Tara Singh Malhotra - Nehru Report and The Sikhs

Nehru Report and The Sikhs

Important Indian leaders called an 'All Parties Conference' in Bombay, in February 1928, to discuss the future constitutional framework of the country. The Central Sikh League was the only Sikh organisation invited to attend the conference. Master Tara Singh, Mangal Singh, Kharak Singh, Mehtab Singh, Amar Singh and Giani Sher Singh attended the conference at Allahabad. The Conference appointed a committee with Pandit Moti Lal Nehru as chairman to draft an agreed formula. Sardar Mangal Singh was also appointed its member. The committee submitted its report to All India Congress Committee, which is known as the Nehru Report.

About the communal aspect of the report relating to Punjab, the report stated, “As regards the special claim of the Muslims and Sikhs for greater representation than their population would justify--- it is enough to say that in the view we have expressed above, no such claim is admissible on the part of any community, however, important it may consider itself to be”.

The report accepted claims by the Muslims in the provinces where they were in minority while dismissed the Sikh claims on the basis that the Punjab problem is a peculiar one where there is the presence of the strong Hindu minority side by side with the Muslim majority and the Sikh minority. The report further said, “endless complications will arise if we recommend reservations for all minorities. The communal question is essentially a Hindu-Muslim question and must be settled on that basis”.

The Nehru Report deeply affected the politics of Punjab as it did not only cause disappointment to the Sikh community but was also responsible for the division among them especially over the communal clauses of it which provided for universal adult franchise in Punjab with no reservation of seats for the minorities, as was done in other states excepting Bengal, where the Muslims were in minority. The Report became the root cause of acute differences between Master Tara Singh and Sardar Mangal Singh on one hand and Baba Kharak Singh and the Congress on the other hand. Master Tara Singh was the first Sikh leader to react sharply to the communal clauses and provisions of this report. He immediately expressed his resentment by sending a telegram to Moti Lal Nehru. Sardar Mangal Singh came in for severe criticism for having signed the report ignoring the Sikh interests.

Master Tara Singh expressed his views in his editorials in Akali-te-Pardesi. He along with the majority of the Sikhs at that time was against the communal electorates and was suspicious of the intentions of the makers of the Nehru Report; about the abolition of communal provisions. He thought that in Punjab also this has been maintained in such a way so that the Muslims can dominate the other minorities. He wrote, “As Congress wants to please the Muslims so it is ignoring the Sikh interests. From the provisions and views expressed in the Nehru Report itself, it is clear that Congress is taking into question only two major communities and working out a compromise between them. Although it admits the importance of Sikh minority, yet it is doing nothing to safeguard its interests in Punjab.”

On 21 August 1928 about 80 Sikhs representing different parties assembled to discuss the report. Master Tara Singh criticising the Nehru Report moved a resolution. It asserted that the Sikhs would not relinquish their rights under the existing circumstances when; special representation had been allowed to minorities in other provinces. It demanded the same consideration for the Sikhs in the Punjab.

In the editorial of 15 September 1928, under the title Sikh Ki Kurbani Kar Sakde Han? (What the Sikhs can sacrifice?) Master Tara Singh wrote, “A Sikh can sacrifice his all for a good cause or the cause of religion, but not for the establishment of any kind of despotism. The Congress is assisting the Muslims to establish a kind of majority despotism in Punjab and telling the Sikhs to sacrifice for this cause. The Sikhs have always favoured the end of communal representations as a sacrifice for the national cause, with some provisions to safeguard the interests of the minorities. The real meaning of self-rule is that, no community should fight among themselves and everything should be done in perfect peace and harmony. If after getting self-rule we are going to fight among ourselves, then, what is the use of it? If we promise something now, won’t that affect us in future also?”

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