurān clashed with all other groups. New types of Islamic organizations began to appear in the late 1860s and became widespread in the last two decades of the century, largely under the influence of Syed Ahmed Khan. These associations were concerned with education, social reform, religion, and politics. Schools were established with Western education as an essential component of their programme; orphanages for boys and girls were founded; preachers were sponsored; pamphlets and tracts were printed and distributed; and memorials and petitions were presented to safeguard and promote Muslim interests. The influence of Syed Ahmed Khan was palpable in the Punjab in the fields of education and politics. His call to the Muslims to remain aloof from the Indian National Congress proved to be effective in the province. There was a general fear among Muslims that representation based on elections and employment based on open competition were not in their interest.28 A new movement, called Ahmadiya after the name of its founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908) of Kadiyan near Batala, aimed at rejuvenating Islam as a world religion on the basis of a fresh interpretation of the Islamic tradition. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was familiar with Sunni and Shia‘ Islam, and with the position of the Ahl-i Hadis, before he came into contact with Christian missionaries. In his Burāhīn-i Ahmadiya (Proofs of Ahmadiya), published in four volumes between 1880 and 1884, he refuted the doctrines of other religious leaders both within and outside Islam, especially the Arya Samajists. He announced in March 1882 that he had received a divine command to become a mujaddid (a renovator of Islam). In 1890–1, he claimed to be the promised messiah, popularly called the Mahdi, the future saviour of both Islam and Christianity. The ‘ulamā of Batala, Amritsar, and Delhi got a decree (fatwa) issued against him. A meeting of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s adherents was held in 1891. At their second general meeting in 1892, the Ahmadiyas declared their goals: ‘To propagate Islam; to think out ways and means of promoting the welfare of new converts to Islam in Europe and America; to further the cause of righteousness, purity, piety and moral excellence throughout the world, to eradicate the evil habits and customs; to appreciate with gratitude the good (p. 25) of the British Government.’ In one of his publications Mirza Ghulam Ahmad argued that Guru Nanak was in fact a protagonist of Islam. This was refuted by the Sikh leaders, and a protracted controversy started. The contribution of Ghulam Ahmad to religious controversy was out of all proportion to the number of his followers. Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians reacted to his Page 12 of 25

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The Colonial Context publications so that the last decade of the nineteenth century became the highest watermark of religious controversy in the Punjab.29

New Political Awakening in the Punjab As in the case of socio-religious resurgence, political developments in the rest of British India quickened the pace of a new kind of political awakening in the Punjab. Ruchi Ram Sahni observed in 1885 that the only organization ‘worth mentioning’ in the Punjab was the Lahore Indian Association that provided a common platform for all sections of the society. After 1885 it began to work in tandem with the Indian National Congress. A number of political conferences were held in the Punjab for its ‘political regeneration’. One of the demands of the conferences and the Congress was met in 1897 when the Punjab Legislative Council was created. Sahni recalled that the first session of the Congress at Lahore in 1893 had ‘created a sensation’ which he found difficult to describe.30 However, it was no index of the popularity of the Congress in the province. Generally, most of the delegates from the Punjab to the annual sessions of the Indian National Congress were Hindus, mostly Brahmos and Aryas. They were interested mainly in provincial issues.31 In 1899, twenty-six delegates from the Punjab went to the Congress session at Lucknow. This relatively high number was due to the fact that the Punjab Alienation of Land Bill had been introduced in the Central Legislative Council. At the suggestion of the Punjab delegates, a resolution was passed for a suitable amendment. The Punjab delegates invited the Congress to hold its session at Lahore in 1900. Meanwhile, the Bill was passed, and the Congress did not pass any resolution against the Punjab Alienation of Land Act. The session was important for another reason. The Bradlaugh Hall had been constructed in Lahore as ‘emphatically the people’s own Hall’ for the Congress and other similar organizations to hold conferences. Furthermore, delegates from the Punjab continued to participate in the sessions of the Congress in considerable numbers. On an appeal from Lala Lajpat Rai, the leading Arya of the ‘College’ party, 104 delegates from the Punjab attended the session at Benares. Incidentally, the highest participation of the Punjab delegates in the Congress was at Surat in 1907 when there was a split between the moderates and the extremists. The Punjab Swadeshi Association was formed in October 1905, followed by the Swadeshi Vastu Pracharak Sabha to propagate the idea of using Indian goods. Lajpat Rai declared that he was ‘an out and out Swadeshist’ and equated Swadeshi with patriotism.32 However, the movement remained confined to urban centres, and it slowed down after 1907. The year 1906 was marked by agitation in the Punjab over the Punjab Colonization Bill which was meant to amend the Colonization of Land Act of 1893. Actually, it abrogated some of the terms and conditions which were in the interest of the colonists. The powerful Punjab administrators like Denzil (p.26) Ibbetson and Charles Rivaz tried to push it through with a minor modification. Page 13 of 25

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The Colonial Context On 25 October 1906 it was introduced in the Punjab Legislative Council of nine members, all nominated. In November 1906 a drastic increase in the charge on canal water in the districts of Amritsar, Lahore, and Gurdaspur was announced by the Punjab Government. A systematic protest against the Bill was initiated early in 1907 by the Bar Zamindar Association. Mass meetings were held and memorials were sent to the government. The Bill was passed nevertheless in March 1907. A mammoth meeting was called by the leaders of the agitation on 22 and 23 March at the time of the annual cattle fair in Lyallpur. About 9,000 colonists responded to a printed invitation. It was on this occasion that Prabh Dayal, editor of the Jhang Siyāl, recited the well-known poem with the refrain, ‘Pagṛī sambhāl jattā’. The main speakers on this occasion were Lala Lajpat Rai and Sardar Ajit Singh (Bhagat Singh’s uncle). Both of them were deported in May 1907. However, Lord Minto, the Governor General, abandoned Curzon’s policy of coercion and adopted conciliation. He vetoed the Act before the end of May. The agitation subsided, and before the end of the year Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh were brought back to Lahore and released. Lord Minto’s policy of conciliation culminated in the grant of proprietary rights to the colonists which had been the bone of contention.33 During the agitation in 1907 the tone of Ajit Singh’s speeches was more antiBritish and his ideas more radical than those of Lajpat Rai. Hira Singh Dard, who had heard the speech of Ajit Singh at Rawalpindi on 21 April 1907 and witnessed the ‘Pindi riots’, gives the title ‘revolutionary torch’ to the chapter on this episode in his autobiography. The conference at Rawalpindi and Ajit Singh’s speech, he says, were a turning point in his own life. To his interest in matters religious was now added a lasting interest in political issues.34 Significantly, boycott and haṛtāl were employed for the first time in the Punjab in this agitation which was essentially rural and non-communal. It is important to note, however, that Ibbetson was exceptionally concerned with the Sikhs. He wrote in his Minute that the danger was especially great in the case of the Sikhs who had been ruling over the Punjab only sixty years earlier. The ‘Mutiny’ of 1857 had been put down largely with their help. They occupied the centre of the province. A religious movement among them was a source of solidarity, and it would render them more powerful. The Punjabis were more difficult to move than the Bengalis, but when they were moved they were far more dangerous. If the loyalty of the Jatt Sikhs of the Punjab was ever materially shaken, the danger was greater than any that could possibly arise in Bengal.35 After 1907 the Government at the centre, and consequently the Punjab administration, took greater interest in the activities of Ajit Singh and his associates than in what Lajpat Rai and the other Arya Samajist or Swadeshi leaders were doing. Lala Harkishan Lal, the arch-rival of Lajpat Rai, became the most important leader in the Punjab Congress and, like the Indian National Congress, the Punjab Congress remained inert for over a decade. Unnerved by the Government’s repressive measures, the Arya leaders made public Page 14 of 25

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The Colonial Context declarations that the Arya Samaj had no political agenda, and that Lajpat Rai as a political activist did not represent the Samaj. If Lajpat Rai was an extremist in favour of agitational mobilization, Ajit Singh was a revolutionary who favoured the use of violence to throw out the British. The Deputy Commissioner (p.27) of Lahore made a clear distinction between ‘Ajit Singh and his gang’ and the ‘respectable men’ like Lala Lajpat Rai and other Arya Samajist and Swadeshi leaders. Of all the publications of the revolutionaries circulated in the Punjab, three were identified as a reliable basis for prosecution: Unglī Pakṛate Pahunchā Pakṛā and Divide and Conquer for charges against Ajit Singh, and the Bāghī Masīh (Rebel Prophet) for charges against Amba Parshad. While the Government was making preparations for prosecuting them, they managed to evade the police and joined the Indian revolutionaries abroad.36 The Ghadar Movement had its greatest impact on the people of the Punjab. Among Indian migrants to Canada and the USA, all known as ‘Hindus’ (which simply meant ‘Indians’), the Sikhs represented no less than 90 per cent. The centres of their religious and social life were gurdwaras which were useful for the formation of community networks. The Indians in Canada were seen as ‘interlopers’ and an ‘unmitigated nuisance’. They were also the targets of violent attacks. The upholders of ‘White Canada for Ever’ demanded the exclusion of Indians from Canada. The Canadian Government was inclined to take adequate measures for this purpose. The Government of India was keen to ensure that the loyalty of the Sikhs was not affected by ‘seditious’ influences. The Indian revolutionaries abroad were keen to give a revolutionary direction to the new political awakening among the Sikhs in the USA and Canada. They were playing a considerable role in the ‘promotion of disaffection among the Sikhs’. Har Dayal was highly impressed with the pious Sikhs. With ‘a keen sense of patriotism’, they were prepared to do much for the good of their people and their country.37 Ghadar, a weekly in Urdu, was launched from San Francisco on 1 November 1913 for revolutionary propaganda. The Ghadar in Punjabi was started on 9 November. After Har Dayal’s departure from the USA five months later, the weekly was given a new name, Hindustan Ghadar. Its first issue appeared on 7 April 1914. Before the end of May the steamship Komagata Maru reached Vancouver with its 376 passengers, mostly Sikhs, and after a tug-of-war for two months the Komagata Maru was pushed out of the Canadian waters on 23 July by a highly provocative display of military power. By then war had broken out. The passengers of the Komagata Maru were not allowed to disembark on its voyage back to Calcutta where it reached towards the end of September 1914. At the Budge Budge harbour, the Sikh passengers refused to be transported to the Punjab. A violent confrontation took place in which the police killed nineteen passengers. Already on 4 August, the Hindustan Ghadar had sounded the ‘trumpet of war’, and its issue of 11 August called for soldiers prepared to die for the freedom of India. By the end of October 1914 eight ships carrying large groups of Ghadarites had departed from the ports of Victoria and San Francisco Page 15 of 25

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The Colonial Context on the West Coast of North America. Their destination was the Punjab, the theatre chosen for initiating the revolutionary war for the freedom of India. The Punjab was the obvious choice because the overwhelming majority of the Ghadarites were Sikhs of the Punjab.38 They were confident of getting support from the soldiers in the Army, which had a substantial number from the Punjab, most of them Sikhs. The Government of India, fully informed of the temper and designs of the Sikh Ghadarites, scrutinized over 3,000 returned Indians, detained 189 of their leaders, and (p.28) restricted 704 of them to their villages. All the prominent leaders of India and almost all the princely rulers had committed themselves to support the Government in its war effort. The Sikh organizations in the Punjab, either on their own, or under the influence of the Punjab Government, declared their opposition to the ‘American Sikhs’, who were characterized as renegades, dacoits, and thieves. Only a few individuals, like Bhai Randhir Singh of Narangwal, and a few revolutionaries in places like Lohat Baddi in the Nabha state responded to the call of the Ghadarites. Through infiltration in the Ghadarite leadership, almost all their plots became known to the authorities in time for them to take prompt action. Out of a total of 299 Ghadarites who were tried, 46 were sentenced to death, 69 to life imprisonment with deportation, and 125 to other terms of imprisonment. This was a heavy price to pay. However, the moral conviction, commitment, and sacrifices of the Ghadarites proved to be a lasting legacy.39 The literature of the Ghadar Movement provides some clues to the sources of the moral conviction and commitment of its members. The political subjugation of India to the British was seen as the cause of the discriminatory treatment they received in Canada. Their disillusionment with the Government of India appears to be relevant for their hostile attitude towards the colonial rule. The ideas and influence of the Indian revolutionaries would largely account for their passion for the freedom of India. Savarkar’s The Indian War of Independence made the ‘Ghadar of 1857’ a reference point for the new struggle for independence. Unity among all the religious communities and the peoples of the provinces of India was necessary for a war of Indian independence. The word qaum is used in the Ghadarite literature clearly to refer to the Indian nation. However, the Ghadar poets draw upon the various religious traditions of India in order to take inspiration from the cultural roots of the people. Understandably, they are selective and give their own orientation to the elements seen as relevant to their purpose. It is interesting to note in this connection that a poem of over 100 verses is addressed to the Khalsa Panth. It refers to the Ghadar of 1857 and Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, and talks of the second Ghadar in the offing. Har Dayal is mentioned in this connection. The poet regrets that the Sikhs did not participate in the Ghadar of 1857. Had they done so, the country would have been free. The Singhs should now appropriate their true vocation of fighting for freedom and take up the sword. The Guru had created the Khalsa Panth for ensuring the Page 16 of 25

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The Colonial Context welfare of others (par-upkār). He had removed all oppression from Bharat Varsh; he had suffered for the country and had made sacrifices for the protection of India. Several martyrs and heroes of Sikh history are mentioned as the upholders of freedom. Thus, the Sikh tradition is projected as a struggle for freedom.40 Another important development of the war years was the Lucknow Pact between the Indian National Congress and the All-India Muslim League, which had been founded in 1906 essentially in response to the activities of the Congress. Two Muslim Leagues were formed in the Punjab in 1906 and 1907 by two different leaders, Mian Muhammad Shafi and Mian Fazl-i Husain, but they were merged together before the end of 1907. In 1915 Tilak and his supporters were allowed to enter the Congress. Both the Congress and the Muslim League set up committees to draft common constitutional demands. Nineteen non-official (p. 29) members of the Imperial Council jointly petitioned the Viceroy in October 1916, calling for representative government and dominion status for India. Later, a common demand for elected majorities in provincial councils was made. Hindu–Muslim differences were sought to be resolved. The Congress conceded separate electorates and weightage for Muslims. Fazl-i Husain was satisfied with 50 per cent seats to be reserved for Muslims in the Punjab, but Fazlul Huq could not satisfy the Muslims of Bengal where they were in majority but only 40 per cent seats were to be reserved for them. In the United Provinces, which had a much smaller percentage of Muslims than Bengal or the Punjab, as high as 30 per cent of the seats were to be reserved for them. This was a reflection of the influence exercised by the Muslim leaders of the United Provinces.41 The Lucknow Pact became a point of reference for the Sikh leaders to put forth their demands. Some important developments took place in India and the Punjab after the Congress–League rapprochement in 1916. A declaration by E.S. Montagu as the Secretary of State for India on 20 August 1917 was followed by the ‘MontagueChelmsford Report’ of 1918 and the Government of India Act of 1919. Montagu had announced in the House of Commons that the policy of His Majesty’s Government was ‘the increasing association of Indians in every branch of administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British empire’. The joint report of the Secretary of State and the Viceroy reinforced the intention embodied in Montagu’s announcement but accepted the Congress–League decision on separate electorates and reservations for Muslims. The privileges conceded to the Muslims were not to be extended to any other community except the Sikhs who had hitherto been ‘virtually unrepresented’ though they were ‘a distinct and important people’ and everywhere in a minority.42

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The Colonial Context The Act of 1919 included the Punjab in the list of the Governors’ provinces, with seven others. In accordance with the Congress–League pact of 1916, separate electorates for Muslims were retained, with 50 per cent seats reserved for them. However, separate electorates were extended to the Sikhs with some weightage. Furthermore, seven special seats were added to the General (twenty), Muslim (thirty-two), and Sikh (twelve) categories. The total number of elected members was thus raised from sixty-four to seventy-one. There were eighteen executive councillors and nominated officials and five non-official nominated members (one each for Anglo-Indians, Indian Christians, Europeans, labour, and the military), thus raising the total to ninety-four and diluting the majority of the elected Muslim members. The departments crucial to the colonial state (justice, jails, police, land-revenue, and forests) were ‘reserved’ for the Governor and his Executive Council. The ‘ameliorative’ departments (education, agriculture, public health, and local government) were ‘transferred’ to the ministers working under the Governor. He was expected normally to accept their advice but had the power to veto any bill passed by the legislature. The Punjab was represented by four members in the Central Council of sixty, and by twelve members in the Central Assembly of 145 members.43 In February–March 1919, despite opposition from all non-official Indian members, the Rowlatt Bill was rushed through the Imperial Council. On 23 March Mahatma Gandhi (p.30) announced an all-India haṛtāl to be observed on 30 March (postponed later to 6 April). On both the days there were disturbances in the Punjab at Lahore, Amritsar, Gujranwala, and a number of smaller towns. This was a reflection of the discontent generated largely by the measures of Michael O’Dwyer, Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab, during the war years. The haṛtāls at Amritsar on 30 March and 6 April were massive but peaceful. The Ram Naumi processions on 9 April were a striking demonstration of Hindu– Muslim unity. The arch imperialist O’Dwyer was frightened, affected by the memories of 1857 and the recent activities of the Ghadarites in the Punjab. Saifuddin Kitchlew and Satyapal, the local leaders, were deported on the same day. Firing on a peaceful demonstration provoked attacks on banks, post offices, the railway station, and the Town Hall on 10 April. Martial Law was imposed on the following day. A peaceful and unarmed crowd at the Jallianwala Bagh on 13 April was fired at without a warning upon the orders of General Dyer. He was keen to produce ‘a moral effect’. His only regret later was that his ammunition ran out. Hundreds of people were killed. With the backing of O’Dwyer, Dyer tried to strike terror among the people through indiscriminate arrests, torture, public flogging, special tribunals, and by making Indians crawl in the lane in Amritsar where a white woman had been insulted. Disturbances in the districts of Amritsar, Lahore, Gujranwala, Gujrat, and Lyallpur were put down with a heavy hand. In the Punjab under the Martial Law, 1,200 persons got killed and 3,600 were wounded. Apart from the brutal treatment of people at many places in the province, the Martial Law Commissioners at Amritsar sentenced fifty-one Page 18 of 25

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The Colonial Context persons to death, forty-six to transportation for life, and over a hundred others to imprisonment, ranging from three to ten years.44 Mahatma Gandhi called off the satyāgraha on 18 April 1919. The resentment over the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and atrocities of the Martial Law was assuaged somewhat by the royal amnesty for prisoners not accused of violence, the formal assent to the Montford Reforms in 1919, and appointment of the Hunter Enquiry Committee. At the annual session of the Congress at Amritsar towards the end of 1919, a resolution thanking Montagu and promising cooperation in working the new councils was passed. It reads: ‘This Congress trusts that so far as may be possible they will work the reforms so as to secure an early establishment of full responsible government, and this Congress offers its thanks to Mister E.S. Montague for his labour in connection with Reforms.’ The resolution added that the Congress adhered to its resolution of 1918 that the Reform Act was ‘inadequate, unsatisfactory and disappointing’ and urged the British Parliament to take early steps to establish ‘full responsible government in India in accordance with the principle of self-determination’.45 The resolution was a compromise between Mahatma Gandhi, who stood for full cooperation, and C.R. Das, Tilak, Hasrat Mohani, and Ram Bhuj Dutt Chaudhry, who were opposed to cooperation.

In Retrospect The colonial rulers of the Punjab evolved an elaborate administrative structure to ensure peace and order with the ultimate objective of exploiting its material and human resources in their own interest but incidentally in the interest also of their conscious or unconscious collaborators. Western science and (p.31) technology enabled them to introduce new means of communication and transportation for administrative, political, and economic purposes. More than legal recognition of proprietary rights in land and periodic settlement of land revenue and its rigorous collection in cash, a new system of canal irrigation increased agrarian production and land revenue. But prosperity was not uniform, and rural indebtedness increased on an unprecedented scale. Some landholders became richer and others became poorer. Outmigration to the other parts of India, other countries of Asia, and to other continents was linked up with the poverty of the landholders due to indebtedness. Merchants and moneylenders flourished as collaborators in the new agrarian system. The system had to be protected though legislation of the Punjab Alienation of Land Act of 1900, with the political implication of strengthening loyalty of the landholders to the colonial rule. A new system of education catered to the higher classes who could provide personnel for the middle and lower rungs of bureaucracy and the judiciary, or take to the new professions of engineering, medicine, law, teaching, and journalism. The Christian missionaries were closely aligned with the rulers in their project but their ultimate object was to gain converts. Their success added Page 19 of 25

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The Colonial Context a new religious community to the three major communities of the province, and its presence was felt acutely by Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. As a result of the social change, the middle classes emerged as the most influential entities. Their response to the colonial context produced unprecedented socio-religious resurgence in the Punjab. The Punjab came to witness a large number of movements for socio-religious reform. Brahmos in government service came from Bengal to find support from some middle-class Hindus in the Punjab to propagate their ideas through the Brahmo Samaj founded at Lahore. Its offshoot, the Dev Samaj, added to the growing socio-religious diversity in the province. Swami Dayananda Saraswati, a Gujarati Brahman who had founded the Arya Samaj at Bombay, came to the Punjab to receive an enthusiastic support from educated Hindus. The Arya Samaj movement in the Punjab became important in the religious, social, and political life of the Punjabi Hindus. The traditional, orthodox Hindus began to defend their position against attacks from the Christian missionaries as well as from the Brahmos and the Aryas. The movement initiated by Pandit Shardha Ram Phillauri was reinforced by Pandit Din Dayalu of Jhajjar. The Sanatana Dharma Sabhas were founded to promote, among other things, the AngloSanatan education in their own schools and colleges. They became the standardbearers of Hindu identity and claimed that all the people of India were Hindu, except the Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Parsis. Apart from the Islamic anjumans, which were largely influenced by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the Ahmadiyas emerged as a sectarian group among the Muslims, regarded as extremely unorthodox by the bulk of the Punjabi Muslims. Colonial Punjab was marked by unprecedented religious controversies in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Some of these controversies had a long and lingering effect on the psyche and social relations of the Punjabis. There was a new political awakening in the Punjab as in the rest of British India. The most important agency of this awakening was the Indian National Congress founded in 1885. It was much more attractive to Brahmos and Aryas than to any other section or (p.32) community of the Punjab. The Sanatanists participated only in the constitutional politics. The influence of the Swadeshi movement in Bengal was visible in the foundation of the Punjab Swadeshi Association in 1905. The year 1907 was marked by agitation over the Punjab Colonization Bill which was meant to depress the position of the colonists. The most active participants in this agitation were the Arya Samajists Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh. The latter eventually proved to be a ‘revolutionary’. The Ghadarites found few supporters among Hindus and Muslims in the Punjab. The influence of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan deterred the Punjabi Muslims from joining the Congress. The Punjabi Muslims were more attracted to the Muslim League founded in 1906. Fazl-i Husain was an important participant in the efforts which led to the Lucknow Pact of 1916 between the Congress and the Muslim League. The two organizations worked in tandem for more than six years. The Punjabi reaction to Page 20 of 25

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The Colonial Context the Rowlatt Bills and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre added a new dimension to political awareness and activity. At the annual session of the Congress held at Amritsar in 1919 there was a serious difference of opinion on whether or not the Government of India Act of 1919 should be accepted. Notes:

(1.) For the colonial framework in the first six decades of British rule, see James Douie, The Panjab, North-West Frontier Province and Kashmir [cited hereafter as The Panjab] (Delhi: Low Price Publications, [1916] 1994, reprint), pp. 212–13. (2.) Douie, The Panjab, pp. 212–13, 215–16. (3.) Douie, The Panjab, pp. 217–18. (4.) Douie, The Panjab, pp. 219–20. (5.) Douie, The Panjab, pp. 127–31. (6.) Ian J. Kerr, ‘British Rule, Technological Change, and the Revolution in Transportation and Communication: Punjab in the Later Nineteenth Century’, in Textures of the Sikh Past: New Historical Perspectives, ed. Tony Ballantyne (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 158. See also Kerr, Building the Railways of the Raj 1850–1900 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997). Indu Banga, ‘Karachi and Its Hinterland under Colonial Rule’, in Ports and Their Hinterlands in India (1700–1950), ed. Indu Banga (New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1992), pp. 337–58. (7.) Kerr, ‘British Rule, Technological Change and the Revolution in Transportation and Communication’, pp. 154, 159, 161–5, 170. (8.) Douie, The Panjab, pp. 132–3, 140. (9.) Richard G. Fox, Lions of the Punjab: Culture in the Making (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), pp. 24–39, 52–73. (10.) Fox, Lions of the Punjab, pp. 39–51. Cf. Malcom Lyall Darling, The Punjab Peasant in Prosperity and Debt (London, 1928). S.S. Thorburn, The Punjab in Peace and War (Patiala: Punjab Languages Department, 1970, reprint). (11.) P.H.M. van den Dungen, The Punjab Tradition: Influence and Authority in Nineteenth-Century India (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1972). See also Norman G. Barrier, ‘The Formulation and Enactment of the Punjab Alienation of Land Bill’, The Panjab Past and Present [cited hereafter as PPP] 13, part 1 (April 1979): 193–215. Ravinder Kumar, ‘Urban Society and Urban Politics: Lahore in 1919’, in Five Punjabi Centuries: Polity, Economy, Society and Culture, c. 1500–

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The Colonial Context 1990 [cited hereafter as Five Punjabi Centuries], ed. Indu Banga (New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 2000), pp. 180–220. (12.) Douie, The Panjab, pp. 122–6. See also H.L.O. Garett (ed.), A History of Government College, Lahore 1864–1914 (Lahore: Civil and Military Gazette Press, 1914). (13.) For the missionary work in the Punjab, see John C.B. Webster, The Christian Community and Change in Nineteenth Century North India (Delhi: Macmillan, 1976) and his A Social History of Christianity: North-west India Since 1800 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008). (14.) Douie, The Panjab, p. 216. (15.) Sukhdev Singh Sohal, ‘Emergence of the Middle Classes and Forms of Political Articulation’, in Five Punjabi Centuries, pp. 455–70. (16.) This is well brought out in David Emmett, Press and Politics in British Western Punjab (1836–1947) (Delhi: Academic Publications, 1983). See also N.G. Barrier and Paul Wallace, The Punjab Press, 1880–1905 (Michigan, 1970). (17.) In addition to the works cited above, this understanding of socio-economic change is based on Dolores Domin, India: A Study in the Role of the Sikhs in 1857–59 (Berlin: Akadmie Verlag, 1977). Himadri Banerjee, Agrarian Society of the Punjab (1849–1901) (New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1982). J.S. Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab (The New Cambridge History of India, vol. II, part 3) [cited hereafter as The Sikhs of the Punjab] (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press India, 2014, reprint of second edition). Sukhdev Singh Sohal, The Making of the Middle Classes in the Punjab (1849–1947) (Jalandhar: ABS Publications, 2008). Imran Ali, ‘Canal Colonization and Socio-Economic Change’, in Five Punjabi Centuries, pp. 341–57. Reeta Grewal, ‘Urban Revolution under Colonial Rule’, in Five Punjabi Centuries, pp. 438–54. (18.) In 1881, even when the Punjabi Muslims constituted the majority, Hindus were around 40 per cent and the Sikhs around 7.5. In the later census reports, the percentage of Hindus came down, but that of the Sikhs increased appreciably. See, for example, Kenneth W. Jones, Arya Dharm: Hindu Consciousness in 19th-Century Punjab (New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1976), Appendix III, Statistical Abstracts: ‘Population of Punjab by Religion 1881–1921’, p. 234. (19.) Kenneth W. Jones, Socio-Religious Reform Movements in British India (The New Cambridge History of India, vol. III, part 1) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 30–9. Devinder Kumar Verma, ‘The Brahmo Samaj’, in The Singh Sabha and Socio-Religious Movements in the Punjab 1850–1925,

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The Colonial Context ed. Ganda Singh (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1997, third edition), pp. 207–12. Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, p. 132. (20.) Jones, Socio-Religious Reform Movements, pp. 98–101, 103–6. S.P. Kanal, ‘The Dev Samaj’, in The Singh Sabha and Other Socio-Religious Movements, pp. 241–52. (21.) Ruchi Ram Sahni, Memoirs of Ruchi Ram Sahni [cited hereafter as Memoirs], eds Narender K. Sehgal and Subodh Mahanti (New Delhi: Vigyan Prasar, 1997, second edition, paperback), pp. 128–46. See also Jones, SocioReligious Reform Movements, pp. 101–3. (22.) For Swami Dayanand’s life, see J.T.F. Jorden, Dayananda Sarasvati: His Life and Ideas (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1979, second impression). (23.) By far the best study of the Arya Samaj movement in the Punjab is Jones’ Arya Dharm. See also Indu Banga, ‘Lajpat Rai on the Arya Samaj: An Insider’s View’, in Lala Lajpat Rai in Retrospect: Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Concerns, eds J.S. Grewal and Indu Banga (Chandigarh: Panjab University, 2000), pp. 299–317. See also J.N. Farquhar, ‘The Arya Samaj’, in The Singh Sabha and other Socio-Religious Movements, pp. 213–40. (24.) Jones, Socio-Religious Reform Movements, pp. 98–101. (25.) Jones, Socio-Religious Reform Movements, pp. 101–3. (26.) Jones, Socio-Religious Reform Movements, pp. 106–9. (27.) Sheena Pall, ‘The Sanatan Dharm Movement in the Colonial Punjab: Religious, Social and Political Dimensions’, PhD Thesis, Chandigarh: Panjab University, 2008. (28.) Jones, Socio-Religious Reform Movements, pp. 94–5. P. Hardy, ‘Wahhabis in the Panjab, 1876’, PPP 15, part 2 (October 1981): 428–32. Edward D. Churchill Jr, ‘The Muhammadan Educational Conference and the Aligarh Movement, 1886– 1900’, PPP 8, part 2 (October 1974): 366–81, and ‘Muslim Societies of the Punjab, 1860–1890’, PPP 8, part 1 (April 1974): 69–91. Ikram Ali Malik, ‘Muslim Anjumans and Communitarian Consciousness’, in Five Punjabi Centuries, pp. 112–25. (29.) Jones, Socio-Religious Reform Movements, pp. 115–19. For a detailed study, see Spencer Lavan, The Ahmadiyah Movement: A History and Perspective (New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1974). See also Wilfred Cantwell Smith, ‘The Ahmadiya Movement’, in The Singh Sabha and Other Socio-Religious Movements, pp. 258–62. Spencer Lavan, ‘Communalism in the Punjab: The

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The Colonial Context Ahmadiyah Versus the Arya Samaj During the Lifetime of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’, PPP 5, part 2 (October 1971): 320–42. (30.) Sahni, Memoirs, p. 112. (31.) For a broad outline, see Ganeshi Mahajan, Congress Politics in the Punjab (1885–1947) (Shimla: K.K. Publishers, 2002). (32.) For a comprehensive view of the struggle for independence and the role of the Indian National Congress, see Sumit Sarkar, Modern India: 1885–1947 [cited hereafter as Modern India] (Madras: Macmillan India, 1995, reprint), and Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, Sucheta Mahajan, and K.N. Panikkar, India’s Struggle for Independence 1857–1947 [cited hereafter as India’s Struggle for Independence] (Penguin Books India Ltd, 1989, reprint, paperback). See also S.C. Mittal, ‘Political Consciousness and the Role of the Punjab Provincial Political Conferences (1895–1906)’, PPP 19, part 1 (April 1985): 137–45. N.G. Barrier, ‘Mass Politics and the Punjab Congress in the PreGandhian Era’, PPP 9, part 2 (October 1975): 349–59. Sukhdev Singh Sohal, ‘Politics of the Middle Classes in the Colonial Punjab’, PPP 20, part 1 (April 1986): 195–207, and ‘The Swadeshi Movement in the Punjab (1904–1907)’, PPP 26, part 1 (April 1992): 129–33. See also J.S. Dhanki, ‘The Swadeshi Movement in the Punjab and Lala Lajpat Rai, 1905–1907’, in Lala Lajpat Rai in Retrospect: Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Concerns, pp. 31–9. (33.) N. Gerald Barrier, ‘The Punjab Disturbances of 1907: The Response of the British Government in India to Agrarian Unrest’, PPP 8, part 2 (October 1974): 444–76. For further detail, see Ganda Singh (ed.), Deportation of Lala Lajpat Rai and Sardar Ajit Singh (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1978). (34.) Hira Singh Dard, Meriān Kujh Itihāsik Yādān (Jalandhar: Dhanpat Rai and Sons, 1960, second edition), pp. 40–1. (35.) Sir Denzil Ibbetson’s Minute on the political situation in the Punjab reproduced in Deportation of Laja Lajpat Rai and Sardar Ajit Singh, p. 10. (36.) Ganda Singh, Devinder Kumar Verma, and Parm Bakhshish Singh (eds), Seditious Literature in the Punjab (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1988). For the Indian revolutionaries outside the country, see N.N. Bhattacharya, ‘Indian Revolutionaries Abroad (1891–1919)’, PPP 8, part 2 (October 1974): 351–65. (37.) For the Ghadar Movement, see Harish K. Puri, Ghadar Movement: Ideology, Organisation and Strategy (Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev University, 1993, revised and enlarged edition) and his Ghadar Movement: A Short History [cited hereafter as Ghadar Movement] (New Delhi: National Book Trust, India, 2011, paperback). See also J.S. Grewal, Harish K. Puri, and Indu Banga (eds), The Ghadar Movement: Background, Ideology, Action and Legacies (Patiala: Punjabi Page 24 of 25

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The Colonial Context University, 2013). For a brief but critical assessment of Har Dayal’s life and work, see Emily C. Brown, ‘The Ideology of Har Dayal’, in Political Dynamics of Punjab, eds Paul Wallace and Surendra Chopra (Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev University, 1981), pp. 345–69. (38.) For a brief account of these developments, see Puri, Ghadar Movement, pp. 74–101. (39.) Puri, Ghadar Movement, pp. 102–15. (40.) For the Ghadar literature, see Grewal, Puri, and Banga (eds), The Ghadar Movement, pp. 451–570. Kesar Singh Kesar (ed.), Ghadar Lehar di Kavitā, compiled by Kesar Singh Novelist (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1995). Kirpal Singh Kasel (ed.), Ghadar Lehar di Vārtak, compiled by Giani Kesar Singh (Patiala: Punjabi University, 2008). (41.) Sarkar, Modern India, pp. 150–1. (42.) R. Coupland, The Indian Problem 1833–1935 [cited hereafter as The Indian Problem] (London: Oxford University Press, 1943), pp. 52, 56–7. (43.) Coupland, The Indian Problem, pp. 61–5. (44.) Sarkar, Modern India, pp. 187–92. For the Jallianwala Bagh event, see Alfred Draper, Amritsar: The Massacre that Ended the Raj (London, 1961). See also J.S. Grewal and Indu Banga, ‘The Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy: The Official Attitude and Its Significance’, in Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, eds V.N. Datta and S. Settar (Delhi: Pragati Publications/ICHR, 2002); K.L. Tuteja, ‘Jallianwala Bagh’, in Punjab and the Freedom Struggle, eds Parm Bakhshish Singh and Devinder Kumar Verma (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1998), pp. 215–28. (45.) Maurice Gwyer and A. Appadorai (eds), Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution 1921–47, vol. I, part 1 (Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1957).

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

Colonial Rule and the Sikhs (1849–1919) J.S. Grewal

DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199467099.003.0003

Abstract and Keywords Nearly all classes of the Sikh social order suffered due to the loss of power in 1849, especially the Sikh jagīrdārs, the Sikh peasantry, and the Sikh soldiery. However, much of the lost ground was recovered before World War I. A new religious awakening among the Sikhs had started before 1849 in the form of the Nirankari and the Nāmdhārī movements. Both of these were overshadowed by the Singh Sabha movement which was far more influential. The Chief Khalsa Diwan, led by Sunder Singh Majithia, generally pursued constitutional politics. But there were other more radical Singh reformers who were willing to take up causes in opposition to the government. The Central Sikh League, the first political party of the Sikhs, was founded at Amritsar in 1919 to remain closely aligned with the Indian National Congress. Keywords:   Sikh social order, World War I, Nirankari, Nāmdhārī, Singh Sabha movement, Chief Khalsa Diwan, Sunder Singh Majithia, radical Singh reformers, Central Sikh League, Indian National Congress

In the 1840s the Sikhs formed the most important component of the ruling class and the army of the state created by Ranjit Singh. Unlike the other Sikh states, it was conquered and annexed by the British in 1849 after two hard-fought wars. The Sikhs were hit hard, both politically and economically. After 1857–8 the Sikh aristocracy recovered partially from recession and came to be looked upon by the British as the ‘natural leaders’ of the people and allies of the Government. Sikhs began to be recruited increasingly in the British Indian army. The agrarian ‘reforms’ introduced by the colonial rulers were helpful to a considerable part of Page 1 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs the Sikh peasantry, particularly in the central districts and the canal colonies. Already, before the annexation of the Punjab, two religious movements had appeared in the upper Sindh Sagar Doab, to be followed by the Singh Sabha movement as the mainspring of socio-cultural resurgence among the Sikhs. By the early twentieth century a new kind of political awakening, largely under middle-class leadership, was evident among the Sikhs. Master Tara Singh grew with this religious and political resurgence.

Recession and Recovery The Sikhs had suffered the most due to the loss of power in 1849. Resumption of jāgīrs decimated the political and economic strength of the Sikh aristocracy. Only an amount of Rs 42,670 was given in annual pension to twenty-five Sikh rebels whose jāgīrs earlier had amounted to Rs 1,131,000 a year.1 The other Sikh jāgīrdārs were treated less severely but they also lost a substantial part of their jāgīrs and their descendants could succeed to only a small portion of their truncated jāgīrs. The Punjab Administration Report of 1851–2 recorded that the ‘gaudy retinues’ of the former Sardars had disappeared, their country seats stood rather neglected, and their city residences were no longer thronged by visitors. The decline of the former Sikh ruling class as pillars of the state of Ranjit (p.37) Singh appeared to be inevitable to the new rulers of the Punjab. They hoped to ‘render their decadence gradual’ by allowing them pensions or jāgīrs.2 The British also commented upon the bearing of this situation on the religious beliefs and practices of the Sikhs. Sir Richard Temple, Secretary to the Punjab Government, emphasized in 1853 that ‘the Sikh faith and ecclesiastical polity’ was rapidly going where ‘the Sikh political ascendancy’ had already gone. The initiatory ceremony for adults was now rarely performed at the Akal Takht. Attendance at the annual festivals at the Golden Temple was diminishing. The Khalsa were discarding the external form in thousands. Richard Temple saw a close connection between the loss of political power and the decline of the Sikh faith. It is clear from his statement that he was making a distinction between ‘the Sikhs of Nanak’ and ‘the Sikhs of Gobind’; while the former were likely to cling to the faith of their forefathers, the latter, who were ‘styled as Singhs or Lions and who embraced the faith as being the religion of warfare and conquest’, no longer regarded the Khalsa form as important because its prestige had departed. ‘These men joined in thousands, and they now depart in equal numbers. They rejoin the ranks of Hinduism whence they originally came.’3 Temple was not alone in thinking of the pre-Khalsa Sikh faith as pacifist and ‘Hindu’, and of the Khalsa faith as militant and distinctly Sikh. This equation of the Singhs alone with the Sikhs was based on the understanding that the Khalsa Singhs had persisted in their struggle against the Mughals, wrested a large part of the Punjab from the Afghans, and fought valiantly in two wars against the British.

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs In the census of 1855 the Sikhs were not enumerated separately from the Hindus except in the Lahore Division. Therein too only were the Khalsa Singhs enumerated as Sikhs. Their total number in the districts of Lahore, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Gujranwala, and Sialkot was 181,172. ‘It was very remarkable, as was pointed out, that there should be less than 200,000 Sikhs in a total population of 3,500,000 in the division which contained ‘the religious capital of Sikhism, Amritsar, and original and peculiar Territory of the Sikhs, the Majha’.4 The uprising of 1857–8 can be seen in retrospect as a benchmark in the Sikh recovery from recession in the first decade of colonial rule. The Sikh rulers of Patiala, Jind, Nabha, and Kapurthala were politically bound to lend support to the British. A number of former jāgīrdārs of the Punjab demonstrated their loyalty to the new regime to gain favour; and they were rewarded by increase in pensions, grants of land, and employment in the services. Furthermore, they began to be looked upon as the ‘natural leaders’ of the society. Nearly half of the Sikh aristocratic families survived into the twentieth century. Some of the Sikh princes and aristocrats played a considerable role in socio-religious reform and constitutional politics.5 As an official report of 1858 put it, the Khalsa were called out to ‘save the Empire’ in the critical time of the uprising and they fulfilled their mission. They began to be recruited in increasing numbers. They fought in all the major wars of the British outside India. Due to their ‘gallant and faithful services in all climes’ they became ‘the pride of the Punjab’. On the eve of World War I, the proportion of Sikhs in the Indian army was much larger than their proportion in the population of the Punjab.6 The agrarian policy of the British in the Punjab had a close bearing on the life of (p.38) the Sikh peasantry which represented more than 72 per cent of the Sikh population. With the rising tide of indebtedness in the late nineteenth century, the Sikh peasantry suffered economically, but less than the others. ‘Their love of gain and inherited shrewdness’, according to a contemporary British observer, ‘enabled them to avoid the pitfalls of the system of administration’ established by the British.7 Nevertheless, differentiation among the Sikh landholders was in evidence everywhere, more so in the central districts of the province. Service in the army provided a sustaining factor in the rural economy. Emigration promised better opportunities of employment. Sikh agriculturists represented a substantial portion of the emigrants to the other parts of the country, and to other countries of the world, including Canada and the USA.8 Much more remarkable than any other aspect, however, was the sheer increase in the number of Sikhs. In 1881 they were less than two million but their number rose to nearly four million in 1921. In 1911, when the total population of the province was actually 2 per cent less than in 1901, the Sikh population increased by more than 37 per cent. This was largely due to the fact that non-Singhs were Page 3 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs also given the option to return themselves as ‘Sikhs’. Equally remarkable was the increase in the proportion of Keshdhārī Singhs in the Sikh population. Their number rose from about 840,000 in 1891 to nearly 3,600,000 in 1931. In less than half a century, their percentage in the Sikh population rose from less than 70 to more than 90.9 Increase in the number of Sikhs has been generally explained in terms of the preference given to them in many branches of government service, and ‘conversions’ to the Sikh faith on a large scale. Equally relevant, however, was the growing consciousness of Sikh identity. In the central districts of the Punjab, the percentage of Sikhs among Jatts rose from less than 54 in 1881 to nearly 80 in 1921, while the percentage of Hindu Jatts decreased from about 40 in 1881 to less than 10. It was observed by James Douie that a ‘change of sentiment on the part of the Sikh community has led many persons recording themselves as Sikhs who were formerly content to be regarded as Hindus’. Writing in the second decade of the twentieth century, he noted that the future of Sikhism was with the Keshdhārīs.10 Aware of the importance of the gurdwaras in Sikh life, the British administrators had made the Udāsī or Nirmala Mahants of the historic gurdwaras hereditary to create vested interests. The management and control of the Golden Temple and the Akal Takht had been entrusted by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his successors to a Sardar of their own choice. In 1846 the British Resident, Henry Lawrence, quietly assumed responsibility for the management of these premier Sikh institutions. After annexation, Sardar Jodh Singh, an Extra Assistant Commissioner in the new administration, was given the charge of the Darbar Sahib. A General Committee was constituted with a number of prominent Sikhs as its members, and Raja Tej Singh, the arch collaborator, was made its President. Sardar Jodh Singh actually functioned under the direction of the British bureaucracy. To control these institutions was to control Sikh opinion. For ten years (1849–59) the Punjab Government virtually maintained direct control over the administration of the Golden Temple and the Akal Takht through a judicial officer of its own. This arrangement was modified in 1859. John Lawrence, the Chief Commissioner, had circulated a general order in August (p. 39) 1858 to the effect that the officers of the Government would have nothing to do with the management of religious institutions. ‘The people must manage their own religious institutions. If such institutions suffer from internal disputes, that is their business, not ours.’ The Commissioner of the Amritsar Division, Robert Needham Cust, began to apply these orders to the arrangements for the Golden Temple. This created ‘some sensation’ among the Sikh vested interests, and John Lawrence, the Lieutenant Governor of the province, ordered that arrangements for the future management of the Darbar Sahib should be clearly regulated. Frederic Cooper, the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar, used tact and threat to get a Dastūr al-‘Aml (Rules of Practice) prepared and signed by a large number of Sikh representatives. The British connection with the Golden Temple was Page 4 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs transformed into ‘simple magisterial and political control’. Despite the Government of India Act XX of 1863 (Religious Endowment Act), which left no room for the kind of control established by the Dastur of 1859, the Punjab Government persisted in exercising its control over this premier institution of the Sikhs for over six more decades.11 In all important matters, the sarbrah, or the Manager, of the Golden Temple followed the orders given by the British authorities. Richard Fox aptly remarks: ‘The British believed that their Punjab Lions were a dangerous species and also that religion gave them strength. Colonial authorities attempted to lock up their loyalty to the Raj by converting their religious shrines into imperial cages and their ritual officiants into colonial attendants.’12 It may be added that they were used by the colonial authorities for their own purposes, particularly in sensitive or critical situations. Thus made subordinate and static, the most important institutions of the Sikhs began to degenerate. The reformist species of ‘Singhs’ would reclaim them in the early twentieth century.

The Nirankari Sikhs and the Nāmdhārī Sant Khalsa The Nirankari movement, as the name suggests, emphasized the concept of God as formless (Nirankar) which implied a total rejection of belief in multiple gods and goddesses, and the practice of idol worship. The founder of the movement, Baba Dayal, a Malhotra Khatri of Rawalpindi, accepted the Granth Sāhib as the only authoritative guide to right belief and practice. It gave no sanction for Brahmanical rituals, rites, or ceremonies. Therefore, he insisted that all Sikh rites and ceremonies should be performed with the recitation of the composition called Lāvān in the Granth Sahib. Local opposition to his reform obliged Baba Dayal to have his own gurdwara, and a separate place for disposal of the dead.13 Upon his death in 1855, Baba Dayal was succeeded by his eldest son, Baba Darbara Singh, who established many centres in towns and villages outside Rawalpindi, appointing his representatives (biṛedār) for the local congregations (sangats). He prepared a hukamnāmā, spelling out the essential religious beliefs and practices for his followers, including the rites for marriage, birth, and death. In this hukamnāmā, divine sanction is claimed for the mission of Baba Dayal as ‘the true gurū’.14 Upon his death in 1870, Baba Darbara Singh was succeeded by his younger brother, Sahib Ratta Ji, who consolidated the work of his predecessors by an uncompromising insistence on the Nirankari code (rahit). He (p.40) transformed the mission at Rawalpindi into an impersonal institution through a formal will in 1903. The Nirankaris consisted of Khatri, Arora, and Bhatia traders, bankers, and shopkeepers of the towns and villages of the upper Sindh Sagar Doab. True to their advocacy of a Sikh ceremony of marriage, the Nirankaris supported the Anand Marriage Bill in 1908–9. The Nirankari reform Page 5 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs highlighted the centrality of the Granth Sahib in Sikh life but ignored the initiatory rite of the Khalsa, and therefore remained a ‘sahajdhārī’ movement. It did not have a wide appeal and its followers could only be counted in thousands.15 Hira Singh Dard, a leading journalist, recalled his differences with his father, Bhai Hari Singh, a devout Nirankari. Hira Singh admired his father’s dedication and commitment to the cause of Nirankari reform. There was one aspect, however, which he could not appreciate: his father’s conviction that Sahib Ratta Ji was the thirteenth Guru in line from Guru Nanak. In fact, the Nirankaris looked upon Baba Dayal and all his successors as Gurus. Baba Gurdit Singh, who succeeded Baba Ratta Ji in 1909, was regarded as the fourteenth Guru. The names of all the Gurus were mentioned in the Nirankari ardās. Hira Singh did not take baptism of the foot (charanamrit) from Baba Ratta Ji. Instead, he received pahul of the double-edged sword from five Singhs to become a Khalsa Singh.16 The movement called Nāmdhārī was started in the Sindh Sagar Doab by Baba Balak Singh, who was a disciple of Bhagat Jawahar Mal, a Kohli Khatri of Rawalpindi.17 The best-known disciple of Baba Balak Singh was Bhai Ram Singh, generally referred to as Baba Ram Singh. He himself says in one of his letters that he received the gift of nām from ‘Guru Balak Singh Ji’. Evidently, therefore, the followers of Baba Balak Singh were known as Nāmdhārīs, and Bhai Ram Singh was one of them. However, he made pahul of the double-edged sword and Khalsa rahit obligatory for his own followers. He refers to them as ‘Sant Khalsa’, a term that began to appear in official records in the 1860s. The more enthusiastic among the Sant Khalsa, called mastāna (the intoxicated), used to shout loudly in a frenzied state during kīrtans. They were called kūkās (shriekers), and the term came to be used for all the followers of Bhai Ram Singh. It is interesting to know that the term ‘Sant Khalsa’ is used for the Khalsa Singhs of Guru Gobind Singh in the Prem Sumārag, an early eighteenth-century Rahitnāmā (a manual on the Sikh way of life), prescribed by Bhai Ram Singh to his followers as a religious text. This Rahitnāmā, emphasizing the Khalsa way of life, also contains a prophecy of Khalsa Raj after much suffering.18 The rahit prescribed by Bhai Ram Singh for the Sant Khalsa has many similarities with the rahit prescribed in the Prem Sumārag. Men and women are often bracketed in situations of religious and social concerns. Female infanticide is categorically forbidden. It is more heinous than even cow-slaughter. There is a considerable concern for the outcastes. For the rites of marriage (anand) and death (bhog), no service of a Brahman was required. Bhai Ram Singh believed that his opponents had fallen from the Khalsa norms and praxis. Some of his letters leave the impression that his Sant Khalsa represented an alternative to the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh, or its counterpart in the changed historical situation. Bhai Ram Singh was keen to be accepted as a Sikh at the Golden Page 6 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs Temple, Amritsar, Keshgarh Sahib, Anandpur, and the takhts (p.41) at Patna Sahib and Nander (Abchal Nagar). But the Singh custodians of these places were opposed to him and so were the Sikh princes and aristocrats.19 The custodians of Keshgarh Sahib objected to Bhai Ram Singh on five counts. The first was that he had set himself up a Guru. Second, he whispered a mantar in the ear of the person initiated. Third, he told his followers to mention Hazro as their birthplace and Bhaini as the place of residence. Fourth, the Kukas removed their turbans and let their hair loose in places of worship. Finally, they worked themselves up into a frenzy like Muslim faqīrs. The first objection was based on the belief of the Khalsa that personal Guruship had ended with Guru Gobind Singh, and that Guruship, henceforth, was vested in the Granth Sahib (and the collective body of the Khalsa). The second objection was based on the Khalsa practice of openly enunciating the essential rahit at the time of initiation. The third objection was based on the practice of telling the newly baptized Singh to regard Patna Sahib as his place of birth and Anandpur as the place of his residence. The fourth objection was based on the sanctity attached by the Khalsa to the kesh and the place of worship. Finally, the frenzy of the Kukas was suggestive of the dance of the Sufi darveshes during the singing of religious poetry (sama‘), with the implication that it was not a ‘Sikh’ practice.20 Bhai Ram Singh’s response to this criticism by the traditional representatives of the Khalsa indicates that these objections were not baseless. He justifies the frenzy of the Kukas on the ground that they were so absorbed in God that they forgot about everything else. His letters, written after his deportation to Burma in 1872, clearly show that Bhai Ram Singh knew that he was regarded by thousands of people as their Guru, and that his followers looked upon him as the eleventh Guru in succession from Guru Nanak. He knew that he stood bracketed with Bhai Bir Singh and Bhai Maharaj Singh, who were regarded as Gurus by many Sikhs. However, he says emphatically that Guru Gobind Singh had established the Granth Sahib as the everlasting Guru in line with the ten Gurus. In the characteristic idiom of Sikh humility he refers to himself as a kūkar (dog) sitting at the Guru’s door. He tells his followers that only a person linked with the shabad was linked with the Guru. Indeed, he quotes from the Granth Sahib: ‘Bani is Guru, and Guru is Bani; all amrits are in Bani.’ He quotes a Rahitnāmā: ‘Regard Gurū Granth Sāhib as the Guru, the body manifest of the Guru.’21 Though Bhai Ram Singh formally disclaimed to be the Guru, he did believe in the prophecies about an incarnation of Guru Gobind Singh restoring Khalsa Raj after a phase of suffering. He did not dismiss the idea that he himself might be that incarnation. With reference to a verse in the Prahladpur pothī, referring to a Tarkhan Guru as a future incarnation of Guru Gobind Singh, Bhai Ram Singh wrote that if he was really the person referred to, he would surely return to the Punjab. If he was the twelfth Guru, then his orders should be obeyed by those who believed in him. In short, the prophecy in which the Sant Khalsa were to Page 7 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs establish Sikh rule under the leadership of Bhai Ram Singh was yet to be affirmed by future events. But it gained credence among the Kukas in the early decades of the twentieth century. Their belief in the Guruship of Baba Balak Singh, Bhai Ram Singh, and his successors turned them into a sectarian group.22 They stood in direct opposition to the (p.42) Singh reformers who categorically rejected the notion of a personal Guru.

The Singh Reformers As the forerunners of the Singh Sabha movement, the Nirankari and the Nāmdhārī movements were marked by two limitations: belief in a personal Guru and lack of interest in Western education. The Nirankaris came to believe in Baba Dayal, the founder of the movement, as a successor of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. Similarly, the Nāmdhārīs raised Bhai Ram Singh to the position of a Guru, or a successor of Guru Nanak, though they were not authorized by Baba Ram Singh to do this.23 We may add, however, that these two movements share some important concerns with the Singh Sabhas. The Nirankaris rejected idol worship as un-Sikh and they rejected the services of Brahmans for the rites of passage which made them unambiguously Sikh, even though they did not insist on a Singh identity. The Nāmdhārīs insisted on Singh identity of the Sant Khalsa. In both the reform movements there was a good deal of emphasis on daily religious practices. In case of the Sant Khalsa there was also an anti-British political dimension.24 The Singh Sabha movement got its name from the fact that a large number of voluntary associations (Sabhas) of Singhs sprang up all over the Punjab during the late nineteenth century, starting with Sri Guru Singh Sabha of Amritsar in 1873 and the Singh Sabha of Lahore in 1879. The ‘Singh’ identity was built into the name, and every Singh Sabha was a voluntary association of equals. At the end of the World War I there were Singh Sabhas in nearly all the cities of the Punjab, in most of its towns and some of its villages. Most of these associations had a formal constitution. Each Singh Sabha catered to a small area in practice but in theory regarded itself as representative of the whole Sikh community.25 The need for coordination among the Singh Sabhas brought into existence the Khalsa Diwan at Amritsar in 1893 and the Khalsa Diwan at Lahore in 1896. Khalsa dīwāns were founded in a few other cities and towns as well. The Chief Khalsa Diwan, founded at Amritsar in 1902, in place of the Amritsar and Lahore dīwāns, turned out to be the most important. About a dozen allied organizations were founded between 1890 and 1910, like the Gurmat Granth Pracharak Sabha of Amritsar, the Gurmat Granth Sudharak Sabhas of Amritsar and Lahore, the Khalsa Dharam Pracharak Sabha of Rawalpindi, the Khalsa Tract Society, the Central Khalsa Orphanage, the Sikh Education Conference, and the Punjab and Sind Bank. In this collective endeavour for socio-religious reform the ruling families were represented by the Princes of Kapurthala, Faridkot, and Nabha. Page 8 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs The aristocracy was represented by Sardars like Attar Singh of Bhadaur, Sunder Singh Majithia, and Harbans Singh Atari. The new middle class was represented by teachers like Gurmukh Singh and Bhai Jodh Singh, petty bureaucrats like Bhai Jawahar Singh and Babu Teja Singh, publicists and writers like Bhai Ditt Singh and Bhai Vir Singh, scholars like Bhai Kahn Singh, and businessmen like Trilochan Singh. The Singh Sabha reformers were anxious to defend the Sikh faith against attacks from others. Apart from the conspicuous conversion of Maharaja Dalip Singh and Kanwar Harnam Singh Ahluwalia of Kapurthala in the early decades of British rule, Christian missionaries continued to gain converts from among the Sikhs. There were stray conversions to Islam as well. There was a (p.43) prolonged controversy with the Ahmadiyas. Much more important than the threat from Christianity or Islam was the threat from the Arya Samaj. Several eminent Sikhs had joined the Arya Samaj but a decisive break came in 1888. Bhai Ditt Singh and Jawahar Singh Kapur left the Arya Samaj to join the Singh Sabha reformers. A subtle threat from the Sanatanist Hindus, who asserted that the Sikhs were ‘Hindu’, sharpened the issue of Sikh identity. The Khalsa Diwan of Lahore in its farewell address to the Governor General in 1888 categorically stated that ‘the Sikhs should not be confounded with Hindus but treated in all respects as a separate community’.26 Towards the end of the century, Bhai Kahn Singh published his Ham Hindu Nahīn which came to be regarded as a classic exposition of distinctive Sikh identity.27 Though Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha is known primarily for his Ham Hindu Nahīn and the Mahānkosh (The Encyclopaedia of Sikh Literature), he was deeply interested in the Sikh faith as well. Three of his works, written before the end of the nineteenth century, are particularly relevant in this connection: Gurū Girā Kasautī, Gurmat Prabhākar, and Gurmat Sudhākar. The first of these was not published, but this was only because Bhai Kahn Singh did not wish to start a controversy: he was strongly critical of the works like the Janamsākhī attributed to Bala and the Sūraj Parkāsh of Bhai Santokh Singh, which were held in high esteem by a large number of Sikhs. In the Gurmat Prabhākar his basic purpose was to put together all relevant verses from Guru Granth Sahib having a direct bearing on nearly 1,000 themes related to the Sikh faith, ideals, ethics, and Sikh beliefs and practices in general. In the light of the verses from Guru Granth Sahib then, the credibility of the statements made in later Sikh literature could be tested. This was precisely what Bhai Kahn Singh did in his Gurmat Sudhākar. The major works of Sikh literature from Bhai Gurdas in the early seventeenth century to Bhai Santokh Singh in the early nineteenth are examined in the Gurmat Sudhākar to establish the credibility or incredibility of the evidence presented in these works. The Parbhākar and the Sudhākar are thus complementary. The principle enunciated and applied by Bhai Kahn Singh was so firmly established that it is still popular among Sikh scholars. The Gurmat

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs Mārtand, based on all the three works, was published posthumously as a kind of ‘Encyclopaedia of Sikhism’.28 The Singh reformers used print media to propagate their ideas and to promote their interests. The average number of tracts by the Sikhs and on the Sikhs increased from about 60 a year in the 1870s to about 160 a year in the late 1890s. The most important Sikh periodicals were the Khālsā Akhbār in Punjabi and the Khalsa in English, both of which were brought out from Lahore. The Nirguṇiārā and the Khālsā Samāchār in Punjabi and the Khalsa Advocate in English were published from Amritsar.29 Bhai Vir Singh, who was closely associated with the Chief Khalsa Diwan wrote novels, poetry, dramas, an epic, exegeses, biographies, tracts, periodical essays, and literature for the young to enrich Punjabi language and to create historical consciousness among the Sikhs. To resurrect and glorify the Sikh past was the main purpose of his novels. His epic, Rānā Sūrat Singh, was meant to exalt Sikh ideals and ethics. His ‘national drama’, Rājā Lakhdātā Singh, was written to underscore that mass education was the solution to moral degeneration among the Sikhs. Bhai Vir Singh’s contribution to the study of Sikh faith (p.44) and Sikh history is evident from the works he edited: Sikhān dī Bhagatmālā (1912), Prachīn Panth Parkāsh (1914), Purātan Janamsākhī (1926), Sūraj Prakāsh in fourteen volumes (1934), Sākhī Pothī, and seven volumes of Santhya Srī Gurū Granth Sāhib ji, published posthumously and covering less than half of the Guru Granth Sahib.30 The important concerns of the Singh reformers, reflected in the Khālsā Samāchār in the early decades of the twentieth century, were countering the propaganda of Christian missionaries, the Aryas, and the Ahmadiyas; insistence on separate socio-religious entity of the Sikhs; emphasis on the study of Sikh religious literature and Sikh history; increasing criticism of Udāsīs, pujārīs and mahants; argument for the good treatment of the Ramdasia and the Rehatia Sikhs; and advocacy of female education. There are pleas for the use of Punjabi in Gurmukhi script at least up to primary level in education, in courts, in post offices, and in railway carriages. There is advocacy of Anand marriage. There is criticism of the management of gurdwaras and there is the argument that they should be handed over to committees of Singhs because they belonged to the Panth.31 In a tract published in 1919, it was argued that no human being could be the Guru of the Sikhs, for Guru Gobind Singh had vested Guruship in the Ādi Granth. Furthermore, the Sikhs were ‘to view themselves as the Panth and not to recognize any single person as their sole leader’. Thus, the idea of Guru-Panth (collectivity as the Guru) was expressed as clearly as the equation of the Guru with the Adi Granth.32 A comprehensive code for Sikh ceremonies and rites had

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs been published by the Chief Khalsa Diwan in 1915 as the Gurmat Parkāsh Bhāg Sanskār, based largely on Sikh literature of the earlier centuries.33 The Singh reformers invoked the Sikh past for inspiration and guidance. Giani Gian Singh’s Panth Prakāsh (1880) was followed by his Tawārīkh-i Gurū Khālsā in 1892. He was followed by historians like Karam Singh, Sewa Ram Singh, and Bhagat Lakshman Singh. A number of books were published on the lives of the Sikh Gurus, the institution of the Khalsa, and the political struggle of the Sikhs against the Mughals and the Afghans. By far the most popular literary figure among the Singh reformers, Bhai Vir Singh recreated the heroic age of the Khalsa in his Sundarī, Bijai Singh, Satwant Kaur, and Bābā Naudh Singh, producing historical fiction which idealized the Sikh past. Martyrdom was recognized and projected as an essential feature of the Sikh tradition.34 Unlike the Nirankaris and the Nāmdhārīs, the Singh reformers welcomed English education and appreciated Western science and technology. They did not like Christian instruction in missionary schools and the total absence of religious instruction in Government institutions. They were keen to teach Sikh tenets and Sikh history to Sikh boys and girls as an important plank of education. The proposal for a Khalsa College at Lahore was made as early as 1885. There was a hot debate about its location in 1890. The foundation stone of the Khalsa College was eventually laid at Amritsar in March 1892, and the College eventually became the premier educational institution of the Sikhs.35 Equally symbolic of the Singh reform was the Kanya Maha Vidyalaya founded at Firozpur by Bhai Takht Singh in 1892, and run without any grant from the Government and without any tuition fee from the girls.36 It was followed by girls’ schools at Lahore, Amritsar, Rawalpindi, and Ropar. High schools were established not only in cities but also in small (p.45) towns like Damdama Sahib and new towns like Lyallpur. A college was established at Gujranwala before 1920 when the number of Sikh educational institutions was more than three scores. Like the Brahmos, the Aryas, and the Sanatanists, the Singh reformers were opposed to Urdu as the medium of education and administration. Unlike them, however, they supported Punjabi in Gurmukhi script rather than Hindi in Devanagri script. They argued strongly that school education should be based on ‘the language of the people’. Punjabi language and literature for the Singh Sabha reformers were inseparable from the Gurmukhi script in which their sacred scripture was written. In the opening decade of the twentieth century the issue of language became as important as the issue of religious identity. This contest proved to be long lasting.37 Bhagat Lakshman Singh (1863–1944), a zealous advocate of the Singh Sabha reform, provides valuable insights into the movement in his autobiography. He recalls how he had become a Khalsa Singh in 1895. ‘On my hearing the Benatī Chaupaī of Guru Gobind Singh,’ he says, ‘I was very much impressed by the Page 11 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs unpretentious and sublime teachings of the Great Master and I decided once for all to accept him as my Saviour’. Lakshman Singh began to study the sacred literature of the Sikhs with a granthī of Rawalpindi and expressed a desire to be admitted into the Khalsa Panth. On the commendation of Rai Bahadur Sardar Sujan Singh of Rawalpindi, Baba Khem Singh Bedi, who was one of the topmost leaders of the Amritsar Singh Sabha, agreed to initiate Lakshman Singh, and he became a full-fledged Khalsa.38 Bhagat Lakshman Singh had known Baba Khem Singh Bedi since the late 1870s when he used to stay at the dharamsala called Baradari during his visits to Rawalpindi, and hundreds of people of all ages, men, women, and children flocked to to him for a darshan. It was difficult to describe the enthusiasm he inspired. He could neither read nor write but he could recite scriptural passages from memory. He rode out daily for shikār, with a hawk perched on his left hand. ‘This position he carefully maintained even when presiding at the daily congregations.’ His idea was to look like the illustrious Guru Gobind Singh. ‘His followers believed him to be an avatar whose mere touch would save them.’ As stated by a waggish person, Baba Khem Singh Bedi was ‘the premier Sikh Guru’ and no contemporary wielded such an influence over officialdom as Baba Khem Singh Bedi. In the late 1890s, Bhagat Lakshman Singh went to see Baba Khem Singh Bedi, who by now had his residence in Rawalpindi, known as Damdama Sahib. He had carved his fortune with consummate skill and become fabulously rich. He talked of the good old days when the sangat of Rawalpindi used to go up to Rawat in hundreds with drums and cymbals, singing hymns all the way ‘to do him honour’, but all that had changed. Bhagat Lakshman Singh said to him that he had changed very much: ‘You were, then, a saint but now you are more a prince than anything else.’ Baba Sir Khem Singh Bedi agreed: ‘Truly, I am not the man I was.’39 Significantly, Bhagat Lakshman Singh did not regard Baba Khem Singh Bedi as a leader of the Singh Sabha movement. Indeed, for Lakshman Singh, the Singh Sabha movement was born at Lahore. The efforts of Kanwar Bikrama Singh of Kapurthala and the ruler of Faridkot of the same name at mustering forces ‘for an all-round Panthic uplift’ had failed to achieve much. ‘It was (p.46) really given to the son of a servant of Kanwar Bikrama Singh of Kapurthala, the late Bhai Gurmukh Singh, a teacher in the Oriental College, Lahore, to effectively organize the community and achieve great results.’ The Singh Sabha movement began to take rapid strides when Bhai Gurmukh Singh welcomed three men of dynamic personalities to the Singh Sabha: Jawahar Singh, Ditt Singh, and Maya Singh. All the three had left the Arya Samaj due to the thoughtless attack on the holy Sikh Gurus by Arya Samajist fire brands at an annual meeting of the Arya Samaj in their Mandir in Wachhowali which led to the secession from the Samaj of Bhai Jawahir Singh, its Vice President, and his friends Bhai Dit Singh Gyani, who was a forceful writer, Page 12 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs and Bhai Maya Singh, who was both an eloquent speaker and a writer of marked ability. A press was purchased with financial support from Maharaja Hira Singh of Nabha and the Khālsā Akhbār was started under the able editorship of Giani Ditt Singh. He wrote dozens of books ‘to illumine the popular mind’ and ‘infused a feeling of pride into the mass of the community for their great Gurus and their creed of love and harmony’. Baba Sir Khem Singh Bedi was ‘an extremely generous hearted man’ but he never forgave ‘the pioneers of the Singh Sabha Movement’ because a few of them had insulted him. [They removed] his gaddī cushions in the parkarmā of the Golden Temple from underneath him to show that the use of a masnad, a high seat, could not be permitted in the precincts of the holy Darbar Sahib, as the Golden Temple is called by the Sikhs, to any person, however highly placed he might be, and that they did not acknowledge him as Guru of the Sikhs.40 Immediately after his admission into the Khalsa Panth, Bhagat Lakshman Singh thought of uniting the entire Sikh community of the district of Rawalpindi through a network of Singh Sabhas and educational propaganda. There was already a Singh Sabha in Rawalpindi, but in name only. It had a building of its own and a big landed proprietor as its President, but the weekly meetings were poorly attended. Its income was barely sufficient for maintaining a granthī. Bhagat Lakshman Singh had worked as its Secretary for a couple of years and knew that he had to spend his own money for the celebration of the birthanniversaries of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. The reason for the sad state of the Singh Sabha in Rawalpindi was not far to seek: ‘The influence of Baba Sir Khem Singh Bedi was predominant over the whole ilāqa and the leaders of the Singh Sabha had forfeited Baba Sahib’s sympathy.’ His followers fought shy of the Singh Sabha movement. In fact, people had practically boycotted it. Bhagat Lakshman Singh wanted ‘to serve as a link between Baba Sahib and the Singh Sabha people all over the province’. But he could not get Baba Khem Singh Bedi’s patronage for his educational propaganda and, ultimately, had to depend on his own resources. He founded the Khalsa Dharam Parcharak Sabha at Rawalpindi and established a sabha at Gujjar Khan. Baba Khem Singh’s followers were antagonistic to the Singh Sabha propaganda. Eventually, however, a high school was founded at Gujjar Khan with the help of Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia. Bhagat Lakshman Singh succeeded in his efforts to establish Khalsa Anglo-Vernacular Middle Schools at Sukho and Kallar, the former in opposition to the Christian missionaries and the latter in opposition to the Arya Samajists. Ironically, he wrote against ‘Babadom’ too, which offended a son of Baba Khem Singh Bedi.41

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs (p.47) Bhagat Lakshman Singh had been obliged to leave the Mission High School at Rawalpindi as a student in 1882 because of his critical attitude towards Christianity. He often challenged the missionary propaganda that there was nothing particularly good in Hindu and Sikh creeds. He had to leave the Gordon Mission College, Rawalpindi, as a teacher in 1898, because he had sounded an alarm in his zeal for Khalsa educational institutions and urged the need of propaganda to counter the activity of the United American Presbyterian Mission in the Rawalpindi area. He went to Lahore to serve as Secretary of the Punjab Mutual Hindu Family Relief Fund.42 Very soon Lakshman Singh got involved in a heated controversy with the Arya Samaj. Bawa Chhajju Singh was in charge of the Arya Messenger, the English organ of the College Section of the Arya Samaj. His brother Bawa Arjan Singh was in charge of the Aryā Patrikā of the Gurukul Section of the Arya Samaj, Wachhowali. Both of them were apostates from Sikhism and carried a virulent propaganda against ‘the pioneers of Sikh renaissance’. Bawa Chhajju Singh employed his ability ‘to show that the holy Sikh Gurus were only Hindu reformers’, that they believed in the Vedas, and that the Sikh scriptures were ‘only mutilated copies of the Vedas and the other books on the philosophy of the Hindu religion’. Bawa Arjan Singh sometimes played a second fiddle to his elder brother. Their misrepresentation of the mission of the Gurus filled Bhagat Lakshman Singh with indignation. He approached his friend Bhai Jawahar Singh, who was Honorary Secretary of the Council of Khalsa College, Amritsar, and, with his approval, started the weekly Khalsa on 5 January 1899.43 In the columns of the Khalsa Bhagat Lakshman Singh used to provide exposition of the Sikh scriptures to hammer in the point that Sikh dispensation was ‘an independent entity’ and not ‘a subsidiary system, based on Hindu philosophy’, as his opponents maintained. He pointed out that Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh themselves claimed that ‘what they said and wrote was revealed to them by the divine being direct’. In a series of twenty-one articles on ‘The Gurus and the Vedas’ Lakshman Singh was able to defeat his adversaries on their chosen ground, the verses of the Gurus. Bhagat Lakshman Singh propagated the same idea as Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha in his Ham Hindu Nahīn, but with a difference: ‘While I claimed that the Khalsa church was a distinct divine dispensation, enjoining wearing distinct religious symbols and following distinct social customs, I never intended to convey the idea that politically the interests of the Khalsa ran counter to those of the Hindus or, for the matter of that even to those of the Indian Musalmans or Christians’.44 In other words, Bhagat Lakshman Singh underlined the idea of a distinct Sikh identity, but he did not subscribe to the idea that Sikh political interests clashed with the interests of other religious communities.

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs It is important to note that Bhagat Lakshman Singh held the Aryas responsible for the confrontation between Hindus and Sikhs. All good and noble Hindus used to express their indebtedness to the Khalsa before Swami Dayanand ridiculed Guru Nanak. His followers began to stir ‘bad blood’ between the Khalsa and the Hindus. ‘They will have nothing but the Vedas, no matter if they are unintelligible to the mass of their people. They must have Hindi as their vernacular, to the exclusion of their own mother tongue.’ Bhai Parmanand’s history of the Punjab ended with the advent of Guru Gobind Singh. What the Khalsa achieved later was regarded (p.48) as ‘something un-Hindu, if not antiHindu, something to be discarded, something to be tabooed, nick-named as separation and boycotted’. Some teachers and research scholars proclaimed that the ‘separatist’ movement (Singh Sabha) dated from the time when Arthur Macauliffe, who published five volumes of translation and commentary on Sikh religion and literature in 1909, appeared on the scene. Bhagat Lakshman Singh goes on to say that Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, even though he wanted to see in every Hindu family at least one Sikh for the defence of Bharat Mata, condemned the Moonje–Ambedkar pact according to which the Untouchables could become Sikhs if they chose to do so. Mahatma Gandhi advised the Dalits not to become Sikhs but to wait for the grant of rights till the hearts of the casteHindus underwent change. Bhagat Lakshman Singh drew the inference that a great majority of Hindus of India actually treated Sikhism as something distinct from Hinduism. In any case, the Arya Samajists extended the programme of shuddhī to the Sikhs. The leaders of the Wachhowali (Lahore) Arya Samaj shaved the heads and beards of the Rahtia (low-caste weavers) Sikhs in public. The Sikh resentment over this episode resulted in the formation of Khalsa Sudhar Sabha. Propaganda on its behalf appeared in the Khalsa, and Bhagat Lakshman Singh himself wrote an article entitled ‘Danger Ahead’, depicting the possible effect on the peace of the province if the Arya Samajist free lancers were not curbed.45 The religious, social, and cultural concerns of Singh Sabhas on the whole were quite comprehensive and there was a large degree of consensus. The declaration of Khalsa identity was built into the names ‘Singh Sabha’ and ‘Khalsa Diwan’. Both objectively and subjectively, the Singhs represented a distinct identity as a socio-religious fraternity. A unique form of initiation, a well-defined code of life, the forms of daily worship, and rites and ceremonies, cherished or advocated, reflected and reinforced this identity. However, the essential basis of this identity was the unique position of the scripture, the Adi Granth equated with the Guru. The doctrine of Guru-Panth, with its inbuilt authority and egalitarian implication, was next only to the over-arching doctrine of the Guru-Granth. The only obviously new feature of the Singh Sabha movement was a more or less enthusiastic acceptance of Western science, technology, and the English language. It was combined with Sikh religious and cultural heritage to evolve the Anglo-Sikh system of education. The Punjabi language in Gurmukhi script was of paramount importance to the Singh reformers. The comprehensive scope Page 15 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs of the Singh Sabha concerns and their pervasive influence were two sides of the same coin. The Singh Sabha movement proved to be far more influential than the Nirankari and Nāmdhārī movements. It represented the central stream of ‘modern’ Sikhism in colonial Punjab.46 Master Tara Singh, like most Sikh leaders of the time, was deeply influenced by the Singh Sabha movement.

