Tara Singh Malhotra - Role in Civil Disobedience Movement

Role in Civil Disobedience Movement

In March 1930, Gandhi ji declared the Civil Disobedience Movement. Baba Kharak Singh who was then the president of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee opposed it while Master Tara Singh who was then the vice-president of the committee supported it. Master Tara Singh was opposed to a boycott of Gandhi ji's Civil Disobedience Movement, as he considered it suicidal for the community to keep itself aloof from the national movement. He was successful in persuading Shiromani Akali Dal to extend its support to the civil disobedience movement and placed the immediate services of 5000 Akalis at the disposal of Mahatma Gandhi. He asked the Sikh councillors to resign from their posts. The Central Sikh League also decided to participate in the movement. A conference of representatives of the political parties like the Congress, nationalist Sikhs and Muslim was held at Lahore. Master Tara Singh assured the conference that nationalist Sikhs would not lag behind in the struggle for national independence.

The British Government let loose terror and inflicted untold atrocities on the people during the Civil Disobedience Movement. There were widespread disturbances in Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan. In Peshawar alone there were nearly three hundred casualties. On 23 April 1930, in Kissa Kahani Bazar inside Kabuli Gate, Peshawar, the people were protesting against the arrest of their leaders in connection with the Civil Disobedience Movement. The police opened fire and killed thirty-five people and again on 31 May, opened fire on a procession taking the dead bodies of the two children killed in another incident of police firing, killing a person again.

This incident stirred Master Tara Singh to the depth of his soul and as a mark of sympathy for the sufferers Master Tara Singh led a Sikh jatha of 100 satyagrahis to Peshawar. Before marching to Peshawar he addressed a huge gathering at Jallianwala Bagh and declared, “The Sikhs, in sympathy with their tyrannized countrymen, will shed their blood at the same place where the Pathans have shed it. It is said that the Sikhs and Pathans are each other's enemies. That is absolutely wrong. The Sikhs and Pathans are sons of the same Motherland, and if any such impression prevails that they are enemies, the Sikhs will wash it off by mingling their blood with that of the Pathans. The Sikhs must, therefore, go to their rescue and lay down their lives and do their duty honourably as enjoined upon them by their Gurus. ”

It was an impressive march and everybody admired the courage of Master Tara Singh as at every movement there was a threat of police firing. Master Tara Singh was arrested on the way at Lahore and sent to the Gujarat jail, where other leaders arrested in connection with this movement were also interned. During his imprisonment in jail he was elected the president of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee in the annual elections replacing Baba Kharak Singh.Jathedar Teja Singh Akerpuri was elected vice-president. He was now the President of two main institutions of the Sikhs, one religious and the other political.

It was during the 'Civil Disobedience Movement' that Master Tara Singh became endeared not only to the Sikh community, but also to the nation at large. It is estimated that the Sikh participation in the 'Civil Disobedience Movement' was proportionately the largest and the most glorious, as out of 7000 satyagrahi convicted in Punjab over 3000 were Sikhs, leaving the majority to be divided between the Hindu and Muslim citizens. The credit for this large mobilisation goes to Master Tara Singh.

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