Tara Singh Malhotra - SGPC and The Gurdwara Movement

SGPC and The Gurdwara Movement

Tara Singh was one of the first members among the one hundred seventy five members elected to the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, whose formation provided a focal point for the movement for the reformation of the Sikh religious places. Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee began controlling Gurdwaras one by one, but the trouble arose where the mahants were stubborn as they were shielded by law. Starting in late 1920, large number of reformers both in urban and rural Punjab had joined to form separate and independent groups called jatha, for gaining control over their local Gurdwaras. Leader of a jatha was called jathedar under whose command a jatha would occupy a shrine and try to gain transfer of management in its favour from its current incumbents. Sometimes the transfer went peacefully especially in the case of smaller Gurdwaras with less income resources, and sometimes with the threat of force.

The Sikh leadership was fully aware of the importance of press for the success of any movement. It enlisted the active support and sympathy of some of the important nationalist papers in the country like The Independent (English), Swaraj (Hindi), The Tribune, Liberal, Kesari (Punjabi), Milap (Urdu), Zamindar (Urdu) and Bande Mataram (Hindi). Two of the vernacular dailies Akali (Pbi.) and the Akali-te-Pardesi (Urdu) also played an important role. It brought the necessary awakening among the Sikh masses and prepared them to undertake the struggle for reform. Master Tara Singh remained the editor of these two papers. With the direct and indirect support of the Central Sikh League, the Indian National Congress and the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, the Shiromani Akali Dal started a non-violent struggle against the government for the control of the Gurdwaras.

The reports of some immoral acts perpetrated at Tarn-Taran reached the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee at its meeting on 14 January 1921. A fortnight earlier a local jatha was beaten up and not allowed to perform kirtan at the Gurdwara. It decided to send a jatha from Amritsar under Jathedar Teja Singh Bhuchar. Jathedar Kartar Singh Jhabbar with Akalis from 'Khara Sauda Bar' joined him. On 25 January, a group of about forty workers took over the control of Sri Darbar Sahib Tarn-Taran from its Mahant. In the ensuing conflict two Akalis were killed and several others wounded by the henchmen of the Mahants. The Mahants were ousted from the Gurdwara and the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee appointed a managing committee.

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