LALITON, GURMUKH SINGH (BABA) (1888 – ?)
Baba Gurumukh Singh Laliton was a great revolutionary freedom fighter who accepted a life of sacrifice and suffering for the sake of his country. Baba Gurumukh Singsh Laliton was bom in 1888 in the village of Laliton Khurd in the Ludhiana district of the Punjab. He belongs to the sturdy peasant stock of the Jat-Sikh community (Grewal). His father, Sardar Hoshnak Singh, was a Jawan in the Army. His mother\’s name was Prem Kaur.
Gurumukh Singh had his early chooling in a Mission High School at Ludhiana and appeared in the Matriculation examination in 1913 but failed. Being adventurous by disposition he joined the band of prospective migrants who travelled by the famous ship \’Komagata Maru\’ chartered by Baba Gurdit Singh. Since, the Punjabi Sikhs were not allowed to land in Canada, the \’Komagata Maru\’ returned to Calcutta where they refused to land, offered resistance and were forced to return to their homes. Gurumukh Singh was interned in his village but he absconded, went underground and worked very actively as a member of the Ghadar Party.
Gurumukh Singh came under the influence of the Indian revolutionaries who had set up the Ghadar Party in America and had been actively working for destroying the British rule in India by violent means. While at school he read the biographies of Garibaldi and Mazzini and his strong patriotic impulse came alive under the influence of the Ghadar Movement. Gurumukh Singh was actively engaged in the manufacture of bombs and explosives and was in course of time arrested and tried in the First Lahore Conspiracy Case. He was charged with waging war against the Kind and was sentenced to transportation for life and confiscation of property.
He was sent to the Andamans where he was confined for about eight years, during which period too he organised the political prisoners and instigated them to revolt. Gurumukh Singh was brought back to India to be lodged in an Indian jail, but he jumped out of the running train and absconded once again in 1923. In course of time he reached the Punjab and worked for the party in the guise of a Sadhu. Later, he went to Afghanistan along with Baba Prithvi Singh Azad and Udham Singh. He came to Punjab several times from Afghanistan at the risk of his life and was all the time in touch with the Indian revolutionaries at home.
In 1928, he managed to reach the United States but was suspected and returned to Kabul. Later he went to the Soviet Union and became a Communist. On his return he was arrested in Kabul and kept in jail for 13 months. When he was released he slipped away to Russia once again. In August 1935, he changed his name and came to India and started a paper called the Lal Jhanda. As ill luck would have it, he was arrested again in 1936, and the Annual Report of the Punjab Police of that year regarded his arrest as a great achievement.
Gurumukh Singh was now interned in the Lahore Fort and was again transported to the Andamans where he started his historic hunger strike, as a result of which Indian prisoners were never sent to the Andamans again. He was finally released in 1946 and he continued to work with the Communist Party. Gurumukh Singh was a silent worker who mostly remained in jail or worked underground. He was, owever, a man of strong convictions who accepted a life of sacrifice and suffering for the sake of his country. He dedicated himself early to the cause of India\’s independence and staked his life on it time and again.
He was in touch with the famous Indian revolutionaries like Rash Behari Bose and Vishnu Ganesh Pingle and served as a liaison-man between the members of the party in India and abroad. He showed remarkable resourcefulness, changed his identity, travelled incognito and stayed underground successfully for several years. Although not highly educated, Baba Gurumukh Singh has enlightened views on most matters. A liberal Sikh by faith, he is highly secular in his outlook.
A confirmed bachelor, Baba Gurumukh Singh is a great believer in the equal rights and status of women. He is also an advocate of social and economic justice and would work for a society which is completely egalitarian. The story of India\’s struggle for freedom is full of romantic adventures, and among the myriad revolutionaries who played their part were many a silent and dedicated worker like old Gurumukh Singh.
1. Guha, Arun Chandra, First Spark of Revolution, Calcutta, 1972.
2. Haridas and Uma Mukherjee, India\’s Fight for Freedom, Calcutta, 1958.
3. Jagjit Singh, Ghadar Party Lahar (in Gurumukhi), Amritsar, 1955.
4. The Hayat (an Urdu weekly), 29 March 1964.