Political Awakening among the Sikhs It is generally assumed that either the uprising of 1857–8 or the foundation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 can serve as the starting point for a discussion of political awakening in India. But Master Tara Singh turned to the Sikh wars of 1845–6 and 1848–9 to inspire the Sikhs to struggle for freedom in his novel entitled Bābā Tegā Singh. Its hero is (p.49) Sardar Sham Singh Atari, a devout Sikh, a just administrator, a valiant fighter, and a deeply committed supporter of sovereignty, who died fighting in the battle of Sabraon in 1846.47 There is ample justification for Master Tara Singh’s view of the Sikh wars. A French officer, Captain Mouton, who had fought against the British in the first Sikh war as a commander of the regular cavalry of the army of Lahore, identified himself with the people of the Punjab and referred to the war of 1845–6 as ‘the war of independence’. Needham Cust, who was with the Governor General from December 1845 to March 1846 as a participant in the war, looked upon it as ‘the first British invasion of the independent kingdom of the Punjab’. Conversely, to resist this invasion was to preserve independence. Joseph Davey Cunningham, who also was a participant in the war, argues at some length in his classic history of the Sikhs that the Sikh soldiery thought that they were fighting a purely defensive war as representatives of ‘the Sikh people’. There is hardly any doubt that the war of 1845–6 was a war of resistance to British design over the Punjab.48 After the war of 1845–6, the state of Lahore was no longer sovereign. The treaty of Bhyrowal, which Lord Hardinge had managed to impose on the minor Maharaja Dalip Singh in December 1846, removed all ambiguity about the subordinate status of the truncated state of Lahore. It was becoming increasingly clear that the British had come to stay in the Punjab. Resistance began to increase. The initiative was taken by Maharani Jind Kaur, the Regent, even before the treaty of Bhyrowal was signed. One implication of the treaty was the end of the Maharani’s regency; it was replaced by a council. When she tried to resist the British Residents through the council or the minor Maharaja, she was removed from Lahore to Sheikhupura in 1847 and then from the Punjab to Benares in 1848. Soon afterwards, Lord Dalhousie finally decided to take over the Punjab. Large sections of the people of the Punjab took to arms to overthrow the British. A large chunk of the army, the mass of the disbanded soldiery, a few subordinate rulers and Sardars, and the people at large, not only Sikhs but also Hindus and Muslims, participated in the war of 1848–9 to make it a war of

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs liberation. Raja Sher Singh, son of Chattar Singh Atariwala, and Bhai Maharaj Singh were the two major protagonists of this war.49 The war was lost but resistance to the British ‘confiscation’ of the Punjab continued. Bhai Maharaj Singh, the acknowledged leader of the people, worked for the ouster of the British from the Punjab. He was deported to Singapore in 1850, and he died there stoically in 1856. Maharani Jind Kaur continued to work against the British as an exile in Nepal till 1857–8. She died in England in 1863, having been obliged to live away from her son so that she did not become his ‘evil genius’. But she did make him aware of his spiritual and temporal heritage, which created some trouble for the British.50 Master Tara Singh’s view has been affirmed by independent researches of the historians like Sita Ram Kohli, Ganda Singh, Bikrama Jit Hasrat, Fauja Singh, A.C. Banerjee, and Chhanda Chatterjee about the essential character of the Sikh wars of 1845–6 and 1848–9. Neither the Sikhs nor the British ever forgot these wars. The colonial construction of 1857 in relation to the Punjab appeared immediately after the uprising of 1857–8 with the publications of Frederic Cooper, Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar, and Rev. J. Cave Browne, a chaplain of the Moveable Column formed for (p.50) action during the uprising. The two writers projected the impression that the people of the Punjab remained generally loyal to their new masters and the Sikhs supported the British to save the empire. A deconstruction of their works shows that this projection was a mixture of fact and fiction—a myth. Cooper believed in the racial traits of the Anglo-Saxons and Cave Browne believed in the providential role of the British Empire. Both admired the role of the British administrators of the Punjab, and more than that, the ‘paternal’ system of administration peculiar to the Punjab that saved the empire. The Indian component of the army of the East India Company in the Punjab was almost entirely non-Punjabi. The task before the British officers was to keep them loyal, to disarm or disband them, and, if they rose in revolt, to decimate them. Cooper concedes, however, that a small part of the troops in the Punjab joined the rebels in Delhi. They were able to reach there because of the sympathy of the people with the rebels.51 Support for the British came from the ruling chiefs who were bound by the terms of ‘protection’ imposed on them in 1809. Among them, the Sikh chiefs of Patiala, Jind, Nabha, and Kapurthala were notably active. Some of the former jāgīrdārs of the Punjab, like Raja Tej Singh and Sardar Shamsher Singh Sandhanwalia, were already on the side of the British, and a few of the old fighters against them, who had been socially degraded, seized the opportunity to reinstate themselves by a show of loyalty to the British. From the mass of the Sikh people the British administrators chose the former ‘outcaste’ Mazhabis for induction into the army. Thus, the bulk of the Sikhs had no inclination to support Page 17 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs the British. Cooper and Cave Browne create the impression that the Punjabis in general and the Sikhs in particular were enthusiastic in supporting the British. However, their own unintentional evidence leaves the impression that there were individuals and groups in both rural and urban areas in different parts of the Punjab, in the hills as well as the plains, who sympathized with the rebels and actively worked against the British wherever possible. Among those who showed a spirit of resistance to British domination were members of Princely Houses and their officials, religious leaders, traders, tribal and village communities, and peasants and artisans. Among these rebels were Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs.52 The year 1857–8 was important in another way too. As a follower of Baba Balak Singh, ‘Bhai Ram Singh’ had become active in the central districts of the Punjab. The British administrators took notice of his activities in 1863. It was reported from Firozpur district that his followers (called Kukas) gave expression to antiBritish sentiments in a state of spiritual ‘intoxication’. A prophecy of Guru Gobind Singh was current among them that he would take birth as the carpenter ‘Ram Singh’ and defeat the firangīs (the British) to re-establish Khalsa Raj in 1865. In 1866 and 1867 it was reported that the Kukas had destroyed structures raised over graves and spots of cremation. Bhai Ram Singh resented the reintroduction of cow slaughter in the Punjab by the British. The violent activities of the Kukas were extended to the murder of butchers at places like Amritsar and Raikot in Ludhiana district. Several Kukas were sentenced to death. There was a state of unrest in the central Punjab. In view of a potential threat to peace, the Commissioner of the Ambala Division recommended Bhai Ram Singh’s arrest and deportation to Burma. The episode of Malerkotla early in 1872, in which (p. 51) a number of Malerkotla men were killed and about three scores of Kukas were blown from canons through unauthorized orders of the Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana and the Commissioner of Ambala, clinched the issue. Bhai Ram Singh and all his important lieutenants (sūbās) were deported. The political potential of the movement fizzled out. The ‘martyrs’ of Malerkotla became the symbol of the anti-British spirit of the Kukas.53 What made the Kukas potentially dangerous was not so much their iconoclastic or anti-cow-killing activity as it was the institution of the Sant Khalsa to regenerate the Sikh social order with the idea that just as the rule of the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh had replaced the Mughal rule, so would the regenerated Sant Khalsa be the instrument of British ouster from the Punjab. The prophecies about the return of Sikh Raj in the near future added a sense of urgency. The popularity of Bhai Ram Singh among the Sikh masses gave a sense of reality to the threat. The British bureaucracy met this potential danger by removing Bhai Ram Singh from the scene and keeping him in complete isolation. According to Bhai Ram Singh the British were convinced that a letter from him to his followers could sweep them off. The Chief Commissioner of Burma wrote to the

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs Government of India that Bhai Ram Singh was ‘the most dangerous man perhaps now in India’.54 The Kuka movement subsided finally after Bhai Ram Singh’s death. In the census of 1891 less than 10,000 Sikhs returned themselves as Nāmdhārīs. The year 1885, the year of Bhai Ram Singh’s death, incidentally, was the year of Master Tara Singh’s birth. It was important in another way too. It marked the foundation of the Indian National Congress which reflected a new kind of political awakening, concerned not with the affairs of any particular region but of the whole of the Indian subcontinent, not with the aspirations of any religious community but of all the peoples of India. The project of the Indian National Congress was to create an ‘Indian Nation’. A Sikh to figure prominently in the Indian National Congress before 1900 was Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia. His father, Sardar Lehna Singh Majithia, had served Maharaja Ranjit Singh with distinction. Dyal Singh belonged to the first generation of Sikhs exposed to Western systems of thought. His name came to be associated with the Brahmo variety of reform, institutions of higher education, the Indian Association, and the founding of The Tribune. He was President of the standing committee of the Congress. In 1893 he was Chairman of the Reception Committee for the annual session of the Congress at Lahore. Pattabhi Sitaramayya writes in his History of the Indian National Congress that ‘the progress of the Congress from its inception in 1885 to 1905 was one of even march based on a firm faith in constitutional agitation and in the unfailing regard for justice attributed to the Englishmen’. It was in these terms that Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia, Chairman, Reception Committee, talked of ‘the greatest glory of British Rule in this country’, and felt gratified with a constitution ‘whose watchword’ was freedom and ‘whose main pillar’ was toleration. Majithia went on to add: ‘We look back complacently on our past history, and glory in it. Can we then in the midst of this national upheaval remain quiescent and indifferent?’55 In his Nationalism, a short book published in 1895, he expresses moderate admiration for and loyalty to the order and progress brought to the Punjab by the British, but he took exception to what he regarded as the excesses and omissions of British rule.56 (p.52) Sardar Dyal Singh proved to be the only Sikh aristocrat to take interest in the Congress. His death in 1898 raised the issue whether the Sikhs were Hindus. In his will he had left his vast property in trust to The Tribune, the Dyal Singh College, and the Dyal Singh Library. This was contested on behalf of his wife and her cousin Sardar Gajindra Singh on the argument that Majithia was a Sikh and, therefore, the Hindu law of inheritance under which he had alienated his ancestral property in favour of the Dyal Singh Trust did not hold good. Bhagat Lakshman Singh wrote articles in the Khalsa against the decision of the court in favour of the trustees. He was convinced that the judgement of the court was faulty.57 But the judgement was upheld by the Chief Court.58 Page 19 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs Lakshman Singh was pained all the more to think that Sardar Dyal Singh had been discarded by his community ‘as an apostate’ and ‘unworthy of being seen’. He was not a Hindu, and he was not a Sikh ‘in the accepted sense’ but he had great admiration for the Gurus and ‘the work of the illustrious veteran Khalsa chiefs’.59 What is relevant for us here is the reaction of the Singh reformers to the decision of the Chief Court in favour of the Sikh demand of legal recognition for the Sikh form of marriage called the Anand marriage. Tikka (heir apparent) Ripudaman Singh of Nabha was nominated to the Imperial Legislative Council in 1907. He was closely associated with the Singh Sabha movement. He introduced the Anand Marriage Bill in the council in October 1908. Not only Hindus but also many Sikhs were opposed to the Bill, including the granthīs of the Golden Temple. The Anand marriage was wrongly regarded by the opponents of the Bill as an innovation of the Singh reformers. Hundreds of communications were sent for and against the Bill. The Nirankaris and the Nāmdhārīs wrote to the Government in its support. The attitude of the Nirankaris, who were basically sahajdhārīs, proved to be rather crucial in a contest between the conservative Sikhs and the Singh reformers. With some modification, the Bill was eventually passed in October 1909. In place of Tikka Ripudaman Singh, whose term was not extended, the pliable Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia was nominated as a member of the Imperial Legislative Council for the specific purpose of steering the Bill through.60 The prime mover of this legislation, Tikka Ripudaman Singh, remained unhappy with the shape given to the Anand Marriage Act in 1909. The difference between the new leadership and the Chief Khalsa Diwan was far more visible in the case of the Gurdwara Rakabganj agitation. When the outer wall of the Rakabganj gurdwara in Delhi was dismantled in 1913 to construct a road to the new Viceregal Lodge, the Singh reformers were very much agitated. The Sikhs sent telegrams, petitions, and memoranda to the Viceroy, the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab, the Commander-in-Chief, and the Commissioner of Delhi. The Sikh Review was launched in Delhi, with Sardul Singh Caveeshar as its editor, to inform Sikh opinion on Sikh interests. Tikka Ripudaman Singh, now the Maharaja of Nabha, was equally interested in the issue. When Sardar Sunder Singh Maijithia and the Chief Khalsa Diwan tried to accommodate the Government on this issue, protest meetings were held as much against the Chief Khalsa Diwan as against the Government. The Rakabganj agitation was beginning to gain momentum when the war broke out in September 1914. Both the project and the agitation were shelved during the war.61 (p.53) In fact, the politics of the Chief Khalsa Diwan remained confined to matters constitutional. Baba Sir Khem Singh Bedi and Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia represented the Sikhs in the council till 1909. When the Punjab Council was expanded by the Act of 1909 with the provision of eight elected members, Page 20 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs the Sikhs could find no representation through election and members like Partap Singh Ahluwalia, Daljit Singh of Kapurthala, Baba Gurbakhsh Singh Bedi, Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia, and Sardar Gajjan Singh Grewal were nominated to the council. The Sikhs felt more and more convinced that they needed separate electorates like the Muslims. Soon after the Lucknow Pact, Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia wrote to the Lieutenant Governor mentioning that the Sikhs should be given a share in the councils and administration with due regard to their status before the annexation of the Punjab, their present stake in the country, and their services to the British Empire. Asking for a share in excess of the Sikh proportion in the population of the province, Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia had in mind the Lucknow Pact which had given such weightage to Muslims in the provinces where they were in minority. Equally relevant to him was ‘Sikh identity’ on which the politics of the Chief Khalsa Diwan was based from the very beginning with its professed purpose to safeguard ‘the political rights’ of the Sikhs.62 A Sikh deputation met Governor General Chelmsford in November 1917 to plead for separate electorates and weightage for the Sikhs on the basis of their ‘unique position’. In the Montford Report it was noted that the Sikhs had remained unrepresented in spite of their services to the empire. ‘To the Sikhs, therefore, and to them alone, we propose to extend the system already adopted in the case of Muhammadans.’63 On the initiative of the Chief Khalsa Diwan, representatives of the entire Sikh community prepared a memorandum in September 1918 to impress upon the Government that the principle conceded in the Montford Report should be ‘carried out and fulfilled in the fullest measure and in all its consequences’. However, the proposal of 33 per cent share for the Sikhs in the provincial council was not acceptable to Hindus and Muslims. On a strong recommendation from the Punjab Government, the Franchise Committee conceded a separate electoral role and separate constituencies for the Sikhs with only a small weightage of 19 per cent of the total seats. The Sikhs, however, remained resentful.64 The World War I had left a great impact on the Indian society in general and on the people of the Punjab in particular. At the pan-Indian level, the Defence of India Act was passed in an extraordinary session of the Central Legislature on 17 March 1915, despite opposition from Indian leaders. It was meant to tighten social control for getting men, money, and materials for the war effort. The capacity for coercion was combined with a positive incentive by the decision of the Government in 1917 to grant King’s Commission to Indians. The total strength of the British Indian Army on 1 August 1914 was 155,423, but on 31 December 1918 it was 1,440,337. The total number of combatants and noncombatants enlisted from the Punjab was 446,976. The Sikhs held a prominent position among the martial races, but the ‘martial race’ idea gradually lost importance, and new classes came to be inducted in the army. During the war years, they contributed 88,925 men. In terms of their population in the Punjab, Page 21 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs their contribution was twice that of the Muslims and thrice that of the Hindus. However, the percentage of the (p.54) Sikhs in the Indian army at the end of the war was less than nineteen.65 The Sikh soldiers in the Indian army were advised to take keen interest in religious activities. Each Sikh unit was provided with a granthī who used to stay in the base area and had high respect among the Sikh soldiers. The British officers also showed high regard to him. They encouraged the soldiers to attend the religious functions and it was quite common for them to do so. However, the experience of Sikh soldiers in the war had a significant impact on them. There was a change in their attitude towards the British who appeared to have no genuine respect for the Sikhs. A British sepoy did not salute a Sikh Subedar Major. The Sikh soldiers started protesting against ‘the inequalities and disparities which the British had created between the white and the black’. The British now appeared to be cunning.66 There was surely a degree of disillusionment with the ‘paternal’ colonial rulers. This disillusionment was deepened significantly by the experience of British brutality at the Jallianwala Bagh, followed by the Martial Law. Ruchi Ram Sahni writes in his Memoirs: ‘The reader of these notes will hardly be able to realise how much the people of Punjab had been struck with terror by the memorable week which is now glorified as the national week followed by about two months of Martial Law Regime.’67 Giani Kartar Singh, later a prominent Akali leader, was at Amritsar in those days as a student. He recalled that the news of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre spread throughout the province. His grandfather came to Amritsar to take him back to his village, Chak No. 40 in Lyallpur district. Tickets could be bought only on verification of a military officer. Giani Kartar Singh’s uncle, who was in the army, got a note attested by General Dyer. When the train moved they discovered that it was going to Lahore. They found the main station in Lahore city cordoned off by British soldiers. Not allowed to enter they went to a shop on the road, took charpoys, and slept in the bāzār. ‘The British soldiers had the authority to shoot at sight. We passed the night clinging closely to our beds without ever lifting our heads.’ In the morning the only conveyance they could get was a tonga which took them to Sheikhupura in the evening. After an overnight stay in the town they followed the track which his grandfather had followed for the first time from his village Nagoke in Amritsar district to the Chenab Colony. Travelling 40 miles on foot, they reached Shahkot and resumed the journey on the day following. There were ‘very few people on the roads, but whoever we met was seething with anger against the English’. On the way, they heard that the village Wadda Khiala was attacked by the British soldiers because a zaildār had been murdered there. The Deputy Commissioner was determined to scorch the whole village but he was dissuaded; he arrested nearly a score of villagers.68

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs Jathedar Kartar Singh Jhabbar, another prominent Akali, had a different story to tell. Till April 1919 his preoccupation was propagation of Sikh faith and education. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre was in the newspapers on 14 April. On 15 April the young men of village Chuharkana near Nankana Sahib took to arson and plunder of Government property. At midnight came a train from Lahore with British soldiers and they started firing indiscriminately. Some people were killed and some wounded. Arrests of all sorts of people followed. Jhabbar spent the night away from his village. Soon he came to know that warrants for his arrest had been issued and his property was confiscated. On the day (p.55) following he presented himself before Sardar Amar Singh, the magistrate of the ‘ilaqā. Thirty of the persons arrested were identified as ring leaders and sent to jail. Six of them were sentenced to death and seventeen others to life imprisonment with deportation. On 30 May 1919, Jhabbar was told that his sentence to death was commuted to deportation for life. He was sent to the Andamans. There he met some of the Ghadarites and other revolutionaries. In March 1920 came the news of amnesty and Jhabbar, along with many others, was released soon after. But he was not the same man any more. In less than a year he was transformed into a leader whose primary concern was politics.69 The first political party of the Sikhs, the Central Sikh League, was formed at Amritsar in 1919 on the initiative of some erstwhile leaders of the Chief Khalsa Diwan. Its first general session was held at Amritsar at the time of the Congress session in December 1919. Sardar Sant Singh, Chairman of the Reception Committee, said that ‘the new Sikh League was a triumph of the principle of democracy over the principle of favouritism which was followed in the past’. In his presidential address Sardar Gajjan Singh expressed gratification over the ‘special representation’ for the Sikhs in the Act of 1919 but found it ‘inadequate’. A resolution of the Central Sikh League extended cooperation to the Government. Another resolution referred to the ‘atrocious and inhuman’ massacre at the Jallianwala Bagh and expected that the Government ‘would take immediate action to satisfy the public’. The League committed itself to the objective of self-government for India and demanded adequate representation of Sikhs in the services. Yet another resolution of the League expressed its strong conviction that the management and control of the gurdwaras should no longer be withheld from the community in the interest of these institutions and the Sikh Panth. The sore and long-standing grievance of the Sikhs was that the administration of the Golden Temple was still carried on by a nominee of the Government. The resolution emphasized that this ‘foremost seat of Sikh faith should be placed in the hands of the representative body of the Sikhs constituted on an elective basis and responsible for its actions to the Panth at large’. The League expressed its indignation over the discharge of certain Sikh soldiers for wearing kirpān and demanded that since the Government had already conceded the religious right of the Sikhs to wear kirpān, there should be no penalization. The Central Sikh League demanded a permanent settlement of land revenue in Page 23 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs place of the periodic assessments which were detrimental to the interests of the peasantry. The Government was also asked to adopt a more equitable system of water rates for irrigation.70 The Central Sikh League espoused the causes dear to the Sikh peasantry, the Singh Sabha reformers, and the Chief Khalsa Diwan, but unlike them the League stood for self-government (swarāj). Finally, we may take notice of the Sikh states which were a part of the Punjab, both geographically and politically. These states were unilaterally declared to be ‘protected’ by the British, which meant that they were under the political control of the British. They were given lenient but vague terms. With the passage of time, British control over them increased in several ways. The Political Agent, appointed by the Punjab Government first and then by the Central Government in consultation with the Punjab authorities, became increasingly influential in the states and his ‘advice’ was expected to be accepted by the ruler of the state concerned. In 1857–8, (p.56) the rulers of these states had generally supported the British and were rewarded with territories and titles. The rulers of Patiala, Nabha, and Jind were given some exceptional concessions. But before the end of the nineteenth century the paramount power had asserted itself effectively to integrate the states with British India in the spheres of defence, communications, currency, and even internal administration, particularly in the revenue and judicial departments. In the early twentieth century, while the states and their subjects were influenced by developments in the British Punjab, the rulers of the states simultaneously began to take interest in Sikh affairs of the British Punjab. Thus, a certain degree of mutuality was being established between the Sikhs of the British Punjab and the Sikhs of the princely states.71 On the whole, from the 1870s to 1919, a marked socio-political change had been experienced by almost all sections of the Sikhs, most of all by the emerging middle class to which Master Tara Singh belonged.

In Retrospect The political and economic strength of the Sikh aristocrats was radically reduced with the loss of power in 1849. Their jāgīrs were resumed or reduced and they were obliged to adjust themselves to the new situation. Most of them demonstrated their loyalty to the new rulers in 1857–8, began to serve them in various capacities, and came to be regarded as the ‘natural leaders’. The colonial rulers valued their collaboration. The Sikh soldiers lost their occupation when the army was disbanded on a large scale. But new Sikh soldiers began to be recruited cautiously before 1857 and increasingly after 1858. The colonial rulers insisted that the Sikh soldiers should preserve their Singh or Khalsa identity because the British linked it with soldierly qualities. In fact, the Khalsa were seen as the only category of true Sikhs. Only they were returned as Sikhs in the census reports till 1911. Although Sikh peasantry, which constituted the bulk of the Sikh community, suffered economically due to the rising tide of indebtedness in the late nineteenth century, their suffering was much less than Page 24 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs that of others. Emigration provided an avenue for better opportunities and employment to many a peasant. The most remarkable indicator of Sikh resurgence was the sheer increase in the number of Sikhs from less than two million in 1881 to nearly four million in 1921. Equally remarkable was increase in the proportion of the Khalsa among the Sikhs. The colonial rulers never trusted the Khalsa completely. On political considerations they strengthened their own control over the Darbar Sahib and the Akal Takht in spite of the legislation against any official association with the religious institutions of the people in British India. A new religious awakening among the Sikhs had emerged before 1849 in the form of the Nirankari and Nāmdhārī movements. The founders of both the movements regarded the Granth Sahib as the only authoritative scripture which inculcated the worship of one God in conjunction with the exclusion of idol worship, or any other non-Sikh form of worship. The Nirankaris in particular rejected all Brahmanical rites and ceremonies. Neither of the two movements needed initiation through the pahul of the double-edged sword, and both came to cherish a belief in a personal Guru. This carried the implication that the eighteenth-century doctrines of Guru-Panth and Guru-Granth did not have much significance for their followers. After the advent of colonial rule in the Punjab they did not take to new education or to any other important (p.57) institution. After 1857 Baba Ram Singh gave a new orientation to the Nāmdhārī movement. He introduced initiation through pahul of the double-edged sword, and the term Sant Khalsa for his followers. They were filled with ardent religious zeal and a strong feeling of hatred towards the British, with some political undertones. The Singh Sabha movement, which started in the 1870s, overshadowed the Nirankari and Nāmdhārī movements. What distinguished the Singh Sabha reformers from them was first of all their espousal of the eighteenth-century doctrines of Guru-Granth and Guru-Panth. Their emphasis on a distinct Sikh identity was a logical corollary to the eighteenth-century concept of the tīsar panth, the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh being distinct from both the Hindus and Muslims. Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha’s Ham Hindu Nahīn was meant essentially to clarify this position because some Hindu leaders had begun to assert that the Sikhs were ‘Hindu’. The Singh Sabhas, the Khalsa dīwāns, and other organizations set up by the Singh reformers were based on democratic principles. The major writers of the movement, Giani Ditt Singh, Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, and Bhai Vir Singh produced a wide range of literature. The Singh reformers made good use of the printing press to bring out newspapers, periodicals, and pamphlets. They welcomed Western education, science, and technology and evolved an Anglo-Sikh system of education which included instruction in the Sikh faith. They advocated the use of Punjabi in Gurmukhi script as the medium of school education and in public life. They defended the Sikh faith against attacks from the Christian missionaries, the Arya Samajists, and the Ahmadiyas, and provided their own exposition of Sikhism and Sikh Page 25 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs history. The Singh reformers wanted the affairs of the Darbar Sahib and the Akal Takht, and other historical gurdwaras, to be managed by their own representatives on behalf of the Sikh Panth. Resistance to British imperialism was a legacy of the Sikh wars of the 1840s. The millenarian hope of Baba Ram Singh and his followers about the return of Sikh Raj was a feeble reflection of this legacy. The anti-British feeling of the Sant Khalsa found expression in the attack on the cow-killing butchers for which a number of Kukas were hanged and a much larger number were blown from guns at Malerkotla in 1872. They came to be seen as martyrs to freedom. Their millenarian hopes did not survive long after the death of Baba Ram Singh in 1885, and the foundation of the Indian National Congress in the same year provided for them a forum with which they could align themselves. The Congress provided a forum for some other Sikhs too. However, their number was very small. The most eminent Sikh who figures prominently in the Congress during the late nineteenth century was Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia. He had little to do with the Singh Sabha movement. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Sardar Harbans Singh Atari took some interest in the agrarian agitation of 1907, and Tikka Ripudaman Singh showed some interest in the issue of Gurdwara Rakabganj. A large number of Sikhs took part in the Ghadar Movement, but the Sikh aristocrats associated with the Singh Sabha movement were opposed even to agitational politics. The politics of the Chief Khalsa Diwan was based on Sikh identity but confined to constitutional reform. The first political party of the Sikhs, the Central Sikh League, was formed at Amritsar on the initiative of some erstwhile leaders of the Chief Khalsa Diwan. Significantly, its first (p.58) general session was held at Amritsar at the time of the Congress session in December 1919. The League committed itself to the objective of self-government for India and condemned the ‘atrocious and inhuman’ massacre at the Jallianwala Bagh. Even more significant was a middleclass articulation of opposition to the pro-government attitude of the Chief Khalsa Diwan with regard to the Rakabganj gurdwara, the Komagata Maru, and the harsh punishment meted out to the Ghadarites. In reaction to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on 13 April 1919, the young men of Chuharkana near Nankana Sahib took to plunder and destruction of government property. Their leader, Kartar Singh Jhabbar, later to be valorized as an Akali, was sentenced to death. Subsequently, however, his sentence was commuted to deportation for life. He was sent to the Andamans but released on amnesty in early 1920. He was transformed into a leader whose primary concern, henceforth, was politics. The strongest collaborators of the British in the Punjab at the time were the rulers of Sikh princely states, with the most notable exception of Maharaja Ripudaman Singh of Nabha.

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs Notes:

(1.) Sukhdev Singh Sohal, The Making of the Middle Classes in the Punjab (1849–1947) (Jalandhar: ABS Publications, 2008), p. 13. (2.) J.S. Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab (The New Cambridge History of India, vol. II, part 3) [cited hereafter as The Sikhs of the Punjab] (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press India, 2014, reprint), p. 135. (3.) Quoted by Rajiv A. Kapur, Sikh Separatism: A Politics of Faith (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1987, second impression, paperback), p. 8. See also Richard G. Fox, Lions of the Punjab: Culture in the Making (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), p. 8. (4.) ‘Report on the Census’ (1855), reprinted in PPP 17, part 1 (April 1983): 179– 200 and tables. ‘Census of the Punjab, 1868 and of India, 1871–72’ (Extracts), PPP 8, part 2 (October 1974): 346–50. (5.) Lepel Griffin, Rajas of the Punjab (Patiala: Punjab Languages Department, 1970, reprint, first published in 1870). The changing fortunes of the former jāgīrdārs of the Punjab come out clearly from an analysis of Lepel Griffin’s The Panjab Chiefs, published in 1865, and its enlarged editions published in 1890, 1909, and 1940. See also J.S. Grewal and Harish C. Sharma, ‘Political Change and Social Adjustment: The Case of Sikh Aristocracy under Colonial Rule in the Punjab’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, Goa (1988): 377–82. Harish C. Sharma, ‘Political Change and Social Readjustment: Case of the Sandhanwalia Family’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, Dharwad (1988). (6.) A report of 1858 quoted by Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs, vol. II (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 114n.47. See also Major G.F. Macmunn, ‘The Martial Races of India’, PPP 3, part 1 (April 1970): 75–7; and Reginald Hodder, ‘The Sikhs and the Sikh Wars’, PPP 3, part 1 (April 1970): 86– 105. (7.) S.S. Thorburn, The Punjab in Peace and War (Patiala: Punjab Languages Department, 1970), p. 265. (8.) Fox, Lions of the Punjab, p. 73. (9.) Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, pp. 137–8. See also Joginder Singh, ‘The Sikh Community: Demography and Occupational Change 1881–1931’, in Five Punjabi Centuries: Polity, Economy, Society and Culture, c.1500–1990, ed. Indu Banga (New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 2000), pp. 271–95. (10.) James Douie, The Panjab, North-West Frontier Province and Kashmir (Delhi: Seema Publications, 1974, reprint), pp. 117–18.

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs (11.) Ian J. Kerr ‘The British and the Administration of the Golden Temple in 1859’, PPP 10, part 2 (October 1976): 306–2. (12.) Fox, Lions of the Punjab, p. 10. (13.) For the Nirankaris, John C.B. Webster, The Nirankari Sikhs (Delhi: Macmillan, 1979). Man Singh Nirankari, ‘The Nirankaris’, in The Singh Sabha and Other Socio-Religious Movements in the Punjab 1850–1925, ed. Ganda Singh (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1973), pp. 1–11. J.S. Grewal, ‘An Interpreter of the Early Sikh Tradition’, in Baba Dayal: Founder of the First Reform Movement Among the Sikhs, ed. J.S. Grewal (Chandigarh: Dr Man Singh Nirankari, 2003). Man Singh Nirankari and Dewan Singh (eds), Baba Dayal: Crusader of True Sikhism (Amritsar: Dr Man Singh Nirankari, 1997, second edition). (14.) An English version of this hukamnāmā is given by John C.B. Webster in his Nirankari Sikhs, Appendix G, pp. 83–99. (15.) For the number of Nirankaris, see Webster’s Nirankari Sikhs, pp. 15–16. (16.) Hira Singh Dard, Meriān Kujh Itihāsik Yādān (Jalandhar: Dhanpat Rai and Sons, 1960, second edition), pp. 17–35. (17.) Bhagat Lakshman Singh, Autobiography, ed. Ganda Singh (Calcutta: The Sikh Cultural Centre, 1965), pp. 3–6. Ganda Singh questions the importance given to the political aspect of the movement in ‘Was the Kuka (Nāmdhārī) Movement a Rebellion against the British Government?’, PPP 8, part 2 (October 1974): 325–41. (18.) For the Prem Sumārg, see J.S. Grewal, ‘A Theory of Sikh Social Order’, in Sikh Ideology, Polity and Social Order: From Guru Nanak to Maharaja Ranjit Singh (New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 2007), pp. 248–57. Also J.S. Grewal, ‘The Prem Sumarg: A Sant Khalsa Vision of the Sikh Panth’, in The Sikhs: Ideology, Institutions and Identity (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 158–85. (19.) For the letters of Baba Ram Singh, see Ganda Singh (ed.), Kukian di Vithia (Patiala: Punjabi University, [1944] 2000). (20.) Nahar Singh and Kirpal Singh (eds), Rebels against the British Rule: Guru Ram Singh and the Kuka Sikhs (New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 1995), pp. 59–60. (21.) Ganda Singh, Kukian di Vithia, Bhai Ram Singh’s letters to his brother at Bhaini.

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs (22.) Nahar Singh (ed.), Gooroo Ram Singh and the Kuka Sikhs (New Delhi, 1965). For more information, see Jaswinder Singh, Kuka Movement: Freedom Struggle in Punjab (Documents, 1880–1903 AD) (New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 1985). Ganda Singh (ed.), Maharaja Duleep Singh’s Correspondence (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1977). (23.) Teja Singh, The Gurdwara Reform Movement and the Sikh Awakening (Jullundur City: Desh Sewak Book Agency, 1922), pp. 41–2. (24.) The political aspect of Baba Ram Singh’s Sant Khalsa, which has been emphasized more than the religious aspect in recent historical literature, would be taken up later. (25.) For the Singh Sabha movement, see Harbans Singh, ‘Origins of the Singh Sabha’, in The Singh Sabha and Other Socio-Religious Movements in the Punjab 1850–1925, pp. 21–30. Teja Singh, ‘The Singh Sabha Movement’, in The Singh Sabha and Other Socio-Religious Movements in the Punjab 1850–1925, pp. 31– 44. Gurdarshan Singh, ‘Origin and Development of Singh Sabha Movement: Constitutional Aspects’, in The Singh Sabha and Other Socio-Religious Movements in the Punjab 1850–1925, pp. 45–58. Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, pp. 144–50. (26.) Anon., ‘Bhai Jawahar Singh—Arya Samaj—Singh Sabha’, in The Singh Sabha and Other Socio-Religious Movements in the Punjab 1850–1925, pp. 92–5. (27.) For an analysis of Bhai Kahn Singh’s work, see J.S. Grewal, ‘An Argument for Sikh Nationality: Nabha’s Ham Hindu Nahin’, in History, Literature and Identity: Four Centuries of Sikh Tradition (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2012, second impression), pp. 275–97. (28.) Pritam Singh, Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha: Pichhokaṛ, Rachnā te Mulankan (Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev University, 1989). (29.) N. Gerald Barrier, The Sikhs and their Literature (Delhi: Manohar Book Service, 1970). (30.) Harbans Singh, Bhai Vir Singh (New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1984, second edition, paperback). (31.) The entries in Barrier’s The Sikhs and Their Literature contain ample evidence of the concerns, ideas, and attitudes of the Sikhs in the early decades of the twentieth century. See also Joginder Singh, ‘Resurgence in Sikh Journalism’, Journal of Regional History, vol. III (I982): 99–116. Satpal Kaur, ‘Journalism in the Punjab and the Khalsa Samachar (1899–1919)’, M.Phil. Dissertation (Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev University, 1985).

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs (32.) For the emergence of these doctrines, J.S. Grewal, ‘The Doctrines of Guru Panth and Guru Granth’, in Sikh Ideology, Polity and Social Order: From Guru Nanak to Maharaja Ranjit Singh (New Delhi: Manohar, 2007), pp. 223–38. (33.) Anon., ‘Chief Khalsa Diwan: Fifty Years of Service (1902–1951)’, in The Singh Sabha and Other Socio-Religious Movements in the Punjab 1850–1925, pp. 59–68. See also Ganda Singh, ‘Sikh Educational Conference’, in The Singh Sabha and Other Socio-Religious Movements in the Punjab 1850–1925, pp. 69– 77. (34.) Harbans Singh, Bhai Vir Singh, pp. 42–67. (35.) Ganda Singh, A History of the Khalsa College Amritsar (Amritsar, 1949). See also Teja Singh, ‘Khalsa College Amritsar’, in The Singh Sabha and Other Socio-Religious Movements in the Punjab 1850–1925, pp. 78–85. (36.) Sardul Singh Caveeshar, ‘The Sikh Kanya Mahavidyala’, in The Singh Sabha and Other Socio-Religious Movements in the Punjab 1850–1925, ed. Ganda Singh, pp. 99–112. (37.) Paul R. Brass, Language, Religion and Politics in North India (London: Cambridge University Press, 1974), pp. 277–309. (38.) Lakhshman Singh, Autobiography, p. 102. (39.) Lakhshman Singh, Autobiography, pp. 15–18. (40.) Lakhshman Singh, Autobiography, pp. 39, 58–9, 89–91. (41.) Lakhshman Singh, Autobiography, pp. 103–9. (42.) For the Hindu Family Relief Fund, see Ruchi Ram Sahni, Memoirs of Ruchi Ram Sahni, eds Narender K. Sehgal and Subodh Mahanty (New Delhi: Vigyan Prasar, 1997, second edition, paperback), pp. 106–8. (43.) Lakshman Singh, Autobiography, pp. 31–4, 100–1, 130–3. (44.) Lakshman Singh, Autobiography, pp. 133–8. (45.) Lakshman Singh, Autobiography, pp. 154–68. See also Ganda Singh, ‘The Origin of the Hindu–Sikh Tension in the Panjab’, PPP 11, part 2 (October 1977): 325–9. Kenneth W. Jones, ‘Ham Hindu Nahin: The Arya–Sikh Relations 1877– 1905’, PPP 11, part 2 (October 1977): 330–55. (46.) J.S. Grewal, ‘Cultural Reorientation in India under Colonial Rule’, in Cultural Reorientation in Modern India, eds. Indu Banga and Jaidev (Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1996), pp. 13–23.

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs (47.) Master Tara Singh, Dogrā Sājish ate Angrezān te Singhān dī Jang Zubānī Bābā Tegā Singh (Amritsar: SGPC, 1999, reprint). For an analysis of this work, see Appendix A.2. (48.) For detail, J.S. Grewal and Indu Banga, ‘The War of Resistance’, in The Ghadar Movement, eds J.S. Grewal, Harish K. Puri, and Indu Banga (Patiala: Punjabi University, 2013), pp. 3–15. (49.) Grewal and Banga, ‘The War of Liberation’, in The Ghadar Movement, pp. 15–24. (50.) Grewal and Banga, ‘Bhai Maharaj Singh’ and ‘Maharani Jind Kaur’, in The Ghadar Movement, pp. 24–38. See also M.L. Ahluwalia, ‘Bhai Maharaj Singh and His Role in the Freedom Struggle’, in Punjab and the Freedom Struggle, eds Parm Bakhshish Singh and Devinder Kumar Verma (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1998), pp. 51–62. (51.) Grewal and Banga, ‘Deconstructing Colonial Constructions of 1857 in Relation to the Punjab’, in The Ghadar Movement, pp. 40–52. (52.) S.K. Bajaj, ‘Role of the Sikhs in the Revolt of 1857 in Punjab’, Punjab and the Freedom Struggle, eds Parm Bakhshish Singh and Devinder Kumar Verma, pp. 77–84. (53.) For emphasis on the political aspect of the Kuka movement, Fauja Singh, Kuka Movement: An Important Phase in Punjab’s Role in India’s Struggle for Freedom (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1965). See also Grewal and Banga, ‘The Kuka Movement’, in The Ghadar Movement, pp. 55–66. (54.) Grewal, Puri, and Banga (eds), The Ghadar Movement, pp. 67–78. (55.) Pattabhi Sitaramayya, A History of the Indian National Congress, vol. I (1885–1935) (Bombay: Padma Publications, n.d.), p. 61. (56.) Jeffrey Perrill, ‘Dyal Singh Majithia’, in The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, vol. I, ed. Harbans Singh (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1992), pp. 606–7. (57.) Lakshman Singh, Autobiography, pp. 153–4. (58.) Sahni, Memoirs, p. 79. (59.) Lakshman Singh, Autobiography, p. 128. (60.) For the Anand Marriage Act, see Gurdev Singh Deol, Sardar Sundar Singh Majithia: Life, Work and Mission (Amritsar: Khalsa College, 1992), pp. 81–97, Appendix B (pp. 171–7) and Appendix C (pp. 179–80). See also K.S. Talwar, ‘The Anand Marriage Act’, PPP 2, part 2 (October 1968): 400–10.

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs (61.) Harjot Singh, ‘From Gurdwara Rakabganj to the Viceregal Palace—A Study of Religious Protest’, PPP 14, part 1 (April 1980): 182–98. For accounts by contemporaries, Kirpal Singh Dardi, Akali Lehar dā Sanchālak Master Sundar Singh Lyallpurī (Jīwaṇī) (n.p.: Shahid Uhdam Singh Prakashan, 1991), pp. 40–7. Hira Singh Dard, Meriān Kujh Ithihāsik Yādān, pp. 138–46. (62.) For politics of the Chief Khalsa Diwan, Surjit Singh Narang, ‘Chief Khalsa Diwan: An Analytical Study of its Perceptions’, in Political Dynamics of Punjab, eds Paul Wallace and Surendra Chopra (Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev University, 1981), pp. 67–81. See also D. Petrie, ‘Recent Developments in Sikh Politics’, PPP 4, part 2 (October 1970): 302–79. This comprehensive report was compiled in August 1911. (63.) Ruchi Ram Sahni, Struggle for Reform in Sikh Shrines, ed. Ganda Singh (Amritsar: SGPC, n.d.), pp. 45–7. (64.) It is interesting to note that in 1911 Sardar Jogendra Singh as the Home Minister of Patiala had expressed his opposition to separate electorates for giving rise to ill feelings between Hindus and Muslims. Kirpal Singh (ed.), Hardinge Papers Relating to Punjab (Patiala: Punjabi University, 2002), pp. 67–8. (65.) S.D. Pradhan, ‘Indian Army and the First World War’, in India and World War I, eds Devitt C. Ellinwood and S.D. Pradhan (New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1978), pp. 49–67. (66.) Pradhan, ‘The Sikh Soldier in the First World War’, in India and World War I, pp. 213–25. (67.) Sahni, Memoirs, p. 118. For judgment on the Lahore Conspiracy case during the Martial Law, see ‘The Judgment of Lahore Conspiracy Case, Decided by the General Summary Court Martial, Lahore on 5th July 1919’, PPP 15, part 2 (October 1981): 374–406. (68.) Harbans Singh, ‘Fragments from Giani Kartar Singh’s Memoirs’, in Giani Kartar Singh: A Commemorative Volume, ed. Jasdev Singh Sandhu (Patiala: S. Jasdev Singh Sandhu Foundation, 2001), pp. 25–6. (69.) Narain Singh, Jathedar Kartar Singh Jhabbar, [1959] 1967, pp. 34–56. (70.) Sukhmani Bal Riar, The Politics and History of the Central Sikh League 1919–1929 (Chandigarh: Unistar, 2006), pp. 15–22. (71.) A large volume of historical literature has been produced on the Indian States, including the Punjab states. We need not go into detail. A ccouple of works which are most relevant would be the following: for the growing concept of paramountcy and the changes in British attitudes towards the Indian Princely States, Ian Copland, The Princes of India in the Endgame of the Empire 1917– Page 32 of 33

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Colonial Rule and the Sikhs 1947 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); for a more comprehensive treatment of the subject, Barbara N. Ramusack, The Indian Princes and Their States (The New Cambridge History of India, vol. III, part 6) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh (1885–1919) J.S. Grewal

DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199467099.003.0004

Abstract and Keywords In the early 1890s, Master Tara Singh (Nanak Chand) was so impressed by the stories of Singh martyrs that he thought of becoming a Keshdhārī Singh. Initiated by Sant Attar Singh in 1901, Master Tara Singh decided to dedicate his life to the service of the Sikh Panth. After the government took over the management of Khalsa College, Amritsar, he began to participate in all antigovernment agitations. As Head Master of Khalsa High School, Lyallpur, he was closely associated with the group of Sikh leaders who were more radical than the Chief Khalsa Diwan. His sympathy with the ‘Canadian’ Sikhs, and his interest in the Komagata Maru voyage and the Budge Budge firing made him all the more anti-British. His familiarity with gurbāṇī, Sikh history, and Punjabi literature was reflected in his controversy with the Arya Samaj leaders. Keywords:   Master Tara Singh, Keshdhārī Singh, Sant Attar Singh, Sikh Panth, Khalsa College Amritsar, Chief Khalsa Diwan, Komagata Maru voyage, gurbāṇī, Sikh history, Arya Samaj

Master Tara Singh was thirty-five years old when politics became his full-time vocation. He spent about twelve years of his early life in his native village. Subsequently, for six years he lived mostly in the city of Rawalpindi, studying in a Christian missionary high school. For graduate studies he spent four years at Khalsa College in Amritsar and a year at the Central Training College in Lahore. He became the headmaster of Khalsa High School at Lyallpur in 1908 at the age of twenty-three. For about twelve years he headed three high schools. He also responded to the misconceptions and misrepresentations of Sikh religion and Page 1 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh history in the Arya periodicals. During these thirty-five years Master Tara Singh imbibed the spirit of the Singh Sabha movement, developed an interest in journalism, and came to have an acute political awareness.

Childhood and School Education ‘Master Tara Singh’s life was shaped by the unseen forces of the times,’ says his younger brother, Niranjan Singh. Tara Singh’s birth in a poor family of an obscure village, his initiation into the Khalsa faith, and his education at Khalsa College, Amritsar, appeared to be the result of propulsion by an unknown power. Nevertheless, Niranjan Singh tries consciously to place Master Tara Singh in the changing historical situations of his life.1 Born on 24 June 1885 in Harial, a village in Tehsil Gujjar Khan, the only plain area in the Rawalpindi district, Master Tara Singh was initially named Nanak Chand. Harial was a village of ‘Harial’ Brahmans, not far from Mandra station on the North-Western Railway from Lahore to Rawalpindi. Nanak Chand’s father’s great-grandfather, a Malhotra Khatri, (p.63) had settled there, and his descendants after four generations consisted of about fifteen families who lived in separate houses in a small muhallā of the village. Though they were Sikhs of Guru Nanak, their way of life was no different from that of the Hindus. There were two dharamsāls in the village on opposite sides of a small gorge: one was that of the Brahmans and the other of the Khatris. Guru Granth Sahib was installed in both the dharamsāls, to be looked after by two granthīs called ‘Bhais’. All the residents of the village thought of themselves as ‘Hindus’, though they followed the practices of ‘Sahajdhārī Sikhs’.2 The term ‘Sikh’ was reserved for the Keshdhārī Singhs of Guru Gobind Singh. Nanak Chand’s father, Gopi Chand, was a patwari, known as Bakhshi. So respected was he for his staunch commitment to truthfulness that the people would have accepted his arbitration even in a dispute involving his own brother. Nanak Chand’s mother, Mulan Devi, was a Sehgal Khatri. She had learnt the Japujī, the Kīrtan Sohilā, and some other shabads from Bhai Arjan Singh, the dharamsāliā of the Khatris, who was the only ‘Sikh’ in the village. He used to teach Mulan Devi one line of gurbāṇī on his daily round to collect food from the village households for the dharamsāl. Apart from keeping the house clean and washing clothes when necessary, she used to work daily at the grindstone and the spinning wheel. Nanak Chand had one sister and three brothers; their names were chosen from the Granth Sāhib.3 The first thing that stood out in Master Tara Singh’s memory of his childhood was a small incident. His mother had stopped breastfeeding; she used to feel annoyed whenever he sat in her lap for suckling. One day she said, ‘Stop it you old ox.’ This taunt resulted in a strong dislike for milk that lasted throughout Master Tara Singh’s life. Another thing that he remembered was that his father’s widowed sister used to tell him stories of Hindu gods and goddesses. At the Page 2 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh same time she used to talk about God (Vāhegurū) who had no form, no colour, no eyes, no nose, no ears, no arms, no head, and no legs and yet he saw, heard, and knew everything, remaining unseen. All this was confirmed by his mother. His father’s sister told him further that one could meet God by reciting ‘Vāhegurū, Vāhegurū all the time. She told the story of Dhanna Bhagat who had met God through a weighing stone. Nanak Chand brought home a piece of stone with a white line (supposed to be the sacred thread of the deity), and also thought of eating no food (until it was eaten by the deity in the piece of stone), but he did not do so for fear of his father. The Brahman and Khatri boys of Harial used to discuss whether devī (goddess) or Guru Nanak was greater. In view of their opposing assertions, Nanak Chand asked his mother and she said that Guru Nanak was greater.4 In 1892 Nanak Chand joined the primary school at Harnal, a village of ‘Harnal’ Brahmans, about two and a half kilometres from his village. Only ten or twelve boys of his village used to go to this school, which probably was a small school. Master Tara Singh refers to only one teacher, Munshi Kanayya Lal. He was a terror for the boys because of the harsh and callous way in which he treated them. Almost the whole day was spent in the school but the time actually spent in study was no more than two hours. The midday recess was the only time of relief when the boys ate rotīs with an onion and pickle or a piece of jaggery brought from home. The only refreshing element in the situation was the cool drinking water which the boys drank at the home of the village Numbardar (headman), Piara, on (p.64) their way home. Though Nanak Chand used to stand first in his class, the school remained a frightening place for him.5 What influenced Nanak Chand the most at this stage had nothing to do with his school. In the dharamsāl of Harial, Bhai Arjan Singh, the granthī, started kathā of the Panth Prakāsh. He used to read it, and what he read was explained by Bakhshi Meghraj Singh, an elder cousin of Nanak Chand’s father, who was the only ‘Sikh’ in the Khatri brotherhood of Harial. Nanak Chand used to repeat to his mother whatever he heard in the dharamsāl. He was much impressed and inspired by the stories of Sikh martyrs and valiant Sikh warriors. The idea of becoming a ‘Sikh’, a Keshdhārī Singh of Guru Gobind Singh, was planted in his mind.6 Jaswant Singh mentions that Bakhshi Gopi Chand and his brothers used to wash the feet of Brahmans at the time of shrādhs before offering them food. All members of the family would eat only after the Brahmans had been fed. Once Nanak Chand began to eat lūchīs and kaṛāh before the arrival of the Brahmans. His father’s sister complained to Bakhshi Gopi Chand. He told her to remain quiet and asked Nanak Chand not to do so openly. Nanak Chand, however, went on eating. ‘The Brahmans are not better than myself,’ he said. Similarly, Nanak Chand showed no respect to those who claimed to be ‘Gurus’. Baba Khem Singh Bedi used to go to Harial every year to stay in the dharamsāl of the Brahmans Page 3 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh who served him well. Nanak Chand used to sit in the dharamsāl of the Khatris, located right opposite to that of the Brahmans, to recite loudly for Baba Khem Singh to hear a verse of Guru Nanak to the effect that he who called himself Guru or Pir and went to beg deserved no homage; only he who worked hard to earn his livelihood and gave something to others could recognize the true path.7 After studying till class five at Harnal, in 1897 Nanak Chand joined the Mission High School at Rawalpindi and studied there for six years. Rawalpindi had gained importance as a town after 1765 when it was occupied by Sardar Milkha Singh. It was here that the Sikh army under Sardar Chattar Singh and Raja Sher Singh had finally laid down their arms on 14 March 1849 when a Sikh soldier was overheard saying: ‘Today Maharaja Ranjit Singh has died.’ The British added a cantonment in 1851, and a Christian mission was established at Rawalpindi in 1856. In 1879 the North-Western Railway was extended to the city, which increased its commercial importance. Its population around 1900 was about 87,000. More than half of its inhabitants lived in the city which had a separate municipality. As the headquarters of a district and a division, Rawalpindi had the courts of the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner, the treasury, and the jail, besides a circuit house, a civil hospital, the railway station, the telegraph office, and a church. There was also a distillery. There was a municipal garden, the garden of Rai Bahadur Sujan Singh, and the library of Sardar Hardit Singh. There was also the tank of Mai Veero. The Gordon Mission College had also come into existence.8 An Arya Samaj and a Singh Sabha had been established in competition with the Christian missions. There was, thus, a great change in the immediate environment for Nanak Chand. Nanak Chand’s elder brother, his cousin, and some of their friends used to live in rented rooms in the Sheranwali Saran in Rawalpindi. They used to go to the dharamsāl of Bhagat Jawala where the bhagat and some boys led the others in singing shabads. (p.65) On Sundays they used to go to the Singh Sabha which was rather new at that time. All this increased Nanak Chand’s interest in the Sikh faith. His father and eldest brother were opposed to his idea of initiation of the double-edged sword, though they regarded themselves as Sikhs. Once his mother said in some context, ‘We are sewaks of the Guru’s house.’ His father said angrily, ‘We are not sewaks, we are Sikhs.’ Nanak Chand stood first in the ‘junior special’ and returned to the village before joining the sixth class.9 The ‘junior special’ was presumably meant for learning English which was not taught in the Harnal primary school. In 1897–8 there was a good deal of debate and discussion among the protagonists of Christianity, the Arya Samaj, and the Singh Sabha. The Hindus were turning increasingly to the Arya Samaj and the Sikhs to the Singh Sabha. The Sanatan Dharmis were the losers in this war of words and they were becoming weaker and weaker. They were temporarily helped by ‘a flood of devīs’ in Rawalpindi. Most of them came from Kunjah in the Gujrat district. Parents of Page 4 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh certain young girls, or their guardians, took them from place to place and they were called devīs. It was believed that they could restore the tongues cut off by their devotees. Nanak Chand personally knew of ‘a pujārī friend’ who had cut off his tongue. He also saw a devī on the roof of the Sheranwali Saran where a huge crowd had gathered to see her. On the day following when he went to the school he found that only a Sanatanist teacher was defending the devī whereas all the others, including Christians, Arya Samajists, and Singh Sabhaites, were denouncing her as a fraud. There were rumours in the city that a devī had restored the tongue of ‘our pujārī friend’, and another that Lala Bishambar Das, a rich magnate of the city, who was lying on his deathbed, donated Rs 500 to a devī who restored him to health. Nanak Chand was much impressed by the devīs. Later on he learnt that Lala Bishambar Das had died, and the pujārī was still without his tongue. Nanak Chand was finally disillusioned. The Deputy Commissioner of Peshawar sent a devī and her two guardians into police custody and this put an end to the devī phenomenon.10 Though the school in Rawalpindi was a Christian institution, its headmaster was a Sikh, Master Bishan Singh. The teacher of the Bible appeared to Nanak Chand to be highly incompetent, and the boys used to tease him. One day he distributed the Gospel of Luke in Urdu, but the one he used to teach was the Gospel of Mathews. There were differences of detail between the two, and the boys began to say that the Bible was a false scripture. The teacher went to the headmaster to complain. Master Bishan Singh came into the class and saw papers scattered all over the floor. The boys had torn copies of the Gospel given to them, and they were all punished, except Nanak Chand: he had given his copy to a fellow student in another section of the class. Nanak Chand used to stand first in all the subjects in all the house examinations of the middle school. In 1901, in the final examination of class eight, which was conducted by the University, he stood first in the whole district and got a scholarship.11 In class nine, Nanak Chand was left alone in Rawalpindi because his elder brother, who had accepted a job, was transferred from Rawalpindi. Nanak Chand began to live in the Khalsa Boarding House. All the other boys were Sikh, and they used to go to the Singh Sabha. Nanak Chand used to go with them. The superintendent of the boarding house was Bhai Ram Rakha Singh who later became head clerk in Khalsa College, Amritsar. Jodh (p.66) Singh, who later became the principal of the College, was a resident of the boarding house, but not as a student. He was employed in some job and he was older than all the other boys. Both Ram Rakha Singh and Jodh Singh tried to persuade Nanak Chand to become a ‘Sikh’. As a result he was inclined to be initiated as a Singh.12 In Merī Yād (My Recollection) Master Tara Singh recalls that he had gone to his village (in 1901) and when he was to return to Rawalpindi he was accompanied by eight or ten other boys of the village who intended to go to Dera Khalsa Page 5 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh where Sant Attar Singh was staying at that time. When they all came to Mandra station, where Nanak Chand was to part with them, they persuaded him to go with them. Instead of boarding the train he went to Dera Khalsa. There they thought of taking amrit. All of them, except Nanak Chand, his elder brother, and their cousin, were already keshdhārī. All of them received amrit from Sant Attar Singh. Nanak Chand was given the new name Tara Singh. Ganga Ram, his eldest brother, was angry with him but he never wanted Tara Singh to discard his new form. In fact, he himself was initiated later to become Ganga Singh. Master Tara Singh says that this was the second important event in his life that changed his worldview. The first was the kathā of the Panth Parkāsh.13 Durlab Singh refers to Sant Attar Singh as ‘perhaps the greatest Sikh saint and the most selfless Sikh missionary’ of the twentieth century.14 Sant Attar Singh was a protagonist of Sikh resurgence. Born in 1866 in Cheema village of the Patiala State, he had joined an artillery unit of the Indian army in 1883 but was transferred to an infantry battalion. He took pahul and received the basic instruction in the Khalsa rahit. In 1888 his battalion was transferred from Kohat to Dera Ghazi Khan. Without taking leave, he went to Abchal Nagar (Nander) for pilgrimage. When he learnt that he was being treated as an abscondee, he returned to Abbotabad and met the Colonel of the battalion. He was detained in the quarter-guard but the Colonel soon became convinced that his spiritual quest was genuine and relieved him from service. He stayed at several places in the Sindh Sagar Doab, perfecting his religious life. People began to recognize him as a spiritual person. He started preaching in the Pothohar area, administering amrit. Bhai Jodh Singh had taken pahul from him in Kahuta. Around 1,900 the Sant visited Amritsar and performed kīrtan at the Harmandar Sahib. When he returned to the Rawalpindi area he stayed at Dera Khalsa, close to Harial, and people of Pothohar flocked to him.15 In an issue of the Akālī Patrikā on Sant Attar Singh, Master Tara Singh recalled that at the time of his initiation at Dera Khalsa the Sant was a tall handsome figure about thirty years old. He used to recite shabads in a loud melodious voice. Having seen Sant Ji, Nanak Chand decided to take amrit from him. He was given the name Tara Singh, a new star to shine in the world. ‘The great change in my life,’ says Master Tara Singh, ‘came on meeting Sant Attar Singh Ji Maharaj’. Harbouring special affection for Sant Ji, he came into close contact with him in later life and met him many a time to stay with him for days. He discovered that Sant Attar Singh was completely free from the five adversaries of man: kām, krodh, lobh, moh, and hankār. This was the only criterion for a worldly person to assess a sant. Master Tara Singh discussed political matters too with Sant Attar Singh and found that he had intense love for the Sikh faith and the Sikh Panth.16

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh (p.67) A moral injunction given by Sant Attar Singh to Tara Singh at the time of his initiation was reinforced by two books which he received in prize at the Missionary School: Character by Dr Smile and The Student’s Manual by Dr Todd. The thrust of these books was against sensual pleasures. Master Tara Singh goes on to add that earlier he had a wrong impression that the English people did not uphold high morals. He still thought that the lure of Western culture could lead young people into wrong paths. He appreciated the Singh Sabha movement for putting a stop to the performance of dance by professional female dancers.17 Unlike the Singh Sabha, the Arya Samaj in Rawalpindi was very influential. Swami Dayananad had held a debate in Rawalpindi and subjected the local Sanatanist purohit to much ridicule. Pandit Lekh Ram was an active member of the Samaj, and he was ‘out and out anti-Muslim’, resorting to invectives when he lectured on Islam or its prophet. Bhagat Lakshman Singh, who knew Pandit Lekh Ram, was not surprised when he heard years later that he met a violent end at the hands of a Muslim in Lahore. Another active member of the Rawalpindi Arya Samaj was Lala Hans Raj who was a cultured man and respected even by Muslims. He was respectful towards the Granth Sahib.18 Tara Singh used to debate frequently with the young Aryas. Always active in games and sports, Tara Singh became very fond of football at the High School. In fact, he became ‘famous’ as a football player. A football match in those days was a kind of battle, and he was indifferent to injuries received or inflicted. His body was hard and he came to be called wattā (a weighing stone). Much of his time was taken up by sports. He did reasonably well in his matriculation examination but not so well as to get a scholarship.19

At Amritsar for Graduation Tara Singh was keen to attend college. His brothers wanted him to join the Medical College at Lahore. A few friends of his brother were already studying there. The principal of the college, Brown Sahib, was favourably inclined towards the Sikhs. But Tara Singh did not join the crowd of candidates who rushed into the college gallery to occupy the front seats. In fact, he was not keen to get admitted. Principal Brown selected candidates just by looking at them. He selected several Sikh boys quite deliberately, but Tara Singh was not conspicuous enough to attract his notice because of his short stature.20 Tara Singh’s father had died in 1901. His eldest brother, Ganga Singh, was working as an accountant, earning Rs 30 a month. Younger to him was Sant Singh who was keeping a small shop in Harial. The family owned a small piece of land which was given on batāī to receive some grain for home consumption. Both the elder brothers were married. Their only sister, who was elder to them, had also been married. Apart from their mother, there were two widowed aunts in the family. The two younger brothers, Tara Singh and Niranjan Singh, were studying. Ganga Singh had to shoulder almost the entire burden of the Page 7 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh household. He was nonetheless keen that Tara Singh should go to a college for further studies. In this situation Bhai Ram Rakha Singh and Bhai Jodh Singh came to Tara Singh’s help. On their recommendation to their patron, Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia, Tara Singh got admission into the Khalsa College, Amritsar, and he was given a scholarship of Rs 8 a month.21 (p.68) The Khalsa College was in its early phase when Tara Singh joined it in 1903. Its foundation stone had been laid on 5 March 1892 by Sir James Broadwood Lyall, Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab. Its management was entrusted to a council of over a hundred members with an Executive Committee of thirty. Early in April, Dr William H. Rattigan became President of the council and Sardar Attar Singh of Bhadaur was made its Vice-President. Bhai Jawahar Singh Kapur was elected Secretary of the council. School classes were started in 1893 and college classes in 1897. A Religious Instructions Committee was appointed in 1899. There were only four buildings in the college premises in 1903: the gurdwara, the principal’s house, a college hostel, and a school hostel. The college and school classes were held in the dormitories of the college hostel. The total strength of teachers was twenty-four, and only five of them were graduates. Sir Charles Montgomery Rivaz, the Lieutenant Governor, visited the college in April 1903, expressed his wish to raise the Khalsa College to the enviable status of the Aitchison College at Lahore, and emphasized the desirability of speedy construction of its main building.22 Sir Lewis Tupper, Vice Chancellor of the Punjab University, was favourably impressed by the college during his visit in March 1904 for two reasons: games were compulsory, and all Sikh students had to attend daily service in the gurdwara. An All-India Sikh Conference was held in the college on the day of Baisakhi in 1904. The President for the morning darbār, in which more than 10,000 people were present, was Maharaja Hira Singh of Nabha. He was accompanied by the crown prince, Tikka Ripudaman Singh. A printed appeal emphasized the urgent need of money for the main building, additional teachers, introduction of classes in agriculture, engineering, and drawing, and the programme of military training. Bhai Kahn Singh, the former tutor of Tikka Ripudaman Singh and a trusted official of Nabha, addressed the audience on behalf of the Maharaja. He referred to Lord Curzon’s hope expressed at Sangrur in November 1903 that the Sikh states and principal members of the Sikh community would support the excellent institution of the Khalsa College with money to ensure ‘the future prospects of the Sikh race’. Bhai Kahn Singh said that if the Sikhs wanted their nation to become educated, civilized, and enlightened, their only option was to contribute generously towards the funds of the college. The total amount of contributions announced by the Sikh states and a few eminent Sikhs was more than 16 lakhs (1 lakh equals 100,000).23

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh Sir Charles Rivaz gave away prizes in the second session and exhorted the whole community to support the institution. He also announced a grant of Rs 50,000 to the building fund. Later in the year he laid the foundation-stone of the main building, and admired the architectural design for its beauty. He congratulated Sardar Ram Singh, Vice-Principal of the Mayo School of Arts, Lahore, for his artistic skill and labour of love in producing such a marvellous design worthy of the great Sikh institution.24 The construction of the college building was supervised by Sardar Dharam Singh who had willingly responded to the request of the Managing Committee and offered to serve in an honorary capacity. In 1905 Sardar Niranjan Singh Mehta joined the college as second Professor of English. He was the person who was later initiated by Sant Attar Singh and renamed Teja Singh, and who eventually came to be known as Sant Teja Singh. Bhai Jodh Singh was appointed as the (p.69) first Professor of Divinity on 1 June 1905. The Prince of Wales visited the college towards the end of the year.25 Inspired by the ideals of the Lahore Singh Sabha and patronized by the watchful British bureaucracy, the college was developing into a good institution of the Sikhs. In 1906, however, Major John Hill, a member of the Managing Committee, ridiculed the ideal of service, with reference to the honorary services of Sardar Dharam Singh, mentioning that ‘labour of love’ was ‘nonsense’. This was resented by the Sikh members, and eventually it produced a commotion among the students. The bureaucracy viewed it as a sign of disaffection and thought of keeping the young Sikhs away from politics. In January 1907 Charles Rivaz came to the college apparently to inspect the building under construction. A meeting of the Managing Committee was held on the same day at which the President, Justice Rattigan, stated that the Lieutenant Governor wanted a thoroughly competent engineer to supervise the work. The President proposed to dispense with the services of Sardar Dharam Singh, and the resolution was seconded by Major Hill. This was resented by the teachers and students of the college. The students agitated when a European engineer replaced Sardar Dharam Singh. The Government was obliged to find a Sikh substitute.26 An inspection committee appointed by the Punjab University pointed out that the Managing Committee of the college had no legal standing in the light of the Universities Act passed by Lord Curzon. Sir Louis Dane, the new Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab, appointed a committee for advice on the revision of the fundamental rules of the college. The draft rules prepared by the committee were approved by the Government in May 1908, and eventually adopted by the Executive Committee with minor modifications. According to the new Constitution, the council consisted of fifty-eight members. Five of these were to be nominated by the Government and twenty-five by the Sikh states; twenty-six were to be selected from the British districts of the Punjab, and two were to be elected by Sikh graduates of three years’ standing. The Managing Committee consisted of seventeen members, with the Commissioner of Lahore Division as Page 9 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh its President, and the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar as its Vice-President. When the college came under the control of the bureaucracy, the threat of disaffiliation disappeared. Sir Louis Dane visited the college in 1908, and Lord Minto in 1909.27 Evidently, the Punjab Government was anxious to keep under its control this growing educational institution of the Sikhs, just like what they had done with the religious institutions. Tara Singh used to stand first it the college in the quarterly tests in religious studies and got a scholarship. He also stood first in his class in the Faculty of Arts examination and got scholarship from the college but he did not get any position in the university. He used to play football and hockey. The hockey team of the college was more successful in university tournaments. Therefore, Tara Singh was better known as a hockey player. The game was rather rough in those days, and Tara Singh played aggressively. He came to be known as ‘stone’ (paththar). This was an independent confirmation of his reputation in Rawalpindi where he was known as wattā.28 In 1904 Tara Singh married the daughter of Sardar Mangat Singh of the village Dhamial near Rawalpindi. All the members of the marriage party were monās with the exception of Ganga Singh, the elder brother of Tara Singh. On the bride’s side, however, (p.70) everyone was a Keshdhārī Singh. At the time of anand kāraj, Tara Singh asked whether or not the bride had been initiated. She was not. Tara Singh now insisted that she must take amrit before the marriage ceremony. Many people tried to impress upon him that she would take amrit on the day following, but he remained adamant. At last the bride’s father sent someone to Rawalpindi to bring five ‘Singhs’ from the Singh Sabha. The panjpiārās came and administered pahul to the bride, and only then was the marriage ceremony by the Sikh rite performed.29 She was given the new name of Tej Kaur. In Rawalpindi, after his initiation into the Khalsa order, Tara Singh used to recite the five prescribed bāṇīs every day before breakfast. His enthusiasm was strengthened in a way by the presence of the Arya Samajist boys in the school with whom he used to have engaging discussions. Even outside the school he would be involved in one or another kind of religious debate. In Khalsa College at Amritsar he continued his daily routine (nitnem) of the recitation of five bāṇīs for several months. Most of the students, however, did not recite any bāṇī. Participation in the Rahirās in the evening was compulsory for all students, and they used to recite ‘the ten savvayyās’ together. Tara Singh was foremost in the sports and, therefore, came to be regarded as the leader of other students. In the beginning he used to go to the gurdwara every day and would persuade others to do the same. Gradually, however, he was affected by the situation around him. The players in particular used to miss attendance at the gurdwara without being marked absent. The main reason for Tara Singh’s indifference to

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh daily religious routine was his love of sports. This did not mean, however, that his faith in Sikhism had weakened.30 In those days, recalls Master Tara Singh, the Arya Samaj and the Singh Sabha were suspect in the eyes of the Government. The Aryas were supposed to be more firm in their opposition to the Government, but now they tried to project themselves as loyalists. In the meetings of the Singh Sabhas too, loyalty used to be expressed in explicit terms. In his early life Nanak Chand had heard from his father such praises of ‘General Nicholson’ (who had created the ‘Moving Column’ during the 1857 Rebellion, famous for its marches and reaching the right spot at the right time ) that he had come to see the English in a favourable light. Till 1906 the students generally used to be in favour of the British rulers, but events took such a turn in 1906–7 that the attitude of a large number of people towards the British changed radically from admiration to denunciation, and even opposition. Master Tara Singh goes on to say that towards the end of 1906 and at the beginning of 1907 began a great agitation against the partition of Bengal. There was a great emphasis on boycott of foreign goods and on swadeshī. He remembered that many students of Government College, Lahore, had broken their electric lamps and had begun to study in the light of earthen lamps.31 Master Tara Singh refers to two important events in connection with the agitation of 1907. He mentions the new laws proposed for the lower Rachna Doab, imposing several kinds of restrictions on the zamīndārs. The leaders of the agitation over the Bill were Ajit Singh and Lajpat Rai. They were both Arya Samajists but the agitation was started by Sikh and Muslim landholders. The Sikhs were generally supposed to be more aggressive and their participation in agitations was deemed to be important for success. During this agitation they were specially incited to (p.71) action. The Chief Khalsa Diwan leader Sardar Harbans Singh Atari joined the agitation. The Government deported Ajit Singh and Lajpat Rai. While the Arya Samaj passed a resolution declaring that Lajpat Rai was not an Arya Samajist, the Zamindara Committee of Lyallpur approached the Deputy Commissioner to express its loyalty to the Government. The agitation soon fizzled out.32 The other event of 1907 mentioned by Master Tara Singh was related to the growing bureaucratic interference in the affairs of Khalsa College, Amritsar. As mentioned before, the college engineer, Sardar Dharam Singh, was removed at the instance of a British member of the Managing Committee. The Chief Khalsa Diwan encouraged the students to protest. They started agitating and formed a committee for this purpose. Tara Singh was its president. This agitation got connected with both the Bar agitation and swadeshī. When Gopal Krishan Gokhale came to Amritsar in 1907 the boys of Khalsa College pulled his carriage in a huge procession.33

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh According to Bhagat Lakshman Singh, a few months after Gokhale’s visit, a special meeting of the Managing Committee was held to approve a revised constitution. In this draft, old glaring defects were retained, like the appointment of members for life without them having to pay any subscription. The names of men like Bhagat Lakshman Singh, who had opposed the Amritsar group, were actually omitted altogether. He was not over-anxious to continue as a member of the Management Committee because he had come to regard the Khalsa College ‘as a Government College minus Government discipline’. No member had a free hand and it was idle to think of doing any constructive work without the prior sanction of the Government. Bhagat Lakshman Singh was not happy with the virtual transfer of management from the Lahore leaders to the loyalist Chief Khalsa Diwan. He pointed out that there was no quorum and a meeting could not be held. But this proved to be a cry in the wilderness. In fact, he came to be seen as an opponent of the Government.34 Master Sunder Singh Lyallpuri says that he was provoked by Major Hill’s remark on Sardar Dharam Singh’s honorary service to write a pamphlet: Kī Khalsa College Sikhān dā Hai? (Does Khalsa College Belong to the Sikhs?) This pamphlet was distributed at the time of the Sikh Educational Conference at Lahore. The organizers of the conference complained to Khazan Singh Suri, ‘manager’ of the Khalsa High School, Lyallpur, who was present in the conference. Khazan Singh told Master Sunder Singh to stop the distribution. On returning to Lyallpur, Master Sunder Singh resigned from his position as a teacher in the school. In this pamphlet Master Sunder Singh refers to Ajit Singh’s Amānat Mein Khiānat (Betrayal of Trust) to suggest that the British had taken over the Khalsa College in trust but they would never return it, just as they had done with Maharaja Dalip Singh’s kingdom. Sunder Singh’s pamphlet was banned and a copy was sent by the Punjab Government to the Secretary of State for India.35 Master Tara Singh says that he left the college after the BA examination in April 1907, and there was no other influential leader among the students. The Government blamed the Chief Khalsa Diwan. The members from the Sikh states were under the influence of the Government. With their support, the whole constitution of the college was changed. Bhai Jodh Singh and another teacher were removed from service. In Master Tara Singh’s view, Bhai Jodh Singh did (p.72) encourage the students to agitate but not Master Narain Singh. He was merely a sympathizer. The Khalsa College came under full control of the Government which filled Tara Singh’s mind with anger: ‘From that day,’ he says, ‘I became an opponent of the Government and ever since I have participated with enthusiasm in all the anti-Government agitations.’36 Tara Singh’s stay at Khalsa College, Amritsar, had a lasting effect on his life.

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh An Educationist with Interest in Public Affairs As a form of reaction to the taking over of Khalsa College by the British administrators, Tara Singh joined the Training College at Lahore to qualify for teaching. Before the examination of the Senior Anglo-Vernacular Course for teachers, Tara Singh discussed with his class fellows Bishan Singh and Sunder Singh the idea of opening a Khalsa school. At that time there was a Khalsa school only in Gujranwala, apart from the one in Amritsar. The Arya Samajists had provided leadership to the Sikhs in the agitation of 1907 in the Lyallpur district, and they were thinking of opening a high school at Lyallpur. Tara Singh and his friends offered their teaching services for a year to the Bar Khalsa Diwan at Rs 15 a month if a high school was opened at Lyallpur. Their offer was accepted and Khalsa High School was started at Lyallpur in 1908. At that time, trained Sikh graduates were so few that Tara Singh was made its headmaster at the age of twenty-three.37 There were financial difficulties in running the school. Master Tara Singh used to collect funds from the villages of Lyallpur district during the vacations. Sardar Khazan Singh (Suri), Bar at Law, was Secretary of the management committee and he used to donate a fourth of his annual income to the school. When he left the school, the responsibility of collecting funds devolved upon three members of the school committee: Sardar Teja Singh Samundri, Sardar Bishan Singh of Singhpura, and Sardar Sunder Singh of Chak No. 213. Apart from these three, Jamadar Sadhu Singh, Babu Tripat Singh, Sardar Hari Singh, all hailing from Chak No. 41, and Sardar Harchand Singh of Chak No. 220 also took interest in collecting funds.38 Initially the school was started in a rented house. Sunder Singh says that he met Dev Dutt, who was running a boarding house with a large number of Sikh boys and persuaded him to hand over the building to him. The Khalsa High School was started in this building in 1908.39 Then Sardar Jawand Singh donated land for the school on the road from Lyallpur to Jaranwala, close to the Rakh Branch of the Lower Chenab canal. In a couple of years buildings were constructed. Every one worked in a spirit of service. In a few years Khalsa High School, Lyallpur, became one of the foremost schools in the Punjab. The school had good playing grounds. The gurdwara of the school was well attended and there was a good deal of interest in Sikh maryādā.40 This educational movement brought a small group of dedicated individuals together, with Master Tara Singh as an inspiring member if not actually the leader. His increasing influence made him suspect in the eyes of the local administrators. His role as a student leader in Khalsa College, Amritsar, and his attitude of independence were not appreciated by the officials. As Headmaster of the Khalsa High School, he never went to meet the Deputy Commissioner of

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh Lyallpur of his own accord. Consequently, no grant was given to the school by the Government.41 (p.73) During these years Master Tara Singh came to associate himself with Ajit Singh who had been released by the Government. The basis of their friendship was their common opposition to British rule. Ajit Singh’s hostility towards the British was well known. In his lecture at Rawalpindi in April 1907, which left a vivid impression on Hira Singh Dard (later to become a well-known journalist) and proved to be a turning point in his life, Ajit Singh had told the people present in a loud and clear voice to face the British imperial oppression with courage. ‘Today the peasants of the Bar are sought to be strangled by black legislation,’ he said, ‘and tomorrow it would be your turn to suffer a similar blow. If you want to put an end to your woes, you must unite as brothers, all Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, against the slavery of the British and come forward to free the country.’42 According to his colleague Sunder Singh, Master Tara Singh was associated with two other important ventures. One was the publication of Sachā Dhandorā in 1909–10 and then in 1914, a weekly which was anti-Government in its tone and content. It was edited for some time by a friend of Master Tara Singh. It is very probable that Master Tara Singh himself contributed articles to this weekly. The other was the ceremony of anand kāraj as a distinctly Sikh form of marriage. Lala Harkishan Lal Gauba approached Master Tara Singh and Sunder Singh with the request that he might be married according to the Sikh practice. They prepared a manual for the performance of marriage among the Sahajdhārī Sikhs. Hakishan Lal’s marriage was performed in accordance with this manual. Another interesting thing mentioned by Sunder Singh is that they used to go to the canal for picnics on Sundays and Master Tara Singh used to cook excellent mutton for the whole party.43 The activity that made Master Tara Singh a confirmed suspect in the eyes of the officials was his connection with the Canadian Sikhs: Bhai Balwant Singh, Bhai Narain Singh, and Bhai Nand Singh. They had gone to England to seek relief from the new restrictions on immigration to Canada. No one listened to this delegation in England. They came to the Punjab. A meeting was held in Amritsar under the chairmanship of Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia of the Chief Khalsa Diwan. When Bhai Balwant Singh gave expression to the grievances of the Sikhs in Canada, Majithia stopped him in his speech. Another meeting held in Lahore by the Congress had no effect either. No other meeting was held for a month. On Master Tara Singh’s suggestion, his friends brought the three deputationists to Lyallpur. Bhai Nand Singh was an old friend of Master Tara Singh from the Khalsa College days. But this was not the only or the primary reason for Master Tara Singh’s interest in the deputation. He knew that the Sikhs of Canada had been sending money to support Panthic institutions, and they had now appealed to the Sikhs of the Punjab for support. From Lyallpur, Master Tara Singh took Page 14 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh the deputationists to Rawalpindi, Gujjar Khan, and other places. With his support, meetings were held at several places and resolutions passed in support of the Canadian Sikhs.44 The treatment of Sikhs in Canada by its Government was the second factor after the episode of Khalsa College and the Bar agitation which, according to Master Tara Singh, alienated the Sikhs from the British. He goes into some detail. The years 1913 and 1914 were marked by important developments. In Canada, Bhai Parmanand and Lala Har Dayal were inciting the Sikhs to agitate against the British. Meanwhile, Baba Gurdit Singh (p.74) hired a Japanese ship called the Komagata Maru to carry the Sikhs directly from India to Canada for meeting the condition imposed by a new law of immigration. But the passengers were not allowed to disembark. The Sikhs in Canada protested. The Canadian Government worked out a settlement with Baba Gurdit Singh. The passengers of the Komagata Maru were given the expense of their travel and returned to Calcutta. On the voyage, the Sikhs protested wherever the ship stopped. It finally reached Budge Budge. The intention of the Government was to send all the Sikh passengers to the Punjab and not to allow them to stay in Calcutta. They were full of anger, and they had also been incited. They marched from Budge Budge towards the city of Calcutta. The police obliged them to return to the station. There was a clash and one police officer was killed. About thirty-five to forty Sikhs were also killed due to heavy firing by the police.45 Hira Singh Dard, who used to meet Master Tara Singh in these years, refers to the attitude of the Punjab Government towards the sympathizers of the Sikhs who suffered in the Komagata Maru affair. After having passed the Giani examination at Rawalpindi, Dard was teaching in the District Board School at Chak No. 73 (Jhabal-Bhakna). When he read about what had happened to the passengers of the Komagata Maru at Budge Budge he, as Secretary of Gurmat Parcharak Jatha, arranged an Akhand Pāṭh in Chak No. 41 to pray for eternal peace for the martyrs of Budge Budge. An ardās was performed at the end of this continuous recitation of Guru Granth Sahib. A few days later, the local thānedār came to the village and called Hira Singh to ask him why he had arranged an Akhand Pāṭh for ‘traitors’. Hira Singh Dard said that no crime had been proved against the people who had been shot dead, and he saw nothing wrong in what he had done. He was taken to Lyallpur and presented before the English Superintendent of Police who told Hira Singh that he was spreading sedition and, therefore, he was a rebel. Hira Singh maintained that he saw nothing wrong in praying for peace for the dead. He listened quietly to whatever the English officer had to say. Upon escorting him out of the office, the thānedār said that unless he apologized he would lose his job. Hira Singh refused to apologize because there was no crime in sympathizing with his Sikh brethren. He was allowed to go home. He resigned from the District Board School and went to the Khalsa High School at Kallar.46 Page 15 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh Master Tara Singh talks also about another ship, the Tosha Maru, which reached India with a large number of Sikhs from Canada. They tried to incite the Sikhs of the Punjab and the Sikh soldiers in the British Indian army to rise in revolt against the British. The Government came to know of their design. Many of the Sikhs were arrested. Some of the soldiers of the Meerut Cantonment were also arrested. They were all tried, and awarded capital punishment or deported. All this led to tension between the Sikhs and the British.47 The differences of the leaders of the Bar Khalsa Diwan with the Chief Khalsa Diwan became clear during the Rakabganj agitation. Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia, as the leader of the Sikhs, had given his consent to this project of dismantling the outer wall of the gurdwara to construct a road to the new Viceregal Lodge. The Government did not think it was necessary to consult any other Sikh or Sikh organization. Sardar Harchand Singh of Lyallpur and Bhai Randhir Singh started a movement against the demolition of the wall. The Khalsa weekly was started, and protest meetings were held. The Chief Khalsa Diwan (p.75) tried to dissuade Sardar Harchand Singh, but in vain. Master Sunder Singh refers to the ishtihār issued by Sardar Harchand Singh and gives an account of the meeting held opposite the Jullundur Railway Station, and also of the meeting held by the Chief Khalsa Diwan at Amritsar on 3 May 1914 in which Master Tara Singh was present.48 Soon, however, the World War started, and the Government declared that no further step would be taken with regard to the Rakabganj gurdwara during the war. The Deputy Commissioner of Lyallpur called Sardar Harchand Singh to apprise him of the official decision, and the issue was shelved. The Government rightly surmised that Harchand Singh was not alone; he was supported by Master Tara Singh and the whole Bar group. The official attitude towards Khalsa High School became more hostile. Master Tara Singh only mentions that he left Khalsa High School with the idea of going to England as a granthī of the gurdwara, but he could not go because the war had started. However, Niranjan Singh explains that Master Tara Singh had thought of going to London because the official hostility towards Khalsa High School, Lyallpur, was essentially due to his presence, and that was why he had decided to resign in July 1914.49 Before the end of 1914 Master Tara Singh became Headmaster of Khalsa High School at Kallar and stayed there for three years. Bhagat Lakshman Singh, a senior Singh Sabha reformer, had opened a Khalsa Anglo-Vernacular Middle School at Kallar in the late 1890s on the request of its Khatri residents. He had openly allied himself with the ‘enemies’ of Baba Gurbakhsh Singh Bedi, the eldest son of Baba Khem Singh Bedi. With his ‘unbounded influence and authority’ Baba Gurbakhsh Singh Bedi remained opposed to the Khatri Sikhs of Kallar.50 In the second decade of the twentieth century the Khalsa school at Kallar was a high school, but in difficulties. On request of the sangat of Kallar, Page 16 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh Sant Teja Singh had taken up its management to place it on a firm footing. He persuaded Baba Gurbakhsh Singh Bedi to join him for this purpose, and he agreed to become President of the Management Committee. But this was not acceptable to the other party. Located in an ordinary type of building taken on rent, the Khalsa High School was receiving no grant from the Government. The salaries of the teachers remained in arrears for months. In spite of all these difficulties, Master Tara Singh served the school as its headmaster with love and patience to become a source of inspiration for all other teachers.51 The Khalsa High School at Kallar had several teachers who became eminent later, like Giani Gurmukh Sikh Musafir, Master Sujan Singh Sarhali, Lal Singh Kamla Akali, and Hira Singh Dard, all inspired by the ideal of service, like Master Tara Singh. Hira Singh says that sometimes they would go out for picnic and Master Tara Singh would generally cook meat on such occasions. Hira Singh deliberately avoided picnics because he had stopped eating meat. Master Tara Singh knew that Hira Singh used to eat meat whenever he visited him at Lyallpur. Pressed by him, Hira Singh had to tell him that Bhai Randhir Singh had administered pahul to Hira Singh in 1914 and, in the name of the panj-piāras, ordered him not to eat meat. Master Tara Singh went to the gurdwara with all the teachers, opened the Granth Sahib for recitation, and after the ardās he said: ‘Listen Giani Hira Singh, we the panj-piārās, the veritable form of the Guru, order you in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib to eat meat because a Sikh who does not eat jhatkā meat is not a true Sikh.’ (p.76) Hira Singh Dard saw the logic of the situation and agreed to eat meat.52 The Bar group was keen that Master Tara Singh should be closer to them. They thought of setting him up as a commission agent (āṛhatiā). It was called ‘Bar Dukan’, a cooperative project with a number of share holders. In less than a year, however, it became clear that Master Tara Singh was not the man for such an enterprise. He was appointed headmaster of Khalsa High School at Chak No. 41. Giani Kartar Singh was a student in the school at this time. In 1920 Master Tara Singh came back to Khalsa High School, Lyallpur, after a gap of about six years.53 Master Tara Singh recalls that the Lucknow Pact of 1916 between the Indian National Congress and the All-India Muslim League became an indirect cause of tension between the Sikhs and the Government. No Sikh representative had been invited to participate in the deliberations and no Sikh was present. The understanding reached between the Congress and League leaders was that 50 per cent seats in the Punjab Legislature would be reserved for Muslims. There was no mention of Sikhs in the remaining 50 per cent. The Sikhs expected the Government to modify the formula in favour of the Sikhs because till that time the claims of the Sikhs had never been ignored. In fact, they expected to get a one-third share. Their expectation was heightened due to their support for the British in World War I. But they were ignored by the Government as well as the Page 17 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh Congress. A Sikh deputation to the Lieutenant Governor met the Home Member and one of them said that if the Government did not care for the Sikhs they would join the Congress. The Home Member said in reaction that they were free to join the Congress. A Sikh deputation to England proved to be ineffective. On the initiative of the Lieutenant Governor, however, 19 per cent seats were reserved for the Sikhs out of the half meant for Hindus and others. Moreover, additional seats were created for representatives of the university, commerce, and agriculture. Thus, the Muslim share was reduced to less than 50 per cent. The Sikhs, nevertheless, remained resentful.54 Master Tara Singh goes on to add that there was increasing discontent among the Sikhs before the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy and the imposition of Martial Law. The Sikhs suffered more than others in these events. Towards the end of 1919 the Sikh League was formed for the protection of Sikh rights by those Sikh leaders who were regarded as pro-Government earlier. The Sikhs were now turning to the Congress. The Congress session held at Amritsar towards the end of 1919 created great enthusiasm in the Punjab against the Government.55 It may be noted that the slant of Master Tara Singh’s narrative is to explain how the Sikhs gradually came into direct confrontation with the British. The Akali movement, which changed the whole pattern of Master Tara Singh’s life, was the culmination of this process.

