AMAR SINGH (1888-1962), who came into prominence in the Gurdwara reform movement, was the eldest of the three sons of Gopal Singh of the village of Jhabal, in Amritsar district of the Punjab. His great grandfather, Gulab Singh, had served in the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his grandfather, Harbhagat Singh, had been an aidede camp to Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh. Born in 1888, Amar Singh was educated at the village school and at Khalsa Collegiate School, Amritsar. After passing the matricualtion examination, he joined the police department and became a subinspector.
Once as he saw police officials snatch away kirpans from some Sikhs, he protested and told the superintendent of police that dispossessing a Sikh of his kirpan meant violating his religious freedom. Demolition by the British of a portion of the outer wall of Gurdwara Rikabganj in Delhi, ban on the wearing of kirpans by Sikhs and incidents such as the Budge Budge firing led Amar Singh to resign his appointment in the police. He got started on a political career by organizing and addressing, in association with Dan Singh Vachhoa, a series of public meetings in his own village and in the neighbourhood.
He defied orders of the . deputy commissioner of Amritsar banning the meeting to be convened at Manji Sahib, close to the Golden Temple, to protest against a robe of honour having been conferred by the manager of the Darbar Sahib on General Dyer, who had ordered the Firing in Jallianvala Bagh. The meeting did take place and resolutions castigating the deputy commissioner as well as the manager were adopted. Following a public appeal by Sardul Singh Caveeshar for volunteers for a Shahidi Jatha or martyrs` band to march to Delhi on 1 December 1920 to rebuild the Gurdwara Rikabganj boundary wall demolished by the British, Amar Singh and his brother, Jaswant Singh, made a hurricane tour of the Punjab addressing meetings and enlisting names.
At one such meeting during the Amavas fair at Tarn Taran under the auspices of the Central Majha Khalsa Diwan complaints were received about the mismanagement of Gurdwara Babe di Ber at Sialkot. Amar Singh was deputed to visit the shrine and make a report. He was joined there by his brother, Jaswant Singh, and by Teja Singh of Bhuchchar and Kartar Singh of Jhabbar with their bands of volunteers. The government yielded to public pressure and the management of the gurdwara was handed over to a committee of selected Sikhs on 6 October 1920. Henceforth the Jhabal brothers were recognized as a force in Sikh affairs.
When the control of the Akal Takht was taken over by the Sikhs and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee formed on 16 November 1920, both of them and their third brother, Sarmukh Singh, were included in it as members. Amar Singh was nominated a member of the provisional commitee to manage the Tarn Taran Gurdwara after it had been taken over from the priests by the reformists. He took a leading part in assuming possession of gurdwaras at Othian, Teja Kalan, Chomala Sahib, Panja Sahib, Peshawar, Ramdas and Jhabal. For a public speech he delivered after the Nankana Sahib tragedy, he was arrested and imprisoned for six months. Amar Singh presided over the third annual session of the Sikh League held at Lyallpur in 1922.
He participated in the noncooperation movement launched by the Indian National Congress as well as in the Akali morchas for the reformation of the gurdwaras. On 16 July 1922, he was elected vice-president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. He suffered imprisonment again for making seditious speeches at the time of the morcha for securing release from the British of the keys of the Golden Temple to shakhana. After the Sikh Gurdwaras Act was passed, Amar Singh drifted more towards the Congress and remained for some time president of the Punjab Provincial Congress Committee. He died on 28 March 1962 at the village of Dayal Bhararig, in Ajnala tahsil of Amritsar district, where he had been allotted lands after the partition of the Punjab (1947).
1. Pratap Singh, Giani, Gurdwara Sudhar arthat Akali Lahir. Amritsar, 1975
2. Josh, Sohan Singh, AJca/i Morchian da Itihas. Delhi, 1972
3. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983
4. Ganda Singh, ed., 5ome Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement. Amritsar, 1965
5. Sahni, Ruchi Ram, Struggle for Reform in Sikh Shrines. Ed. Ganda Singh. Amritsar, n.d.