The policy of the pioneers of the Singh Sabha movement was to keep aloof from politics, and never to criticize the British government. Since their publications went against the government, Bava Nihal Singh and Diwan Buta Singh rendered themselves liable i to the drastic penalty. But the action against ] them embittered the feelings of their 3 supporters. Diwan Buta Singh, who owned the | AftabiPunjab paper as well as the printing | press having the same name, was a man of influence in Lahore society.
The difference came to a head when, on 31 October 1887, the Nanak Panth Parkash Sabha, celebrating its seventh anniversary at Gurdwara Janam Asthan, Lahore, displayed a garlanded portrait of Maharaja Duleep Singh by the side of Guru Granth Sahib. Bhai Jawahir Singh, secretary of Sn Guru Singh Sabha, Lahore, took exception to what he said was an act of sacrilege as well as an act against the government.
He especially criticized Bhai Basant Singh, vice-president of the Lahore Singh Sabha, who also held an important office in the Nanak Panth Parkash Sabha. In those days, a defamation case was going on in the civil court against Giani Ditt Singh, another leading figure of the Singh Sabha movement, for the publication in the Khalsa Akh bar supplement, dated 16 April 1887, of a part of 5vapan Natak, or dream play, a thinly veiled satire on the leaders of the rival Khalsa Diwan, Amritsar. A part of the expenses for the defendant in the long drawn suit had been borne by the Lahore Singh Sabha.
When the accounts were audited in 1888, Bhai Basant Singh passed strictures against the secretary, Bhai Jawahir Singh, and others of his group for alleged misuse of the Sabha`s funds. Mutual recriminations continued and in September 1888, Bhai Sant Singh and Bhai Basant Singh, president and vice-president respectively, resigned from the Singh Sabha and formed an association named Sri Guru Hitkarni Singh Sabha based in Lahore. Sant Singh became its president and Basant Singh vice-president, with Mehar Singh Chawla, a rich merchant of Lahore, as secretary.
Diwan Buta Singh and his paper, the Aftabi Punjab, backed the new organization which also had the support of Am ri tsar Khalsa Diwan. The aims and objects of Sri Guru Hitkarni Sabha remained the same as those of Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Lahore. Among them could be counted (a) celebration of Sikh festivals and anniversaries and restoration of the true rites, practices and doctrines of Sikhism ; and (I) spread of education among the Sikh masses by opening schools, publishing newspapers, books and pamphlets, and propagation of Punjabi in the Gurmukhi script.
The Hitkarni Sabha, which received liberal financial aid from Mehar Singh Chawla, devoted itself especially to the renovation of the gurdwaras, to activities for the promotion of Sikh teaching and of Gurmukhi letters, and free distribution of breviaries containing hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib. The Hitkarni Sabha supported the shuddhi or proselytization movement of Dr Jai Singh, though the Khalsa Diwan, Amritsar, opposed it and was averse to according equal status in Sikh society to converts from among Muslims and low caste Hindus. On the question of the location of the proposed Khalsa College, the Hitkarni Sabha sided with the Amritsar Khalsa Diwan. Both favoured Amritsar.
Unlike the Singh Sabha, Lahore, and the Khalsa Diwan, Lahore, Hitkarni Sabha applauded the enterprise of Raja Bikram Singh of Faridkot to have a commentary on the Guru Granth Sahib prepared by a synod of scholars. Its representatives, in fact, joined the Amritsar Khalsa Diwan deputation that called on the ailing Raja on 10 February 1894 at Faridkot to offer prayers for his speedy recovery and to make suggestions for a revision of the draft of the commentary. The following year, 1895, however, witnessed a rapproachement and ultimate reunion and amalgamation of the Hitkarni Sabha with the Singh Sabha, Lahore.
At a meeting of the Khalsa College Council at Amritsar in March 1895, Bhai Mayya Singh, secretary of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Lahore, bitterly attacked Bhai Gurmukh Singh, an influential figure in the college affairs, on the question of recruitment of staff and allocation of scholarships. Bhai Basant Singh, also a member of the council, joined hands with him in the attack. This incidental alliance paved the way to a closer understanding between the two and the societies they led merged together to form a united Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Lahore.
1. Jagjit Singh, Singh Sabha Lahir. Ludhiana, 1974
2. Klialsa Akhbar. Lahore, 24 November and 7 December 1888