UDHAM SINGH NAGOKE (1894-1966), one of the village triumvirate which grew in importance and influence with the years and left its decisive imprint on the modern period of the Majha country. It shared with two others its name. The trio were Jathedar Udham Singh Nagoke, Mohan Singh Nagoke (1896-1969) and Giani Kartar Singh (1902-1974). All three of them originally belonged to the village of Nagoke. Giani Kartar Singh had from among them migrated to the newly developed canal colony of Lyallpur and almost completely identified himself with its concerns. Yet, all three of them were counted among the proud products of Nagoke.

The senior among them, Udham Singh, was born in 1894, the son of Bhai Bela Singh and Mai Atar Kaur in the fertile village of Nagoke in Amritsar district. The broad chested, six footer, Udham Singh Nagoke was born for a career in the army and the army indeed was his first choice. But he stayed in the army only for a very short time. Irked by the strict army regimen, he took out his discharge in 1920. Udham Singh Nagoke and his friends veered over to an active role in Sikh affairs. The Nankana Sahib tragedy of 1921 opened many new doors and many an ambitious youth sought berth in the political arena.

Udham Singh took a special interest in shrine reform. He participated in the Akali agitation for the recovery of the keys of the Goden Temple treasury taken away under the orders of the British deputy commissioner of Amritsar. It was counted a signal victory for the Akalis when the deputy commissioner`s representative turned up at the Golden Temple premises to return the bunch of keys tied in a red piece of cloth. Udham Singh Nagoke was sentenced to six months in jail and was among the last volunteers to be released in this case. He also joined the Guru ka Bagh agitation and suffered severe police atrocity.

During the agitation at Jaito, in the twendes of the century, Udham Singh was Jathedar of the Akal Taldit and was scheduled to lead the first Shahidi Jatha or the martyrs` column, to the scene of the agitation. But he was arrested on the eve of its departure, on 8 February 1924, and was sent to jail for two years which period of time he spent in Central Jail, Multan. On his release in 1926, he was again appointed Jathedar of Akal Takht. By then the Sikh Gurdwaras Act had been placed on the statute book. In the elections held under this Act, he was elected a member of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and continued to be elected or coopted to it till 1954.

During this time he was a member of the Darbar Sahib Committee from 1930 to 1933, and saw the creation of the monumental building Guru Ram Das Nivas, the pilgrims` inn. He was elected president of the Shiromani Committee in 1948 and again in 1952. In 1929, Jathedar Udham Singh Nagoke spearheaded Punjab Peasants` protest against the increase in agrarian taxation and was imprisoned for one year. He participated in the civil disobedience movement started by the Indian National Congress and served another year in custody. In 1935, he was elected president of the Shiromani Akali Dal. The freedom campaign claimed another four years of his life, 1936-39.

Another term in jail awaited him in March 1942 under the Defence of India Rules. In the “Quit India” movement he suffered jail for three years. After his release at the end of the Second World War, Jathedar Nagoke was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly in 1946. In 1952 he was appointed head of the Bharat Sevak Samaj, a front organization of the Congress Party, and was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1953 as a Congress nominee which position he held up to 1960. He was also a member of the Punjab Pradesh Congress executive during this period. In 1960 he joined Rajagopalacharya`s Swatantra Party and headed its Punjab Branch in 1960-61.

He served a term in jail in 1960 in the Punjabi Suba agitation. Udham Singh Nagoke was a surefooted politician, never resiling from the resolve he had once made. He was famous for his ready wit and repartee and for his strong character. In 1947, he rendered a unique service to the city of the Golden Temple by keeping at bay a whole angry mob bent on attack and arson. He lost his wife soon after his marriage in the village of Dhilvan, district Kapurthala, but he never married again. In spite of his very stout physique, his health deteriorated because of frequent jail going and he died at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences at Chandigarh on 11 January 1966.

References :

1. Ashok, Shamsher Singh, SAiromanJ Gurdwara Parbandhak Kameti da Panjah Sala Itihas. Amritsar, 1982
2. Pratap Singh Giani, Akali Lahir de Mahan Neta. Amritsar, 1976
3. Gurdwara Sudhar arthat Akali Lahir. Amritsar, 1975