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TEJA SINGH SWATANTAR

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TEJA SINGH SWATANTAR (1901-1973), Sikh preacher turned revolutionary, was born Samund Singh at Aluna, a village in Gurdaspur district of the Punjab, on 16 July 1901. His father`s name was Kirpal Singh. After finishing school, he joined Khalsa College at Amritsar where he took a leading part in organizing a meeting to protest against the atrocity committed by the British in the Jallianvala Bagh (13 April 1919). For this he had to leave the College. He joined the Akali Dal and took part in the agitation for the liberation of Sikh places of worship.

In September 1921, he raised a squad called Swatantar Jatha which in its maiden attempt had the gurdwara at Teja, a village in Gurdaspur district, released from the possession of the degenerate mahants.In celebration of the event, his colleagues named him Teja Singh Swatantar`Teja` from the gurdwara liberated and `Swatantar` from the Jatha of which he was the leader. In a similar action, the Swatantar Jatha brought the gurdwara at Othian, also in Gurdaspur district, under the control of the reformists. Teja Singh also took part in the Guru ka Bagh campaign. Early in 1923, Teja Singh went to Kabul as a Sikh missionary.

There he came in contact with Ghadr leaders such as Udham Singh Kasel, Gurmukh Singh, Ratan Singh and Santokh Singh, who persuaded him to undergo a course of military training. In 1925, Teja Singh proceeded to Turkey under the assumed name of Azad Beg. He took up Turkish citizenship and graduated in military sciences, receiving a commission in the army. Five years later, Teja Singh moved to Berlin, which had been another important centre of the Ghadrites. He travelled all over the continent and also visited Canada and the United States of America (U.S.A.). Wherever he went , he preached revolution at congregations of Indians, mainly Punjabi Sikh immigrants.

A brilliant orator, he was described by the American intelligence as a `fiery speaker`. In January 1932, he left North America and visited Mexico, Cuba, Panama, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil before reaching Moscow where he joined the university. In December 1934, Teja Singh returned to India and became a prominent leader of the Kird group of the Communist Party. Disguised as a sadhu, he wandered throughout the Punjab countryside and contributed regularly articles to the Party journal, the Kirti. On 16 January 1936, he was arrested along with other Communist leaders, and sent to Campbellpore jail. During his confinement he passed his Bachelor of Arts examination from the University of the Pahjab, Lahore.

While in jail, he was elected unopposed to the Punjab Legislative Assembly in May 1937 as a nominee of the Indian National Congress. Teja Singh Swatantar was secretary of the Punjab Communist Party from 1944 to 1947, and a prominent leader of the Kisan Sabha. He led a number of peasant agitations against government and the landlords. A highlight of the period of his career was the agitation at Harsa Chhina in 1946. After Independence, Teja Singh formed his Lal (red) Party with the former Kirti group of the Punjab Communist Party as the nucleus.

Lal Party became an active constituent of the Punjab Riyasd Praja Mandal and campaigned for the merger of the princely states into the Punjab and against the tenancy laws prevalent in these territories. Warrants of arrest were issued against him in 1948, but he went underground and reappeared in public only when these were withdrawn on 5 January 1963. Teja Singh edited LalJhanda, a monthly in Urdu, and Lal Savera, a weekly in Punjabi, and contributed frequently to other papers and journals. He was a member of the Punjab Legislative Council from 1964-69 and was, in 1971, elected to the Lok Sabha. He died after a heart attack in Central Hall of Parliament on 12 April 1973.

References :

1. Vaid, Chhajju Mall, Lokan LaiJoojh Gaya Ik Tyagi Tapasvi te Tajasvi: Teja Singh Su tan tar. Silver Jubilee Souvenir of the C.P.I. Punjab. 26 January 1976
2. Warsola, Swaran Singh, Visphot ton Pehlan. Amritsar, 1978
3. Sainsara, Gurcharan Singh, Ghadar Parti da Itihas. Jalandhar, 1969
4. Jagjit singh, Ghadar Parti Lahir. Delhi, 1979
5. Walia, Ramesh, Prata Mandal Movement in East Punjab States. Patiala, 1972

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