SOHAN SINGH JOSH (1898-1892), Akaliturned Communist, was born on 22 September 1898 at Chetanpura in Amritsar district. His father`s name was Lal Singh. Sohan Singh, who entered school rather late, passed the Middle standard examination from Church Mission School, Majitha, and the Marticulation examinationa from D.A.V. School, Amritsar, then joining the Khalsa College at Amritsar which he had to leave soon after owing to lack of financial support. Search for employment took him to Hubli and later to Bombay where he worked for a short while in a post office assigned to censoring mail in the Gurmukhi script, putting up in a gurdwara of which he took charge as `secretary.

Returning to his native village in 1918, he became a school teacher. Sohan Singh who had by now added the epithet “Josh,” meaning “fiery,” to his name, jumped into the Gurdwara Reform movement launched for the liberation of the Sikh shrines from their corrupt custodians. In 1922, he was arrested and sentenced to a year`s imprisonment for his anti British speeches. In March 1923, he was nominated a member of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and appointed general secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal. As these organizations were declared unlawful in October 1923, he was again taken into custody, and released only in September 1926 after the enactment of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act under which management of Sikh historical shrines was to be entrusted to a statutorily elected body.

His line now became more radical. In April 1928 he took an active part in establishing the Kirti Kisan Party and in December 1928 he presided over the first All India Workers and Peasants Conference held at Calcutta. Simultaneously, he was working for the Naujavan Bharat Sabha set up by Bhagat Singh and his friends. In February 1929, he was elected its president. He was privy to all revolutionary activity undertaken by the organization as a consequence of which he was arrested in the Meerut conspiracy case in March 1929, serving five years in jail. He was among the pioneers of the Communist movement in the Punjab and was the first member of the party to be elected to the Punjab Legislative .Assembly on Congress nomination at the 1937 elections. In 1938, he became general secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee as well as a member of the All India Congress Committee.

During World War II, he was arrested as a security prisoner and remained in jail for two years, June 1940 to 1 May 1942. Another jail term began when the Communist Party was declared illegal in 1948, after Independence. In 1951, he was elected a member of the central executive of the Communist Party of India. From 1971 to 1975, he served as chairman of the central control committee of the Party. Sohan Singh Josh wrote both in English and Punjabi.His writing career began as he associated himself with the rebel Sikh paper, Akali, brought out by Master Sundar Singh Lyallpuri in May 1920. In 1925, he collaborated with Bhai Santokh Singh, a Communist leader trained in Moscow, to bring out the monthly Kirti. His articles were generally published under assumed names of Rukn udDin and Svatantra Singh. In later years, he edited the Communist papers Jahg iAzadi and the Navari Zamana daily.

His books in Punjabi include Bangali Sahit di Vanagi ( A Choice of Bengali Literature), translation, 1934 ; Rut Navian di Ai (Season now is for the New), a book of poems, 1955 ; Men Rus Yatra (My Russian Journey), 1958; Panjabi Bolt te Bhasha Vigian (Punjal)i Language and the Science of Language), 1969 ; Ikk Inqalab Ikk Jivani ( A Revolution and a Life Story), 1969; Akali Morchian da Itihas ( A History of Akali Campaigns), 1972; Kamagata Maru daDukhant (The Tragic Story of the Komagata Maru}, 1976; Bhagat Singh nal Merian Mulakatan (My Meetings with Bhagat Singh), 1977. A History of the Hindustan Ghadr Party, in two parts (English), was published in 1977-78. He wrote an incomplete autobiography, two novels and some stories which lie unpublished. Sohan Singh Josh died on 29 July 1982 at Amritsar.

References :

1. Pratap Singh, Giani, Gurdwara Sudhar arthat Akali Lahir. Amritsar, 1975
2. Dilgeer, Harjinder Singli, Shiromani Akali Dal. Jalandhar, 1978
3. Ganda Singh, ed., Struggle for Reforms in Sikh Slii-ines. Amritsar, n.d