GURMUKH SINGH, BABA
GURMUKH SINGH, BABA (1888-1977), a Ghadr revolutionary, was born in 1888 to a poor peasant, Hoshnak Singh , of the village of Laltori Khurd, in Ludhiana district. Second of three brothers, he was sent to school at Ludhiana. His ambition was to join the army, but he could not be enlisted owing to medical reasons. In 1914, he boarded the ship Komagata Maru, hired from a Japanese firm by Baba Gurdit Singh , to go to Canada. But events stalled Gurmukh Singh `s plans. The ship was not allowed to land at the Canadian port and was obliged to return to India. At the Indian port of Budge Budge, however, a worse fate lay in store for the ship`s passengers.
The British authorities had kept a train ready to bring these passengers to the Punjab without letting them go into the city of Calcutta. There were protests and the police resorted to firing, killing several of the passengers. Many, including Gurmukh Singh , were apprehended and put into the train. Gurmukh Singh was spared imprisonment on assurances given by his uncles who had influence with the authorities. He was nevertheless interned in his village. Gurmukh Singh secretly joined the Ghadr movement then being led in the Punjab by Kartar Singh Sarabha and his comrades. In furtherance of the programme of the movement, Gurmukh Singh took part in two dacoities in the villages of Sahneval and Mansurari, in Ludhiana district.
He also made efforts to establish secret contacts with Indian soldiers in some of the Punjab cantonments. Gurmukh Singh was arrested in what came to be known as the Lahore conspiracy case of 1916, in which Kartar Singh Sarabha and some others were sentenced to death. Gurmukh Singh , sentenced to transportation for life, was sent to the Andamans. In 1921-22, under pressure of the nationalist elements, these prisoners were transferred to Salem jail in what was then known as the Madras Presidency, the present state of Tamil Nadu. From the train which was carrying them to Akola, Gurmukh Singh managed to escape as it was passing through a jungle at night.
The constables escorting him and their two companions had gone to sleep, and Gurmukh Singh , turning his soft lean hands of a young man to advantage, slipped off his handcuffs and jumped off from the train, his feet still in irons. In a nearby village he found someone who filed off his irons. Gurmukh Singh then managed to reach Nanded, then in Hyderabad state, to seek shelter in the Gurdwara Hazur Sahib. Eventually, the priest of the Gurdwara helped him to return to the Punjab, where he remained in hiding for two years on the outskirts of the Golden Temple, disguised as a Keshadhari Panditji. In 1924, Gurmukh Singh managed to reach the Soviet Union where he received his communist doctrine at the hands of teachers like Professor Dyakov.
For the next ten years Gurmukh Singh kept shuttling between the Soviet Union and the United States of America where he put new life in the lingering Ghadr party and made it send many young Punjabi students to the Soviet Union to be instructed in Communism. Once during these ten years, in 1931-32, Gurmukh Singh along with another Punjabi revolutionary, Udham Singh Kasel, tried to come back to India. But they were apprehended in Afghanistan and barely escaped with their lives. Indian Congress leaders tried vehemently to get them freed by the Afghan government as Indian citizens, but succeeded only in persuading the Soviet Union to get them extradited as Soviet nationals.
Nevertheless, Gurmukh Singh succeeded in reaching India in 1934, but was soon taken into custody. He was released only after the country attained freedom in 1947. Baba Gurmukh Singh continued his political activity. He brought out two extremist Communist journals, the monthly Path of Peacem English and the Desk Bhagat Ydddn, a Punjabi weekly. He was also instrumental in having the Desh Bhagat Memorial Hall at Jalandhar erected. Baba Gurmukh Singh, who remained a bachelor all his life, died on 13 March 1977. GURMUKH SINGH, BHAI (1849-1898), one of the prominent figures of the Singh Sabha movement, was born at Kapurthala on 15 April 1849.
His father, Basava Singh , a native of Chandhar village, in Gujrariwala district (now in Pakistan), served as a cook in the royal household of Kapurthala. Gurmukh Singh was a promising child and caught the fancy of their master. Prince Bikrama Singh , who began taking personal interest in his upbringing and education. After he had finished school at Kapurthala, Gurmukh Singh was admitted to Government College, Lahore. He, like his patron Bikrama Singh , felt concerned about the state of Sikh society, and when Sri Guru Singh Sabha was set up at Arnritsarin 1873, he left off his studies without graduating with a view to propagating reform.
He was instrumental in having Punjabi included, in 1877, in the curriculum at Oriental College, Lahore. He himself was appointed the first lecturer to teach the language. Bhai Gurmukh Singh did not let his academic duties obstruct his Singh Sabha work. He was secretary of Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Lahore, which he had helped to establish in 1879. Likewise, he was the first chief secretary of Khalsa Diwan, Amritsar, founded four years later. Gurmukh Singh`s zeal for radical reform brought him into conflict with the president of the Diwan, Baba Khem Singh.
