Baba Kharak Singh – Revolutionary Sikh & SGPC’s First President

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Baba Kharak Singh name is a mark of respect in the Sikh Community.He was the first elected president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee(SGPC). Apart from this distinction, he was also a freedom fighter of great repute. He worked for the welfare of the masses and after independance of the country, lived a life of peace and quiet away from political activities. He did not seek any favours. His aim in life was to see a free India and flourishing Sikh Community. He worked in both areas and was greatly revered. Such was his clout, that his arrest during freedom struggle launched massive protests by the public. He was arrested several times and was given harsh treatment in prison, but he never deterred from his target.

Baba Kharak Singh’s long public life began innocuously enough – when he was elected Chairman of the Reception Committee of the fifth session of the All-India Sikh Conference held in his home town, Sialkot, in 1912.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 and the subsequent events in Punjab under Martial Law galvanized him into political activity. He addressed the annual session of the Indian National Congress which was held as Amritsar in December 1919, under the presidentship of Motilal Nehru (Jawaharlal’s father).

Baba Kharak Singh was elected the first President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC) in 1921. In November that year, the Punjab Government passed an order whereby the keys of the toshakhana (treasury) of the Golden Temple at Amritsar were to remain in the custody of the Deputy Commissioner of the district.

The SGPC protested and an agitation was launched. Baba Kharak Singh was arrested. The agitation continued.

As Rana Jang Bahadur Singh, a former Editor of The Tribune wrote: “Ultimately the proud ruling power had to bend before the iron will of the puissant Baba. The key was delivered to him at a public function by a representative of British imperialism. And, metaphorically speaking, with that key he eventually opened the gates of the temple of freedom. He became a general of the army of liberators in the Punjab and his life became a saga of sustained, valiant struggle.”

On January 17, 1922, the keys of the Golden Temple were handed back to Baba Kharak Singh, who had been released along with thousands of other political prisoners, at the Akal Takht. On this day, Mahatma Gandhi, who was then ‘Dictator’ of the Indian National Congress, sent the following telegram to Baba Kharak Singh:

“First decisive battle for India’s freedom won. Congratulations.”

In a lecture at Lahore he said “In the fight for India’s freedom if you find a bullet in my back, do not count me as one amongst the Sikhs of the Gurus and do not cremate my dead body according to the Sikh rites. A disciple of the Great Gurus is an ideal saint-soldier and it supposed to fight in the vanguard and face the bullets in the chest and not in the back, and we the Sikhs shall never allow any foreigner to rule over Motherland, and we shall brook no injustice.”

He organized a mammoth demonstration in 1928 when the Simon Commission visited Lahore. He was again sent to jail in 1931 but was released after six months. He was re-arrested in 1932 and detained for 19 months in prison. Once again he was taken in custody in 1935 for his scathing criticism of the Communal Award.

He was again sent to the jail in 1940 for participating in Satyagrah movement in 1940. In spite of his old age, Babaji did not stop his activities. He was one of those leaders who unhesitatingly took up the cause of the I.N.A. in 1945. During the elections of 1946 he toured the whole of the Punjab and the N.W.F.P. and made a magnificent contribution to the success of the Congress.

According to Jawahar Lal Nehru, during his whole life had never surrender to what he considered to be wrong or evil, whatever the consequences might have been.

At another place Mr. Nehru said about him, “There are few hands which can uphold the honour and preserve the dignity of the national Flag better than those of Babaji”.

After 1947, Baba ji stayed in Delhi in virtual retirement, and died there on 6 October 1963 at the ripe age of 95. Even in his death, he caused a stir.

“Pandit Nehru was in Parliament when he heard that Baba Kharak Singh had passed away. He rushed from Parliament to be by his bedside.

“When he arrived there he saw that Baba ji was still struggling. Nehru was angry at having to rush out on the midst of a Parliament session and he asked the doctors for an explanation. ‘Well, technically he is dead. But this is some kind of a struggle going on within him,’ said the doctors. There he was, struggling till the very last”, recalls Gurdit Singh Jolly.

Its a sad plight of Punjab about what the Akali government did for Babaji. There is no institution or even a road or chowk in the name of Baba Kharak Singh in Punjab, while the government in the center named a very important road in Babaji’s name and at his death they brought out postal stamps in his name and have put up his photograph in the parliament while even in the Sikh Museum in Amritsar and others there is no mention of Baba Kharak Singh under whose leaderships the Sikhs and Indians won all the campaigns against the British and even Gandhi after the victory of Babaji’s campaign sent the following telegram to Babaji: “First Battle of India’s freedom won, Congratulations.” It’s a shame that the sacrifices of the uncrowned king of the Sikhs are absolutely Ignored.

Refrences:

- Sikh Achievers by Ranjit Singh (Hemkunt Publications)
- Sikh Wikepedia
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