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BASANT SINGH, BHAI

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BASANT SINGH, BHAI (d. 1900), one of the founder members of Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Lahore, established on 2 November 1879, worked as its accountant and later became its vice president. Differences between Bhai Basant Singh and other leaders of the Khalsa Diwan, Lahore, originating in the expulsion in April 1886 of Bava Nihal Singh and Diwan Buta Singh in April 1886 for their advocacy of the restoration of Maharaja Duleep Singh to the throne of the Punjab, came to a head when, on 31 October 1887, the Nanak Panth Prakash Sabha, celebrating its seventh anniversary at Gurdwara Janam Asthan, Lahore, displayed a garlanded portrait of the Maharaja by the side of the Guru Granth Sahib.

Bhai Jawahir Singh, secretary of Sri Guru Singh Sabha, took exception to what he said was an act of sacrilege as well as an act against the pro-government policy of the Khalsa Diwan of Lahore. He particularly criticized Bhai Basant Singh, who also bore an office in the Nanak Panth Prakash Sabha. Bhai Basant Singh retaliated a few months later by passing strictures against Bhai Jawahir Singh in the audit report (AD 1888) on the accounts of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha of which he was the secretary. He and his colleagues were charged with misusing the Sabha funds spent on defending Giani Ditt Singh, editor of the Khafca Akhbar, facing a defamation suit in a civil court for publishing in his newspaper a portion of his Svapan Natak ("Dream Play"), a thinly veiled satire on the leading figures of the Amritsar Khalsa Diwan.

In September 1888, Bhai Basant Singh, who was vice president of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Lahore, and Bhai Sant Singh who was its president, broke away from it and formed a parallel association named Sri Guru Hitkarni Singh Sabha. The new Sabha enjoyed the backing of Diwan Buta Singh, the proprietor of the paper and press named Aftabi Punjab, and Mehar Singh Chawla, a rich merchant of Lahore who also became secretary of the Hitkarni Sabha, with Sant Singh as president and Basan t Singh as vice president. The Kh alsa Diwan of Amritsar also supported it for its own factional reasons. Bhai Basant Singh supported the Shuddhi or proselytization movement started by DrJai Singh although the Amritsar Khalsa Diwan was opposed to it, but on the question of the location of the proposed Khalsa College, he sided with it preferring Amritsar to Lahore which was the choice of the Lahore Khalsa Diwan as the seat for the new college.

Again, unlike the Sri Guru Singh Sabha and the Khalsa Diwan of Lahore, he applauded the enterprise of Raja Bikram Singh of Faridkotto have a commentaryon the Guru Granth Sah ib prepared by a synod of scholars. He in fact joined the Amritsar Khalsa Diwan deputation that called on the ailing Rajaon 10 February 1894 at Faridkot to ask after his health and offer their good wishes for his recovery. Butin 1895, Bhai Basant Singh joined hands with Bhai Mayya Singh, secretary of the Lahore Singh Sabha, and merged his Hitkarni Sabha with that body of which he once again became an active member. He also took over editorship of the Kha/sa Gazette on which he continued to work until his death in Lahore on 13 August 1900.

References :

1. Pratap Singh, Giani, Gurdwara SucfAar arthat Akali Lahir [Reprint]. Amritsar, 1975
2. Jagjit Singh, Singh Sabha Lahir. Ludhiana, 1974

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