During the Baisakhi session of the Diwan in April 1884, Baba Khem Singh, being a descendant of Guru Nanak, sat on a special cushioned seat in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. This was resented by Gurmukh Singh, who said that none could claim such a privilege in a Sikh assembly where all sat together as equals, without any distinctions of class or status. In the same meeting he opposed the proposal sponsored by the Rawalpindi Singh Sabha, which was under the influence of Baba Khem Singh, that to enable non initiated Sikhs to enrol as members the name Singh Sabha be changed to Sikh Singh Sabha.
In May 1885, a book entitled Khurshid Khalsdwas published by the brothers Bava Nihal Singh and Sarmukh Singh of Chhichhrauli, followers of Baba Khem Singh. It contained statements judged to be contrary to Sikh tenets. The book also pleaded for the reinstatement of Maharaja Duleep Singh as the ruler of the Punjab and the appointment of Thakur Singh Sandhanvalia as his prime minister. Bhai Gurmukh Singh proposed that the Khalsa Diwan should publicly dissociate itself from the views expressed in the book. The differences came to a head at the Divali session of the Diwan, when a representative of Raja Bikram Singh of Faridkot surprised Bhai Gurmukh Singh by reading out a statement of charges against him.
Bhai Gurmukh Singh resigned from the Diwan, with representatives of several Singh Sabhas following suit. A schism in the Diwan was now inevitable. Bhai Gurmukh Singh and his supporters called a meeting at Lahore on 1011 April 1886 and formed a separate Khalsa Diwan, with Sardar Attar Singh of Bhadaur as president and Bhai Gurmukh Singh as chief secretary. The Amritsar faction retaliated by getting Bhai Gurmukh Singh excommunicated through a resolution passed in April 1887 and issued under the seal of the Golden Temple. The Khalsa Diwan Lahore, which enjoyed the support of the majority of the Singh Sabhas, however, ignored the resolution. Bhai Gurmukh Singh continued in office.
The death, in May 1887, of his patron and benefactor, Kanvar Bikrama Singh, meant a great personal loss to him; yet he did not slacken the pace of his activity. By now he had reclaimed two very energetic persons Bhai Jawahir Singh and Giani Ditt Singh from the influence of Arya Samaj, and inducted them into the Singh Sabha. The three of them working as a closelyknit team were henceforth the life and soul of the Khalsa Diwan, Lahore. They preached assiduously through press and platform the message of reform and awakening among the Sikh masses. Education was considered to be the key to modern awakening and this was one of Bhai Gurmukh Singh`s persistent concerns.
As early as June 1882, a proposal had been made to set up a Sikh college. Soon after the establishment of the Khalsa Diwan Amritsar in April 1883, Bhai Gurmukh Singh formally placed the motion before it at its special meeting held in June 1883. It was taken up more vigorously later by the Khalsa Diwan Lahore. Bhai Gurmukh Singh enlisted the cooperation of some government officials, and a Khalsa College Establishment Committee was constituted with Colonel W.R.M. Holroyd, Director of Public Instruction, as chairman and Mr William Bell, a professor of Government College, Lahore, as secretary.
The efforts of Bhai Gurmukh Singh and other leaders of the Singh Sabha bore fruit and the cornerstone of the college was laid at Amritsar on 5 March 1892 by Sir James B. Lyall, LieutenantGovernor of the Punjab. To disseminate widely the Singh Sabha creed, Gurmukh Singh launched, one after another, the Gurmukht Akhbdr (1880), the Vidydrak (1880), the Khalsa (1885), the Sudhdrdrak (1886) and the Khalsa Gazette (1886). These were among the first newspapers and periodicals in Punjabi, and besides serving the cause of religious reform, they gave birth to a new literary idiom in the language.
Bhai Gurmukh Singh also published, in 1889, a jantn or almanac, called Gur Baras, the years of the Lord, the first of its kind in Punjabi in Gurmukhi script. Another work by him is Bhdrat da Itihds, a history of India in Punjabi. He also wrote Gurbdm Bhdvdrth, a glossary in simple Punjabi to make the gurbdm of the Guru Granth Sahib intelligible to the common man. The work, however, remained unpublished. Bhai Gurmukh Singh married twice, but had no children. He died of a heart attack on 24 September 1898 at Kandaghat, in Shimla Hills, where he had gone to see the Maharaja of Dhaulpur for a donation for Khalsa College, Amritsar. BIBLIOGRAPHY Jagjit Singh, Singh Sabhd Lahir. Ludhiana, 1974 Lakshman Singh, Bhagat, Autobiogiaphy. Calcutta, 1965 Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983
1. Mohan, Kamlcsh, Militant- Nationalism in t./iÂ£ Punjab, 1919-1935. Delhi, 1985
2. Saihsara, Gurcharan Singh, Ghadr Parfi da Itihds. Jalandhar, 1969