SIKH HANDBILL COMMITTEE
SIKH HANDBILL COMMITTEE, a small body consisting of 11 members formed under the Chief Khalsa Diwan to further social and religious reform among the Sikh.s, was set up at Lahore on 22 December 1907. Its task was to bring out leaflets to propagate Sikh principles, and to influence the Sikh masses to live up to the precepts and practices enjoined by the Gurus. The handbills printed in Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi and freely distributed, especially in the countryside, would, it was felt, be a cheaper and more effective substitute for newspapers and pulpit preaching.
The committee elected Professor Bhai Jodh Singh of Khalsa College, Amritsar, as its president and Bhai (later known as Master) Tara Singh, then a student at the Central Training College, Lahore, as secretary. Subsequently the latter having left Lahore on completion of his training, the secretaryship was taken over by Dr Sohan Singh, a lecturer at the Medical College, Lahore. Bhai Mohan Singh Vaid of Tarn Taran was entrusted with the writing of the handbills. It was decided to issue one handbill every month.
The first one, brought out on 11 January 1908, explained the aims and objects of the committee. Between April 1908 and March 1910, 24 handbills in 4,18,000 copies, including 10,000 each in Hindi and Urdu and the remaining in Punjabi in Gurmukhi script, had been issued. These were followed by another 18 by the end of 1911. The handbills dealt with a variety of topics such as evils of drinking, gambling, illmatched marriages, caste system and untouchability, beggary and the imitation of western fashions. They inculcated positive virtues of faith, equality and brotherhood, and enlightenment through education.
The style was anecdotal and narrative, spiced with a judicious mixture of wit and humour. The Committee ceased functioning with the dawn of 1913 mainly, it appears, for financial reasons. Already, while republishsing in book form the handbills issued during the period April 1908 to March 1910, the secretary had complained about the lack of funds. According to him, donations during the first year which amounted barely to Rs. 321 dwindled to the insignificant figure of Rs 7.50 during the second year.
1. Jagjit Singh, Singh Sabha Lahir. Ludhiana, 1974