Debate with the Arya Samajists In three articles written before 1920 Master Tara Singh reveals his deep concern for Sikh ideology and the Punjabi language, two of the major concerns of the Singh Sabha reformers. The first of these articles refers to the harsh words used about the Sikhs by Swami Dayanand and his followers in the Punjab. The Arya Samajists were now befriending the Hindus and speaking on their behalf. They were trying to create a cleavage between Hindus and Sikhs. In this context Bhagat Ishar Das’s efforts to promote (p.77) goodwill between the Sikhs and the Aryas did not convince the Sikhs of the genuineness of his efforts. The Hindu and the Arya press was blaming the Sikhs all the time as ‘separatists’.56 Bhagat Ishar Das was the eldest son of Bhagat Jawahar Mal, the acknowledged mentor of Baba Balak Singh, who was the founder of the Nāmdhārī movement. A cousin of Bhagat Lakhshman Singh, Bhagat Ishar Das was one of the distinguished leaders of the Arya Samaj, and the success of Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College, Lahore, was principally due to his lifelong labour.57 The Hindu press was trying hard in more ways than one to unite the Hindus as a single entity but the ways in which it was trying to bring the Sikhs into the Hindu fold were counterproductive. Master Tara Singh quotes three extracts from an article published in the Aryā Musāfir to show how its author was trying to make the Ganga flow from the sea towards the mountains, that is, trying to do the impossible. It was asserted by the writer that Guru Hargobind had done Page 18 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh nothing for the welfare of the Hindus. In fact, he became the cause of their suffering. It was contended that he paid no price for Kazi Rustam Khan’s horse; he misappropriated a royal hawk; and he sent Bidhi Chand to steal a horse from the royal stables. Above all, he took away the Kazi’s daughter from Lahore to Amritsar. It was also contended that Guru Gobind Singh fought bloody battles, abolished the varnashrama system of the Hindus, instructing his followers to discard the sacred thread. Moreover, his followers indulged in slaughter and plunder and, thereby, destroyed the country’s prosperity. ‘Was all this done for the sake of the Hindus and for the protection of Hindu dharma?’ The Aryā Musāfir was ‘prepared to prove that the Khalsa ji did not come into being for any religious or political welfare of the Hindus but only because of the feeling of revenge for his father’s death, and his own aspiration for political power’. Guru Gobind Singh would not have created the Khalsa, but for the execution of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, who had been executed for creating disorders in a Muslim state. Guru Hargobind, Guru Tegh Bahadur, and Guru Gobind Singh, thus, had nothing to do with the protection of Hindus or their dharma. Indeed, all such claims were false and fraudulent.58 Master Tara Singh points out that the Aryā Musāfir did not know Gurmukhi and relied on hearsay. He advises the Sikhs not to be upset by its arrogance and to continue to give support to the Hindus whenever needed, because selfless service was the ideal upheld by the Gurus. He advises the Hindus to read the book written by Daulat Ram on the life of Guru Gobind Singh. Passages are quoted from this work to show how wrong the Aryā Musāfir was. Daulat Ram had gone to the extent of saying that the Hindus were proud of Guru Gobind Singh and placed him before Ram, Krishan, and Shankar. Master Tara Singh points out further that the Arya Samaj leaders used to invoke the martyrdom of the Sikh Gurus and the sacrifice of the Sahibzadas to move the people emotionally to garner Sikh support.59 Elaborating on this basic argument, Master Tara Singh brings out the factual inaccuracies of the Aryā Musāfir, and challenges the Aryas by saying that if they were the true progeny of their forefathers who had suffered because of the Sikhs, they should not use donations received from the Sikhs for their colleges, schools, orphanages, Gurukuls, and Kanya Vidyalyas. Master Tara Singh underlines that the Aryā Musāfir had given a tilt to historical truth by changing mahram (a confidant) to mujrim (an accused). His attack on Guru (p.78) Hargobind was misplaced: the episode of the hawk was not the real cause of the battle but merely an excuse for it. The real reason for the confrontation of Guru Hargobind with the Mughal state was the view taken by the Mughal rulers of his activities: foundation of a takht in the vicinity of the provincial capital at Lahore, wearing of two swords (symbolizing spiritual and temporal authority), construction of a fort, manufacture of guns, soldierly training, the hunting expeditions of the Guru, the title ‘true king’ (sachā pātshāh) used for him by his devoted followers, their presence in several provinces of the Mughal empire, and Page 19 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh the daily offerings of thousands of rupees. No ruler could ignore the rise of such an autonomous power within his territories. The Mughal rulers were hostile to Guru Hargobind precisely because of his success in mobilizing people in a direction that appeared to be potentially dangerous for the Mughal state.60 About not paying the price of the horse taken from the Kazi, Master Tara Singh says that the horse did not belong to the emperor. It had been brought by a Sikh for the Guru but was forcibly taken from him and given to the Kazi to take care of its ailment. Guru Hargobind fulfilled the purpose for which it had been brought by his Sikh. The Sikhs of the Guru were prepared to face the consequences. No Hindu had to suffer for it. In short, the horse taken away by Bidhi Chand from the royal stables belonged to the Guru.61 About the Kazi’s daughter, Kaulan, who was said to have been taken by Guru Hargobind from Lahore to Amritsar, Master Tara Singh goes into greater detail which reveals his familiarity with Sikh literature and Sikh history. In the first place, the name of the Kazi’s daughter comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Kamla’ and a Kazi was hardly likely to have given a Hindu name to his daughter, and that too the name of a goddess. Kamla was Vishnu’s wife, popularly known as Lakshmi. Brahma had kept wandering for ages in Vishnu’s lotus-like navel, while Kaulan (generally, Kaula in Sikh literature) was massaging his feet while he was asleep on the body of Sheshnag (with its hood providing shadow for his head). Present in the Vedic times, Kamla was known as māyā during the time of the Upanishads; she became Lakshmi in the Puranas; she was called Kamla in the time of the (Vaishnava) bhagats, and Kaulan in the time of Kabir. Master Tara Singh goes on to point out that there are references to Kaulan in Sri Guru Granth Sahib which was compiled before Hargobind was installed as the Guru. Kamla figures in Namdev’s well-known hymn addressed to God: ‘The human frame is the mosque and the mind (man) is maulāna who performs namāz. You are married to Kamla who makes the formless manifest.’62 The reference here is clearly to matter as māyā. In the verse of Guru Arjan quoted by Master Tara Singh that Kaula follows the person whose mind (man) runs away from māyā.63 The reference, thus, is clearly to detachment-in-life as the Sikh ideal. Master Tara Singh infers that ‘Kaulan’ was a familiar figure or concept, before the time of Guru Hargobind.64 In the verse of Namdev, māyā is called ‘Bibi Kaula’ and the term used for marriage is nikāh, a term used for the Muslim rite of marriage. Master Tara Singh poses the question whether this Kaula was the same entity as Lachhmi (Lakshmi) of the Sikh lore who remained at a distance of 12 kos from Guru Nanak and 4 kos from Guru Angad, who stood outside the gate of the house of Guru Amar Das, and swept the floor inside the house of Guru Ram Das. Guru Arjan allowed her to (p.79) serve him, and Guru Hargobind married her. Master Tara Singh further questions whether in the classic work of Bhai Santokh Singh the figure is a metaphor. Could the Kazi’s daughter Kaulan be a metaphor Page 20 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh for māyā (material resources and power) which the Muslim rulers had acquired in India at the cost of the Hindu rulers? When Guru Hargobind combined miri (temporal authority) with pīrī (spiritual authority), māyā appeared in all its splendour at his service. Master Tara Singh quotes a verse of Guru Amar Das to the effect that māyā is a nāgin (female cobra) and he who serves her is eaten up by her but he who has turned to the Guru (Gurmukh) knows the antidote to poison, and tramples her under his feet.65 Guru Hargobind used māyā for the protection of the country, remaining personally detached. This position was depicted by the poet through a sustained metaphor in such a manner that people began to treat it as history. Even when taken literally, the episode presents Kaulan as a devotee of God who is given protection by Guru Hargobind against the harsh treatment meted out to her by her own father, the Kazi. She lives as a recluse, following her own inclinations. The whole episode depicts the principle of the freedom of conscience and the duty of the Sikhs to support this principle in practice.66 Regarding Aryā Musāfir’s accusation that Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh were motivated by a feeling of revenge for the execution of Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur, Master Tara Singh refers to the popular prophecies about Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh. Their mission is presented in terms of the protection and propagation of dharma and not in political terms. A personal motive does not appear anywhere in these prophecies. There were many well-known events or incidents in which the followers of Guru Gobind Singh offered protection to defenceless people who did not follow the Sikh faith. A contemporary writing in Persian says that no Sikh uttered falsehood and no Sikh was immoral. The Singhs were indeed brave lions. We know that this was written by Qazi Nur Muhammad. The author of the Khulāsa ut-Tawārīkh writes that the Sikhs were a community of people whose prayers were answered by God. For the author, the Sikhs were pious people devoted primarily to God. Their ethical values were such that they could never fight simply for selfaggrandizement. The assertions of Aryā Musāfir were nothing more than slander-mongering. All sensible Hindus acknowledged the role of the Khalsa in their protection. The Muslim writers, too, agreed on this point.67 In his third article Master Tara Singh refers to Lala Lajpat Rai’s views on the Punjabi language to argue that he knew very little about the Punjabi language and literature, and he wrote primarily in advocacy of Hindi as the only suitable language for the Punjab. According to Lajpat Rai, Punjabi had two kinds of advocates. The Khalsa Sahiban insisted that Punjabi was the language of their religion and it must be written in Gurmukhi script. Master Tara Singh says that this was an ironical reversal. If there was any party which had given religious complexion to language that was Lala Lajpat Rai’s own party which loudly proclaimed that Hindu culture could not survive without Hindi. On the other hand, the Sikhs in general and the Singh advocates of the Punjabi language in particular were openly denouncing the efforts to give a religious colouring to the Page 21 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh language question. The Khalsa Advocate had frequently clarified that the language of instruction should be Punjabi, and the question of script may be left (p.80) to the parents. Lala Durga Das, who too was an Arya Samajist, had written in The Tribune that the Sikhs did not insist on the Gurmukhi script for writing in Punjabi. Lala Lajpat Rai himself had contended that the bāṇī of the Gurus was not in the Punjabi language. It was illogical on his part to maintain that the Sikhs regarded Punjabi as their religious language.68 The second category of people who, according to Lajpat Rai, insisted on the use of Punjabi in any script did not realize that the Punjabi language had no future. There was no good literature in Punjabi. All that was there was the bāṇī of the Sikh Gurus. But to say that the language of the compositions of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh was Punjabi was as meaningless as to say that the Hindi of Tulsi Das was Punjabi. Master Tara Singh points out that Lala Lajpat Rai was repeating what he had heard from other people. It was factually incorrect. According to Lala Lajpat Rai, the ‘Khalsa party’ was trying to create Punjabi literature now, borrowing words from English, Arabic, or Sanskrit, and producing a mixture (khichṛī) that was neither tasteful nor useful. Master Tara Singh asks that if Hindi could borrow words from other languages, why could not Punjabi do the same. The ‘mother’ of the Punjabi language was a prakrit which had given a regional colour to thousands of words from Sanskrit. Master Tara Singh asserted that Lala Lajpat Rai’s real purpose was merely to banish Punjabi from the land of its birth.69 If asked about old literature in Hindi, Lala Lajpat Rai was likely to mention the Ramayan of Tulsi Das. But its language, strictly speaking, was not Hindi. Till the end of the seventeenth century there was no literature in Hindi. The advocates of Hindi went back to the work of Chand Bardai in the twelfth century. This was baseless. In the history of Punjabi literature, however, one could legitimately refer to the compositions of Baba Farid who wrote in the thirteenth century. Thus, Punjabi was in the process of becoming a literary language much prior to the birth of Hindi. Highly philosophical discussions in the sixteenth century, as in the compositions of Guru Nanak and the Vārs of Bhai Gurdas, present an excellent example of the ways in which the Punjabi language could be used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A pure pearl of Punjabi literature was the work of Waris Shah produced in the eighteenth century. The ‘modern’ works of Punjabi literature produced by the ‘Khalsa party’ gave ample indication of its great future. There was a time when the English language was regarded as rustic, and so were the Indian regional languages in their infancy. Tulsi Das was aware that his language was regarded as inferior to Sanskrit. Thus, even the socalled mother of Hindi was regarded as rustic. If Tulsi Das had listened to the people like Lala Lajpat Rai there would have been no Hindi literature.70

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh Master Tara Singh points out that the people of the Punjab had remained in contact with Muslims for 900 years and the language of the people of this region had absorbed many words of Persian and Arabic. Lala Lajpat Rai wanted the people to replace such words with words from Sanskrit and to use the Devanagri script. He wanted to impose a kind of embargo on the Punjabi language ‘to make Punjabi and Hindi one’. He was thus complicating the issue of language. Master Tara Singh contended that Lala Lajpat Rai’s arguments were based on propriety (ma‘qūliat) but actually he exposed his narrow-minded partisanship and fanatical prejudice. Hindi bhākhā was derived from Brij Bhasha which was derived from Saraseni (p.81) (Saurseni) which was derived from Prakrit, and this process of development went further back in time. The history of Hindi was similar to the history of the other regional languages of India, and it had no special claim. Master Tara Singh advised Lala Lajpat Rai not to rely on hearsay but to pay more attention to scholarly research before pronouncing judgements. If he was a real patriot (desh bhagat) he should study the Sikh tradition closely, especially the publications of the Khalsa Tract Society in the Punjabi language.71 Master Tara Singh makes a general observation that Sanskrit was the ‘grandmother’ of Indian languages, and its life had expired over 2,000 years ago. Its place was taken by five major languages, like Prakrit and Pali. From these five were derived Punjabi, Hindi, Sindhi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, and Oriya— the major regional languages of north India. The Arya Samajists presented Hindi as the eldest daughter of Sanskrit, but they could not give any proof based on credible evidence. Some of them referred to Hindi as the ‘kind mother’ of Punjabi. This was either a mistake or sheer obstinacy. If a relationship between Hindi and Punjabi had to be postulated, then Punjabi could be seen as Hindi’s mother’s sister (māsī). Punjabi’s mother and Hindi’s grandmother had a sisterly relation. This subject needed further research with an open mind.72 Master Tara Singh gives illustrations from the poetry of Baba Farid, Guru Nanak, and Bhai Gurdas to suggest that Punjabi could express subtle ideas as a literary language. This development would have taken at least a few centuries. Therefore, the emergence of Punjabi could be traced possibly to the ninth or the tenth century. The shaloks of Guru Nanak quoted by Master Tara Singh were meant to show how the Punjabi language could capture the highest flight of thought. The excellence of Punjabi language was reflected in the stanzas (pauṛīs) quoted from the Vārs of Bhai Gurdas. The poetry of Shah Husain, Bullhe Shah, and Waris Shah revealed the beauties of the Punjabi language. Their works were so well known. The rapid development of modern Punjabi as a language of learning was evident from the publications of the Khalsa Tract Society. The distinctive character of Punjabi was reflected in the works like Rānā Sūrat Singh and Rānī Rāj Kaur. From the very beginning Punjabi developed as an independent language, with its own peculiar structure and character, and not in imitation of any other language.73 Page 23 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh Finally, Master Tara Singh tells his ‘Punjabi brothers’ that their mother tongue was an integral part of their being, a part that could not be separated. They should not be afraid of the hostile efforts of men like Lala Lajpat Rai. He goes on to add that Swami Ram Tirath, who was regarded as a true rishi, used to write in Urdu or Hindi but involuntarily his pen would turn out Punjabi like pure water flowing from a spring in the hills. Even a few quotations would suffice to show how beautifully Swami Ram Tirath could convey ideas and feelings in Punjabi, using minimum possible words to make them sound as sweet as sugar. No more proof was needed to suggest that Punjabi was to the Punjabis like water to the fish and worship to the devotee of God. ‘Let us not be bothered about what is being said by the opponents of the language of our ancestors and keep it close to our hearts, a language that has been called “divine bāṇī” by our sages.’74 Master Tara Singh and the Arya Samajists held opposing views on Sikhism and Sikh history. Their attitudes towards the Punjabi language were also different. Even in the late (p.82) 1890s Tara Singh used to have hot debates with the Arya Samajist students in Rawalpindi. The increasing influence of the Arya Samaj in the canal colony of Lyallpur was not relished by Master Tara Singh because of his concern that the Sikhs should not come under its influence in political or cultural matters. The undercurrent of animosity between the Aryas and the Singh reformers came to the surface from time to time before 1947. If anything, it would become stronger after Independence.

In Retrospect Master Tara Singh’s native place Harial, like some other neighbouring villages in the Rawalpindi district, was a village of Brahman landholders. His family was one of the fifteen Khatri families of the village and they were all Sahajdhārī Sikhs. Only one member of the Khatri brotherhood was a Keshdhārī Singh. The Khatris had a dharamsāl of their own in which the Granth Sahib was installed. It was looked after by a granthī (dharamsālia), the only other Keshdhārī Singh in the village. They organized a kathā of the Panth Prakāsh in the early 1890s. Master Tara Singh, as the boy Nanak Chand, was deeply impressed and inspired by the stories of the Singh martyrs and valiant warriors of the eighteenth century. He thought of becoming a Keshdhārī Singh, The influence of the Singh Sabha movement was quietly growing. Nanak Chand got initiated as Keshdhārī Singh in 1901 by Sant Attar Singh and he was re-named Tara Singh. He vowed to dedicate his life to the service of the Sikh Panth. At the time of his marriage in 1904 at the age of 19, he insisted that his marriage ceremony should be performed strictly in accordance with the Sikh rite advocated by the leaders of the Singh Sabha movement. This was a measure of his commitment to socioreligious reform among the Sikhs. The Khalsa College at Amritsar was developing fast under the fostering care of colonial bureaucrats who were keen to keep it under their direct or indirect control. With the agitation against the partition of Bengal and rise of the Page 24 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh Swadeshi movement, the British bureaucracy became all the more anxious to keep the College immune from political influences. The removal of Sardar Dharam Singh as the honorary engineer of the College and the appointment of a salaried Englishman in his place led to agitation by the students. Tara Singh was elected president of the agitation committee. The English engineer was replaced by an Indian. Tara Singh left the College after his BA examination in April 1907. The British administrators established a tighter control over the College. In reaction Tara Singh began to participate in all anti-government agitations. Tara Singh’s decision to join the Central Training College at Lahore in 1907 and to take up teaching at the Khalsa High School, Lyallpur, in 1908 was not unconnected with the new political developments. He thought of education as the best means of reform among the Sikhs and he did not want the Arya Samaj to increase its cultural or political influence over the Sikhs in the Chenab colony. The Arya Samaj of Lyallpur was thinking of opening a high school in the city. Tara Singh and two of his friends offered their services to the Bar Khalsa Diwan at Rs 15 a month. As Head Master of Khalsa High School, Lyallpur, from 1908 to 1914, Master Tara Singh was closely associated with the Lyallpur Group in Sikh politics who were much more radical than the Chief Khalsa Diwan led by Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia. Master Tara Singh took keen interest in the legal recognition of the Sikh (p.83) form of marriage (anand kāraj). He was associated with the publication of Sachā Dhandorā as an anti-government weekly and with the three-member delegation of the Canadian Sikhs. The Komagata Maru episode and the Budge Budge firing made him all the more anti-British. He took interest in the Rakabganj agitation. Master Tara Singh resigned from the Khalsa High School on being selected as a granthī for the newly founded gurdwara in London on the initiative of Sant Teja Singh, the foremost follower of Sant Attar Singh. But Master Tara Singh could not go due to the outbreak of 1914. He was becoming aware of the wider world. After serving Khalsa High School at Kallar (district Rawalpindi) and another high school in Lyallpur district, Master Tara Singh returned to Khalsa High School, Lyallpur. A significant activity of Master Tara Singh during these years was his controversy with the ‘Arya Musafar’ and Lala Lajpat Rai on the issues of Sikh ideology and Punjabi language, revealing Master Tara Singh’s familiarity with gurbāṇī, Sikh history, and Punjabi literature. According to him, the treatment of the Sikh Ghadarites, the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy, and imposition of Martial Law were the reasons due to which the Sikhs were alienated from the British. The Sikhs were inclined to turn towards the Congress in 1919. Master Tara Singh’s serious interest in all these developments is an index of his political awakening. Notes:

(1.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh (Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 1968), p. 6. Page 25 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh (2.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh, pp. 9–11. (3.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh, pp. 11–12. (4.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, ed. Harjinder Singh Dilgir (Amritsar: SGPC, [1945] 1999), pp. 20–1. (5.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 22–4. (6.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 24–5. (7.) Jaswant Singh (ed.), Master Tara Singh: Jīwan Sangharsh te Udesh (Amritsar, 1972), pp. 34–5. (8.) Gazetteer Rawalpindi District 1907 (Part A), reprinted in District and State Gazetteers of the Undivided Punjab (Delhi: D.K. Publishers, 1993), pp. 245–8. (9.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 25. (10.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 26–9. (11.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 29–30. (12.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 30. (13.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 30–1. (14.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter’, in Verinder Grover (ed.), Master Tara Singh (New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications, 1995), p. 7. (15.) Sant Teja Singh, Jīwan Kathā Gurmukh Piāre Sant Attar Singh ji Maharaj, part I (Baru Sahib: Kalgidhar Trust, 2008), pp. 28, 34–41, 63–6, 72–6, 107–32, 140–1, 146–7. (16.) Teja Singh, Jīwan Kathā Gurmukh Piāre Sant Attar Singh ji Maharaj, pp. 147–8. (17.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 31–3. (18.) Bhagat Lakshman Singh, Autobiography, ed. Ganda Singh (Calcutta: The Sikh Cultural Centre, 1965), pp. 23–8. (19.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 33, 35. (20.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 34–5. (21.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 34. (22.) Ganda Singh, A History of Khalsa College Amritsar (Amritsar: Khalsa College, 1947), pp. 22–3, 28, 32, 39, 44, 48. Page 26 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh (23.) Ganda Singh, A History of Khalsa College Amritsar, pp. 50, 55–7. (24.) Bhai Ram Singh of Mayo School of Art was the architect who designed the Khalsa College building. Ruchi Ram Sahni regarded it as his best-designed building from the artistic viewpoint. Ruchi Ram Sahni, Memoirs of Ruchi Ram Sahni, eds Narender K. Sehgal and Subodh Mahanti (New Delhi: Vigyan Prasar, [1994] 1997), p. 31. (25.) Ganda Singh, A History of Khalsa College Amritsar, pp. 58–65. (26.) Ganda Singh, A History of Khalsa College Amritsar, pp. 66–7; Lakshman Singh, Autobiography, pp. 202–5. (27.) Ganda Singh, A History of Khalsa College Amritsar, pp. 67–70. (28.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 35–6. (29.) Jaswant Singh, Master Tara Singh, pp. 43–4. (30.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 38–9. (31.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 36. (32.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 36–7. (33.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 37. (34.) Lakshman Singh, Autobiography, pp. 202–6. (35.) Kirpal Singh Dardi, Akali Lehar dā Sanchālak Master Sunder Singh Lyallpurī (Jīwaṇī) (n.p.: Shahid Udham Singh Prakashan, 1991), pp. 36–8. See also Mohinder Singh, Baba Kharak Singh and India’s Struggle for Freedom (New Delhi: National Book Trust India, 2005), pp. 5 and 11n.3. (36.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 37–8. (37.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 39. Significantly, this offer was made by them at the first Sikh Educational Conference at Gujranwala in 1908. Dardi, Master Sunder Singh Lyallpurī, p. 25. (38.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 39–40. (39.) Dardi, Master Sunder Singh Lyallpurī, p. 25. (40.) Niranjan Singh, Master Tara Singh, pp. 28–32. (41.) Niranjan Singh, Master Tara Singh, pp. 35–7.

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh (42.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 40. Hira Singh Dard, Merian Kujh Itihāsik Yādān (Jullundur: Dhanpat Rai and Sons, 1960, second edition), pp. 40–3, 50. (43.) Dardi, Master Sunder Singh Lyallpurī, pp. 20–2, 125, 170. (44.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 40–1. See also Harish K. Puri, Ghadar Movement: Ideology, Organisation and Strategy (Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev University, 1993, second edition), pp. 55–7. (45.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 41–2. (46.) Hira Singh Dard, Meriān Kujh Itihāsik Yādān, pp. 71–81. (47.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 42. (48.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh, pp. 37–8, 61. For some interesting detail, Dardi, Master Sunder Singh Lyallpuri, pp. 42–4. (49.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh, pp. 38–9. Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 41. (50.) Lakhshman Singh, Autobiography, pp. 147–9. (51.) Sant Teja Singh, Jīwan Kathā Gurmukh Piāre Sant Attar Singh ji Maharaj de Annan Sewak Sant Teja Singh ji (Gurdwara Baru Sahib: Kalgidhar Trust, 2000, tenth reprint), pp. 123–4, 128. (52.) Hira Singh Dard, Meriān Kujh Itihāsik Yādān, pp. 63–70. (53.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh, pp. 59–60. (54.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 42–3. (55.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 43. (56.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Prem dī Ganga Samundron Kailash nūn tur pāi’, in Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh (1910–1924), vol. 1, ed. Harjinder Singh Dilgir (Amritsar: SGPC, 1999), p. 21. The editor does not give the dates of these articles, nor does he mention where these articles were published. However, the anthology covers the years from 1910 to 1924, and Master Tara Singh refers to ‘the paper’ (parcha) in which two of these articles were published. He was associated with the weekly Sachā Dhandhorā, brought out first in 1909–10 and then in 1914. (57.) Lakshman Singh, Autobiography, p. 6. (58.) Master Tara Singh, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. II, pp. 22–33. (59.) Master Tara Singh, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, pp. 24–7. Page 28 of 29

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Early Life and Career of Master Tara Singh (60.) Master Tara Singh, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, pp. 28–30. (61.) Master Tara Singh, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, pp. 30–1. (62.) Shabdārath Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Amritsar: Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee [standard pagination]), p. 1167. (63.) Shabdārath Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, p. 235. (64.) Master Tara Singh, Master Tara Singh Ji de Lekh, vol. II, pp. 31–2. (65.) Shabdārath Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, p. 510. (66.) Master Tara Singh, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. II, pp. 32–4. (67.) Master Tara Singh, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, pp. 34–5. (68.) Master Tara Singh, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, pp. 36–7. (69.) Master Tara Singh, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, pp. 37–9. (70.) Master Tara Singh, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, pp. 39–43. (71.) Master Tara Singh, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, pp. 43–5. (72.) Master Tara Singh, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, p. 45. (73.) Master Tara Singh, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, pp. 45–8. (74.) Master Tara Singh, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, pp. 48–9.

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement (1920–3) J.S. Grewal

DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199467099.003.0005

Abstract and Keywords The newspaper Akali, started by the radical Sikh leaders in June 1920, articulated their concern for the liberation of Khalsa College, Amritsar, the historic gurdwaras, and eventually the whole country. On the announcement of direct action by the Akali volunteers to reconstruct the demolished wall of Gurdwara Rakabganj, it was quickly rebuilt by the government. The Punjab bureaucracy relinquished its control over the Khalsa College in favour of the moderate leaders of the Chief Khalsa Diwan. For the control of Darbar Sahib at Amritsar and other gurdwaras, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) was formed in November 1920 and the Shiromani Akali Dal was formed in December. The non-violent morchās launched by the SGPC in 1922–3 were eminently successful. Master Tara Singh emerged as one of the prominent Akali leaders and the best ideologue of the Akali Movement. Keywords:   Master Tara Singh, The Akali, Khalsa College Amritsar, Gurdwara Rakabganj, Chief Khalsa Diwan, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Shiromani Akali Dal, non-violent morchās, Akali Movement

The year 1920 was remarkable for a political upsurge in the Punjab as well as in the country as a whole. The Non-cooperation Movement in India and the Akali movement in the Punjab began in 1920. The former was to end in 1922 but the latter ended in 1925. This was the phase of a close cooperation between the Congress and the Akalis. The role of Mahatma Gandhi in the Akali movement is,

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement therefore, an important theme for study. Master Tara Singh’s role as an ideologue of the Akali movement was as important as his political activity.

Political Developments Major developments in Indian politics from 1920 to 1923 were connected with the Khilafat and Non-cooperation Movements and the emergence of the Swaraj Party within the Indian National Congress. After the failure of the Khilafat and Non-cooperation Movements, communal tension surfaced at several places in the country. The Punjab came to have a partly representative government. The Congress and Khilafat leaders had decided at Amritsar in December 1919 to organize the Khilafat work under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership. A Muslim deputation waited upon the Governor General on 19 January 1920 and emphasized that the existence of the Khilafat as a temporal and spiritual institution was ‘the very essence of their faith’. The Governor General’s response was rather disappointing. The Khilafat question became more important in February and March. Mahatma Gandhi announced that if the terms of peace with Turkey did not meet the sentiments of Muslims in India, he would launch non-cooperation. On 10 March (p.87) 1920, for the first time he indicated a plan of non-cooperation. The Khilafat Committee met at Bombay on 28 May and decided to start non-cooperation. It was inaugurated formally on 1 August. The non-violent non-cooperation inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi was adopted in a special session of the Congress held in Calcutta from 4 to 9 September. This was confirmed at the Nagpur session of the Congress. By the end of 1920, the moderates had cut themselves off from the Congress once and for all.1 ‘Swaraj inside a year’ was the predominant sentiment in 1921. On the arrival of the Prince of Wales in Bombay on 17 November, there was rioting and bloodshed in which fifty-three persons died and about 400 were wounded. Mahatma Gandhi fasted for five days to restore order. In January 1922 an All-Parties Conference was held at Bombay on the initiative of Congress sympathizers to bring about an understanding between the Congress and the Government of India. Three weeks later, on 5 February 1922, a Sub-Inspector of police and twenty-one constables perished in flames when a Congress procession was provoked by the police at Chauri Chaura near Gorakhpur. On 12 February the Congress Working Committee suspended mass civil disobedience. Pandit Motilal Nehru and Lala Lajpat Rai criticized Mahatma Gandhi ‘for punishing the whole country for the sins of a place’. Mahatma Gandhi was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on the charge of sedition.2 At the All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting in Calcutta in November 1922, Motilal Nehru and C.R. Das supported the programme of entry into councils under the Reform Act of 1919 but the issue was postponed for the annual session at Gaya. It was pressed harder at Gaya but many Congressmen still felt strongly that the scheme of non-cooperation would be upset if entry into Page 2 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement councils was permitted. C.R. Das, Motilal Nehru, and Vitthalbhai Patel formed a party of their own. Before the end of 1922, the Khilafat issue ended in a way totally unexpected. The Sultan of Turkey was deposed but a new Khalifa was elected. The Khilafat was, thus, ‘vaticanized’. At the special session of the Congress in Delhi in the third week of September 1923, a permissive resolution declared that the Congressmen who had ‘no religious or other conscientious objection’ against entering the legislatures were at liberty to stand as candidates and to exercise their right of voting at the forthcoming elections. The fate of the council-boycott was sealed at the annual session in Cocanada.3 Communal tension surfaced at places in the form of riots at the time of religious festivals, resulting in loss of life and property and escalating tension. Hindu– Muslim riots took place at Multan in September 1922. Serious disturbances broke out in Amritsar in April 1923 in which the Akalis played an active positive role as a neutral party between the Arya Samajists and Muslims. Panipat witnessed a riot in July 1923 due to a dispute between Hindu and Muslim zamīndārs. Such riots were to continue for several years more.4 For the elections to the Punjab Legislative Council in 1920, sixty-four of the elected seats were meant for Hindus (General), Muslims, and Sikhs. Seven of the twenty seats for Hindus were meant for urban constituencies. Five of the thirtytwo Muslim seats were urban, and so was one of the eleven Sikh seats. Thus, the number of seats for Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and Christian legislators in the Punjab Council in 1920, respectively, was thirty-four, twenty-three, thirteen, and one.5 With the franchise restricted to a little over (p.88) 3 per cent of the total population of the province, the large landholders were dominant in the council, and the majority of them were Muslims. The elections of 1920 were held under the shadow of the Non-cooperation Movement. Only about 50 per cent of the enrolled voters turned up to cast their votes. Fazl-i Husain, a leading Congressman before the Non-cooperation Movement and now elected from the special constituency of landholders, was the most influential member of the newly formed council. He was appointed a minister, and on his suggestion, Lala Harkishan Lal became the second minister. Fazl-i Husain’s political position enabled him to bring together the Muslim members to form the ‘Rural Block’. Most of its members were big landlords. Under the guidance of Fazl-i Husain the Rural Block began to align with the Hindu and Sikh rural leaders in the council on the issues involving the peasantry and the rural Punjab.6

Beginning of the Akali Movement Hira Singh Dard, who was active in the politics of the Punjab at the time, looked back at 1920 as the year in which political movements flooded the Punjab in the wake of the atrocities committed under the Martial Law of 1919.7 The first Sikh political newspaper, the daily Akālī in Urdu, was launched from Lahore on 21 Page 3 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement May 1920, the day of Guru Arjan’s martyrdom. Hira Singh Dard left his job to join the Managing Committee and the Editorial Board of the Akālī before it was launched. Mangal Singh Gill resigned from Tehsildarship to join the Akālī as an editor. Sardul Singh Caveeshar’s ‘people’s press’ was used for printing the newspaper. The name ‘Akālī’ was chosen in honour of Akali Phula Singh who appeared to symbolize sacrifice, fearlessness, and bravery. Hira Singh contributed a poem called ‘Āa giā pher Akālī je’ (the Akali has come again) in which he regretted that the Sikh nation (kaum) was being openly sold by Sikhs hankering after jāgīrs and service under the government. With the coming of the Akālī none would dare to take over a college or a gurdwara of the Sikhs. The Akālī would project the message of universal brotherhood, reject the differences of ‘colour’ (caste), the difference between the rich and the poor, and eradicate selfishness from national life. Every child would sing, ‘We belong to India, and India belongs to us.’8 The objectives of the Akālī were clearly stated: (a) to put an end to the management of gurdwaras by mahants and to bring them under the control of Sikh representative bodies; (b) to wrest the Khalsa College at Amritsar from official control and to place it under a representative Sikh management; (c) to get the demolished wall of Gurdwara Rakabganj reconstructed; (d) to create political and national awakening among the Sikhs and to encourage them to participate in the common struggle for freedom; and (e) to establish a democratic organization of the Sikhs as an alternative to the Chief Khalsa Diwan with which the Sikh masses were dissatisfied.9 It may be noted that the Central Sikh League was not regarded as radical enough at this time. The issues of Gurdwara Rakabganj and Khalsa College, Amritsar, were the earliest to be resolved. The question of the wall of Gurdwara Rakabganj, which had been shelved during World War I was not taken up by the government for about two and a half years after the war. Sardul Singh Caveeshar published a letter in the Akālī in June or July 1920 to the effect that the assurance given by the government to rebuild the wall in (p.89) consultation with the representatives of the Sikhs had not been honoured. ‘Now we have to perform this task on our own’, reiterating Guru Arjan’s words: ‘We should perform all our tasks with our own hands.’ The Sikhs should be prepared, if necessary, to offer their heads to build the wall of the sacred gurdwara associated with the king of martyrs, Guru Tegh Bahadur. For this ‘holy task’ 100 brave Sikhs were needed. These volunteers should take the vow in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib before sending their names. When the number reached 100, a meeting would be held and the government would be asked to restore the wall within a stipulated time. Otherwise the band of (potential) martyrs (shahīdī jathā) would go to Delhi to rebuild the wall even if they had to face bullets.10

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement As stated by Hira Singh Dard, within a month or so, more than 1,000 names were received by the Akālī. This tremendous response was the guarantee that the government would not be able to stand in their way. It was announced in the Akālī that a meeting of the shahīdī jathā would be held in October 1920 at the time of the second annual conference of the Central Sikh League and a notice would be given to the government. Despite opposition from the government and its Sikh supporters, the resolution in favour of non-cooperation was passed under the Presidentship of Sardar Kharak Singh. The meeting of the shahīdī jathā was held afterwards and it was resolved to send a notice to the government to restore the wall in its original form within a few weeks. The eyes of the government had now opened to the probability of bloodshed close to the Viceregal Lodge and in front of the Secretariat in the imperial capital. What all the requests, deputations, telegrams, and resolutions had not been able to achieve in six years was achieved in a few days by the organized strength of the Sikh people and their will to make sacrifice. The news came from Delhi within a week that the government had restored the demolished wall. Hira Singh Dard regarded it as the forerunner of the Akali movement.11 The teachers of Khalsa College gave an ultimatum to the government that they would resign if official control over the college was not withdrawn before 5 November 1920. The college remained closed for a month. Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia prevailed upon the government to withdraw its control. A special meeting of the Managing Committee was held on 13 November under the Presidentship of C.M. King, Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar, and it was resolved to form a sub-committee to draft amendments in order ‘to effect a complete withdrawal of Government control from the institution’. The subcommittee met during 14–16 November and then on 3 December under the chairmanship of Majithia to finalize its recommendations. On 4 December the Managing Committee accepted the recommended constitution with two minor changes. An ad-interim Managing Committee took over the college management. Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia was elected its Chairman, as also of the College Council. He invited Sardar Harbans Singh Atariwala (who had been eliminated from the old Managing Committee) and Professor Bhai Jodh Singh (who had been asked to leave the college in 1912) to become its members. A new council and a new Managing Committee were finally constituted in 1921, with Sardar Harbans Singh Atariwala as the elected Secretary of both the council and the Committee.12 Thus, the control of the college passed from the bureaucracy to the party of Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia. (p.90) Professor Teja Singh, who was among the teachers who had resigned after 5 November 1920, says that they were in favour of the moderate Sikh leaders. He refers to Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to the college earlier when he had failed to enlist the teachers or the students in support of non-cooperation. Mahatma Gandhi was invited to the college on the suggestion of its Principal, G.A. Wathen, who asked him if his purpose was ‘to break’ the college, and Page 5 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement Gandhi replied, ‘Yes, I have come to break the College.’ Wathen took him to the main building of the college and said that every brick of the institution had been produced by the sweat of a small community of the Sikhs. They who had no share in its construction had no right to talk of its destruction. The Khalsa College was bound to remain ‘alive’. The teachers and the students present shouted: ‘Long live Khalsa College!’ Thus, Mahatma Gandhi’s arrow missed its mark. But now the country was on fire. It was bound to affect the college. To save it from the wave of non-cooperation, it was decided to give an ultimatum to the government. Thirteen Professors of the College resigned after 5 November. C.M. King took Bawa Harkishan Singh, Professor Niranjan Singh, and Professor Teja Singh to the Lieutenant Governor, Edward Maclagan, at Lahore and there an offer was made to upgrade the college to a Sikh University. But the professors insisted that the Sikhs wanted to have the college in their own hands for the present. It was decided to hold special meetings of the Managing Committee to change the constitution. All its eleven official members were replaced by Sikh members. ‘We saw to it’, says Teja Singh, ‘that none of the extremist Sikhs was included in the list of new names.’ This was done to reassure the government that ‘we were not playing in the hands of its opponents’.13 Evidently, the ‘moderate’ Sikh leadership was far more acceptable to the Punjab beaurcracy than the ‘extremists’. Meanwhile, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee and the Shiromani Akali Dal had been formed to introduce reform in all the historic gurdwaras under the management of the representatives of the Sikh Panth in place of the agents of the government. A potential confrontation between the colonial bureaucracy and the new leadership of the Sikhs was built into the situation. Teja Singh elaborates the background specifically to the Gurdwara Reform Movement. He says that three ways were open to the Sikhs to carry out reform in gurdwaras: boycott, litigation, and public pressure. Boycott could never be effective because the custodians of gurdwaras had enormous resources other than offerings. Litigation could be of no avail without the conscientious support of the government. Therefore, the Sikhs relied chiefly on the pressure of public opinion. Teja Singh cites the example of Nankana Sahib. For about ten years a jathā of the Sikhs of Lahore had been going to Nankana Sahib every year on foot to hold a dīwān. Public subscriptions enabled them to add several new features to the gurdwaras in Nankana Sahib. After some time it was proposed to appoint a representative committee to control all those gurdwaras. A document was signed to this effect. But the mahants changed their mind on the advice of a Hindu Tehsildar. Nevertheless, the Sikhs continued their efforts till 1905 and succeeded in getting the lands entered in the name of the gurdwaras instead of the mahants.14

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement For the advocacy of reform it was necessary to inform the people about the practices prevailing in the gurdwaras. Their misuse was thoroughly exposed, especially the loose (p.91) lifestyle of the mahants and their misappropriation of gurdwara property. The Punjab of Amritsar, for example, pointed out on 15 October 1906 that gurdwaras in Majha and Malwa were being converted into private houses by Udāsīs and other sādhūs. The Khalsa Advocate, the Khālsā Samāchār, and the Khalsa Sewak also remained active in support of Gurdwara Reform. The Chief Khalsa Diwan remained interested in the reform of gurdwaras and formed a sub-committee for this purpose. In 1915 a pamphlet in English had been printed and circulated among prominent Sikhs, advocating the freedom of gurdwaras as the basis of all reform, and asking for opinions and suggestions. Only a few persons responded and their views were not encouraging. The matter was dropped.15 However, local Singh Sabhas continued their efforts to influence the custodians of gurdwaras in favour of reform. Mahant Harnam Singh of Sialkot died on 26 September 1918. No mahant was elected through due process after his death. The Singh Sabha of Sialkot petitioned to the Deputy Commissioner to appoint a committee for management of the Gurdwara Babe-di-Ber, associated with Guru Nanak. The mahant’s widow appointed Ganda Singh, an apostate from Sikhism, as the Manager of the Gurdwara. When the law failed them the local Sikhs began to hold daily services in the gurdwara. Ganda Singh hired ruffians (gundās) to disrupt the services. Meanwhile, Sardar Amar Singh Jhabal and Sardar Jaswant Singh Jhabal came to Sialkot. Their speeches won public sympathy, and the local Hindus and Muslims began to support the reform party. Ganda Singh sought help from the local administration but Sikhs began to arrive at Sialkot from all sides. The gurdwara was temporarily taken over in the name of the Panth. On 5 October 1919, the Khalsa held a dīwān and elected a Committee of thirteen members for the control and management of the gurdwara. C.M. King, the Divisional Commissioner, came to Sialkot and told the Sikhs that the government would not interfere in the religious matters but they would hold the gurdwara lands in trust and the two parties had to come to a settlement.16 This was the first historic gurdwara to come under the control of the reformers. In the case of the Golden Temple, the demand had been expressed over three decades earlier. ‘We appeal before the Khalsa community and the Government’, wrote the Khālsā Akhbār of 1 January 1887, ‘that the present committee for the management of the Golden Temple is neither based on the principles of the Khalsa Panth nor on Government legislation.’ On the principles of the Khalsa, only Sikhs could be members of the Managing Committee, and not a Hindu, like Raja Harbans Singh who, contrary to the faith of the Khalsa, professed belief in idol worship. Indeed, it was rather ironic that the gurdwara belonged to the Sikh community but its management was presided over by a British Deputy Commissioner (who was a Christian). Furthermore, the Committee had been set up in contravention of government legislation: ‘The administration is not Page 7 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement supposed to interfere in religious matters.’ There was every reason, thus, for reconstituting the Committee.17 In the summer of 1906 the Khalsa Advocate and the Punjab of Amritsar strongly urged that it was necessary to change the administration of the Darbar Sahib and other gurdwaras to remove patent evils. The Manager (sarbrah) of the Golden Temple should be elected by the Panth and not selected by the government. In May 1907, the Punjab (p.92) urged the formation of a Gurdwara Sambhāl Committee.18 The management of the Harmandar had degenerated visibly. Hira Singh Dard talks of the sad state of affairs in 1910 when he visited Amritsar on the Diwali. He had read in the gurbāṇī that there was no other place like ‘amritsar’. Its praise had no limits in Sikh works of history and in Bhai Vir Singh’s Sundrī and Bijai Singh. A collection of episodes (sākhīs) on the life (janam) of Guru Nanak talked of crows becoming swans by taking a dip in the pool of nector (amritsarovar) and lepers being cured by bathing in it. He was happy to have a holy bath. However, he was sad to see a lot of litter in the circumambulatory path (parkarmā). Brahmans and beggars crowded the banks of the sarovar. A ten- or twelve-year-old boy was in attendance on Guru Granth Sahib in the Darbar Sahib. He was actually Bhai Fateh Singh, the Head Granthi, who had been installed by the government in this position on hereditary basis. The pujārīs of the Harmandar were no less crafty than the proverbial thugs of Benares. The granthīs and pujārīs cared nothing for the sangat. Mai Ram Kaur addressed the sangat in the Malwai Bunga in a dīwān organized by the Chief Khalsa Diwan. Two Sikhs brought a Hindu from the parkarmā with five or six seers of the kaṛāh parsād in a bundle. Mai Ram Kaur pointed out that the pujārīs had sold it for one or two annas a seer instead of distributing it among the sangat. ‘Our newspapers are crying aloud’, she said, ‘about the sad state of affairs in our Gurdwaras but the government pays no heed.’ She exhorted the Khalsa to wake up.19 Sadder still, Mai Ram Kaur led a jathā, reciting shabads to have darshan of the Darbar Sahib and the jathā was beaten with lāṭhīs in front of the Harmandar; Mai Ram Kaur was seriously hurt. This was done deliberately because tension between the pujārīs and the reformers had been rising since long. The government was backing the pujārīs who always kept the local officials satisfied. Having done the grievous misdeed, the pujārīs went to the police station to lodge a complaint that Mai Ram Kaur had tried to plunder the Guru’s golak with the support of a jathā of Singh Sabhaites. She was taken to the police station along with some Sikhs. On hearing all this, Hira Singh went to the police station. A pious-looking granthī said to the thānedār that Hira Singh was a supporter of Ram Kaur and he had incited the jathā to ‘catch hold of the granthīs and plunder the golak’. Hira Singh was kept in the Kotwali along with twenty or twenty-five Singhs. More than half of them had not even gone to the parkarmā. Hira Singh was asked to tender a written apology but he refused to do so. He was released Page 8 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement after an hour or so. He had gone to Amritsar for light but he returned with a fire in his heart.20 According to Teja Singh, the Khalsa Advocate of 9 June 1917 complained of corruption and mismanagement in the Darbar Sahib Gurdwaras which belonged to the Panth. Bhai Partap Singh, granthī of the Darbar Sahib, went to the extent of claiming that the gurdwaras were the property of granthīs and not of the Sikh Panth. In the days of the Martial Law, General Dyer was given a robe of honour at the Golden Temple. Sardar Arur Singh, the sarbrah, was later obliged by the Sikhs to resign. The government knighted him and he became Sir Arur Singh of the Golden Temple. As we noticed earlier, the Central Sikh League at its annual session at Amritsar in December 1919 referred to ‘the sore and long-standing grievance of the Sikh community’—the administration of the Golden Temple was still in the hands of a (p.93) government nominee. The League demanded that it should be placed in the hands of a representative body of Sikhs, constituted on an elective basis and responsible to the Panth. Finding the government indifferent, the Sikhs began to hold meetings in the Gurdwaras to exercise their right of gurmatā granted to them by Guru Gobind Singh. ‘By this constitution the Sikh community assumed the position and authority of the Guru.’21 The doctrine of Guru Panth was invoked for Panthic control over the Panthic gurdwaras. In Amritsar, there was a religious body called Khalsa Brotherhood to preach equality and to admit people of all castes and outcastes into the fold of Sikhism. On 12 October 1920, a few low-caste men were initiated and brought in a procession to the Golden Temple. The priests refused to receive their offering or to perform prayer for them. The Granth Sahib was opened for guidance (vāk). It said that God ‘sends grace even to those who have no merit, and takes from them the true Guru’s service, which is most noble, as it turns our hearts to the love of God’. These words of Guru Amar Das had a wonderful effect. The priests agreed to offer prayers and to accept the sacred food from the hands of the newly converted Sikhs. The party then moved towards the Akal Takht. Its priests fled from their posts. They did not come even when the sarbrah, Sardar Sunder Singh Ramgarhia, called them. On 23 October, the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar formed a provisional committee of nine Sikhs, including the sarbrah, to manage the affairs of the Golden Temple till a permanent committee was formed.22 A hukamnāmā was issued from the Akal Takht for a general assembly of the Sikhs on 15 November 1920 in order to elect a representative committee of the Panth to control the Golden Temple and other gurdwaras. The government did not want to have a committee entirely independent of its influence. With the help of the Maharaja of Patiala, a Managing Committee of thirty-six members was appointed two days before the scheduled meeting of the Sikh Panth. The general meeting during 15–16 November resolved to form a committee of 175 members, including the thirty-six members of the committee appointed by the government. Page 9 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement Sardar Harbans Singh, as President of the thirty-six-member committee, and Sardar Sunder Singh Ramgarhia, as its Manager, carried on the administration till 12 December 1920 when the inaugural meeting of the new body, called the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, was held. The names of the elected members were announced by Bawa Harkishan Singh as Assistant Secretary. In the case of Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia it was added that certain members of the Panth were displeased with him and he was asked to state in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib whether or not he was prompted by ulterior motives in what he had been doing as Secretary of the Chief Khalsa Diwan or as a representative of the Panth. Sardar Sunder Singh solemnly affirmed that he was not actuated at all by any selfish or unworthy motives in serving the interests of the community to the best of his ability and understanding. Yet he sought forgiveness from the Panth for possible lapses. He quoted a verse of Kirat the Bhatt, which ends with: ‘May Guru Ram Das be my refuge.’ The whole audience was moved to tears. Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia was elected President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), with Sardar Harbans Singh as Vice-President. Sardar Sunder Singh Ramgarhia was elected Secretary.23 None of them was an ‘Akali’. The (p.94) SGPC was, on the whole, a moderate body and acceptable to the governement. The Shiromani Akali Dal was founded at Amritsar on 14 December 1920. Three jathās were initially affiliated to it: the Central Khalsa Diwan, the Bar Akali Jatha, and the Malwa Khalsa Diwan of Dhuri. Other jathās were to be affiliated later. Teja Singh clarifies that the word ‘Akali’ had appeared on the title page of the newspaper Akālī of Lahore, but the Panch Khalsa Diwan and the Central Majha Diwan, which had rendered valuable services in connection with the release of Gurdwara Babe-di-Ber at Sialkot, the Akal Takht at Amritsar, and Panja Sahib at Hasan Abdal, had not yet adopted the title ‘Akali’. The members of the Central Majha Diwan came to be called Akalis after taking charge of the Akal Takht, especially when the old Nihangs had lost confidence of the people due to their assault on the Akal Takht soon after its occupation by the reformers.24 The Akali Jatha Khara Sauda Bar was formed at Sheikhupura in December 1920.25 In due course, all the Sikhs who were in favour of Gurdwara Reform and prepared to suffer for it came to be called Akalis.

The Akalis in Confrontation with the Government (1921–3) Before turning to the role of Mahatma Gandhi and Master Tara Singh in the Akali movement from 1921 to early 1923, we may outline its main developments. The year 1921 was marked by several new developments in the Akali movement: control of the SGPC over the Darbar Sahib at Tarn Taran, the Nankana Sahib tragedy resulting in the control of the SGPC over the gurdwaras at Nankana Sahib, rejection of the Sikh Gurdwaras and Shrines Bill by the Sikh members of the Punjab Legislature, and the Keys morchā which obliged the government to hand over the keys of the treasury of the Golden Temple to the President of the SGPC. The year 1922 saw the famous Guru-ka-Bagh Morcha which put a stop to Page 10 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement interference by the government in the affairs of the Gurdwara Guru-ka-Bagh under the management of the SGPC. A large number of historic gurdwaras came under the control of the SGPC, and the Punjab Government on its own passed an Act which was not acceptable to the Akalis. It became a dead letter. The Akali prisoners were released unconditionally early in 1923. The colonial government was not yet prepared for legislation acceptable to the Akalis. The immoral practices and arrogant attitude of the priests of the Darbar Sahib at Tarn Taran were well known. On 25 January 1921, Teja Singh Bhuchar reached Tarn Taran with forty Akalis. The priests agreed to form a joint committee for resolving their dispute with the local reformers. At nightfall, however, they attacked the Akalis, who were seriously wounded and two of them died. The District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police reached Tarn Taran. A provisional committee was formed for management, leaving it to the SGPC to appoint a regular committee.26 The suspicion that the bureaucracy was giving tacit support to the old custodians of gurdwaras was confirmed by the tragedy at Nankana Sahib on 20 February 1921. Narain Das, the mahant of Gurdwara Janam Asthan at Nankana Sahib, called a meeting of over sixty mahants at Nankana Sahib in consultation with Baba Kartar Singh Bedi and resolved not to recognize the authority of the SGPC. In fact, a parallel committee was formed, with Mahant Narain Das as its President. He had begun to make preparations on a large scale for what he called ‘self-defence’, fortifying the place and collecting about 400 mercenaries. This was known to the (p.95) Divisional Commissioner, C.M. King, who had actually encouraged the mahant to resist the reformers. The SGPC decided to hold a general meeting at Nankana Sahib during 4–6 March 1921. However, Bhai Lachhman Singh reached Nankana Sahib on 20 February with a jathā of over 100 Akalis. They were allowed to enter the Gurdwara through the main gate which was shut after their entry. Then they were attacked and about twenty-five Akalis were shot inside the gurdwara; about sixty-five others, who had shut themselves in another sanctuary, were killed; and twenty-five Akalis found in the side rooms were also put to death. Most of the dead and the wounded were burnt, using the kerosene oil which had been stored for this purpose. The Deputy Commissioner, Currie, arrived at about 12:30 p.m. and saw the dead and wounded being burnt. C.M. King and the DIG of Police arrived in the late evening with 100 troops. Mahant Narain Das was arrested with two of his henchmen and twenty-six hired Pathans. The Gurdwara Janam Asthan was placed under military guard. On 21 February, Jathedar Kartar Singh Jhabbar arrived with over 2,000 Akalis, determined to enter the gurdwara. After consultation with C.M. King, the Deputy Commissioner agreed to form a committee of management, and the gurdwara was handed over to a committee of seven, with Sardar Harbans Singh Atariwala as its President. The mahants of over half a dozen other gurdwaras in Nankana Sahib surrendered their charge

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement voluntarily to the SGPC. A shahīdī dīwān was held at Nankana Sahib on 3 March 1921. Mahatma Gandhi came to express his solidarity with the Sikhs.27 The colonial government had no genuine sympathy with the reform movement. In order to protect the vested interests, the Punjab Government adopted a policy of repression. The Rawalpindi Singh Sabha appreciated the services of Sikh prisoners, including Kartar Singh Jhabbar and Teja Singh Bhuchar, and made a representation for justice to these innocent people. The Chief Secretary Craik gave the noting on 17 August 1921 that no reply be given because the Khatri and Arora Akalis of Rawalpindi were in no way representatives of the Sikh community as a whole. The Magistrate had recorded that this case was similar to the series of cases which followed the Nankana Tragedy, marked by ‘forcible seizure of Gurdwaras by an advanced section of the Sikhs who have suddenly sprung up into prominence and rejoice in the title of Akalis and would have us believe that on them devolves the duty of reforming Sikhism’. A jathā of twelve persons led by Teja Singh had forcibly seized three Sikh religious places. Teja Singh was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment under Section 395 of the Indian Penal Code and to two years’ rigorous imprisonment under Section 452.28 The SGPC decided to adopt non-violent non-cooperation as a part of Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-cooperation Movement. The Punjab Government prepared a draft of the Sikh Gurdwaras and Shrines Bill in April 1921 and referred it to the Select Committee. After its approval it was presented to the Punjab Legislative Council in September. There was no provision of a Sikh central body in this Bill. The Sikh members of the council did not support the Bill. It was dropped finally on 10 November 1921.29 The government could use the legislature for its own purposes but not for any discussion of its policy or measures with regard to the movement for Gurdwara Reform. On 6 September 1921, Sardar Man Singh, Member, Legislative Assembly, had written to the Home Member, Sir William Vincent, about the serious grievances of the Sikh community (p.96) and proposed a resolution in the assembly regarding (a) the conduct of officials in the Nankana tragedy and the treatment of the Sikhs over the Gurdwaras and (b) the release of persons convicted for offences alleged to be connected with the reform movement. He was informed that the subject matter of his resolution concerned the province. Therefore, no special facilities could be given for its discussion on a date set aside for official business. Actually, the Punjab Governor had not approved of giving any facility for the resolution. The second resolution was not moved in the first place. Later, it was not debated. In practically all the cases, the prisoners had already been released.30 The sarbrah appointed by the government, Sardar Sunder Singh Ramgarhia, had continued to function as the Manager of the Golden Temple on behalf of the SGPC under its President, Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia. The new President of Page 12 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement the SGPC, Sardar Kharak Singh, was keen to make it clear that Sunder Singh was under the control of the SGPC. On 29 October 1921 the Executive Committee of the SGPC decided to ask the Ramgarhia Sardar to hand over the keys of the treasury (toshakhāna) of the Golden Temple to the President of the SGPC. The Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar sent Lala Amar Nath, an Extra Assistant Commissioner, to collect the keys from Sunder Singh Ramgarhia who surrendered a bunch of fifty-three keys. In his place Captain Bahadur Singh was made the new Manager. But all this was regarded by the Akalis as official interference in the affairs of gurdwaras, and they decided not to allow Captain Bahadur Singh to interfere in the affairs of the Golden Temple. Protest meetings began to be held. The SGPC resolved to hold dīwāns ‘everywhere to explain the facts about the Keys affair’. The Akali leaders were arrested, tried, and convicted. The SGPC passed a resolution on 6 December 1921 that no Sikh should agree to any arrangement about the restoration of the keys until the Sikhs who had been arrested were released unconditionally. Caught in a dilemma, the government negotiated with the Sikh leaders, and issued a communiqué on 12 January 1922, announcing the decision to finally withdraw its connection with the management of the Golden Temple, to leave it in the hands of the SGPC, and to allow the keys to be given over to it.31 In The Tribune of 21 April 1922, fifty-one well-known Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs stated that they could not shut their eyes to numerous reports of excesses and irregularities by the government officials appearing in the press. Irregular and illegal arrests were followed by hasty and questionable convictions. The Punjab Government defended its action. The Governor General was in favour of contradicting any such report. On 6 May 1922 a general communiqué was issued that the object of the government in dealing with the Sikh question had been to treat ‘as sympathetically as possible’ all demands which were of a religious or semi-religious character. The general sympathy of the government was with ‘the movement for religious reform among the Sikhs’. However, continued the communiqué, the extreme section of the Sikhs had combined politics with religion. Their agitation was ‘revolutionary in character’. The Akalis had avowed hostility towards the government. At the end of February 1922, no less than 25,000 Akalis were moving about in armed bodies, and the government had to enforce the law. The Akalis were arrested and their cases were entrusted to a judge of the High Court. This action improved the situation.32 (p.97) The Guru-ka-Bagh morchā was initiated by the government to suppress the Akalis. Mahant Sunder Das of the Guru-ka-Bagh Gurdwara had signed an agreement with the SGPC early in 1921 to work under a committee of eleven members. Five or six months later, when the attitude of the bureaucracy towards the SGPC had hardened, the Mahant’s attitude also changed. On 23 August 1921, the SGPC took over the management of the gurdwara but allowed the land attached to it, known as the Guru-ka-Bagh, to remain in possession of the Mahant. He raised no objection to the dry wood being cut from this land for the Page 13 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement langar (community kitchen) of the gurdwara. A year later, on 9 August 1922, however, five Akalis were arrested on the charge of ‘theft’ for felling a dry kikar tree as fuel for the gurdwara kitchen. A complaint from Mahant Sundar Das was obtained after the arrests. This was actually an official challenge to the Akalis. They started sending jathās of five volunteers to assert their right to cut wood from the Guru-ka-Bagh for the gurdwara kitchen. By 25 August, 210 Akalis had been arrested. Fearing that an enormous number of Akali volunteers would come for arrests, the bureaucracy devised a new method of dealing with them.33 On 31 August 1922, Sardar Bahadur Gajjan Singh gave notice of questions for the Legislative Assembly. A number of these questions were regarded as related to matters which did not primarily concern the Governor General in Council. Therefore, they were disallowed. On 12 September, Sardar Man Singh gave notice of questions related mostly to the Guru-ka-Bagh. These too were disallowed, and on the same grounds as in the case of Sardar Gajjan Singh earlier.34 The Sikh situation was discussed by the Governor General in September 1922. Bhagwan Das, Deputy Superintendent of the CID, had reported on 7 September that police action at the Guru-ka-Bagh had proved ineffective. It was decided to stop it and to devise some other means of dealing with the situation. Allegations of looting by policemen were also reported. According to Sardar Jogendra Singh, he was told by Pandit Malaviya to say to His Excellency that ‘every lathi blow given to the Akalis was a blow at the root of British rule in India’. The Viceroy sent a telegram to the Secretary of State for India that there was no change in the situation. Arrests had gone up to eighty. The SGPC appeared to be inclined to settle the issue but on its own terms which might not be acceptable to the government.35 The Akali gatherings at Guru-ka-Bagh were declared to be unlawful. Jathās were stopped on the way, ordered to disperse, and, when they did not obey the order, they were beaten with lāṭhīs. The use of excessive brutal force presented a glaring contrast to the totally passive suffering of the Akalis. Some of the eminent leaders and prominent persons of the country witnessed the Guru-kaBagh morchā as a sad and unprecedented spectacle. It was reported in national newspapers. On 13 September 1922 the Punjab Governor visited Amritsar and the Guru-ka-Bagh. The use of brutal force was replaced by arrests. The stories and the sight of what was happening had excited sympathy for the Akalis even on the part of those who did not sympathize with the movement. The Akalis survived the worst kind of brute repression without showing any signs of weakness or wavering. A fairly large number of ex-soldiers had joined the morchā. The government began to look for a face-saving device. Sir Ganga Ram came to its help, or he was persuaded to do so. He took the Guru-ka-Bagh on lease and raised no objection to the wood being cut.36

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement (p.98) In the Viceroy’s conference on 3 October 1922, the Gurdwara Bill drafted by Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia was briefly discussed. It appeared to be reasonable to the Viceroy who observed that the Punjab Government was bound to give protection to the mahants who were legally entitled to police protection. The Home Member, Malcolm Hailey, suggested that a compromise between the Akalis and the mahants was preferable to arbitration. The written statement of Subedar Amar Singh was seen as important. He referred to the services rendered by the Sikh soldiers all over the world under hard conditions and the medals they were given in recognition of their sacrifice. But they were disillusioned by the attitude of the government towards the Sikh civilians. At Guru-ka-Bagh the Akalis were treated as criminals and humiliated. ‘We shall now be pleased to see handcuffs fastened on own wrists by those whom we have been considering our friends for long and in whose service we have been so little calculating of our own interests.’ The Sikh soldiers were fortunate now that they were put in jail ‘for the liberation of our religious shrines and Gurdwara reform’.37 The Home Secretary wrote to the Home Member on 7 November 1922 that Ogilvie, a Punjab civilian, was being sent on a tour with officers of the 47th Sikhs to explain to the regiments the government policy in order to reassure the Sikh soldiers. Rushbrook William was to organize propaganda in the press on the basis of the matter supplied by the Punjab Government. Two leaflets were prepared by the government for circulation among the Sikhs. One was entitled ‘The Sarkar in Difficulties’ and the other ‘Zalim Sarkar’. The import of these two leaflets was that the cry of government tyranny was ridiculous: it had to uphold the law. The Director of the CID was organizing propaganda in the press to refute charges against the government, and to expose the tactics of the SGPC. He was paying particular attention to the merits of Gurdwara Bill, introduced on 7 November, from the Sikh point of view. In another pamphlet Ogilvie dwelt on the concern of the paternal government with the welfare of the people like their children. The title was suggestive of its thrust: ‘Sons are bad sometimes; parents never.’38 The new Bill was not supported by the Sikh members when it was taken up for discussion. It was passed, nevertheless, with the support of the official and Muslim members of the council in November 1922. From the Sikh point of view, it was an improvement upon the Bill of 1921. But the Sikh members refused to cooperate in the implementation of the Act, and it became a dead letter. The government had passed this Act in the hope that the release of Akali prisoners would be made conditional upon working the Act but the SGPC refused to accept this piece of legislation. Therefore, the government was looking for some other plausible excuse for releasing 5,600 Akali prisoners. The Akali leaders played an active and constructive role in the Hindu–Muslim riots in Amritsar on 13 March

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement 1923. In appreciation, the government ordered unconditional release of the Akali volunteers arrested in the Guru-ka-Bagh morchā.39 For a British bureaucrat who wrote under the pen name ‘Komma’, the SGPC was hostile to the government from the very beginning. The religious movement was ‘speedily overshadowed by the political motive’. The Sikh League was a purely political body and it resolved to support the general movement for Indian independence. The political objective was propagated under the ‘cloak (p.99) of religion’. The SGPC could invoke the sacrifice of the martyrs of Nankana Sahib in their struggle against the government. ‘Every Akali henceforward was to wear a black turban in token of his mourning and they must demand that all Sikh shrines should be handed over to them.’ The leaders of the movement were not prepared to come to a peaceful settlement. ‘What they now wanted was the recovery, not of the shrines only, but also of the lordship of the Punjab and Swaraj for India.’ With reference to the handing over of the keys of the toshakhāna to the SGPC ‘Komma’ says: ‘Never was there a more shameful defeat.’ The Punjab Government had ‘humbled itself to the dust’ but the Akali leaders rejected all attempts at a compromise. The Guru-ka-Bagh morchā was not ‘a religious agitation’ but ‘a plain and naked attempt at revolt’. However, the situation was not desperate from the British point of view. The Sikh states and their rulers were faithful in their allegiance to the King-Emperor. The mass of the rural civil population had not yet been infected. The Sikh leaders disloyal to the government had misled the virile followers of the Sikh faith by giving their agitation a religious complexion. ‘Komma’ gave three suggestions for dealing with the situation. First, the political movement must be dissociated from the religious movement. Second, the agitators who were urging the Sikhs to revolt must be silenced. Third, the law which had prevented the reform of Sikh shrines must be changed ‘to accommodate the growing desire of the Sikhs to purify their religion’. In other words, ‘Komma’ favoured suitable legislation to appease the moderate reformers but recommended strong action against the agitators from outside the province and the politically radical Akalis.40 This appears to be a reflection of the thinking of the colonial government at this juncture.

Master Tara Singh’s Political Role Master Tara Singh was the Headmaster of Khalsa High School, Lyallpur, in 1920 when he was made a member of the SGPC, like several other Sikh leaders of the Lyallpur colony. He became personally involved in the events at Nankana Sahib. He says in Merī Yād that Nankana Sahib had attracted the attention of Singhs for four reasons: it was the birthplace of Guru Nanak; a large property was attached to the gurdwara; its resources were used against the Singh Sabha reformers; and its mahant had a disreputable character. As the leader of mahants, Narain Das decided to hold a conference in Lahore under the presidentship of Baba Kartar Singh Bedi. This irked the Akalis because a meeting of the SGPC was scheduled to be held on this day. Bhai Kartar Singh

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement Jhabbar and Bhai Lachhman Singh Dharowalia planned on their own to take possession of Nankana Sahib on the day of the conference.41 Master Tara Singh recalls that a day before the meeting of the SGPC (on 20 February 1921), he was met by Sardar Teja Singh Samundri who expressed great anxiety about the plan to take over Gurdwara Janam Asthan at Nankana Sahib. He wanted the action to be postponed. Before boarding the night train from Lyallpur to reach Amritsar in time for the SGPC meeting, they sent a telegram to Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabbar to meet them at the Chuharkana railway station. He sent Bhai Sucha Singh to meet them on his behalf. Bhai Sucha Singh agreed to convey their message to Bhai Kartar Singh to postpone the proposed action, but added that it would not be postponed.42 (p.100) At the Lahore railway station Sardar Teja Singh Samundri and Master Tara Singh met Bhai Dalip Singh of Sahowal, Jathedar of the Sheikhupura District Akali Dal, who knew nothing of the plan. He was given all the information and asked to go to Sacha Sauda and stop the jathās. Bhai Dalip Singh was able to persuade Kartar Singh Jhabbar to postpone action. Then he sent someone to Lachhman Singh for the same purpose. He himself went to Nankana Sahib to stop any jathā going towards the gurdwara. Along with Bhai Buta Singh, he waited on the way to the gurdwara but no jathā came till early in the morning, and they thought of going to sleep in the factory (kārkhāna) of Bhai Uttam Singh. Soon they heard the sound of firing and ran towards the Gurdwara Janam Asthan. Buta Singh was stopped on the way but Lachhman Singh reached the gurdwara. He implored the mahant to stop the carnage but the mahant ordered his men to kill him. He was cut to pieces and his limbs were thrown into a kiln to be burnt. It transpired later that some Singhs had met Lachhman Singh and tried to stop him but he said that ardās had been performed and they had to proceed irrespective of what might happen.43 On reaching Amritsar, Sardar Teja Singh Samundri and Master Tara Singh informed other members of the SGPC about the critical situation. Such was their anxiety that no matter was taken up in the meeting. The two returned from Amritsar on the same day and learnt at the Malhian Junction that hundreds of Singhs had been shot down at Nankana Sahib. They left the train at Sangla and walked to Chandarkot during the night. Bhai Kartar Singh Jhabbar was already there with his jathā. A huge crowd had gathered by the evening. Jathās from Jaranwala, Tandalianwala, and other places had also arrived. A single jathā was formed under the command of Bhai Kartar Singh. When it reached Nankana Sahib, many of the mahant’s men had already been arrested and the Commissioner gave the keys of the gurdwara to the Singhs in order to placate them. The gurdwara was occupied peacefully. Sometime later, however, the Singhs who had reached Nankana Sahib in large numbers went out of control and they ill-treated some of the local people.44

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement Master Tara Singh was now invited to work as Secretary of the SGPC. He took leave from the school for six months and reached Amritsar to establish his office as Secretary. The existence of the SGPC became tangible in the form of this office. A Gurdwaras Bill was prepared by the government but there was a fundamental difference between the viewpoint of the Akalis and the government. From the government’s point of view it was not politic to create a central body for all the gurdwaras of the province. The Bill was passed but it remained a dead letter because the Sikhs were opposed to the Act. The government started arresting the Akalis in order to suppress the movement. The mahants were encouraged to resist the Akalis. Master Tara Singh had to bear the main burden of pressure from the government.45 Master Tara Singh was staying with his brother, Professor Niranjan Singh, who was teaching at Khalsa College, Amritsar. Because of his residence in the College, Master Tara Singh developed friendly relations with Bawa Harkishan Singh and Professor Teja Singh, who were both teaching in the College. Both of them were well versed in Sikh religion and took serious interest in the affairs of the Sikh Panth. Gradually, all the three professors became co-workers of Master Tara Singh who would consult them on all important matters. They started going to the office of the SGPC (p.101) and to participate in discussions. Later they were entrusted with the task of publicizing the proclamations of the SGPC and drafting all kinds of declarations.46 The repressive policy of the government obliged the SGPC to pass a resolution in May in favour of non-cooperation with the government. The moderate leaders, Sardar Harbans Singh Atari and Bhai Jodh Singh, who were not in favour of confrontation with the government, left the SGPC. In July 1921 a new SGPC was constituted, and Sardar Kharak Singh was elected President.47 The movement entered a new phase. In direct confrontation with the government, the SGPC now demanded that the keys of the toshakhāna of the Darbar Sahib should be handed over to its President. The Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar had by then appointed Captain Bahadur Singh as the sarbrah. In the beginning of November, he came to the Darbar Sahib with the keys so that arrangement for display (jallau) at the time of Gurpurab might be made, but the Sikh sangat did not allow him to go near the toshakhāna. He handed over the keys to the Deputy Commissioner and resigned.48 The new SGPC organized a large number of dīwāns and lectures. The government imposed a ban on meetings in the districts of Lahore, Amritsar, and Sheikhupura. The Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar began to hold his own meetings. The one at Ajnala was attended by Sardar Teja Singh Samundri, Sardar Jaswant Singh Jhabal, Sardar Dan Singh Wachhoa, and some others. After the Deputy Commissioner’s speech the Akali leaders asked for time to speak but were refused. They decided to hold a separate meeting. The police arrested the Akalis. The SGPC was in session when this news reached Amritsar. Page 18 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement It was decided to hold a dīwān in Ajnala. Master Tara Singh was present in this dīwān but he did not make any speech. He was not among the leaders arrested on this occasion. It was decided to start a morchā at Amritsar. There, Master Tara Singh made a speech in front of the Akal Takht, and he was arrested (and sent to the Mianwali jail).49 After the arrest of Sardar Kharak Singh, Sardar Harchand Singh of Lyallpur was made President of the SGPC. Giani Sher Singh left Rawalpindi and settled permanently in Amritsar. Many others came to work for the SGPC. The new Working Committee of the SGPC passed the resolution that no Sikh should accept the keys of the toshakhāna from the Deputy Commissioner until all the Akali prisoners were released. None of the staunch loyalist Sikhs was prepared to take the keys on behalf of the government. The Deputy Commissioner wanted to negotiate terms with the new Akali leaders but they were not prepared to go to him. Sardar Beant Singh, a Tehsildar, brought the message of the Deputy Commissioner that he wanted to meet the Akali leaders in the office of the SGPC. ‘This was for the first time during the British rule that its administrator came to the office of an organization to meet its office-bearers.’50 In his negotiations with the Akali leaders the Deputy Commissioner said that the government was prepared to release the Akalis on the condition that they would not agitate against the government so that the whole matter of gurdwaras could be settled in a peaceful manner. Professor Niranjan Singh and Giani Sher Singh met Master Tara Singh and Sardar Teja Singh Samundri, who were in the Mianwali jail with some other Akali leaders. All of them thought that the proposal was reasonable. If the objective of the Akalis (p.102) was achieved through peaceful means there was no need for agitation. Then Professor Niranjan Singh and Giani Sher Singh went to Dera Ghazi Khan where Sardar Kharak Singh and Sardar Bahadur Mehtab Singh were detained with some other leaders. Sardar Kharak Singh alone insisted that the government must offer an apology. The others tried to persuade him but he did not change his stand. When Niranjan Singh and Sher Singh returned to Amritsar, the Akali leaders were being released. Sardar Kharak Singh came out and started giving inflammatory speeches to incite the Sikhs against the government. This attitude of the top leader convinced the government that it would have to use harsh measures to deal with the Akalis.51 Master Tara Singh writes that this victory and the stance of their President elated the Akali workers so much that they began to travel in trains without tickets and to occupy all classes of compartments. At several places they insulted English officers. The Akali leaders were partly responsible for this. In a procession in Lahore they shouted provocative slogans against the government. In Amritsar, all limits were crossed. Master Tara Singh drew the attention of the Akali leaders towards this, and separated himself from them as a token of

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement protest. He was not yet in a position, he says, to be effective.52 This is the earliest indication of Master Tara Singh’s differences with Sardar Kharak Singh. Giani Sher Singh was appreciative of Master Tara Singh. He wrote on 16 April 1922 that the frank and courageous approach of Master Tara Singh had been well recognized by the Panth. By going to jail for the second time, he had entered the political arena openly. His first offence in the eyes of the government was to have read out the resolution of SGPC on the keys affair to a religious dīwān. This time he was arrested for his lecture at village Ghasitpura (district Lyallpur) which was regarded by the people as rather mild in tone and content. But Article 107 could be interpreted by the authorities in any way they liked. The real reason for his arrest was that he had gone to Benares to ask Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya for support to the Akalis. He was arrested by the police on his return when he was rather unwell. He was among the handful of leaders who had dedicated themselves wholly to the SGPC.53 It was hoped that the government would pass a Gurdwaras Act but the Akalis were agitating all over the Punjab. The government prepared lists of all Akalis in each district and in the Sikh states to arrest them all at the same time. About 1,700 Akalis were arrested. This brought peace to the Punjab but it strengthened the SGPC. Had the government not taken action against the Akalis, they would have put an end to the authority of the SGPC. An eloquent example of their high-handedness was that they had once kept the members of the committee of Darbar Sahib confined in a room in their office for three hours for not getting what they regarded as good food in the langar. Bawa Harkishan Singh was among those who had been confined. The members of the Working Committee of the SGPC, among whom was Master Tara Singh, felt afraid that the Akali victory over the possession of the keys of the Darbar Sahib might finish off the SGPC. Master Tara Singh was also arrested but he was released after a week.54 Thinking that the Akalis had been weakened, the government began to dilly-dally about the Gurdwara legislation. It was a great failing on the part of the government to yield to the pressure of agitation and to feel strong enough to resist when that (p.103) agitation stopped as if there would be none again. This happened several times during the Akali movement. The SGPC was earnest about legislation, but there was no statesman among the British administrators of the Punjab. At one or two places the mahants were encouraged by the local officials to take back the gurdwaras in the possession of the Akalis. The SGPC decided to launch a morchā. It was due to the foolishness of the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar that the morchā at Guru-ka-Bagh had started.55 Master Tara Singh recalls that every morning 100 Singhs used to take the vow at the Akal Takht to remain peaceful against all provocation, and start towards the Guru-ka-Bagh. The police used to meet them on the way. They would sit down and the police would start beating them till every Singh lay prostrate on the Page 20 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement ground. This continued for twelve days. No Akali abandoned the ground, and no Akali resisted. The Congress had failed in its satyāgraha and there was a great feeling of despondency in the entire country. The challenge of the Akalis kindled a new spirit.56 The aggressive attitude of the government was the cause of the Guru-ka-Bagh morchā. All the top leaders with the exception of Sardar Teja Singh Samundri were arrested. The SGPC was virtually placed under siege: no postal communication, no money, and no help was allowed to come in. The Akalis were not allowed to board any train. But the Sikhs did not submit to repression. The Akali jathās bore all kinds of hardship and deprivation. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya came to Amritsar to help the Sikhs. He invited C.F. Andrews too to see for himself what was going on. Andrews wrote articles in English for newspapers in India and England. The Punjab Government stood exposed. National leaders began to come to Amritsar. A special session of the Working Committee of the Indian National Congress was held at Amritsar under the Presidentship of Srinivas Ayangar. A committee was appointed to investigate official excesses. Never before or after were the Sikhs in such a high spirit as now. It was the second victory of the Sikhs when the government saved its face through Sir Ganga Ram’s mediacy.57 All the important gurdwaras had come under the control of the Akalis. But this was not a constitutional position. Therefore, the Akalis expected the government to legislate a suitable measure for the control and management of gurdwaras. In the new elections of the SGPC, Sardar Bahadur Mehtab Singh was elected President and Sardar Teja Singh Samundri Vice-President. An executive committee was constituted with Master Tara Singh as a member. He was also the editor of the Akālī, which was now published from Amritsar. Bawa Harkishan Singh was very close to him. These two were the most influential individuals among the Akalis. Sardar Teja Singh and Sardar Mehtab Singh generally tended to agree with them. The entire Akali leadership was now absolutely keen that its position should be constitutionalized.58 The government wanted to isolate the Akalis from the Babbar Akalis, who had started their programme of political murders. The threat from the Babbars appeared to be more imminent and more serious. The government felt obliged to come to a sort of truce with the SGPC. All the Akalis arrested during the Guruka-Bagh Morcha were released ostensibly for their help in stopping the riots between Hindus and Muslims at Amritsar. However, the government did not initiate any legislation on the gurdwaras. Master Tara Singh had also been arrested. But he was released after about a month and a half. The (p.104) reason was that whereas other Akali leaders used to give lectures, he did not make any speech. Master Tara Singh emphasized that both Hindus and Muslims supported the Akalis at the time of Guru-ka-Bagh morchā. On no other occasion were they together in supporting the Akalis. This was also the time when the Page 21 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement orders of the SGPC were obeyed by the Sikhs like the Guru’s order. All political shades were represented on the SGPC and this was the source of its strength.59 The Akali movement was at its height when the SGPC resolved to start the cleansing of the tank (kār-sevā) at the Darbar Sahib. There was unprecedented enthusiasm among the Sikhs, and an unusually large number of Sikhs turned up for the kār-sevā. Master Tara Singh says that he had not witnessed such a scene in his whole life nor read in Sikh history. He regrets that this was spoilt by the spirit of rowdyism (burchhā-gardī) which surfaced among the Sikhs rather frequently. A few headstrong individuals started the work of kār-sevā even before ardās was performed and kār-sevā initiated by panj-piārās. Master Tara Singh does not name anyone, but we know that these headstrong individuals were led by Teja Singh Bhuchar. Master Tara Singh calls it burchhe-gardī; it was the chief source of weakness of the Panth. Some leaders always acted without a sense of responsibility.60 At the time of the kār-sevā, the local army officers without the knowledge of the Deputy Commissioner and the higher authorities sent troops to Amritsar on the assumption that they might be required in view of a large gathering. It was then decided that in future the movement of troops in aid of civil power should be ordered only at the request or acquiescence of the civil authorities. The Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar reported on 17 June 1923 that if the procession had followed the SGPC programme, ‘it would have covered at least 18 miles, and would have taken all day to reach the Darbar Sahib’. He also noticed ‘a magnificent piece of insolence’. An Akali jathā started the work of kār-sevā early in the morning, more than two hours before the arrival of Sardar Mehtab Singh and Captain Ram Singh. The Maharaja of Patiala arrived 15 minutes later, at 8:15, and sat before the Akal Takht. Teja Singh Bhuchar at the head of the jathā marched out defiantly. Only then, at 11:00, did the panj-piāras begin the clearance and the people were allowed to perform sevā. The Deputy Commissioner remarked that its after-effects might be political, but the spirit of the kār-sevā was not political.61 Master Tara Singh did not take the bureaucracy seriously when it was announced that prisoners of the Guru-ka-Bagh morchā were being released in appreciation of the peaceful role played by the Akalis during the Hindu–Muslim clashes in Amritsar. Had this been the real reason, all the Akali prisoners should have been released. But the prisoners other than those of the Guru-ka-Bagh morchā were not released. It was generally believed by the people that the government wanted to show mildness towards the passive Akalis so that they did not join the militant Babbars. Furthermore, the object of the bureaucracy was to suppress the Babbar Akalis by isolating them from rest of the Panth. These measures could then be adopted in other areas, one after the other. The Akalis

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement did not approve of violence but they would not tolerate their suppression on the false plea of violence.62 Master Tara Singh remained interested in the Babbar Akalis till the end. When the Babbars were sentenced to death, they refused to make any appeal. ‘Whatever we have done’, they said, ‘is precisely what Guru Hargobind and the Tenth Master had done.’ To destroy (p.105) the wicked was no sin or crime. To utter such words in the face of death, says Master Tara Singh, was not possible for a thief, a dacoit, or a murderer. ‘We cannot help sympathizing with Sardar Kishan Singh and his companions who are called Babbar Akalis and ordered to be hanged.’ Their courage, dedication to the cause, and their sacrifice were being praised by all. Even when the Babbars were mistaken in their method, ‘we want to say it loudly and clearly that the responsibility for their attitude lies with the bureaucracy’. The manner in which the officials of the State treated the peaceful Akalis at Guru-ka-Bagh and desecrated the symbols of their faith was bound to create a spirit of retaliation among some of the Akalis. It went to the credit of the SGPC that the entire Panth did not join the Babbar Akali movement. At its very beginning, the SGPC had declared that it could not appreciate the viewpoint of the Babbars, but in the heart of their hearts, the Akalis were convinced that they were doing nothing wrong. The Babbar Akali movement was a product of the atrocities of the bureaucracy in dealing with the peaceful Akalis. It was for the bureaucracy to realize its mistake.63

Mahatma Gandhi’s Attitude towards the Akalis Ruchi Ram Sahni, who came to be closely associated with the Guru-ka-Bagh morchā on behalf of the Congress, was convinced that the Akali movement was deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. He writes: ‘In my view, the Akali movement provides the best and the most inspiring instance of Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings of non-violence through word and deed.’64 Mohinder Singh observes, however, that the Congress found in the Akali movement an opportunity to further its own programme of non-cooperation launched by Mahatma Gandhi to strengthen its own position in the Punjab.65 There is no doubt that the Congress leadership in general and Mahatma Gandhi in particular took keen interest in the Akalis. It is important, therefore, to look at the nature of this interest. Addressing a meeting at Amritsar on 18 October 1920, Mahatma Gandhi had said that there were only two ways to attain swarāj: the sword and noncooperation. It was his firm conviction that ‘swaraj could be achieved in one year’ with complete unity and spirit of sacrifice for non-cooperation. On the same day, Mahatma Gandhi talked to the students of Khalsa College, Amritsar, and asked them whether they wished to be loyal to the Empire or to Guru Nanak. They could make the College ‘truly Khalsa’ if it received no grants, and they could themselves become ‘truly Khalsa’ if they left the College. Clearly, he wanted the Sikhs to join the Non-cooperation Movement. At Lahore, on the Page 23 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement following day, he made it very explicit: ‘Let the Hindus, Musalmans and the Sikhs weld themselves together in one whole and through progressive nonviolent non-cooperation wrest justice from Government’s unwilling hands.’66 Speaking at Gujranwala on 19 February 1921, Mahatma Gandhi referred to the Sikh League having joined the non-cooperation for obtaining swarāj, and he reiterated that swarāj could be attained within one year through non-violent noncooperation. On 25 February he made his first known comment on Nankana Sahib. The mahants would surrender immediately, he said, if no one visited a gurdwara and if no money was put into the impure hands of the impure mahants. There was some humiliation involved in the way in which the control of the gurdwara at Nankana Sahib had been given to the Akalis (p.106) by the government’s army. ‘We do not have any right to acquire control of a gurdwara by intimidation.’ The Sikhs had waited for years. ‘Would it have been wrong to wait a year more.’ On 3 March Mahatma Gandhi visited Nankana Sahib to tender his sympathy as ‘a pilgrim’. After speaking about ‘the tragedy’ he said that the Gurdwara movement required ‘overhauling’. Even if no violence was intended, a large party going to take possession of a gurdwara constituted ‘a show of force’. There were two ways open to the Akalis: arbitration or suspension. Mahatma Gandhi was in favour of suspension of the movement.67 Clearly, he wanted the Akalis to suspend their movement in order to give support to his Non-cooperation Movement. In the Navjivan on 13 March 1921, Mahatma Gandhi wrote a longish piece on ‘awakening among the Sikhs’. This awakening, he said significantly, would either deliver India from bondage within eight months ‘or it will obstruct that deliverance’. The Sikhs had strength of both body and mind, they were brave with the sword, and they were strong of will too. The biggest gurdwaras had fallen into the hands of the Akali jathās. Narrating briefly how Mahant Narain Das had ‘out-Dyered Dyer’, Mahatma Gandhi wrote: I asked one of their leaders what, according to him, was the value of this sacrifice from the point of view of the country. He said it had added to the strength not only of the Sikhs but of the whole of India. We should not be surprised if many more such sacrifices have to be made before we win swaraj. This sacrifice, he said, had shown the world what brave men the country had. He was right. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad had uttered one profound sentence at Nankana Sahib: ‘The blood of a hundred and fifty has purified one gurudwara. Should it be any wonder if all of us have to be martyrs to purify the gurudwara that is India?’ Everyone of the Sikhs to whom Mahatma Gandhi talked on this subject believed that the Akalis had gone to the gurdwara for darshan and, though they could have drawn their swords, they refrained from doing so and perished, since they had taken a pledge to act peacefully. ‘If so, this is a perfect example of nonPage 24 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement violent non-cooperation, and I firmly believe that its impact on the freedom movement will be tremendous.’68 Genuinely appreciative of the Akalis, Mahatma Gandhi was absolutely keen to see that the Akalis did not deviate from the path of non-violence. They had a crucial importance for the project of swarāj. Mahatma Gandhi took notice of the Akali agitation about the keys of the treasury of the Golden Temple. The Punjab Government had goaded the Sikhs to civil disobedience by prohibiting a Sikh dīwān to be held at Amritsar. But the Sikhs held the dīwān and eleven leading Sikhs were arrested, including the SGPC President, Sardar Kharak Singh, and Sardar Bahadur Mehtab Singh who had resigned the Deputy Presidentship of the Punjab Council and government pleadership on the gurdwara question. ‘If the Sikhs continued to remain calm and yet firm, then the incarceration of the Sikh leaders must bring about the desired solution of the Gurdwara question.’ In the congratulatory telegram sent by Mahatma Gandhi to Sardar Kharak Singh, the success of the Akalis in the Keys morchā was stated to be a victory in the first battle of freedom. It was a measure of the kind of importance he attached to the Akali movement. In December 1921, he wrote that ‘the Sikh countrymen’ were solving their own and India’s problem. All their best men were offering themselves as sacrifice for the sake of their faith. In soldierly fashion, one after another, they were (p.107) seeking imprisonment without fuss and flutter and without the slightest violence. If the same calm courage continues, they would without a shadow of doubt solve their own and with it also materially assist in solving India’s problem. All of India was watching with eager expectation this religious manifestation among the Sikhs.69 Mahatma Gandhi praised the Akalis as non-violent fighters against the government. They had behaved with wonderful courage and restraint. ‘When born fighters become non-violent they exhibit courage of the highest order.’ Mahatma Gandhi hoped and prayed that they would remain non-violent to the end. He fully endorsed Lajpat Rai’s tribute to the Sikhs that they had set a noble example. They deserved all praise as brave and noble sufferers in the cause of truth. Their resolute behaviour, their religious fervour, and their calm determination commanded his highest admiration. Mahatma Gandhi earnestly hoped that no hasty action, no outbreak of violence would impede ‘our unmistakable progress towards our destined goal’. The message sent by Sardar Kharak Singh from prison to the Khalsa was: ‘Non-violence is the key to success.’ Eventually the Commissioner offered to return the keys of the Golden Temple on certain conditions. Mahatma Gandhi remarked: ‘Sikh courage reaches greater heights every day and along with their courage grow their endurance and their spirit of non-violence.’ The government was now in a dilemma. ‘If it releases the Sikhs, it will be ridiculed and the strength of the Sikhs will increase two fold. If it does not release them, their strength will increase tenfold.’70 The government proved to be wise enough to choose to be laughed at. The Congress Committee paid a compliment to the Sikhs for their bravery, sacrifice, and Page 25 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement patriotism by selecting Sardar Kharak Singh as President of Provincial Congress Committee. Mahatma Gandhi congratulated Sardar Kharak Singh on his courage to take up the office ‘at this stormy period of the nation’s career’.71 Sikh nonviolence in the struggle for freedom had a peculiar importance for Mahatma Gandhi because of his assumption that the Sikhs believed in the use of force. A ‘Punjab Nationalist’ wrote to Mahatma Gandhi about ‘some of the terrible facts’ which should oblige him to revise his opinion about the non-violent character of the Sikh awakening. This letter startled Mahatma Gandhi. The report seemed to be ‘unbelievable’ but its author claimed accuracy for his report. It was published by Mahatma Gandhi without any comment. He wanted to hear what his Sikh friends had to say about this matter.72 The ‘Punjab Nationalist’ had confused the Babbars, who subscribed to the idea and practice of armed struggle against the British, with the Akalis. Mahatma Gandhi’s anxiety is understandable. He carried the impression that the Sikhs believed in the use of force but they had taken to non-violent noncooperation in an exemplary manner. Their loyalty to the cause was exceptionally important for Mahatma Gandhi. He was arrested in 1922 and remained in jail till early 1924. But he did not forget the Sikhs. It was in the jail for the first time that he read some books on Sikh history in order to understand them better in the light of their background. He would take serious interest in the Akali movement again during 1924–5 under changed circumstances.

