PANTHIC PRATINIDHI BOARD
PANTHIC PRATINIDHI BOARD was a panel set up by Sikhs at a representative convention presided by Mohan Singh Nagoke, Jathedar Akal Takht, held at Teja Singh Samundri Hall, Amritsar, on 910 June 1946 to protest against the constitutional proposals announced by the British Cabinet Mission. The Labour Government which had taken office in Britain in consequence of national election in the summer of 1945 displacing the Conservative leader, Winston Churchill, had promised an “early realization of full self government in India.” It sent out a special mission consisting of three Cabinet ministers, Lord Pethick Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr A.V. Alexander, to negotiate with Indian leaders and settle the basis for an interim government and of a constitution making body of the country.Talks with various Indian parties dragged on for three months, but no arrangement acceptable to all of them could be evolved. The Mission thereupon worked out a plan of its own which was made public on 16 May 1946. Retaining the semblance of a Central structure, the substance of the Muslim claim for autonomy was conceded. Three separate zones were proposed, two of which were to consist of Muslim majority provinces.
Each provincial group was to have its own constituent assembly to draw up its constitution. A transitional government wholly Indian in composition, except for the Governor General, was to be set up immediately at Delhi. The Cabinet Mission proposals contained hardly anything for the Sikhs beyond a rather solicitous reference to them.They were recognized as an important minority like the Muslims and as one of the three main Indian parties, yet they were not accorded the communal veto such as the Muslims had in determining the future constitution, nor were they guaranteed any protection against the Muslim majority rule in the Punjab.
In the Constituent Assembly of Group B to which Punjab had been assigned, they were to have four seats, against 9 Hindus and 23 Muslims. The scheme was subjected to bitter censure at a widely representative Sikh assembly at Arnritsar on June 9 and 10. Over a thousand Sikhs drawn from various organizations and sects attended the meeting. Among them were Akalis, Congress Sikhs, Nirmalas, Namdharis, Nihangs and Sikh youth leaders.The main resolution moved on the second day by Sardar Ujjal Singh and seconded by Giani Kartar Singh rejected the Cabinet Mission`s proposals and declared that “no constitution will be acceptable to Sikhs which does not meet their just demands and is settled without their consent.
” Another resolution created an Action Committee, the Panthic Pratinidhi Board (lit. Board representative of the Panth), to decide on what measures might be adopted to meet the challenge facing the Sikhs.Colonel Niranjan Singh Gill, of the Indian National Army, was named president. Members: Master Tara Singh, Sardar Baldev Singh (then Development Minister in the Punjab Government), Bhai Jodh Singh, Jathedar Udham Singh Nagoke, Sarmukh Singh Chamak, President of the Ramgarhia Federation, Sant Nidhan Singh `Alam of Namdhari Darbar, Giani Kartar Singh, Bawa Harkishan Singh, Principal of the Khalsa College at Gujrariwala, Babu Labh Singh, President Shiromani Akali Dal, Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir, Member Working Committee of the Punjab Provincial Congress Committee, Basant Singh of Moga, Colonel Raghbir Singh, and one representative each of Chief Khalsa Diwan, Nirmala Sikhs and the Nihangs.
Among members later added were Ujjal Singh, Darshan Singh Phcruman, Ajit Singh Sarhadi, and Jathedar Pritam Singh Gojrari. On 13 June 1946, Sardar Patel invited Colonel Niranjan Singh Gill, along with Bhai Jodh Singh, Jathedar Udham Singh Nagoke and Ishar Singh Majhail to Delhi seeking to have the rejection of the Cabinet Delegation Scheme rescinded. In the meantime, the Viceroy announced the British government`s intention to have an Interim government consisting of six Congressmen, five Muslim Leaguers, one Parsi, one Sikh and one Christian as its members at the Centre.
The Panthic Pratinidhi Board, however, confirmed the Panthic Convention stand at its meeting held on 22 June 1946 in the following words: “This meeting of the board after giving careful and anxious consideration to the invitation extended to the Hon`ble Sardar Baldev Singh by His Excellency the Viceroy to join the Interim Government as a representative of the Sikh community unanimously resolves… that in view of the decision of the Panthic gathering on June 9 and 10 held at Amritsar rejecting the Cabinet Mission`s proposals as being unjust and gravely detrimental to the interests of the Sikhs and in view of the fact that participation in the Interim Government involves acceptance of these very proposals, the Panthic Board cannot advise any Sikh to serve on the Interim Government on the present basis…” Heavy pressure was brought by the Congress leaders on the Sikhs to accept the long-term proposals of the Cabinet Mission, but the Panthic Board at its meeting on 10 July 1946 reaffirmed boycott of the Constituent Assembly and directed the Sikhs not to take part in it.
On 9 August 1946, Colonel Niranjan Singh Gill was invited to the Congress Working Committee meeting held at Wardha at which it was resolved to accept the Interim Government scheme with certain minor changes and to appeal to the Sikhs to reconsider their decision about not joining the Constituent Assembly, assuring them of full support in having their legitimate grievances redressed. On 14 August 1946, the Panthic Board lifted the embargo on Sikhs joining the Constituent Assembly. The resolution adopted ran: “Though grave apprehensions of the Sikh community concerning their future under the Cabinet Mission`s Scheme continue to exist yet the appeal and assurance of the Indian National Congress carry weight with the Board.
In the circumstances, after careful consideration, the Board is of the view that the situation calls for an earnest effort to give the Constituent Assembly method a fair trial to secure for the Sikhs similar safeguards in the Union as are promised for the two major communities in the long-term proposal… The Board, therefore, advises the Sikhs to return their representatives to the Constituent Assembly and those Sikh representatives will raise the question of safeguards in the preliminary meetings of the Constituent Assembly and the Board expects all the parties in the Constituent Assembly to support the Sikh demand.” The Board thereafter lost ground. The resignation of its president, Colonel Niranjan Singh Gill, on 8 September 1946 and withdrawal of some members on 4 November 1946 signalled its dissolution.
1. Gopal Singh, A History of the Sikh People (1469-1978). Delhi, 1979
2. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983
3. Gurmil Singh, History of Sikh Struggles. Delhi, 1989-92