MEHTAB SINGH, SARDAR BAHADUR
MEHTAB SINGH, SARDAR BAHADUR (1879-1938), lawyer and legislator who became closely associated with the Gurdwara Reform movement, was born in 1879 at the village of Hadali, in Shahpur district, now in Pakistan, to Hazur Singh and Karam Kaur. His father died when he was barely four years old. Mehtab Singh had his early education at the village school and passed the Entrance examination from Central Model School, Lahore, in 1895.
The same year, he proceeded to England where he studied law for three years, returning to India in 1898 as a barrister at law. He started legal practice at Shahpur. In 1910, he was appointed government pleader at Firoxpur and, subsequently, transferred to Lahore. He was honoured by the government with the titles successively of Sardar Sahib (1915) and Sardar Bahadur (1918). In 1920, he was elected to the Punjab Legislative Council and became its vice president.
He, however, resigned this office as well as his membership of the Council on 11 November 1921, as a protest against government taking away keys of the Golden Temple to shdkhdnd or treasury and plunged into the Gurdwara Reform movement. Mchtab Singh was made vice president of the ShiromanT Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. On 26 November 1921, he was arrested at Ajnala in an AkalT divan on the charge of making a seditious speech and sentenced to 6 months` imprisonment, with a fine of Rs 1,000. In the absence of Sardar Kharak Singh in jail, Mchtab Singh acted as president of the ShiromanT Committee.
He was again arrested in the Guru ka Bagh morchdon 14 September 1922. He remained in custody until 14 March 1923. On 12 October 1923, the ShiromanT Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the ShiromanT AkalT Dal were declared by the government unlawful organizations, and principal AkalT leaders including Mehtab Singh were put under arrest. Mehlab Singh was one of the first batch of 20 AkalT leaders released following their endorsement of a statement drafted by an AkalT leader and read in the court on 25 January 1926, renouncing any further direct action and offering to implement the provisions of the Gurdwaras Act under which Sikh shrines were proposed to be made over to a representative board of the Sikhs.
Some other AkalT leaders refused to give such an assurance and stayed behind in jail. Although Mehtab Singh was aligned with one of the two groupsBaba Kharak Singh`s as against Master Tara Singh`s, his counsel continued to be sought in Sikh affairs generally. He participated in the All Parties Sikh Conference at Amritsar on 29 January 1928 convened to determine the attitude of the Sikhs towards the Simon Commission sent to India by the British government. The Conference resolved to boycott the Commission.
Mchtab Singh was one of the seven delegates to All Parties Conference at Delhi on 24 February 1928, At the All Parties Convention at Calcutta on 2829 December 1928, he strongly challenged Mr M.A. Jinnah`s claim to 56 per cent representation for the Muslims in the Punjab and 33 per cent at the Centre. He was president of the committee for the notified Sikh gurudwaras at Nankana Sahib from 1933 to 1936. Mehtab Singh died of a heart attack on 23 May 1938 while arguing a case in the High Court at Lahore.
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2. Josh, Sohan Singh, Akali Morchian da Itihas. Delhi, 1972
3. Narain Singh, Akali Morche te jhabbar. Delhi, 1967
4. Sahni, Ruchi Ram, Struggle for Reform in Sikh Shrines. ed. Ganda Singh. Amritsar, n.d.
5. Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement. Delhi, 1978