Master Tara Singh as an Ideologue of the Akali Movement Master Tara Singh’s literary activity was as important as if not more than his political (p.108) activity in the early 1920s. Through his articles he communicated his ideas to inform the political and religious attitudes of the Sikhs. He used a language that was easy to understand, and in an idiom that had a peculiar appeal for people familiar with the Sikh faith and Sikh history. The bearing of Sikh ideology, as understood by Master Tara Singh, comes out clearly in these articles. It is important to note in this connection that even though he supported non-violent non-cooperation, Master Tara Singh sought the real roots of the Akali movement in the Sikh tradition and not in Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of non-violence.73 Master Tara Singh pointed out that the Sikhs had never accepted the authority of any government in their religious affairs. Even under Sikh rule, all religious disputes were settled by the Akalis of that time. But the British were trying to impose their own ideas in religious matters concerning the Sikhs. That was the reason why the SGPC had resorted to non-cooperation. The only way out now was that, in consonance with the religious convictions of the Sikhs and their religious rights, the management of gurdwaras should be legally entrusted to the elected representatives of the Panth in accordance with the wishes of the SGPC. The martyrs’ blood at Nankana Sahib had demonstrated to the world how Page 26 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement dearly religious freedom was cherished by the Sikhs. The Sikhs had realized that freedom lay in their conscience, and the key to the freedom of gurdwaras was with the SGPC. Service of the Panth was the foremost duty of the Sikhs.74 The source of inspiration for the Sikhs was their history as much as their faith. On the eve of the Hola Muhalla at Anandpur, Master Tara Singh recalled the siege of Anandpur by the combined forces of the Hill Rajas and the Mughals. Just as Guru Gobind Singh was surrounded at that time by hardship on all sides, so was the Panth besieged by difficulties now. Like the Hill Rajas then, the mahants now were the real enemies. They wanted to sacrifice the nation for their selfish interests. ‘Anandpur’ was a legacy left for the Sikhs by the Tenth Master and they were proud of this heritage. The spirit which enabled the Khalsa to overcome all the difficulties in their struggle for freedom would rescue them from their present predicament. They must remain true to their heritage.75 As in the time of the Mughal emperors, when it was a crime to be a Singh, so was it now a crime to be an Akali. The Sikhs had only two options: to become renegades (patits) or to be treated as rebels. Since they could not betray their faith, they had to be prepared for facing all kinds of hardship as ‘rebels’. ‘In the present times a Sikh who is not ready to go to jail is either not really a Sikh or he does not understand the Sikh faith.’ The path of sikhī, as laid down in gurbāṇī, was narrower than the breadth of a hair and sharper than the edge of a sword. Now was the testing time. A Sikh who takes pahul commits himself to dedicate his body, mind, and wealth to the Guru. The proof of faith was not in words but in actions.76 Master Tara Singh invoked the Sikh tradition of martyrdom in the cause of faith. To die for the faith was a source of honour. The people (kaum) who fail to preserve their honour cease to be alive. The Sikhs were small in number; they were not so learned as some other peoples were; they did not possess much wealth; but they possessed a strong sense of honour. They knew how to die for their faith. ‘So long as the Sikhs remember the basic principle (mūlmantar) that their life lies in the honour of their faith, they (p.109) shall remain a nation of the brave.’ A brave Singh warrior, Bhai Alam Singh, asked Guru Gobind Singh how a handful of the Khalsa would remain on its feet against a crowd of powerful opponents. The Tenth Master told him, ‘The Immortal Being (Akal Purkh) will be their protector if the Khalsa know how to die for their faith.’77 Master Tara Singh invoked the Sikh tradition in support of non-violent noncooperation. Non-violent suffering for a cause was an integral part of the Sikh tradition. Non-violence for Master Tara Singh was not to retaliate even when one had the capacity to do so. Guru Tegh Bahadur had demonstrated the principle that non-violence involved deliberate suffering. To remain peaceful out of fear was not bravery but cowardice. He who was afraid of the sword could not wield the sword. He who was prepared to die could challenge thousands of people just Page 27 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement by himself. All kinds of bravery were subsumed in non-violence. Passive suffering strengthened the soul, and it was a source of bravery for others too. Therefore, what was needed was to strengthen the soul through non-violence.78 Master Tara Singh appreciated Mahatma Gandhi’s recipe of non-violent noncooperation. Atrocities on peaceful agitators would expose the imperial power and its cloak of legality and touch the conscience of its agents. It would be impossible for the government machinery to run without the support of the Indian people. They could foil the imperial policy of ‘the-carrot-and-the-stick’ only by non-violent non-cooperation. The ‘carrot’ would have no attraction and the ‘stick’ would unmask the true character of imperial power. The people who criticized non-cooperation out of selfish concerns were mistaken. There was no middle path. Swarāj and non-cooperation were two sides of the same coin. Nonviolent non-cooperation was the one and only road to victory.79 The bureaucracy was adopting harsh measures to re-establish its reputation and authority. But it would be a mistake to retaliate and to resort to violence. The lesson of Chauri Chaura should never be forgotten. Non-violent non-cooperation was the necessary answer to atrocities and oppression. The Sikhs should rejoice over the chance to make sacrifices. To save the honour of the Panth was in the hands of the Khalsa. Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur, the martyr Gurus, were watching them. Bhai Mani Singh and Bhai Taru Singh, the great Sikh martyrs, were waiting for them with garlands in their hands. The Khalsa should sink their differences and become a strong entity. Freedom was not easy to attain, and even more difficult was to remain steadfast in faith. Only they who were indifferent to suffering could remain steadfast. The Khalsa should remember the legacy of Guru Tegh Bahadur who sacrificed his life to uphold his principle.80 Master Tara Singh was sure that there was no option for the Akalis but to fight. The colonial government had its own inherent weaknesses. It was opposed to the idea of handing over the management of the gurdwaras to the representatives of the Panth because it entertained suspicion out of its own weakness. First, it was a foreign government and, second, it was maintained by force. Because of this essential weakness, the government did not trust anybody and interfered with everything. ‘Weakness creates mistrust which leads to interference, and interference breeds opposition.’ This had been the weakness of Aurangzeb. The British bureaucracy mistrusted the Muslims after 1857 and when the Hindus began to ask for their rights they were suspected of treason. The bureaucracy (p.110) began to mistrust the Sikhs after 1907. Its anxiety to keep the Sikh institutions like the Darbar Sahib and the Khalsa College under its control was a reflection of this mistrust. The Sikhs could not keep quiet any longer, and they made their position clear over the issue of Gurdwara Rakabganj. But the British reluctance to relinquish control increased all the more. There was no point in waiting for the government to change its mind. The SGPC was left with no

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement option but to continue the agitation with greater vigour. This would have to be done sooner or later.81 True faith was the basis of power. Guru Gobind Singh made it very clear that he would ensure power for the Khalsa so long as they remained faithful to their distinctive way of life; they would lose his trust if they deviated from the way of life prescribed for the Khalsa. Through the grace of the Tenth Master the Khalsa made their way to power. When they adopted Brahmanical rites and rituals, so much so that there remained no distinction between a Sikh and a Hindu, they lost their power. At the first birth of the Khalsa only five Sikhs were asked to offer their heads. For the ‘re-birth’ of the Khalsa, the blood of 125 Sikhs was spilt at Nankana Sahib. The British bureaucracy tried to weaken the Akalis and took the keys of the toshakhāna to put an end to the SGPC, but it failed to suppress the Akalis. The Guru-ka-Bagh was another battleground where the bureaucracy was defeated. Master Tara Singh hoped that the Khalsa would take the vow on the Baisakhi of 1923 to fight to the finish.82

In Retrospect The year 1920 appears in retrospect to be a watershed in the history of the Sikhs and in the life of Master Tara Singh. The newspaper Akālī was started as the mouthpiece of the radical Sikh leaders as rivals of the Chief Khalsa Diwan, articulating their concern for the liberation of Khalsa College, Amritsar, the historical gurdwaras in the Punjab, and eventually the country. Never before had the Singh Sabha leaders expressed their concern for the freedom of the country so openly and so strongly as now. The radical leaders captured the Central Sikh League and announced direct action to reconstruct the wall of Gurdwara Rakabganj. It was rebuilt by the colonial government as a politic measure. To obviate the radicals taking over management of Khalsa College at Amritsar, the British bureaucracy relinquished its control in favour of the moderate leaders of the Chief Khalsa Diwan. For the management of the Darbar Sahib at Amritsar and other gurdwaras, a new representative body called the SGPC was formed in November, of which Master Tara Singh was a member. This was followed by the formation of Shiromani Akali Dal in December 1920. The Akali movement for liberation of the gurdwaras and liberation of the country had begun. The radical Sikh leaders of the Lyallpur canal colony played a considerable role in the developments of 1920. Master Tara Singh was conspicuous among them. A founder member of the SGPC like several other Sikh leaders of the Lyallpur colony, Master Tara Singh became personally involved in the events at Nankana Sahib in February 1921. Soon after, he was invited to become Secretary of the SGPC and he established his office at Amritsar. In this process he adopted Amritsar as his home, with politics as his full-time vocation. It located Master Tara Singh at the centre of Sikh politics for the rest of his life. In May 1921 the SGPC passed a resolution in favour of non-cooperation with the (p.111) government. When a new SGPC was constituted in July, Sardar Kharak Singh Page 29 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement was elected its President, to replace the moderate leaders of the Chief Khalsa Diwan. Thus, Master Tara Singh’s tenure as Secretary of the SGPC was marked by an important change, and Akali politics entered a new phase. The ‘Keys Morcha’ (29 October 1921–12 January 1922) was the first direct confrontation of the Akalis with the government. Master Tara Singh was arrested for the first time and sent to Mianwali Jail. By the beginning of 1922, the government was prepared to release all the Akali prisoners in order to settle the gurdwara issue in a peaceful manner on the understanding that the Akalis would stop the agitation. Master Tara Singh favoured peaceful means for resolving political issues. The agitational mode was the last resort for him. His approach was appreciated by the Panth. He was looked upon as one of the few Sikh leaders who had dedicated themselves wholly to the SGPC. The Guru-ka-Bagh morchā (August 1922–March 1923) was the highest watermark of the Akali movement; it demonstrated the capacity of the Akali volunteers to bear utmost suffering with patience. It received sympathy and support from the leaders of the Congress and other organizations, and it got wide publicity as the most important movement at that time in India. The Akalis were never so strong as at the time of the kār-sevā at Amritsar during the early summer of 1923. By then, Master Tara Singh had emerged as one of most prominent Akali leaders. He had been influencing the Sikhs in general and the Akalis in particular through his articles in Punjabi. For Mahatma Gandhi, the Akali movement was important primarily for its potential integration with the struggle for the freedom of India. For Master Tara Singh, it was important also for ensuring freedom for the Sikh Panth in consonance with the basic character of the Sikh movement. Service of the Panth was the foremost duty of the Sikhs. The source of inspiration for the Sikhs was their history as much as their faith. They must remain true to their heritage. The proof of faith was not in words but in actions. He invoked the Sikh tradition of martyrdom in the cause of faith. To die for the faith was a source of honour. Master Tara Singh was sure that there was no option for the Akalis but to fight and continue the agitation with greater vigour. True faith was the basis of power. He hoped that the Khalsa would take the vow on the Baisakhi of 1923 to fight to the finish. Notes:

(1.) B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, The History of the Indian National Congress, vol. I (1885–1935) (Bombay: Padma Publications, n.d.), pp. 181–91, 196, 199–200, 206, 210. (2.) Sitaramayya, The History of the Indian National Congress, pp. 219, 223, 230, 235–7, 241.

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement (3.) Sitaramayya, The History of the Indian National Congress, pp. 249, 251–2, 254, 260–1. (4.) Prem Raman Uprety, Religion and Politics in Punjab in the 1920s (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1980), pp. 150–3. (5.) Kirpal C. Yadav, Elections in Panjab 1920–1947 (New Delhi: Manohar, 1987), pp. 41–52. See also Satya M. Rai, Legislative Politics and Freedom Struggle in the Panjab 1897–1947 (New Delhi: Indian Council of Historical Research [ICHR], 1984), pp. 100–1, 106–8, 110. (6.) Raghuvendra Tanwar, Politics of Sharing Power: The Punjab Unionist Party 1923–1947 (New Delhi: Manohar, 1999), pp. 40–6. (7.) Hira Singh Dard, Meriān Kujh Itihāsik Yādān, 2nd ed. (Jalandhar: Dhanpat Rai & Sons, 1957), pp. 115–21. (8.) Dard, Meriān Kujh Itihāsik Yādān, pp. 122–35. (9.) Dard, Meriān Kujh Itihāsik Yādān, pp. 130–1. (10.) Dard, Meriān Kujh Itihāsik Yādān, pp. 147–8. (11.) Dard, Meriān Kujh Itihāsik Yādān, pp. 148–9. According to Durlab Singh, Master Tara Singh had offered his name for the shahīdī jathā for rebuilding the wall of Gurdwara Rakabganj. ‘The Valiant Fighter: A Biographical Study of Master Tara Singh’ in Verinder Grover (ed.), Master Tara Singh (New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications, 1995), p. 20. (12.) Ganda Singh, A History of Khalsa College Amritsar (Amritsar: Khalsa College, 1949), pp. 93–4. (13.) Teja Singh, Ārsī (Amritsar: Lok Sahit Prakashan, 1958), pp. 56–9. (14.) Teja Singh, The Gurdwara Reform and the Sikh Awakening (Jullundur City: Desh Sewak Book Agency, 1922), pp. 87–8. (15.) Teja Singh, The Gurdwara Reform, pp. 92–5. (16.) Teja Singh, The Gurdwara Reform, pp. 121–36. (17.) Khālsā Akhbār, 1 January 1987, pp. 3–5. Quoted by Harjot Oberoi, The Construction of Religious Boundaries: Culture, Identity and Diversity in the Sikh Tradition (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 326–7 and n. 40. (18.) Teja Singh, The Gurdwara Reform, pp. 90–2, 143–5. (19.) Dard, Meriān Kujh Itihāsik Yādān, pp. 56–60.

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement (20.) Dard, Meriān Kujh Itihāsik Yādān, pp. 60–2. (21.) Teja Singh, The Gurdwara Reform, pp. 106, 115, 148–9. (22.) Teja Singh, The Gurdwara Reform, pp. 151–4. (23.) Teja Singh, The Gurdwara Reform, pp. 161–8. (24.) Teja Singh, The Gurdwara Reform, pp. 446–7. (25.) Kulwinder Singh Bajwa (ed.), Akālī Dal Sachā Saudā Bār (Amritsar: SGPC, 2000), p. 61. (26.) Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement (Delhi: The Macmillan Company of India, 1978), pp. 24–5. (27.) Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement, pp. 28–35. (28.) F. No. 383 & K.W., Home Political 1921, National Archives of India (NAI), New Delhi. (29.) Mohinder Singh, The Akali Struggle: A Retrospect (New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 1988), p. 135. (30.) F. No. 262, Home Political 1921, NAI. (31.) Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement, pp. 42–7. (32.) ‘Policy of the Punjab Government in Regard to the Akali Movement’, F. No. 861, Home Political 1922, NAI. (33.) Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement, pp. 49–51. (34.) F. No. 914/II, Home Political 1922, NAI. (35.) F. No. 914, Home Political 1922, NAI. (36.) Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement, pp. 52–61. (37.) F. No. 914, Home Political 1922, NAI. (38.) F. No. 914, Home Political 1922, NAI. (39.) Mohinder Singh, The Akali Struggle, pp. 136–7. (40.) Komma, ‘The Sikh Situation in the Punjab (1907–1922)’, PPP 12, part 2 (October 1978): 432–8. John Maynard, who was directly concerned with the Akali movement and who wrote in justification of the official policy and measures with regard to the movement, does not talk of even legislation and ends his article with the statement that ‘on the whole the outlook before the Page 32 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement Punjab is less troubled than it has been for some years past’. John Maynard, ‘The Sikh Problem in the Punjab, 1920–23’, PPP 11, part 1 (April 1977): 129–41. This article was published in the Contemporary Review in September 1923. (41.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 46. (42.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 46–7. (43.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 47–8. (44.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 48. (45.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh (Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 1968), pp. 77–8. (46.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh, pp. 78–9. (47.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 48–9. (48.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 49. Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh, pp. 79–80. (49.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 49–50. (50.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh, pp. 80–2. (51.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh, pp. 82–3. (52.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 50. (53.) Giani Sher Singh, ‘Master Tara Singh Ji’, in Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, ed. Harjinder Singh Dilgir (Amritsar: SGPC, 1999), pp. 19–20. (54.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 50–1. (55.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 52. (56.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 52–3. (57.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh, pp. 83–6. (58.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh, pp. 86–7. (59.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 53. (60.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 54–6. (61.) F. No. 191, Home Political 1923, NAI.

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement (62.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Gurū ke Bāgh de Kaidī Singh Kion Chhade gai han’, Master Tara Singh Ji de Lekh, vol. 1, pp. 93–4. (63.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Babbar Akalian de Mukaddme da Faisla’, Master Tara Singh Ji de Lekh, vol. I, pp. 107–12. (64.) Ruchi Ram Sahni, Introduction in Struggle for Reform in Sikh Shrines, ed. Ganda Singh (Amritsar: SGPC, n.d.), p. ii. (65.) Mohinder Singh, The Akali Struggle, pp. 146–7. (66.) Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. XVIII (New Delhi: Government of India, 1965), pp. 354–8. (67.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XIX (1966), pp. 370, 386, 396–7. (68.) Mahatma Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXI (1966), pp. 421–5. (69.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXI, pp. 505–6, 531–2. (70.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXII (1966), pp. 7, 25, 83, 170–1, 208–9. (71.) Mahatma Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXIII (1967), pp. 44–5. (72.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXIII, pp. 200, 210–12. (73.) As mentioned earlier, two volumes of Master Tara Singh’s essays have been published as Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, edited by Harjinder Singh Dilgir. He indicates that these essays were written by Master Tara Singh from 1910 to 1924. Only three essays appear to have been written before 1920. Most of the essays appear to fall in 1920–4. In any case, we have taken up here only those essays which have a direct bearing on the developments from 1920 to 1923. It may be added that in 1922 the Akālī was merged with the Pardesī Khālsā and it was brought out from Amritsar as Akālī te Pardesī under the guidance of Master Tara Singh and it became virtually a newspaper of the Akali movement. Dard, Meriān Kujh Itihāsik Yādān, p. 137. (74.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Gurdwara Sudhār te Asādā Dharmic Hakk’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, pp. 50–7. (75.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Anandpur Sāhib dā Samā Āgiā’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, pp. 53–4. (76.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Akāliān nūn Kuchlan dā Yatan’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, pp. 66–8. (77.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Ikdūn ik kar Devo: Shiromani Gurdwara Kametī de Vichār Yog’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, pp. 69–73. Page 34 of 35

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Master Tara Singh in the Akali Movement (78.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Kaumī Izzat Nūn Kāim Rakhkhan da Vela’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, p. 74. (79.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Khalsa ji da Khūnī Janam dūjī Ver’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, pp. 91–2. (80.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Shāntmai Bahādarī Kih Buzdilī’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, pp. 89–90. (81.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Swarāj te Nā-milvartan’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, pp. 55–8. (82.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Imtihān dī Ghaṛhī’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, pp. 63–5.

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation (1923–5) J.S. Grewal

DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199467099.003.0006

Abstract and Keywords The removal of Maharaja Ripudaman Singh from Nabha in July 1923 was seen by the SGPC as an indirect attack on its movement for Gurdwara Reform. On the issue of his restoration, protest meetings began to be held. An Akhand Pāṭh in Gurdwara Gangsar in Jaito was disrupted by the Nabha police. Jathās began to be sent from the Akal Takht to perform AkhandPāṭh in Gurdwara Gangsar. In October, the Punjab Government declared the SGPC to be an unlawful association, and all the members of its executive committee were arrested and charged with ‘treason against the King-Emperor’. The Jaito morchā continued for nearly two years. Eventually, with the help of the moderate leaders of the SGPC, the Punjab Government passed the Sikh Gurdwaras Act in 1925 without any reference to restoration of the Maharaja of Nabha. Keywords:   Maharaja Ripudaman Singh, Akalis, Akhand Pāṭh, Akal Takht, Gurdwara Gangsar, SGPC, Gurdwara Reform, Akali jathās, Jaito morchā, and Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925

The second phase of the Akali movement was different from the first in an important way. The initial resolution of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) was not related to gurdwaras but to the removal of a Sikh ruler from his gaddī. Soon, however, a religious issue was added: the interruption of Akhand Pāṭh in Gurdwara Gangsar at Jaito. The scene of agitation was in the Nabha state and not in British territory. The Akalis were placed at a disadvantage. Nevertheless, the Jaito morchā was sustained long enough to Page 1 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation oblige the British authorities to negotiate. The negotiations failed on the issue of the release of all the Akali prisoners. Sir Malcom Hailey became the Punjab Governor at the end of May 1924 primarily to deal with the Akalis. He combined harsh measures against them with encouragement to moderate and pro-British Sikh leaders. He wanted to negotiate on his own terms, but the eventual agreement was a compromise. It was embodied in the Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925. The Congress leaders remained associated with the Akalis because Mahatma Gandhi was interested in the developments related to the Akali agitation. They were in favour of isolating the religious from the political issue. In this context, Master Tara Singh played an important role both before and during his detention from October 1923 to September 1926.

Political Developments The year 1924 was marked by the triumph of the Swaraj Party in the Legislatures and Mahatma Gandhi’s serious illness, operation, and unconditional release on 5 February, four years before it was due. A compact and welldisciplined party had emerged (p.115) after the elections, consisting of fortyfive Swarajists who could command a working majority with the support of the Nationalist Party, consisting of patriots who had not accepted non-cooperation. Motilal Nehru offered cooperation on his own terms: ‘If the Government would receive this co-operation, they would find that the Swarajists were their men. If not, the Swarajists would stand on their rights and continue to be Non-cooperators.’ Mahatma Gandhi recognized the fundamental difference between non-cooperation and entry into the council but he failed to convince the Swarajists and he announced that ‘so long as they think otherwise, their place is undoubtedly in the Councils’. Before the end of 1924, however, Mahatma Gandhi surrendered to C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru. The Mahatma presided over the Belgaum session of the Congress to save it from a split, pacifying both the sides but agreeing with neither.1 He kept the balance between the two sections. The politics of 1925 centred round council work, in which the Swarajists were not harassed by the No-changers. However, the Party was performing merely the role of a constitutional Opposition. There was no question of ‘constant, continuous, uniform obstruction’ as originally projected. There was a revolt within the Party, led by M.R. Jayakar and N.C. Kelkar, who raised the slogan of Responsive Cooperation. They were more concerned with what they regarded as ‘Hindu’ interests. Along with B.S. Moonje (a prominent leader and ideologue of the Hindu Mahasabha), they resigned their membership of Legislature to which they had been elected on the Swarajist ticket. On 4 December 1925 it was agreed that ‘all public controversy on the question of the Swarajist Party’s policy should cease untill the Congress meets’.2 The Swaraj Party had only a limited capacity to lead the struggle for freedom. Communal troubles were far more widespread in 1924, with serious outbreaks at Delhi, Lucknow, Allahabad, Jubbulpore, and Kohat. ‘The Kohat riots really Page 2 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation broke the backbone of India.’ Throughout 1925, Hindu–Muslim riots occurred from time to time. Mahatma Gandhi admitted his inability to bring about Hindu– Muslim unity. He made one of those rare statements in which he would entertain the idea of bloodshed in despair: ‘If it is to be our lot that, before we can come together, we must shed one another’s blood, then I say, the sooner we do so, the better it is for us.’3 The general elections to the Punjab Council were held in the second half of November 1923. The ‘Rural Block’ formed after the elections of December 1920 was renamed ‘Punjab National Unionist Party’ after the elections of 1923. For its programme and ideology it was simply stated that ‘the new party would improve the condition of the peasantry, backward classes and backward communities living in rural Punjab’. The party was to work ‘against the exploitation of moneylenders’ and to open cooperative societies, rural dispensaries, veterinary dispensaries, primary schools, high schools, intermediate colleges, and panchāyatī system. The emphasis on rural development was justified by the fact that nearly 90 per cent of the people of the Punjab lived in the countryside. The party leaders underscored the need of communal harmony in the midst of growing social tensions reflected in the riots of Multan and Amritsar. They swore by constitutional methods in politics, and their most important demand was for provincial autonomy. Power was shared by Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs, but Muslim domination was evident from the fact that thirty-two of (p.116) its initial members were Muslims and only seven of them were Hindus and Sikhs. The party leader, Fazl-i Husain, was nevertheless supported strongly by Chhotu Ram, and he had the consistent support of Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia. The bulk of the party members were large landholders and elites. They were in open or covert collaboration with the British bureaucracy. The Act of 1919 did not give much power to the ministers even in theory, and the British Governors of the Punjab were keen to ensure that the Unionist Ministers did not exercise unrestrained power in practice. Sir Malcolm Hailey, who took office as Governor on 31 May 1924, remarked with reference to Sir Fazl-i Husain that a minister who should behave as ‘an obedient driver’ of the state vehicle was behaving ‘as if he owned it’.4 Seven members belonged to the Swaraj Party, with its programme of opposing the government in the council. The leaders of the party in the Punjab were Lala Duni Chand, Raizada Hans Raj, and Professor Ruchi Ram Sahni. Lala Lajpat Rai began to support them very strongly after the special session of the Congress at Delhi in September 1923. He had campaigned actively for the party candidates in the Punjab. All the seven members elected were Hindus. However, the party had close association with the SGPC which had won two seats. Another party in the fray was the Hindu Nationalist Party formed by (Raja) Narendra Nath to make efforts for gaining swarāj through constitutional means. Despite the

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation boycott of elections by the Congress, the number of votes polled rose to 250,000 as against 130,000 in 1920.5

The Jaito Morchā Maharaja Ripudaman Singh of Nabha was removed to Dehra Dun on 9 July 1923 after his forced abdication. He had supported national, regional, and Sikh causes, starting with his letter as a prince to the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar in 1905 to get the idols of Hindu deities removed from the precincts of the Golden Temple. As a nominated member of the Imperial Legislative Council in 1907–8, he aligned himself with the nationalist leaders. He also introduced the Anand Marriage Bill to make the Sikh form of marriage as the only valid form. It was not taken up during his term, and Sunder Singh Majithia was made a member of the Council to steer the Bill in a modified form making the Sikh form of marriage as legally valid. In 1912, he insisted that his succession was a matter of right and not of discretion on the part of the paramount power. He was never enthusiastic in his support of the British during World War I and he was suspected of harbouring Ghadarites in his state. He was genuinely sympathetic towards the Akali reformers. As ‘a rebel prince’ he presented a contrast to Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala who was an arch-collaborator. It was on Bhupinder Singh’s verbal and informal complaint to the Secretary of State for India that two enquiries were initiated against Maharaja Ripudaman Singh, one secret and the other political. The purpose of both these enquiries turned out to be intimidation. He was forced to abdicate on 7 July 1923 in favour of his minor son not on the basis of any formal enquiry but by threats of what could be done against him on the basis of the two enquiries. The Agent to the Governor General (AGG), Colonel A.B. Minchin, had already made arrangements to remove the Maharaja from Nabha. Minchin arrived in Nabha on the morning of 8 July with troops and armoured cars to take control of the Nabha state and to send the Maharaja to Dehra Dun under a military escort.6 (p.117) The Akali leaders were in contact with the Maharaja and they knew that he was being pressurized to sign a letter of abdication. They took up the question of his restoration in a communiqué of 9 July 1923. They fixed 29 July as the day of prayer for his restoration and 9 September as the day of barefoot marches in protest. Meanwhile, on 10 July a communiqué of the SGPC stated that there were good reasons to believe that the abdication of the Maharaja was not voluntary but extorted by official pressure.7 At the instance of the Punjab Government, the Viceroy held a conference on 25 July in view of the information that the new SGPC which was being elected ‘will almost certainly be far more extremist in character’ and it was ‘almost certain to identify itself with the agitation now in progress among the Akalis in favour of restoration of the Maharaja of Nabha to his gaddi’. It was decided that the Maharaja should be persuaded to state that agitation was not in his interest. If the SGPC sent jathās, or tried to persuade the people not to pay revenue, it Page 4 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation should be declared ‘an unlawful association’. Action against Akali jathās should be taken in the Nabha territory and not in the Punjab. This decision could enable the government to use troops of the Sikh states and to shut out the press and other possible observers from outside. Furthermore, a state matter could not be taken up in any legislature. On 26 July the army officers concerned were ordered to move some troops to Nabha and also keep troops in readiness for being sent to Amritsar.8 In the election of office bearers of the SGPC on 5 August, Sardar Kharak Singh was elected President of the SGPC, but Sardar Mehtab Singh was to act in his place, as the former was in jail. Sardar Bhag Singh of Gurdaspur was elected Secretary. Both Mehtab Singh and Bhag Singh were reluctant to take office and they took leave for three months. Sardar Teja Singh Samundri and Bawa Harkishan Singh agreed to officiate in their place.9 The Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar reported that the new SGPC was unanimous in condemning the action of the Government of India to force the Maharaja of Nabha to abdicate. However, there was no unanimity on the issue of his restoration. The extremists were strongly in favour of action but Bhai Jodh Singh and Raja Singh (a vakīl of Peshawar) were opposed to it. Finally, it was argued that the rulers of the Sikh states acknowledged the authority of Akal Takht and, therefore, the SGPC could legitimately intervene in their affairs. The Executive Committee of thirty-four members elected on 6 August included Master Tara Singh. He was also among the seven members elected to the Working Committee. The statement he prepared on the abdication of the Maharaja of Nabha was approved by the Working Committee.10 On Malcolm Hailey’s suggestion the troops sent to Nabha were to remain there for some time more for moral effect. It was not the situation in Nabha itself that justified their presence so much as ‘the chilling effect on the activities of the Akalis and their Committee’. He went on to add that the SGPC would not be able to keep the matter alive much longer. However, he was not sure because it was not safe ‘to prophesy where such perverse people are concerned’.11 The Nabha administration under a British officer issued an ordinance prohibiting political meetings within the state. However, the Akalis of the Nabha state continued to hold dīwāns. On 25 August a procession was taken out at Jaito in the Nabha territory and a dīwān was organized. On the third day, (p.118) resolutions were passed in sympathy with the Maharaja, condemning the police, the state officials, and the Maharaja of Patiala. The organizers were arrested on charge of making political speeches. The dīwān was indefinitely extended by the state Akalis, and an Akhand Pāṭh (unbroken reading) was started at Gurdwara Gangsar in Jaito. It was disrupted by the Nabha police and its organizers were arrested. The police action added to the resentment of the Akalis.12

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation The situation by the end of August was reviewed by the Viceroy. There were two movements among the Sikhs: (a) the Babbar Akali campaign of terrorism in the Hoshiarpur and Jullundur districts and (b) the Akali agitation against the abdication of the Maharaja of Nabha. The former was suppressed for the present. The latter was fostered by the enthusiasm, unity, and jathā organization created by the kār-sevā, the new members of the SGPC, and the resources controlled by it. It was difficult to avoid an open rupture, realized the Viceroy.13 According to a CID report, the Nabha issue had been discussed by the Working Committee of the SGPC on 13 August at which members of the Central Sikh League were also present. An Akali who had accompanied Master Tara Singh to this meeting gave the information that efforts were being made to come to terms with the Nāmdhārīs. The Nāmdhārī Guru, Maharaj Pratap Singh, and all his sūbās were in Amritsar. Sant Singh of the CID reported that the SGPC had acquired ‘a hold upon a good many Sikhs, including those now serving in the army’. It was rumoured that the Maharaja of Patiala had bribed Mehtab Singh and Giani Sher Singh. The people of Patiala state did not like the partiality of the British for their Maharaja.14 The thrust of an article in the Bombay Chronicle was on ‘the insulting and high handed conduct’ of the Political Agent, A.B. Minchin, with regard to the royal ladies of Nabha, including the senior Maharani, when they were taken to Dehra Dun under a military escort. At a meeting of the SGPC towards the end of August, Master Tara Singh moved a resolution that the government had done great injustice to the Maharaja of Nabha, breaking terms of the understanding given to the protected states that British troops would never be allowed to enter the Nabha state.15 On 9 September the Viceroy held a conference to consider the situation in the Punjab and in the Nabha state. The discussion led to three points: action against the SGPC, against the Maharaja, and against the Akali jathās. The Viceroy expressed his view that the members of the SGPC should be arrested if the jathās broke the cordon at Jaito, and the Maharaja should be told to surrender securities and other documents within a stipulated period and then ‘the Government of India would consider themselves absolved from the conditions of his abdication and would be at liberty to take such action as they considered necessary’. Publicity should be given to the ban on political dīwāns in the Nabha state. G.D. Ogilvie, Assistant Administrator, Nabha, wrote in a ‘Note on military action at Jaito’ that in his opinion attempts ‘to break through the cordon at Jaito should be resisted, up to the point of firing’. For this purpose, he had twenty men armed with guns and buckshot; they were all Sikhs. A public statement was issued accordingly.16

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation The SGPC protested to the Viceroy that on 14 September the military under the Assistant Administrator, Gurdial Singh, forced its way into the gurdwara and dragged away everyone, including the person who was reading the (p.119) Granth for an Akhand Pāṭh. The holy Granth remained opened but unattended. This was an unprecedented sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. ‘The Sikh community hold your Government responsible for all this.’ The Viceroy endorsed Hailey’s noting that so long as the Akalis offered only passive resistance no firing should be resorted to. Wilson Johnston, the Administrator of Nabha, said that arrests were uncalled for; Gurdial Singh should not have acted in this way against direct orders of Johnston. Nevertheless, he went on to justify his deputy’s action. In Johnston’s opinion, it did not injure religious sentiments of the Sikhs.17 Gurdial Singh himself claimed later that the Akhand Pāṭh was not disrupted. ‘The Akali reader was asked to leave the place and our man replaced him.’18 The evidence collected by the CID against the SGPC was regarded as plentiful and conclusive to justify action against it. At the top of the list of over a score of charges was Master Tara Singh’s taking up of the agitation as virtual editor of the Akālī Pardesī and pressurising the old SGPC to issue the communiqué of 10 July referred to earlier. Some of the other charges were also interesting or important, like the publication of The Truth About Nabha which showed clearly that the Maharaja had abdicated under pressure, and the declaration made by Teja Singh, Jathedar of the Akal Takht, that the government would soon be destroyed for having begun to suppress the Akalis at Jaito. The Akālī te Pardesī under the control of Master Tara Singh and the Akālī edited by Giani Sher Singh had been writing against the government and in favour of the Maharaja of Nabha.19 Akali jathās of twenty-five each began to be sent from the Akal Takht to Jaito for performing Akhand Pāṭh and to suffer all hardships and tortures for establishing the right of free worship in all gurdwaras. On 12 October 1923, the Punjab Government declared the SGPC and all Akali jathās to be ‘unlawful associations’ as they constituted ‘a danger to public peace’. All the sixty members of the Executive Committee of the SGPC were arrested and charged with ‘treason against the King-Emperor’.20 On 25 October the Viceroy sent a telegram to the Secretary of State for India that even at the outset the Akali movement had a political aspect and this had become increasingly apparent. It was a grave danger to permit an association that had formidable financial resources at its command, and excited the people emotionally by appeal to their religious sentiments. The agitation for the restoration of the Maharaja of Nabha was a challenge to the Government of India in exercising its secular power. Therefore, it could not be ignored. It was necessary to ensure that there was no alliance between the Akalis and the Congress extremists. Full support was to be given to the Punjab Government in Page 7 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation this situation. The majority of the important Akalis had been arrested without causing disorder or popular excitement over the notification of the Akali bodies as unlawful associations.21 The Viceroy did not want A.B. Minchin to be dragged into the Sikh leaders’ case. Minchin was the man most directly involved in forcing the Maharaja of Nabha to abdicate. The personal Secretary to the Viceroy wrote to Sir Malcolm Hailey on 9 November that His Excellency could not understand how Minchin’s evidence could be relevant, and he wanted the Punjab Government to oppose any such application of the defence. He agreed with Hailey that the examination of Minchin was ‘most undesirable and should be avoided if possible’.22 (p.120) On 26 November 1923, J. Crerar, Secretary to Government of India, Home Department, wrote to H.D. Craik, Chief Secretary, Punjab, that the Akali leaders might possibly attempt to prove that compulsion was used in the matter of the abdication of the Maharaja of Nabha. The defence counsel might ask for confidential documents or the political officers as witnesses. ‘In order that we may decide as expeditiously as possible and in consultation with the Political Department what action could be taken in any such contingency I am to request you that you will let me know without delay if there is any indication of the defence taking the line above suggested.’ Craik consulted Bevin Pitman, the leading government counsel in the Akali leaders’ case, and he replied that this was certainly expected. But he would object. It was immaterial whether or not pressure was exerted. ‘The question is whether in any circumstances the actions of the accused are illegal.’23 On 18 December, a CID officer of the Punjab reported that Sardar Mehtab Singh claimed that the Akalis had some documents in their possession which would make ‘startling revelations in the Court, particularly about the abdication of Nabha’. These documents would also expose the government’s opposition to the Gurdwara Reform Movement from the very beginning.24 The members of the SGPC in position at Amritsar were arrested on 7 January 1924. The Akali attitude in the past fortnight had been aggressive. With total disregard to the notification which declared the SGPC to be an unlawful body, its meeting was announced in the newspapers. The Punjab Government thought that the arrest of the SGPC members would produce a good effect. The police was ordered to arrest the members holding a meeting at the Akal Takht. The police forced their way through the Akali ‘sewādārs’ but on Bhai Jodh Singh’s intervention, they returned to the entrance and waited for voluntary surrender of the members of the SGPC. After a long delay, a dīwān was held in the open space and inflammatory speeches were made and sixty-two persons were garlanded; they walked in procession in parkarmā before they surrendered; they were taken to the Kotwali at 6:00 p.m. ‘It was somewhat unfortunate’, wrote Craik to Crerar, ‘that the local officers should have underestimated the Page 8 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation opposition likely to be encountered, but it must be remembered that the Akalis have an extraordinarily good system of intelligence.’ The Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar believed that this unprecedented entry of the police into the Akal Takht was resented by the Akalis as an outrage though this action heartened the supporters of the government.25 On 15 January the Viceroy sent a telegram to the Secretary of State for India, which said: ‘The first public meeting of the SGPC after it was proclaimed to be as unlawful association. The police were roughly handled by Akali sewadars. Forcible entry would have resulted in bloodshed. Members were called upon to surrender and 62 arrests were made. City was reported quiet.’26 On 15 January 1924, Crerar wrote to Craik that some of the evidence for the prosecution of Akali leaders was of a very general character and, prima facie, it did not appear to be directly relevant for the personal complicity of the accused. Craik explained the position to Crerar on 25 January. He added that the counsel for the Crown would try to prove not only the involvement of the persons accused but also that there was a ‘conspiracy’ among them.27 On 1 February 1924, Sardar Kartar Singh gave notice of questions in the Central (p.121) Legislative Assembly. Three of these were admitted but not the one on the abdication of the Maharaja of Nabha, which it was said was not under the purview of the assembly as it related to a princely state. In reply to the other questions it was stated that expense on prosecution of the Akalis was incurred by the Punjab Government, and the Punjab Government had the approval of the Government of India for its measures with regard to the Akalis.28 All the questions were meant to underline the anomaly of the system which prevented the representatives of the Indian people from intervening in the affairs of the princely states but empowered the representatives of the British Government to handle them. Sardar Gulab Singh had moved a resolution in the Legislative Assembly early in January 1924 to the effect that a committee consisting of two-thirds of the nonofficial and one-third of the official members of both the Legislatures be appointed to enquire into the grievances of the Sikh community and the report on the Akali movement. The President of the Legislative Assembly admitted this resolution on 1 February. The Home Secretary Crerar gave the noting that the resolution should be opposed on the ground that the great majority of the Sikhs were residents of the Punjab and their interests were primarily the concern of the Punjab Government. The Home Member, Malcolm Hailey, endorsed this view on 22 February and the Viceroy gave his approval on the same day. On 27 February, the Viceroy sent a telegram to the Secretary of State for India that a full discussion was held on the Sikh situation and the Jaito affair. The majority of non-official members were in favour of an enquiry. Echoing the Sikh members, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya too held the government wholly responsible for Page 9 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation the Sikh situation. Hailey maintained that the Sikh trouble was between two sections of the Sikh community. He opposed the resolution and suggested that in consultation with the Punjab Government a method could be evolved to enable the Sikhs to put forward their case and possibly to find a solution. The assembly recommended to the Governor General to appoint a committee of official and non-official members of the House ‘to inquire into the causes of discontent prevailing among the Sikh community and to report on what measures should be adopted to remove the same’.29 Akali jathās had continued to reach Jaito, to be beaten, arrested, kept in custody for a few days, taken to the farthest territories of the Nabha state, and left there without any means for returning. This went on for weeks and months. The SGPC decided to send a shahīdī jathā of 500 Akalis to reach Jaito on 21 February 1924, the third anniversary of the tragic but successful action at Nankana Sahib. This jathā was to perform Akhand Pāṭh, or to die in the attempt, observing complete non-violence in thought, word, and deed. The evidence of eyewitnesses and contemporary enquiries leaves no doubt that the Akalis were perfectly nonviolent but the jathā was fired at. The SGPC communiqué reported 300 causalities, including 70 to 150 dead. The Nabha authorities contended that the firing was first started by someone in the jathā. An official enquiry confirmed this version.30 The government remained stuck to this view, tried the so-called ring leaders of the jathā, and sentenced them to varying terms of imprisonment. The Government of India thought somehow that the arrest of the shahīdī jathā would be resisted by violence. If such a situation arose the ringleaders should be arrested and (p.122) ‘in the last resort force should be used, gun fire being employed if necessary to restore order’. Detailed instruction as to the methods to be adopted if fire had to be opened, already issued by the Government of India, had to be strictly adhered to. A small body of the Patiala troops could also be present at Jaito. There was positive advantage in bringing home to the Sikh extremists that all the Sikh states were united in their opposition to the Akali menace. The Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar, who watched the whole procedure at Amritsar during 9–10 February, ended his report with the sentence: ‘I should be surprised if the jatha breaks the vow of non-violence under any provocation.’ But the Administrator of Nabha ordered firing at the jathā, and the government communiqué of 22 February justified his action.31 On 24 February 1924, A.B. Minchin wrote to the Political Secretary to Government of India that the Sikh situation had reached a critical stage, and it was ‘absolutely essential to show to the Sikhs that they could not have their own way’. It was alleged that there was evidence to show that the Sikh jathā had brought firearms for distribution to the Durli Jatha (the Akalis who were not a part of the shahīdī jathā) just before arriving at Jaito. The Firozpur Akalis who attacked the troops were well provided with firearms. Minchin suggested that the Maharaja of Patiala could be asked to add to the body of 150 infantry already Page 10 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation at the disposal of the Administrator. The Maharaja was prepared to supply troops, or 20,000 villagers. On 25 February the Governor General in Council decided that the same policy be pursued in regard to the second shahīdī jathā as was followed in regard to the first, and that the decision as to the number of persons to be prosecuted be deferred till the report of the Magistrate was received.32 Before the third shahīdī jathā was sent, Sardar Bahadur Mehtab Singh’s wife asked his cousin, Sardar Sobha Singh, on 13 March 1924 to see Mehtab Singh in the Lahore Fort. He was anxious to come to some sort of arrangement with the government. Sobha Singh saw Mehtab Singh and certain other Akali leaders in the Lahore Fort. They stated that they wanted a Gurdwara Bill and they demanded only a Regency Council on the Nabha issue. The other points for discussion were minor. Sobha Singh carried the impression that the leaders whom he had met were in a penitent and reasonable mood. Craik suggested certain conditions. Sobha Singh met Mehtab Singh again. He was willing, but not the other leaders.33 This was a significant indication of division among the Akali leaders. On 29 March 1924, Hardial Singh, the Magistrate, gave judgment in the criminal case against Karan Singh and sixty other members of the SGPC, sentencing fiftyseven of them to various terms of imprisonment ranging from one year of simple imprisonment to two years of rigorous imprisonment, on account of their participation in the meeting of the SGPC on 7 January 1924.34 However, the case of the Akalis in the Lahore Fort, where Master Tara Singh was imprisoned along with senior Akali leaders, lingered on. The Chief Secretary, Punjab, wrote to the Home Secretary in Delhi on 17 May 1924 that the CID report indicated that efforts would be made to drag in ‘the question of the Maharaja of Nabha’ though it was irrelevant to the case of the Akalis on trial. There would be a lengthy and stubborn defence, and the trial would linger on.35 The Akali leadership was divided on whether or not another shahīdī jathā should be sent but eventually they sent the shahīdī jathā as scheduled. (p.123) Sir Malcolm Hailey suggested in the Governor General’s Council that General Sir William Birdwood might negotiate terms of settlement with the Akali leaders, both outside and inside the jail. The Akali leadership was willing to separate the issue of legislation from the restoration of the Maharaja of Nabha but insisted on unconditional completion of 101 Akhand Pāṭhs at Gurdwara Gangsar, and unconditional release of all the Akali prisoners. General Birdwood wrote later in his autobiography that the Akali stipulation of unconditional release of all Sikhs undergoing imprisonment or awaiting trial, ‘even for murder or manslaughter resulting from the seizure of Gurdwaras’, was quite impossible

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation to accept. This was an indirect reference to the alleged violence of the first shahīdī jāthā. General Birdwood abandoned his efforts finally on 2 June 1924.36 After becoming the Punjab Governor in May 1924, Malcolm Hailey had adopted a policy of repression, separating the religious issue from the political, encouraging Hindus, Muslims, and the moderate Sikhs to abandon the Akali cause, dividing the Akali leadership, and organizing rival Sikh associations called Sudhar Committees. He was convinced that real peace would be possible only if the government was able to dictate terms to the Akalis. He opened new fronts for Akali agitation by appointing a Receiver for Nankana Sahib and by refusing to renew the lease of the Guru-ka-Bagh. To deprive the Akalis of the main objective of their agitation, he encouraged the officially sponsored Sudhar Committees to unite in promoting Gurdwara legislation. At this juncture Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya came to the help of the Akali leaders. He persuaded the Hindu members of the Punjab Council to support the Sikh members in moving a Bill. He prepared another Bill for the Central Legislature if a Gurdwara Bill was not taken up in the Punjab Council. Malaviya had Jinnah’s support for these moves. Hailey felt obliged to go ahead with legislation. A Bill evolved in consultation with the moderate section of the Akalis was introduced in the Punjab Council on 7 May 1925. The report of the Select Committee was received on 25 June and the Bill was passed on 7 July, incidentally, exactly two years after the forced abdication of Maharaja Ripudaman Singh. The Governor General gave his assent on 28 July, and the Act came into force on 1 November 1925.37

Mahatma Gandhi on Akali Politics and Sikh Identity Mahatma Gandhi was released on 5 February 1924. He was still under the surgeon’s care, unfit for active work. On 25 February he received a telegram from Zira in the name of ‘Akali Jatha’: ‘Come unminding health condition soon.’ He could not go but he wrote an open letter to the Akalis. He expressed his sympathy with them. Without full facts, he said, he was unable to say whether or not they were justified in sending the shahīdī jathā of 500 to Jaito, but he would ask the Akali Sikhs not to send any more jathās without further deliberation and consultation with the ‘leaders outside the Sikh community’ who had hitherto been giving them ‘advice’. Since the Akalis had always claimed that their movement was perfectly non-violent and religious, Mahatma Gandhi underlined that non-violence was impossible without deep humility and the strictest regard for truth. A word of caution was more necessary in the case of the Sikhs because they had been incessantly active in the pursuit of their goal.38 The Bombay Chronicle of 28 February 1924 gave the impression that Mahatma Gandhi’s (p.124) open letter to the Akali Sikhs was based on wrong information and people suspected Lala Lajpat Rai as its source. Mahatma Gandhi stated that he had received all the information on the Jaito tragedy and drafted his letter before Lajpat Rai met him. Lajpat Rai did see the letter and, on his insistence, Mahatma Gandhi struck out a large number of passages which Page 12 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation were more strongly worded than the final letter. Lajpat Rai pressed him also to advise the Akalis not to send another shahīdī jathā before deliberation with their non-Sikh ‘advisers’; the general reference to the implications of non-violence was Mahatma Gandhi’s own, and he had retained it despite Lajpat Rai’s advice against it.39 On 4 March 1924, Mahatma Gandhi stated that he wanted to be satisfied on five points before he threw himself heart and soul in the movement. One was simply to know the ‘strength of the Akalis’. Another was a ‘clear manifesto publicly stating the minimum’. As he understood it, the minimum was the performance of Akhand Pāṭh at Gurdwara Gangsar in Jaito. This part had nothing to do with the issue of the restoration of the Maharaja of Nabha. For control over the gurdwaras, all the gurdwaras that could be proved to be historical must remain under the control of the SGPC but for all other gurdwaras, all the facts in dispute would be subject to arbitration. If the party in possession of a gurdwara declined to refer the matter to arbitration, or refused to surrender control, the Akalis would be free to take direct but non-violent action. The third point on which Mahatma Gandhi wanted satisfaction was full assurance by the Akali leaders on behalf of the SGPC in the form of a document intended for publication, that the Akalis would be non-violent in thought, word, and deed ‘in connection with all persons’, whether government officials or public persons belonging to denominations regarded as opponents of the Akali movement. The fourth point was to state explicitly that the Akali movement was not anti-Hindu nor against any other race or creed. Finally, the Mahatma needed satisfaction on the point that the SGPC had ‘no desire for the establishment of Sikh Raj’, and that it was ‘purely a religious body’ and had ‘no secular object or intention’.40 Referring to the Nabha issue, Mahatma Gandhi said that the Maharaja had made it practically impossible for his well-wishers to carry on an effective agitation for his restoration because of what he had given in writing to the government. If, however, he made a public statement that all these writings were extorted from him, and that he was willing to face all the consequence of agitation, and if all allegations regarding duress could be proved, it was possible to carry on an effective and even successful agitation. If undertaken, it should be an all-India agitation. On the same day, Mahatma Gandhi wrote to his ‘Sikh friends’ who had met him earlier that according to Pandit Motilal Nehru, the accused in the Akali trials were being defended by the SGPC. He had also learnt that a Hindu temple within the precincts of the Golden Temple had been destroyed by the Akalis. Mahatma Gandhi asked his friends ‘to deal with all these questions’ in the letter which they had promised to write.41 Subsequently, the Mahatma clarified his views further. In connection with nonviolence, he spelt out that a large body of men could not be deputed to assert the right of the SGPC but one or at the most two men of undoubted integrity, spiritual force, and humility could be deputed to assert the right. On the Nabha Page 13 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation issue, the SGPC was expected to accept the findings of an open and impartial (p.125) enquiry conducted by a competent authority on the question whether or not the Maharaja was forced to abdicate under duress. If the Maharaja gave in writing a fresh document that he abdicated voluntarily ‘in consideration for the Government suppressing certain charges which they hold are of an extremely damnatory character’, the SGPC would have nothing further to say. The second shahīdī jathā was already on its way to Jaito, and Mahatma Gandhi would not advise its recall. However, instead of presenting a solid living wall to the State soldiery, the jathā should obey the order of deportation. After the present jathā, the whole situation should be reviewed. Mahatma Gandhi reiterated that the SGPC should keep the religious issue of Akhand Pāṭh separate from the political issue of the restoration of the Maharaja of Nabha, and make a declaration to this effect. A third party would then be in a position to negotiate with the authorities with a view to removing the deadlock.42 On 9 March 1924, Mahatma Gandhi made a statement to the representatives of the Associated Press after his week-long discussions with an Akali deputation. His long conversations with the Akali friends, he said, were cordial and he tendered his opinion on several matters. His letter had been given all the consideration under the given circumstances. There was no foundation for misapprehension that his letter was intended to renew the opinion he had given after the Nankana Sahib to postpone the movement till after the attainment of swarāj. He had never expressed this opinion, and his recent letter also was merely an advice to suspend the sending of the shahīdī jathā till after deliberations with non-Sikh friends and full introspection.43 Mahatma Gandhi congratulated Sardar Mangal Singh of the Sikh League two days later for the splendid behaviour of the second shahīdī jathā.44 On 20 April 1924, the Secretary of the SGPC clarified its position in some detail to Mahatma Gandhi with reference to his letter and note of 4 April which could be considered also a reaction against his assumptions and tone. All historic gurdwaras now under the control of the SGPC should remain under its control. With reference to all other gurdwaras, the facts in dispute should be a matter of arbitration. The movement for Gurdwara Reform was not against Hindus or any other race or creed. It was purely religious and had no secular intention or object. It had no desire to establish Sikh Raj. Nor did any other Sikh body or individual entertain the dream of Sikh Raj. Exactly because it was a religious movement, the Sikhs had been ‘very jealous of keeping the control and guidance of the Gurdwara movement in purely Sikh hands’. A number of ‘Hindu and Mahammadan friends’ had taken sympathetic interest in the movement and given support to it.45 With regard to the significance and implications of the Jaito struggle, the Secretary stated that the ‘invasion’ of Sikh religious rights, and not the deposition of the Maharaja of Nabha, was the cause of jathās going to Jaito. The Page 14 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation Nabha administration had denied the right of free congregation and free worship to the Sikhs of the state, and the SGPC was sending jathās ‘to reestablish the rights assailed’. The intention was to fulfil ‘our vow of completing 101 Akhand Pāṭhs’ after the Gangsar Gurdwara was thrown open to the Sikhs, and to depart within a few days after establishing the right and making necessary arrangements. ‘No body has any right to impose any restriction on us as to the number of pilgrims, period of stay, and mode of worship in our Gurdwaras.’ The SGPC had no (p.126) intention of making the Gangsar Gurdwara its base of operations to carry on propaganda against the deposition of the Maharaja. At the same time, the SGPC wants to make it very clear that its resolution to get righted the wrong done to the Maharaja stood ‘in full force and the SGPC will leave no stone unturned to carry out that resolution in consonance with its wording’. However, there was no immediate need of a decision on ‘making Nabha deposition an all-India question’, or securing certain announcements from the Maharaja for that purpose.46 The Secretary admitted that Motilal Nehru was right. Many of the Akali leaders were defending themselves in the conspiracy case against them. They were doing so in this case because the charge was extraordinary, that the Sikhs wanted to seize the Punjab. That even Mahatma Gandhi found it necessary to ask for repudiation of the charge of desiring Sikh Raj showed how the government had succeeded in clouding the issue, and how necessary it was to fight this campaign of misrepresentation. The SGPC had never adopted any resolution to boycott courts, and it had gone to courts many a time. Its policy on every occasion was to take into account the nature and circumstances of the case. The second batch of fifty-eight members of the SGPC did not defend themselves, nor did thousands of others Akalis who had been flung into jails. With regard to ‘the demolition of a Hindu temple within the precincts of the Golden Temple, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Swami Shankaracharya had agreed to an amicable removal of the Shiva-lingam in a corner of the Parikarma of the Golden Temple which had been introduced ‘in recent times’. Some irresponsible and misguided men, most probably Sikhs, demolished it during the night without the knowledge of the SGPC or any person connected with it. In the morning, the SGPC hastened to express its deep regret in public.47 Regarding its minimum demands the SGPC wanted a law that should provide for ‘a central, representative and elective body of the Sikhs’ as trustees of all historical gurdwaras, that is, all gurdwaras connected with the memory of a Sikh Guru, a Sikh martyr, a saint, or a historical personage. Second, the SGPC wanted freedom for the Sikh religious symbol, the kirpān: there should be no restriction on possessing, wearing, carrying, manufacturing, or selling a kirpān in any form or size. The law in existence gave this freedom but the government interpreted it differently according to its attitude towards the Sikhs on various occasions. These two were the minimum demands of the SGPC. With regard to nonviolence, the Akalis had demonstrated it perfectly in the Guru-ka-Bagh morchā. Page 15 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation ‘The position of the Sikhs from the beginning has been the same and based on the same principle.’ Mahatma Gandhi had not kept this principle in view when he suggested that ‘one or at the most two’ satyāgrahis should go to the Gurdwara Gangsar. The institution of sangat in Sikhism meant worship in congregation. Therefore, no restriction could be placed on the number of Sikhs for performing an Akhand Pāṭh.48 Finally, whereas Mahatma Gandhi favoured no resistance in a non-violent satyāgraha, the SGPC favoured passive resistance. The Sikhs had been compelled to adopt the way of suffering taught by their Gurus. Their idea was to disobey certain official orders pertaining to the gurdwaras and, thus, to invite suffering on themselves, remaining perfectly non-violent. The government tried the policy of wholesale arrests in 1921 and the first half of 1922. In the Guru-kaBagh morchā (p.127) in August 1922, the government resorted to inhuman beating until the pressure of public opinion obliged it to revert to arrests. The first shahīdī jathā at Jaito on 21 February 1924 was ordered to disperse and, on its refusal to obey, the jathā was fired upon. ‘It was perfectly justified in refusing to disperse for a Sikh cannot surrender his religious right of freely visiting the Gurdwara.’ The Sikhs believed that they had the right to disobey a mere order of arrest. It was ‘compatible with their oath of non-violence’. Passive resistance for them was a legitimate form of non-violence in the given situation. There was no ‘show of force’ when the whole jathā was to act in perfect coordination like one man and went only to suffer and not to inflict suffering.49 This correspondence clarifies the position of the Akalis on the issues of legislation and restoration of the Maharaja of Nabha, and also brings out Mahatma Gandhi’s view of Sikhism which explains his attitude towards the Akali movement as well. In 1905, Sikhism for him was a direct result of the influence of Islam on Hinduism. It brought out one of the chief characteristics of Religion: toleration in its true light and fullness.50 Guru Gobind Singh wanted to save Hinduism from Islam, if necessary, with the sword. ‘This gave rise to Sikhism.’51 In other words, ‘Sikhism’ for Mahatma Gandhi was a militant form of Hinduism. It seems, therefore, that Mahatma Gandhi looked upon the Khalsa as a militant wing of the Hindus. Writing about fifteen years later, on 13 March 1921, Mahatma Gandhi says that he had always thought of the Sikhs as ‘a sect of Hinduism’. But their leaders thought that the Sikhs had ‘a distinct religion of their own’. Guru Nanak, ‘of course’, was a Hindu but according to the Sikh leaders, ‘he founded a new religion’. Its external symbols were the five Ks (kesha, kangī, kaṛa, kachhā, and kirpān). However, little emphasis was laid on these symbols ‘till some years ago’. Now, the younger Sikhs attached great importance to them. One of their elders told Mahatma Gandhi that the Sikhs did not believe in caste distinctions (varnashrama); there were no high or low among them and there was no untouchability; and they looked upon idol worship as a sin. Though reverence Page 16 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation was shown to Hindu deities, they did not have the same place in Sikhism as in Hinduism. The Sikhs did not eat beef, but they did not believe in cow protection. They believed in rebirth and muktī, but they paid no special regard to the Vedas and other Hindu scriptures. Their sacred book was the word of their Gurus and, apart from that book, they accepted no other scriptures as holy. Tobacco and liquor were forbidden among them.52 Mahatma Gandhi brackets Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh with Chaitanya, Kabir, Shivaji, and Pratap as greater men than Ram Mohan Roy or Tilak because they had to surmount greater obstacles, and had greater effect on the masses.53 He affirmed that kirpān was as essential for the Sikhs as the sacred thread for the Brahmans. Rather than surrender their sacred weapon, the Sikhs should court imprisonment.54 On 19 June 1924, Mahatma Gandhi said at a meeting in the Punjab that the Sikhs were a part of the Hindu community. Millions of Hindus believed in Guru Nanak, and the Granth Sahib was filled with the Hindu spirit and Hindu legends. But a Sikh friend who was present at the meeting took him aside and told him gravely that he had offended the Sikhs by including them in the Hindu community. Mahatma Gandhi now began to notice that many Sikhs regarded themselves as belonging to a religion (p.128) different from Hinduism. He promised the Sikh friend never to refer to the Sikhs as Hindus. He was, nonetheless, pleased to find that ‘the separatist tendency’ was confined to a very few Sikhs and the general body regarded themselves as Hindus. Significantly, Mahatma Gandhi argued that the Sikhs were similar to the Arya Samajists and the Jains. He looked upon Buddhism and Jainism too as ‘mighty reforms in Hinduism’. If and when he included the Sikhs among non-Hindus it was due to a delicate regard for their feelings and ‘against my own inclinations’.55 Thus, Mahatma Gandhi stuck to his earliest known position that he regarded Sikhism as a sect of Hinduism. Mahatma Gandhi talked about three books on Sikh history he had read in jail: the works of J.D. Cunningham, M.A. Macauliffe, and Gokul Chand Narang. ‘It is impossible’, he says, ‘to appreciate the present Sikh struggle without understanding their previous history and the life of the Gurus.’ Cunningham’s book was a sympathetic record of events up to the Sikh wars. Macauliffe’s book gave life-stories of the Gurus and copious extracts from their compositions. In the Mahatma’s view, it lost its value for two reasons: its fulsome praise of the English rule, and its emphasis on Sikhism as a separate religion, having nothing in common with Hinduism. Gokul Chand Narang’s monograph supplied information not available in the other two.56 It may, however, be added that all the three historians were seriously concerned with Sikh identity. Cunningham looked upon Guru Nanak’s dispensation as the culmination of the earlier religious movements of medieval India, but different and distinct from them. Macauliffe reinforced this view by emphasizing both the distinctiveness and Page 17 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation originality of the Sikh faith. For Narang, Guru Nanak was a sort of forerunner of the Arya reformers but Sikhism was ‘transformed’ later into a new faith.57 Sardar Mangal Singh brought to Mahatma Gandhi’s notice that his article in Young India of April 1925 which referred to Guru Gobind Singh as ‘a misguided patriot’ had given great offence to many Sikhs. Mahatma Gandhi wrote in reply that his language was ‘most guarded’ and that he made ‘no positive assertion’. His own belief about the Sikh Gurus was that ‘they were all deeply religious teachers and reformers, that they were all Hindus and that Guru Gobind Singh was the greatest defender of Hinduism’. He had drawn his sword in defence of Hinduism. But Guru Gobind Singh could not be his model. Nor did he regard Sikhism as ‘a religion distinct from Hinduism’; it was ‘a part of Hinduism’. At the same time he did not quarrel with the Sikhs for considering, if they wished, Sikhism as totally distinct from Hinduism. But he had to express his honest view when he was asked to express his opinion about Sikhism.58 Thus, Mahatma Gandhi could not recognize an independent identity of the Sikhs, nor could he approve of any violence on the part of the Akalis. With a fundamental difference in the ideological positions of Mahatma Gandhi and the Akali leaders, especially Master Tara Singh, differences were likely to crop up on issues of their common concern. In this context, the issue of the ‘national’ flag is quite significant. It was brought to the notice of Mahatma Gandhi that the Central Sikh League passed a resolution that the Sikh colour (black) be included in the national flag. The Mahatma explained that Hindu and Islamic colours were specially represented, not so much for their numbers as for the fact that they had remained apart for long and their mutual distrust had been (p.129) an effectual bar against the realization of national aspirations. All other communities were represented on the white strip. If the Sikh colour was represented separately, why not the Parsi, the Christian, or the Jewish? He hoped that the Sikh League leaders would see the unpractical nature of their suggestion. The central point was to have ‘a clear and rallying object’, not any religious symbol but ‘the spinning wheel’.59 The implication of the argument was that the charkhā alone should appear on the flag. Otherwise, the Hindu and Muslim colours should be retained to symbolize Hindu–Muslim unity. Mahatma Gandhi tried to clarify sometime later that ‘Sikh friends’ were ‘needlessly agitated’ over the colours in the proposed national flag’. In order to convince them of their ‘unreasonableness’, he reiterated that white included all other colours. He went on to add a startling statement: ‘To ask for special prominence is tantamount to a refusal to merge in the two numerically great communities.’ It was dangerous to emphasize ‘our differences or distinctions’. ‘The two colours red and green should be there to perpetuate the growing unity.’ Mahatma Gandhi went on to say that government agents were making all kinds of mischievous suggestions to breed dissensions among the Sikhs. The Sikh Page 18 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation ‘nationalists should not worry. They should know their own mind and stand unmoved by anything said by their detractors’.60 In other words, they should forget all about Sikh identity to become ‘nationalists’. Indian nationalism and Sikh nationalism were mutually exclusive. That Hindu identity was very dear to Mahatma Gandhi is reflected in his attitude towards the Dalit movement in Kerala. He wrote in Young India of 1 May 1924 that Vykom (or Vaikom) had suddenly leapt to fame because it had become the seat of the satyāgraha on behalf of the Untouchables of Travancore. Vaikom satyāgraha (to make the main road accessible to Untouchables) attracted widespread public attention. The Hindu opinion was actively hostile to the movement. Mahatma Gandhi wrote to George Joseph, a Congressman, that the Hindus had to purify themselves because untouchability was ‘the sin of the Hindus’. They ‘must suffer’ to purify themselves and repay the debt they owed to their suppressed brothers and sisters. In short, the whole issue should be exclusively a concern of the Hindus. All outside help was interference. Indeed, he viewed the Sikh free kitchen (langar) of the SGPC ‘as a menace to the frightened Hindus of Vaikom’.61 When a ‘friend’ from the Punjab wrote to Mahatma Gandhi that the Akalis were enraged at his note about Vaikom in which the Sikhs were classed, with Muslims and Christians, as non-Hindus, Gandhi was glad to know that his Sikh friends resented being classed with non-Hindus. He himself regarded the Sikhs as Hindus. But so far as the Sikh kitchen was concerned, it was a menace whether the Sikhs may be regarded as Hindus or non-Hindus. ‘All this outside intrusion— for I cannot call it anything else—takes no note of the orthodox sensitiveness or the difficulty of the Darbar [of Travancore].’ Gandhi added that he had learnt more about the Sikh kitchen and he could not help saying that it compromised ‘the self-respect of the Kerala people’. He makes a strange statement again: ‘If I was a volunteer, I would rather starve than be fed by outside charity, whether Hindu or non-Hindu. Surely the Kerala people must be trusted to see to the feeding of their volunteers.’62 On this argument, the Sikhs had to be kept out because they were not Keralites.

(p.130) Indian National Congress and the Akali Movement Like Mahatma Gandhi, and largely because of him, the Indian National Congress was closely linked with the Akali movement. Significantly, the earliest historian of the Indian National Congress, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, gives a broad outline of the Akali movement as a whole with sympathy and appreciation. He refers to the Nankana tragedy which, during a motion before the Council of State, was explained by the government as ‘a fight between two sections of the Sikhs’. When a Sikh member, Man Singh, hinted that the local officials were probably aware of the possibility of ‘the projected crime of such magnitude’, Malcolm Hailey got up to condemn the speaker for the implied suggestion that the officials were somehow involved in the ghastly affair. The Working Committee of Page 19 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation the Congress, which met at Bezwada on 31 March 1921, expressed its sense of horror over the Nankana massacre: ‘The Nankana tragedy was an unprecedented event in which the pilgrims were shot down and, while yet life was lingering, thrown into the burning pit.’ The Congress assured the Sikhs of its sympathy with them in the heavy loss suffered by them.63 According to Sitaramayya, one of the two most important events of the year 1922 was the Guru-ka-Bagh affair: ‘It was an object lesson in non-violence displayed by a martial race of India who had fought the Germans and won victories for the British in Europe.’ The self-control exhibited by the Akalis was extolled in various sections of the Indian press as ‘a triumph of Gandhism’. At the Gaya session of the Congress, the unexampled bravery of the ‘Akali Martyrs’ and the noble example of non-violence set by them were admired. At the special session of the Congress in Delhi in September 1923, the ‘forced abdication of Nabha’ was one of the subjects for suitable resolutions of sympathy. The Akalis were once again congratulated on their courageous and non-violent stand against repression, culminating in the arrest of the Enquiry Committee sent to Jaito by the SGPC. At its annual session at Cocanada, the Congress took up the government’s challenge to the right of free association of Indians for non-violent activities ‘in attacking the Akali Dal of the S.G.P. Committee and resolved to stand by the Sikhs in their “present” struggle and render all possible assistance, including assistance with men and money’. By this time, the Akali Sikhs with their black turbans, their cries of ‘Sat Sri Akali’, and their langar had become a familiar feature of Congress sessions.64 ‘An Interlude at Nabha’ is a fascinating chapter in Jawaharlal Nehru’s Autobiography. Immediately after the special session of the Congress at Delhi in September 1923, at which a notice had been taken of the Nabha issue, he had ‘a strange and unexpected adventure’. In his view, the Gurdwara movement had come up partly due to the general awakening caused by non-cooperation, and the methods of the Akalis were modelled on non-violent satyāgraha. India was startled by the ‘amazing display of tenacity and courage’ shown by the Akalis in the Guru-ka-Bagh morchā. The Congress was naturally sympathetic to the Akali movement. Nehru had been reading accounts of the way in which the British Administrator of Nabha was treating the Akali jathās at Jaito. Immediately after the Delhi session of the Congress, he was invited to see what would happen to an Akali jathā that was now going to Jaito. He was accompanied by two of his Congress (p.131) colleagues, A.T. Gidwani and K.Santannum. On entering the Nabha territory they were arrested and taken to Nabha Jail to be kept in ‘a most unwholesome and insanitary cell’. On 24 September the Political Secretary to Government of India sent a telegram to the Administrator of Nabha that the government would like to know the arrangement for the trial of Jawaharlal and his companions. ‘Provisional view of the Government of India was that on conclusion of proceedings case would be Page 20 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation adequately met by order of expulsion from the state.’ On the following day the Administrator received the telegram that the Government of India considered that the proper course would be for the court to pass judgment but to announce at the same time that the state government had suspended execution of the sentence. ‘Jawaharlal and his companions should then be expelled from State and excluded therefrom by executive order.’65 Nehru goes on to describe the ludicrous way in which they were tried and sentenced for a concocted unlawful entry and alleged conspiracy. ‘The whole procedure was farcical.’66 ‘My father knew something of Indian states’, says Nehru, ‘and so he was greatly upset at my unexpected arrest in Nabha’. Motilal Nehru telegraphed the Viceroy, and he was allowed at last to interview Jawaharlal in prison. He left Kapil Dev Malaviya, ‘a young lawyer colleague of ours’, in Nabha to watch the proceedings. The trial was over after a fortnight, and the solid fact of a long sentence of over two years had a sobering effect. However, there was a greater but happy surprise in store for them. The jail superintendent showed them an order suspending their sentences. There was another order, asking them to leave Nabha and not to return to the state without special permission. They were escorted to the railway station and released there. They were not given copies of any of the orders or the judgment. Jawaharlal had a hunch that the sentences were still hanging over them, and could take effect ‘whenever the Nabha authorities or the British Government so choose’.67 Indeed, A.T. Gidwani, who was acting as the Congress representative in Amritsar to remain in touch with the SGPC, was arrested when he entered the Nabha territory in February 1924 to help the wounded in the firing on the first shahīdī jathā. ‘He was simply kept in prison for the best part of a year when, utterly broken in health, he was discharged.’ Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to the Nabha Administrator to know why Gidwani had been treated in this way and he replied that Gidwani had been imprisoned because ‘he had broken the order not to enter Nabha territory without permission’. Jawaharlal challenged the legality and the propriety of arresting Gidwani. He felt inclined to go to Nabha and allow the Administrator to treat him as he had treated Gidwani. But he was dissuaded by many friends. The chapter ends on a note of confession. I took shelter behind the advice of friends, and made of it a pretext to cover my own weakness. For, after all, it was my weakness and disinclination to go to Nabha Gaol again that kept me away, and I have always felt a little ashamed of thus deserting a colleague. As often with us all , discretion was preferred to valour.68 Whether or not Jawaharlal knew it, the order of the suspension of sentences on him and his colleagues had been conveyed to them due to a telegraphic instruction received from the Viceroy who did not want the Congress to take up Page 21 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation the Nabha issue. Essentially, therefore, Pandit Motilal Nehru’s approach to the Viceroy was the cause of his intervention.69 (p.132) In return for this personal favour, Motilal did not want his son to get involved in the Nabha affair. Jawaharlal Nehru continued to take interest in the Akali movement. In his presidential address to the Varanasi Conference, read in his absence on 13 October 1923, he referred to ‘the gallant Akalis’ challenging ‘the might of the Government’. They had taken up ‘the proud position of the vanguard of our army of freedom’. In full sympathy and admiration for them, ‘we will not be lacking in our support’ to them. On 27 October 1923, Jawaharlal wrote from the Nainital Jail to the students of the Allahabad University that the government was trying its utmost to crush ‘the brave and gallant’ Sikh people who were fighting for their very existence with their backs to the wall. Jawaharlal wanted them to encourage the Akalis by a public expression of their sympathy with them. In the Congress session at Cocanada before the end of 1923, Jawaharlal underscored that the whole Sikh community was opposed to the government and determined to fight. The Sikhs were well organized and had got the necessary training for suffering as satyāgrahis. Their heroic example should be emulated by Hindus and Muslims of India.70 In order ‘to discuss the role of the All India Congress Committee in the Akali movement’, thirty members of the AICC and three representatives of the Akalis met at Amritsar on 14 November 1923. It was agreed that the Akalis needed help in terms of funds and propaganda. A special committee, consisting of Akalis and two Congressmen (Joseph and Kitchlew) was appointed to ‘help and guide’ the Akali agitation. In the evening, Maulana Azad announced at the Jallianwala Bagh that in view of the fact that the Sikh situation and the Nabha question were really all-India affairs concerning all communities, the ‘leaders conference’ had decided to give all help which the SGPC and the Akali Dal required. A.T. Gidwani was selected for organizing the propaganda work.71 Gidwani wrote to Jawaharlal on 23 January 1924 that he had established a sort of Congress Embassy in Amritsar to keep in touch with details of the Akali movement and to offer, whenever possible, the Congress point of view and programme. He urged: ‘You will be strengthening the hold of the Congress on the Sikh community if you do not defer action on our Akali resolutions indefinitely. A definite sum should be fixed and announced even if it has to be collected.’ Jawaharlal wrote to Gidwani on 25 January 1924 that the Congress did not lack earnestness in regard to the Akalis. But in his view, the greatest help that the Congress could give the Akalis was ‘to perfect our own organization and throw in its whole weight at the moment of crisis’. Meanwhile, Gidwani could continue to give full publicity to the Akali agitation. He was given charge of the Publicity Bureau. Only a day earlier the Akali Sahayak Bureau had given detail of the news related to the Akali movement which were based on the information provided by the Bureau. These news had appeared in several dailies, Page 22 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation including The Tribune, the Civil and Military Gazette, the Amrit Bazār Patrikā, and the Zamīndār. At the meeting of the AICC in Bombay on 31 January 1924, it was decided to contribute a total amount of Rs 25,000 to be spent in consultation with the SGPC. On 13 February 1924, Gidwani wrote to Jawaharlal about his long talk with Mahatma Gandhi at Poona (present-day Pune), explaining the Akali situation accurately. Two or three days later he moved with the first shahīdhī jathā and described the response of the villagers on the (p. 133) way. As mentioned before, he was arrested at Jaito a week later on 21 February 1924.72 K.M. Panikkar wrote to Jawaharlal on 23 March 1924 that he was preparing a report on the Jaito firing independently of the SGPC. He had consulted Dr Kitchlew and he was taking evidence of all the Muslim volunteers who had accompanied the shahīdī jathā. Dr Kitchlew gave an account of what he had seen of the first shahīdī jathā on 21 February 1924 when he himself was arrested but released and told not to enter Nabha territory again.73 On 30 March 1924, K.M. Panikkar sent his report on Jaito to Jawaharlal. He was trying to get as many editorials as possible into the papers, some written by himself and others based on his suggestions. He was also trying to study the cause of strained relations between the Punjabi Hindus and the Sikhs. He was convinced that the trouble was mainly due to the fact that the Hindus wanted to use the opportunity to get the better of the Sikhs when they were engaged in a struggle against the government. In his view, the local Hindus were ‘extremely narrow minded and bigoted’. The SGPC was careful about preserving cordial relations with all communities. Panikkar tried to bring the two communities together but the Hindu leaders were intractable, and ‘mostly men of straw’. He was keen to keep Jawaharlal in touch with developments. He had been sending too many and too detailed reports to Mahatma Gandhi. Therefore, he sent a summary now to Jawaharlal which could prove handy for discussing the Akali situation in the Congress Working Committee meeting at Bombay.74 Panikkar conveyed to Nehru his well-considered assessment of the SGPC and the Akali Dal. The Gurdwara Reform Movement had the sympathy of a very large section of the Sikh community. The ‘Sanatani Sikhs’, who stood in opposition to reform were not considered to be the true followers of Sikhism by the Akalis. Panikkar brackets the Sanatanist and the Sahajdhārī Sikhs who appeared to him to be indistinguishable from the vast mass of the Hindu community. The SGPC was an institution of ‘the Singhs’. Its object was the reform of historical gurdwaras and their management under Panthic control. The real trouble was with non-historical gurdwaras in which the Sahajdhārī Sikhs had their rights. This was ‘at the root of the so-called Hindu–Sikh trouble in the Punjab’. The Nabha question was in the background now and the restoration of the Maharaja was not much mentioned. The issue of Jaito had been made definitely a religious one through the intervention of Mahatma Gandhi. The more moderate among the leaders of the SGPC wanted only the control and management of the Page 23 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation historical gurdwaras. But such a proposal would not be accepted ‘either by the Akali Dal or by the majority of the Akali Sikhs’.75 Panikkar wrote further that every village now had its own jathā, federated into the Zail and the Tehsil jathā. The district jathās were directly under the Akali Dal. About 80,000 volunteers could be called up through this organization. Sikh shahīdī jathās of 500 each had been sent to Jaito, but the government showed no sign of yielding, and the Akalis were determined not to yield. The situation might become easier when the SGPC issued its promised statement that the Jaito morchā had nothing to do with the restoration of the Maharaja of Nabha. Panikkar was pressing for such a statement. It was difficult for the Congress to interfere directly in a matter claimed to be essentially religious. Panikkar’s report on the firing at Jaito showed that the evidence available to him contradicted the (p.134) official assertion that the shahīdī jathā had resorted to violence.76 The press release of the Akali Sahayak Bureau on 8 April 1924 approvingly gave Sardar Mangal Singh’s statement as President of the Central Sikh League. He said emphatically that the idea of establishing Sikh Raj had never been entertained by any Sikh. The Akali movement was a ‘powerful auxiliary’ to the national cause. The Jaito morchā as such was quite apart from the agitation about the deposition of the Maharaja of Nabha. The Sikhs would stand shoulder to shoulder with their Hindu and Muslim brothers in the fight for their country’s freedom.77

The Role of Master Tara Singh Master Tara Singh had his own perspective on the Nabha issue which, in the light of later research, turns out to be illuminating. Tikka Ripudaman Singh of Nabha was seen by the Chief Khalsa Diwan as a staunch Sikh before the Anand Marriage Bill was introduced in the Legislature by him in 1908. As we noticed earlier, the Bill was not taken up during the Tikka’s term and Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia was nominated as a member to steer the Bill in accordance with the official view. Tikka Ripudaman Singh did not like Sardar Sunder Singh for his compromising role in the legislation. When the conflict between Nabha and Patiala came out into the open, the sympathies of the Chief Khalsa Diwan were with the Maharaja of Patiala and those of the opponents of the Chief Khalsa Diwan with the Maharaja of Nabha. The Akali leaders sympathized with Maharaja Ripudaman Singh because of his goodwill for the Akalis. Whereas the Maharaja of Patiala had tried to weaken the Akali movement in collaboration with the British bureaucracy, Maharaja Ripudaman Singh had supported the movement in his own way. He wore black turban and slept on the floor on the Nankana Martyrs’ Day in accordance with the resolution of the SGPC on 21 February 1922, and he did not suppress the Akalis in the Nabha state even

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation though his inaction offended the paramount power. For these reasons the Akalis were wholeheartedly in sympathy with the Maharaja.78 Sant Didar Singh, who had met the Maharaja of Nabha, came to Amritsar and informed the SGPC that the Maharaja was going to leave the gaddī under pressure from the government. Accompanied by Sant Didar Singh, Master Tara Singh went to Nabha to dissuade the Maharaja from abdication. They discovered that the Maharaja was vacillating: to abdicate or not to abdicate was the question. This went on till the fall of night when the Maharaja agreed that he would not abdicate. In the morning, however, when Master Tara Singh and Sant Didar Singh reached the Hira Mahal, they came to know that an English employee of the Maharaja had already left Nabha with his letter of abdication. The Maharaja agreed to send his ahlkārs in a fast car to bring back the letter. Master Tara Singh and Sant Didar Singh felt happy over this action and went to the gurdwara. When they came to the palace again they were told by an ahlkār that the Englishman had refused to part with the letter. After this, they were not allowed to see the Maharaja.79 On his return to Amritsar, Master Tara Singh gave the whole story in the Akālī te Pardesī. There was a strong reaction among the Sikhs. The other Sikh newspapers also took up the issue. Dīwāns began to be held and there was a popular demand for starting a morchā. The Akalis became so enthusiastic that it became difficult to contain them. (p.135) Now the leaders were in two minds. Many members of the Working Committee of the SGPC were hesitant to launch a morchā but the leaders of the Shiromani Akal Dal were adamant. The President of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Sardar Sarmukh Singh Jhabal, left Amritsar for his village, expressing his resentment with the remark that he would come back only when the morchā was started. The Working Committee of the SGPC held meetings every day but could not come to a decision. Finally, it was argued by Master Tara Singh that, if the Akali Dal alone launched a morchā and failed, the SGPC would be held equally responsible for the failure.80 Master Tara Singh recalls that about forty volunteers were killed and many others wounded when the first shahīdī jathā of 500 Singhs was fired upon. The government contended that the jathā had fired first. In order to prove the point, a large number of men and women were tried in Nabha and sentenced to long imprisonment of up to seven years. The morchā continued till 1925 when the Gurdwaras Act was passed. In order to humiliate the Akalis the government laid the condition that only a leader who signed the commitment to work out the Gurdwaras Act would be released from jail. This condition was superfluous because the Act had been passed after an agreement between the government and the Akali leaders in jail. About fifteen Akali leaders in the Lahore jail, including Master Tara Singh, refused to sign, and in other jails too most of the Akalis refused to accept the condition. Nor did the Akalis who were in Nabha jail sign any such paper. Master Tara Singh goes on to add that he could never get Page 25 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation rid of the resentment against the government over its treatment of the Akalis in the Jaito morchā. In the first place, there was no cause for firing at the shahīdī jathā. Second, the Akalis were falsely implicated and sentenced. Third, they were kept in jail even after the Gurdwaras Act. The government could never be absolved of this deliberate and gross injustice.81 Master Tara Singh refers to the mistakes made by the Akali leaders. Sardar Sarmukh Singh Jhabal was keen to launch the Nabha morchā and he was angry with other leaders because of their hesitation. He was at that time Jathedar of the Shiromani Akali Dal and a member of the Working Committee of the SGPC. He was so influential that he could not be resisted. Although Master Tara Singh was the first to think of the Nabha agitation, for he had great respect for the Maharaja of Nabha, yet he was initially reluctant to start the morchā. But Sardar Sarmukh Singh had shown no hesitation at any time. However, when the Akali leaders were being tried in the Lahore Fort Sardar Gopal Singh Kaumi told Master Tara Singh that he and Sardar Sarmukh Singh were no longer in favour of the Nabha morchā. They wanted to make their view known to others. Master Tara Singh dissuaded them from this act of grave irresponsibility.82 Another mistake was made during the negotiations with General Birdwood who was assigned the task of working out an understanding with the Sikhs towards the end of 1924. An understanding was evolved but it did not fructify because of a misunderstanding. ‘We insisted that the shahīdī jathā must first be released, but the Government regarded this as dishonourable, and the negotiations broke down.’ Had the two sides made General Birdwood an arbitrator in the matter, the conflict would have been resolved. But this did not occur to either the Akalis or the government and negotiations broke down for want of wisdom.83 (p.136) Master Tara Singh appreciated Sir Malcolm Hailey, the new Governor of the Punjab, for his decision in favour of Gurdwara legislation. Hailey adopted an aggressive policy first and then negotiated with the Akali leaders to enact Gurdwara legislation. However, he failed to reconcile the Sikhs. Had the government released the Akali prisoners, none would have ascribed it to the government’s weakness, as was the case during the Keys and the Guru-ka-Bagh morchā. Master Tara Singh looked upon the British attitude in their handling of the Jaito morchā as a reflection of ‘meanness’ (kamīngī).84 Niranjan Singh states that Master Tara Singh and Bawa Harkishan Singh together had convinced the Akalis that the removal of the Maharaja of Nabha was an indirect attack on the Akali movement. Sardar Teja Singh Samundri and Sardar Mehtab Singh now began to support their view, and the SGPC unanimously resolved to take up the issue of Nabha.85 Master Tara Singh never denied that he was the person ‘most responsible’ for the Nabha agitation. His statement about the Maharaja of Nabha shows that he Page 26 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation knew the real reason of official resentment against him. He said: ‘The Maharaja of Nabha had much respect and influence in the Panth, as the Sikhs looked upon him as the only Sikh Maharaja who understood the Sikh faith properly and took an interest in preaching the Sikh faith, and was in sympathy with the Sikh Reform Movement.’ Furthermore, the Panth knew that many government officials were annoyed with him. Among them were the then Political Agent and Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab, Sir Louis Dane. ‘My writing all the facts in Akālī te Pardesī caused a great sensation at once in the Panth and meetings commenced to be held at various places.’86 During Master Tara Singh’s detention from October 1923 to September 1926, the Akali leaders were not exactly ineffective. Professor Teja Singh, an ‘insider’, tells us how the Akali leaders inside the jail remained in contact with the leaders managing the affairs of the SGPC. The whole publicity work was done in the jail by Bawa Harkishan Singh in consultation with others. Whatever they wrote was sent out through Mangal Singh, a servant of Sardar Mehtab Singh. Before the second round of arrests of the Akali leaders, a message was sent to the ‘outsiders’ in time for eight leaders to leave the meeting of the SGPC to avoid arrest. Similarly, when Sardul Singh Caveeshar and Mangal Singh, presumably on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress leaders of the Punjab, were not in favour of sending the second shahīdī jathā, the ‘insiders’ sent a categorical advice that it must be sent, and this was done. This, in fact, was the reason why the government transferred the leaders on trial from Amritsar to Lahore in March 1924.87 In the Lahore Fort, the Akali leaders used to discuss matters concerning the Sikh Panth, ranging from the Gurdwara Bill to the conduct of Teja Singh Bhuchar who had been declared tankhāhiyā because he started kār-sevā at Amritsar before the ardās was performed by the panj-piāras. Giani Sher Singh was of the view that if he repented and sought forgiveness, his fault should be ignored. Master Tara Singh held the view that he could be forgiven only at the Akal Takht and not by a decision of the Akali leaders in the jail. There was a hot discussion between the two. Master Tara Singh left the room in anger and climbed the pīpal tree in the jail premises. Professor Teja Singh states: ‘Whenever Master Tara Singh wanted to think deeply about an important (p. 137) issue he used to climb the pīpal tree to sit and think.’88 The evidence of the ‘confidential papers’ related to the Akali movement shows that a few issues remained unresolved even though the Sikh Gurdwaras Act was passed and implemented. One of these issues was the restoration of the Maharaja of Nabha. It was the first among the twelve points proposed by General Birdwood on 7 April 1924 as the basis of a settlement. The Akali leaders present in the initial discussion were Narain Singh, Bawa Harkishan Singh, Mehtab Singh, and Teja Singh. In the notes they handed over to General Birdwood on 16 April, it was stated that the SGPC would drop the Nabha issue if Page 27 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation a letter from the Maharaja of Nabha was obtained, saying: ‘I deeply appreciate the sympathy expressed with me in the Panth but I have reasons to believe that the interests of myself, my house and my state would be best served, if the Nabha agitation is now dropped. I, therefore, request the SGPC to exert its influence in the Panth for this purpose.’ In the discussion of General Birdwood and Craik with Narain Singh and Jodh Singh on 17 April, it was affirmed that, ‘on receiving an assurance from the Maharaja that he abdicated voluntarily and desired the agitation to be stopped’, the SGPC would withdraw from the Nabha agitation.89 The draft declaration to be made by the SGPC, dated 24 April 1924, refers to an old letter of the Maharaja, dated 31 July 1923 (it had been extorted from him by the Political Agent, Colonel A.B. Minchin), and it read: ‘I am not responsible for the present agitation about Nabha affairs.’ The post-script to this added, ‘and have no sympathy with it’. This letter was already in the possession of the SGPC. The three Akali leaders with whom the terms were being negotiated did not regard this old letter as adequate. A way out was suggested later. The Working Committee of the SGPC approved of a new basis proposed by Bhai Jodh Singh in consultation with General Birdwood, Colonel Minchin, and Craik on 28 April. A sub-committee was constituted to work out the details in consultation with ‘the Working Committee in the Fort Jail’. This sub-committee consisted of Mangal Singh, Daulat Singh, and Raja Singh. In the draft communiqué the SGPC had to declare that it had no wish ‘to carry on propaganda against Nabha deposition under the cloak of performance of pilgrimage and Akhand Path’. But the following sentence was to be added to the draft communiqué: ‘It should be understood that this communiqué does in no way imply the abandonment of the Nabha question by the SGPC.’90 Apprehending that ‘the negotiations were coming to a standstill, Bhai Jodh Singh recapitulated the whole proceedings. General Birdwood had handed over a draft communiqué on 24 April which the SGPC might issue about Nabha. That proposal did not mature and the possibility of a compromise was discussed on the 25th, leaving the Nabha question alone. On 30 April, Craik handed over a draft resolution of the Punjab Government to be published with the approval of the Government of India. On Bhai Jodh Singh’s suggestion, certain changes were made in the draft and he took it to the three Akali leaders in the Lahore Fort Jail, referred to by him as the inner Working Committee. They asked Bhai Jodh Singh to convey to Craik that their experience of the last few days had convinced them that negotiations would advance further only if something in ‘its final shape’ was given to them, and not a proposal subject to approval by the Government of India.91 Bhai Jodh Singh wrote to Craik again to point out (p.138) a change in the new draft: it contained the word ‘abandon’ whereas the SGPC had agreed to leave the Nabha question open.92

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation Daulat Singh, Secretary, Negotiations Sub-Committee, wrote to Sardar Narain Singh and Bhai Jodh Singh on 18 May 1924 that the proposed resolution by the Punjab Government had made a serious departure from the line of discussion followed earlier and made many changes in the earlier proposals. The earliest understanding on the Nabha issue was that the SGPC would advise the Sikh community to drop the issue if the Maharaja himself requested that it might be dropped. But the document given to them on the 24 April was a copy of the statement signed by the Maharaja on 31 July 1923 which was already in the possession of the SGPC. When the government failed to get a fresh document, the SGPC agreed to leave the Nabha issue open. A confidential agreement was to be made on this point. But on 1 May the sub-committee was told that the government did not want to make a confidential agreement and a new draft was brought up. The revised draft resolution of 28 April wanted the Akalis to ‘abandon’ the Nabha issue. This was one of the reasons for not accepting the draft resolution of 17 May which had the approval of the Government of India.93 In its communiqué of 3 June 1924, the government announced that ‘the idea of the Birdwood Committee’ was abandoned because negotiations with the Sikhs about preliminaries had resulted in no agreement. The Secretary of the SGPC made a brief authoritative statement about the position of the Sikhs. In the beginning the government contemplated settlement of the Nabha issue, but it was not able to carry out its own proposal about Nabha. Both the parties to negotiations agreed to proceed with the other questions, ‘leaving the Nabha question open’. Already on 22 May, Bhai Jodh Singh had been called to Simla and shown a draft announcement about the breakdown of negotiations and the abandonment of the Birdwood Committee as no agreement could be reached.94 This evidence leaves no doubt that the government wanted the Akalis to abandon the Nabha issue altogether. The compromise offered by the Akalis was not enough. None of the Akali leaders in jail was prepared to go beyond the compromise. They could not go back on the solemn commitment made to the Maharaja of Nabha on behalf of the SGPC. This surely was the position of Master Tara Singh on the issue. On 26 June 1924, Mahatma Gandhi supported the Akalis morally. He wrote that the government did not promise even to release the prisoners who had taken part in the Gurdwara agitation. The Akali struggle in all probability would be prosecuted with greater vigour. The government would also probably adopt more repressive measures. The demands of the Akalis seemed to be absolutely simple: (a) possession of all historical gurdwaras by a central body elected by the Sikhs; (b) right of every Sikh to possess a kirpān of any size; and (c) right of performing Akhand Pāṭh at Jaito. Mahatma Gandhi appealed to the Hindus, Muslims, and other communities to help the reformers with their moral support.95 On 5 December 1924 Mahatma Gandhi warned the Akalis at the Akal Takht against being duped by the speeches of Sir Malcolm Hailey; he professed Page 29 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation that he did not want to undermine the Sikhs and favoured Gurdwara Reform, but actually he was keen to crush them by uniting their opponents in the Punjab. Mahatma Gandhi impressed upon the Akalis that they should adhere to truth and carry on their struggle armed with the ‘force of truth’.96 (p.139) On 2 April 1925, Mahatma Gandhi noted that the Akali position still seemed to be uncertain. Their losses according to Sardar Mangal Singh, who was President of the Central Sikh League at this time, amounted to 400 dead or killed, 2,000 wounded, and 30,000 arrested. Fines and forfeiture of pensions of retired soldiers amounted to Rs 1,500,000. This record reflected ‘the highest credit on Sikh courage and sacrifice’, and it meant equal discredit to the government.97 Reports of merciless beating and humiliating treatment of the Akali prisoners in Nabha were reaching Mahatma Gandhi in the month of April. The Government of India could not plead neutrality, he said, because their own officer was administering the state.98 On 11 July 1925, Mahatma Gandhi congratulated both the Punjab Government and the Sikhs over ‘the happy ending of the Akali movement’. He noted, however, that the conditions imposed by the government with regard to the release of prisoners and the performance of Akhand Pāṭhs had caused some dissatisfaction. If, however, the conditions imposed were merely precautionary, or designed to save the prestige of the government, the Akalis would be well advised in not being strict in their interpretation of the conditions imposed.99 The second issue on which the Akalis and the government were not prepared to compromise was the release of Akali prisoners. The issue had been included in the bases proposed on 7 April 1924: ‘Release of all the Sikh prisoners convicted or under trial in connection with Kirpan, Jaito affair, Bhai Pheru, C.L.A.A., Black pagri (Military) and the case against S.B. Mehtab Singh and others.’ In case of any difference of opinion between the SGPC and the government about any prisoner the Birdwood Committee was to decide. The revised draft of 30 April, however, mentioned only ‘the intention of the Government of the Punjab to release as many as possible of the persons now imprisoned in connection with the Akali movement’. Bhai Jodh Singh wrote to the Chief Secretary, Craik, on 26 May, and reiterated on 27 May that the Akali leaders in the Lahore Fort Jail wanted ‘unconditional release of prisoners’. But the government’s position remained ‘unaltered’, and the Secretary of the SGPC in his press statement on the breakdown of negotiations made the observation in June 1924 that the negotiations broke where they had begun, ‘that is, on the question of the release of prisoners’. He went on to add that any Gurdwara legislation was bound to fail ‘if thousands of those who had suffered to secure it, did not come out to work it’. He went on to address all: ‘The present rupture of negotiation has confirmed the fear of the average Sikh that the Government does not want to release the leaders and workers of the Sikh community and that a Government which would

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation not do that would never consent to give them a satisfactory Gurdwara legislation.’100 The third issue which eventually divided the Sikh leadership and the Akalis was that of release on the condition of a written undertaking to cooperate in implementing the Act. The notes of 16 and 17 April mention the proposed basis: ‘SGPC undertake to carry out the actual spirit as well as the letter of the law passed.’ But the draft resolution of the Punjab Government stated that the leading members of the SGPC would give a written assurance to give all facilities in their power to the proceedings of the Birdwood Committee and carry out in letter and spirit any Act passed with the consent of the Sikh members in the Legislative Assembly. This was to apply also to the members of the SGPC in jail. A note (p.140) by Bhai Jodh Singh dated 25 April states that the three leaders to whom the basis of the proposed settlement was shown were of the view that the SGPC should give ‘nothing as a confidential undertaking’. But the condition was included in the terms suggested by Bhai Jodh Singh on 28 April. The condition was included in the revised draft resolution of the Punjab Government.101 Thus, between 25 and 28 April, the three leaders in the Lahore Fort Jail changed their position with regard to the condition of release.

