PRITAM SINGH GOJRAN, JATHEDAR (1896-1976), born into a simple rural family, rose, without advantages of education and worldly means, to the position of president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, to be distinguished from the Riydsti Akali Dal (representing only Sikhs living in the princely states of the Punjab), by his solid qualities of character. He was born Dalip Singh in 1896, the only son of Kishan Singh Dhalival and Partap Kaur of village Gojrari in present day Sarigrur district of the Punjab. His father died when he was still very young and his mother remarried. Pritam Singh grew up as a neglected child and in January 1915 enlisted in the army.

Contrary to the common ways of Punjabi youth, Pritam Singh vowed, when still in the army, totally to abstain from the use of alcohol and flesh. After his release in 1920 from the army, his interest in religion became more pronounced. He in fact started studying the Sikh texts under royal tutors of Patiala attached to Gurdwara Mod Bagh. This was the time when he was drawn towards politics as well. He joined the Akali party which was the dominant political force among the Sikhs. He went through the rites of the Khalsa initiation in 1921 and received the new name of Pritam Singh.

He became a member of the Guru Hargobind Jatha, a Sikh group active in the Sikh religious reform. For participating in the Jaito agitation Pritam Singh was jailed in 1923. In 1926, he took part in the agitation launched against the ruler of Patiala for the release of the Akali activist Seva Singh Thikrivala. He betrayed active interest in promoting the tour of the Akali supremo, Baba Kharak Singh, in 1928 who was persona non grata with the ruler of Patiala state. He was very unhappy when the Akali Dal patched upits differences with Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala.

He denounced the agreement between Patiala ruler and the Akali leader. Master Tara Singh, branding it as a sellout. Turning away from the Praja Mandal which had come to be dominated by communists and the urban elite, Pritam Singh reverted to Akali politics and focussed his energies on strengthening the Riyasti Akali Dal of which he had been the Jathedar (president) since its very inception. He supported the Baldev Singh Sikandar Pact made in 1942 between the Akali Dal and the Muslim dominated Unionist Party of the Punjab and the Azad Punjab demand raised by Master Tara Singh in 1943.

In 1944, he was elected president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, the mainstream political party of the Sikhs. At the fifth AllIndia Akali Conference held at Lahore on 14 October 1944, Jathedar Gojran raised the demand for a sovereign Sikh State in case the Muslim League demand for a separate Muslim State was accepted. When after independence, the Akalis decided to join the Congress party (March 1948), Pritam Singh stood by the side of Master Tara Singh opposing this move. Jathedar Pritam Singh Gojran launched in 1946 a strong and widespread agitation against the excesses and misrule of Jind.In 1954, he was elected a member of Patiala and East Punjab States Union Assembly in the midterm poll.

Wroth at the halfhearted implementation of the Regional Formula devised as a compromise between the Akalis in the Punjab and the Congress party, Jathedar Gojran resurrected the demand for a Sikh State at a press conference in Jalandhar on 12 June 1958. He was an active supporter of the Punjabi Suba agitation, but dismayed at the intraparty wranglings between the Akali leaders, Master Tara Singh and Sant Fateh Singh, he withdrew himself from active politics in 1965 and retired to his native village of Gojran. Having lived the simple life of a recluse all these years he had raised no family nor did he own any propety. The village Panchayat (council) assigned to him a small portion of the shamldt (common land) for his residence and subsistence. In character with his saintly life, he willed the property to the village Panchayat.

References :

1. Bajwa, Harcharan Singh, Fifty Years of Punjab Politics (1920-1970). Chandigarh, 1979
2. Gur Rattan Pal Singh, The Illustrated History of the Sikhs (1947-78). Chandigarh, 1979
3. Gulshan, Dhanna Singh, Ajj da Panjab te Sikh Rajmtl.Rampura Phul, 1971
4. Jaswant Singh, ed. Master Tdrd Singh: Jivan Sangharash te Udesh. Amritsar, 1972