The Akalis on the Verge of a Split Malcolm Hailey kept the idea of Gurdwara legislation open to tell the Sikhs that he was their well-wisher. He encouraged the Sikh vested interests to form the provincial Sudhar Committee to promote the idea of rapprochement between the government and the Sikhs. Sardar Jogendra Singh, a member of the Legislative Council and a Minister, was taking interest in the legislation. Returning the draft Gurdwara Bill to Sardar Arjan Singh, Secretary, SGPC, on 4 October 1924, he advised peace with the government, a bill to amend the Gurdwaras Act of 1922 which had been rejected by the Akalis, dropping the Nabha issue, pressing for the release of prisoners, and sending a jathā of only fifty to Jaito. His advice was pretty close to what Hailey wanted. The Sikh members of the Punjab Council were exploring with H.W. Emerson, the Deputy Commissioner of Lahore, the possibilities of evolving a legislation acceptable to both the government and the Sikhs in November 1924. In December, twenty-four of the Akali leaders in the Lahore Fort Jail wrote jointly to the Secretary, SGPC, that the Akali leaders in the Fort could not come to a unanimous decision on any issue. Therefore, the Akali leaders outside were authorized to take their own decisions, keeping in view the interests of the Panth. Master Tara Singh was not a signatory to this letter. It was stated, however, that he was also in agreement with them but he had not signed the letter for ‘private reasons’.102 Six leaders (Sohan Singh Chetanpuri, Rai Singh, Sant Singh Sultanwind, Teja Singh, Sewa Singh, and Gurcharan Singh) wrote separately that they would oppose any Act compromising the dignity and honour of the Panth. The name ‘Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee’ should never be changed. The Page 31 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation principle of ‘centralization’ should be emphasized and ‘decentralization’ should be minimized as much as possible. Teja Singh Chuharkana wrote to the Secretary, SGPC, that the Nabha issue should never be abandoned and all Sikh prisoners of the Akali movement should be released unconditionally.103 This was the initial position of the Akalis. The Akalis were seriously concerned with the name of the central body, which they thought should be strong or centralized. Bhai Jodh Singh, a member of the Punjab Legislative Council with whom Emerson was negotiating the Bill, wrote to him on 20 December 1924 that the Sikhs wanted the name ‘Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee’ to be retained. But the government was not prepared to accept this. Bhai Jodh Singh’s letter of 1 January 1925 contained no assurance that the name ‘Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee’ for the proposed Central Board was dropped. This omission was pointed out by Emerson on the day following. A week later, Bhai Jodh Singh wrote to him that ‘if the new Central Board was allowed to choose its own name we were prepared to drop the idea of calling it SGPC in a bill’.104 This was finally agreed to. (p.141) What remained to be settled finally was the conditioned release. Sardar Mehtab Singh noted in his diary on 12 July 1925 that fifteen Akali leaders had a conference in the Lahore Fort and there was a consensus of opinion in favour of working the Bill after it was passed. After his meetings with the Divisional Commissioner of Lahore, Rai Bahadur Jawala Parshad, Prosecution Council, and the Deputy Commissioner of Lahore, on 14 and 18 July 1925, Sardar Mehtab Singh noted: ‘I have been offered a release on signing an understanding to support the Bill or, in other words, to reform the Gurdwaras in accordance with the provisions of the new Reform law known as the Sikh Gurdwaras Act.’ He had been a staunch advocate, he says, ‘of the passage of a reform law and a rapprochement between the Government and the Sikhs’. However, he would not give the undertaking, at least for the present, and would remain in jail for as long as the Court chose to keep him there. But if the SGPC considered that ‘such a sacrifice of human dignity and self-respect’ was required for the welfare of the community, ‘I shall submit once more and carry out its desires’.105 The views expressed by individual leaders for or against conditional release began to be projected in public speeches and newspapers. Sardar Bhag Singh wrote from the Fort that the government was determined to detain those persons in jail who happened not to support the Bill. On 25 July 1925, nineteen persons in the Fort wrote under the signature of Sardar Teja Singh Samundri that a resolution might be passed immediately to appeal to the Panth to work the Bill wholeheartedly even though it had certain shortcomings and irrespective of the release of prisoners. But if no understanding was reached with the

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation government, it should be made perfectly clear that they were not prepared to give any undertaking as a condition of release.106 The leaders of the SGPC at Amritsar were guided mainly by Sardar Mehtab Singh (presumed to be the President of the SGPC) in 1924–5. Much of his correspondence with the Secretary, SGPC, is available in print.107 He talks about matters connected with the Akali movement: the Maharaja of Nabha, the Gurdwara Bill, the Akali leaders’ case, the question of the release of Akali prisoners, the Sikh Sudhar Committee, the Chief Khalsa Diwan and the moderate leaders, and many other passing events or concerns. Sardar Mehtab Singh was never enthusiastic about the restoration of the Maharaja. However, in view of the feelings of other Akali leaders like Master Tara Singh, he wanted to keep the issue open. In this connection, a ‘most confidential’ note on ‘Nabha affair’ is significant. A Council of Regency was proposed for Nabha and later it was modified to a Council of Administration so that the Maharaja did not have to formally abdicate in favour of the minor Tikka Partap Singh. The minimum that he proposed for the Maharaja, apart from the Council of Administration, was removal of restrictions on his movement in India and outside, freedom to seek constitutional redress, and right to his private property. The chance of his restoration in the future was kept open.108 For the Gurdwaras Bill, Sardar Mehtab Singh, like the moderate Sikh leaders, was keen about rapprochement between the Sikhs and the government and, therefore, be as accommodative as possible.109 Sardar Mehtab Singh was not happy that the Executive Committee had failed to pass the resolution about the imposition of condition of release. Had this resolution been passed, the position of the SGPC would have been strengthened by convincing the world (p.142) that its aim was ‘constructive’ and that it was anxious for a settlement. ‘It would have made our agitation for removal of condition on release more effective and at the same time definitely and clearly prepared the community for constructive work.’ Mehtab Singh maintained that the real import of the statement of Sardar Teja Singh was that the Bill was defective ‘but not so much that we may reject or wreck it’. He was prepared to work it and try to get it improved. This could be verified from him. Mehtab Singh wrote again that a serious tactical mistake had been made in ‘not making a definite declaration of our constructive policy’. It would have been considered by all ‘a splendid stroke of statesmanship’.110 Sardar Mehtab Singh was in favour of immediately declaring a clear and decisive policy which might impress the government, the public, and the community with their ‘peace-loving intention’. Furthermore, the issue of release should be isolated from other entanglements: ‘Now we must be ready for compromises concerning matters left unsolved.’ Pressure on the government was to be kept up but not overdone, because they were dealing with Malcolm Hailey who was ‘an exceptionally clever and firm man’.111 Sardar Bahadur Page 33 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation Mehtab Singh was, thus, mentally prepared to take up ‘constructive work’ as President of the SGPC, in spite of the fact that there was no unanimity among the Akali leaders on the issue of release. The Akalis were on the verge of a split.

Master Tara Singh’s Views on the Situation The articles published by Master Tara Singh during this phase are relevant for his responses to the situation. He wanted the Sikhs to work shoulder to shoulder with Hindus and Muslims. Boycott of Legislative Councils was a part of Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-cooperation Movement. But now the Congress (Swarajists) had decided to join the councils. Master Tara Singh was convinced that councils would have to be left again, and non-cooperation would gain greater support. Meanwhile, however, if Hindus and Muslims joined the councils and the Sikhs did not, it would not serve any purpose. The Sikhs could be effective in union with Hindus and Muslims. Therefore, the Sikhs should not separate themselves from others. To boycott the councils and to sit at home instead of agitating against the taxes imposed by the councils would be to commit political suicide.112 Master Tara Singh justified the decision taken by the Akalis and stuck to it because religion and politics in his view were inseparable at least in the Sikh tradition. Indeed, he firmly believed that religion and politics could not be separated. However, there were Sikhs who made a distinction between what was religious and what was political. But, all that this distinction amounted to was that whatever offended the government was ‘political’, and whatever was safe was ‘religious’. The ‘purely religious’ persons were actually those who wished to avoid service and sacrifice. Guru Tegh Bahadur gave his head to save the Hindus. Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa to fight against injustice. The measure of true faith was what one could do for others. ‘Pure faith’ was total deception. ‘We request the purely religious to keep quiet if they are not prepared to serve and sacrifice, and not try to look great by mere talk.’113 Master Tara Singh’s conception of freedom was equally clear. He stood for partnership in power and not assimilation in one common identity. Freedom for India meant freedom (p.143) for all individuals and all people alike. A letter addressed to Mahatma Gandhi and published in Young India was the same as the one published earlier in the Civil and Military Gazette. The charge against the Akalis in both these letters was the same as in an official statement: it was underscored that the Akalis wanted Sikh Raj and not swarāj. Mahatma Gandhi had remarked that he did not believe this to be true but, if it was true, it was a very dangerous thing. Master Tara Singh had not heard of any such statement by a Sikh leader but be did not rule out the possibility that some Sikhs entertained the wish for their Raj, like some Hindus and Muslims. All such people were obstacles in the path of swarāj. They wanted the British to leave but they themselves wanted to rule over others. There was no justification for oppression by Indians in place of the British. They should all work for a swarāj in Page 34 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation which there was no oppression: every individual and all peoples should be free. To fight for the freedom of the whole country was ‘our religious duty’.114 Disunity among the Sikhs was inevitably harmful to all sections of the community. Master Tara Singh took special notice of the Nāmdhārīs, popularly called Kukas. They had a leader named Mangal Singh who, instead of feeling ashamed of his moral lapses, mentioned them openly with great pride. The good qualities which the Nāmdhārīs possessed in the beginning had now become a sham. They were heading towards their demise. Master Tara Singh tried to explain how the Kukas were going down. They had made a mistake early in their history. They began to look upon themselves as separate from the Panth. It was not clear whether they became separate because they came to believe in the Guruship of Baba Ram Singh or because they adopted him as their Guru. The fact was that the Kukas began to place Baba Ram Singh at par with the ten Gurus from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, and became a sect. Had they treated Baba Ram Singh simply as a teacher (guru) who interpreted the Guru Granth for them, they could have remained a part of the Sikh Panth. More recently, they had repeated their mistake. Some Kukas did not stand up when the Guru Granth Sahib was brought out at Tarn Taran. Step by step they were moving away from the Panth. If this trend continued, the Panth would suffer, but the Kukas would suffer more.115 Not external force but internal weakness was the cause of decline in the history of any organization. An organization could survive efficiently only if the number of unsuitable members was not allowed to increase. Master Tara Singh uses the terms ‘dogs’, ‘crows’, and khaṛpanchas for such people. The first category was useless in a crisis. The second category had a strong vocal chord but weak understanding. The third category sought underserved honour. All of them should be made aware that their true character was not hidden from the people. The Chief Khalsa Diwan suffered as an organization when the difference between a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ member was ignored for nomination. The SGPC and the Sikh League had to be created to give more importance to election than to nomination. But corrupt practices could be introduced in the process of election too. This was, in fact, happening in the elections to the councils, and it could happen in the SGPC as well. The only way to avoid such an eventuality was to make people aware of the importance of honesty in public affairs.116 Thus, Master Tara Singh wanted the Sikhs to be politically committed. They should fight shoulder to shoulder with other Indians for (p.144) the freedom of the country. He thought of swarāj as a partnership of the various communities of India in political power among whom the Sikhs were a distinct entity. He wanted the Sikhs to follow ethical principles in the pursuit of power. For him, religion, ethics, and politics were inseparable.

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation In Retrospect The colonial government was not prepared to give legal recognition to a central body like the SGPC for the control and management of gurdwaras associated with the Sikh Gurus and Sikh martyrs. Rather, it wanted to weaken the Akalis. The bureaucrats were not prepared to create any central body. This was the crux of the problem. Master Tara Singh rightly perceived that a showdown was inevitable. The colonial authorities, on their part, were bent upon bringing the Akalis to their knees. At the instance of the Governor General, two enquiries had been conducted against Maharaja Ripudaman Singh of Nabha to bring about charges of disloyalty and maladministration. On the basis of their ‘findings’, the Political Agent for the Punjab states, A.B. Minchin, threatened the Maharaja of dire consequences if he did not abdicate. Actually, the Maharaja was a consistent opponent of the British and he had shown strong sympathies with the Akali movement. He was removed from Nabha on 8 July 1923. In a communiqué of 9 July, the Akali leaders declared that they would take up the issue of his restoration. The decision was taken after a protracted discussion among the leaders of the SGPC and the Shiromani Akali Dal. The Akalis knew that the removal of the Maharaja from his state was meant indirectly to weaken them but they were divided on the issue of a morchā for his restoration. Master Tara Singh tilted the balance in favour of morchā. He took up the cause of Nabha in the Akālī te Pardesī and created a strong reaction against the government. On 5 August 1923, the SGPC authorized its Executive Committee to use all peaceful and legitimate means for the Maharaja’s restoration. This was clearly a political issue on which the government could not compromise. To its advantage, the affairs of the princely states were outside the perview of the Legislature. The British Administrator of Nabha was given dictatorial powers, and he had the support of the other Sikh states, especially Patiala. The Congress leadership at this time was divided and weak. In the early days of protest, an Akhand Pāṭh in the Gurdwara Gangsar was disrupted by the Nabha police. A religious dimension was added to a political issue. On 29 September 1923, the SGPC resolved to assert the Sikh right to free worship. Akali jathās began to be sent to Jaito from the Akal Takht to resume Akhand Pāṭh. On 12 October 1923, the Punjab Government declared the SGPC and the Akali jathās to be ‘unlawful associations’. All the members of the Executive Committee of the SGPC were arrested and charged with ‘treason against the King-Emperor’. During the trials, Master Tara Singh admitted that he was the person ‘most responsible’ for the Nabha agitation. The Maharaja of Nabha commanded ‘much respect and influence in the Panth’ because of his ‘sympathy with the Sikh Reform Movement’. But many British officials were annoyed with him due to his independent stance. The publicity given to all these facts in the Akālī te Pardesī caused ‘a great sensation’ in the Panth.

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation During his detention for three years (October 1923–September 1926) Master Tara Singh and the other Akali leaders inside the jail remained in contact with the leaders outside and all important decisions were taken in (p.145) consultation, especially on the Nabha issue and the Gurdwara legislation. Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress leaders, like the British authorities, were in favour of separating the Nabha issue from the question of legislation. The Sikh leadership was divided on both these issues. The moderates were prepared to abandon the issue of restoration and to accept legislation finally evolved by the government in consultation with the Akali leaders. Master Tara Singh and many other Akalis were not prepared to abandon the cause of Nabha altogether, nor to accept legislation without a central Sikh body for the control of the gurdwaras. The difference between them was essentially ideological. Master Tara Singh, and others of his view, did not wish to compromise the idea of the collective authority of the Panth as the Guru, and its independent identity. This was also the basis of a fundamental difference between Mahatma Gandhi and Master Tara Singh. Throughout his life Mahatma Gandhi never really discarded his notion that Sikhism was a part of Hinduism and the Sikhs were a part of the Hindu social order. Master Tara Singh, on his part, never quite discarded the idea of a distinctive identity of the Sikhs as a political community. Notes:

(1.) B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, History of the Indian National Congress, vol. I (1885–1935) (Bombay: Padma Publications, n.d.), pp. 267–8, 276–7. (2.) Sitaramayya, History of the Indian National Congress, pp. 280–1, 292–3. (3.) Sitaramayya, History of the Indian National Congress, pp. 250, 254, 275, 298. (4.) Raghuvendra Tanwar, Politics of Sharing Power: The Punjab Unionist Party (New Delhi: Manohar, 1999), pp. 46–65. (5.) Satya M. Rai, Legislative Politics and Freedom Struggle in the Punjab 1897– 1947 (New Delhi: ICHR, 1984), pp. 125–43. (6.) This statement is based on documentary evidence collected from the British Library by J.S. Grewal and Indu Banga for ‘A Political Biography of Maharaja Ripudaman Singh’. See also Diwan Singh ‘Maftun’, Nāqābil-i Farāmosh (Delhi: 1957), pp. 65–8. (7.) Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement (Delhi: The Macmillan Company of India, 1978), pp. 67–8. (8.) ‘Sikh Situation’, F.No. 1 & K.W., Home Political 1924, National Archives of India (NAI), New Delhi.

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation (9.) Telegram from Deputy Commissioner, Amritsar, to Punjab Government, dated 6 August 1923, F.No. 1 & K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (10.) Report of Deputy Commissioner, Amritsar, 6–8, August 1923, F.No. 1 & K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (11.) Note dated 15 August 1923, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (12.) Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement, pp. 69–70. (13.) ‘The Present Situation in the Punjab’, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (14.) CID Report of 14 August 1923 and Sant Singh’s Report of 18 August 1923, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (15.) Cutting from Bombay Chronicle of 21 August 1923 and CID Report of 30 August 1923, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (16.) Proceedings of the Conference on 9 September 1923, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (17.) SGPC to the Viceroy, 15 September 1923 and Wilson Johnston’s Note, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (18.) The Pioneer, 6 October 1923, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (19.) ‘Notes on Case Against the Prabandhak Committee in Connection with the Nabha Agitation’, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (20.) Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement, p. 71. (21.) Viceroy’s Telegram to Secretary of State, 15 October 1923, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (22.) Personal Secretary, Viceroy (PSV) to Sir Malcolm Hailey, 9 November 1923, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (23.) ‘Abdication of the Maharaja of Nabha and the Sikh Leaders’ Case, Amritsar’, F.No. 148/IV, Home Political 1923, NAI. (24.) CID Report of 24 December 1923, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (25.) ‘Arrest at the “Akal Takht” under the Criminial Law Amendment Act, 1908 of Members of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee’, F.No. 1/I, Home Political 1924, NAI. (26.) Viceroy to Secretary of State, 15 January 1924, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. Page 38 of 43

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation (27.) J. Crerar to H.D. Craik, 15 January 1924, and Craik’s reply, 25 January 1924, F.No. 95, Home Political 1924, NAI. (28.) ‘Questions in the Legislative Assembly Regarding Prosecution of Members of the Shironmani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee and Policy of Government in Regard to the Sikhs’, F.No. 1/III, Home Political 1924, NAI. (29.) ‘Sardar Gulab Singh’s Resolution in the Legislative Assembly Recommending the Appointment of a Committee to Enquire into the Sikh Situation’, F.No. 235, Home Political 1924, NAI. (30.) Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement, pp. 70–5. (31.) ‘The Akali Movement’, F.No. 1/II, Home Political 1924, NAI. (32.) Minchin to Thompson, 24 February 1924, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (33.) H.D. Craik to J. Crerar, 13 March 1924, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (34.) H.D. Craik to Home Secretary, 2 May 1924, F.No. 1/II, Home Political 1924, NAI. (35.) Chief Secretary, Punjab, to J. Crerar, 17 May 1924, F.No. 1/IV, Home Political 1924, NAI. (36.) Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement, pp. 75–6, 131–2. (37.) Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement, pp. 75–6, 132–5. (38.) M.K. Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. XXIII (New Delhi: Government of India, 1967), pp. 200, 210–12. (39.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXIII, p. 213. (40.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXIII, pp. 218–20. (41.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXIII, p. 220. (42.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXIII, pp. 229–35. (43.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXIII, p. 235. (44.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXIII, p. 281. (45.) Ganda Singh (ed.), Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement (Amritsar: Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, 1965), pp. 56–8.

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation (46.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 58–60. (47.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 60–2. (48.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 62–6. (49.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 66–9. (50.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. IX (1963), p. 377. (51.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. IX, p. 407. (52.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XIX (1966), pp. 421–2. (53.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XX (1966), p. 43. (54.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XX, p. 406. (55.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXIV (1967), pp. 104–6. (56.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXV (1967), pp. 84, 155. (57.) For the works of J.D. Cunningham, M.A. Macauliffe, and Gokul Chand Narang see J.S. Grewal, Historical Writings on the Sikhs (1784–2011): Western Enterprise and Indian Response (New Delhi: Manohar, 2012), pp. 110–56, 211– 26, 351–66. (58.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXVII (1968), pp. 263–4. (59.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XX, p. 107. (60.) Gandhi believed that the Sikh fear was not about identity so much as the issue of their representation. In his view the Sikhs were entitled to a treatment similar to the one given to the Muslims. But it was a question to be settled largely by the three communities in the Punjab. Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XX, pp. 462–3. (61.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXIII, pp. 457, 515–16. (62.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXIV, pp. 104–6. (63.) Sitaramayya, The History of the Indian National Congress, vol. I, pp. 212– 13. (64.) Sitaramayya, The History of the Indian National Congress, pp. 245, 260, 262.

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation (65.) ‘Meeting at Viceregal Lodge, Simla, on 19 September 1922 to consider the Sikh Agitation’, and correspondence between the Political Department and the Nabha Administrator, F.No. 1 K.W., Home Political 1924, NAI. (66.) Jawaharlal Nehru, An Autobiography (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1982, reprint, paperback), pp. 109–13. (67.) Nehru, An Autobiography, pp. 113–15. (68.) Nehru, An Autobiography, pp. 115–16. (69.) Several files in the Punjab State Archives, Patiala, relate to this trial and provide much detail, including the Governor General’s intervention. (70.) M.L. Ahluwalia, Select Documents Gurdwara Reform Movement 1919– 1925: An Era of Congress-Akali Collaboration (New Delhi: Ashoka International Publishers, 1985), pp. 415–16. (71.) Ahluwalia, Select Documents, pp. 373–6. (72.) Ahluwalia, Select Documents, pp. 377–87. (73.) Ahluwalia, Select Documents, pp. 389–90, 392–5. (74.) Ahluwalia, Select Documents, pp. 395–6. (75.) Ahluwalia, Select Documents, pp. 397–9. (76.) Ahluwalia, Select Documents, pp. 399–412. (77.) Ahluwalia, Select Documents, p. 413. (78.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, ed. Harjinder Singh Dilgir (Amritsar: SGPC, 1999, reprint), pp. 58–9. (79.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 59–60. (80.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 60–2. (81.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 62–3. (82.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 63–6. (83.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 66. (84.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 66–9. (85.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh (Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 1968), p. 89.

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation (86.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter’, in Verinder Grover (ed.), Master Tara Singh (New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications, 1995), p. 32. (87.) Teja Singh, Ārsī (Amritsar: Lok Sahit Prakashan, n.d.), pp. 73–7. (88.) Teja Singh, Ārsī, pp. 81–2. (89.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 69–71. (90.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 74–83. (91.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 84–7. (92.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 87–8. (93.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 91–4. (94.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 100–5. (95.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXIV, pp. 293–5. (96.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXV, pp. 399–400. (97.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXVI (1967), pp. 439–40. (98.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXVI, pp. 197, 536. (99.) Gandhi, The Collected Works, vol. XXVII, pp. 361–2. (100.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 69–70, 76, 85, 93, 96, 99, 103–4. (101.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 69, 71, 73, 76, 78, 85. (102.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 134–9. (103.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 139– 44. (104.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 144–5, 148–9. (105.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 159– 64. (106.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 163–9.

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From the Jaito Morchā to the Gurdwara Legislation (107.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 237– 363. Teja Singh refers to Sardar Mehtab Singh as ‘the most responsible personality’ in the jail: Ārsī, p. 82. (108.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, p. 299. (109.) Document 160 in Some Confidential Papers was ‘strictly confidential’. It appears to have been written from the Lahore Jail by Sardar Mehtab Singh to a trusted and influential person in the SGPC at Amritsar, pp. 243–5. (110.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 288– 90. (111.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 291–2. (112.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Ki Sada Ros koi asar pa sakda hai?’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, ed. Harjinder Singh Dilgir (Amritsar: SGPC, 1999), pp. 98–9. (113.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Nirol Dhārmak kauṇ hai’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, pp. 86–8. (114.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Swarāj ke Sikh Rāj’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, pp. 59–62. (115.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Kūke kis tarān gir rahe haṇ’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, pp. 101–3. (116.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Maut Bahron nahīn aundī andron jamdī hai’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. I, pp. 75–80.

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence (1926–9) J.S. Grewal

DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199467099.003.0007

Abstract and Keywords In the first elections to the SGPC (Central Board) Kharak Singh and Master Tara Singh were elected President and Vice-President. Most of the meetings of the SGPC from 1926 to 1929 were presided over by Master Tara Singh, and a number of important resolutions were passed. He played a leading role in the Akali agitation against the Maharaja of Patiala, and in mobilizing Sikh opinion against the recommendations of the Motilal Nehru Committee which were unjust to the Sikhs. Eventually, the Congress passed a resolution at its annual session at Lahore in 1929 that no constitution for India would be finalized without the consent of the Sikhs. Master Tara Singh decided to work with the Congress, but Kharak Singh decided to boycott it. Elected President of the SGPC in 1930, Master Tara Singh replaced Kharak Singh as the topmost leader of the Akalis. Keywords:   Master Tara Singh, SGPC, Kharak Singh, Akali agitation against Patiala, Motilal Nehru Committee, Congress assurance in 1929, President SGPC

In recognition of his services to the Sikh community and his role in the Akali movement from 1920 to 1925, Master Tara Singh was elected Vice-President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) in absentia in 1926. Sardar Kharak Singh, elected President in absentia at the same time, presided over the meetings of the SGPC rather rarely, leaving the field open to Master Tara Singh to guide the Sikhs in their religious, cultural, and political affairs from 1926 to 1929. He spearheaded an agitation against the Maharaja of Patiala to force him to release Sewa Singh Thikriwala, the most important Akali leader Page 1 of 29

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence of the Sikh states, with forty other Akalis towards the end of August 1929. He had already influenced the Sikh opinion to reject the Nehru Committee Report which, in his well-considered view, was unfair to the Sikhs. But he was not in favour of boycotting the Congress. This was the basic difference between him and Sardar Kharak Singh, who favoured boycott. At the annual session of the Congress at Lahore in December 1929, a resolution was formally passed not to accept any constitution for India without the consent of the Sikhs.

The Political Context Jawaharlal Nehru looked upon 1926 as the year of ‘controversies in India’. The Nationalist Party under the leadership of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, working in close cooperation with the Hindu Mahasabha, met with a great measure of success in the elections to the Legislative Assembly and the Provincial Councils at the cost of the Swarajists, leaving behind a trail of bitter memories. Communal passion resulted in the assassination of Swami Shradhanand.1 (p.150) Motilal Nehru was in deep despondence and wrote on 30 March 1927 that ‘conditions in India have never been worse’.2 In November 1927, the Conservative Government of Britain announced the allwhite Simon Commission to recommend further constitutional reforms for India. There was an adverse reaction to the deliberate exclusion of Indians from the Commission even among the leaders of the Liberal Federation and the Hindu Mahasabha. The Simon Commission landed at Bombay on 3 February 1928. In protest, haṛtāl was observed in all major cities and towns of India. Everywhere the Commission was greeted with black flags. Its boycott was almost complete till it was concluded on 14 April 1929. The Indian National Congress took the initiative to hold an All-Parties Conference at Delhi in February and March and at Bombay in May, and to finalize a report at Lucknow during 28–30 August 1928, known as the ‘Nehru Report’. It recommended joint electorates everywhere and seats to be reserved for Muslims at the Centre and in the provinces with Muslim minorities. Sind was to be made a separate province (with a Muslim majority). However, the Mahasabha leaders did not go all the way with the Congress to meet the demands put forward by Jinnah. At the end of 1928 at Calcutta it became clear that the All-Parties Conference had failed to evolve a national constitution for India.3 The younger leaders of the Indian National Congress were not happy with the goal of Dominion Status in the Nehru Report. At the Congress session at Calcutta itself in December 1928, Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose pressed for Pūran Swarāj or complete independence as the goal of the Congress. It was decided to launch a civil disobedience movement for the attainment of complete independence if the government did not accept a constitution based on Dominion Status within a year. A Labour Government headed by Ramsay Page 2 of 29

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence Macdonald called Lord Irwin to London for consultations in May 1929. He made the announcement in October that Dominion Status was considered to be the goal for India, and a Round Table Conference would be held after the submission of the Simon Commission’s report. However, in December 1929, Lord Irwin told Mahatma Gandhi that he was not in a position to say when a scheme for Dominion Status would be implemented. At the Lahore session of the Congress, under the presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru, the main resolution declared that complete independence was the goal of the Congress.4 Though opposed to the Swarajists in the elections of 1926, Lajpat Rai participated in the agitation against the Simon Commission, received lāṭhī blows on 30 October 1928, and died a few weeks later. The young revolutionaries of northern India had met in Delhi in September 1928 and created a new leadership which adopted socialism as their goal and changed the Hindustan Republican Association of 1924 into the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army. On 17 December 1928, Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, and Rajguru assassinated Saunders, the English police officer who was believed to be responsible for the death of Lala Lajpat Rai. On 8 April 1929, Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt threw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly ‘to make the deaf hear’. A large number of revolutionaries were tried in the Lahore Conspiracy and Assembly Bomb Cases.5 Communism had come early to the Punjab, and three groups were attracted to communism before 1929: the Mahajirs, (p.151) the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, and the Kirtī Kisan Party. All the three groups appeared to converge, and a distinct Ghadar-Kirtī communism was evolving. The Punjabi monthly Kirti (The Workers) was started in February 1926. On 12 April 1928, the Kirtī group was reconstituted as the Kirtī Kisan Party (Workers and Peasants’ Party). The Comintern’s patronage gave Ghadar-Kirtī communism a certain degree of organizational recognition.6 Meanwhile, the elections to the Punjab Legislative Council were held in November 1926. The Congress failed miserably, due mainly to internal bickering and dissensions, and its influence got almost totally restricted to the urban middle class. It won only two seats. However, the Central Sikh League, in alliance with the Congress, won ten seats. The Khilafat Committee put up six candidates and won three seats. The Hindu Mahasabha, with the support of Lajpat Rai, won twelve seats. The election results clearly showed that the elitist electorate had rejected the Congress, with the Hindus going largely to the Hindu Mahasabha. The Unionist Party won the largest number of seats, over thirty, due partly to the influence of Chhotu Ram in south-eastern Punjab. Ten of the Sikh members resigned on 19 May 1927 but they were re-elected early in July.7

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence A split in Sikh leadership over the issue of conditional release had resulted in the dominance of the Akali Dal in the SGPC, with Sardar Kharak Singh and Master Tara Singh as its President and Vice-President respectively. The Akalis came into confrontation with the Maharaja of Patiala over the imprisonment of Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala. Disagreement of the Akalis with the Congress on the Nehru Report induced the Congress leaders to assure the Akali leaders formally through a resolution that no constitution would be adopted for India without the consent of the Sikhs. Master Tara Singh’s response to the Nehru Report can be appreciated only in the larger context in which the Nehru Committee was appointed and how it functioned. The Congress had passed a resolution at Gauhati (present-day Guwahati) in December 1926 that the Congress Working Committee, in consultation with Hindu and Muslim leaders, should devise measures for the removal of differences prevailing between the two communities. On 20 March 1927, prominent Muslim leaders met in Delhi and prepared ‘Muslim proposals’ for acceptance by the Hindus. The Congress Working Committee appointed a sub-committee to confer with Hindu and Muslim leaders, and passed a lengthy resolution on the Hindu–Muslim question at Bombay during 15–18 May 1927. The AICC accepted this resolution with minor modifications. After the announcement of the Simon Commission, a resolution was passed at the Madras Congress in December 1927 to hold a convention in Delhi in March 1928 to draft a Swaraj Constitution for India. The Working Committee invited about thirty organizations to an All-Parties Conference at Delhi on 12 February 1928. Included in these organizations were the All-India Muslim League, the Hindu Mahasabha, and the Central Sikh League. The Conference continued to meet till 28 February when a committee was appointed to report on some of the important subjects discussed in the Conference. On 8 March 1928, the Conference met again at Delhi. There was no agreement between the All-India Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha on separation of Sind from Bombay and on reservation of seats for majorities. The Sikhs were strongly opposed to the latter.8

(p.152) Master Tara Singh as Vice-President of the SGPC Master Tara Singh recalls in his Merī Yād that the original members of the Akali Party within the SGPC were in a minority. In the elections of the Central Board, however, the Akali Party became dominant even though the members from the Sikh states as well as the pro-government members voted against the Akali candidates. In the second meeting of the Central Board, Sardar Kharak Singh was elected President and Master Tara Singh as Vice-President. Sardar Kharak Singh was still in jail.9 They were the two most acceptable leaders of the Akalis in 1926. The former was already the acknowledged leader, but the recognition given to Master Tara Singh was a new thing. It was a result of his important role in the Akali movement from 1921 to 1926.

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence Two of the Akali leaders in the Lahore Fort, Risaldar Sunder Singh and Risaldar Ranjodh Singh, accepted in writing on 21 January 1926 the conditions of release laid down by Malcolm Hailey. They were released. Risaldar Sunder Singh was mentioned in the official report as a former President of the SGPC and a nephew of Sardar Kharak Singh, the ‘uncrowned king’ of the Akalis. On 25 January, Bawa Harkishan Singh read a statement in Court giving his arguments for working the Act with reference to Hailey’s speech of 9 July 1925. After this, nineteen other Akalis made the same statement and were released from the Lahore Fort jail. Among these twenty Akalis were Sardar Mehtab Singh and Giani Sher Singh. On 8 February, Teja Singh Chuharkana also came out from ‘the same back-door’, as he said. Left behind in the Fort were fifteen Akali leaders who were not prepared to accept any condition for their release. Sardar Teja Singh Samundri, Master Tara Singh, and Sardar Bhag Singh continued to take interest in the trial that was still going on.10 On 31 January 1926, the office bearers of the SGPC were all elected afresh. Sardar Mehtab Singh was elected President with seventy-seven votes against forty-four for Sardar Bhag Singh Canadian. The candidates of Sardar Mehtab Singh’s choice were elected Vice-President and General Secretary. Sardar Mangal Singh and Sardar Amar Singh Jhabal walked out with their supporters. In the evening they held a meeting in the Guru-ka-Bagh (adjoining the Golden Temple) and denounced the way in which the elections had been conducted. According to the official report for February 1926, fifty to sixty Akalis formed their own committee with Bhag Singh Canadian as its President and Mangal Singh as its Secretary.11 On 26 February, Sardar Mangal Singh wrote in the Akālī and the Akālī te Pardesī that these two papers were dedicated to the service of the Sikh Panth, with its welfare as their foremost objective. He suggested that the SGPC in the present predicament should hold its general elections before the elections of the Central Board (provided for in the Act). Already, a subcommittee had been appointed for this purpose.12 Purportedly on behalf of the sub-committee, Sardar Mangal Singh announced that elections to the SGPC would be held on 11 April. But this announcement was rejected as unauthorized by the sub-committee and he resigned from it. Mohinder Singh Sidhwan, General Secretary of the SGPC, wrote to Sardar Mangal Singh on 19 April that the general elections would be held during 29–30 May. He went on to add that if the issue of prisoners got postponed (p.153) due to this announcement the responsibility would be entirely that of the Akali Party, and if a morchā was launched for any reason the Akali Party alone would be responsible for its conduct and consequences. Mohinder Singh was emphatic that the Akali Party was solely responsible for the present predicament.13 Sardar Mangal Singh wrote to the General Secretary on 28 April 1926 that the Akali leaders were keen to see the prisoners released but with honour. The way in which the Sardar Bahadur (Mehtab Singh) and his companions had degraded Page 5 of 29

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence themselves by accepting the conditions imposed by the government was not liked by the Akali leaders. Had they cared for their fellow prisoners, Mehtab Singh and his party would not have left them behind in the Fort. Their way was not only dishonourable but also harmful. The responsibility for the continued detention of the Akali leaders in the Fort was squarely on them. Had they not accepted the condition of their release, all the prisoners would have been released sooner than later. Their act was an everlasting blot on the Sikh tradition. Their crime was as heinous as that of Lal Singh and Tej Singh, the arch-traitors of the first Sikh war (1845–6).14 The Executive Committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal decided on 21 April 1926 to hold ‘Sarbat Khalsa Conference’ during 21–22 May to think about the present predicament of the Panth. The SGPC proclaimed that it would not participate in the Conference, nor regard it as representative of the Panth. An attempt was made to resolve the differences through the arbitration of Professor Teja Singh and Sardar Narain Singh of Gujranwala.15 Sardar Mangal Singh and Giani Sher Singh issued a joint statement that the ‘Sarbat Khalsa Conference’ was postponed till the decision of arbitrators. Sardar Amar Singh Jhabal resigned from the Presidentship of the Akali Dal, and Baba Gurdit Singh, known for the Komagata Maru enterprise, was elected in his place. It was decided that if the two parties failed to come to a mutual understanding, the ‘Sarbat Khalsa Conference’ would be held on 10–11 June. The leaders of the SGPC went ahead with the elections to establish their hold over it.16 The Sarbat Khalsa Conference was held at the Jallianwala Bagh in the second week of June. A resolution was passed against the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, and a committee was formed to take over the SGPC. The Gargaj Akalis, who were dominant in the Conference, tried to take over the SGPC but their bid was foiled by the police called in by Bhai Jodh Singh and Giani Sher Singh. Elections to the Central Board were held in the third week of June. Candidates of the Shiromani Akali Dal won eighty-five seats, and those of the Sardar Bahadur faction got only twenty-six seats. Five elected members belonged to the Panthic Sudhar Committee sponsored by the government, and the remaining four were independent candidates. Sardar Mehtab Singh resigned from the Presidentship of the SGPC. The first meeting of the Board was called by the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar on 4 September 1926 in the Town Hall. Sardar Mangal Singh was elected Chairman for this meeting. Fourteen members were nominated to the Board, including Sardar Kharak Singh and Sardar Hazara Singh of Jamarai. The first meeting of the Central Board was held on 2 October 1926 under the Presidentship of Sardar Mangal Singh. The meeting expressed its deep sorrow over the untimely death of ‘the real founder of the Gurdwara reform movement’, Sardar Teja Singh Samundri (who had died in the Lahore Fort on 17 July). Sardar Hazara Singh Jamarai resigned and in his place, Master

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence Tara Singh was nominated as a member. Present among (p.154) the visitors, Master Tara Singh was invited by the President to take his seat as a member.17 In the elections of office-bearers, Sardar Kharak Singh was unanimously elected President, and Master Tara Singh Vice-President. Sardar Mehtab Singh suggested that since Sardar Kharak Singh was still in jail and Master Tara Singh was present in the meeting, he might be requested to take the chair. The meeting broke for half an hour and met again under the Chairmanship of Master Tara Singh. Eight members were elected to the Executive Committee. The first resolution passed by the Central Board with Master Tara Singh in the chair was to call it ‘Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee’. The second resolution underlined that the Sikhs would never be at peace until all the prisoners connected with the Gurdwara Reform Movement since 1913, including the prisoners of the states, were released and compensated for the losses they had suffered. The third resolution congratulated the brave Sikhs who had preserved the honour of the Panth by refusing to accept any condition for their release and were still in jail. It was also resolved to record the proceedings of the Board in Punjabi. On 3 October, it was decided to use dates of the Khalsa Sammat though there was no objection to the use of the British calendar at the same time. Local committees were formed for the management of the Darbar Sahib at Amritsar, the Darbar Sahib at Tarn Taran, Sri Muktsar Sahib, the gurdwaras of the city of Lahore, Nankana Sahib, Sri Anandpur Sahib, and Panja Sahib.18 The main concern of the SGPC, says Master Tara Singh, was to fight court cases connected with gurdwaras or to work out negotiated settlements with the nonAkali custodians of gurdwaras. The political concern of the Akalis was to agitate all over the province for the release of Sardar Kharak Singh and other Akalis prisoners. Sardar Kharak Singh was released in the spring of 1927. He was received with great honour wherever he went. As the President of the SGPC, he tried to modify the Sikh Gurdwaras Act because the SGPC did not possess effective power over the local committees to ensure their good functioning. This defect in the constitution could be rectified only by an amendment. Meanwhile, most of the local committees surrendered all their rights and powers to the SGPC under Article 85. The problem was not solved but only shelved.19 Presiding over the SGPC on 13 March 1927, Master Tara Singh suggested that a special meeting of the SGPC should be held on 3 April to discuss the issue of the release of Akali prisoners and compensation for the losses they had suffered. On 14 March, a resolution was passed against discrimination on the basis of caste. The resolution underlined that no one should be regarded as high or low, and no distinction should be made between one Sikh and another in the langar. Not to allow a Sikh to draw water from a well was to insult the Sikh faith. It was resolved to form a committee for determining rahit-maryādā (desirable conduct) for the Sikhs. It included the names of Professor Teja Singh, Bhai Jodh Singh,

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence Giani Sher Singh, Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, Bhai Vir Singh, Giani Hira Singh Dard, and Bawa Harkishan Singh.20 In a special meeting held on 3 April, Master Tara Singh stated that a decision had been taken at the Akal Takht for reconciliation between the Akalis and the Sardar Bahadur party. They shared the view that the foremost concern of the Sikhs was the release of the Akali prisoners. On behalf of his party Giani Sher Singh said that whatever they did was in good faith and he sought forgiveness from (p.155) those who were still critical of their actions. Master Tara Singh appealed to the members to forget about the past differences and get their fellow Akalis released unconditionally. The Sikh members of the Punjab Council were asked to resign on this issue. All those members were present and, on their behalf, Sardar Narain Singh of Gujranwala accepted this decision. The other members present were Sardar Buta Singh, Sardar Ujjal Singh, Sardar Partap Singh, Sardar Hira Singh, Sardar Santa Singh, and Sardar Kundan Singh. It was decided to request the Central Sikh League to ask all the Sikh members elected on the League ticket to resign on the issue of Akali prisoners.21 In the fresh election of office-bearers on 8 October 1927, Master Tara Singh proposed the name of Sardar Kharak Singh as President. Master Tara Singh himself was elected Vice-President. In the absence of Sardar Kharak Singh he presided over the meeting. It was decided to bring out the Gurdwara Gazettee to disseminate accurate information on the matters connected with the gurdwaras. Regarding the distinctions of caste observed among the Sikhs, it was decided to mobilize local Sikh opinion and to issue a general hukamnāmā from the Akal Takht. A resolution of condolence over the death of Sant Attar Singh was passed by the SGPC under the chairmanship of Master Tara Singh.22 Master Tara Singh continued to preside over the general body meetings of the SGPC in 1928 and 1929 in the absence of Sardar Kharak Singh. On 10 March 1928, the SGPC denounced the vindictive attitude of the government in keeping the Akali prisoners in jails, both in the province and the states for two and half years after the Sikh Gurdwaras Act. The SGPC congratulated the brave warriors of the Panth for maintaining its honour. Another resolution of 10 March recorded deep sympathies of the SGPC with the Maharaja of Nabha and his family over his removal to Kodai Kanal as a political prisoner, and his allowance being much reduced and his titles taken away. On 15 July 1928 the SGPC authorized its Executive Committee to organize a ‘Shahidi Day’ at Gurdwara Gangsar in honour of the martyrs of February 1923. The case of pension for Mai Kishan Kaur, who had done commendable services to the Panth during the Guru-kaBagh and the Jaito morchā, was entrusted to the Executive Committee. On 28 October 1928, the SGPC recorded its appreciation of the services of the Akali prisoners who remained faithful to their vow for the sake of the Panth’s honour.23

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence Several resolutions related to the SGPC and its functioning. The local gurdwara committees were expected to pay a tenth of their income (daswandh) to the SGPC in January during the current financial year, which created difficulties of several kinds. On 10 March 1928, it was resolved that the daswandh due for the past year should be entered in the accounts of the current year. It was also resolved that gurdwara committees should give preference to competent Singhs of the backward classes in their service. Teja Singh Bhuchar (who had been declared tankhāhiā for starting kār-sevā in 1923 before it was initiated formally by the panj-piārās) was forgiven in view of his services to the Panth during the Akali movement. On 15 July 1928, it was resolved to forge a reasonable agreement with the other party in a dispute related to gurdwaras other than the historic gurdwaras in order to reduce the number of court cases. Since there was no such provision in the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, efforts should be made for its amendment. It was also resolved that since the management of the Darbar Sahib (p.156) was linked up with that of the Akal Takht, the local committee for the Darbar Sahib may act as a sub-committee for general supervision of the Akal Takht. Through another resolution, separate oaths were approved for Keshdhārī and Sahajdhārī candidates for membership of the SGPC. A resolution of 28 October 1928 expressed great resentment of the SGPC against those newspapers which were creating tension between the Sikhs and the Hindus.24 By far the most important religious concern of the SGPC in 1928 was the way in which Babu Teja Singh of the Panch Khalsa Diwan of Bhasaur and his wife, Bibi Niranjan Kaur, had treated the Sikh scripture. The convenor of a committee appointed by the SGPC to investigate into this matter, Jathedar Teja Singh, reported that Bibi Niranjan Kaur, Principal of the Khalsa Girls College at Bhasaur, had published in 1922 the bāṇī of Guru Granth Sahib in five parts and the last part contained bāṇī from the Dasam Granth, without the ‘Rag Mala’. One opinion in the meeting of the SGPC was that the attitude of the Panch Khalsa Diwan indicated indifference to any proposal of talks and it was necessary, therefore, that action in this matter should not be delayed. It was resolved that a special meeting of the SGPC be held on 30 March, to which the President may invite some learned members of the Panth.25 Seven responsible members of the Panch Khalsa Diwan, along with Giani Nahar Singh (of Gujranwala), editor of the Aslī Kaumī Dard, were invited for the special meeting of the SGPC held on 31 March 1928. Apart from sixty-six members of the SGPC and Giani Nahar Singh, eleven members of the Gurmat Rahu-Riti Committee came for the meeting. However, only three members of the Panch Khalsa Diwan chose to come, all connected with the press. The four others who did not come were actually more important for the occasion: Babu Teja Singh, Bibi Niranjan Kaur Giani, Subedar Gurdit Singh (Jathedar, Panch Khalsa Diwan), and Bhai Harchand Singh (granthī, Gurdwara Sahib Panch Khand, Bhasaur). The grave faults established against the Panch Khalsa Diwan were: (a) breaking up the bāṇī and Guru Granth Sahib into parts, (b) replacing ‘Bhagauti’ by ‘Satnam’ Page 9 of 29

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence in the daily ardās, (c) writing ‘Vahuguru’ instead of ‘Vaheguru’, and (d) using no sugar in the water for preparing amrit. There was a general opinion that Babu Teja Singh should be excommunicated. One member reminded them, however, that the people of the Panch Khalsa Diwan were ‘our brothers’. They should be given another opportunity to explain their position. A sub-committee was formed to go into this matter and report within three months. It was also resolved that after receiving the report a special meeting of the SGPC may be held before the end of July.26 The final decision in this matter was taken in the general body meeting of the SGPC on 15 July 1928. Master Tara Singh was in the chair when Sardar Kharak Singh appeared ‘suddenly’ and presided over the rest of the proceedings. Master Tara Singh himself presented the proposals of the sub-committee for approval by the SGPC. The changes made by the Panch Khalsa Diwan in the bāṇī and the Guru Granth Sahib were viewed as a grievous injury to the Sikh faith and a dangerous threat to the distinctive character of gurbāṇī. The SGPC came to the conclusion that the Panch Khalsa Diwan had infringed the norms of Gurmat, Sikh ardās, and amrit maryādā. Babu Teja Singh and Bibi Niranjan Kaur were excommunicated, and ardās on behalf of the other members at any Takht or gurdwara was (p.157) forbidden. Sardar Bahadur Sardar Mehtab Singh got it recorded that this punishment was too harsh.27 In the meeting of the SGPC on 28 October 1928, Sardar Kharak Singh and Master Tara Singh were elected President and Vice-President, respectively, for the year 1929. On 1 November 1929, they were elected for the year 1930.

Agitation against the Maharaja of Patiala In August 1925, Daya Kishan Kaul, Prime Minister of the Patiala state, wrote to Colonel St. John, Agent to the Governor General, that one chapter of Akali history could be taken as closed with the passing of the Gurdwaras Bill. This, he thought, was an appropriate occasion for bringing to the notice of the Government of India the services rendered by the Patiala state in combating ‘the Akali menace’. Therefore, he sent a note for due recognition of the services rendered by Patiala. After giving the detail of services, Kaul summed up that His Highness the Maharaja of Patiala and his government had fully maintained their established tradition of their wholehearted co-operation with and loyal assistance to the British Government during the last troublesome decade of Punjab’s history, especially in connection with the anarchist and extremist movements among the Sikhs. The role of the Maharaja of Patiala was presented as a contrast with the role of the Maharaja of Nabha, who supported all these movements morally and financially: the Ghadar conspiracy of 1914, the political agitation of 1917, the seditious activities of 1919, the attacks on Khalsa College in 1920 and 1923, the Akali movement as a whole, and the Babbar Akalis. It was

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence added that the Maharaja of Patiala was unpopular among the extremists in the Punjab and within the Patiala state due to his services to the British Empire.28 In consonance with his collaborative attitude, the Maharaja of Patiala took action against Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala immediately on his release from the Lahore jail in September 1926. According to his biographer, his village, Thikriwala, was in the Patiala state. But he had come under the influence of the Singh Sabha movement and become active in its programmes. In sympathy with the Jallianwala Bagh martyrs in 1919, Sardar Sewa Singh had arranged five Akhand Pāṭhs. In 1921 he took a jathā of twenty volunteers to Nankana Sahib after the tragedy earlier in 1921. He took another jathā to Amritsar for the Guruka-Bagh morchā in 1922. With a jathā of 100 Singhs he took over the gurdwara at Muktsar Sahib on behalf of the SGPC. Even more offensive to the Maharaja of Patiala was Sardar Sewa Singh’s sympathy for the Maharaja of Nabha. In October 1923, Sardar Sewa Singh was arrested by the Punjab police from Muktsar and brought to Patiala where Maharaja Bhupinder Singh tried unsuccessfully to dissuade him from having any connection with the Akalis. Sardar Sewa Singh was sent to the Punjab to join other Akali prisoners. After his unconditional release from Lahore he was arrested by the Patiala police and imprisoned in Patiala on false and flimsy charges.29 Master Tara Singh recalls in his Merī Yād that he and Sardar Mangal Singh had met the Maharaja of Patiala before the end of 1926 to request him that Sardar Sewa Singh be released, but he refused. Master Tara Singh asked him the reason for the refusal and he said that Sardar Sewa Singh had not tendered an apology. Master Tara Singh wanted to know his fault. The Maharaja said that (p. 158) he did not apologize when he was ordered to do so. The point at issue for him was the disobedience of his order, whether right or wrong. Master Tara Singh got the impression that the Maharaja wanted to demonstrate that he could oblige Sardar Sewa Singh to apologize whereas the British Government had failed to do so. The only alternative left for the Akalis was to arouse public opinion against the Maharaja.30 Master Tara Singh goes on to say that the Shiromani Akali Dal resolved to hold dīwāns to be addressed by Sardar Kharak Singh and other Akali leaders. A conference at the village Thikriwala was attended by a large number of people. Maharaja Bhupinder Singh had gone abroad and the state officials did not feel strong enough to check the agitation. Sardar Sewa Singh was elected President of the Punjab Riasati Praja Mandal. The Patiala police began to arrest people coming for meetings; everyone wearing a black turban was arrested and his property was confiscated. Many discarded the black turban and others left the state. Sardar Kharak Singh went to many places for meetings but no dīwān could actually be held. The agents of Patiala launched a propaganda through newspapers and pamphlets against the Akalis. An important Akali leader defected and went over to Patiala, though he himself had been a party to the Page 11 of 29

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence resolution, and had attended the early dīwāns. He gave a statement against the morchā, and the morchā ended in a complete failure.31 Master Tara Singh’s account is substantiated by the historian of the Praja Mandal movement. The Akalis had started the campaign with a tour by Sardar Kharak Singh who was at the height of his popularity in early 1928. He addressed a number of dīwāns (conferences). The one held at village Thikriwala on 24–26 June 1928 was addressed by Jaswant Singh Danewalia. The Maharaja of Patiala was abroad and the Patiala administration did not take any decisive action. Sardar Kharak Singh addressed a gathering in the heart of the Patiala city. Formation of the Punjab Riasati Praja Mandal was announced at a big rally at Mansa on 17 July 1928, and Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala was elected its President, with Bhagwan Singh Longowalia as its General Secretary, both in absentia. Sardar Kharak Singh denounced the misdeeds of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala. The Mansa conference provided the guidelines for the new movement, with its objectives close to the aims of the All India States’ People’s Conference.32 On 29 July 1928, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh wrote a letter from London for his Ministers to deal with the Akalis and ‘extremist agitators with a firm grip’. The Akali newspapers had become active in support of the release of Sardar Sewa Singh. Some of the political workers, who had supported Maharaja Ripudaman Singh earlier, became articulate against Patiala. Paid journalists, and a few Akali leaders, entered the fray on behalf of Patiala. In addition to the police, the state forces were used by the Patiala authorities to suppress the agitation. Properties of all persons associated with the tours of Sardar Kharak Singh were confiscated. Nobody was allowed to bring provisions for the Akalis. The entry of Akali newspapers was banned and press correspondents were turned out of the state. In Patiala this time, Kharak Singh passed through deserted streets. No one came to hear him. Master Tara Singh did not actively associate himself with this tour but continued to support the movement against Patiala.33 Interestingly, Sardar Mehtab Singh was advising the Patiala authorities on how (p.159) to deal with the Akalis. Kartar Singh Diwana and Kartar Singh Jhabbar were active in support of Patiala. At this juncture, according of Master Tara Singh, the Akali leaders decided to silence the press propaganda against them. A meeting of the Panth was held at the Akal Takht. A statement was read out on behalf of Sardar Kharak Singh as President in which an appeal was made to the Maharaja to release the Akalis and restore their properties. The intention of the Akali leaders was simply to read out this appeal and not to discuss it in the meeting. But there was a strong reaction from the people and Sardar Kharak Singh allowed the proposition to be discussed. Every speaker rejected the idea of an appeal to the Maharaja of Patiala who, it was feared, would become all the more arrogant. Master Tara Singh shared this view but his idea was to expose the Maharaja. He appealed to Page 12 of 29

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence the critics of the proposal to give him a month and, if nothing came out of the attempt, he alone would be held responsible for the failure. In the absence of any alternative line of action, his proposition was accepted.34 For a month and a half, there was no response from the Maharaja to the appeal made by the Panth. The Akalis turned against the Maharaja, and his supporters became indifferent. Master Tara Singh was anxious that the Akalis of the Patiala state should not mistrust him. Sardar Sewa Singh, the only Akali of the state who had full trust in Master Tara Singh, was in jail, but he sent a message to all the Akalis of the state to have confidence in Master Tara Singh. Their trust in Master Tara Singh and the attitude of the Maharaja of Patiala put an end to the propaganda against the Akalis. As the editor of the Akālī and the Akālī te Pardesī, Master Tara Singh now used his pen against Maharaja Bhupinder Singh. At the risk of imprisonment, Master Tara Singh began to expose the ‘dark deeds’ and grinding oppression of the Maharaja. Till then, journalists had been afraid of Indian princes. It was far easier to write against the British Government than against an Indian prince. The princes could devise devious ways of harming their critics. Master Tara Singh’s fearless and open challenge to the Maharaja to sue him in court created a great stir to embolden the state’s people.35 The Akali leaders now demanded release of not only Sewa Singh but also the Akali workers. Sardar Sewa Singh went on hunger strike on 25 May 1929. In August, some Akali leaders approached Pandit Motilal Nehru to raise the issue in the Central Assembly. Maharaja Bhupinder Singh now looked for a face-saving device. A statement drafted by Patiala officials was signed by Sardar Mehtab Singh, Giani Sher Singh, Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia, Kartar Singh Diwana, and others, appealing for the Maharaja’s mercy for the release of Akali prisoners. The Maharaja ‘graciously’ issued a farmān on 23 August 1929. On the following day, Sewa Singh and over forty other Akalis were released.36 Master Tara Singh says that Sardar Harchand Singh Jeji was not released by the Maharaja of Patiala with the other prisoners, nor was his property restored. Master Tara Singh’s articles had changed the atmosphere and he continued to write. The All India States’ People’s Conference examined the charges levelled against the Maharaja by Master Tara Singh and published a report. On its basis the Government of India felt obliged to hold an enquiry. This kind of enquiry had never been instituted against any Indian ruler on the basis of a public agitation. But Master Tara Singh went to jail in connection with civil disobedience and the enquiry was boycotted (p.160) in his absence. According to Master Tara Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala had identified and used one of the Akali leaders as his agent for this purpose. None of the charges brought against him was proved even though he was guilty of those crimes.37

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence Charges of ‘unmitigated oppression under the tyrannical and immoral regime of the Maharaja of Patiala’ were the subject of a memorandum submitted by a group of ten Patiala state subjects to the Viceroy, seeking the Maharaja’s removal in justice to the 1,500,000 people of the state. Among the specific charges of a personal nature were the Maharaja’s involvement in the murder of Sardar Lal Singh, the forcible detention of Sardar Amar Singh’s wife in the Maharaja’s palace, and the illegal arrest of Sardar Harchand Singh Jeji and confiscation of his property. A copy of the memorandum was submitted to the All India States’ People’s Conference. It became the principal subject of discussion at the Bombay session of the Conference in May 1929. An Enquiry Committee was constituted. It visited the Punjab in December. Its report was finalized at Poona in February 1930, holding the Maharaja guilty of most of the charges. The Maharaja was frightened. Invoking his past services to the empire, he managed to get J.A.O. Fitzpatrick, the AGG, appointed for the enquiry. He was known to be one of the most venal British officers. The All India States’ People’s Conference boycotted the enquiry conducted at Dalhousie in the summer of 1930. Some of the topmost lawyers, headed by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, were employed by the Maharaja to give the impression that he took the allegations very seriously. However, the result of the enquiry was a foregone conclusion: complete exoneration of the Maharaja. Ironically, Fitzpatrick recommended stringent action against the Maharaja of Nabha for orchestrating the demand for enquiry. Its only positive achievement was the release of Sardar Harchand Singh Jeji from the Patiala jail. Maharaja Bhupinder Singh had managed with some difficulty to persuade the Sardar to accept a face-saving device for the Maharaja.38

Master Tara Singh Rejects the Nehru Report The Nehru Report makes no mention of Master Tara Singh. His contemporary biographer, Durlab Singh, states, however, that Srinivas Iyengar, President of the Gauhati Congress, was keen to evolve a formula for Hindu–Muslim unity. Master Tara Singh and Sardar Mangal Singh welcomed him when he came to the Punjab. Master Tara Singh assured him that the Sikhs were unlikely to demand separate electorates in the Punjab if joint electorates were introduced throughout India with reservation of seats for minorities. Master Tara Singh was present at the Madras Congress in 1927 as a member of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), and he pointed out that the communal formula evolved by its Working Committee and the AICC included ‘reciprocal concessions’ in addition to joint electorates and reservation of seats on the basis of population. But the Sikhs were not in majority even in the Punjab. Therefore, they needed ‘one-sided concessions’ as a minority. According to Sardar Mangal Singh, Master Tara Singh succeeded in getting a new clause added to the resolution: ‘When the question of reservation of seats in the Punjab will be taken up the case of the Sikhs will be considered as that of an important minority.’39

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence Sardar Mangal Singh, General Secretary of the Central Sikh League, was elected as a member of the Committee formed at the (p.161) All-Parties Conference in Bombay on 19 May 1928 ‘to consider and determine the principles of the Constitution for India’. The report prepared by this Committee, generally called the Nehru Committee because Pandit Motilal Nehru was its Chairman, enunciated that ‘the communal problem of India is primarily the Hindu–Muslim problem’. However, the Sikhs in the Punjab were ‘an important and wellknit minority which cannot be ignored’. But, essentially, the problem was ‘how to adjust the differences between the Hindus and Muslims’. In its political aspect, the communal problem resolved itself into the question of electorates, reservation of seats, separation of Sind, and the form of government in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP, present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan) and Baluchistan. Actually, the Committee remarked that neither Hindus nor Muslims needed ‘communal protection’; rather it was necessary for ‘the small communities which together form 10 per cent of the total’. The communal problem could be solved, therefore, by giving ‘the fullest religious liberty’ and ‘cultural autonomy’ to all religious communities.40 Whereas Muslims were insistent on reservation of seats for the Muslim majorities in the Punjab and Bengal, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Sikh League were equally strongly opposed to it. The Committee had no doubt that ‘proportional representation will in future be the solution of our problem’. In an informal meeting on 7 July 1928, it was resolved by the Committee: ‘We are unanimously opposed to the reservation of seats in the legislatures either for majorities or minorities and we recommend that no such reservation should be provided for in the constitution.’ Sardar Mangal Singh agreed to this proposition. However, the resolution went on to add: But if this recommendation is not accepted and an agreement can be arrived at only on a reservation of seats on the population basis we recommend that such reservation be made for majorities or minorities without any weightage and with a clear provision that it shall automatically cease at the expiry of ten years or earlier by the consent of the parties concerned. This was not acceptable to Sardar Mangal Singh. He wrote in his note that he was very strongly opposed to the creation of statutory communal majorities on population basis. Therefore, he recommended that the Sikhs as an important minority should be given representation far in excess of their numbers.41 Finally, the Nehru Committee recommended reservation of seats, when demanded, for Muslim minorities in strict proportion to their population with the right to contest additional seats for a fixed period of ten years. The Committee recommended the same concession for the non-Muslim minorities in the NWFP and Baluchistan. These recommendations left the Sikhs high and dry. The Page 15 of 29

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence Committee provided an explanation. The Sikhs deserved special consideration as a distinct and important minority and the Committee gave its best consideration to the views expressed by Sardar Mangal Singh on behalf of the Sikhs. He had shown ‘an admirable spirit of self-sacrifice’ to give up ‘communal advantages in the general interest of the country’. The Sikhs stood for joint electorates with no reservation for any community, even though they were subject to all the disadvantages of a minority in a joint mixed electorate based on wide adult suffrage recommended by the Committee. Though they had a strong case for reservations, there was another ‘very potent factor to be taken into account’: the presence of a strong Hindu minority in the Punjab. Thus, the Punjab (p.162) problem assumed an all-India importance. The only way to avoid complications and to give full play to the forces of nationalism was ‘to eradicate the virus of communalism from the body politic of the Punjab’. Sardar Mangal Singh fully realized the difficulty of the Committee, and ‘voluntarily’ gave up all claims with the sole object of preventing an impasse. The Committee appreciated this spirit and congratulated the Sikhs for their patriotic resolve.42 In this specious argument Sardar Mangal Singh’s acquiescence is presented as the patriotic resolve of the Sikhs to sacrifice their own interests in national interest. Apart from the fact that Sardar Mangal Singh had no authority to decide on behalf of the Sikhs, it is not clear how national interest could be served by sacrificing the interest of a minority. In any case, there was no justification for asking the Sikhs alone to sacrifice their interests. With the Sikhs out of the way, it was easy to dismiss the claims of other minorities to reinforce the argument that the communal question was ‘essentially a Hindu–Muslim question’ and it had to be settled on that basis. Therefore, the Nehru Committee recommended that there would be joint mixed electorates throughout India and there would be no reservation of seats at the Centre except for Muslims of those provinces where they were in a minority and for non-Muslims in the NWFP, strictly according to their population, with the right to contest additional seats. There would be no reservation of seats for any community in the Punjab and Bengal Legislatures. In other provincial legislatures, there would be reservation for Muslim minorities on population basis with the right to contest additional seats, and in the NWFP there would be similar concessions for non-Muslims. All reservations were to end after ten years.43 Injustice to the Sikhs was built into this recommendation made in ‘national’ interests. Master Tara Singh reacted sharply to the report of the Nehru Committee published on 10 August 1928. He was the first Sikh, he says, to send a telegram of protest to Pandit Motilal Nehru. His telegram of 17 August 1928 simply said: ‘Regret Sikh rights have been overlooked by Nehru Committee Report.’44

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence In his editorial to the Akālī te Pardesī of 15 September 1928, Master Tara Singh wrote that faith was the dearest thing to the Sikhs because it was the basis of their nationality (kaum). Sikh dharam was created for the welfare of the peoples of the world and it could survive only through the Sikhs. To sacrifice the Sikh nation (kaum) for the sake of the country in the interest of those who were keen to destroy it was not only a mistake but also a great foolishness. The Muslims leaders were virtually demanding rāj of the Punjab. Their demand was unjust. ‘We are prepared to make sacrifice for the progress of the country but not to support injustice.’ To obviate injustice it was ‘either necessary to abolish communal electorates altogether or to give adequate weightage to the Sikhs as well’.45 Master Tara Singh reinforced the editorial soon afterwards by underscoring that it would be no sacrifice to accept the Nehru Report. A sacrifice could be justified only if it was made in the cause of justice, truth or faith, or for the sake of the oppressed, and not for injustice, falsehood, bad faith, or oppression. The Nehru Report was unjust to the Sikhs. Minorities were given some kind of protection in other provinces but in the Punjab the rule of the majority was sought to be perpetuated. This was patently unjust. Master Tara Singh was emphatic that Muslim leaders were bent upon injustice and, therefore, to (p.163) concede their demand was not sacrifice but cowardice.46 Master Tara Singh pointed out that it was wrong to say that there was no communal representation for the Punjab in the Nehru Report. The Muslims had accepted joint electorates on the condition of universal suffrage. The implication was very clear: Muslim domination in the Punjab. In the other provinces, communal representation was intact. In the Punjab, Muslim majority was ensured through the provision of universal suffrage. Some self-interested persons were claiming that the majority of the Sikhs were in favour of the Nehru Report. But actually the large majority of the Sikhs were opposed to the Nehru Report. The Chief Khalsa Diwan and the moderate Sikh parties had already expressed their opposition to the Report. The Central Sikh League, which was in the hands of the ‘nationalist’ Sikhs, was going to meet at Gujranwala for its annual session on 21–23 October 1928. Master Tara Singh declared that the Central Sikh League was going to protest against the Nehru Report in a forceful manner. He closed his article with the warning that if the Congress paid no heed to the Sikh concerns, some sections of the Sikhs would be alienated from the Congress.47 Finally, Master Tara Singh wrote an editorial in the Akālī te Pardesī of 19 December 1928 for the benefit of the Sikh representatives to the national convention to be held at Calcutta for considering the Nehru Report. He pointed out first of all that the loyalty of a couple of Sikh representatives, selected by the executive committee of the Central Sikh League, to the Panth was suspect. In any case, a great responsibility had been entrusted to the Sikh representatives Page 17 of 29

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence and it was incumbent upon them to safeguard Panthic interests. If these interests were not safeguarded, it should not be because of them but in spite of them. First, their arguments should be rational and convincing. Second, if communal representation was abolished altogether all over the country, they should support it. Third, in no case the domination of a majority in the Punjab was to be accepted. Fourth, if there was disagreement with the Congress, it should not be allowed to take a form that could be exploited by the bureaucracy. They could suggest postponement of the final decision on the points of disagreement. They should take their stand on the welfare of the country and the Panth.48 In order to appreciate Sikh opposition to the Nehru Report, it is necessary to keep in view the existing position in the Punjab. The voting strength of the three communities was not the same as their proportion in the total population. With a little over 55 per cent population, the Muslims had 44 per cent votes. With a little more than 11 per cent population, the Sikhs had 24 per cent votes. The Hindus had a voting strength nearly equal to their proportion in population; it was 32 per cent. The Nehru Committee’s recommendation of representation according to population reduced the Sikh voting strength to 11 per cent instead of 24, which in turn reduced the number of Sikh seats.49 Two opposing views had developed within the Akali Party in the Central Sikh League, one with Sardar Mangal Singh in favour of the Nehru Report and the other with Master Tara Singh against it. Giani Sher Singh, who was otherwise opposed to Master Tara Singh, also protested against the Nehru Report. A meeting of the Executive Committee of the Central Sikh League was held at the Sikh Missionary College, Amritsar. The two sides were balanced and Sardar Kharak Singh was neutral. After the speeches were made for and against the Nehru Report, Sardar Kharak (p.164) Singh turned against the Report, and Master Tara Singh’s side became stronger.50 Giani Sher Singh gives Punjabi translation of both the statements. The one, on behalf of the Punjabi Muslims, accepted the recommendations of the Nehru Report on the condition that all adult men and women should have the right to vote and each community should have the right to review the communal representation after ten years. The statement signed by Master Tara Singh and Giani Sher Singh accepted the recommendations of the Nehru Report on the condition that in the Punjab there should be proportional representation, proportional to the number of voters and not population. On 27 September 1928, Giani Sher Singh wrote again to clarify the Sikh position. He underlined that an unqualified acceptance of the recommendations of the Nehru Report would result in minimizing the number of Sikh members in the council, and that in no case would the Sikhs accept the principle of representation on the basis of population in the Punjab (which would mean statutory majority of Muslims in the

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence Punjab Council).51 Giani Sher Singh pointed out the flaws in Professor Gurmukh Nihal Singh’s article in support of the Nehru Report.52 The Tribune of 7 October 1928 reported that Master Tara Singh was preparing for a showdown at the annual session of the Central Sikh League. He reiterated what he had said several times before that the Nehru Report had ignored Sikh interests. He was sure that the Sikhs were going to reject the Report at the Sikh League session scheduled to be held at Gujranwala on 22 October, even though the Central Sikh League was in the hands of the so-called nationalist Sikhs. Those who were claiming that ‘a considerable section of the Sikhs were in favour of the Nehru Report’ were bound to be disillusioned. The official resolution moved by Giani Sher Singh at the annual session was in favour of rejection of the Nehru Report which was ‘unjust and highly prejudicial to the interests of the community’. The Sikhs must have ‘at least 30 per cent of seats in the local legislature and the same proportion of representatives from the Punjab to the Central Legislatures of the country on the system of the joint electorate and plural constituencies so that one community may not be in a position to dominate over the others combined’.53 Sardar Amar Singh Jhabal suggested modifications in the Nehru Report: complete independence instead of dominion status as the goal, abolition of all communal representation, and joint electorates with no statutory reservation of seats. This did not change the basic position in the Punjab where virtual domination of Muslims was kept up. Speeches were made in favour of the amendment, but the amendment was defeated and the original resolution was passed. Sardar Kharak Singh lent his weight to the resolution by the threat that he would ‘cease to be a member of the Sikh League if Nehru Report was not rejected’. Master Tara Singh had his way. The Tribune commented that the position now adopted by the Central Sikh League was ‘fundamentally different from its past position’.54 The Central Sikh League was no longer under Sardar Mangal Singh when it was invited to the National Convention in Calcutta at the time of the Congress session in December 1928. However, Mangal Singh and Sardul Singh Caveeshar, being closest to the Congress leadership, were also invited. What was more surprising, the Nāmdhārīs, who were opposed to the Akalis, were also asked to send their representatives. Master (p.165) Tara Singh, Sardar Harnam Singh, and Giani Sher Singh reached Calcutta on 22 December to represent the Central Sikh League at the National Convention. They met Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Pandit Motilal Nehru. During the talks, Malaviya said that the Muslim leaders could be persuaded to accept reservations for the Sikhs in the Punjab on the basis of their population, but not 30 per cent seats. The Sikh representatives argued that in 1916 such concessions were given to the Muslims in the provinces, like Bihar and Madras. Now the Muslims were willing to relinquish the earlier concessions only because they had got much more. But the Page 19 of 29

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence Sikhs were being asked to accept even less than what they actually had. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya had no answer.55 On 23 December, Sardar Mehtab Singh also reached Calcutta and all the four Sikh leaders met Mahatma Gandhi. He asked if a special representation was given to the Sikhs then why not to Christians and Parsis. They said that they had no objection to a special representation given to them in the Punjab (they were less than 2 per cent). The rest of the seats could then be divided among the Sikhs, the Hindus, and the Muslims in the ratio of 30, 30, and 40 per cent respectively. The Sikh leaders added that only they were being asked to discard the principle of communal representation and not the Muslims. Mahatma Gandhi said that Hindus and Muslims regarded each other as enemies. Did the Sikhs perceive such enmity? They replied that in the given situation there was a threat to them from both Hindus and Muslims. Whether an arbitrator was acceptable to the Sikhs was the next question. The Sikh leaders said they had not been authorized to accept or to reject such a proposition. The talks with Mahatma Gandhi ended there. On 27 December 1928, Master Tara Singh, Sardar Mehtab Singh, Giani Sher Singh, and Sardar Harnam Singh participated in the meeting of the subcommittee. The demands of the Muslim leaders were taken up first. Jinnah left the meeting before the Sikh demands were taken up as if he had no concern with the Sikh demands. The Sikh leaders presented all the arguments in support of their demand for 30 per cent seats. Mahatma Gandhi asked the Muslim leaders present to give the same rights to the Sikhs in the Punjab as had been given to other minorities. The Muslim leaders said that they were not prepared to consider such a demand even though they were ‘nationalists’. They were keen that Muslim majority in the Punjab Council should not be affected in any way. The Sikh leaders were not prepared to have less than 30 per cent representation. On 28 December, Jinnah came up with some new demands and one of his demands was accepted. It was meant to ensure that no constitutional change could be made subsequently without the consent of Muslim members. When the demand of the Punjab Muslims for 55 per cent representation, or adult suffrage, was taken up, Jinnah made a speech, underlining the importance of the satisfaction of a minority. His arguments were equally applicable to the Sikhs. But he ended his speech with the advice to his Sikh friends to remember that the question in India was how to work out an understanding between Hindus and Muslims. The Sikh question, therefore, called for no special consideration. Sardar Mehtab Singh made a strong speech that either communal representation should be abolished altogether or the Sikh demand should be conceded. On 30 December 1928, Sardar Mehtab Singh proposed an amendment that communal representation should be discarded (p.166) and the Nehru Committee should modify its recommendations accordingly. The President ruled Page 20 of 29

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence that this amendment was out of order. Sardar Harnam Singh read a statement in which all the arguments for 30 per cent representation for the Sikhs were given. With no hope of justice, he said, the Sikhs rejected the Nehru Report and would not take part in the Convention anymore and they would walk out in protest. In the absence of the Sikh leaders, Ralia Ram, a Christian representative from the Punjab, proposed the amendment that the Sikhs should be given separate representation like the other minorities. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya said that injustice had been done to the Sikhs but they should not have made an issue of it. Pandit Motilal Nehru opposed the proposal vehemently. Even so, it was defeated by only six votes. Pandit Motilal Nehru’s speech at the Convention on 30 December was published in the Amrit Bazār Patrikā of 31 December 1928. The reason for the rejection of the Sikh demand given in the reported speech was disagreement among the Sikhs on the question of Sikh rights. Giani Sher Singh wrote to Motilal Nehru that he should go to any part of the Punjab to see how many Sikhs supported the Nehru Report and whether or not they accepted the decision of the Central Sikh League. He added that the Nehru Report itself contained the statement that the Sikhs would suffer a loss due to the constitution proposed by the Nehru Committee. He referred also to the Congress resorting to ‘divide and rule’. Pandit Motilal wrote to Giani Sher Singh on 8 January 1929 that his speech was either misrepresented or misunderstood: he had never said that the Sikhs were not united in their demand. What he had said was that, whereas there were only Hindus and Muslims in the other provinces, there were Sikhs in the Punjab as the third party. Therefore, the principle evolved for the other provinces could not be applied to the Punjab. He went on to add that weightage given to the Muslim minorities in the other provinces did not reduce the Hindu majority into a minority but weightage conceded to the Sikhs now in the Punjab would reduce the Muslim majority into a minority. Motilal Nehru denied that there was any admission in the Report about the Sikhs suffering a loss. The Sikhs had to suffer a loss not because there was anything wrong with the recommendations of the Nehru Committee but due to ‘natural’ causes, their peculiar position. He could not see any reason for Giani Sher Singh’s reference to the Congress following the policy of ‘divide and rule’ in relation to the Sikhs. He warned the Sikh League in all seriousness that its attitude would not help the Sikhs in any way, and said that he would be very happy to help the Sikhs if they were prepared to accept reservations on the basis of population.56 Giani Sher Singh wrote to Pandit Motilal that his letter clarified that his speech was inaccurately reported in the newspaper. His statement about a majority not being reduced to minority was factually correct but it was not clear why it was necessary to maintain a marginal Muslim majority in the Punjab. Furthermore, why was it not enough for the Muslims in the Punjab to have a majority in comparison with each of the other two communities? Even with a weightage to the Sikhs and proportional representation to the Hindus, the Muslims would Page 21 of 29

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence remain the majority community. Had the Nehru Committee recommended 30 per cent seats for the Sikhs, 30 per cent for the Hindus, and 40 per cent for the Muslims, would the Sikhs have suffered due to ‘natural causes’? (The causes were historical and not natural.) (p.167) Giani Sher Singh added that the Central Sikh League would be happy to discuss matters with Nehru and other respectable leaders of the country, but would not participate in any formal committee or conference so long as it was not recognized that the Sikhs needed a special representation as a respectable community in India. About the policy of ‘divide and rule’, Giani Sher Singh mentioned the congratulatory telegrams sent to those Sikhs who had supported the Report and the invitation sent to the Nāmdhārīs, a small sect of the Sikhs which had stood in opposition to the Sikh leaders for the past ten years. Not the attitude of the Central Sikh League but the solution of the communal problem recommended by the Nehru Committee would strengthen the hands of the government and lay the foundation of ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ rule. The Central Sikh League simply demanded justice. The National Convention had been adjourned sine die, without coming to any conclusion. The Congress leadership was divided sharply over the issue of Dominion Status versus ‘Complete Independence’. Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose stood for ‘Complete Independence’. The Congress came to a compromise. It resolved to adopt the Nehru Constitution if it was accepted ‘in its entirety by the British Parliament on or before the 31st December 1929’, but if it was not accepted by that date or rejected earlier, the Congress would organize a campaign of ‘non-violent non-cooperation’. While approving of the Report, Mahatma Gandhi recognized the injustice done to the Sikhs, but in his own way, remarking: ‘Personally I think we have not done full justice to the Sikhs.’57 The use of ‘full justice’ for ‘no justice’ is very remarkable. On their return from Calcutta the Sikh leaders organized a number of meetings against the Nehru Report as the ‘destroyer of Sikh rights’. Durlab Singh says that a group of reactionaries among the Sikhs exploited the Sikh resentment against the Nehru Report for detaching the Sikhs from the Congress. They gathered round Sardar Kharak Singh to din into his ears that the Congress leaders were not sympathetic to the Sikh minority. On the issue of the Nehru Report, he decided to boycott the Congress session scheduled to be held at Lahore in December 1929. Master Tara Singh, on the other hand, advocated no boycott of the Congress session but only rejection of the Nehru Report. Thus, there were now three camps among the Sikhs: an insignificant minority which approved of the Nehru Report; a group of Sikh aristocracy who stood for boycott of the Congress; and a large number of Akalis who disapproved of the Report but stood with the Congress in all other matters. This third group was led by Master Tara Singh.58 Indeed, Master Tara Singh was firm on the point that the Sikhs should fight for their rights remaining within the Congress and fighting for the freedom of the country.

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence At the annual session of the Central Sikh League in October 1929 under the Presidentship of Master Tara Singh, the supporters of Baba Kharak Singh, who was adamant on boycott with the Congress, were in a minority, but they were more noisy and were supported by the ‘agents’ of the Maharaja of Patiala. The session ended in a disorderly scene without a clear decision on whether or not the Akalis should participate in the annual session of the Congress at Lahore in December 1929. Master Tara Singh says that he did not want to see the Akalis divided into two parties on the issue. (p.168) He met Sardar Kharak Singh at Sialkot and came to an understanding with him that, whatever the attitude of the Central Sikh League, he would be free to participate in the Congress session.59 The Congress leaders, especially Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Motilal Nehru, were keen that the Akalis should not boycott the Congress session at Lahore. The main resolution of the Congress was to be the goal of ‘complete independence’ and the Nehru Report was to lapse automatically. Mahatma Gandhi appealed to the Sikhs not to decide in favour of boycotting the Congress session. Before the session Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Motilal Nehru, and M.A. Ansari met Master Tara Singh, Sardar Kharak Singh, and other Sikh leaders to listen to their views. They assured the Sikh leaders that in future no solution would be acceptable to the Congress if it did not satisfy the Sikh and Muslim minorities. At the Congress session, then, a formal resolution was passed. According to a professional historian, this was a ‘tactical move’ to ensure Akali support for the civil disobedience movement.60 Indeed, it would be totally ignored by the Congress.

In Retrospect The issue over which the SGPC split at last was of the conditional release of Akali prisoners. Sardar Bahadur Mehtab Singh, who was President of the SGPC in October 1923 when the Akali leaders were arrested, was persuaded by the bureaucracy to accept the conditional release stipulated by the Punjab Governor, Malcolm Hailey, to cooperate with the government to implement the Gurdwaras Act. Towards the end of January 1926, over a score of Akali leaders in the Lahore Fort came out after accepting the condition of cooperation. Among them were Sardar Bahadur Mehtab Singh and Giani Sher Singh. Fifteen leaders refused to accept conditional release. Among them were Sardar Teja Singh Samundri and Master Tara Singh. They were not released. On 31 January 1926, Mehtab Singh was elected President of the SGPC with seventy-seven votes against forty-four for Bhag Singh Canadian who was supported by Sardar Mangal Singh. In view of the elections to the Central Board created by the Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925, both the groups began to canvass support from public platforms and resolutions of local sangats. The Sardar Bahadur faction won only twenty-six seats and the Akali faction won eighty-five. In the first meeting of the new Central Board, held on 2 October 1926 under the Page 23 of 29

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence Presidentship of Mangal Singh, Sardar Kharak Singh was elected President and Master Tara Singh was elected Vice-President. The former was still in jail but Master Tara Singh was present in the meeting, having been released in September when the ban on the SGPC and the Akali Dals was lifted. The election of Master Tara Singh as Vice-President was a recognition of his services to the Sikh Panth from 1921 to 1925 and the stand he had taken on the issues of restoration of the Nabha ruler and conditional release of the Akali prisoners. The first resolution passed by the Central Board under his Chairmanship was to call itself by its initial name as Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, legitimizing its formation in 1920. As Vice-President of the SGPC from 1926 to 1929, Master Tara Singh remained far more active than its President, and presided over most of its meetings, and some important resolutions were passed during these years. One of these was for the release of the Akali (p.169) prisoners who were still in jail because of their refusal to accept the condition of release. The other resolutions dealt with reconciliation between the leaders of the two main groups, negotiated settlement with the non-Akali custodians of the Sikh Gurdwaras, informal understanding with the local committees of the gurdwaras under the decentralized SGPC, need of amendment in the Gurdwaras Act for an efficient and effective functioning of the SGPC, use of the Khalsa Sammat for recording the minutes of the meetings of the SGPC, removal of discrimination among the Sikhs on the basis of caste, formulation of a uniform rahit maryādā for all the Keshdhārī and Sahajdhārī Sikhs, publication of the Gurdwara Gazette, protesting against the unjust detention of Maharaja Ripudaman Singh of Nabha at Kodai Kanal, observation of the Shahidi Day at Gurdwara Gangsar for the martyrs of 1923, for providing pension to Mai Kishan Kaur in recognition of her commendable services to the Panth during the Guru-ka-Bagh and the Jaito morchā, and the excommunication of Babu Teja Singh Bhasaur and his wife, Bibi Niranjan Kaur. Elected as President of the SGPC in absentia in 1930, Master Tara Singh emerged as the foremost leader of the Sikhs. In the confrontation of the Akalis with Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala over the illegal and vindictive imprisonment of Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala in 1928–29, Master Tara Singh exposed the ‘dark deeds’ of the Maharaja to oblige him by August 1929 to issue a farmān for the release of Sewa Singh and over two scores of other Akali prisoners. Sardar Harchand Singh Jeji and some other prisoners were not released and Master Tara Singh continued to write till the All India States’ People’s Conference prepared a strongly worded ‘indictment’ against Patiala and demanded an official enquiry. In an enquiry conducted by the Agent to the Governor General stationed at Patiala, the Maharaja’s exoneration was a foregone conclusion. But Harchand Singh Jeji was released in the process and his confiscated property was restored. Master Tara Singh felt gratified that for the first time the government was obliged by public opinion to conduct an

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence enquiry against a Maharaja, and that too the Maharaja of Patiala, who was known to be the staunchest collaborator of the British. In 1928–29, Master Tara Singh took a bold stand against the Nehru Report. The primary concern of the Motilal Nehru Committee was to reconcile Hindu and Muslim interests for framing a ‘national constitution’. With this preoccupation, the Committee was prepared to sacrifice the interests of the other minorities, most notably the Sikhs. Master Tara Singh firmly believed that to ask one minority to make sacrifice in the interest of another was fundamentally unjust, and to invoke the larger interests of the country in its justification was ethically wrong. ‘We are prepared to make sacrifice for the progress of the country’, he declared, ‘but not to support injustice.’ He pointed out that the Muslims had accepted joint electorates on the condition of universal suffrage, which ensured statutory majority of Muslims in the Punjab Legislature. He made it clear that if communal representation was abolished altogether all over the country, the Sikhs would support it. The Nehru Report was rejected by the Central Sikh League even though it was regarded as an organization of ‘nationalist’ Sikhs. Sardar Kharak Singh favoured rejection of the Nehru Report and boycott of the Congress session to be held at Lahore in 1929. Master Tara Singh, however, advocated cooperation with the Congress. He was firm on the point (p.170) that the Sikhs should fight for their rights but remain aligned with the Congress in the fight for the freedom of the country. There was no contradiction between his concern for the community and his concern for the country. At the Congress session at Lahore in December 1929, a formal resolution was passed to the effect that in future no solution would be acceptable to the Congress if it did not satisfy the Sikh and Muslim minorities. Satisfied with this resolution, Master Tara Singh was prepared to support the civil disobedience movement to be launched by Mahatma Gandhi, in accordance with a resolution of the Congress Working Committee. Notes:

(1.) Jawaharlal Nehru, An Autobiography (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, [1936] 1982), pp. 156–60. (2.) Sumit Sarkar, Modern India 1885–1947 (Madras: Macmillan, 1995, reprint), p. 237. (3.) Sarkar, Modern India, pp. 261–4. On the boycott of the Simon Commission, Jinnah too was ‘as firm as a rock’: Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan (Delhi: Oxford University Press, [1984] 1988), p. 92. (4.) Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, Sucheta Mahajan, and K.N. Panikkar, India’s Struggle for Independence (New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 1989, reprint), pp. 264–6.

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence (5.) Sarkar, Modern India, pp. 267–8. (6.) Gurharpal Singh, Communism in Punjab (Delhi: Ajanta Publications, 1994), pp. 40–52. (7.) Raghuvendra Tanwar, Politics of Sharing Power: The Unionist Party 1923– 1947 (New Delhi: Manohar, 1999), pp.65–7. K.C Yadav, Elections in Panjab 1920– 1947 (New Delhi: Manohar, 1987), pp. 61–7. See also Satya M. Rai, Legislative Politics and Freedom Struggle in the Punjab 1897–1947 (New Delhi: ICHR, 1984), pp. 143–5. (8.) ‘All Parties Conference, 1928 (Nehru Committee Report)’, in Master Tara Singh, ed. Verinder Grover (New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications, 1995), pp. 198–204. (9.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, ed. Harjinder Singh Dilgir (Amritsar: SGPC, 1999, reprint), p. 70. (10.) Sohan Singh Josh, Akālī Morchiān dā Itihās (Delhi: Navyug Publishers, 1972), pp. 430–3. (11.) Josh, Akālī Morchiān dā Itihās, pp. 433–6. (12.) Ganda Singh (ed.), Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement (Amritsar: SGPC, 1965), pp. 195–6. (13.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 199– 200. (14.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 200–3. (15.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 207–8. (16.) Josh, Akālī Morchiān dā Itihās, pp. 207–8. (17.) Shamsher Singh Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās (1926–1976) (Amritsar: SGPC, 2003, reprint), pp. 47–53. (18.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 54–9. (19.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 70–1. (20.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 59–66. (21.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 66–70.

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence (22.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 70–2. (23.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 73, 78, 84 (24.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 74–5, 78–9, 81–5. (25.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 72–3. (26.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 75–8. (27.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 79–81, 83, 85–6. (28.) Ganda Singh, Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement, pp. 174–89. (29.) Gurcharan Singh, Jīwan Sardar Sewā Singh Thikrīwāla (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1970), pp. 18–33. (30.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 71. (31.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 71–2. (32.) Ramesh Walia, Praja Mandal Movement in East Punjab States (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1972), pp. 53–9. (33.) Walia, Praja Mandal Movement, pp. 61–6. (34.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 72. (35.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 72–4. (36.) Walia, Praja Mandal Movement, pp. 67–74. (37.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 74. (38.) Walia, Praja Mandal Movement, pp. 88–95. A few sentences are based on archival evidence seen in the British Library, London. (39.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter: A Biographical Study of Master Tara Singh’, in Verinder Grover (ed.), Master Tara Singh (New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications, 1995), pp. 48–9. (40.) ‘All Parties Conference, 1928’, pp. 204–5, 208–14.

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence (41.) ‘All Parties Conference, 1928’, pp. 214–30. (42.) ‘All Parties Conference, 1928’, pp. 234–9. In fact, as S.S. Iyengar wrote to Dr M.A. Ansari, President of All-Parties Conference, even Sardar Mangal Singh was in favour of proportional representation. Mangal Singh was under constant pressure from the Congress leaders like Motilal Nehru and Dr Ansari to submit a unanimous report in view of the wider interests of the country. Motilal Nehru had written to all members of the Committee on this point. Therefore, Mangal Singh, as he wrote to Motilal Nehru on 9 September 1928, did not force the method of proportional representation to the ‘extent of wrecking the new constitution’. K.L. Tuteja, ‘The Sikhs and the Nehru Report’, PPP 15, part 1 (April 1981): 134–5 and nn. 41–6. (43.) ‘All Parties Conference, 1928’, p. 297. (44.) Tuteja, ‘The Sikhs and the Nehru Report’, 135 n. 49. (45.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Sikh kī Kurbānī kar sakde han’, in Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. II, ed. Harjinder Singh Dilgir (Amritsar: SGPC, 1999), pp. 61–2. (46.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Kurbānī keh Kairtā’, Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. II, pp. 64–5. (47.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Nehru Report’, in Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. II, pp. 66–7. (48.) Master Tara Singh, ‘Central Sikh League de Kalkatte jāṇ wāliān Pratīnidhān pratī’, in Master Tara Singh ji de Lekh, vol. II, pp. 92–4. (49.) Tuteja, ‘The Sikhs and the Nehru Report’, 134–5 and nn. 41–6. (50.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 76. Giani Sher Singh had participated in the All-Parties Conference at Lucknow during 29–31 August 1928. As reported by Giani Sher Singh, the delegates from the Punjab met in a separate committee in which Congressmen like Lala Lajpat Rai and Dr Kitchlew opposed the Sikh demands on the plea that the Punjabi Hindus would also make such a demand. They were told that this was never done before and the argument was concocted now merely to oppose the Sikhs. Tej Bahadur Sapru, Sarojini Naidu, and Maulana Azad were participating in the Punjab committee meetings. The Punjabi Muslims were adamant that seats should be reserved for them on the basis of their population. At last in the forenoon of 31 August two statements were regarded as a compromise, one signed by non-Sikh Punjabis, with the exception of Sardul Singh Caveesher, and the other signed by Master Tara Singh and Giani Sher Singh. ‘Sarb Hind Sarb Party [Lucknow] Vich Conference: Sikh Swal Sanbandhi ki hoiya’, in Gurcharan Singh Giani, Giani Sher Singh: Jīwan ate Likhtān (Delhi: Navyug Publishers, 1988), pp. 43–4.

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Master Tara Singh’s Rise into Pre-eminence (51.) ‘Sarb Hind Sarb Party [Lucknow] Vich Conference: Sikh Sawāl Sanbandhi kī hoiyā’, pp. 45–6. ‘Nehru Report te Mein: Galat Fahimī dūr kar lao’, in Giani Sher Singh, pp. 46–9. (52.) ‘S. Gurmukh Nihal Singh, Professor, Hindu University dī Chitthī te us par vichār: Maujudā Hālāt anusār Kaunsalān vich Firkedār Pratīnidhtā dī Loṛ’, in Giani Sher Singh, pp. 49–58. (53.) The Tribune of 7, 24, and 26 October 1928, quoted in Sukhmani Bal Riar, The Politics and History of the Central Sikh League 1919–1929 (Chandigarh: Unistar, 2006), pp. 118–19. (54.) Bal-Rīar, The Politics and History of the Central Sikh League, pp. 119–22. (55.) For this and the following three paragraphs: Giani Sher Singh, ‘Kalkatte vich Sikh League de Pratīnidhān ne kī kītā? Hindu Leaderān da Watīrā kī sī?’, in Giani Sher Singh, pp. 59–63. (56.) For this and the following paragraphs: ‘Pandit Motilal Ji Nehru te Central Sikh League’, in Giani Sher Singh, pp. 63–8. (57.) K.L. Tuteja, Sikh Politics (1920–40) (Kurukshetra: Vishal Publications, 1984), pp. 146–7. (58.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter’, pp. 58–9. (59.) Tuteja, Sikh Politics, p. 147–8. (60.) Tuteja, Sikh Politics, pp. 147.

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader (1930–6) J.S. Grewal

DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199467099.003.0008

Abstract and Keywords The Akalis joined the civil disobedience movement, and Master Tara Singh was arrested while leading an Akali jathā to Peshawar and sent to jail. The Communal Award of August 1932 recommended statutory Muslim majority in the Punjab Legislative Assembly. The leaders of Sikh parties formed the Khalsa Darbar to resist implementation of the Award. But the Akali leadership was soon divided. Master Tara Singh’s agitation against the Maharaja of Patiala in 1935 led to a compromise. Master Tara Singh took a firm stand against the Muslim leaders of the Shahidganj agitation. In 1936, he took serious interest in the Dalits of the south. Though unhappy with the neutrality of the Congress towards the Communal Award, he was willing to align with the Congress for the forthcoming elections of 1937. Keywords:   Master Tara Singh, civil disobedience movement, Akali jathā to Peshawar, Communal Award, Khalsa Darbar, agitation against Patiala, Shahidganj agitation, Dalits of the south, Congress, elections of 1937

Master Tara Singh was deeply involved in the non-cooperation agitation and he was actually in jail when he was elected President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) unopposed in 1930. With great trust in Mahatma Gandhi he led a Sikh deputation to him in 1931 and presented a charter of seventeen demands with the request to represent the Sikhs at the Second Round Table Conference. On the announcement of the Communal Award in 1932, Page 1 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader Master Tara Singh decided to oppose it and he tried to work out unity among the Sikhs. After initial success Master Tara Singh and Sardar Kharak Singh found it difficult to work together and the latter formed a separate Akali Dal of his own. The Congress was neutral towards the Communal Award and Master Tara Singh felt let down. On a request from the Gursewak Sabha he went into voluntary exile in the second half of 1934. On hearing of the death of Sewa Singh Thikriwala, he returned to the Punjab before the end of the year and started an agitation against the Maharaja of Patiala early in 1935. On the release of Akali prisoners he was reconciled with the Maharaja. But this was not appreciated by most of the leaders of the Akalis of the Sikh states. In 1936, Master Tara Singh took a firm stand in defence of the Shahidganj in Lahore against the Muslim agitators demanding its possession. He showed a serious concern for Dalits in close association with B.R. Ambedkar.

The Context Authorized to launch a programme of civil disobedience, the Working Committee of the Congress gave full powers to Mahatma (p.174) Gandhi in February 1930 to launch the movement at a time and place of his choice. On 12 March, Mahatma Gandhi started his twenty-four-day march through the villages of Gujarat to collect salt from the Dandi Beach in order to disobey the law. Civil disobedience was formally launched on 6 April 1930. Mahatma Gandhi was arrested, and the movement became a mass affair. The Simon Commission submitted its report in 1930. In July, the Viceroy reiterated the goal of Dominion Status and suggested a Round Table Conference. Held in London in November 1930, it was boycotted by the Congress. There was a general feeling that the Conference had little meaning without participation of the Congress. In January 1931, Mahatma Gandhi and all the members of the Congress Working Committee were released unconditionally. According to the Gandhi–Irwin Pact, signed on 5 March 1931, all political prisoners were to be immediately released and it was understood that the Congress would participate in the next Round Table Conference.1 Before he sailed from Bombay on 29 August 1931, Mahatma Gandhi had the premonition that he would return ‘empty handed’. This was exactly what happened. The British Government refused to concede independence and Mahatma Gandhi returned to India before the end of 1931. Soon afterwards the Labourite Ramsay Macdonald was heading the Cabinet dominated by the Conservatives, with the reactionary Samuel Hoare as the Secretary of State for India. The Congress Working Committee met on 29 December 1931, the day following Gandhi’s arrival, and decided to resume civil disobedience. On 4 January 1932, Mahatma Gandhi was arrested and a programme of repression was launched. The watchwords of the new official policy were no pact, no truce, and ‘no quarter for the enemy’. More than 80,000 satyāgrahis were arrested in the early months of 1932. After August, however, the movement began to decline Page 2 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader and it lingered on till it was suspended by Mahatma Gandhi on 20 May 1933 and formally withdrawn in April 1934.2 In the ‘Communal Award’ of 16 August 1932, separate electorates were retained and the Depressed Classes were declared to be a minority community, entitled to separate electorates. Mahatma Gandhi saw the Award as harmful to both Hinduism and the Depressed Classes. He went on a fast unto death on 20 September to enforce the demand that the representatives of the Depressed Classes should be elected by the general electorate. The political leaders like Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, M.C. Rajah, and B.R. Ambedkar hammered out an agreement, known as the Poona Pact, discarding the idea of separate electorates but increasing the number of seats reserved for the Depressed Classes from 71 to 147 in the Provincial Councils, with 18 per cent seats in the Central Legislature. For Mahatma Gandhi, the Depressed Classes and Hinduism were inseparable. He declared that Hinduism would die if untouchability lived and untouchability had to die if Hinduism was to live.3 A White Paper outlining the Constitution Act for India was issued in 1933 on the basis of the Communal Award and presented to the Legislative Councils for discussion. The Government of India Act of 1935 embodied reservations and separate electorates, Muslim majority in the Punjab, a considerable autonomy for the Provinces, and a system of Federation. Jinnah objected to the Federation part. The Act of 1935 was condemned by nearly all sections of Indian opinion. However, the (p.175) Congress, having won forty-five of the seventy-five seats for Indians in the elections to the Central Legislative Assembly in November 1934, eventually decided in favour of fighting elections to the Provincial Assemblies on the basis of the Act of 1935.4 In the Punjab, the activities of the Kirtī Kisan Party enabled the Congress to make some inroads into the political life of the rural areas of central Punjab, articulating the demands of the peasantry. The Kirtīs were regarded by the government as potentially more dangerous than the Naujawan Bharat Sabha with which they were closely linked. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru were sentenced to be hanged, and the sentence was carried out on 23 March 1931. For a time, Bhagat Singh appeared to have become ‘the foremost political figure’ of India.5 The Naujawan Bharat Sabha and the Kirtī Kisan Party were proscribed. The Congress Socialist Party, founded in 1930, became the centre of activity for the Left leaders of the Punjab after 1934.6 The elections of 1930 were boycotted by the Congress and the Akalis. The elections were lacklustre: candidates for thirty-eight seats were returned unopposed. Only two parties were important: the Unionist Party, which won thirty-seven seats, and the Nationalist Progressive Party, which won twenty seats. The remaining fourteen seats were won by independent and other candidates. The Governor formed a non-party Ministry, with Firoz Khan Noon Page 3 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader and Sikander Hayat Khan from the Unionist Party, Gokul Chand Narang of the Nationalist Progressive Party, and Sardar Jogendra Singh, who did not belong to any party. The other important Sikh legislators were Ujjal Singh, Sampuran Singh, Buta Singh of Sheikhupura, and Narain Singh of Gujranwala. The influence of Sikander Hayat began to grow in the 1930s, weakening in proportion the hold of Fazl-i Husain.7 Response to civil disobedience in the Punjab during its first phase from 12 March 1930 to 5 March 1931 was quite enthusiastic. Out of 60,000 to 70,000 satyāgrahis arrested in India, the Punjab accounted for 7,000. In the second phase from 4 January 1932 to 8 May 1933, there was much less enthusiasm for taking out processions or observing haṛtāls to court arrest. The number of arrests was less than 4,200. In the third phase, from 1 August 1933 to the middle of May 1934, the movement was fizzling out. The Punjab Congress approved of suspension of the movement on 14 May. The number of arrests was less than 3,700. Muslim participation in the movement was less than 10 per cent.8

Master Tara Singh in Cooperation with the Congress Like the Congress, the Akalis celebrated 26 January 1930 as the Independence Day. The Tribune reported that a large number of Sikhs participated in the celebration in spite of the grievance of a section of the Akalis against the Congress. Sikh institutions in Amritsar hoisted the national flag. A number of Sikhs were arrested in the states of Patiala and Nabha for participating in the celebration.9 Master Tara Singh represented the Sikhs on a ‘war council’ formed in a conference of various political parties of the Punjab. On 9 March 1930, he persuaded the Shiromani Akal Dal to support the civil disobedience movement and 5,000 Akali volunteers were placed at his disposal. According to Master Tara Singh, out of 7,000 satyāgrahis convicted in the Punjab, 3,000 were Sikhs.10 Master Tara Singh led a jathā of 100 Akalis to Peshawar. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (p.176) had been arrested on 23 April 1930 for civil disobedience and taken to the police station in Peshawar. People flocked to the place. An accident led to firing from armoured cars in which, according to the official report, thirty persons were killed and thirty-three wounded, but the popular estimate was far higher. The people all over the country were indignant. Master Tara Singh made a declaration before a huge crowd in the Jallianwala Bagh on 9 May that the Sikhs would shed their blood in sympathy with the Pathans who had been killed. One hundred Akalis offered themselves to march to Peshawar to lay down their lives. As leader of the jathā, Master Tara Singh was arrested before it reached Lahore, and sent to the Gujrat Jail.11 At the time of the first Round Table Conference, from 12 November 1930 to 19 January 1931, Master Tara Singh was in jail. The Sikh organizations had boycotted the conference because there was no assurance on the objective of Page 4 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader self-government for India. On the insistence of the Sikh organizations, Ujjal Singh, who had been nominated by the government as a Sikh representative along with Sampuran Singh to the Round Table Conference, stood for 30 per cent representation for the Sikhs.12 Soon after the release of Master Tara Singh in March 1931, a meeting of the Central Sikh League had been held and it was decided to participate in the Round Table Conference, scheduled to be held from 17 September to 1 December 1931. A Sikh deputation under the leadership of Master Tara Singh met Mahatma Gandhi and presented a charter of seventeen demands. The most significant demand was that a communal balance should be created by reorganizing the Punjab province. The foremost concern of the Sikhs was to get rid of statutory Muslim majority. However, the Congress Working Committee evolved a different formula: reservation of seats on the basis of population, with the right to contest additional seats, for the Hindus in Sind, Muslims in Assam, Sikhs in the Punjab and the NWFP, and for the Hindus and Muslims in any other province where they were less than 25 per cent of the population. The All-Parties Sikh Conference rejected the proposal and reiterated the seventeen demands. Again, Ujjal Singh and Sampuran Singh were nominated by the government to represent the Sikhs at the second Round Table Conference.13 As the sole representative of the Congress, Mahatma Gandhi presented the Congress Working Committee formula to the Minorities Committee at the second Round Table Conference. But he did not press for it when he found that both Muslims and Sikhs were opposed to it. He wished that Dr Ansari and Master Tara Singh had been with him. He was prepared to endorse any reasonable scheme acceptable to the parties concerned. He was inclined to discuss the scheme put forth by Sir Geoffrey Corbett, Chief Secretary to the Punjab Government, to attach the plain areas of the Ambala Division to the United Provinces. It was rejected by both Sikhs and Hindus, obviously because it would worsen their position. Ujjal Singh suggested that Rawalpindi and Multan Divisions, without Lyallpur and Montgomery districts, should be attached to the NWFP. The rest of the Punjab province then would have 43.3 per cent Muslims, 42 per cent Hindus, and 14.4 per cent Sikhs. There would be no need for reservation for any community. As it may be expected a priori, the Muslim representatives were strongly opposed to this suggestion. The Sikh representatives reverted to their old demand for 30 per cent reservations.14 Evidently, the Muslim leaders were keen to (p.177) ensure their political domination in the Punjab, and the Sikh leaders were equally keen to obviate such domination. After the second Round Table Conference, Mahatma Gandhi resumed civil disobedience in January 1932. Master Tara Singh was in jail. In its meeting held at Amritsar on 24 February, the Shiromani Akali Dal allowed its members to join the civil disobedience. The Akali press urged the Sikhs to take part in the Page 5 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader movement, and Sikh volunteers began to appear in the campaign. During the National week in April, a procession was taken out in Amritsar and a dīwān was held at Jallianwala Bagh to remind the people of the atrocities committed there by the British. Master Tara Singh was directly associated with this programme. His success in settling the Daska dispute enabled the Akalis to turn to civil disobedience.15 The Akalis boycotted the third Round Table Conference held in December 1932. The government sponsored Sardar Tara Singh of Moga as the Sikh representative. He was disowned by the Khalsa Darbar.

Master Tara Singh in Sikh Politics A resolution against Master Tara Singh had been proposed by Kartar Singh Diwana in a meeting of the SGPC in 1930, alleging that Master Tara Singh had supported Mahant Tirath Singh, a well-known opponent of Gurdwara Reform, in the election for the Nankana Sahib Gurdwara Committee. Master Tara Singh was presiding over the meeting and allowed the proposed resolution to be taken up because it related to him personally, even though it had been received late. The members who supported the resolution included Giani Sher Singh, and among its opponents was Sardar Amar Singh, editor of the Sher-i Punjab. Sardar Ujjal Singh was in favour of its withdrawal. It was defeated by forty-five votes against thirteen. On the other hand, the resolution against Sardar Mehtab Singh was passed by forty-one votes against eighteen, stating that (a) he had raised the question of caste interest in the elections of Gurdwara Committees, (b) started the Shiromani Gurdwara Akali Dal in opposition to the Shiromani Akali Dal in accordance with the wishes of the government, (c) harmed the Sikh Panth by joining hands with the Sudhar Party, the Patiala Party, and the newspapers which were defaming the selfless sevaks of the Panth, and (d) continued to support Kartar Singh Vakil’s candidature even though he was a known supporter of mahants. This was done despite Sardar Kharak Singh’s announcement that he would resign if Kartar Singh was elected to any Gurdwara Committee.16 In the general meeting on 9 June 1930, Sardar Kharak Singh was elected President of the SGPC and the matter of firing at Gurdwara Sisganj in Delhi was taken up. The report of the Enquiry Committee made it quite clear that the Delhi police had indulged in firing in a vindictive spirit on 6 May 1930 and infringed the sanctity of the sacred place by entering it with their shoes on. The SGPC expressed its resentment and anger over desecration of the gurdwara and its sympathy with those who had suffered due to the police action in any way. The new SGPC recorded its ‘appreciation’ for the last Executive Committee, especially the services of Master Tara Singh, for selfless services during the past three and a half years.17 On 31 August, Sardar Kharak Singh was in the chair when the SGPC approved of the programme chalked out by the Executive Committee on 9 July in connection with the Sisganj firing. He clarified that this programme had nothing to do with the civil (p.178) disobedience of the Congress, and made it absolutely clear Page 6 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader that he would not support the civil disobedience movement unless the Shiromani Akali Dal passed a resolution to the effect that the Sikhs would work under the Khalsa flag in service of the country so long as the Khalsa colour was not included in the national flag. On this condition, Sardar Kharak Singh withdrew his resignation.18 The Punjab Provincial Congress Committee had no objection to the Sikh colour being included in the national flag. K. Santanam wrote to Jawaharlal Nehru, the Congress President, on 15 October 1930 that the Sikh colour might be included in the national flag. Nehru replied promptly that the Congress had adopted the national flag by a resolution and the party flag had become the national flag. He denied that the colours of the flag represented different communities. He characterized the decision of the Punjab Congress as hasty and untimely. The Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim leaders in Gujrat Jail were also in favour of including the Sikh colour in the national flag but both Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru were opposed to it. Giani Sher Singh wrote on 1 November 1930: ‘We appreciate the dedication of the Nehrus, the father and the son, to the country and the sacrifices made by them, but we cannot help saying that they are making a grave mistake.’ He pointed out that Jawaharlal was factually wrong in saying that Mahatma Gandhi had given no promise to the Sikhs that he would replace the red colour by basanti, which the Sikhs now regarded as their symbolic colour. Giani Sher Singh added that Mahatma Gandhi’s earlier objection had been to the black colour suggested by the Sikhs because ‘black’ was associated with mourning. He had agreed to the inclusion of the Sikh colour in the national flag unfurled on 26 January 1930 by Sardar Kharak Singh at Sialkot on the invitation of the local Congress Committee. Jawaharlal Nehru’s contention that the colours in the national flag did not represent Hindu and Muslim communities was also wrong. His attitude indicated that he would never include the Sikh colour in the national flag. Giani Sher Singh feared that many Sikhs would leave the Congress on this account.19 In the meeting of the SGPC on 12 October 1930, presided over by Sardar Bhag Singh, Bhai Randhir Singh was congratulated on his release from jail after a long imprisonment for his support to the Ghadar Movement. The SGPC expressed its sympathy with the family of the eminent historian Sardar Karam Singh over his sad demise. By another resolution a sub-committee was formed to go into the beneficial and harmful results of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925, and to report within one month. On its receipt, a special meeting of the SGPC was to be held within twenty-five days. Master Tara Singh was elected President of the SGPC unopposed for no other name was proposed.20 The news of this honour was conveyed to Master Tara Singh in the jail at Gujrat. He was congratulated by the other leaders in jail, like M.A. Ansari, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Mufti Kifayatullah, and Sardar Sardul Singh Caveeshar.21 After 1930,

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader Sardar Kharak Singh had little to do with the SGPC. It was to remain the foremost concern of Master Tara Singh for the rest of his life. After his release from jail in March 1931, Master Tara Singh got involved in the Daska morchā against his inclination. The dispute at Daska was between Hindus and Sikhs over the possession of shops which belonged to the gurdwara. The Sikhs had filed a suit but the court decided in favour of the Hindu occupants. The Sikhs regarded this decision as unfair. Without consulting the SGPC or (p. 179) the Akali Dal, Sardar Kharak Singh launched a morchā in August 1931. Some Sikh leaders expected Master Tara Singh to support him. Master Tara Singh clarified that he was never consulted and he had never spoken in favour of the morchā. Whatever his personal opinion, he would follow the decision taken by the Shiromani Akali Dal.22 He persuaded the Working Committee of the Akali Dal to take up the morchā and himself led a jathā in September. He was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and sent again to the jail in Gujrat. Sardar Kharak Singh was also there. They both went on strike over the issue of jhatkā and were transferred to the Central Jail, Lahore. They had a frank talk and it was decided that each one would get confirmation from the other of the truth of a statement or an action attributed to one of them. Master Tara Singh was released earlier and he worked out an agreement with the Hindus about the Daska Gurdwara. Without speaking to Master Tara Singh, Sardar Kharak Singh began to denounce him and, on coming out of the jail, began to speak openly against Master Tara Singh in public meetings. ‘From that day’, says Master Tara Singh, ‘I have not consulted Baba Kharak Singh Ji on any issue.’ He had never consulted Master Tara Singh even earlier. Master Tara Singh goes on to add that democratic principles could not be sacrificed to appease a person aspiring to leadership without adequate support. Evidently, Sardar Kharak Singh had lost the majority support among the Akalis.23

Master Tara Singh in Opposition to the Communal Award In the report of the Simon Commission, submitted on 7 June 1930, it was stated that Sikh representation could not be reduced, but ‘it would be impossible to concede so large a percentage as 30 without doing injustice to the other communities in the province’. The report was not acceptable to the Sikhs. More serious was the probability of Muslims being given statutory majority. The SGPC passed a resolution on 6 March 1932 that the Sikhs would never accept statutory majority of a single community.24 About a month earlier than the announcement of the Communal Award on 16 August 1932, the news leaked out that Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald had decided to create majority for Muslims in the Punjab. A general meeting of the Sikhs was held on 24 July 1932 at the samādh of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Lahore. Sir Jogendra Singh and Sir Sunder Singh Majithia were among the Sikh leaders who took a solemn vow in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib not to Page 8 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader accept any such award. Master Tara Singh had been ordered not to enter the municipal limits of Lahore but he could guide the move from Shahdara. Indeed, he was at the centre of this agitation.25 On 5 August, the dailies flashed the news that an understanding was being worked out at Simla between the Muslim and Sikh leaders. Giani Sher Singh received a telegram from Sir Sunder Singh to reach Simla on the coming Sunday. In the Civil and Military Gazette of 6 August appeared the news that Sir Jogendra Singh had sent a scheme to Sir Muhammad Iqbal in which 51 per cent of the total seats were to go to the Muslims. Giani Sher Singh wrote on 8 August: ‘No Sardar and no leader had the right to suggest going back on the vow taken by the Panth.’ The Sikhs could not accept a scheme of Muslim majority in the province.26 Master Tara Singh refers to a strong statement issued to the press by the Sikh (p.180) aristocrats who had joined the Sikh Parties Conference at the samādh of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and taken the vow along with the other Sikh leaders to oppose any award unduly favourable to Muslims. Then the Sikh aristocrats sent a message from Simla that an amicable agreement could be worked out with the Muslim leaders. When Master Tara Singh arrived in Simla he found that the aristocrats were actually backing out of the pledge. The newspapers in England carried the news that the Sikhs had accepted the Communal Award. Mounting opposition of the Sikhs was weakened by the talks of agreement and, subsequently, only constitutional opposition could be offered to the Communal Award.27 Macdonald’s Award confirmed the worst fears of the Sikhs. It created a statutory Muslim majority with eighty-six seats for them against seventy-five seats for both Hindus and Sikhs.28 On 25 September, the Sikhs assembled at the Akal Takht and decided to set up a new organization called Khalsa Darbar to thwart implementation of the Communal Award.29 Master Tara Singh participated in the Unity Conference organized by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Maulana Shaukat Ali at Allahabad on 3 November 1932. The Sikh representatives agreed to accept statutory majority of Muslims in the Punjab with joint electorates and adequate safeguards for the Sikhs. In Master Tara Singh’s view, the proposed settlement was not satisfactory from the Sikh or the national perspective but it was better than the Communal Award because the statutory majority of Muslims in the proposed scheme had little scope for tyranny and oppression. The Unity Conference was close to success when Sir Samuel Hoare declared in the House of Commons that 33.5 per cent seats would be given to the Muslims in the Central Legislature, and Sind would be made a separate province. The Muslim leaders withdrew their support to the Unity Conference, and it failed in its objective.30

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader On 27 November 1932, the SGPC passed a resolution against the Communal Award given by the British Government. It was not only an embodiment of injustice and a strong obstacle to the freedom of the country but also dangerous for the religious minorities because it could establish the dominance of the majority community. The Sikhs and the Sikh faith would not be safe under Muslim political domination. Therefore, the SGPC as the supreme religious body of the Sikhs had come to the conclusion that it regarded the Award as extremely harmful for the Panth and appealed to every Sikh to make all possible effort to nullify the Award.31 In March 1933, the White Paper confirmed the Communal Award. Giani Sher Singh called it ‘a bundle of unjust provisions’. His analysis was meant to show that the pro-government members would dominate the Central Legislature.32 Presiding over the SGPC meeting on 8 April 1933, Sardar Mangal Singh stated that the Sikh Panth had shown its trust in the Akali Dal by ensuring its majority in the SGPC for the third time.33 On 17 June 1933, the SGPC, under the presidentship of Jamadar Partap Singh, resolved to place on record its considered opinion that ‘any constitution based on the Communal Award will be entirely unacceptable to the Sikh community and reiterates the determination of the Panth not to submit to any such constitution’.34 According to Master Tara Singh, the Sikh situation went on deteriorating. The Khalsa Darbar could not function as a unit. The Akalis and the Sardar Bahadur party began to hold separate meetings.35 Sardar Kharak Singh left the (p.181) Khalsa Darbar with his supporters. In September 1933, Giani Sher Singh, Sardar Amar Singh, and Harbans Singh Seistani walked out of a meeting of the Khalsa Darbar. Soon afterwards, the Central Akali Dal was formed as an organization parallel to the Shiromani Akali Dal, with Sardar Kharak Singh as its President. On 16 October 1933, the Khalsa Darbar and the Central Sikh League passed a joint resolution pressing for revocation of the Communal Award.36 On 10 March 1934, the SGPC expressed its complete confidence in the Shiromani Akali Dal which had served the Sikh Panth in accordance with the Sikh tradition and made great sacrifices since the very beginning of the Gurdwara Reform Movement. To set up another organization parallel to the Shiromani Akali Dal was to hit Panthic interests and organization. In another resolution the SGPC expressed the view that to regard any person as ‘the dictator’ of the Sikh Panth was to infringe the principles of Gurmat and democracy. Those who declared Sardar Kharak Singh as ‘dictator’ of the Panth had tarnished the glory of Sikh faith.37 On 28 March 1934, Giani Sher Singh denounced what he called the ‘communal reward’. Characterizing the unilateral decision of the British Prime Minister as the greatest ‘constitutional injustice’ in history, Giani Sher Singh said that the Muslims in the Punjab and the Europeans in Bengal were ‘rewarded’ to prolong British rule in India. The Sikhs were divided among themselves, but Giani Sher Singh hoped that ‘our Jathedar’ (Sardar Kharak Singh) would get this unjust decision undone. The Page 10 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader Central Akali Dal would lead the Sikhs in their struggle against this unprincipled dispensation.38 The Sikh legislators tried to work out a compromise with the Muslim leaders. It was reported in The Tribune in April–May 1933 that Sardar Jogendra Singh and Sir Fazl-i Husain had agreed to have joint electorate with reservation of seats for the various committees on the basis of the Communal Award. Some of the Sikh leaders and Gokul Chand Narang and Narendra Nath welcomed the agreement. Sardar Harbans Singh, a Sikh legislator, made the statement that the majority community could not be denied their legitimate right, and the introduction of joint electorates would ensure that the persons elected were ‘broad-minded and progressive in their outlook’. Master Tara Singh reacted sharply against this statement. He denied that joint electorates was a basic demand of the Sikhs. The Executive Committee of the Khalsa Darbar also rejected the settlement.39 The letters of Sir Fazl-i Husain provide more detail of the efforts of Sardar Jogendra Singh. Fazl-i Husain had told Chaudhari Shahabuddin that Sardar Jogendra Singh should first have a talk with ‘his own moderate friends’ and then with the SGPC people who claimed to represent the Sikhs. It was necessary to have the Sikh community behind this idea. ‘If the extremist Sikhs find that Jogendra Singh and I have evolved this plan, they are bound to condemn it at the very start; but if they feel that they have evolved it, they may not later on feel safe to disown it.’40 In January 1933, Raja Narendra Nath and some leading Hindus and Sikhs were holding public lectures against the Muslim majority in the reformed council. Fazl-i Husain wanted to know whether the peace proposals had been dropped. Chaudhari Shahabuddin informed him that Sikander Hayat Khan had met Jogendra Singh and Gokul Chand, and they had agreed to a draft proposal for Fazl-i Husain’s consideration. Fazl-i Husain saw the proposal and suggested some modifications. (p.182) Sikander Hayat Khan and Gokul Chand revised the proposal which Jogendra Singh sent to Fazl-i Husain on 27 February. The main thing in Jogendra Singh’s view was to ensure that representation of each community was fairly distributed all over the province.41 Jogendra Singh informed Fazl-i Husain on 3 April 1933 that he had obtained signatures of almost all the Sikh legislators. Fazl-i Husain wrote to Shahabuddin to clarify the position of the Hindu leaders with regard to joint electorates. On the same day, Fazl-i Husain received a letter from Syed Habib, editor of the daily Siyāsat. Giani Kartar Singh had told him that Jogendra Singh was waiting for the verdict of the Khalsa Darbar, and the Khalsa Darbar had totally rejected the proposed agreement. Giani Kartar Singh put forth his own conditions for a Sikh– Muslim pact in the Punjab. The Sikhs would agree to separate electorates till

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader Muslims themselves gave up that method. They would wave their objections to the statutory majority of the Muslims on eight conditions, which he spelt out.42 Shahabuddin sent to Fazl-i Husain an agreement signed by ten Sikh legislators for his approval. Jogendra Singh would then get the signatures of about 300 more Sardars. However, he was still doubtful whether Sardar Ujjal Singh or Sardar Sampuran Singh would sign. The Sikh legislators agreed to have representation in the Punjab Legislative Assembly in proportion to the voting strength of each community, joint electorates, and constituencies proposed by the reform commissioners of the Punjab. It was also agreed that safeguards devised for minority communities in other provinces would apply to minority communities of the Punjab. Fazl-i Husain pointed out that this draft was quite different from the one which had been agreed to. He felt that they were merely ‘churning water’.43 Fazl-i Husain wrote to Sir Muhammad Iqbal on 29 April 1933 that he was against joint electorates but he was willing to consider Jogendra Singh’s proposal. He claimed that a large majority of Hindus and Sikhs were prepared to support his draft. Fazl-i Husain enclosed his comments with his letter, adding that this was not the final scheme. ‘As soon as it is ready, it should be discussed by the Muslim conference, the Muslim Press, just the same way as it should be discussed by Hindu and Sikh organizations.’ Firoz Khan, who had received a copy of Sir Jogendra Singh’s draft from Chaudhari Sir Shahabuddin, sent his comment to Fazl-i Husain on 30 April that the Sikhs would never accept the formula, and if they did, it would be the biggest mistake of their lives. Fazl-i Husain sent to Iqbal a copy of the last draft by Jogendra Singh on 1 May, suggesting that as a member of the All India Muslim Conference he could say that the Muslim community of the Punjab would give this proposal the most serious consideration. Iqbal wrote back immediately that the Sikh leader Tara Singh had declared the formula to be ‘a kind of suicide for Sikhs if they accept it’.44 On 5 May 1933, Sardar Jogendra Singh wrote to Fazl-i Husain that Hindus were solidly behind him and all the Sikhs would be with him, except the Akalis. Sir Muhammad Iqbal was going to oppose it. He suggested an alternative formula since Sir Shahbuddin had said that the formula would have to be modified. Fazl-i Husain wrote to him on the 8th that the proposal had come from Jogendra Singh though he also had helped in its formulation. ‘The Punjab Muslims are quite satisfied with the existent position (p.183) and, therefore, proposals for change must emanate from Hindus and Sikhs.’ Two days later, Agha Khan wrote to Fazl-i Husain that though he, Shafa’at, Ghaznavi, and Zafarulla were not opposed to a compromise between the three communities of the Punjab, they felt that it would be highly risky to raise any point dealing with the communal problem which formed part of the Award embodied in the White Paper. It would break up the solidarity of Muslims in India and create a cleavage between the Muslims of East and West Punjab. ‘The Punjab question does not and cannot stand alone.’ The Page 12 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader Muslims of modern India had got their rights recognized after years of strenuous work, and this unparalleled achievement would be thrown away. In Fazl-i Husain’s view, the proposed agreement was more beneficial to Muslims than to Hindus and ‘most hurtful to Sikhs’. Fazl-i Husain wrote to Sir Shafa’at on 19 June that there was a very strong opposition amongst the Sikhs and for obvious reasons. It was not likely to get united support from Hindus either. ‘Personally, I doubt very much that it will materialize now.’45 On 5 February 1935, Sardar Jogendra Singh wrote to Fazl-i Husain that the India Bill seemed to have awakened some interest ‘in our old formula of communal settlement’. The Sikh and Hindu objections to franchise and constituencies could possibly be met. Before beginning discussions, he wanted to just mention it to Fazl-i Husain. The response from Fazl-i Husain was rather curt. The points mentioned by Jogendra Singh had been discussed threadbare over and over again and Fazl-i Husain had no wish after his experience at Simla to reopen the matter. It was ‘finally settled and closed’.46 Without support from the Akalis, the Muslim League and the Congress, the Unionists alone could not go far with any proposal of communal settlement in the Punjab. Master Tara Singh had the feeling that the British were anxious to ensure Muslim dominance in the Punjab. It had become necessary for the colonial government to retain Muslim support in view of the changing political situation in India. Moreover, the government wanted to weaken the Akalis because of its unhappy experience of the Akali movement. The Punjab Governor had tried to thrust a Gurdwaras Act on the Sikhs with the support of the Muslim legislators. Sir Fazl-i Husain had told the Muslim members to support the Bill to get rewarded. Probably, Sir John Maynard had made some such promise to Sir Fazl-i Husain. In any case, from that time onwards the government had begun to show greater regard for Muslims in the Punjab. Till the outbreak of World War II, the consistent policy of the colonial government had been to weaken the Sikhs in all those spheres which had made them important for the British.47

Master Tara Singh in Voluntary Exile Professor Teja Singh states in his Ārsī that disputes among the Sikh leaders after their release from jail in 1926 were responsible for creating disunity in the Sikh Panth. The differences between Master Tara Singh and Giani Sher Singh were printed in newspapers and voiced from public platforms. There was no end to their mutual antagonism and they were joined by others. Therefore, Bawa Harkishan Singh, Professor Niranjan Singh, Sardar Bhag Singh, Master Mehtab Singh, and others, who were not affiliated to any party, formed a new association called the ‘Gursewak Sabha’ with the primary objective of self-improvement for selfless service of the Panth. Professor Teja Singh was an (p.184) active member of the Gursewak Sabha, and its only office-bearer was its ‘convener’, Bawa Harkishan Singh.48

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader Seriously concerned with patching up differences among the Sikh leaders, the members of the Gursewak Sabha began to feel that there was no possibility of resolving the internal differences so long as Master Tara Singh and Giani Sher Singh were on the scene of Sikh politics. The Sabha requested both of them very respectfully to retire from public life. Giani Sher Singh ignored their request but Master Tara Singh left the Punjab. The Gursewak Sabha called him back when Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala died of hunger strike in the Patiala jail early in 1935.49 At the outset of his voluntary exile, Master Tara Singh began to reflect on the past for possible ‘mistakes’, especially his decision to reject conditional release when many other leaders had accepted it. Those who had accepted conditional release went on justifying their decision, while Master Tara Singh and his supporters remained equally insistent on proving them wrong. This became the cause of a rift in the Panth. But could it be avoided? Would the Sikh leadership now handle the situation in which Muslim domination was sought to be perpetuated? Master Tara Singh found no answer.50 Master Tara Singh’s journal of the days of exile was posthumously published by his daughter, Dr Rajinder Kaur, as his Safarnāmā. It reveals some aspects of Master Tara Singh’s personality, especially the pleasure he derived from the sight of hills, rivers, springs, and forests, and the attention he gave to Sikh gurdwaras and their problems.51 The first entry was made at Saharanpur on 12 July 1934 and the last at Amritsar on 13 February 1935, though he had returned to Amritsar before the end of January. The published version contains some additional matter: a letter sent to Baba Partap Singh (Nāmdhārī) of Bhaini Sahib on 24 October 1934, a letter written for Giani Sher Singh on 23 November 1934, speeches made by several leaders on the need for Panthic unity at a party held in honour of Master Tara Singh, his own statement on Panthic unity, and his statement on Sardar Sewa Singh’s martyrdom. There is a statement on the deteriorating situation of the Panth, the view expressed by Sardar Ishar Singh Majhail on the need for Master Tara Singh’s return to the Punjab, the appeal of eminent nationalist leaders for Master Tara Singh’s return, a letter of the convener of the Gursewak Sabha for Master Tara Singh, a resolution of the Shiromani Akali Dal in favour of Master Tara Singh’s return, the need expressed by the Riasati Praja Mandal of Patiala to contact Master Tara Singh in view of Sardar Sewa Singh’s hunger strike, and the news of Sardar Sewa Singh’s death. This additional matter was not a part of the journal but it makes the Safarnāmā more important for the political life of Master Tara Singh than his personal life. Master Tara Singh’s interest in gurdwaras was not merely personal. Much of the revenue-free land given by the state of Nahan to the gurdwara of Bhangani had been resumed. The grant of Gurdwara Toka Sahib had been totally resumed on Page 14 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader the plea that its mahant did not have a good moral character. On a piece of land attached to the gurdwara at Nahan, some servants of the state had constructed a building, but no compensation was given to the gurdwara. A prince of Nahan had given 400 bighas of land to the Paonta Sahib Gurdwara. Later on, however, 150 bighas of this land were used for the office of the Tehsildar, a hospital, a temple, and a bazaar, without any compensation. Master Tara Singh believed that some high-placed fanatical (p.185) Hindu officials were responsible for all this and not the Raja of Nahan. Master Tara Singh wished that injustice of all kinds done to the gurdwaras was undone.52 The gurdwara at Biharigarh, halfway between Saharanpur and Dehra Dun, was built by the Sikhs of the two cities. In the villages around, there were many Banjaras. The Banjaras’ ancestors appeared to have been initiated into the Khalsa order, and some of those Khalsa Singhs were still alive in the area. Most of these people now smoked tobacco but they greeted one another with Vāhegurūjī kī fateh’. In some of the villages, Guru Granth Sahib was installed. Even where there was no Granth Sahib, they prepared kaṛāh parsād on the first day of the month and distributed it after ardās. The Shiromani Gurdwara Committee had appointed Bhai Gurbachan Singh for religious parchār. He had initiated a few of the Banjaras.53 The gurdwara at Biharigarh, thus, held a peculiar kind of significance for Master Tara Singh. In October 1934, Master Tara Singh went to Huzur Sahib (Nander) for ‘darshan of Gurdwaras’. He visited all the gurdwaras associated with Guru Gobind Singh (Nagina Ghat, Banda Ghat, Hira Ghat, and Shikar Ghat), and the Gurdwara of Mata Ji which was managed by Nihangs. He noticed a certain degree of tussle between the Dakhni Sikhs associated with Gurdwara Sachkhand and the Punjabi Sikhs associated with the Gurdwara of Baba Nidhan Singh. Master Tara Singh’s sympathies were with the Dakhni Sikhs who had taken good care of the Sachkhand despite hostility from local Muslims. The state of Hyderabad had no prejudices against the Sikhs, and it looked after the management of the gurdwara. However, if a suitable proposal was put forward by the Sikhs, the state might entrust the management to a Sikh body. Unlike the British Government, the Nizam did not want the Sikhs to prove their loyalty; all that he wanted was peace. The Sikhs had the reputation of being quarrelsome, and this gave the impression that they would not be able to manage the affairs of the gurdwaras efficiently. Master Tara Singh wanted the Sikh and Muslim leaders to develop good mutual relations.54 After some correspondence with Mahatma Gandhi, Master Tara Singh visited Wardha in Gujarat in November 1934. He stayed in the house of Seth Jamna Lal, virtually a hotel for the guests of Mahatma Gandhi. Contrary to the practice in the Sikh langar, no one was bothered about the food served being left uneaten. Mahatma Gandhi used cushions during the prayer meetings, which was not the practice among the Sikhs any more. Master Tara Singh observed that in the Page 15 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader prayer meeting the presence of all the girls of the Ashrama was marked in a register. This, in his view, did not harmonize with the ideal of satyāgraha because, in his view, it involved a kind of compulsion. Master Tara Singh does not refer to any personal conversation with Mahatma Gandhi.55 The purpose of his visit is not clear. It is interesting to note, however, that Master Tara Singh wrote a letter to Giani Sher Singh from Wardha. The purpose of Master Tara Singh’s visit to Bhaini Sahib is somewhat clearer. He came to the dīwān held at Bhaini Sahib on 15 October 1934 as an observer. He was full of praise for the recitation of gurbāṇī and sevā (service), but he did not like separate langars for the Kukas, the Nihangs, the Bhasaurias, and the common Sikh sangat. The very purpose of the langar was defeated. Nevertheless, Master Tara Singh appreciated the sagacity of ‘Baba Partap Singh Ji’ who tackled all the delicate situations in an appropriate manner. In his (p. 186) letter to Baba Partap Singh on 24 October 1934, Master Tara Singh says that he was prepared ‘to fall at the feet of anyone’ and to meet any demand in order to change the declining state of the Panth. But he could not place his trust in a person whom he really distrusted. The reference could possibly be to Giani Sher Singh. Master Tara Singh appreciated the efforts made by Baba Partap Singh to bring the Akalis, the Nāmdhārīs, the Udāsīs, and the Nirmalas together. He could possibly serve as a mediator also between the warring factions among the Akalis. But there was no response to his letter.56 Master Tara Singh then addressed a letter to Giani Sher Singh on 23 November 1934. It was sent to Sardar Bhag Singh so that he could read it out to Giani Sher Singh (who was blind). But Sardar Bhag Singh did not take it to Giani Sher Singh and Master Tara Singh got it back from him after a couple of months. In this letter Master Tara Singh had made an appeal to Giani Sher Singh in the name of the Panth. Despite what had happened and what was happening, Master Tara Singh believed that Giani Sher Singh genuinely cared for the Panth and its welfare. He was frank enough to confess that his own mind was not clear with regard to Giani Sher Singh. But he had decided to write this letter in the interest of the Panth which was in the doldrums. The country and the Panth were passing through a critical phase. There was hardly any articulate opposition to the Communal Award. Resolutions were passed but no one was prepared to implement them. In so far as the Sikhs were responsible for it, their leaders were to be blamed more than anyone else.57 Master Tara Singh wanted to know what he could do to satisfy Giani Sher Singh to enable him to concentrate all his energies on forging unity in the Panth. If this letter could be helpful in improving the state of the Panth, Master Tara Singh was prepared to publish it. Giani Sher Singh could even make some changes in its text. He asked Giani Sher Singh not to consult anyone else for taking his decision on whether or not the letter should be published. If it was not possible for Giani Sher Singh to reply without consulting someone else, there was no Page 16 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader need to respond. Master Tara Singh did not wish to start another controversy. He makes it absolutely clear that he would not associate himself formally with the SGPC or with the management of any gurdwara. His sole wish was to see the Panth united. It was impossible for him to remain at peace with himself in the present state of the Panth.58 During the second half of 1934, the affairs of the Sikh Panth had become worse than before. Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala, who was put in jail for the third time by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, had to go on hunger strike. The Punjab Riasati Praja Mandal was feeling helpless. Its President, Sardar Hari Singh, was keen to know the whereabouts of Master Tara Singh to request him personally to come back to guide them. Therefore, he made an appeal that anyone who knew where Master Tara Singh happened to be should inform Sardar Hari Singh through a letter or through a newspaper.59 Sardar Ishar Singh Majhail underscored that Master Tara Singh had accepted the suggestion of the Gursewak Sabha despite his own view that it would not produce the expected result. He referred to the baseless propaganda against Master Tara Singh which had gone on for years, and he asserted that no thoughtful person would ever believe in the false charges levelled against him. The charge that Master Tara Singh hankered after leadership could neither be proved nor disproved. But they who (p.187) were close to Master Tara Singh knew that it had no basis. The person (Giani Sher Singh) who was foremost in levelling this charge had not renounced politics on the plea that his supporters did not allow him to do so. Master Tara Singh’s position was comparable with that of Yusaf who had been thrown into a well by his brothers. Ishar Singh wished for a famine in ‘Egypt’ so that Yusaf’s brothers were obliged to come to him for grain. Most of the Sikhs were waiting for Master Tara Singh to return and to guide the Panth.60 Several eminent non-Sikh leaders of the Punjab suggested to the Gursewak Sabha that it should call Master Tara Singh back to serve the country and the nation (kaum). Bawa Harkishan Singh wrote to Master Tara Singh that the Sabha had made an appeal to him in May 1934 to dissociate himself from the affairs of the Panth, and not to leave his family or the Punjab. Nearly seven months had passed since then, but his opponents were still dragging his name in matters of dispute. He should seriously think of returning to his family as early as possible. Bawa Harkishan Singh went on to add that Master Tara Singh should continue to keep himself aloof from the politics of the Panth.61 On 21 January there appeared a news to the effect that Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala, who was on hunger strike in the Patiala Jail for about six months, had passed away. Sardar Harchand Singh Jeji had got this news confirmed from

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader the jail authorities. On hearing the news Master Tara Singh returned to Amritsar.62

Reconciliation with Maharaja Bhupinder Singh after Agitation After his release from jail in August 1929, Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala had continued his political activities as a leader of the Praja Mandal. As Chairman of the Reception Committee at the second Conference of the Punjab Riasati Praja Mandal held at Ludhiana in October 1930, he denounced the Maharaja of Patiala in strong terms: ‘The Patiala state in the reign of its present ruler, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, has degenerated materially, spiritually, and morally so much that it seems as if the Devil is ruling over the state.’ The resolution on Patiala characterized the Fitzpatrick enquiry as a farce, and demanded the Maharaja’s deposition. Sardar Sewa Singh was arrested on 3 November from his house in Thikriwala and sentenced to ten years’ rigorous imprisonment by Pritam Singh Sidhu, the Magistrate of Barnala, on 28 November 1930. On an appeal to the High Court, his sentence was reduced to five years. However, Sewa Singh was released on 12 March 1931. According to Sardar Harchand Singh Jeji, in return the Praja Mandal had secretly agreed not to demonstrate against the Maharaja at Bombay on his return from England.63 Efforts were made again to win over Sardar Sewa Singh but he insisted that the Maharaja should introduce reforms. Negotiations failed and agitation was resumed. Sewa Singh led a morchā in the Jind state in November 1931. On 14 January 1932, the Patiala state issued a royal order (farmān-i shāhī) announcing the promulgation of ‘Hidayat 88’ which banned all unauthorized political activity in the three states of Nabha, Jind, and Patiala. No organization could be formed without a certificate of recognition from the state government. Sewa Singh was arrested under Hidayat 88 on 24 August 1933 for his participation in the Punjab Praja Mandal Conference at Delhi in April 1933. In January 1934 he was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs 2,000 by Pritam Singh Sidhu, and sent to (p.188) the Central Jail, Patiala. Throughout 1934 he remained on partial or total hunger strike. Forced feeding was started in July 1934. On 18 January 1935, he started vomiting blood. He died in the Rajindra Hospital on the 20th. His body was cremated in suspicious circumstances, and even his last remains were not handed over to his family.64 Master Tara Singh sent to the press a statement on the death of Sardar Sewa Singh who was the Vice-President of the Shiromani Akal Dal, President of the Shiromani Malwa Pratindhi Diwan, and President of the Riasati Parja Mandal. Master Tara Singh was still not inclined to take part in the affairs of the Panth but he was willing to participate in the movement in Patiala to save the political prisoners of the state and to do his best for its oppressed people. When Sardar Sewa Singh was on hunger strike in the jail, no representative of the SGPC or the Akali Dal was allowed to see him. No one was allowed to persuade Sardar Sewa Singh not to continue with his fast, and no one was informed of his critical Page 18 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader condition. Thus, Sardar Sewa Singh was deliberately allowed to die. The Maharaja of Patiala was clearly responsible for this. The Patiala state was constitutionally bound to ensure justice to its subjects. Therefore, an inquiry should have been conducted by the Government of India in public interest even earlier, but now it was absolutely necessary.65 On 30 January 1935, a tea party was held at the residence of Sardar Harnam Singh in honour of Master Tara Singh. A number of leaders expressed their views on the general political situation in the country, the state of the Panth, or the martyrdom of Sardar Sewa Singh. Among them were Dr Kitchlew, Sardar Sewa Ram Singh, Sardar Sardul Singh Caveeshar, Sardar Mangal Singh, Professor Ganga Singh, Sardar Gopal Singh Kaumi, Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir, and Sardar Mehtab Singh. They emphasized that Master Tara Singh had done well to return to the Punjab and that his guidance was indispensable. Caveeshar said that Master Tara Singh should not have adopted an attitude of abnegation. Gopal Singh said that those who were right should be supported. Giani Gurmukh Singh said that the opponents of Master Tara Singh stood exposed and the evil which Master Tara Singh had tried to eradicate had become rampant. Sardar Mehtab Singh, President of Nankana Sahib Committee, assured the leaders present that the management at Nankana Sahib was as good as it could possibly be, and he was prepared to remove any defect brought to his notice. At the end, Sewa Ram Singh was entrusted with the responsibility of working out a unity programme.66 Master Tara Singh stated that he had returned to Amritsar on hearing the news of the saintly Sewa Singh’s martyrdom. During his absence from the Punjab, he had reflected on the state of the Panth. He read out the letter he had sent to Baba Partap Singh and the one written for Giani Sher Singh. He was still prepared to do anything that the Panth wanted him to do. Otherwise, ‘I will tell you what to do, and you give your support’. In order to take someone out of the mud, it was necessary to get into the mud. Neutrality in his view was useless: ‘Be men and not Gursewak Sabha.’67 The Akalis and the Praja Mandal were demanding an enquiry into Sewa Singh’s death, but the Government of India was taking no action. The All India States’ People’s Conference appointed an Enquiry Committee. Agitation for the release of prisoners went on. In August 1935, Colonel Raghbir Singh, the Inspector General of Police of the Patiala state, wrote to the Prime Minister of Patiala (p. 189) that putting more people in jail was likely to result in agitation in the jail itself. On 1 January 1936, twenty-five Praja Mandal workers were released. Among them was a leader, Bhagwan Singh Longowalia. On 7 April 1936, the Maharaja of Patiala issued a special clemency order that all cases pending in the court under Hidayat 88 should be withdrawn. Realization of the fines imposed on

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader Sardar Sewa Singh was stopped. All this was the result of Master Tara Singh’s understanding with Maharaja Bhupinder Singh.68 The Akali leaders of the Patiala state did not like Master Tara Singh’s ‘compromise’. Even Sardar Harchand Singh Jeji denounced it. In an address presented to Ujagar Singh Bhaura in his honour, Master Tara Singh was referred to as ‘the new devotee of Patiala and a traitor of the Panth’. He had ‘sold the martyr’s blood and cast a slur on Panthic dignity’. Bhaura himself said that the states’ subjects in general and the subjects of Patiala in particular were grieved when certain dishonest leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal ‘dragged the fair name of the organization and its glorious traditions, through the mire’. A pamphlet contained the allegation that Master Tara Singh had drawn material benefit from the compromise.69 Master Tara Singh says that the Maharaja of Patiala tried to come to terms with the Akalis because Giani Sher Singh, who supported the Maharaja, had become politically weak. An understanding (samjhautā) was worked out with him in consultation with the leaders of the Praja Mandal. By that time, only a few Akalis were in jail and they too were released, and the property of the remaining few Akalis was restored to them. Sardar Kharak Singh had separated himself from the SGPC and the Akali Dal, and his son and two of his nephews had been taken into service of the Patiala state. Even after the death of Sardar Sewa Singh, Sardar Kharak Singh had refused to make a statement against the tyranny of the Maharaja of Patiala. But his son and nephews were removed from the service of the state.70 Elsewhere in his autobiographical Merī Yād, Master Tara Singh talks of his rapprochement with the Maharaja of Patiala. When the agitation against Patiala had begun in 1935, the Maharaja had tried to come to an understanding with the party of Giani Sher Singh. However, Giani Sher Singh’s position had changed because his candidates had been defeated in the 1934 elections to the Central Legislature despite the total support of the Maharaja of Patiala. Both the Sikh seats were won by the Akali candidates. Indeed, the party of Giani Sher Singh had become very weak. The Maharaja was now inclined to have an understanding with the Akalis. He took the initiative to come to an agreement. Master Tara Singh formed an agreement with him in consultation with the Akali leaders of the Patiala state. But Sardar Harchand Singh Jeji began to say that this agreement should have been made with him rather than Master Tara Singh. Many of the Akalis of the Patiala state remained opposed to Master Tara Singh for quite some time. Eventually, however, they began to trust him due to their experience of Sardar Harchand Singh Jeji’s leadership.71

In Defence of the Shahidganj Gurdwara Shahidganj in Lahore was included in the schedule of Sikh Gurdwaras in the Act of 1925 as one of the most important places for the Sikhs. Its Page 20 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader management was entrusted to the Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee of Lahore. There was a background of protracted litigation between the mahants of the gurdwara on the one hand, and Nur Ahmad (with (p.190) his personal claims) and Imam Mehar Shah (on behalf of the Muslim community) on the other. The claims of the latter two had been dismissed. After the Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925, Bhai Harnam Singh, the mahant, was not willing to transfer the property attached to Gurdwara Shahidganj and went to the Sikh Gurdwara Tribunal on this issue. The Anjuman-i Islamia now raked up the old issue and filed a petition in the Gurdwara Tribunal on behalf of the Muslim community. The petitions of both these parties were dismissed by the Tribunal. Bhai Harnam Singh appealed to the High Court. His appeal was dismissed on 19 October 1934. In March 1935, all the property attached to Gurdwara Shahῑdganj passed into the possession of the local Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, with Jathedar Tara Singh of Thethar as its President.72 The Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee of Lahore started clearing the precincts of the gurdwara before the end of May 1935. Demolition of the building called Dharamsala, which was claimed by the Muslim litigants to be a mosque, began on 8 June. On 28 June, a Sikh mason died, buried under the debris of the old building. The death of the mason was regarded by some Muslims as an indication of God’s wrath. On 29 June, a large crowd of local Muslims collected near the gurdwara. An attempt was made to enter the precincts forcibly but the place was defended by the Sikhs inside. The Sikh Deputy Commissioner of Lahore, S. Partap, asked the Sikhs to stop demolition till the relevant records were examined. On 2 July, about 200 Muslims carrying spades were marching in military formation near the gurdwara, accompanied by a crowd of nearly 3,000 Muslims. On 3 July, nearly 3,000 Akalis arrived from outside Lahore for the purpose of defence. On 5 July, there was a clash between an armed Muslim crowd marching towards the Shahidganj Gurdwara and the police. On the following day, the Punjab Governor, Emerson, came down from Simla. He explained to Muslim deputationists that the government was bound by the decisions of the court. All the Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners were also informed of the legal position.73 On 14 July 1935, a government communiqué was published in the papers that the Punjab Government had decided to hand over to the Muslim community (through the Anjuman-i Islamia) the commodious building called the Shah Chiragh Mosque which was being used as a Sessions Court. It was meant to placate the Muslims, but it had the opposite effect. In the evening a meeting of about 10,000 Muslims thanked the government for its decision but some speakers said that it ‘could not deflect Muslims from their demand for the site of the demolished Shahidganj mosque’. Four of the Muslim leaders were deported from Lahore and an official order banned discussion of the Shahidganj dispute at public meetings in Lahore. On 16 July, unlawful processions of Muslims were dispersed with lāṭhī charge. On 21 July, the police had to open fire on Muslim Page 21 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader rioters. Despite an appeal from the Governor and from the non-official members of the council, violence went on increasing. As a result of retaliation by the violent Muslim crowds on 20 and 21 July, 124 of the military and police officers and other ranks were wounded. This was followed by civil disobedience for two or three days.74 Firoz Khan Noon, who was working for an amicable settlement between the Muslims and the Sikhs over the Shahidganj issue, wrote to Fazl-i Husain on 26 July 1935 that twelve leaders had made a joint statement and the situation in the city was very much (p.191) easier now. He was hopeful that civil disobedience would be called off at the Friday prayer. Chaudhari Shahabuddin wrote to Fazl-i Husain on 28 July that in his opinion ‘the drama had been finished’. He did not think that the site of the ‘mosque’ was worth the price the Muslims had paid by sacrificing their lives. The masses were misled by the ‘ulamā, the lawyers, and ‘the ignoramuses’, resulting in a deplorable situation that they had probably not foreseen. Firoz Khan had been writing to Fazl-i Husain about the critical situation in Lahore, giving the impression that the Sikh leaders were not prepared to accept the compromise suggested by the Muslim leaders, and that the Hindu leaders were trying to spoil a settlement. Chhotu Ram wrote that the ill-conceived move to attempt a march on the Shahidganj Gurdwara was bound to antagonize the Sikhs who were ‘mere puppets’ in the hands of the Hindus. The attempt of the Muslims to nullify a civil court’s decree by direct action was ‘most unreasonable’.75 On 8 August 1935, Firoz Khan informed Fazl-i Husain that the Sikhs had adopted a defying attitude throughout the province. In another letter he says that he saw no hope of the Sikhs giving up even an inch of the land of the Shahidganj Gurdwara. There were two rival parties in the SGPC, each afraid of the other, and none of the two was willing to make any concession to the Muslim sentiment.76 On 27 August 1935, Khalid Latif Gauba (Harkishan Lal’s son who had accepted Islam), suggested in the Civil and Military Gazette an economic boycott of Hindus and Sikhs. Ten days later, Fazl-i Husain wrote to Syed Habib that he was definitely and categorically opposed to civil disobedience.77 On 11 September, the Secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal issued a statement that certain Muslim newspapers were trying to incite communal animosity but the Sikhs should show self-restraint and self-control. Under no circumstances would the Akali Dal tolerate any infringement of their inviolable rights; it would ‘defend by all possible means every inch of the sacred premises of Gurdwara Shahidganj’. The SGPC appealed to the Sikhs to do nothing that could disturb public peace on 20 September 1935, the day to be observed by Muslims as the ‘Shahidganj Day’.78 Maulana Shaukat Ali wrote to Master Tara Singh for negotiations. Master Tara Singh warned the Maulana that any question relating to the site of the so-called mosque must be regarded as closed. For a Sikh leader, to forget this fact was to Page 22 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader be a traitor to his faith and his community. He added that the agitation was inspired by the crude political ambitions of some Punjabi Muslims, ‘based on communal vanity generated by the Anglo-Muslim alliance which has developed a dangerous type of superiority complex’. The Sikhs, therefore, would not countenance tactics employed against them. If Maulana Shaukat Ali still thought that their meeting could serve some useful purpose, he would be most welcome on any of the first three days of October.79 Maulana Shaukat Ali and some Punjabi Muslim leaders met Master Tara Singh and seven other Sikh leaders at Amritsar on 3 October 1935. Their conversation held behind closed doors lasted for over five hours. After much discussion they agreed upon a statement to be issued by the Sikh leaders. It was a genuine pleasure for the them, said the Sikh leaders, to meet Maulana Shaukat Ali and other Muslim friends, and to understand and appreciate each other’s point of view. For this, the Sikh leaders were grateful to him. ‘Though the Sikh community is not prepared to part with the site, this does not preclude (p.192) the possibility of further negotiations. This can only be possible if our Muslim brethren create a calm atmosphere.’ The prospects at the time were discouraging yet ‘representatives of Sikh community would welcome a talk with representatives of Muslim community in changed circumstances’. But Pir Jami‘at Ali Shah of Sialkot became all the more active now in pursuit of his programme. He talked of a million volunteers for his campaign.80 The SGPC was most directly concerned with the Gurdwara Shahidganj issue. This issue was taken up first of all in its meeting of 20 October 1935. On behalf of its Executive Committee, Sardar Mangal Singh highlighted the importance of the Shahidganj Gurdwara for the Sikhs, which explained why the Executive Committee had handled this matter since June 1935. The Sikh sangats were instructed never to do anything that could create ill-feeling among others. Sardar Mangal Singh read out the resolution of the Executive Committee passed on 8 July. He referred to all the efforts made by the Muslims to take over the Shahidganj Gurdwara: letters and resolutions, civil disobedience, civil suits, deputations to the government, economic boycott, and the implied threats of Pir Jami‘at Ali Shah. The Sikhs respected the religious places of others, and during the Akali movement they had built mosques for Muslims in several villages. Had any reasonable solution been possible with the Muslims over the Shahidganj issue, the SGPC would have accepted it. ‘We could give only this assurance that we would not misuse the place because it was our Shahidganj and therefore a holy place. The executive committee did what it thought was the best, and now it was for the general body of the SGPC to decide for the future.’81 Giani Sher Singh said that the Shahidganj issue was a matter of honour for the Sikh Panth and the Sikhs should deal with it as one entity. He wanted to know the result of the talk between Maulana Shaukat Ali and Master Tara Singh. The attitude of the government, he said, might change in the future. Therefore, there Page 23 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader should be a well thought out plan of action. Sardar Harnam Singh pointed out that after the talk between Maulana Shaukat Ali and Master Tara Singh, the Sikh leaders had published a statement in the newspapers. Giani Kartar Singh said that it was decided to create a calm atmosphere first, and then the representatives of both sides could discuss the issue. Giani Sher Singh wanted to know how far the Executive Committee was prepared to go in meeting the Muslim demand and what action it proposed to take to resist the demand. Master Tara Singh said that the Sikh view at that time was that if a peaceful atmosphere was created, the Muslims would see no point in talks, and if it was not, they would be exposed. There was no improvement in the situation, nor was there any solution in sight. It was an open question. Something would be done but it was not advisable to reveal the detail.82 Sardar Bhag Singh said that what had been discussed already would have been better avoided. Sardar Kartar Singh Jhabbar emphasized the immediate need for rebuilding the Shahidganj Gurdwara. Sardar Amar Singh of the Sher-i Punjab suggested that the Sikh view of the matter could be clearly enunciated: the Shahidganj was a sacred place of the Sikhs and it could not be put to any unholy use but the Sikhs would not yield to any pressure from the Muslims to come to a dishonourable compromise. Sardar Kartar Singh of Campbellpur said that the Shahidganj issue was of crucial importance (p.193) to the Sikhs, and the Executive Committee had handled it in a way in which it should have been handled. The House recorded its appreciation of the Executive Committee and the Lahore Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee for the courage, wisdom, and earnestness with which they had handled the situation arising out of the Gurdwara Shahidganj agitation. Another resolution unanimously passed by the SGPC thanked the Shiromani Akali Dal for its extraordinary service in connection with the Gurdwara Shahidganj agitation.83 On 4 November 1935, Master Tara Singh issued a statement to the press to declare the position of the Sikhs. It would be cowardly, he said, to have talks with the Muslims in the given circumstances. ‘I, therefore, wish to declare that I, at least, shall not participate in any such talk.’ To agree to the Muslim demand that the Gurdwara Shahidganj should be handed over to them was beyond the power of any Sikh leader or Sikh organization, or all the Sikh organizations combined. In view of the Muslim threats, it would be an insult to the Panth and the martyrs to yield even an inch. On 11 November 1935, the Finance Member to the Punjab Government stated on the floor of the council that the Sikhs were in legal possession of Shahidganj and it was impossible for the government to prevent them from doing whatever they liked with it. He concluded his speech with the words: ‘By asking the Government to deprive the Sikhs of rights, which they have established in a court of law, Muslims are asking the Government to commit an illegal act.’84

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader ‘Strange things are happening,’ wrote Bhagat Lakshman Singh at the close of 1935. The Lahore Gurdwara Committee, in charge of Shahidganj, dismantled ‘an old mosque-shaped edifice’ on its premises, and huge crowds of Muslims marched towards the place to throw out the Sikh custodians of the building. The situation was brought under control by special police and the military after a small number of casualties. The Muslim feelings against the Sikhs ran high and cold-blooded murder of innocent Sikhs became the order of the day. The Governor, Sir Herbert Emerson, had to deal with a difficult situation. He recognized the Sikh right to do whatever they liked with the property in their possession, but they could have avoided injuring the susceptibilities of their Muslim countrymen. Pir Jami‘at Ali Shah made inflammatory speeches in the Badshahi Mosque. The government tried to appease the Muslims and ordered the transfer of a magnificent domed building to them as a reward for their supposed patience and forbearance. Furthermore, the government removed the ban on the carrying of swords throughout the province. A procession of several thousand Muslims, headed by Maulana Shaukat Ali and other Muslim members of Legislative Assembly, passed through the bazaars of Lahore, brandishing their weapons and shouting ‘yā ‘Alī, yā ‘Alī’. Their idea was to overawe the Hindus and the Sikhs.85 The Sikhs organized a counter-demonstration towards the end of November 1935. They marched out in procession from the Shahidganj Gurdwara and passed through the bazaars of Lahore. Some Hindus also joined the procession. The various Sikh jathās were under the control of their leaders but the Hindu processionists, who owed them no allegiance, were shouting provocative slogans. Bhagat Lakshman Singh was with the procession from the Lahori Gate to the Dera Sahib Gurdwara near the fort. He met Master Tara Singh and invited his attention to this undesirable feature of the (p.194) procession. Master Tara Singh agreed with him that it was a mistake to have allowed these irresponsible young men to participate in the procession. On the following day, a big crowd of armed Muslims from the Bhati Gate area assaulted stray Sikhs and Hindus with fatal consequences. A curfew order was issued and a ban on carrying the kirpān was reimposed, which was regarded by the Sikhs as an interference in their religion. The SGPC decided to protest, and the jathās were awarded a day’s punishment till the rising of the court. This ‘whole comic affair’ ended when the prescribed period of the ban was over. The Muslims took a cue from the Sikhs and resorted to ‘civil disobedience’, marching towards Shahidganj to offer prayers there. No solution was in sight.86 Master Tara Singh recalled that the Gurdwara Committee, Lahore, had begun to demolish the mosque-like building without consulting the SGPC. He learnt that the Muslims were demanding that the ‘mosque’ should not be demolished, and he thought that this demand could easily be conceded. However, on coming to Lahore personally he found that the Muslim procession was meant to intimidate the Sikhs. He changed his mind. To concede the demand in the face of Page 25 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader intimidation was to encourage the Muslims to ask for more and more. Thousands of Sikhs gathered in the Gurdwara Shahidganj and the Dera Sahib Gurdwara. The Muslim crowds marching towards Shahidganj were stopped by the police. There was no clash but the feelings ran high in entire Punjab, and even in the rest of the country. The Governor came down from Simla and spoke to the Sikh and Muslim leaders. He agreed with the Sikh leaders that the place belonged to them but asked them not to demolish the ‘mosque’ for three days more.87 At this juncture, Sardar Kharak Singh and some other opponents of the Akalis began to make speeches to incite the Sikhs to demolish the building. Before the third day of the understanding with the Governor, an Akali leader started demolishing the ‘mosque’ without consulting others. The Governor was no longer sympathetic to the Sikhs and they had to face a lot of difficulties.88 Writing to the Governor General on 8 May 1937, the Punjab Governor recalled that Sardar Kharak Singh was ‘largely responsible for the Shahidganj trouble, since the excitement he caused at a critical moment among the Sikhs gathered at Lahore made it impossible for the so-called Sikh leaders to keep their followers under control’.89 Governor Emerson had given Masjid Shah Chiragh and the property attached to it to the Muslims, and allowed Muslims and Hindus to carry swords. Master Tara Singh refers to the talks with the Ahrar leaders who demanded that the ‘mosque’ should not be demolished and the grave within its precincts should be made accessible to worshippers by a separate path. The Sikh leaders said that this demand could be seriously considered if all the Muslim leaders agreed. The Ahrar leaders talked to Maulana Zafar Ali, and he said that he had come to know that the government was going to give Shahidganj to Muslims; there was no need for coming to any compromise with the Sikhs.90 Emerson advised Sardar Jogendra Singh and Sardar Sampuran Singh to come to some agreement with the Muslim leaders. The Muslim demand now was that a wall be built on four sides of the place of the ‘mosque’ and the enclosed area should not be put to any use. Sardar Jogendra Singh was keen that this demand should be conceded. But the Akali leaders were not prepared to bow before any (p.195) threat from the Muslim leaders. The Muslims who had gathered between the Delhi Gate and the Shahidganj Gurdwara came to know that no agreement was reached. They held a meeting outside the Mochi Gate and dispersed after the meeting. In Master Tara Singh’s view, the whole agitation was orchestrated by Muslim leaders to put pressure on the government and the Sikhs.91 He took a firm stand on the issue of Shahidganj.

Master Tara Singh’s Concern for Dalits Removal of untouchability had become an important concern of various reform movements and organizations by the early twentieth century. Entry of Untouchables (initially called the Depressed Classes and then Dalits) into Hindu Page 26 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader temples was a crucial element in this movement. A notable satyāgraha was organized at Vaikom in Travencore state in 1924–5. It was led by T.K. Madhavan, a Congress leader from the state with a low-caste background. Its objective was to assert the right of the Untouchables as well as the low castes to use roads near a temple. Mahatma Gandhi visited Vaikom in March 1925, and eventually the government constructed new roads for use by the Untouchables. Another landmark in the history of the Untouchables followed the Communal Award of August 1932, creating separate electorates for them. Mahatma Gandhi’s fast unto death on this issue enabled him to secure an agreement, known as the Poona Pact, between the caste Hindus and Untouchable leaders. As a result, the Communal Award was modified: the Hindu joint electorate was retained with reserved seats for the Untouchables and an increase in their representation. Mahatma Gandhi began to pay increasing attention to the issue of the Dalits (called Harijans by him), virtually in opposition to B.R. Ambedkar, their foremost leader by then.92 Master Tara Singh was invited to preside over a conference of Dalits held at Cochin towards the end of May 1936. In his presidential address he justified their resentment against the high-caste Hindus who were responsible for their wretched plight. Master Tara Singh said that a true and honest leader of the Dalits had told him that they wanted to leave the Hindu fold out of vengeance. This psychological state was understandable, said Master Singh, but the feeling of hatred could do no good to any people. Hate and vengeance had no place in religion. Another Dalit leader had said to Master Tara Singh that the Dalits needed a leader like Guru Gobind Singh. Master Tara Singh assured him that they would find a good leader if only five of them were prepared to sacrifice their lives for the sake of others. Nothing could be done without selfless sacrifice. He had come to offer them his faith ‘but not out of any selfish motive’. It was the duty of a Sikh to help the needy and the oppressed. If they accepted the Sikh faith, the Sikhs would feel gratified that the standards of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh were furled in distant parts of India. ‘There was no other gain.’93 ‘If you adopt the Sikh faith,’ continued Master Tara Singh, ‘we shall try our best to help you to get rid of your slavery. We shall perform this service for you even if you do not accept the Sikh faith.’ Master Tara Singh referred to the jathā of twelve Akalis sent by the SGPC in March 1924 for helping the Dalits, and to provide langar to the satyāgrahis for several months. This was a tangible token of Akali sympathy with the cause of the Depressed (p.196) Classes in India. Master Tara Singh went on to say that no distinction was made between high and low, rich and the poor, young and the old in the Sikh gurdwara: they were all served alike. ‘We have come to you in that spirit.’ If they wanted to know what they would gain by becoming Sikhs, the answer had been given by the Guru: ‘If you wish to play the game of love, enter my lane with your head placed on your palm.’ The Guru did not offer rulership or a promise of paradise. He says, ‘I have Page 27 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader no desire for Raj, nor for Mukti; I long for the feet of the Lord as the object of my love.’ The Guru had taught how to die in life. ‘This is what the Sikh faith offers to you, and to the world.’ Conscience was not a commodity to be sold for a personal gain of any kind.94 Master Tara Singh went on to say that no nation could progress without the spirit of sacrifice. The Sikh faith offered teachings and traditions and a history that served as a source of inspiration for cultivating the spirit of sacrifice. The Sikhs would give nothing to Dalits but they would be prepared to make selfless sacrifice for their sake. The peasants and carpenters among the Sikhs were deemed to be as high as the highest in the traditional order. The Maharaja of Kapurthala belonged to a family of kalāls (vintners). Carpenters (tarkhāns) and Jats were the leaders of the principalities established at the beginning of Sikh rule. None of them came from a high caste. Bhai Ditt Singh, the founder of the contemporary reform movement among the Sikhs, was a chamār, an outcaste. The person referred to as the ‘uncrowned king’ of the Sikhs (Sardar Kharak Singh) was a vintner. The Akali movement started to improve the status of the outcastes (chuhṛās and chamārs) who had been initiated into the Sikh faith. The Dalits should not regard themselves as inferior. They were equal to the highest as human beings. ‘The Sikhs regarded it as their duty to help them in their struggle for emancipation.’ ‘We wish to serve you and not to increase the number of Sikhs.’95
After the Dalit Conference, Ambedkar reached Bombay on 18 June accompanied by Munje and discussed the matter of the Dalits with Seth Jugal Kishore Birla and others. In view of Ambedkar’s revolt against Hinduism, they came up with a proposal. Ambedkar would declare that he and his supporters will not accept Islam or Christianity but the Sikh faith and they will cooperate with Hindus and Sikhs in their efforts to counter the increasing influence of Islam. The Hindu Mahasabha would then declare that the Dalits should accept the Sikh faith, that those among the Dalits who accepted the Sikh faith would be counted as ‘Scheduled Castes’, entitled to the rights conceded to Dalits by the Poona Pact.96 On his return to Nagpur on 30 June 1936, Munje wrote to Rao Bahadur N.C. Raja about the meeting in Bombay and enclosed a copy of the draft declaration by Ambedkar for his response, adding that he was trying to meet Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and the Maharaja of Patiala to have their response to this proposal of a very delicate nature. N.C. Raja on his own gave a statement to the press that he made a clear distinction between genuine conversion and change of faith from social, economic, or political motivation. He was opposed to the proposition of Munje. He held correspondence with Mahatma Gandhi, Malaviya, and Rajagopalachari. All the three leaders were in agreement with Raja in opposition to the proposition.97

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader Ambedkar made a statement on 10 August that N.C. Raja had gone to the press without Munje’s permission or consent. He pointed out that Raja had no recognized position among the Dalits since he had declared (p.197) that he was born a Hindu and he would die a Hindu. Ambedkar added that Mahatma Gandhi had failed miserably in the promise made at the time of the Poona Pact about improving the condition of Dalits. Mahatma Gandhi’s assertion that the issue of Dalit welfare was not connected with any other issue was too mystical to make sense to Ambedkar who was interested in human problems on this earth. The Dalits were asking for the basic human rights and the Mahatma was offering spiritual solace. The import of Mahatma Gandhi’s argument was that the Dalits should only pray to the high castes to redress their wrongs. Ambedkar condemned the use of the word ‘mischievous’ for what was a life-and-death issue for the Dalits.98 Master Tara Singh was the President of the SGPC at this time and Ambedkar used to come to Amritsar to meet the Akali leaders because of his interest in joining the Sikh fold along with his fellow Dalits. He presented an impressive and thoughtful address at a religious conference in which some professors of the Khalsa College were also present. Professor Ganga Singh rose in response to Ambedkar and spoke well, but he spoke in Punjabi which Ambedkar and his companions could not understand. On Master Tara Singh’s suggestion, Bawa Harkishan Singh was persuaded to speak. He was a good match for Ambedkar, and his speech saved the honour of the Akalis.99 Sometime later, the Akalis thought of establishing a college in Bombay as a centre for the propagation of Sikh culture. The Khalsa College at Bombay owed its foundation and its progressive development essentially to Master Tara Singh.100 In the early 1930s, Master Tara Singh emerged as the most important Sikh leader. The year 1930 was important in this context. For the first time Master Tara Singh became President of the SGPC in place of Sardar Kharak Singh who, henceforth, had little to do with the SGPC. Initially against Sardar Mehtab Singh and Giani Sher Singh, the Kharak Singh–Tara Singh camp was now split. Sardar Kharak Singh eventually joined Giani Sher Singh in opposition to Master Tara Singh. But the dominant influence of Master Tara Singh in the SGPC as well as the Shiromani Akali Dal was well established. After the Communal Award, the formation of the Khalsa Darbar as a joint organization failed to serve its purpose. The Central Akali Board was formed as a rival to the Shiromani Akali Dal but all the efforts of Giani Sher Singh and Sardar Kharak Singh failed to make it a real rival. They even aligned with the Maharaja of Patiala despite his repressive measures against the Akalis. Master Tara Singh’s voluntary exile in 1934 added to his prestige, while Giani Sher Singh’s candidates for the Central Legislature in 1934 were defeated by the Akali candidates despite the support of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh. After the agitation against Patiala in 1935, the Maharaja was inclined to come to terms with Master Tara Singh as the undisputed leader of the Sikhs. Master Tara Singh welcomed the compromise in order to eliminate Page 29 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader the influence of Sardar Kharak Singh and Giani Sher Singh with the Maharaja of Patiala. Master Tara Singh’s firm stand on the Shahidganj issue added to his popularity as a Sikh leader.101

In Retrospect The Akalis joined the civil disobedience movement with enthusiasm. Master Tara Singh was arrested while leading an Akali jathā to Peshawar. He was in Gujrat Jail when he was elected President of the SGPC early in 1930. Significantly, the services of (p.198) Master Tara Singh in the past three and a half years, since 1927, were appreciated in a formal resolution of the SGPC. Master Tara Singh had to take up the Daska morchā which had been launched by Kharak Singh in August 1931 without consulting the SGPC or the Akali Dal. Master Tara Singh led a jathā in September, and he was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. After his release from jail in March 1931, Master Tara Singh met Mahatma Gandhi with a Sikh deputation to represent the Sikhs at the Round Table Conference. The foremost concern of the Sikhs was to get rid of statutory Muslim majority in the Punjab by reorganizing the province to ensure communal balance in its population so that no single community was in a position to dominate others. At the Round Table Conference the Sikh concern was a low priority for Mahatma Gandhi. Master Tara Singh supported the civil disobedience resumed by Mahatma Gandhi in January 1932, and he was debarred from entering Lahore. About a month before the actual announcement of the Communal Award, the Sikhs held a general meeting at Lahore at which Sir Sunder Singh Majithia and Sir Jogendra Singh were present. A solemn vow was taken to oppose the probable award of statutory Muslim majority. Two weeks later appeared the news that Sir Jogendra Singh, in his communication to Sir Muhammad Iqbal, had agreed to a Muslim majority of 51 per cent. Master Tara Singh received a message to reach Simla where an amicable agreement was to be worked out with the Muslim leaders. He reached Simla but only to discover that the Sikh aristocrats were backing out, giving the impression that the Sikhs would accept the Award. Announced on 16 August 1932, the Communal Award confirmed the worst fears of the Akalis. Muslim majority in the Punjab Legislative Assembly was made statutory. The Congress adopted a neutral position, which was not appreciated by Master Tara Singh. Sikh leaders of various parties assembled at the Akal Takht on 25 September 1932 and formed a new organization, the Khalsa Darbar, to resist implementation of the Award. In March 1933, the White Paper issued by the government came as a confirmation of the Communal Award. In June 1933, the SGPC recorded that the Award was entirely unacceptable to the Sikhs, and the Panth would not submit to such a Constitution. However, the Sikh leaders became divided as supporters of Master Tara Singh or of Sardar Kharak Singh. As seen by Master Tara Singh, the situation went on deteriorating. The Khalsa Darbar could not function as a single unit. Eventually, Kharak Singh formed his Page 30 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader Central Akali Dal, with the support of Giani Sher Singh, as an organization parallel to the Shiromani Akali Dal. The Gursewak Sabha requested Master Tara Singh and Giani Sher Singh to retire from public life so that unity among the Sikhs might be restored. Master Tara Singh went into voluntary exile in the latter half of 1934, but not Giani Sher Singh. There was no sign of rapprochement among the Sikhs. Master Tara Singh returned to the Punjab on hearing about the death of Sewa Singh Thikriwala in jail and started an agitation against the Maharaja of Patiala. It ended in a compromise and the release of the Akali prisoners. The year 1935 was marked by the sensitive issue of Shahidganj to which the Sikhs attached a great deal of sanctity and importance as the place where a large number of Sikhs had died as martyrs. The Shahidganj Gurdwara was under the jurisdiction of the (p.199) SGPC and, consequently, a direct concern of Master Tara Singh. He was in favour of a reasonable concession but not to yield to the demand for Muslim control over the gurdwara. He was supported by the SGPC and the Shiromani Akali Dal. On 4 November 1935, Master Tara Singh declared that to hand over Shahidganj to Muslims was beyond the power of any Sikh leader or Sikh organization or all the Sikh organizations combined. Throughout the agitation Master Tara Singh took a firm stand, which added to his popularity as a Sikh leader. The Congress showed no interest in the issue of Shahidganj. In 1936, Master Tara Singh showed serious interest in the conversion of Dalits to the Sikh faith. It brought B.R. Ambedkar closer to Master Tara Singh. The Khalsa College at Bombay is the lasting memorial of Sikh interest in the Dalits. However, Mahatma Gandhi was opposed to both Ambedkar and Master Tara Singh. It may be added, the Muslim League was prepared to utilize the Provincial Scheme of the Constitution in spite of its most objectionable features. The Congress rejected ‘the new Constitution in its entirety’ and demanded a Constituent Assembly to frame a new constitution for India. With more than half of the total 175 seats for Muslims in the Punjab Legislature, a Muslim domination in the Punjab was ensured. The Act of 1935 was in no way acceptable to the Akalis. Notes:

(1.) Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, Sucheta Mahajan, and K.N. Panikkar, India’s Struggle for Independence (New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 1989, reprint), pp. 270–83. (2.) Sumit Sarkar, Modern India 1885–1947 (Madras: Macmillan, 1995, reprint), pp. 308–14; Chandra, M. Mukherjee, A. Mukherjee, Mahajan, and Panikkar, India’s Struggle for Independence, pp. 284–5. Page 31 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader (3.) Chandra, M. Mukherjee, A. Mukherjee, Mahajan, and Panikkar, India’s Struggle for Independence, p. 293. (4.) Chandra, M. Mukherjee, A. Mukherjee, Mahajan, and Panikkar, India’s Struggle for Independence, pp. 316–22. (5.) Sarkar, Modern India, pp. 267–9. (6.) Gurharpal Singh, Communism in Punjab (Delhi: Ajanta Publications, 1994), pp. 40–52. See also Satya M. Rai, Legislative Politics and Freedom Struggle in the Punjab 1897–1947 (New Delhi: ICHR, 1984), pp. 163–6, 171–3. (7.) Gurharpal Singh, Communism in Punjab, p. 170. Raghuvendra Tanwar, Politics of Sharing Power: The Punjab Unionist Party (1923–1947) (New Delhi: Manohar, 1999), pp. 71–2. Kirpal C. Yadav, Elections in Panjab 1920–1947 (New Delhi: Manohar, 1987), pp. 67–71. (8.) S.L. Malhotra, From Civil Disobedience to Quit India (Chandigarh: Panjab University, 1979), pp. 1–23. (9.) K.L. Tuteja, Sikh Politics (1920–40) (Kurukshetra: Vishal Publications, 1984), pp. 149–50. (10.) Tuteja, Sikh Politics, pp. 149–50. K.C. Gulati, The Akalis Past and Present (New Delhi: Ashajanak Publications, 1974), pp. 54–5. (11.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter: A Biographical Study of Master Tara Singh’, in Verinder Grover (ed.), Master Tara Singh (New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications, 1995), pp. 62–5. (12.) Tuteja, Sikh Politics (1920–40), pp. 151–2. (13.) Tuteja, Sikh Politics (1920–40), pp. 153–4. (14.) Tuteja, Sikh Politics (1920–40), pp. 155–6. (15.) Malhotra, From Civil Disobedience to Quit India, pp. 9–11. (16.) Shamsher Singh Ashok (ed.), Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās (Amritsar: SGPC, 2003, reprint), pp. 87–8. (17.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 94–8. Report of the Gurdwara Sisganj Enquiry Committee (Amritsar: SGPC, 1928). (18.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 97–8. Gulati, The Akalis Past and Present, pp. 55–6.

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader (19.) Giani Sher Singh, ‘Kaumī Jhande vich Sikhān dā Rang Pauṇ ton Inkār: Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru dī Chitthī par Vichār’, in Gurcharan Singh Giani, Giani Sher Singh: Jīwan ate Likhtān (Delhi: Navyug Publishers, 1988), pp. 68–71. Gulati, The Akalis Past and Present, p. 56. (20.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 98–9. (21.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter’, p. 66. (22.) For the resolutions of the Shiromani Akali Dal on the affairs of Daska, see Kirpal Singh (ed.), Panthic Mate (Chandigarh: Dr Man Singh Nirankari, 2000), pp. 50–60. (23.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, ed. Harjinder Singh Dilgir (Amritsar: SGPC, 1999, reprint), pp. 88–9. (24.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, p. 108. (25.) Durlab Singh, The Valiant Fighter, p. 68. See also Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs (New Delhi: Manohar, 1994, second edition), pp. 263–4. (26.) Giani Sher Singh, ‘Sikh Pahāṛ dī Tarā Atal Rehaṇ’, in Giani Sher Singh: Jīwan ate Likhtān, pp. 80–2. (27.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 80. (28.) Jaspreet Walia, ‘Master Tara Singh and Sikh Politics (1920–1947)’, Ph.D. Thesis, Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev University, 2005, p. 92 n. 71. (29.) Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs, p. 265. (30.) Tuteja, Sikh Politics (1920–40), pp. 158–9. (31.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, p. 92. (32.) Giani Sher Singh, ‘Karmān diā Baliā Ridhī Khīr te ho giā Daliā’ and ‘Sikhān Hinduān nāl be-insāfī dā namūnā’, in Giani Sher Singh: Jīwan ate Likhtān, pp. 82–4. (33.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 119–20. (34.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 123–4. (35.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 82. Page 33 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader (36.) Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs, p. 265. (37.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, p. 134. (38.) Giani Sher Singh, ‘Wazīr ‘Āzam de Firkādārī Faisle Virudh Panth dā Zabardāst Faislā—Sikh Hakkān dī Rākhī laī Kamarkase’, in Giani Sher Singh: Jīwan ate Likhtān, pp. 86–8. (39.) Rai, Legislative Politics and Freedom Struggle, pp. 183–4. (40.) Waheed Ahmad (ed.), Letters of Mian Fazl-i Husain (Lahore: University of the Punjab, 1976), pp. 229–30. (41.) Ahmad, Letters of Mian Fazl-i Husain, pp. 232–3, 246–7, 250–2. (42.) Ahmad, Letters of Mian Fazl-i Husain, pp. 255–7. (43.) Ahmad, Letters of Mian Fazl-i Husain, pp. 258–61. (44.) Ahmad, Letters of Mian Fazl-i Husain, pp. 265–8. (45.) Ahmad, Letters of Mian Fazl-i Husain, pp. 281–6, 295–6, 303–5. (46.) Ahmad, Letters of Mian Fazl-i Husain, pp. 394, 398. (47.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 80–2. (48.) Teja Singh, Ārsī (Amritsar: Lok Sahit Prakashan, n.d.), pp. 99–100. (49.) Teja Singh, Ārsī, pp. 100–1. (50.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, ed. Rajinder Kaur (Amritsar: Master Tara Singh Publications, 1969), pp. 1–2. (51.) Bimla Anand, Master Tara Singh (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1995), p. 93. (52.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, pp. 29–31. (53.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, pp. 51–3. (54.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, pp. 70–7. (55.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, pp. 88–94. (56.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, pp. 47–8, 64–5, 111–13. (57.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, pp. 114–16. (58.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, pp. 118–21. Page 34 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader (59.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, pp. 78–9. (60.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, pp. 80–3. (61.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, pp. 83–5. (62.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, pp. 87, 101. (63.) Ramesh Walia, Praja Mandal Movement in East Punjab States (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1972), pp. 103–15. (64.) Walia, Praja Mandal Movement, pp. 115–20. (65.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, pp. 102–5. (66.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, pp. 106–10. (67.) Master Tara Singh, Merā Safarnāmā, pp. 110–11. (68.) Walia, Praja Mandal Movement, pp. 123–6. (69.) Walia, Praja Mandal Movement, pp. 126–8. (70.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 77–8. (71.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 85–6. (72.) Ganda Singh, History of the Gurdwara Shahidganj Lahore (Amritsar: Khalsa College, 1935), pp. 43–65. (73.) Ganda Singh, History of the Gurdwara Shahidganj Lahore, pp. 66–75. (74.) Ganda Singh, History of the Gurdwara Shahidganj Lahore, pp. 79–89. (75.) Ahmad, Letters of Mian Fazl-i Husain, pp. 409–21. Sayed Habib blamed Fazl-i Husain personally in a letter but he refused to be intimidated. Ahmad, Letters of Mian Fazl-i Husain, pp. 421–2 (Fazl-i Husain’ letter in Urdu). (76.) Ahmad, Letters of Mian Fazl-i Husain, pp. 423–5. (77.) Ahmad, Letters of Mian Fazl-i Husain, pp. 448–9. (78.) Ganda Singh, History of the Gurdwara Shahidgang Lahore, pp. 89–93. (79.) Ganda Singh, History of the Gurdwara Shahidgang Lahore, pp. 93–4. (80.) Ganda Singh, History of the Gurdwara Shahidgang Lahore, pp. 94–101. (81.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 147–9. Page 35 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader (82.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 149–50. (83.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī dā Panjāh Sālā Itihās, pp. 150–1. (84.) Ganda Singh, History of the Gurdwara Shahidganj Lahore, pp. 102, 104–7, 112–15. (85.) Bhagat Lakshman Singh, Autobiography, ed. Ganda Singh (Calcutta: The Sikh Cultural Centre, 1965), pp. 279–81. (86.) Lakshman Singh, Autobiography, pp. 281–4. (87.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 90. (88.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 90–1. (89.) Lionel Carter (ed.), Punjab Politics 1936–1939: The Start of Provincial Autonomy (Governor’s Fortnightly Reports and Other Key Documents) (New Delhi: Manohar, 2004), p. 90. (90.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 91–2. (91.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 91. (92.) Sarkar, Modern India, p. 229. Chandra, M. Mukherjee, A. Mukherjee, Mahajan, and Panikkar, India’s Struggle for Independence, pp. 291–5. (93.) Jaswant Singh (ed.), Master Tara Singh: Jiwan Sangharsh te Udesh (Amritsar, 1972), pp. 174–5. Punjabi translation published in the Akālī te Pardesī from 4 to 11 June 1936. (94.) Jaswant Singh, Master Tara Singh, pp. 173–6. (95.) Jaswant Singh, Master Tara Singh, pp. 176–7. (96.) Jaswant Singh, Master Tara Singh, pp. 177–8. (97.) Jaswant Singh, Master Tara Singh, pp. 182, 184. (98.) Jaswant Singh, Master Tara Singh, pp. 184–6. (99.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh (Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 1968), p. 106. (100.) For an account of Khalsa College, Bombay, see Teja Singh, Ārsī, pp. 121–9. Teja Singh refers to Master Tara Singh in this account. At the time of his appeal for the collection of Rs 500,000 the Khalsa College collected Rs 30,000. This Page 36 of 37

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Master Tara Singh Emerges as the Foremost Sikh Leader amount was presented to him in the presence of hundreds of thousands of people gathered in his honour. Master Tara Singh’s pen was auctioned among other articles for Rs 1,100 and thousands of blankets were distributed among the refugees. Teja Singh, Ārsī, pp. 127–8. Sant Singh Sekhon, however, makes Master Tara Singh rather lukewarm about a Khalsa College at Bombay. Sant Singh Sekhon, Swai Jiwani, ed. Tejwant Singh Gill (Chandigarh: Lokgeet Prakashan, 2011), p. 178. (101.) Surjit Singh Gandhi gives some detail of the factional struggle among the Akali leaders: Perspectives on Sikh Gurdwaras Legislation (New Delhi: APD Computer Graphics, 1993), pp. 174–85.

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Facing New Challenges

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

Facing New Challenges (1937–40) J.S. Grewal

DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199467099.003.0009

Abstract and Keywords The elections of 1936–7 under the new constitution made the Unionists more powerful. The Sikander–Jinnah Pact strengthened the position of the Muslim League in Indian politics. Sunder Singh Majithia tried to settle his scores with Master Tara Singh but the charge of embezzlement of funds against him was set aside by the court. Professor Niranjan Singh, Master Tara Singh’s younger brother, and some other professors of Khalsa College, Amritsar, were expelled from the College. They founded Sikh National College at Lahore. The issue of Shahidganj was raised again in April 1937, but the Sikh claim was upheld by the highest judicial authorities. The Lahore Resolution, popularly known as the Pakistan Resolution, was passed by the Muslim League in March 1940. Seeing no future for the Sikhs in Pakistan, Master Tara Singh declared that the Sikhs wanted freedom and ‘not a change of masters’. Keywords:   Master Tara Singh, elections of 1936–7, Unionists, Sikander–Jinnah Pact, Muslim League, Sunder Singh Majithia, Professor Niranjan Singh, Sikh National College, Shahidganj, Pakistan Resolution

The Act of 1935 confirmed the Communal Award with some modifications but retaining the statutory Muslim majority in the Punjab Legislature. The attitude of the Congress towards the Communal Award also changed and Master Tara Singh decided to form an alliance with the Congress for fighting the elections of 1936–7. Giani Sher Singh joined the Khalsa National Party led by Sir Sunder Singh Majithia who had an informal understanding with the Unionists. In the

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Facing New Challenges election of 1937 in the Punjab the Congress won eighteen seats, with five Sikhs among the winning candidates. The Khalsa National Party won fourteen seats and the Akali Dal ten. The Unionists formed a ministry with the support of 120 members out of 175. Sunder Singh Majithia was made a Minister and the Khalsa National Party supported the Ministry. The Akalis sat with the Congress in opposition. Sunder Singh Majithia tried to harass Master Tara Singh through litigation about matters related to the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and the elections and by dismissing Master Tara Singh’s brother, Professor Niranjan Singh, with four other Professors from Khalsa College, Amritsar. Professor Niranjan Singh established Sikh National College at Lahore as a rival to the Khalsa College. Master Tara Singh openly took a firm stand against what he regarded as the anti-Sikh policies and measures of Sikander Hayat Khan. Jinnah persuaded Sikander Hayat Khan to form a pact with the Muslim League, which compromised Sikander Hayat Khan’s position as the leader of the Unionist Party. The search for a decentralized federation led eventually to the Muslim League Resolution of March 1940, popularly called the Pakistan Resolution.

The Context The proposed Federal structure in the Act of 1935 was to become operative after half of the Indian princes had acceded. This part (p.204) of the Act was never implemented because the princes had become indifferent to the idea of a Federation for various reasons. The deadlock over this issue allowed the system of 1919 to continue unchanged indefinitely with total official control at the centre. The only significant step forward was taken in the provinces. Dyarchy was replaced by responsible government in all the departments, with substantial autonomy for the provinces. The electorate was increased from less than seven million to about thirty million. This change was most welcome to the All-India Muslim League and the Muslim Unionists in the Punjab. However, they were unhappy about the proposed Federal structure which was too unitary in their eyes to eliminate the danger of Hindu domination.1 The Congress did extremely well in the elections held early in 1937, winning 711 out of 1,585 provincial assembly seats, with absolute majorities in the United Provinces (UP), Bihar, Orissa, the Central Provinces (CP), and Madras, and a near-majority in Bombay. For seats reserved for Muslims, however, the Congress candidates won only twenty-six of the fifty-eight seats contested. The Congress won most of the Scheduled Caste seats, but in Bombay the Independent Labour Party of B.R. Ambedkar captured thirteen out of fifteen of the reserved seats. Electoral success strengthened the pressures for ministry formation. Congress ministries took office in six provinces, including Bombay. Subsequently, a Congress ministry was formed in the NWFP in 1937 and in Assam in September 1938.2

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Facing New Challenges During the election campaign, Jawaharlal Nehru had declared that there were only two forces in the country: the Congress and the government. To vote against the Congress was to perpetuate British domination. Jinnah refused to line up with the Congress. ‘There is a third party in this country’, he said, ‘and that is the Muslims.’ Jinnah knew that there could be no independence without Hindu–Muslim unity and he was determined that there should be no Hindu– Muslim unity without safeguards for Muslims. He was convinced that the Muslims could not be ignored in the struggle for independence.3 But the results of the elections of 1937 showed that the Muslim League was not the sole representative of Muslims. In the NWFP, where almost the entire population was Muslim, a Congress ministry was formed. In Bengal, the Muslim League had to accept a coalition. In the Punjab, the Unionists swept the polls. Rejected in the Muslim majority provinces, the League had nothing to offer at the Centre where the Act of 1935 was not likely to be implemented. In the provinces where the Congress had won comfortable majorities it saw no reason to dilute its control by giving the League any share.4 The Congress flag flew over public buildings when the new assemblies met to the strains of ‘Vande Mātram’. Congress membership shot up from half a million in 1936 to 4.5 million in 1938. The sudden access to power and patronage bred factional squabbles and position-hunting. The most serious problem was the balancing of diverse interests of communities and classes.5 ‘Many Congressmen began to give way to casteism in their search for power.’6 At the All-India Muslim League session at Lucknow in October 1937, Jinnah said: The present leadership of the Congress, especially during the last 10 years, has been responsible for alienating the Musalmans of India more and more, by pursuing a policy which is exclusively Hindu; and since they have formed Governments in the six provinces where they are in a majority, they have by their words, deeds and programmes (p.205) shown, more and more, that the Musalmans cannot expect any justice or fair play at their hands. He went on to assure an audience of 5,000 Muslims who had arrived from all over India that eighty million Muslims in India had nothing to fear. They had a ‘magic power’ in their own hands.7 From its Lucknow session onwards, the All-India Muslim League tried to create a wider base, accepting complete independence with effective minority safeguards as its creed. The Congress was denounced for creating ‘class bitterness and communal war’. Jinnah was able to obtain informal adherence of the Unionist Premier, Sikander Hayat Khan (who had succeeded Fazl-i Husain), in the Punjab and the Krishak Praja leader Fazlul Huq in Bengal. Throughout the Congress rule of over two years the League kept up propaganda against the Congress on the charges that it failed to prevent communal riots, imposed ban Page 3 of 29

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Facing New Challenges on cow-slaughter at the time of Bakr-Id, encouraged the singing of ‘Vande Mātram’ on public occasions, and used Hindi in Devanagri script at the cost of Urdu. Nehru observed in October 1939 that the Congress leaders had been unable to check the growth of ‘anti-Congress feeling among the Muslim masses’.8 The Congress ministries resigned towards the end of October 1939 because the Governor General had associated India with Britain’s declaration of war on Germany on 3 September 1939 without consulting the provincial ministries or any Indian leader. The Muslim League celebrated it as a ‘day of deliverance’. The Congress was prepared to give full cooperation in the war effort on the promise of a post-war Constituent Assembly to determine the political structure of a free India and the immediate formation of a responsible government at the Centre. The Governor General offered Dominion Status in an indefinite future and a promise merely to modify the Act of 1935. His attitude was part of the general British policy to regain the ground lost to the Congress, taking advantage of the presence of British and allied troops in India and the sweeping powers of new ordinances. Winston Churchill, who became the head of a national coalition in May 1940, could more than counterbalance Labour intentions of Attlee and Cripps. Linlithgow’s ‘August Offer’ of 1940 was little more than Dominion Status in an unspecified future, a post-war body to devise a new constitution, and immediate expansion of the Governor General’s Executive to include some more Indians. This was not acceptable to the Congress.9 Already in March 1940 the All-India Muslim League in its annual session at Lahore had passed the resolution which came to be popularly known as the Pakistan Resolution. This was not a sudden development. Muhammad Iqbal had referred to the need for a ‘North West Indian Muslim state’ in his presidential address to the Muslim League in 1930. A group of Punjabi Muslim students at Cambridge, led by Chaudhari Rehmat Ali, had coined the name ‘Pakistan’ for a state consisting of the Punjab, the Afghan province, Kashmir, Sind, and Baluchistan. No notice was taken of these demands even by the Muslim League. After 1937, however, when the Federal clauses of the Act of 1935 were increasingly becoming difficult to be implemented, a number of alternative proposals were put forward in 1938–9. The Muslim League set up a subcommittee in March 1939 to examine the various schemes, including the one by the Punjab Premier Sikander Hayat Khan. The British authorities encouraged these alternative proposals. Linlithgow (p.206) told Jinnah on 6 February 1940 that British sympathy should not be expected ‘for a party whose policy was one of sheer negation’. With this hint apparently at the Congress, the Governor General suggested to Jinnah that if the Muslims wanted their case to be considered, ‘they should formulate their plan in the near future’.10

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Facing New Challenges The ‘near future’ turned out to be 23 March 1940. A resolution moved by Sikander Hayat and seconded by Khaliquzzaman demanded ‘that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the north-western and northeastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute “Independent States”, in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign’. The wording was remarkably clumsy, probably deliberately so. There was no explicit mention of Pakistan or partition. But the term ‘Pakistan’ immediately came to be used for the Lahore Resolution of March 1940 by the non-Muslim press before it was taken up by the Muslim press and the people.11 In retrospect, it is possible to see that this resolution marked the beginning of a new phase in the political history of modern India. Sir Fazl-i Husain, a member of the Executive Council of the Viceroy since 1930, had returned to Punjab politics in April 1935. After some rest and study of the situation he decided to strengthen the Unionist Party for elections. The central office of the Party at Lahore was inaugurated on 1 April 1936. The All-India Muslim League’s resolution at its Bombay session on 12 April 1936 had authorized Jinnah to nominate a Parliamentary Board to contest elections in the provinces under the new Constitution for ‘strengthening the solidarity of the Muslim community’, and ‘securing for Muslims their proper and effective share in the provincial Governments’. Jinnah accordingly tried to persuade Fazl-i Husain to accept a programme of Muslim League ticket for all Muslim candidates. But Fazl-i-Husain was convinced that his own strategy was better for the Punjab. Nevertheless, he offered a compromise to Jinnah that for election to the Central Assembly, a common effort could be made in all the provinces to return all Muslim candidates on the Muslim League ticket. This was not acceptable to Jinnah. A few weeks later, Ahmad Yar Khan Daultana, General Secretary of the Unionist Party, made the same suggestion to ‘Allama Iqbal, President of the Punjab Provincial Parliamentary Board, and the latter wrote to Jinnah on 25 June 1936 that Muslim members of the Unionist Party were prepared for a compromise: their formula would make them Muslim Leaguers in all-India politics but they would remain Unionists in Punjab politics. Jinnah did not respond to this letter.12 There were two major factions among the Muslim Unionists: the Wah-Daultana and the Noon-Tiwana. A potential candidate to succeed Fazl-i Husain was Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, who represented the former faction and was Governor of the Reserve Bank of India at this time. Another potential candidate was Sir Firoz Khan Noon, who represented the other faction and was High Commissioner of India in London. Sikander Hayat Khan professed his loyalty to Fazl-i Husain, and he was keen to return to the Punjab with the idea of eventually replacing him as the leader. On 15 May 1936, Fazl-i Husain wrote to Sikander in annoyance that he should return to the Punjab and assume leadership (p.207) in his place. Page 5 of 29

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Facing New Challenges Khan Bahadur Chaudhari Sir Shahabuddin pleaded for unity and worked for reconciliation between them. A Memorandum of Reconciliation was signed by Sikander Hayat Khan, Chhotu Ram, Ahmad Yar Khan Daultana, Zafarullah Khan, and Shahabuddin himself. Before the end of May, Fazl-i Husain was appointed Education Minister in place of Firoz Khan Noon, who had been appointed High Commissioner for India in London.13 Fazl-i Husain died on 9 August 1936. Sikander Hayat Khan returned to the Punjab and became Minister of Revenue and leader of the Unionist Party. The Unionist Party fought the elections of 1936–7 under the leadership of Sir Sikander Hayat Khan and won the majority of seats. In accordance with his electoral understanding, the Hindu Election Board and the Khalsa National Party supported the Unionists, and Sikander Hayat Khan as the Prime Minister had a majority of 120 in an assembly of 175 members. The Unionist Ministry pursued the familiar policy of promoting the interests of the agriculturalists and the backward classes. Though professedly a non-communal Party, following a secular policy, the Ministry worked largely in favour of Muslims. The provincial autonomy of the new Constitution made it all the more powerful. The Muslim majority in the assembly, with Sir Sikander Hayat Khan as Prime Minister and Sir Shahabuddin as Speaker, became the visible symbols of Muslim political domination in the Punjab. Subordination of the Ministry to the colonial government was symbolized by the Governor presiding over the assembly meetings.14 The Unionists were able to have their way in the assembly but not without much criticism by the opposition. Some of the subjects for debate were: (a) the composition of the Public Services Commission, (b) the salaries of the Ministers, (c) the language to be spoken in the assembly, (d) government intervention in the work of the Ministers, (e) release of political prisoners like the Babbar Akalis, and (f) freedom of the press. The most important pro-agriculturist Bills passed by the assembly in 1938 related to: (a) registration of moneylenders, (b) third amendment of the Punjab Alienation of Land Act, and (c) marketing of agricultural produce.15 On the outbreak of communal riots in the Punjab in March 1937, Sikander Hayat assured the House that he would eradicate communal bitterness. In June 1937, he convened an All-Parties Conference at which the communal incidents were strongly condemned and an appeal was made to the people, the press, and the administration to avert the propagation of such deplorable happenings and not to do anything likely to disturb communal peace and goodwill in the province. A sub-committee was formed to explore all avenues for promoting relations between the various communities and to go into the causes of communal friction. All the members expressed their concern over the growth of

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Facing New Challenges communalism but there was no agreement on its causes or the means of its eradication. How to minimize the differences was the crux of the problem.16 According to Sir Khizar Hayat Khan Tiwana, Sikander was keen that the AllIndia Muslim League should be an effective mouthpiece of the all-India Muslim community. To withstand the Congress demands, the Government of India wanted to strengthen the League. Jinnah and Sikander Hayat Khan had talks at Lucknow on the eve of the annual session of the All-India Muslim League in October 1937 which led to an acceptable compromise. The Sikander–Jinnah Pact (p.208) provided for reconstitution of the Provincial Parliamentary Board of the League, and the constitution of Muslim League was amended at its Lucknow session to enable the Provincial League Councils to function also as Parliamentary Boards in future. The Pact was interpreted differently by the leaders of the Punjab Muslim League and the Unionists. In August 1939, Jinnah supported the position taken up by Sikander Hayat Khan.17 However, Sikander Hayat Khan suffered a loss of credibility as the professed champion of unity among the Punjabis. The sub-committee formed after the Unity Conference stood discredited. The Working Committee of the Punjab Provincial Congress passed a resolution on 19 October 1937 that no useful purpose could be served by the participation of Congressmen in the Unity Conference ‘now that Sikander Hayat Khan had joined the Muslim League’. Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia called upon the Unionist Party in November to issue an authoritative statement on the Pact. Chaudhari Chhotu Ram warned Sikander Hayat Khan of the possible implications of the Pact for the future. Gokul Chand Narang left the treasury benches to join the Opposition.18 The inherent contradiction between the regional stance of the Muslim Unionists and their pledged support for Muslim League in Indian politics could not be explained away easily. The Communists in the Punjab were gaining strength. A confidential official report of August 1938 noted ‘intense rural activity on communist lines’ in the central districts and the canal colonies. The Punjab Kisan Committee, formed in 1937 by the Kirtī Kisan Party and the Congress Socialist Party, had given a new turn to peasant organization. A series of morchās were launched to mobilize the peasantry. The Amritsar morchā of July–August 1938 led to violent clashes in which several hundred peasants were arrested. They were protesting against the enhancement of land revenue and reduction in the supply of canal water. In the Lahore morchā of February–August 1939, nearly 1,700 people were arrested. Jathās from the districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Jullundur, Hoshiarpur, Firozpur, and Ambala marched to Lahore on foot and courted arrest. Polictical awakening was spreading among the peasants when the struggle was withdrawn following the outbreak of World War II. The Kirtī Kisan Party and the Congress Socialist Party worked at infiltrating the army. Soldiers on leave were influenced by Communist propaganda. The Kirtī Kisan Party moved its headquarters to Meerut Page 7 of 29

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Facing New Challenges and established contacts with the serving Indian soldiers. Revolutionary literature was smuggled into the regimental lines and soldiers were instructed to form their own cells.19 The Communist-led Kisan committees began to appear in the princely states of the Punjab in 1937. An armed clash between tenants and landlords at a village near Dhuri in November 1937, in which two tenants were killed and nine wounded, heralded a new phase of militant peasant movement in the Patiala state. The Enquiry Committee appointed by the Punjab Riasati Praja Mandal, with Master Hari Singh, a Punjab MLA, as one of the three members, held that the firing was unnecessary, unjustifiable, excessive, and uncontrolled. The committee demanded suspension of the guilty officials, arrest of the landlords, and compensation for the victims. Maharaja Bhupindar Singh announced in January 1938 the setting up of a Constitutional Reform Committee. He died soon after and Maharaja Yadvindra Singh succeeded him in February 1938. Sardar Harchand Singh (p.209) Jeji, whose daughter was married to the new Maharaja on 9 August 1938, withdrew from the Punjab Riasati Praja Mandal, leaving the organization in the hands of Bhagwan Singh Longowalia and Jagir Singh Joga who had come under the influence of Marxist ideology. Well-known Communist leaders from the Punjab were invited to speak at public meetings organized by the Praja Mandal. Among them were Sohan Singh Josh, B.P.L. Bedi, Arjan Singh Gargaj, Karam Singh Mann, and Baba Rur Singh. A new political awakening was visible in all the Punjab states under the influence of the Indian National Congress as well as the Communist leadership. In February 1939, Jawaharlal Nehru presided over the All India States’ People’s Conference at Ludhiana. Two resolutions passed at the conference were on ‘responsible government’ and ‘restoration of civil liberty’.20 On the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, the Unionist Government proclaimed complete support to it. The defence of India ordinance, promulgated on 3 September 1939, was applicable to the provinces. Sikander Hayat Khan warned the people that those who spoke against recruitment would be arrested. On behalf of the ruling party, a Sikh Unionist moved the resolution on 3 November that the assembly approved of the policy of the Punjab Government in condemning Fascist and Nazi aggression, and declared its determination to resist this aggression and to protect the security and honour of the Punjab and India. The resolution was passed by 103 votes to 39. This unconditional and total support to the war effort was not acceptable to the Congress, nor was it to the Akali Dal.21 The Congress changed its attitude towards the Communal Award which was seen as anti-national and anti-democratic. Jawaharlal Nehru wrote a letter to Master Tara Singh in November 1936 expressing sympathy with the Sikh stand. This had paved the way for an electoral pact between the Akalis and the

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Facing New Challenges Congress. The Khalsa Nationalist Party, on the other hand, had the support of Giani Sher Singh and an understanding with the Muslim Unionists.22

Conflict with Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia Sir Herbert Emerson, the Punjab Governor, wrote to the Governor General, Lord Linlithgow, in October 1936 that the Akalis had exercised a dominating influence in Sikh politics for some years, and the Sikhs of moderate views had neither the courage nor the energy to oppose them. Akali politics had been controlled to a large extent by non-agriculturist leaders, especially Khatris and Aroras. They controlled the SGPC and, therefore, the gurdwara funds. Master Tara Singh was a man of ‘considerable force of character, uncompromising in his views and generally anti-Government’; he had not been able to control the Communist and revolutionary elements among the Sikhs. Giani Sher Singh’s party at any rate was now very weak. However, the Akalis were not yet allied with the Congress because they were ‘bitterly opposed to the Communal Award’, even though they professed to follow ‘the Congress creed of non-cooperation and wrecking of the Constitution’. They were expected to gain a fair number of Sikh seats. Sir Sunder Singh Majithia, who was ‘very loyal and generally trusted’, was the leader of the Chief Khalsa Diwan party. His chief lieutenant was Sir Jogendra Singh. They were optimistic regarding their chances in the elections.23 The Act of 1935 had created four kinds of constituencies: Muslim, General, Sikh, and (p.210) others. In the last category were Europeans, Anglo-Indians, and Indian Christians, and those of the functional groups such as commerce, labour, and university graduates. The other three categories were further divided into urban, rural and other. The ‘other’ consisted of women and landowners. Out of the 175 seats, ninety-five were won by the Unionists. Among them were seventyfour Muslims, thirteen general, and eight others. The Indian National Congress won eighteen seats, out of which two were Muslim, eleven general, and five Sikh. The Khalsa National Party won fourteen seats and the Shiromani Akali Dal ten. The Hindu Electoral Board, with its two factions led by Raja Narendra Nath and Gokul Chand Narang, won eleven seats. There were nineteen independent members besides two each from the Majlis-i Ahrar and the Itihad-i Millat and one each from the Muslim League, Congress Nationalists, Socialists, and Labour. Supported by the Khalsa National Party and the Hindu Electoral Board, the Unionists formed absolute majority with 120 members. All others sat in opposition. The Congress and the Akali Dal, together, represented the most organized part of the opposition.24 According to Master Tara Singh, Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia had faced a tough opposition from the Akalis during his election from Batala. After the elections he was made a Minister and, with the backing of Sikander Hayat Khan, he began to work against Master Tara Singh.25 Emerson alleged in May 1937 that the Akalis had used ‘religious funds for the purpose of bribing the electorate’. A complaint to this effect was lodged before the District Magistrate Page 9 of 29

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Facing New Challenges of Amritsar, and the case was taken up by the police. Cases of embezzlement were under investigation and ‘there will certainly be enough evidence to produce them in court’. Emerson underlined that Master Tara Singh, ‘the outstanding figure in Akali circles for some years, is apparently involved in the embezzlements’. Whatever the outcome of the criminal cases, Emerson felt gratified that ‘the credit of the Akalis will be severely shaken’.26 Master Tara Singh says that cases against the Akalis were fabricated. The offices of the SGPC, Shiromani Akali Dal, All India Sikh Mission, Sri Darbar Sahib Committee, and Sri Nankana Sahib Committee were searched several times but no evidence was found to incriminate the Akali leaders. The suits which were filed by Sardar Khazan Singh were dismissed by the High Court. One of these suits was that the SGPC had spent money on parchār in excess of its authority. It was found, however, that every single penny was accounted for. The Judge dismissed the charge with the remark that the white sheet of the SGPC had no stain on it.27 Principal Niranjan Singh clarifies the financial position. The Akali candidate from Batala in the elections was Jathedar Teja Singh Akarpuri and his contest with Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia was regarded by the Akalis to be of crucial importance. Against official backing for him, the Akalis mobilized all their resources. Master Sujan Singh was in charge of the Akali campaign. His main task was to collect funds. Demand for cash increased with the day of election coming closer. Sardar Bhag Singh, the Akali candidate for Gurdaspur, took some money from the SGPC funds with the intention of putting it back when more funds were collected. His example encouraged others and Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 were taken out of the SGPC funds for the elections. Legally, this amounted to misappropriation. Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia came to know of this through Lal Singh, Secretary of the SGPC (later Secretary (p.211) of the Khalsa College Council of which Sardar Sunder Singh was the President). The Akali leaders thought of a way out. In the account books of the SGPC the amount taken out of its funds was shown as a loan to the Khalsa College, Bombay. Sardar Indar Singh, Sardar Baldev Singh’s father, provided the amount needed and it was credited to the Khalsa College, Bombay, on behalf of the SGPC.28 Before the end of May 1937, Emerson wrote to Linlithgow that there was trouble in the Khalsa College, Amritsar. The Principal had issued a statement which indicated that the students had been incited by some teachers to go on strike, and six students were rusticated for one year. The student leaders invited people (Akalis) from outside for their support and the crowd asked the Principal to take back the orders of rustication. When the crowd refused to disperse, the police resorted to lāṭhī charge under the orders of a Magistrate. Emerson went on to add that the Chairman of the Managing Committee of the Khalsa College was Sir Sunder Singh Majithia, ‘the Revenue Minister’. His ‘enemies’ had tried to create

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Facing New Challenges trouble in the College previously and this probably was the case in the present instance.29 The Governor’s support was with the College authorities. The ‘enemies’ of Majithia were soon identified: ‘Sikh extremists hostile to Sir Sunder Singh’. The root causes of the trouble were two Professors of extremist views. One of them was a brother of Master Tara Singh. The Committee had got rid of him, and the student leaders who had gone on strike against this decision had been rusticated. Police intervention might accentuate the trouble for the time being, but it was very ‘desirable on general grounds that indiscipline among students should be checked’.30 In short, the students of the College had gone on strike because the College Committee under the Chairmanship of Majithia had dispensed with the services of Professor Niranjan Singh, the younger brother of the Akali leader Master Tara Singh, and the government was behind Sir Sunder Singh. According to Professor Niranjan Singh, Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia told him that the British Government and the Sikh states were the chief financial supporters of the Khalsa College, Amritsar, and their representatives dominated the Managing Committee of the College. Therefore, the only option for Sardar Sunder Singh was to support the government. ‘But I was also helpless,’ says Professor Niranjan Singh. ‘Mahatma Gandhi loomed large in my imagination and to walk on the way shown by him appeared to me as the only right path.’ The Principal told Professor Niranjan Singh that Sardar Sunder Singh expected him to support him in the elections. But Niranjan Singh began to oppose Majithia with the support of some enthusiastic students. Four other Professors of the College joined him in this campaign. But Sardar Sunder Singh won the seat. His victory was celebrated in the College. Professor Niranjan Singh was the only teacher of the College not to join the celebration. He was advised by all his wellwishers to change his attitude but he felt ‘helpless’. The Managing Committee removed him and four other Professors from service.31 Emerson had no doubt that the persons dismissed were ‘a very unhealthy influence in the College’.32 Master Sunder Singh Lyallpuri is stated to have written a pamphlet entitled ‘Professor Niranjan Singh Guru Gorakh of the Masand Party’. It was distributed among the students of Khalsa College, and many of them turned against Professor Niranjan Singh. He was obliged to leave the College with four other (p.212) Professors who were aligned with him.33 Sant Singh Sekhon, the wellknown Marxist writer, reveals in his autobiography that this pamphlet was written by him. The expense on its printing was borne by Sardar Harchand Singh Jeji and it was distributed among the students by Ujagar Singh Bhaura. The targets of Sekhon’s criticism were Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, Master Tara Singh, Professor Niranjan Singh, and Bawa Harkishan Singh. Sekhon was opposed to the understanding between the Maharaja and Master Tara Singh. Sardar Harchand Singh Jeji, Master Sunder Singh, and Ujagar Singh Bhaura, as well as Sekhon were aligned with the Praja Mandal against the Maharaja and Page 11 of 29

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Facing New Challenges Master Tara Singh. Primarily, however, Sekhon was annoyed with Niranjan Singh.34 Maharaja Bhupinder Singh was no longer hostile towards the Akalis. Emerson noted in September 1937 that the Maharaja of Patiala appeared to be ‘going back on his agreement’ with regard to the dismissal of the Professors of Khalsa College.35 If he was not actually giving a lukewarm support to the agitators, he had certainly withdrawn his support to the Managing Committee.36 Indeed, in October 1937, the Maharaja of Patiala sent a telegram to Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia just before the strike, saying that he would not allow his representatives to attend the Managing Committee and that action should be taken against some other members of the staff ‘hostile to the Akalis in the College’. The Maharaja appeared to intervene on behalf of the Akalis. Emerson hoped that Sir Sunder Singh would ‘remain firm, not only because of the immediate issue, but because Patiala has a way of intervening in Sikh affairs whenever he has a chance’.37 Emerson was evidently keen to keep the ‘extremist’ Akalis out of the Khalsa College. A new college established at Lahore called the Sikh National College, with the support of Master Tara Singh and Sadar Baldev Singh, was ‘nothing short of a miracle’ for Professor Niranjan Singh.38 But it was an eyesore for not only Sardar Sunder Singh but also Sir Henry Craik, the new Governor of the Punjab. He wrote to the Governor General in February 1939 that ‘an institution recently started in Lahore’ had secured affiliation to the Punjab University. It was entirely controlled by ‘the Akali Sikhs of extremist views’ who had founded it with the express intention of making it ‘a rival of the Khalsa College at Amritsar’. Some of the Professors dismissed from Khalsa College, Amritsar, ‘for grave acts of insubordination’ were appointed as Professors in the Sikh National College. The Khalsa College was an institution of old standing and the leading Sikh College in the province. It was the favoured ‘child’ of the Revenue Minister, Sir Sunder Singh Majithia, who had nurtured it for more than thirty years and was Chairman of the Managing Body. He was likely to be ‘deeply pained’ at the announcement of donation of Rs 200,000 by the Maharaja of Patiala to the Sikh National College at Lahore, ‘the rival’ of the Khalsa College at Amritsar.39 The Punjab Governor did not like that the new Maharaja of Patiala should have announced a donation for the Sikh National College. Presumably, the Viceroy was expected to ensure that the Maharaja did not pay the donation. In any case, it is clear that Craik looked at the two institutions strictly from the political angle. He identified himself with the Khalsa College at Amritsar under the management of a moderate Sikh leader and he was essentially hostile to the Sikh National College at Lahore under the control of the extremist Sikh leaders.

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Facing New Challenges (p.213) Conflict with Sir Sikander Hayat Khan Emerson observed in September 1937 that a succession of communal troubles had somewhat shaken the confidence of some senior officers in the ability of the Unionist Government to deal firmly with serious trouble.40 In October 1939, Craik wrote that communal differences had been greatly aggravated by the working of the provincial autonomy since April 1937. ‘Even a man so sane and moderate in his outlook has repeatedly expressed to me in private conversation his conviction that the Congress Governments have gravely oppressed the Muslim minorities in their charge.’41 This sane and moderate person was Sikander Hayat Khan. Ironically, however, Master Tara Singh charged Sikander Hayat Khan himself of anti-Sikh bias in what Emerson calls ‘a truculent letter addressed to the Premier’.42 Master Tara Singh took credit for being the first to expose the communal outlook and attitude of Sikander Hayat Khan.43 A contemporary biographer of Master Tara Singh believed that his widely publicized letter was ‘a precious document’.44 Master Tara Singh wrote to Sir Sikander Hayat Khan that all his efforts were meant ‘to establish Muslim domination in the province’. The British Government desired to continue to exploit India and they had begun to favour and cajole the Muslims. Consequently, the Muslim attitude in the Punjab became ‘arrogant and aggressive’. The condition had worsened after Sikander Hayat’s taking charge of the government. The Sikhs were not prepared to submit to ‘communal inequalities’ or ‘to recognize the social and political supremacy of the Muslims in the province’. The Akalis would foil Sikander Hayat Khan’s efforts ‘to win over some Sikhs and coerce others into submission’. In support of his allegation, Master Tara Singh refers to Sikander Hayat Khan’s attitude towards (a) Gurdwara Kot Bhai Than Singh, (b) Muslim aggression against the Sikhs in Gujrat villages, (c) the affair of Jandiala Sher Khan, (d) the removal of five Professors from Khalsa College, Amritsar, and (e) the Shrimoni Akali Dal and the SGPC. Master Tara Singh appealed to Sikander Hayat Khan to give up his ‘communal policy’ and to work for ‘the freedom of the country and the amelioration of the economic and social condition of the starving millions living in the province’. If he took to ‘the noble work of liberating the country and serving the masses’ to promote ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’, the services of Master Tara Singh and those whom he represented would be at the disposal of Sir Sikander Hayat Khan.45 There were a number of ‘communal incidents’ in the province. In Rawalpindi in the past year or two, several serious clashes between Muslims and Sikhs had been avoided with difficulty. The cause of tension was processions. The Sikh processions used to pass in front of the main mosque in the city and Muslim processions used to pass through the main Hindu and Sikh bazaars. Efforts were made to work out an agreement to change the routes. Emerson was of the view that an ‘established practice has sometimes to give way to the clear requirements of law and order’.46 A new agreement between the Sikh and Page 13 of 29

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Facing New Challenges Muslim communities of the city was reached early in January 1937 and Emerson was satisfied that ‘Government will now be able to stand on the new agreement’ without incurring the blame that an established practice was not adhered to. In Amritsar there was ‘a stupid communal murder’. A Sikh was murdered by a fanatical (p.214) Muslim for no reason whatever, and there was great excitement in the city for several days.47 In Kot Fateh Khan, damage was done to the gurdwara and a granthī reading the Granth Sahib was murdered. The Sikhs were talking of taking large Sikh jathās to Kot Fateh Khan on the day of Baisakhi. Emerson hoped that the dispute would be settled.48 Early in June 1937, a Nihang Sikh was murdered in the village of Ala in Gujrat district. The Sikhs announced a dīwān to be held in the village and published provocative posters. On 13 June, Sikhs began to arrive at the neighbouring railway station. They were attacked by Muslim mobs. Two or three Sikhs were killed and about sixteen injured. The police had to open fire three times. Five Muslims were killed. About forty villages of the area were involved in this matter. There was great indignation among the Sikhs. The funeral procession of a Sikh whose corpse had been sent from Gujrat was taken out at Amritsar by about 10,000 Sikhs who attacked Muslims indiscriminately; about sixty Muslims were reported to have been injured and one of them had died. The events in Gujrat and Amritsar indicated the existence of tense feeling between Sikhs and Muslims. The Punjab Governor made a self-justificatory comment: the enmity between the two sides was a ‘matter of history’; it was always there, and it was ‘certain to remain’.49 The government ordered a general enquiry into the causes of the trouble. The lawlessness witnessed in about thirty villages ‘could hardly have happened had there not been organized efforts to stir up the religious prejudices and hatred of the population’. Indeed, a few agitators could stir up serious trouble ‘at very short notice’. The press on both sides was extremely bitter about occurrences in Gujrat and Amritsar. Sikander Hayat Khan held a conference to consider the situation. Apart from the Ministers, the conference was attended by nonofficials, members of the Legislature, and other prominent men of the province. A number of resolutions were passed. It was decided to set up two small committees of non-officials to consider (a) religious causes and (b) political causes. This conference was not expected to have a lasting effect. Emerson himself was unenthusiastic about ‘bringing into general prominence subjects of a highly controversial character in regard to which it will be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain any measure of agreement in a committee consisting of representatives of different communities’.50 In August 1937, trouble arose again in Kot Fateh Khan when the District Magistrate forbade the Sikhs from drawing water for use in the gurdwara from the nearby stream where Muslim women used to draw water and bathe. The Sikhs decided to start a morchā and two volunteers were arrested every day for about a week for disobeying the official order. Master Tara Singh was ‘hesitant Page 14 of 29

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Facing New Challenges to take up the matter on a big scale’. Kot Fateh Khan was in a predominantly Muslim area and its Muslim landlord was supporting the government as a member of the Legislative Assembly. Soon afterwards, the High Court modified the order of the District Magistrate and fixed hours during which Sikhs could draw water from the disputed stream. The Magistrate prohibited the Muslims from drawing water during those hours. The Sikhs abandoned the idea of civil disobedience.51 In the month of September 1937 there was Sikh–Muslim trouble in the Sheikhupura district which resulted in the death of six persons. Fortunately, however, it was not followed by a general fight between the Sikhs and the Muslims who numbered 6,000 and 3,000 respectively. But the pattern of (p. 215) the trouble was becoming common: a local incident of trivial importance, followed by a Sikh religious gathering, resentment of Muslims, and a situation of armed confrontation. It is interesting to note that in this pattern the incident of trivial importance involves something happening to a Sikh, but the Governor takes a supposedly neutral position, implying that the Sikhs reacted to the incident to embarrass the government and that their reaction justified the further action by Muslims. On this assumption, the government issued a letter to all district officers to make it clear that ‘considerations of law and order were paramount, and where one party deliberately gives provocation to others under the guise of religion, the District Magistrate must consider the danger to the public peace, and, if necessary, forbid the observances, after a reference to Government if time permits’. This policy was discussed in the Council of Ministers. How this could improve the situation is not clear because this order left a large degree of discretion with the local administrator. In any case, Emerson himself records: ‘The communal situation generally gives considerable cause of anxiety.’52 These official reports appear to confirm Master Tara Singh’s contention that Sikh–Muslim tension was increasing during Sikander Hayat Khan’s term as the Premier, often due to an aggressive stance of Muslims.

Shahidganj Again The issue that spanned the whole phase as the symbol of tension between Sikhs and Muslims was the old issue of Shahidganj. During the elections of 1937, the Itihad-i Millat tried to revive the Shahidganj agitation in order to improve its election chances. In Emerson’s view, this illustrated the danger of ‘unscrupulous exploitation of religious feeling for party or individual ends’.53 In April, a gang of irresponsible Muslims were inclined to revive the Shahidganj agitation purely for political purposes.54 As a direct or indirect consequence of the Shahidganj issue, there were a number of isolated murders of Sikhs by fanatical Muslims in June. The Sikhs had not tried to take reprisals but the situation was changing. Both communities now were ‘itching for a fight’.55

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Facing New Challenges On 22 October 1937, the Friday congregation in the Badshahi Mosque was unusually large, and a meeting held after the prayers was attended by about 5,000 persons. Resolutions were passed, asking for the return of the site of Shahidganj to Muslims. However, there was no follow-up. Presumably, the leaders of the meeting had been allowed to pass resolutions on the understanding that the Ministry would not be embarrassed further. But the Muslim League had also passed a resolution that could embarrass Sikander Hayat Khan. Legally, the courts had consistently recognized the right of the Sikhs who had been in possession of the site for 175 years. An appeal against the judgment of the District Judge was pending in the High Court, which would take it up when the executive authorities indicated that the time was convenient. In the normal course, a further appeal could be made to the Privy Council by the unsuccessful party. Litigation was, therefore, likely to continue for ‘several years’.56 Before the end of 1937, the appeal had been heard by the High Court but the judgment was reserved. It was to be announced on ‘a date convenient to the executive’.57 The Ahrars now became somewhat active in connection with the Shahidganj issue. Maulavi Mazhar Ali Azhar, the Ahrar member of the Legislative Assembly, offered (p.216) himself for arrest with nine others. They were arrested on their way from the Badshahi Mosque to the Shahidganj Gurdwara. Their action appeared to have been inspired entirely by political motives and they failed to evoke much sympathy among Muslims.58 The Ahrar campaign of civil disobedience continued. It was a direct outcome of the Lucknow Conference at which a resolution was passed by the Muslim League demanding that the place should be restored to Muslims.59 Five persons were arrested daily for more than a month. On 26 January 1938, a full bench of the High Court delivered its appellate judgment, with the majority decision confirming the previous findings of the civil court and a long dissenting judgment by Justice Din Muhammad. The immediate effect of this judgment was a haṛtāl in some Muslim quarters; Muslim newspapers came out with headlines. The Ahrar volunteers began to offer themselves for arrest every day. The issue had become very live again.60 Meetings were held by Muslims in the Badshahi Mosque on 27 and 28 January 1938 but there was no mob action and no clash with the police. Maulana Zafar Ali, a Member of the Central Legislature, discouraged any precipitate action. Non-violent agitation was not likely to cause much trouble. In early February, the number of those offering themselves for arrest increased and Emerson anticipated that if 18 February, fixed as the Shahidganj Day, passed quietly, the civil disobedience movement in Lahore would become a matter of routine and fade away in a few months. The Muslim League had passed a resolution, reaffirming the pledge to secure the restoration of the Shahidganj site. But this could be achieved only ‘in face of the fierce opposition of the Sikh community as a whole, who, it may be observed, attach more genuine sanctity to the place than

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Facing New Challenges do the Muslims’. Meanwhile, efforts were being made to delay the issue by an appeal to the Privy Council.61 Before the end of February, Khalid Latif Gauba and Malik Barkat Ali proposed to introduce two Bills in the Punjab Legislative Assembly. The Punjab Governor thought that the Bills could not be allowed to pass into law for various reasons. The Bills were introduced partly to make a popular appeal to Muslim sentiment, but mainly to embarrass the Ministry, especially the Muslim Ministers. There were signs of Muslim feeling about the Shahidganj issue increasing rather than abating. The Muslim members of the assembly were beginning to feel the tension between their religious sentiments and their political loyalty. The Governor was not inclined to allow the Bills to be introduced.62 The submission of private Bills was a troublesome feature of the Shahidganj agitation. In all, twenty-four Muslim members of the assembly put in motions for leave to introduce the Bill in the terms sponsored by Malik Barkat Ali. Several of them were likely to withdraw their motions if asked by the party to do so, but there were others who could refuse to withdraw. Meanwhile, both Muslims and Sikhs were expressing their views and feelings regarding the Bills in the press and on the platform. Muslim members of the assembly were subjected to great pressure to sign the Bill or to be considered unbelievers. Master Tara Singh and other Akali leaders on the Sikh side were making strong statements and speeches with demands that the Governor should refuse sanction to the Bills. Both Emerson and Sikander Hayat Khan were in favour of a settlement between Sikhs and Muslims. A very important obstacle in their way was Master Tara Singh. Sir Sundar Singh (p.217) Majithia was not prepared to approach Master Tara Singh directly but he could explore the chances of settlement indirectly. Emerson got the impression that Sikander Hyat Khan was trying to put pressure on the Sikhs ‘to come to an amicable settlement’.63 There was pressure on the Governor too. It was clear that the Bills could not be introduced in the Legislative Assembly without the Governor’s sanction under Section 299(3) of the Act of 1935. But the Ministry could resign, and if it resigned in connection with the Shahidganj issue, the Governor saw no alternative Ministry able to carry on, except possibly a purely Muslim Ministry pledged to the restoration of Shahidganj to the Muslims. But in that case the Ministry would come into direct conflict with the Governor’s special responsibilities. The only desirable course was to evolve an amicable settlement between Sikhs and Muslims. Otherwise ‘the peace and tranquility of the Province was likely to be gravely disturbed’. Therefore, the issue before the Governor was not merely constitutional but also political.64 As Emerson informed Linlithgow on 9 March 1938, the Ministers would advise him formally on the 14th to withhold his consent and this would become known on the 15th of March. On the advice of the Ministers the then Governor withheld consent to Malik Barkat Ali’s Bill. The Premier made a statement in the assembly. There Page 17 of 29

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Facing New Challenges was an attempt to move a vote of no confidence against the government but only two members supported the move.65 The Executive Committee of the SGPC declared that there could be no talk whatever of any compromise. The Governor had a long and serious talk with Sir Sunder Singh and he gave the impression that the Sikhs were content to let matters drift. The Governor tried to impress upon him the need for a settlement, because the Muslim leaders would not be able to stall the issue for long. Sir Sunder Singh promised to do something but the Governor was not hopeful. Sikander Hayat Khan met Master Tara Singh secretly on 3 April 1938. The meeting did not lead to any positive result. Sikander Hayat Khan thought that Master Tara Singh was not opposed to a settlement but the political situation among the Sikhs did not leave much room for him to think of a settlement. The Governor thought it was good that Sikander Hayat Khan and Master Tara Singh had got into personal touch.66 Sikander Hayat Khan went to Calcutta for the annual session of the Muslim League. He was able to handle the resolution on Shahidganj to his satisfaction. Simultaneously with its report in the press appeared a strong statement from Master Tara Singh against any settlement. The Milāp had attributed a false statement to Sikander Hyat Khan at Calcutta that the Sikhs had agreed to a settlement. Master Tara Singh’s denial was based on that false report. Sikander Hayat Khan gathered from a leading supporter of Master Tara Singh that both the Khalsa National Party and the Akali Dal were afraid that a statement made by one in favour of settlement would be used against it by the other in Sikh politics. Sikander Hayat Khan was gratified that the local Sikhs of the Khalsa National Party at Lyallpur presented an address to him in which he was compared with Maharaja Ranjit Singh who enjoyed the confidence of the Sikhs and the Muslims alike. Giani Sher Singh made a speech in similar terms. He was critical of Master Tara Singh. Sikander Hayat Khan’s own speech was very well received.67 Presumably, he hoped that there was a possibility of settlement with the Sikhs. In May 1938, the new Governor, Sir Henry Craik, reported that the Ahrars had (p.218) announced their decision to abandon civil disobedience. However, Maulana Zafar Ali of the Itihad-i Millat decided to continue the protest because of ‘the irreconcilable attitude adopted by the Akalis and Master Tara Singh and the wayward policy of the Majlis-i Ahrar’.68 Before the end of May, the High Court granted the Muslims leave to appeal to the Privy Council, with an injunction against any building being erected on the disputed site pending the decision of the appeal. The Itihad-i Millat now reversed their decision to persist in civil disobedience.69

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Facing New Challenges The Secretary of State for India, Lord Zetland, sent a telegram to the Governor General and the Punjab Governor on 5 October 1939, asking them to consider the possibility of inducing the parties concerned in the Shahidganj appeal to the Privy Council to sink their differences at least temporarily in view of the war.70 Lord Linlithgow sent a copy of this telegram to Craik for his response. Craik wrote that the Akali leaders were in ‘a somewhat truculent mood and bitter in their opposition to Muslims generally and to the Unionist Ministry in particular’. If the Privy Council decision was in favour of the Sikhs they would not refrain from erecting some building on the site. It might be possible, however, to persuade some moderate Sikhs to put forward quietly a suggestion that the Sikhs should make a generous gesture and agree to leave the site as it was but railed off and open to access by the public. This was broadly the proposal of Sikander Hayat Khan in the spring of 1938. Craik was not hopeful that this suggestion would be acceptable now. Therefore, he suggested that the only way to avoid a revival of bitter communal tension was to ‘secure a postponement of the hearing of the appeal’ if this could be done in some way by the Secretary of State. On the following day, Craik suggested that the Muslims could probably be advised quietly to put in an application to this effect.71 On 24 October, Craik informed Linlithgow that a Muslim Advocate in Lahore, who was in charge of the case, had written to the Solicitors concerned in London to apply for postponement on the plea that it had become impossible for the local counsel to secure a passage to England. Craik added that ‘a postponement of hearing of the appeal is much to be desired’.72 In January 1940, Craik’s information on the appeal to the Privy Council was that the Sikh respondents were opposed to postponement and their Solicitors had informed them that the Court was unlikely to grant an adjournment.73 Sikander observed in April 1940 that the Privy Council judgment in the Shahidganj case was likely to be published in a few days. The Khaksars might find an opportunity for making a bid for Muslim sympathy by leading attacks on the Sikhs if the Shahidganj controversy got revived.74 Early in May, Craik observed that the announcement of the Privy Council decision in the Shahidganj case had caused less excitement than he had anticipated. The Sikhs were anxious not to increase Muslim ill-feeling towards themselves. They were not in a hurry to build on the old site but if and when they do, the real trouble would recommence.75 Shahidganj, however, does not figure in the subsequent reports of the Punjab Governor. His worry on this score, and the worry of the Unionists as well as the Sikhs, was virtually over.

From the Sikander–Jinnah Pact to the Muslim League’s Resolution of 1940 In October 1937, Jawaharlal Nehru attended a political conference in district Hoshiarpur (p.219) and addressed a large public meeting at Lahore. He made a ‘wholesale attack’ on the Unionist Ministry which caused great resentment among the supporters of the government. He emphasized that Sikander Hayat Khan and his colleagues were doing nothing for the people and there could be Page 19 of 29

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Facing New Challenges no real freedom or advance until these instruments of a reactionary government were replaced by Congress Ministers. He said a great deal about repression in the Punjab. He dwelt on the Congress objective of wrecking the Act of 1935 and promoting mass movement. He asserted that the Congress would be so irresistible in a few years that it would sweep everybody and everything before it. A big European war was a certainty and the British Empire would come to an end within years. No help should be given to the British in case of war. The Congress would have nothing to do with Federation. The Punjab Governor got the impression that Jawaharlal represented the Congress stance of ‘dominance and arrogance’. Due to this domineering and arrogant spirit of the Congress, Sikander Hayat Khan leaned towards the Muslim League.76 Jinnah was anxious to have Sikander Hayat Khan’s help in all-India politics. The Muslims saw the non-inclusion of representative Muslims in Congress Cabinets, flaunting of the Congress flag, prominence given to ‘Vande Mātaram’, and making Hindi the universal language as the visible signs of the Congress intention to create Hindu Raj. Concrete examples of ‘oppression of Muslims’ were given by some of the delegates to the Lucknow Conference. Speech after speech was couched in the most bitter invective against the Congress. It was generally felt that the bulwarks against Congress domination could be the Punjab and, to a less extent, Bengal. The defeatist mood of the conference changed into a determined attitude to fight the Congress to the last.77 This was the situation in which the Sikander–Jinnah Pact was forged on 15 October 1937. According to this Pact, Sikander Hayat Khan agreed to convene a meeting of his party and advise all its Muslim members who were not members of the Muslim League to join the League by signing its creed on the understanding that ‘they will be subject to the rules and regulations of the Central and Provincial Boards of the All India Muslim League’. Their continuance in the coalition and the Unionist Party was not to be affected. In future elections and by-elections for the Legislature after the adoption of this arrangement, the groups constituting the Unionist Party at that time ‘will jointly support candidates put up by their respective groups’. The Muslim members elected on the League ticket ‘will constitute the Muslim League Party within the Legislature’ with the option to enter into coalition or alliance with any other party, before or after the elections. In view of the arrangement agreed upon, the Provincial League Parliamentary Board was to be reconstituted.78 The ‘Sikander–Jinnah Pact’ was open to different interpretations. According to Sikander Hayat Khan, all that he agreed to do was to support Jinnah in all-India politics and to advise the Muslim supporters in the Provincial Legislature to join the Muslim League, making it clear that the position of the Unionist Party would remain unchanged in provincial concerns. But Ghulam Rasul Khan, Secretary of the Muslim League, interpreted the agreement as merging of the Muslim members of the Unionist Party in the Muslim League. In any case, Sikander Page 20 of 29

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Facing New Challenges Hayat Khan in this document appeared to have become a Muslim leader. Furthermore, he was deluding (p.220) himself if he thought that provincial politics could be divorced from all-India Muslim interests. The Muslim League resolution for the restoration of the Shahidganj site to Muslims, passed at the Lucknow session, was a case in point.79 The Khalsa National Party of Sir Sunder Singh Majithia passed a resolution in November 1937, asking the Muslim Unionists to make their position clear. Among the Hindus too there was a reaction against the Pact.80 Early in December, Sikander Hayat Khan declared that his adherence to the Muslim League did not affect the policy or position of the Unionist Party in any way.81 Jinnah was biding his time. The question of Federation was debated in the Punjab Assembly on 8 April 1938, when a member of the Congress Party attacked the method of indirect election to the Lower House, the nomination of the representatives of the states by the princes, and the limitations on the financial powers of the Central Legislature and on its power of control over the Railways and the Reserve Bank. Sikander Hayat Khan moved an amendment to the resolution tabled by the Congress member after a speech in which he suggested modification of the Federal scheme in accordance with the aspirations of the people but insisting that some sort of Federal Government at the Centre was necessary. He emphasized that the present power and autonomy of the units should not be impaired, and he opposed the view that the Indian states could be omitted from a Federal system. He poured scorn on the suggestion for a Constituent Assembly based on universal adult franchise. Judging by what had happened in the case of the Congress provinces, he apprehended that a Ministry at the Centre would be predominantly a Congress Ministry, rigidly controlled by the Congress High Command. He mentioned five subjects with which the Centre should deal: Defence, Customs, External Affairs, Relations with the states, and Communications. His basic idea was that each Federal unit should have an equal share of representation both in the Legislature and in the Ministry. For this purpose, the whole of India could be divided into seven zones. Every zone, except Bengal, was a combination of more than one administrative unit in existence. The North-Western zone was to consist of the Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, Sind, Kashmir, the Punjab states, and one or two of the Rajputana states.82 A year later, in June 1939, Sir Henry Craik was talking about the ‘Pakistan project’. He thought that the original Pakistan project was conceived, or at least sponsored, by Sir Muhammad Iqbal who visualized an Islamic state uniting the Punjab, Sind, the NWFP, possibly also the Kashmir and Bahawalpur states, with Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. A modified form of the Pakistan-idea involved the splitting up of India into two separate entities, both of which were to remain within the British Empire. Muslim India was to include the Punjab, Page 21 of 29

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Facing New Challenges Sind, the NWFP, and perhaps also Kashmir and Bahawalpur. None of these two schemes was taken up seriously by any politically respectable group of people. Then there was the third scheme for dividing India into the Hindu and Muhammadan ‘cultural zones’ which had a good deal of publicity in the past few months. It was quite impracticable because it involved shifting of vast mass of people from one area to another. All these schemes were visionary and illdefined. Craik thought, nevertheless, that it would be ‘a mistake to assume that the Pakistan idea was dead in the sense that we shall hear no more about it’. Indeed, it (p.221) would continue to figure prominently in the columns of ‘the more irresponsible Muslim newspapers and to be ventilated on the platform’. In his view, it did not merit serious consideration as ‘a possible solution of our present difficulties’.83 Muslim opposition to the scheme of Federation contained in the Act of 1935 was founded on the apprehension that the Central Government under the scheme would be predominantly a Congress Government, and that the Central Executive would be disposed to meddle unduly in purely provincial matters. This hostility was not there in 1935 because no one expected the Congress to come to power after the elections in the provinces. The hostility towards Federation had considerably intensified after the Patna session of the All-India Muslim League in December 1937. At this session, great prominence was given to allegations of oppression of Muslims in the Congress provinces. These allegations were repeated at length and in detail in a pamphlet circulated later by Jinnah. A strong deputation of the All-India Muslim League had toured the Punjab and the NWFP, repeating these stories at crowded meetings. This had a considerable effect in ‘intensifying communal feelings generally and Muslim determination not to tolerate Hindu domination in particular’.84 Sikander Hayat Khan gave copies of his scheme to both Jinnah and Gandhi. He had explained the scheme in general terms to his colleagues who received it favourably. He had an interesting discussion with the League Executive too. This was initiated with a definite suggestion that, if war was declared, the League should at once make an announcement in terms of its Sholapur resolution (which was to the effect that in its own interests Muslim India should support Great Britain in the event of a world conflict). The majority of the League Executive expressed agreement with Sikander Hayat Khan’s proposal. Jinnah differed at first but eventually agreed with deference to the wishes of the majority. However, he was not in favour of the idea that the League should make a definite statement now but Sikander Hayat Khan was at liberty to announce his support to the British if war broke out. Sikander Hayat Khan’s announcement would make it clear that the British Government ‘could rely on the support of Muslim India’ and that the League ‘would not use the outbreak of war in a bargaining spirit’.85

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Facing New Challenges The declaration of war had a dramatic effect. The Muslim League Working Committee passed a lengthy resolution on war at its New Delhi meeting on 18 September 1939, calling for complete abandonment of the Federal scheme and urged the British Government to ‘review and revise the entire problem of India’s future constitution de novo’. The resolution also asked for an assurance from the British Government that ‘no declaration regarding the question of constitutional advance for India should be made without the League’s consent and approval’.86 With reference to this resolution, Sikander Hayat Khan told Craik that Jinnah would be prepared to accept ‘consultation’ instead of ‘approval and consent’ if the League could be given the assurance that in any future scheme of Federation Muslim interests would be amply protected. Sikander Hayat Khan asked Craik to put it to the Governor General that if the Muslim League cooperated fully in the prosecution of the war, his Majesty’s Government would not overlook their attitude. Furthermore, Sikander Hayat Khan was sure that if the Governor General asked Jinnah whether the Muslims would cooperate with the government even if the Congress adopted an obstructive attitude, (p.222) his answer would be the same as that of Sikander Hayat Khan.87 The League was prepared to support the government. The main political resolution of the All-India Muslim League at Lahore on 24 March 1940 came to be known as the Pakistan Resolution.88 According to Craik, the importance of the League as the representative Muslim organization was now immensely enhanced; Jinnah’s position as ‘the one All-India Muslim leader’ was now unchallenged; and at least outwardly, Muslim opinion was in favour of partition. The partition resolution completely torpedoed the Congress claim to speak for India as a whole. The scheme had a great potential appeal to Muslim masses.89 Master Tara Singh looked upon the idea of Pakistan as the greatest challenge for the Sikhs. As President of the Shiromani Akali Dal he declared that the Muslims would have to cross an ocean of Sikh blood before they could establish their rule.90

In Retrospect The elections of 1936–7 made the Unionists more powerful under the new Constitution. Most of the Muslim Unionists persisted in their Muslim bias. Sikander Hayat Khan signed a pact with Jinnah to strengthen the position of the All-India Muslim League in Indian politics. Sunder Singh Majithia, as a Unionist Minister, tried to settle his score with Master Tara Singh. Cases of embezzlement of funds were brought against the Akali Dal, the SGPC, and Master Tara Singh. But he was exonerated by the court. There was trouble in the Khalsa College, Amritsar, essentially due to the fact that Niranjan Singh, the younger brother of Master Tara Singh, had campaigned against Majithia in the elections. The British bureaucrats and the Unionists supported Sunder Singh Majithia while the Akalis supported Niranjan Singh and those of his colleagues who were being victimized as ‘extremists’. Eventually, five Professors were removed from the service of the College. Master Tara Singh helped them in Page 23 of 29

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Facing New Challenges founding the Sikh National College at Lahore which developed into a remarkable institution in a short time. The issue of Shahidganj was raised again in April 1937 for purely political purposes. Master Tara Singh wrote a letter to the Punjab Premier, Sikander Hayat Khan, on 10 September 1937, that whatever his personal views, all his efforts resulted in the consolidation of Muslim position and establishment of Muslim domination in the Punjab. The policy of the British Government was to favour the Muslims, which made them arrogant and aggressive. This tendency had increased under Sikander Hayat Khan’s Premiership. This letter was widely publicized. Master Tara Singh believed that he was the first person to expose Sikander Hayat Khan’s anti-Sikh bias that was concealed under his cloak of catholicity, geniality, and appeal to Punjabi sentiment. There were official reports of Muslim violence against Sikh gurdwaras and Sikhs in many parts of the province. The case of the Shahidganj site was only the most glaring and the most important one. Master Tara Singh refused to make any compromise on this issue. The Sikh claim was upheld by the highest judicial authorities. Throughout the 1930s, Muslim intellectuals and politicians remained occupied with the formulation of a Constitution that could provide the best political safeguards for Muslims in India. At least two of these involved partition. As a culmination of such formulations came the Muslim League’s resolution of March 1940. Master Tara Singh’s (p.223) immediate reaction was to resist the formation of Pakistan even if it involved a civil war. The two-nation theory did not recognize any other nationality in the country, and Jinnah was not prepared to share power with the other political entities in the Punjab. Master Tara Singh did not see any future for the Sikhs in Pakistan. On 17 September 1940, he underscored that the Akalis would never accept Pakistan. He visualized the possibility of the British Government and the Congress conceding something like Pakistan for their own reasons. But the Sikhs wanted freedom and ‘not a change of masters’. He impressed upon the Sikhs to build their own political strength to be counted in the future. Notes:

(1.) Sumit Sarkar, Modern India 1885–1947 (Madras: Macmillan, 1995, reprint), pp. 336–8. (2.) Sarkar, Modern India, pp. 349–50. (3.) Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1984, paperback), pp. 136, 147. (4.) Ayesha Jalal, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 35. (5.) Sarkar, Modern India, pp. 350–1. Page 24 of 29

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Facing New Challenges (6.) Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, Sucheta Mahajan, and K.N. Panikkar, India’s Struggle for Independence, 1857–1947 (New Delhi: Penguin Books India Ltd, 1989, reprint), p. 339. (7.) Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan, p. 153. (8.) Sarkar, Modern India, pp. 354–7. (9.) Sarkar, Modern India, pp. 375–7. (10.) Sarkar, Modern India, p. 377–9. (11.) Sarkar, Modern India, p. 379. (12.) Craig Baxter (ed.), ‘The 1937 Elections and the Sikander–Jinnah Pact’, PPP 10, part 1 (October 1976): 360–6. (13.) Waheed Ahmad (ed.), Letters of Mian Faz-i-Husain (Lahore: University of the Punjab, 1996), pp. 533–6, 544–5, 547–9. (14.) The Congress won only eighteen seats, including six seats of the Congress Socialists (Congress Socialist Party, Kirtī Kisan Party, and Official Group). Teja Singh Swantantar was the seventh to be added to this group having been returned unopposed in May 1937. The Akalis won ten seats and sat with the Congress in opposition to the Unionist Ministry. They were supported by nineteen Independents and six other members of the Majlis-i-Ahrar, the Itihad-iMillat, the Congress Nationalists, Labour, and the Muslim League. K.C. Yadav, Elections in Panjab 1920–1947 (New Delhi: Manohar, 1987), pp. 84–106. Baxter, ‘The 1937 Elections and the Sikander–Jinnah Pact’, 359–60. Satya M. Rai, Legislative Politics and Freedom Struggle in the Panjab 1897–1947 (New Delhi: Indian Council of Historical Research, 1984), pp. 218–25. (15.) Rai, Legislative Politics and Freedom Struggle, pp. 225–37, 248–55. (16.) Rai, Legislative Politics and Freedom Struggle, pp. 237–9. (17.) Baxter, ‘The 1937 Elections and the Sikander–Jinnah Pact’, pp. 369–78. (18.) Rai, Legislative Politics and Freedom Struggle, pp. 240–3. (19.) Gurharpal Singh, Communism in Punjab (Delhi: Ajanta Publications, 1984), pp. 54–8. (20.) Ramesh Walia, Praja Mandal Movement in East Punjab States (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1972), pp. 129–52. (21.) Rai, Legislative Politics and Freedom Struggle, pp. 258–62.

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Facing New Challenges (22.) Fauja Singh, ‘Akalis and the Indian National Congress’, PPP 15, part 2 (October 1981): 463–4. Y.P. Bajaj, ‘Sikhs and the First General Elections (1936– 37) to the Punjab Legislative Assembly: An Analysis’, PPP 11, part 1 (April 1987): 103–8. (23.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 19 October 1936, in Punjab Politics 1936–1939: The Start of Provincial Autonomy (Governor’s Fortnightly Reports and Other Key Documents), ed. Lionel Carter (New Delhi: Manohar, 2004), pp. 54–5. (24.) Kirpal C. Yadav, Elections in Panjab 1920–1947, pp. 74–106. (25.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, ed. Harjinder Singh Dilgir (Amritsar: SGPC, 1999, reprint), pp. 92–3. (26.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 8 May 1937, Panjab Politics (2004), pp. 89–90. (27.) Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 92–3. (28.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh, pp. 108–10. (29.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 22 May 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 93–4. (30.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 5 June 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 103. (31.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh, pp. 111–13. (32.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 28 August 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 123. (33.) Kirpal Singh Dardi, Master Sunder Singh Lyallpurī (n.p.: Shahid Udham Singh Prakashan, 1991), p. 156. (34.) Sant Singh Sekhon, Swai Jīwaṇī, ed. Tejwant Singh Gill (Chandigarh: Lokgeet Prakashan, 2011), pp. 189–90. Later on Sekhon was removed from the College due to pressure from Maharaja Bhupinder Singh: Swai Jīwaṇī, p. 194. (35.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 14 September 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 125–6. (36.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 28 September 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 136. (37.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 8 October 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 137. (38.) Niranjan Singh, Jīwan-Yātrā Master Tara Singh, p. 113. (39.) Craik to Linlithgow (private and personal), 9 February 1939, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 312. For Sekhon’s comment on the Sikh National College, his Swai Jīwaṇī, pp. 224–5. (40.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 28 September 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 134. Page 26 of 29

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Facing New Challenges (41.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 29 October 1939, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 396. (42.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 28 September 1939, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 136. (43.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 93. (44.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter: A Biographical Study of Master Tara Singh’, in Verinder Grover (ed.), Master Tara Singh (New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications, 1995), pp. 74–5. (45.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter’, pp. 100–2. (46.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 19 December 1936, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 62– 3. (47.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 21 January 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 67–8. (48.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 24 April 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 86. (49.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 19 June 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 105–6. (50.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 3 July 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 111–12. Master Tara Singh was present in this ‘Unity Conference’. (51.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 14 and 28 August 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 121–2, 123. (52.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 14 September 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 124–5. (53.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 16 November 1936, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 58– 9. (54.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 24 April 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 87. (55.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 19 June 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 106–7. (56.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 12 November 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 147– 8. (57.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 3 December 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 151. (58.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 18 December 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 154. (59.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 11 January 1938, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 162. (60.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 27 January 1938, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 164–6. (61.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 30 January and 12 February 1938, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 169–72. Page 27 of 29

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Facing New Challenges (62.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 27 February 1938, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 178– 81. (63.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 4 March 1938, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 183–5. (64.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 4 March 1938, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 183–8. (65.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 9 and 17 March 1938, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 194–7. (66.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 31 March and 5 April 1938, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 199–200. (67.) Craik to Linlithgow, 18/19 and 25 April 1938, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 206–9. (68.) Craik to Linlithgow, 10 May 1938, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 212. (69.) Craik to Linlithgow, 26 May 1938, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 217. (70.) Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 418 n. 87. (71.) Craik to Linlithgow, 10, 11, and 12 October 1939, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 385–7. (72.) Craik to Linlithgow, 24 October 1939, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 392. (73.) Craik to Linlithgow, 14 January 1940, Punjab Politics 1940–1943, ed. Lionel Carter (New Delhi: Manohar, 2005), pp. 68–9. (74.) Craik to Linlithgow, 22 April 1940, in Punjab Politics: Strains of War, ed. Lionel Carter (New Delhi: Manohar, 2005), p. 129. (75.) Craik to Linlithgow, 5 May 1940, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 137. (76.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 21 October 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 140–2. (77.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 21 October 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 143–4. (78.) Sikander–Jinnah Pact, Lucknow, October 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), Appendix I, pp. 421–2. (79.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 21 October 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 144–6. (80.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 12 November 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 149. (81.) Emerson to Linlithgow, 3 December 1937, Punjab Politics (2004), p. 151. (82.) Craik to Linlithgow, 5 June 1938, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 218–26.

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Facing New Challenges (83.) Craik to Linlithgow, 19 June 1939, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 351–2. For more detail on the background to the Lahore Resolution of March 1940, Uma Kaura, Muslims and Indian Nationalism: The Emergence of the Demand for India’s Parition 1928–40 (New Delhi: Manohar, 1977), pp. 136–62. (84.) Craik to Linlithgow, 19 June 1939, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 352–3. (85.) Craik to Linlithgow, 10 July 1939, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 362–3. (86.) Punjab Politics (2004), p. 417 n. 83. (87.) Craik to Linlithgow, 25 September 1939, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 380–1. (88.) For the text of the Resolution, see Kirpal Singh, The Sikhs and Transfer of Power (1942–1947) (Patiala: Punjabi University, 2006), pp. 3–4. (89.) Craik to Linlithgow, 1 April 1940, Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 108–9. (90.) Tuteja, Sikh Politics (1920–40) (Kurukshetra: Vishal Publications, 1984), p. 193.

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In Search of Political Autonomy

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

In Search of Political Autonomy (1940–2) J.S. Grewal

DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199467099.003.0010

Abstract and Keywords In August 1940, Master Tara Singh started negotiations with the Congress leaders about whether or not to support the government in its war efforts. Mahatma Gandhi’s response obliged him eventually to resign from the Congress Working Committee. Master Tara Singh supported the programme of the Khalsa Defence of India League formed early in 1941 under the leadership of Maharaja Yadvindra Singh of Patiala. In March 1942, Stafford Cripps brought a proposal that appeared to concede Pakistan. His mission failed but Master Tara Singh remained seriously perturbed over the possibility of the Sikhs being placed under perpetual Muslim domination. The Sikander–Baldev Singh Pact enabled Baldev Singh, a non-Akali legislator, to replace Dasaundha Singh as the Sikh minister in the Unionist ministry. Thus, Master Tara Singh’s idea was to strengthen the Sikh position without infringing his formal understanding with the Congress. Keywords:   Master Tara Singh, Mahatma Gandhi, war efforts, Congress Working Committee, Khalsa Defence of India League, Stafford Cripps, Pakistan, Sikander–Baldev Singh Pact, Unionist ministry, Congress

World War II began to make an impact on Indian politics, including, of course, the Punjab. The League Resolution of 1940 was indirectly and partly a result of the war. Master Tara Singh reacted strongly to this resolution and visualized the possibility of its being accepted by the British and the Congress. Keen to improve the position of the Sikhs, he came to favour the idea of support for the

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In Search of Political Autonomy war in opposition to the Congress policy of conditional cooperation. This led to his estrangement from the Congress but the Akali Dal was to remain aligned with it. To strengthen the Sikh position further, Master Tara Singh agreed to a pact between Sikander Hayat Khan and Baldev Singh as a non-Akali Minister in the Unionist Cabinet. A direct result of the war was the Cripps Mission of March 1942. The idea of Pakistan was conceded in the Cripps proposals and Master Tara Singh presented reorganization of the Punjab province as a counter to Pakistan. The failure of the Cripps Mission removed the immediate danger but Master Tara Singh became increasingly serious about territorial reorganization.

The Political Context Immediately after becoming Prime Minister, Winston Churchill declared on 13 May 1940 that the policy of the new government was to wage war and to win at all costs. Without victory, he said, there would be ‘no survival for the British Empire’ and ‘no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for’. He had not become the King’s First Minister ‘to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire’. His stern attitude towards India could offset the sympathetic attitude of two of his Labour colleagues in the Cabinet, L.S. Amery and Sir Stafford Cripps. The Governor General, Lord Linlithgow, was Conservative, like Churchill. On 8 August 1940, he offered Dominion Status in an unspecified future but immediate expansion of the Viceroy’s (p.227) Executive. The Viceroy’s Executive was enlarged in July 1941, and an advisory National Defence Council was established.1 After the German invasion of Russia in June 1941, the Indian Communists began to support what they now called the ‘people’s war’. Before the end of the year, Japan attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbour. Singapore fell to the Japanese on 15 February 1942, Rangoon on 8 March, and the Andaman Islands on 23 March. Already, in December 1941, Franklin Roosevelt had raised with Churchill the question of gaining the Congress’ support for war through some sort of political reform. The Labour members of the War Cabinet, especially Cripps, now persuaded the Cabinet to agree to a draft declaration of post-war Dominion Status with right to secession and the right of the Indian states to appoint their representatives. In addition, there would be a ‘constitution-making body’ elected by provincial legislatures.2 Linlithgow was opposed to the idea of Cripps coming to India. Churchill explained to him that the Mission was meant to prove British honesty of purpose and, if it was rejected by the Indian political parties, the sincerity of the British would, nonetheless, be proved to the world. The Congress was critical of nomination of the Indian states’ representatives by their rulers and the option given to the provinces to join or not to join the Indian Union, which was a public admission of the possibility of Pakistan. In his discussions with Nehru and Azad on 9 April 1942, Cripps went beyond his brief in suggesting that the new Executive Council would approximate to a cabinet. He was sharply pulled up by Page 2 of 28

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In Search of Political Autonomy the War Cabinet and he began to sing a different tune on the same day. The talks broke down suddenly, but proved to be an important event to be taken up later at some length.3 In the early phase of the war, Mahatma Gandhi and the right-wing Congress had tried repeatedly for some kind of agreement with the British. The Working Committee of the Congress was prepared to back the war effort if the British gave concessions on the two key demands: a post-war independence pledge and an immediate national government at the Centre. After Linlithgow’s ‘August offer’ Mahatma Gandhi sanctioned civil disobedience to court arrest by making anti-war speeches. About 20,000 volunteers went to jail but the movement petered out before the end of 1941.4 The Congress leaders in the Punjab were not unanimous in supporting the individual satyāgraha. The allies of the Congress in the Punjab were also divided on this issue.5 Rajagopalachari’s statement of 23 August 1940 that if the British Government agreed to form a provisional national government, he would persuade his colleagues to agree to the Muslim League being invited to nominate the Prime Minister, who could form a government as he liked, disturbed the Akali Dal. Master Tara Singh began to fear the possibility of Pakistan being created. The British bureaucracy was working on the Akalis, especially through Major Short and Penderel Moon, to support the war effort. Master Tara Singh’s conflict with Mahatma Gandhi led to the former’s resignation from the Congress and divided the Akalis over the issue of recruitment. Master Tara Singh encouraged Sardar Baldev Singh to sign a pact with Sikander Hayat Khan.

Master Tara Singh’s Response to the Idea of Pakistan Master Tara Singh was not alone in condemning the idea of Pakistan. Sardar Kharak Singh (p.228) looked at the scheme as ‘absurd’ and declared that the Sikhs would not allow India’s vivisection. The Khalsa National Party resolved that the Sikhs would not tolerate the rule of the Muslim community in the Punjab, which was the holy land and homeland of the Sikhs. Some newspapers, like the Khalsa Sewak, suggested that the Sikhs should have a separate state.6 Master Tara Singh did not appreciate the idea of ‘Khalistan’ put forth by V.S. Bhatti of Ludhiana as a buffer state between Pakistan and Hindustan. As a counterbalance to the idea of Pakistan, it appealed to Baba Gurdit Singh of the Komagata Maru fame who was aligned with the Congress. In the elections of 1937, he had been defeated as a Congress Sikh candidate by Partap Singh Kairon as an Akali candidate. On 19 May 1940, a convention was called by Baba Gurdit Singh in association with one Ranjodh Singh Tarsika and Jagjit Singh who had replaced Giani Sher Singh as the Editor of the Khalsa Sewak. The scheme was further elaborated at another convention organized by Gurdit Singh and Jagjit Singh, and a new Sikh organization, called the Guru Raj Darbar Khalsa Board, was formed to campaign for Khalistan. Master Tara Singh remarked that Page 3 of 28

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In Search of Political Autonomy ‘some Sikhs have lost their head and they are preaching the establishment of Sikh Rule. This will simply result in adding to the confusion already created by the Muslim League’. The Working Committee of the Punjab Provincial Congress, however, wrote misleadingly to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, President of the Congress, that some Akalis were misusing the Congress platform to propagate Sikh Raj for scuttling the idea of Pakistan. Opposition from Master Tara Singh and the Congress at any rate put an end to all activity in connection with the idea of Khalistan by August 1940.7 Tension between Sikhs and Muslims was increasing. At Sargodha, where both the Deputy Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police were Muslims, there was a good deal of uneasiness among the Hindus and Sikhs.8 A procession that used to be taken out on the birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh was unnecessarily interfered with on 7 July and thirty-one Sikhs were arrested. The Akalis demanded release of these prisoners. A date was fixed for a morchā. Sikander Hayat Khan announced the release of prisoners on the floor of the Punjab Legislative Assembly.9 A more serious incident took place at Gujranwala on 13 July when ‘a prominent local Sikh’ was killed.10 As Giani Lal Singh mentions in his autobiography, this prominent Sikh was Avtar Singh, a barrister of Gujranwala, who had dominated the public life of Gujranwala for two decades (1920–40) as President of the local Singh Sabha and a member of the Municipal Committee. He was all-important in the management of the Khalsa High School and the Guru Nanak Khalsa College. He had served the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and the Gurdwara Committee Nankana Sahib as a member, and he was close to the Akali High Command. He was closely associated with the Congress as President of the District Committee and a member of the Working Committee of the Provincial Congress. He was Chairman of the reception committee for the annual session of the Provincial Congress at Gujranwala in 1938. He was popular among all the religious communities of the city, especially the poor sections.11 Giani Lal Singh goes on to add that Avtar Singh was entrusted with the task of organizing a unit of the ‘Akal Regiment’ in Gujranwala. He took a jathā of 700 volunteers to the first conference of the ‘Akal Regiment’ held (p.229) at Atari. In 1940, when the Muslim League raised the issue of Pakistan, Avtar Singh organized the Ghallughara Day in Gujranwala. His activities were disliked by the pro-Pakistan Muslims of the city. At their behest, a man named Sheru attacked Avtar Singh with a poisoned dagger and wounded him. Then he went to the shop of the Sikh butcher Dhian Singh with the intention of attacking him but a Nihang Singh killed Sheru. Avtar Singh died in hospital on 15 July. In his funeral procession many eminent leaders of the Akali Dal and the Punjab Congress were present. After the cremation, a dīwān was held in the premises of the local Singh Sabha. Later on, several Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim leaders of the city were

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In Search of Political Autonomy arrested. Among them was Giani Lal Singh who had become a sort of deputy (nā’ib) of Sardar Avtar Singh.12 In honour of ‘the martyr’ Avtar Singh, an Akali Conference was held at Kila Didar Singh in the Gujranwala district on 17 September 1940. Master Tara Singh in his presidential address referred to the late Sardar Avtar Singh as a close friend who had devoted his life to the service of the community and the country. Master Tara Singh underscored that the Akalis would never accept Pakistan. But the British Government might be inclined to accept it to please the Muslim League. The Congress might placate the Muslim League for its support in the struggle for freedom. If all these three forces came together, it would not be easy for the Sikhs to oppose them. But not to oppose the creation of Pakistan would be to commit suicide. Therefore, the only alternative open to the Sikhs was to build their own strength on the basis of unity, with the determination to make sacrifices. Master Tara Singh referred to the past when a handful of Sikhs had destroyed the Mughal Raj. Now four million Sikhs could surely stop the creation of Pakistan. The struggle was great but the Sikhs could repeat history if a few thousand Sikhs were willing to die for the cause. Master Tara Singh went on to say that independence was bound to come to India sooner or later, whether through a peaceful process or in chaos. What was vital to know was who would succeed the British in power and authority. The Muslim League had revolted against the Congress and demanded partition of the country with the support of the government. The Congress appeared to be keen to have the cooperation of the League at any cost, despite the promises given to the Sikhs in 1929. In August 1940, Rajagopalachari had made an offer of Prime Ministership to Jinnah to form a ministry of his choice. This showed that the Congress could give all sorts of concessions to the League to have its cooperation. The Congress leaders had, in fact, indicated that they would not oppose the League if it persisted in its demand. By conceding Pakistan the Congress would push the Sikhs into slavery. But the Sikhs, said Master Tara Singh, wanted freedom and not ‘a change of masters’. The Sikh alignment with the Congress did not mean that they had authorized the Congress to decide on their behalf. The Sikhs were with the Congress in its fight for freedom but they were not with the Congress for the creation of Pakistan. He declared: ‘we shall fight against Pakistan’. Master Tara Singh asserted that the Shiromani Akali Dal was the only representative organization of the Sikh Panth. He refers to the leaders of the Khalsa National Party as ‘Sikanderi Sikhs’. The Sikh Socialists did not subscribe to the Sikh faith or ethics. Sikhism was meant for the uplift of the poor, and the Sikhs could appreciate the objectives of the socialists and work for reducing or eliminating economic disparities. But they could not (p.230) make any compromise with atheism. The Sikh objectives were universal service and goodwill (upkār) but the socialists tended to go on the assumption that man lived Page 5 of 28

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In Search of Political Autonomy by bread alone. Master Tara Singh did not wish to go into detail of the doctrines of religion, but he felt impelled to underline that a person who regarded the five senses as the sole source of knowledge was a veritable fool. In any case, there was no place for atheism in the Sikh faith. Whenever some Sikhs asked Master Tara Singh whether they should remain in the Congress or leave it, he would tell them to be true Sikhs and to make all possible sacrifices for the Sikh faith. ‘I am a patriot’, he said, ‘because I am a Sikh’. Patriotism was built into the Sikh faith. He advised the Sikhs to join others in the service of the country (desh). In the fight for freedom they should be in the front. But if freedom comes through Pakistan they should be in the front to fight against it. ‘Freedom means freedom for all nationalities and freedom of conscience for all persons.’ Master Tara Singh underlined that the Sikhs could rely only on themselves and not on the Congress, the League, or the government. It was imperative for them to create power and to retain it in their own hands to be politically counted in the days to come. Thus, the issue of Pakistan made Master Tara Singh hostile to the idea of Pakistan and lukewarm towards the Congress due to its attitude towards the Pakistan issue. To build their own political strength was the only alternative for the Sikhs.

Master Tara Singh’s Estrangement from the Congress The Akali–Congress collaboration worked well for a few years before World War II. The Congress policy of no support for the war, in Master Tara Singh’s view, did not suit the interests of the Sikh community. His anxiety to safeguard Sikh interests during the war by supporting recruitment to the British Indian army eventually led to his resignation from the Punjab Congress Committee and the Congress Working Committee. However, he did not wish the Akali Dal to formally part company with the Congress. In his Merī Yād Master Tara Singh recalls that the Sikhs were opposed to the idea of recruitment in the beginning. At one or two places Sikh troops disobeyed orders and the British had begun to suspect the loyalty of the Sikhs of certain areas and villages. The Sikhs in general did not like the Sikh soldiers creating any kind of disturbance. When Master Tara Singh came to know that some Sikhs of the Central Indian Horse regiment had refused to embark a ship, he made an open declaration against this attitude. The senior army officers appointed a commission to enquire into the issue of loyalty among the Sikhs. It consisted of officers who were sympathetic to the Sikhs, and the commission reported in their favour. The doubts of the British authorities were removed. However, relations of the Akalis with the Premier, Sikander Hayat Khan, were not good and he was not in favour of encouraging the Sikhs to join the army, and if they did, they should do it through him so that the credit went to him (and not to Sikh or Akali leaders). Master Tara Singh did not wish to support Sikander in his war effort. But the government was keen to get Sikh support for recruitment. Having an inkling of Sikander Hayat Khan’s intentions, some Sikh leaders thought of

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In Search of Political Autonomy forming an organization called the Khalsa Defence of India League for changing the Sikh attitude against recruitment.13 On 10 July, Sikander Hayat Khan told the Punjab Governor that the Muslim League (p.231) Executive was inclined to support the government in the event of a world conflict not only in the interest of Great Britain but also in the interest of ‘Muslim India’. There was a general feeling among members of the League that an announcement by Sikander Hayat Khan, who was present in the meeting, would by itself make it clear to the British Government that they could rely on the support of the Muslims, and the Muslim League would not use the outbreak of war in a bargaining spirit.14 On 25 August Sikander Hayat Khan stated with reference to the coming war that there was ‘no room for vacillation or doubt’. He insisted that ‘we must unequivocally throw in our lot with the nations which stand for justice, righteousness and self-determination for all’. If unfortunately a war could not be avoided, ‘the Punjab will rise as one man to fight the enemies of peace and freedom’.15 Sikander Hayat Khan was pleased with the cordial response given by the Muslim press of the Punjab to his statement. He issued another statement on 13 September explaining the justice of ‘our cause’ and calling on the Punjab to demonstrate its sympathy for Great Britain to maintain the splendid traditions of the province as ‘the sword arm of India’.16 The Punjab Assembly approved of the policy of the Punjab Government in condemning the Fascist and Nazi aggression with all available resources of the province. The assembly desired that it should be made absolutely clear that the Constitution of India shall be examined all afresh at the end of the war ‘with a view to immediate attainment of the objective of Dominion Status with effective protection for the due rights of the minorities and other sections and in consultation with and agreement of all the parties concerned’.17 On 1 October, the Akali Dal passed a resolution, repudiating ‘the audacious claim’ of Sikander Hayat Khan to represent all the martial classes of the Punjab and declared that ‘the Sikhs had no faith in him’. Master Tara Singh sent to Craik a copy of his correspondence with Sikander Hayat Khan in September in which he had refused to meet Sikander Hayat Khan in connection with the war situation, writing bitterly of the ‘repression and oppression of the Sikhs’ by the Muslims under the Unionist Party’s regime.18 Master Tara Singh approached the Punjab Governor through Sir Jogendra Singh, who handed over to Craik a copy of the note which Master Tara Singh had left with the Governor General on 15 October, and told Craik that Master Tara Singh was very perturbed about the rumours regarding the possible curtailment of Sikh recruitment, but he was afraid to come into the open as an advocate of recruitment because his influence among the Akalis depended on his opposing the government consistently. Master Tara Singh wanted to see the Governor. Page 7 of 28

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In Search of Political Autonomy Craik was prepared to see Master Tara Singh. ‘If he does come to see me’, wrote Craik, ‘I will try to convince him that the communists, whom he detests, are doing infinite damage to Sikh interests and that it was his duty to oppose them openly.’19 Early in 1940, the Akalis were clearly in favour of recruitment. In a conversation with the Punjab Governor, Sardar Sant Singh (Member Central Legislature) talked about the general attitude of the Akalis about the recruitment of Sikhs to the army. With the exception of a few extremists, the Akalis were solid in favour of strengthening the Sikh connection with the army. The importance of the Sikh minority in their view depended largely on this connection. Sardar Sant Singh had the impression that if the Congress High (p.232) Command decided that it would be improper for the Akalis as supporters of the Congress to help in the prosecution of the war in any way, the Akalis would break with the Congress, with the exception of a small minority.20 With regard to disaffection amongst the Sikh troops, Craik observed in August 1940 that the Sikh community as a whole was ‘more politically minded’ than any other in the Punjab. A large number of Sikhs had gone abroad and they were well acquainted with political, social, and economic conditions of other countries. There was a regular intercourse between the Sikhs abroad and their relatives in the Punjab. There were two constant factors in the recent desertions. One of these was faulty recruitment due to faulty verification of the character of the person selected. The ring leader of the Central India Horse mutiny was the nephew of a well-known political agitator. The second factor was failure to eject subversive elements even after they were detected. A notorious example of this was that of Sadhu Singh, a Naik Reservist at Meerut; his name figured prominently in the investigations made into the Central India Horse mutiny and he was largely responsible later for the trouble in Egypt. Craik attributed disaffection amongst the Sikh troops to the propaganda carried on by the Communists, especially the Kirtī-Ghadarites and their centre at Meerut.21 As Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar, Penderel Moon thought that it was his duty to establish ‘friendly relations with Sikh political leaders and particularly with Master Tara Singh and other prominent Akalis’. The district of Amritsar was in the heart of the Sikh country and the city of Amritsar was the main religious and political centre of the Sikhs. It had the headquarters of the Akalis, ‘the most powerful Sikh political party, representing an extreme form of Sikh nationalism with a strongly anti-British bias’. They controlled the Golden Temple and ‘buzzed about the place like angry wasps’.22 Moon had come to the Punjab in the summer of 1940 because of a series of disquieting incidents among Sikh elements of the armed forces, culminating in April 1940 in the refusal of the Sikh squadron of the Central India Horse to embark at Bombay for the Middle East. ‘A considerable flutter had been caused Page 8 of 28

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In Search of Political Autonomy in Army Headquarters. There was some wild talk of disbanding all Sikh units; and, more seriously, a proposal was put forward to stop all further recruitment of Sikhs.’ The Punjab Government was strongly opposed to this drastic step. At Major Short’s own suggestion, he was appointed to probe and report on Sikh unrest in certain army units and in the principal Sikh districts. Later, a few officers were posted in the main areas of Sikh recruitment to try, in cooperation with the civil authorities, to allay Sikh unrest and to induce them to join the armed forces. Short was one of these civil liaison officers, with his base at Lahore.23 Moon underlines that the Sikhs held a favoured position in the army. But they could lose this position due to ‘misconduct’ of Sikh troops or ‘disaffection’ of the Sikh population. ‘This was a danger which no Sikh could overlook; and it was not lost upon the Akalis.’ However, it was not easy for them to perform a complete volte-face in view of their anti-British struggle and alignment with the Congress. Nevertheless, in order to safeguard Sikh position in the army, some of the Akali leaders were inclined to modify their attitude of opposition. Therefore, the circumstances were not unfavourable for a revival of Anglo-Sikh amity as a prelude to Sikh support for the war.24 Short’s immediate concern was (p.233) to restore Anglo-Sikh amity and to promote the largest possible measure of Sikh–Muslim rapprochement for rallying the maximum Sikh support for the war effort. On 9 August 1940, Master Tara Singh wrote a letter to Maulana Azad, the Congress President, with copies to Mahatma Gandhi, Rajendra Prasad, and Rajagopalachari. Master Tara Singh emphasized the importance of a strong and well-organized army for a nation. India, in his view, should not depend on British forces for its defence. Therefore, not only should the Indian component of the army be increased, but war materials and weapons should also be manufactured in India. This was the time to make India self-reliant. In the case of British defeat, India would have to face other enemies. It was necessary to prepare for such an eventuality. Master Tara Singh believed that the Sikhs should join the army in the largest possible numbers in the interests of the country as well as their own. Since the Congress was in favour of ‘conditional support’, Master Tara Singh wanted to know if he could make his views public. He wanted the advice of Mahatma Gandhi on this point as his views on non-violence were well known, and ‘his valuable advice’ was necessary in this critical situation.25 Mahatma Gandhi wrote to Master Tara Singh on 15 August 1940 that he had received a copy of his letter addressed to Maulana Sahib. The Mahatma’s anger is reflected in his ‘advice’ to Master Tara Singh that he had nothing in common with the Congress, nor the Congress with him. He went on to add:

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In Search of Political Autonomy You believe in the rule of the sword but this is not the conviction of the Congress. You think all the time of ‘my people’ but the Congress thinks there are no other people than the Nation. Your civil disobedience is a form of violence. My candid advice is that you are weakening your people by remaining in the Congress. And you weaken the Congress too by your mentality. Mahatma Gandhi said further that Master Tara Singh could offer his support for war without any condition and look to the British for the protection of the rights of his people. But he should not think for a moment that the British would welcome the offer of recruitment on his own terms. Finally, Mahatma Gandhi advised Master Tara Singh to be either completely a nationalist or a communalist, and if the latter, he would have to depend completely on the British. His letter ended with a rhetorical claim. This was, he said, ‘the frank view of a person who loves you and the Sikhs as much as he loves himself, in fact, more, because I have stopped loving myself’.26 Master Tara Singh responded to Mahatma Gandhi’s letter on 12 September 1940. To his surprise, the letter said nothing on the issue raised by Master Tara Singh. It gave suggestions altogether extraneous to the issue. Perhaps the fundamental differences between him and the Sikhs restrained him from offering a detailed answer. Therefore, Master Tara Singh would not like to persist on the matter. However, two things mentioned by Mahatma Gandhi called for comment. The Mahatma had said that Master Tara Singh had nothing in common with the Congress because he talked about his own people and did not think of the Indian Nation. Master Tara Singh was well aware of the ideal of Indian Nationalism but the Congress recognized the presence of religious communities, including the Sikhs, as political entities. Master Tara Singh pointed out that the Congress members of the Bengal Legislative Assembly had voted in favour of a resolution doing away with the distinction between martial and non-martial races, and recruitment was now being done on the (p.234) basis of that resolution. Therefore, the issue raised by Master Tara Singh did not imply any opposition to the Congress. Indeed, the Congress was there before the Mahatma’s policy of non-violence, and the Congress would be there when the policy of non-violence would not be there any more. The objective of the Congress was ‘complete independence’ and non-violence was the means adopted for attaining that objective. Master Tara Singh had met no Congressman in the Punjab who had the same conception of non-violence as the Mahatma. No one believed that an independent state could be maintained without an army and police. The Congress view of the use of violence or non-violence was the same as that of the Sikhs. Master Tara Singh was proud of being a Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh who had proclaimed that it was legitimate to take to the sword when all other means fail. ‘No use of violence in any situation whatever’ was not the creed of the Congress. Master Tara Singh wished to be forgiven for saying that

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In Search of Political Autonomy the Mahatma was not ‘a good Congressman’. As for his advice to be wholly a nationalist or wholly a communalist, Master Tara Singh wrote: You may use any word you like for me. I do not care. I am clearly the same person as I was in 1929 when you had recognized the existence of Sikhs as a distinct community and given them the assurance that the Congress would not accept any arrangement unsatisfactory to the Sikhs. If you have changed your mind, I am not obliged to conceal the truth. I am as much a communalist and a Congressman today as I was in 1929. Master Tara Singh was personally there when the resolution of 1929 was drafted in the presence of Mahatma Gandhi.27 The Punjab Governor was looking forward to a rupture between the Congress and the Akalis. He wrote to the Governor General on 27 August 1940 that Gandhi had given a ‘very outspoken reply’ to Master Tara Singh and it was difficult to see ‘how the Akalis, whose declared policy is now to maintain and strengthen the Sikh connection with the Army, can remain within the Congress fold’.28 Within a fortnight, the Punjab Governor received a letter from an Amritsar journalist, G.R. Sethi, that Master Tara Singh had resigned from the All India and Provincial Congress Committees. Sethi had enclosed copies of the letters exchanged between Master Tara Singh and Mahatma Gandhi.29 Master Tara Singh had written to the President of the Punjab Provincial Congress Committee on 10 September 1940 that he was resigning in protest. He had written a letter to Maulana Azad with copies to Mahatma Gandhi, Rajendra Prasad, and Rajagopalachari. As Master Tara Singh thought that his attitude might not be quite consistent with the policy of the Congress, he did not want to make his views public against the advice of the Congress High Command. He received a reply only from Mahatma Gandhi who said nothing on the advice which had been sought but gave an ‘astounding advice’ of his own. The purport of the letter leaked out and got publicity in the press in a form far worse than it really was. Therefore, Master Tara Singh wrote to Mahatma Gandhi to publish his letter. With his permission, Master Tara Singh released the correspondence between them.30 In his letter to the President of the Punjab Provincial Congress Committee, Master Tara Singh refers to an incorrect news published in the press which he immediately contradicted. But on the basis of the incorrect news, Maulana Azad wrote to the President of the Punjab Congress to make enquiries from Master Tara Singh. The President was (p.235) satisfied that the news was false but Maulana Azad gave a statement to the press on the basis of the false news that he had asked for Master Tara Singh’s explanation. He reacted strongly: ‘It is hard for me to put up with such a statement. I am not accustomed to it. I, therefore, resign from all positions where Maulana Sahib can have any control.’ Page 11 of 28

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In Search of Political Autonomy Master Tara Singh did not wish to remain in a position in which Maulana Azad could insult him again. His resignation from the Punjab Provincial Congress Committee and the All India Congress Committee was based ‘purely upon personal grounds’. He advised his friends to carry on with their duties in the Congress.31 The Working Committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal held a special meeting at Amritsar on 28 September 1940 and discussed the correspondence between Master Tara Singh and Mahatma Gandhi for six hours. It was resolved that the Working Committee fully supported the views of Master Tara Singh regarding the defence of the country and expressed its unhappiness and anger over the inappropriate (nā-munāsib) remarks of Mahatma Gandhi about the Sikhs. Present in the meeting from amongst its regular members were Jathedar Teja Singh Akarpuri (President), Master Tara Singh, Giani Kartar Singh, Ishar Singh Majhail, and Sohan Singh Jalal-Usman. Among the special invitees were Partap Singh Kairon (MLA and General Secretary, Punjab Congress), Baldev Singh (MLA), Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir, and Darshan Singh Pheruman.32 In a note published in the Harijan, Mahatma Gandhi stated that the remarks in his letter to Master Tara Singh were applicable to him personally and to those whom he represented. With reference to this note, Master Tara Singh pointed out on the 1st of October 1940 that there was nothing in Mahatma Gandhi’s letter in support of his clarification. Even in the clarification given now he included those whom Master Tara Singh represented. This virtually meant all the Sikhs. With reference to Mahatma Gandhi’s statement that ‘civil disobedience’ for the Sikhs was a branch of their creed of violence, Master Tara Singh said that he looked upon peaceful agitation as a matter of policy and not as a principle. This was the faith of all the Sikhs. ‘Anyone who does not hold this conviction cannot remain a Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh.’ With reference to Mahatma Gandhi’s statement that the Congress had taken the pledge to remain peaceful, Master Tara Singh had ‘no problem with this policy’, provided it remained confined to the fight against the British for our rights and it was not extended to the other walks of life.33 In this correspondence, Master Tara Singh makes his position very clear. He was no longer personally bound by the Congress policy of conditional cooperation with the British in the war. It was virtually a declaration that the Akali alignment with the Congress did not mean subordination to the Congress. The Shiromani Akali Dal was a political party in its own right, with the right to adopt and follow an independent policy. But this was not a new position adopted by Master Tara Singh. It was a consistent practice of the Shiromani Akali Dal since 1920. After Master Tara Singh’s resignation from the AICC and the PPC on 10 September 1940, Craik observed that there was considerable division among the Akalis on whether or not to follow the example of their leader, but they all Page 12 of 28

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In Search of Political Autonomy tended to agree that everything possible must be done to maintain and encourage Sikh recruitment. In these circumstances it was not easy to see how a final rupture with the Congress could be long delayed.34 To his (p.236) regret, Craik’s hope of rupture of the Akalis with the Congress was never realized. The Akalis managed to ‘sail in two boats’. They promoted Sikh recruitment but they did not formally break with the Congress. The Khalsa Defence of India League was formed on 19 January 1941. It was generally known that Master Tara Singh and Giani Kartar Singh had encouraged its formation. However, the President of the Akali Dal made a statement that the Akali Dal was not participating in the newly formed League. Craik drew the inference that Master Tara Singh and his party ‘will not have the courage openly to support the league’. It was clear that so long as the Akalis refused to associate themselves with the League, it was unlikely to have any great measure of success.35 However, at the end of the month he remarked that the League was really beginning to have some effect on Jatt–Sikh recruitment. Six or seven paid propagandists (parchāraks) had been supplied by Master Tara Singh and his friends to preach recruitment in villages and their speeches were having a good effect.36 On 17 March 1941, Sardar Ujjal Singh, a Parliamentary Secretary, told the Punjab Governor that the Khalsa Defence of India League was distrusted by the Khalsa National Party of Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia because they believed that it was too much in the hands of the Akalis who supplied the parchāraks and controlled the disbursement of funds supplied by the Maharaja of Patiala.37 Towards the end of April, Sir Bertrand Glancy observed that though Patiala was the central figure in the Khalsa Defence of India League, it was doubtful whether he would succeed in taming the Akalis.38 After the middle of June, Glancy wrote that the Khalsa Defence League was genuinely interested in promoting recruitment. Akali influences were a little too strong in the League but the Akalis realized that a decline in the Sikh military quota would result in a serious setback to the community.39 In October 1941, Glancy expressed his satisfaction with recruitment and remarked that the Akalis were careful to avoid coming into the open in helping to promote war activities but they were nonetheless keen to maintain the Sikh proportion in the army.40

The Cripps Mission Master Tara Singh makes a very short statement on the Cripps Mission, highlighting its most salient features from his viewpoint. Cripps came to India on behalf of the British Government with the message of freedom. His proposal, in a nutshell, was that India would be set free after the war and the provinces with Muslim majority would have the right to separate from India if they so desired. Thus, the whole of the Punjab was to become a part of Pakistan. ‘We were greatly perturbed when Cripps revealed the plan. We discussed the matter with all the Sikh leaders present in Delhi and came to the conclusion that we should Page 13 of 28

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In Search of Political Autonomy ask for separation of those areas in which non-Muslims were in majority. We rejected the proposal of Sir Cripps.’41 Lord Linlithgow had drawn the attention of the Punjab Governor, Sir Bertrand Glancy, on 3 March 1942 to two key points in the first draft of ‘Cripps Offer’: (a) that India will be promised the right to secede after the drafting of the new Constitution, and (b) that the provinces will have the option to accede or not to accede. Glancy expressed his concern that the ‘Cripps Offer’ would intensify bitterness between Muslims and Sikhs, and that the Muslim League was likely to gain great strength in the Punjab. The (p.237) Muslims of the province were not likely to be in favour of accession to India and, given its religious composition, internal trouble in the Punjab would be unavoidable. Only a day later he observed that the relations between Muslims and Sikhs were becoming more and more strained and their mutual mistrust was growing. With reference to a telegram of the Governor General dated 16 March, Glancy suggested the names of Master Tara Singh, Sir Jogendra Singh, and Sardar Kirpal Singh Majithia to meet Cripps.42 Sir Stafford Cripps arrived in Delhi on 23 March 1942 and began his talks with the Viceroy, the members of the Executive Council, high officials, and political leaders of all the main parties and communities. The draft declaration for discussion with Indian leaders was published on 30 March. It stated: ‘Immediately upon the cessation of hostilities steps shall be taken to set up in India, in the manner described hereafter, an elected body charged with the task of framing a new constitution for India.’ This Constitution-making body was to include representatives of the Indian states. His Majesty’s Government undertook ‘to accept and implement forthwith the constitution so framed’ but subject to the right of any province of British India to retain its present constitutional position with the provision for its subsequent accession if it so decided. The non-acceding provinces could have an agreed-upon new Constitution, giving them the same status as for the Indian Union. Furthermore, a treaty was to be negotiated between His Majesty’s Government and the Constitution-making body to cover all necessary matters arising out of the complete transfer of responsibility from British to Indian hands including ‘the protection of racial and religious minorities’. So far as it might be required in the new Constitution, an Indian state would have to revise its treaty arrangements. The Constitution-making body was to be elected by an electoral college consisting of members elected to the lower houses of the Provincial Legislatures after the war. The Indian states were to be invited to appoint representatives in the same proportion to their total population as in the case of the representatives of British India as a whole. Until the new Constitution was framed, His Majesty’s Government was to bear the responsibility for control and direction of the defence of India through the Government of India with the

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In Search of Political Autonomy cooperation of the peoples of India.43 Creation of more than one independent state was acceptable to the British Government. On 24 March 1942, Cripps had an interview with the Punjab Governor, who was anxious about Sikh–Muslim relations in the province. In his view, ‘the Sikh was troublesome anyway’. On a hint of secession the Sikhs would concentrate on getting ready to fight the Muslims and ‘this would diminish their contribution to the war effort’. But if the Sikhs and the Muslims agreed on the scheme, hardly any trouble was likely to arise.44 Cripps met Master Tara Singh, Sardar Baldev Singh, Sir Jogendra Singh, and Sardar Ujjal Singh on 27 March 1942 and explained the ‘offer’. They raised the question of protection for the Sikh minority and the possibility of carving out a province in which the Sikhs would have a decisive voice ‘as a balancing party between Hindus and Muslims’. Cripps went through the document again to explain the successive stages at which the Sikhs could exert pressure ‘either to remain part of the single Indian Union or to get some provincial autonomy within the second Union if such was formed’. The explanation given by Cripps had many ifs and buts. The Sikh (p.238) leaders were anxious to avoid the setting up of a second dominion but, if it were to be set up, to cut out an autonomous area for themselves. Cripps assured them that the matter of protection to the Sikhs had been particularly discussed in the War Cabinet ‘because of our very great appreciation of the contribution that the Sikhs had made in the past and were making now to the defence of India’. Cripps thought that the Sikh delegates were fully convinced of the British goodwill.45 Actually, Master Tara Singh was ‘extremely upset’ over the scheme propounded by Cripps. The whole question of the treatment of minorities was ‘much too vague’. The only thing that could satisfy the Sikhs was to divide the Punjab to create a separate province. The Sikhs would never tolerate ‘Muhammadan rule’ in any form.46 On 31 March 1942, Cripps had an interview with Sardar Dasaundha Singh and Sardar Naunihal Singh Mann as representatives of the Khalsa Defence of India League. They were not satisfied with the possible safeguards suggested by Cripps, and they were anxious ‘to have carved out a special Sikh area where there could be a plebiscite to decide as to whether they should join the first or the second union in the event of there being two unions’.47 On the same day, Cripps had an interview with the ‘Akali Sikhs’. They stated that they did not approve of the scheme; it did not give them sufficient protection. They expressed the view that they would like a special area in which vote could be taken to decide whether they should join the first or the second Union. Cripps promised to bear this matter in mind and mention it to Jinnah at some stage.48

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In Search of Political Autonomy The Sikh All-Parties Committee’s letter for Cripps (handed over by the ‘Akali Sikhs’ on 31 March) was signed by Baldev Singh (as President), Master Tara Singh, Jogendra Singh, Ujjal Singh, and Mohan Singh (ex-Advisor to the Secretary of State for India), with a note on the position of the Sikhs in the Punjab. The Sikh leaders pointed out that the proposals put forth by Cripps provided for separation of provinces instead of maintaining India’s integrity and betrayed the cause of the Sikh community. As an alternative, the Punjab province could be reorganized to reduce the proportion of Muslims in the total population. In other words, instead of tagging more than 40 per cent of Sikhs and Hindus to the Punjab as a part of Pakistan, the Muslim proportion in its population could be reduced in a reorganized Punjab as a part of united India. The territories to be excluded were the trans-Jhelum area and the districts of Multan and Jhang, which, it was stated, did not belong to the Punjab proper before the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It was added that the Sikhs had lost all hopes of receiving any consideration and that separation of the Punjab from all India Union shall be resisted by all possible means: India could not be left ‘at the mercy of those who disown it’.49 The note appended to the letter underlined the importance of the Sikhs as a distinct community. They had played a vital role in the economic and civic life of the country and its defence but had been progressively deprived of its due share since the Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms. The only way of protecting their interests was to keep India united and the Punjab province divided into two with the River Ravi forming roughly the boundary between the two. The province to the west of the Ravi would have more than 77 per cent Muslims and to the east it would have 37 per cent Muslims. The Sikhs would certainly not submit to the domination of a community which was bent upon breaking the unity (p.239) of India. Furthermore, ten safeguards were listed in addition to the formation of a new province, relating to weightage, Provincial Cabinet, representation in the Central Legislature and the Central Cabinet, a Defence Advisory Committee, the Defence Forces of India, Provincial and All-India Services, religious laws of the Sikhs, their religious rights, and the Gurmukhi script.50 Glancy wrote to Linlithgow that the Sikhs were still restive, though ‘undoubtedly relieved’ by the rejection of the offer brought by Cripps. Master Tara Singh and other Akali leaders were talking of the danger of the Sikhs being subjected to ‘Muhammadan rule’ in the Punjab. Glancy felt that they would derive comfort from ‘the sympathetic references made to Sikhs’ in the recent debates in Parliament. He hoped, however, that these expressions of sympathy would not lead the Sikhs to believe that ‘Khalistan’ was a practical proposition. Glancy was aware of ‘the practical objections’ to Khalistan even more than to Pakistan. There was not a single district in the Punjab in which the Sikhs were in majority. The obvious course for them to pursue was to seek a satisfactory basis for combining with the majority community in the province.51 Page 16 of 28

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In Search of Political Autonomy On 1 May, Master Tara Singh thanked Sir Stafford Cripps for his ‘sweet words’ in the House of Commons on 28 April in which he had appreciated the services of the Sikhs and admitted that promises given to minorities had not been kept, except in case of the Muslims. Master Tara Singh asked: ‘Why should premium be put upon secession from India?’ The Hindus and Sikhs of the Punjab did not want to go out of India. Why should they ‘be forced to go out’? It was unreasonable to allow the majority in one part of the province to take with them the majority of the other part. The right to secede from India was not the way to protect the Sikhs. A big province could certainly be carved out in which the Sikhs were not dominated by any single community.52 Master Tara Singh was not asking for a Sikh state. Three days later, Master Tara Singh wrote to Cripps again that if the British Government was prepared to accept the Sikh proposal, there was a likelihood of reaching the final solution to the communal problem. Master Tara Singh could persuade the Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha to agree to the solution proposed. The only party to object to the division of the Punjab as proposed would be the Muslim League. Master Tara Singh hoped that Cripps and the Secretary of State, Amery, would stand by the Sikhs to save the major portion of the community from the domination of any single community.53 Cripps responded to this appeal on 10 July, but only to reiterate that the British Government and the British people had ‘the most kindly and grateful feelings’ towards the Sikhs.54

Sikander–Baldev Singh Pact Master Tara Singh says in his Merī Yād that the Akali Dal expressed its views for Sikander Hayat Khan’s consideration. The differences between the two sides were both political and communal. The political differences could not be resolved but something could be done about communal differences. The Akalis were bitterly opposed to his anti-Sikh measures. The Sikhs could be appeased by putting an end to such communal policies and measures. After the discussions, the following decisions were taken: (a) the Akali members of the Punjab Legislative Assembly would continue to sit with the Congress in opposition to the Unionists and would be perfectly (p.240) free to oppose Sikander Hayat Khan and his party, (b) there would be no restriction whatever on the use of jhatkā meat in government places and institutions, (c) no new legislation would be enacted without the consent of the Sikh Minister, (d) adequate arrangements would be made for the teaching of Punjabi in Gurmukhi script in government schools, and (e) preference would be given to the views of the Sikh Minister in all matters connected with the Sikhs. After the agreement on these terms it was decided that no Akali MLA would become a Minister because the Akalis were aligned with the Congress. Sardar Baldev Singh, who had not been elected on the Congress ticket, or with the help of the Congress, was acceptable to the Akalis. Therefore, he could take the place of Sardar Dasaundha Singh as the Sikh Minister. This was agreed to.55 This agreement, called the Sikander–Baldev Page 17 of 28

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In Search of Political Autonomy Singh Pact, was entered into in June 1942. Its background can be traced to January 1941. The Executive Committee of the Shiromani Akai Dal had passed a resolution on 26 January 1941 to invite proposals for resolutions by 7 February for an All-India Akali Conference to be held at Rurka Kalan in the Jullundur district. A subcommittee was appointed on 9 February to look into the proposed gurmatās. The SGPC was requested to provide guidance in certain matters which were the cause of great restlessness among the Sikhs. These matters related to the policy of the government with regard to the use of Punjabi language and Gurmukhi script, free use of meat prepared in Muslim fashion in government institutions, ban on the use of jhatkā meat, undue restrictions on the Sikh religious procession in Sargodha, unjust action against those who had taken out a procession as a matter of right, the threat of Pakistan being created, and decline of Sikh spirit in the rulers of the Sikh states.56 After the All-India Akali Conference at Rurka during 15–16 February 1941, a General Meeting of the SGPC was held on 22 February. Master Tara Singh, President of the SGPC, sent copies of the resolutions passed at the Conference and the General Meeting to the Punjab Governor, underlining that the Punjab Government had persistently followed a narrow-minded policy in the past four years, and expecting that the government would desist from taking steps ‘to weaken the position of the Sikhs and specially from attacking their religion, culture and honour’. The Governor was empowered by the Government of India Act of 1935 to protect the minority communities, especially their religion and culture. Therefore, Master Tara Singh appealed to the Governor on behalf of the Sikh community to see that the perfectly reasonable and moderate demands of the Sikhs were met by the 1st of April 1941. The first demand in the resolution of the SGPC, which supported the demands of the All-India Akali Conference, was unconditional withdrawal of cases against the Sikhs at Sargodha. The second demand was to establish a convention that legislation affecting the religious matters of any community would be enacted by an absolute majority of that community alone; and concurrence of the SGPC should be deemed essential for any legislation affecting the management of gurdwaras. The third demand related to special facilities, including budget provision, to be afforded for popularizing and teaching the Punjabi language. Amendment of the compulsory Primary Education Bill was the fourth demand, so that teaching of Gurmukhi (Punjabi) and Hindi could be provided in all public schools where at least seven students desired it. The fifth demand was the removal (p.241) of restrictions on the use of jhatkā meat within the precincts of public institutions with the same facilities as were given for the halāl meat. The last demand was to exempt from taxation property belonging to all religious, educational, and charitable institutions. On 3 March 1941, Craik wrote to Linlithgow that he proposed to

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In Search of Political Autonomy discuss the situation with Master Tara Singh, possibly in the presence of Sikander Hayat Khan.57 Craik met Sikander Hayat Khan on 4 March 1941 and discussed the ‘ultimatum’ received from the SGPC. Sikander Hayat Khan agreed to a meeting with Master Tara Singh.58 On 16 March, the Punjab Governor and the Punjab Premier held a long conversation with Master Tara Singh and went through all the demands one by one. Sikander Hayat Khan was firm on the first point: the cases against the offenders could be withdrawn only if they apologized. The local Sikhs were prepared to do so. Craik got the impression that Master Tara Singh was not really keen to start any campaign of direct action; he seemed rather anxious to prolong the negotiations. After the discussion of all the demands Craik advised Master Tara Singh in the interest of the Sikhs themselves that they should concentrate all their efforts ‘at the present moment on maintaining and strengthening their connection with the Army’. Master Tara Singh was inclined to agree with the Governor that ‘both the economic and political importance of the Sikhs as a minority community depended almost entirely on their connection with the Army’.59 Master Tara Singh’s view of what happened in Sargodha was quite different. He says that the Deputy Commissioner of Sargodha encouraged the Muslims to obstruct the procession on the occasion of the Gurpurb in order to demoralize the Sikhs. The Muslims were at fault but the Sikhs were arrested. The Panth was agitated all the more, and the Shiromani Akali Dal decided to launch a morchā. Master Tara Singh was to lead a jathā to Sargodha. The British authorities intervened. They had become convinced of the undue interference by the Deputy Commissioner. He was transferred from Sargodha, and the Sikh prisoners were released. Master Tara Singh could not say that the Muslims were incited by Sir Sikander Hayat Khan but he was ‘convinced that Muslim officers were affected by Sir Sikander Hayat Khan’s habit of referring to his government as “Muslim government” in ordinary conversations’.60 The Deputy Commissioner of Sargodha was one such officer. Master Tara Singh was not satisfied with the response of Sikander Hayat Khan to the Sikh demands. Indeed, on 24 March 1941 the Akali leaders met at Amritsar and decided to resort to direct action unless the Punjab Government (a) unconditionally released the Sikhs arrested in Sargodha in connection with the incident of 4 January 1941, and (b) established a convention that legislation affecting the religious affairs of a community was left to the members of the Legislative Assembly representing that particular community. On 27 March, Sikander Hayat Khan made a statement in the assembly expressing his readiness to promote the establishment of a convention regarding ‘religious’ legislation on the lines demanded by the Sikhs. With regard to the arrests in Sargodha, he reiterated the stand he had taken on 16 March. Meanwhile, a deputation of the local Sikhs had waited on the District Magistrate of Sargodha to express their Page 19 of 28

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In Search of Political Autonomy regret and give the required assurance. The orders of prosecution were withdrawn and the accused persons were released. Master Tara Singh regarded this as a victory of the Akalis.61 (p.242) The statement made by Sikander Hayat Khan in the assembly was drafted ‘in part’ by Craik. He felt happy over the management of this business by Sikander Hayat Khan with considerable skill, avoiding the appearance of giving in to threats of direct action. The District Magistrate who happened to be Muslim had passed ‘a somewhat hasty and indiscreet order’ which was the source of trouble. But Craik would have preferred to insist on an expression of regret by the Sikhs concerned and not by the local Sikh leaders. However, he did not want to leave the situation unresolved on the eve of his departure from the Punjab on 7 April 1941.62 Craik’s close alignment with the Premier and his support to the Unionist Ministry come out clearly from his reports, even though he was aware of its Muslim bias. Sir Sunder Singh Majithia died early in April 1941. According to the new Governor, Sir Bertrand Glancy, Sikander Hayat Khan wanted to have a loyalist Sikh in his place. There was no candidate of outstanding merit, and the choice fell on Sardar Dasaundha Singh, who was a Jatt Sikh ‘loyal to the Punjab Government’. His appointment was reasonably well received but there was little enthusiasm.63 According to Master Tara Singh, Sardar Dasaundha Singh was expected to dance to the tune of Sikander Hayat Khan who could thereby promote Muslim rule (musalmānī rāj) and enhance his prestige. For this purpose he could not have a more suitable person than Dasaundha Singh who had no Sikh legislator or Sikh public figure in his support. Dasaundha Singh soon earned an unenviable name for himself and became the butt of jokes in social gatherings. The Unionist Party, in turn, suffered in terms of reputation. Whereas Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia had the Chief Khalsa Diwan and a number of public figures behind him, Dasaundha Singh had only Sikander Hayat Khan. The Akali Dal gained strength in this situation. Sikander Hayat Khan was now inclined to get rid of Dasaundha Singh. The British authorities were not happy with a Sikh Minister who had no influence over the Sikhs. The army authorities were in favour of rapprochement between the Akalis and Sikander Hayat Khan. In this situation, Sikander Hayat Khan thought of coming to some kind of an agreement with the Akalis.64 For the appointment of a Sikh representative on the National Defence Council in July 1941, the Governor considered four possible persons: Sir Jogendra Singh, Sardar Baldev Singh, Master Tara Singh, and Sardar Naunihal Singh Mann. Sikander Hayat Khan was not in favour of Sir Jogendra Singh who was a ‘superficial idealist’. He was definitely opposed to Master Tara Singh who was disliked by the Sikh gentry, which was almost exclusively Jatt. As ‘an Arora Sikh’ he was not likely to promote recruitment among the Jatt Sikhs. He commanded Page 20 of 28

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In Search of Political Autonomy considerable influence among the Sikh masses, but his appointment would be open to serious objection from ‘the political point of view’. Sikander Hayat Khan considered Sardar Naunihal Singh Mann to be the best choice as a Jatt Sikh who was the head of a well-known family of Shiekhupura with considerable influence in his district. Sikander Hayat Khan’s second choice was Sardar Baldev Singh, who was a ‘big’ contractor. His father had earned ‘very large profits as a result of the war’. He was closely associated with the Akalis, who depended on him for considerable financial support. However, his appointment to the Defence Council would not be appropriate because he happened to be a fairly large contractor.65 Sardar Naunihal (p.243) Singh Mann was eventually appointed to the National Defence Council. Under pressure from Jinnah, Sikander Hayat Khan decided to sever his connection with the National Defence Council. His ‘unexpected surrender to the dictation of Jinnah’ created the impression that the Unionist Party was not likely to remain ascendant if it became tied to the wheels of the Muslim League chariot. The Unionists were keen that the seat left vacant by Sir Sunder Singh in the Sikh constituency of Batala in the Gurdaspur district should be filled by his son, Sardar Kirpal Singh. The Akalis looked upon the Batala seat as the most prestigious one, and they strained every nerve to win the contest. They mobilized their forces on a large scale and there was ‘a good deal of hooliganism and intimidation’. The Akali candidate won by a margin of about 1,000 votes. The Akalis regarded this triumph as an ‘indication of their ascendancy among the Sikh community’. They set up a committee now to get their grievances redressed.66 The Akalis were loud in denouncing the Unionist Government which appeared to be determined on abusing the Sikhs at every opportunity. Besides the problem of jhatkā, there was the denial of their fair share in the public services, noninclusion of a Sikh member in the enlarged Executive Council of the Viceroy, and the appointment of a weak leader like Dasaundha Singh as a member of the Punjab Cabinet. On the last point, Glancy himself sincerely wished that ‘a more effective successor to the late Sir Sunder Singh Majithia had been put forward’. There was a talk of liquidating his Khalsa National Party. More significantly, there was a feeling among the Sikhs that they had made a mistake in aligning with the Congress and opposing Sikh recruitment to the army. They should not allow their ‘political identity’ to be submerged. They should be good friends with the British as ‘an impartial umpire’. They suggested that ‘if Sikander would openly abandon the Pakistan theory, and if a Sikh Minister who is truly representative of the Khalsa could be appointed to the Cabinet, then all distrust would happily disappear’. Glancy got the impression that the Sikhs were growing more and more uneasy and wished to move in some direction or other to ensure their survival.67

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In Search of Political Autonomy Glancy wrote to Linlithgow on 1 May 1942 that the obvious course for the Sikhs to pursue was to seek a satisfactory basis for aligning with the Muslim majority in the province. Already the name of Sardar Baldev Singh had met the approval of Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, and it was persistently mentioned for inclusion in the Punjab Cabinet. Master Tara Singh was in favour of a compromise and would like to take credit for services rendered to the community. Glancy thought it was better to strengthen the position of a new Sikh Minister as a unifying factor ‘rather than to let him dance to the tune of an outside party directorate’. Baldev Singh could be a fairly good representative of the Sikhs, without the tag of the Khalsa National Party. Before the end of May, Baldev Singh was in Tatanagar to ask for his father’s consent for joining the Cabinet on the basis of the compromise being worked out with the blessings of Master Tara Singh and Giani Kartar Singh.68 Sir Sikander Hayat Khan announced at a press conference on 15 June 1942 the terms of his pact with Sardar Baldev Singh as leader of the United Punjab Party. On the issue of jhatkā, it was announced that every community should be free to cook and use meat slaughtered according to their own rites in all government institutions where separate (p.244) kitchens existed or could be provided for Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. Teaching of Punjabi in Gurmukhi script as the second language was to be introduced as soon as possible in accordance with a formula that shall apply to all communities alike. In matters concerned exclusively with a particular community, that community alone shall have the right to decide whether or not to proceed with it when it came before the House; it would be left to the members of the community to take a decision at all stages of such legislation. For recruitment to the Services, there was already a proportion fixed for each Minister to ensure that there was no departure from this formula. The Premier assured Baldev Singh that he would support the Sikh claim for due share in the Central Services.69 Sardar Dasaundha Singh resigned gracefully to make room for Sardar Baldev Singh, who took his seat in the cabinet as Development Minister before the end of June 1942. On 26 July, Glancy wrote to Linlithgow that the Sikhs generally were better disposed towards the government now as a result of the Sikander– Baldev Singh Pact and the appointment of Sir Jogendra Singh to the expanded council. Several Sikh leaders had made speeches that were favourable to the government. There were gratifying signs that the Congress proposals had been criticized in Sikh newspapers of the Punjab. Indeed, ‘the bond between the Akalis and the Congress is not as strong as it was, and Gandhi can certainly not rely on any general Sikh support in the early stages of a mass movement’.70 Linlithgow wrote to Glancy in November that he was glad to know that Baldev Singh was settling down, and added: ‘I have always attached very great importance to the Sikander–Baldev Singh pact, and hope sincerely that it will continue to pay a good dividend.’71 Page 22 of 28

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In Search of Political Autonomy In Retrospect On 9 August 1940, Master Tara Singh had already asked the Congress President, Maulana Azad, whether or not he could make his view public that he was in favour of making India self-reliant in terms of men, war materials, and weapons in the larger interests of the country and the Sikhs. The more the army was ‘Indianized’, the more would it be helpful in case India was invaded by a foreign power and in a situation of political chaos. Copies of this letter were sent to Mahatma Gandhi, Rajendra Prasad, and Rajagopalachari. Mahatma Gandhi accused Master Tara Singh that he believed in the rule of the sword and thought of ‘my people’ but not of the nation. His mentality weakened the Congress and he weakened his own people by remaining in the Congress. He should be either completely a ‘nationalist’ or a ‘communalist’. Master Tara Singh said in response that he had no doubt that the Congress subscribed to the ideal of Indian Nationalism, but it did recognize the presence of religious communities and minorities as well. Mahatma Gandhi himself had recognized the existence of the Sikhs as a distinct community. In 1929, he had reassured the Sikhs and the Muslims that no constitution would be adopted without their consent. Mahatma Gandhi’s advice that Master Tara Singh should be either completely a nationalist or a communalist reflected a change in the political outlook of the Congress in which ‘communalism’ had come to mean the opposite of nationalism, making the two mutually exclusive. On the question of non-violence, Master Tara Singh said that non-violence for the Congress was the means for attaining complete independence. No one believed that an independent (p.245) state could exist without an army and a police. Not only Master Tara Singh but every Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh believed that it was legitimate to take up the sword when all peaceful means failed. The Working Committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal fully supported the views of Master Tara Singh regarding the defence of the country. Mahatma Gandhi clarified in the Harijan that his remarks were applicable to Master Tara Singh personally and to those whom he represented. Master Tara Singh gave a public statement on the 1st of October that there was nothing in the Mahatma’s letter to support his clarification, and his note reinforced the impression that he was talking of all the Akalis. Master Tara Singh maintained that his resignation from the Punjab Provincial Congress Committee and the All India Congress Committee was based ‘purely upon personal grounds’, and he advised ‘his friends’ to carry on with their duties in the Congress. Within four months of the estrangement between Master Tara Singh and Mahatma Gandhi the Khalsa Defence of India League was formed under the leadership of the Maharaja of Patiala in January 1941. It was supported quietly by Master Tara Singh and Giani Kartar Singh. In October 1941, the Punjab Governor expressed his satisfaction with the recruitment of the Sikhs from the province.

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In Search of Political Autonomy In March 1942, Sir Stafford Cripps met Master Tara Singh with some other Sikh leaders and told them that the War Cabinet had ‘very great appreciation of the contribution that the Sikhs had made in the past and were making now to the defence of India’. But Master Tara Singh was ‘extremely upset’ over the scheme propounded by Cripps in which partition of India was accepted in principle. In that case, Master Tara Singh wanted the Punjab to be divided so that the Sikhs could become free from ‘Muhammadan rule’. The Cripps Mission failed but the Sikhs remained seriously perturbed over the possibility that they could be placed under perpetual Muslim domination. The Akalis had a number of grievances against the Unionist Government headed by Sikander Hayat Khan. However, the Punjab Governor was keen to work out some sort of rapprochement between the Akalis and the Unionists. On the initiative of the Punjab Governor, the Akalis put forward their views and Sikander Hayat Khan agreed on a number of points. The agreement was given a tangible shape in the Sikander–Baldev Singh Pact of 1942. Baldev Singh replaced Dasaundha Singh as the Sikh Minister in the Unionist Ministry. He did not join the Cabinet as an Akali but as the leader of the United Punjab Party in the Legislature. Penderel Moon saw in the pact a potential for communal rapprochement in the Punjab and even in India. However, Sikander Hayat Khan was only half hearted and Master Tara Singh was clear that this pact could not resolve the political differences between the Akalis and the Unionists. The Akalis did not sever their connection with the Congress but tried to follow an independent policy to acquire a sort of political autonomy. Notes:

(1.) Peter Clarke, The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire (London: Penguin Books, 2007), pp. 5–6. (2.) Sumit Sarkar, Modern India 1885–1947 (Madras: Macmillan, 1995, reprint), pp. 385–6. (3.) Sarkar, Modern India, pp. 386–8. (4.) Sarkar, Modern India, p. 381. (5.) Satya M. Rai, Legislative Politics and Freedom Struggle in the Panjab 1897– 1947 (New Delhi: ICHR, 1984), pp. 266–7. (6.) K.L. Tuteja, Sikh Politics (1920–40) (Kurukshetra: Vishal Publications, 1984), pp. 192–3, 206 n. 157. (7.) Sukhmani Bal Riar, The Politics of the Sikhs 1940–47 (Chandigarh: Unistar, 2006), pp. 53–7.

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In Search of Political Autonomy (8.) Craik to Linlithgow, 16 July 1940, in Punjab Politics, 1940–1943: Strains of War, ed. Lionel Carter (New Delhi: Manohar, 2005), p. 161. (9.) Durlab Singh, ‘The Valiant Fighter’, pp. 75–8. (10.) Craik to Linlithgow, 16 July 1940, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 161. (11.) Giani Lal Singh, Nīlī Dastār dī Dāstān (Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 1994), pp. 32–3. (12.) For this and the following three paragraphs, Master Tara Singh, Pardhāngī Address (given at Kila Didar Singh on 17 September 1940), published and freely distributed by Mota Singh Kalowali, General Secretary, Reception Committee. Jaspreet Walia, ‘Master Tara Singh and Sikh Politics 1920–1947’, PhD thesis, Guru Nanak Dev University, Appendix 3. (13.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, ed. Harjinder Singh Dilgir (Amritsar: SGPC, 1999), p. 95. (14.) Craik to Linlithgow, 10 July 1939, in Punjab Politics: The Start of Provincial Autonomy (Governor’s Fortnightly Reports and Other Key Documents), ed. Lionel Carter (New Delhi: Manohar, 2004), pp. 362–3. (15.) Punjab Politics (2004), p. 416 n. 70. (16.) Craik to Linlithgow, 28 August and 13 September 1939, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 375, 376. (17.) Punjab Politics (2004), p. 394. (18.) Craik to Linlithgow, 12 October 1939, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 387–8. (19.) Craik to Linlithgow, 15 November 1939, Punjab Politics (2004), pp. 398–9. (20.) Craik to Linlithgow, 28 January 1940, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 73. (21.) Craik to Linlithgow, 22 August 1940, Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 175–7. (22.) Penderel Moon, Divide and Quit (London: Chatto & Windus, 1961), p. 31. (23.) Moon, Divide and Quit, p. 32. (24.) Moon, Divide and Quit, pp. 32–4. (25.) Jaswant Singh (ed.), Master Tara Singh: Jīwan Sangharsh Te Udesh, pp. 164–7. (26.) Jaswant Singh, Master Tara Singh, pp. 167–8.

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In Search of Political Autonomy (27.) Jaswant Singh, Master Tara Singh, pp. 168–71. (28.) Craik to Linlithgow, 27 August 1940, Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 179–80. (29.) Sethi to Craik, 10 September 1940, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 183. (30.) Master Tara Singh to President, Punjab Provincial Congress Committee, 10 September 1940, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 184. (31.) Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 184–5. (32.) Jaswant Singh, Master Tara Singh, p. 171. (33.) Jaswant Singh, Master Tara Singh, p. 172. (34.) Craik to Linlithgow, 24 September 1940, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 186. (35.) Craik to Linlithgow, 10 February 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 223. (36.) Craik to Linlithgow, 28 February 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 227. (37.) Craik to Linlithgow, 17 March 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 240. (38.) Glancy to Linlithgow, 28 April 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 247. (39.) Glancy to Linlithgow, 23 June 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 252. (40.) Glancy to Linlithgow, 21 October 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 279. (41.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 105. (42.) Glancy to Linlithgow, 4 and 16 March 1942, Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 294– 5, 301, 343 n. 3. (43.) Sir Maurice Gwyer and A. Appadorai (eds), Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution 1921–1947, 2 volumes (Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1957), vol. II, pp. 520–1. Nicholas Mansergh and E.W. Lumby (eds), The Transfer of Power 1942–47 (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1970), vol. I, pp. 565–6. (44.) The Transfer of Power, vol. I, pp. 464–5. (45.) Note by Sir S. Cripps, The Transfer of Power, vol. I, pp. 496–8. (46.) Ogilvie to Pinnell, 30 March 1942, The Transfer of Power, vol. I, p. 564. (47.) Note by Sir S. Cripps, The Transfer of Power, vol. I, p. 580. (48.) Note by Sir S. Cripps, The Transfer of Power, vol. I, p. 581.

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In Search of Political Autonomy (49.) The Sikh All-Parties Committee to Sir S. Cripps, 31 March 1942, The Transfer of Power, vol. I, pp. 582–3. (50.) Enclosure to No. 967, The Transfer of Power, vol. I, pp. 583–8. (51.) Glancy to Linlithgow, 1 May 1942, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 304. (52.) Master Tara Singh to Sir S. Cripps, 1 May 1942, in Verinder Grover (ed.), Master Tara Singh (New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications, 1995), pp. 435–6. (53.) Master Tara Singh to Sir S. Cripps, 4 May 1942, in Grover (ed.), Master Tara Singh, p. 437. Mansergh and Lumby, The Transfer of Power (1971), vol. II, pp. 26–7. (54.) Sir S. Cripps to Master Tara Singh, 10 July 1942, Mahatma Gandhi’s talks with Jinnah later, The Transfer of Power, vol. II, p. 362. (55.) Ashok, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Kametī Dā Punjāh Sālā Itihās, p. 208. Kirpal Singh (ed.) Panthic Mate (Chandigarh: Dr. Man Singh Nirankari, 2002), pp. 93–5. Craik to Linlithgow, 3 March 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 229–31. (56.) Craik to Linlithgow, 3 March 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 229–33. (57.) Craik to Linlithgow, 4 March 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 234–6. (58.) Craik to Linlithgow, 17 March 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 239–40. (59.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 95–6. (60.) Craik to Linlithgow, 2 April 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 241–2. (61.) Craik to Linlithgow, 2 April 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 243–4. (62.) Glancy to Linlithgow, 11 April 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 244. (63.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, p. 96. (64.) Glancy to Linlithgow, 1 July 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 258–9. (65.) Glancy to Linlithgow, 21 October 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), p. 279. (66.) Glancy to Linlithgow, 22 November 1941, Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 280–2. (67.) Master Tara Singh, Merī Yād, pp. 96–7. (68.) Glancy to Linlighgow, 1 May 1942, Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 304–5. (69.) Sikander–Baldev Singh Pact, Punjab Politics (2005), Appendix, pp. 417–18.

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In Search of Political Autonomy (70.) Glancy to Linlithgow, 26 July 1942, Punjab Politics (2005), pp. 321–2. (71.) Linlithgow to Glancy, 24 November 1942, The Transfer of Power (1971), vol. III, p. 297.

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New Political Orientations

Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity J.S. Grewal

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780199467099 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199467099.001.0001

New Political Orientations (1942–5) J.S. Grewal

DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199467099.003.0011

Abstract and Keywords In 1942–3, the ‘Azad Punjab’ scheme was promoted by Master Tara Singh and other Akali leaders. However, it had no attraction for the bureaucracy, the Muslim League, and the Congress. Even Kharak Singh and Sant Singh were opposed to it. The talks of Rajagopalachari with Jinnah impelled Master Tara Singh to put forth the idea of a Sikh state in view of the impression left by the talks that Rajagopalachari and Mahatma Gandhi were willing to concede Pakistan in accordance with a modified procedure for demarcating the boundaries. In case Pakistan was conceded, the Sikh memorandum to the Sapru Committee asked for creation of a separate Sikh state with a substantial proportion of the Sikh population, their historic gurdwaras, and provision of transfer of population and property. Keywords:   Master Tara Singh, ‘Azad Punjab’, Congress, Kharak Singh, Rajagopalachari, Jinnah, Pakistan, Sikh memorandum, Sapru Committee, Sikh state

The failure of the Cripps Mission was followed by the ‘Quit India’ movement, which too ended in failure. The Muslim League was opposed to the movement. In fact, Jinnah’s ‘Divide and Quit’ was a retort to ‘Quit India’. Rajagopalachari and Mahatma Gandhi were inclined to come to a compromise with Jinnah to form a joint front for the demand of freedom. With Mahatma Gandhi’s approval, Rajaji had talks with Jinnah, who, as it turned out, was not prepared to accept a truncated Pakistan. Mahatma Gandhi’s talks with Jinnah later also failed because the Mahatma was not prepared to accept the ‘two-nation theory’ of Jinnah, who Page 1 of 33

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New Political Orientations was unwilling to abandon the Resolution of 1940. Master Tara Singh advocated the idea of ‘Azad Punjab’ before the Rajaji–Jinnah and Gandhi–Jinnah talks and the idea of a ‘Sikh State’ after the talks. This was the demand put forth by the Sikh leaders before the Sapru Committee. Nothing came out of this demand because nothing came out of the Sapru Committee Report.

The ‘Quit India’ Movement The ‘Quit India’ resolution was passed by the CWC at Wardha on 14 July 1942 and endorsed by the AICC at Bombay on 8 August 1942. The Congress leaders were arrested in the early morning of 9 August. This crackdown resulted in a spontaneous outburst. It was massive and violent, predominantly urban, and it was quickly suppressed. After the middle of August, the movement spread to the countryside. Communications were destroyed on a massive scale; there were peasant rebellions against the authorities and short-lived local ‘national governments’. The use of fifty-seven army battalions enabled the government to weaken the movement by brutal repression. After September 1942, the movement was marked by terrorist activities of educated youth directed against police and army installations as well as communications. By the end of 1943, 208 police outposts, 332 railway stations, and 945 post offices had been (p.249) destroyed or severely damaged; there had been 664 bomb explosions; and nearly 92,000 persons had been arrested. The movement eventually failed but the British were convinced that negotiated settlement would be the only option open to them after the war.1 The official attitude during the war years towards the All-India Muslim League enabled Jinnah to consolidate his position and power. The ‘August offer’ of Linlithgow had conceded in effect one of the major demands of Jinnah since the outbreak of the war: the League was the sole spokesman for India’s Muslims, and it had a kind of veto on future constitutional changes. The Cripps Mission formally admitted the possibility of Pakistan being created. The Muslim League took full advantage of the suppression of the Congress. League ministry was installed in Assam in August 1942, in Sind in October 1942, and in Bengal in March 1943.2 Mahatma Gandhi was in favour of coming to some kind of understanding with the Muslim League. In the summer of 1944 Rajagopalachari put forth a formula for Jinnah’s consideration. It proposed a ‘plebiscite’ for the Muslim majority ‘contiguous districts in the north-west and east of India’ on the issue of separation from Hindustan. It sounded like ‘Pakistan’ and aroused considerable speculation about Mahatma Gandhi’s new position because Rajagopalachari had insisted that the Mahatma was prepared to accept the formula if Jinnah agreed to it. However, Jinnah awaited direct word from Mahatma Gandhi. This led to talks between Gandhi and Jinnah in September 1944. Jinnah was not prepared to concede anything. As Mahatma Gandhi put it, Jinnah wanted Pakistan ‘now, not after independence’. They met again but nothing was resolved through their Page 2 of 33

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New Political Orientations talks and correspondence. Wavell wrote in his journal: ‘The two great mountains have met and not even a ridiculous mouse has emerged.’3 Before the end of 1944, a few leaders who did not belong to any political party formed a committee, headed by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, to explore the ground for national consensus on constitutional issues. The questionnaire issued by the Conciliation Committee, popularly called the ‘Sapru Committee’, was quite comprehensive, eliciting views on fundamental rights, representation to be given to communities, the issue of Pakistan, and of alternative territorial reorganization. The Committee submitted its report in March 1945, rejecting the idea of Pakistan.

Akali Response to ‘Quit India’ On 14 July 1942, the CWC passed the ‘Quit India’ resolution at Wardha, calling for the immediate ending of British rule in India. In response to a telegram from Linlithgow, Glancy said that the effect of this move by the Congress might be less embarrassing in the Punjab than in other provinces but the situation as a whole appeared to become increasingly dangerous, and positive action would soon become unavoidable.4 On 16 July, Linlithgow wrote to Glancy that there was general solidarity in the council that if the AICC ratified the ‘Quit India’ resolution there should be immediate action. The members underscored the importance of propaganda at home and abroad, and suggested that the parties who did not agree with the Congress or Gandhi should be mobilized. Linlithgow asked Glancy to do what he could with Jogendra Singh to try to get the Sikhs to come out in opposition to the Congress.5 With reference to Linlithgow’s telegram, asking him to keep in close touch with (p.250) reactions to the CWC resolution, Glancy wrote to Linlithgow on 26 July that the Muslim press in Lahore used the terms ‘blackmail’, ‘hypocrisy’, and ‘ludicrous’ for the CWC demand. Sikander Hayat Khan said at a meeting at Lyallpur: ‘If the British quit India, chaos will follow and no ordered Government would be possible.’ The Punjab Congress was divided into the camps of Bhargava and Satyapal, and the latter would hesitate to do anything that might increase Bhargava’s prestige. The Lahore Hindu press had shown no great enthusiasm for the resolution. The Akalis would be in an awkward position in view of the recent rapprochement with the Unionists (the Sikander–Baldev Singh Pact). Individual Akalis might join a civil disobedience movement but there would be no unanimity in their response to the resolution.6 The Sikhs generally were better disposed to the government as the result of the Sikander–Baldev Singh Pact and the appointment of Sir Jogendra Singh to the expanded council.7 Sir Jogendra Singh and Sardar Baldev Singh made satisfactory speeches at a tea party. Baldev Singh’s speech was reported in the press. It was the duty of every true Punjabi, he said, to be ready to make any sacrifice to meet ‘internal disorder’ and to defeat the forces of ‘external Page 3 of 33

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New Political Orientations aggression’. It was the time for mustering in thousands ‘to repel the evil forces’ threatening the democracies of the world. In The Tribune of 25 July appeared a statement by Sardar Naunihal Singh, Sardar Jogindar Singh Mann, Sardar Bahadur Gurbachan Singh, and Sardar Raghbir Singh Sandhanwalia criticizing the Congress proposals.8 However, Sir Jogendra Singh and Sardar Baldev Singh hesitated to come out into the open against the resolution of the CWC.9 On 8 August 1942, the AICC gave its ‘most careful consideration’ to the resolution of the CWC, the development of the war situation, the statements of responsible spokesmen of the British Government, and the comments made in India and abroad, and approved of the resolution and endorsed it. If anything, there was further justification for the immediate end of British rule in India. On this vital issue depended the future of the war and success of freedom and democracy. Therefore, the AICC repeated with ‘all emphasis’ the demand for withdrawal of the British power from India. A provisional government could be formed with the cooperation of ‘the principal parties and groups’ to defend India against external aggression. The provisional government would evolve a scheme for a Constituent Assembly to prepare a Constitution acceptable to all sections of the people. This Constitution should be a federal one, with ‘the largest measure of autonomy for the federating units, and with residuary powers vesting in these units’. The AICC resolved to sanction ‘the starting of a mass struggle on nonviolent lines on the widest possible scale’ under the leadership of Gandhiji. By embarking on a mass struggle, the AICC had no intention of gaining power for the Congress. The power, when it came, would belong to ‘all the people of India’.10 Amery wrote to Linlithgow on 26 August that he had sent a number of telegrams about Gandhi. He was keen that ‘by hook or by crook we mustn’t let him defeat us, even if it involved somehow enclosing and picketing Sevagram, the difficulties of which I fully appreciate’. Amery talked about the Sikhs too in this letter. He referred to Linlithgow’s letter of 25 May 1942 in which he had talked about the encouragement which the Sikhs might have derived from the Cripps Mission and (p.251) Amery’s own speeches. Amery asserted that there was nothing like a pledge given to the Sikhs but they would try to give that complexion. With the threat of Pakistan they would press for ‘a degree of autonomy sufficient to protect them from Muslim domination’. However, advocacy of an independent ‘Sikhdom’ was bound sooner or later to create trouble. It would be useful, therefore, to explore various possibilities they suggest in advance of any further constitutional discussions. ‘I should judge that a separate Sikhdom is really unworkable without extensive transfers of population in order to mitigate the fresh minority problems that it would raise.’ Amery suggested that perhaps the Reforms Department in consultation with the Punjab Government could go into the schemes adumbrated at the Round Table Conference, observing complete secrecy.11 Page 4 of 33

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New Political Orientations On 20 August 1942 the Working Committee of the All-India Muslim League met at Bombay to deplore the decision of the AICC on 8 August to launch an ‘open rebellion’ in the name of mass civil disobedience in pursuance of their objective of establishing ‘Congress Hindu domination in India’. This movement was meant not only to coerce the British Government into handing over power to ‘a Hindu oligarchy’ but also ‘to force the Musalmans to submit and surrender to Congress terms and dictation’. The slogan of ‘Quit India’ was mere camouflage. The real aim of the Congress was to have ‘supreme control of the government of the country’. The Muslims were firmly convinced that the ‘Quit India’ movement was meant to deal a death blow to the Muslim goal of Pakistan. The Muslim League, therefore, called upon the British Government to come forward with ‘an unequivocal declaration guaranteeing to the Muslims the right of selfdetermination’, and to give effect to the Pakistan scheme. The Working Committee was fully convinced that Pakistan was ‘the only solution of India’s constitutional problem’. The Muslim League was always willing to negotiate with any party ‘on the footing of equality’. In these circumstances the Working Committee of All-India Muslim League called upon the Muslims ‘to abstain from any participation in the movement initiated by the Congress’.12 On 21 August 1942, Glancy wrote to Linlithgow that, normally, the Akalis as the champions of Congress were expected to provide the more unruly and determined element in the provincial disorders. Now, however, there was a general impression that they were less liable to be led into anti-government demonstrations. The inclusion of Jogendra Singh in the Governor General’s Council and the appointment of Baldev Singh as a Minister were gratifying to the Sikhs in general, and the Akalis would now be content to rest on their laurels. But Master Tara Singh had come out with a statement that ‘he will not oppose any adventures on which the Congress may embark’. Glancy had to point out to him and his friends that any continuance of this form of response to the favours which the Sikhs had lately received from the government would ‘make it increasingly difficult for those who sympathise with the community to espouse their cause’. Amritsar, the stronghold of the Akali Dal, still remained ‘the danger centre’. A goods train had just been derailed in its neighbourhood.13 In a telegram to the Punjab Governor on 18 August 1942, the Governor General had mentioned the importance of collecting evidence to prove the responsibility of the Congress, and of Gandhi in particular, for the campaign of violence. Glancy wrote to Linlithgow on the 1st of September that a (p.252) CID agent from the Punjab had gathered information in Bombay, claiming that he received it ‘direct from members of the Working Committee’. Gandhi was still a strong believer in non-violence but he had realized, he said, the impossibility of conducting the campaign on non-violent lines, and he gave it as his opinion that ‘the destruction of railway lines, telegraph, and telephone wires and other Government property was not an act of violence’. He visualized that some lives could be lost in struggle with the government. A form of guerrilla warfare aimed Page 5 of 33

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New Political Orientations at crippling the government was also favoured. In other words, only deliberate killing was violence. Among other items of information Glancy mentioned that the Punjab legislator Mangal Singh on his return from Wardha in July had said in Delhi that the Congress High Command was not afraid of general chaos, terrorism, communal riots, and other such phenomenon that involved violence.14 Master Tara Singh’s chapter on ‘Congress–Akali Conspiracy’ in his Merī Yād refers to a comical incident in connection with the ‘Quit India’ movement. When the Congress leaders were arrested on account of the ‘Quit India’ resolution in August 1942, people rose spontaneously at many places to destroy railway lines and disrupt activities related to the war. However, this reaction was rather weak in the Punjab. Only two categories of Punjabis could have responded to the situation, the students and the Akalis. The students were on vacation and the Akalis were unenthusiastic. Those who attended the Congress meeting at Bombay claimed that they had received secret instruction to pursue violent activities short of murder. Master Tara Singh did not believe that violence was suggested by the Congress leaders. Since Master Tara Singh himself was opposed to violence, some Akalis of Amritsar who were thinking of destroying railway lines kept it secret from him. When a goods train was derailed at the Mananwala station, he suspected the Amritsar Akalis. He persuaded Jathedar Sohan Singh (Josh) to discard the programme of violence and to court arrest under civil disobedience. All the Akalis connected with the incident at Mananwala, and also at Butari, got arrested. But they were kept only under detention. There was a lot of enthusiasm in the beginning and a Giani tried to persuade Master Tara Singh to allow violent activity. Amar Singh, a known Akali leader, was equally opposed to violence but his hot discussion with the Giani ended in their decision to disrupt traffic on the railway together. When they reached the railway line they realized that they had forgotten to bring any implements. They tried to burn the wooden logs of the railway line but failed. Meanwhile the train came and they threw stones at it. On the following day everyone in the Missionary College laughed at them and mocked their ‘bravery’ in throwing stones at a goods train, but they contended that it was a passenger train.15 On 7 September 1942, Linlithgow wrote to Amery with reference to his letter of 20 August that in his judgement the Sikhs were a nuisance worth placating but a relatively small nuisance. Under no circumstances could he think that ‘it would be practical politics to consider any sort of “Sikhistan”; and I would not think it wise even to mention it to Glancy’. Sikhistan was ‘a far more preposterous claim’ than Pakistan. The slightest sign of taking Sikhistan seriously in the least degree would aggravate communal tension gravely in the Punjab. The Communal Award discussions in 1931 had shown that the Sikhs found themselves ‘occasionally in a position to wreck a scheme which would have gone down well with the major communities’.16 Page 6 of 33

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New Political Orientations (p.253) On 10 September 1942, a statement was signed by Master Tara Singh, Giani Kartar Singh, and Sardar Baldev Singh, along with ten other leaders, six Hindus, and four Muslims. A copy of the statement was sent by Shyama Prasad Mookerjee to Sir Gilbert Laithwaite, and at the same time a copy was sent to the Prime Minister by cable. The thrust of the statement was on the urgency of setting up a ‘National Government’ in India to implement ‘the professions of equality and freedom’ often made by Great Britain. ‘A National Government pledged to the support of the War against the aggressors consisting of representatives of major political interests with complete autonomy in the internal administration during the period of the War and unfettered freedom thereafter, will satisfy the demands for Independence put forth by all the political parties of the country’. His Majesty’s Government should proclaim India’s independence here and now. The signatories urged upon the British Prime Minister to settle this problem in the interest of Britain and India.17 On 14 September Linlithgow wrote to Amery that Jinnah’s statement in the press on the issue of Pakistan was quite uncompromising. The individuals mentioned by Mookerjee as supporting the stand of the Hindu Mahasabha were all respectable or important but they did not really matter. So far as the Muslims were concerned, Jinnah was the only person that mattered.18 At the end of September 1942, Glancy wrote to Linlithgow that there was some trouble after the reopening of colleges. A few colleges in Lahore and Amritsar were on strike. A small number of student leaders had been arrested and heads of colleges had been warned. ‘We are trying to use the opportunity to tighten up educational control, but it is not altogether easy to find an effective solution.’ As regards the Sikh community, Master Tara Singh continued to maintain his balance between pro-Congress and anti-Congress Akalis. His own proclivities and those of Giani Kartar Singh were towards peace at home and support for the Army but he was reluctant, as always, to show his hand. Therefore, his speeches reflected ‘the Gandhian model’ and the audience ‘could take their choice according to their inclinations’. A few Congress Akalis had been courting arrest by shouting slogans. It seemed th