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CONGRESS IN SGPC - Tript Rajinder Bajwa marks 60 years of this Congress dream
- S Pal
CONGRESS IN SGPC - Tript Rajinder Bajwa marks 60 years of this Congress dream



ON NOVEMBER 16, 2018, a senior minister of the Amarinder Singh government openly declared that the Congress-affiliated Sikhs will fight the elections to the SGPC to oust the Akali Dal.

Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa was marking the 60 years of the first major attempt by the Congress to snatch away the SGPC from the Akalis and make it an instrument of the Congress party.

It was on November 16, 1958 when Giani Kartar Singh defeated Master Tara Singh by 77 votes to 74 votes after becoming a henchman of Pratap Singh Kairon.

But the situation had reached this stage after a lot of drama, much of it centred around charges of corruption against Kairon. Today, if the Badals find themselves in similar circumstances, they should not be surprised. Corruption has the undoing of many tall men.

In fact, history of yore is often the mirror image of our present. The talk of be-adbi is very much in the air today, as signified by the Bargari Morcha. It was no different in the heady 1950s. 
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Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa was marking the 60 years of the first major attempt by the Congress to snatch away the SGPC from the Akalis and make it an instrument of the Congress party.
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Arya Samajists had started a Hindi Raksha morcha in 1957. It witnessed very provocative, abusive lectures and slogans to which the Sikh community took serious objection. 

* In the first week of July 1957, several cigarette cases were thrown into the sacred sarovar of Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar. 

* On August 8, 1957, pages from the holy Sikh scriptures were torn and scattered on the road leading from Chowk Lachhmansar to Chatiwind Gate, Amritsar.

* On August 16, 1957, a packet of cigarettes was found thrown in Gurdwara Sikh Sewak Jatha, Patiala.

* A similar incident took place on September 13, 1957 in Gurdwara Singh Sabha, Hissar.

* On December 24, 1957, a tobacco packet was thrown in the sacred sarovar of Sri Darbar Sahib and a poster appeared that carried threats to the Sikhs.

Ambala and YamunaNagar witnessed processions in which participants shouted — Oora Airra Nahi Padhenge, Gandi Bhasha Nahi Padhenge.
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Ambala and YamunaNagar witnessed processions in which participants shouted — Oora Airra Nahi Padhenge, Gandi Bhasha Nahi Padhenge.
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In response, a silent procession of the Sikhs was organised in Delhi on February 2, 1958 by Master Tara Singh.

Here is Master Tara Singh in his own words:

"After the end of the Hindi Raksha Morcha, the Punjab Government has come out with redoubled zeal to interfere in the management of our Gurdwaras. A so-called Malwa Akali Dal has been organised overnight, and the Chief Minister, after dissolving the Pepsu Gurdwara Interim Board has reconstituted it giving this new Malwa Akali Dal members equal in number to that given to the Shiromani Akali Dal...Why should these fresh attacks upon our Gurdwara management by the Punjab government coincide with the postponement of the Hindi morcha? Is there some concerted plan?...I blame Arya Samajist leaders for the most offensive attacks against Sikh religion... Religion should be the last thing in which our secular government should interfere; and Government should consider itself bound to protect the freedom and especially the religious freedom of every minority." 

Master Tara Singh 
 
Unlike the Akali Dal of today, led by the Badals, whose approach to incidents of sacrilege of scriptures was reactive in nature and which tried to paint it as a conspiracy merely directed against their government at that time, the Akali Dal of the 1950s took the lead in making clear its pain at such sacrilege. The silent march in Delhi symbolised that.

Master Tara Singh wrote: "We have taken out this mourning procession in order to draw the attention of the world to our pitiable condition. Most insulting and unparalleled sacrilegious acts are being committed to demoralize us. We have been perfectly peaceful and calm in spite of these worst sorts of provocations. Our opponents have so far failed to incite us to retaliate. We mean to live and live with honour." 

On February 2, 1958, a five-mile-long silent procession was taken out from the Red Fort in Delhi at 1:00 p.m. and it dispersed at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. The Tribune gave the number of the participants as 150,000. It was led by Giani Bhupinder Singh, Head Granthi of the Golden Temple while Swami Ganesha Dutt also joined it, along with other Akali leaders.

Partap Singh Kairon with Pt. Nehru 
 
By this time, Chief Minister Kairon was facing considerable opposition within the ruling party, including serious allegations of corruption. In June 1958, Kairon was required to seek a vote of confidence, and his fate seemed uncertain but on the eve of the Punjab Legislative Congress Party meeting, PM Nehru came to his rescue as he ridiculed the constructive responsibility theory and made it clear that he did not believe that Kairon was dishonest.

This was a very timely clean chit and Kairon's supporters went all out to mend fences with rivals. In the June 5, 1958 contest, he won with 102 votes against 54, and then wanted to drop challenger Giani Kartar Singh from the ministry, but was not given a go ahead by the central leadership. 

However, he did manage to cut down Giani Kartar Singh to size by taking away from him the important portfolios of revenue and local bodies and made him the minister of an unimportant portfolio.
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"Religion should be the last thing in which our secular government should interfere; and Government should consider itself bound to protect the freedom and especially the religious freedom of every minority.” — Master Tara Singh
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Master Tara Singh on September 16, 1958, stated in Delhi that Sikhs' aspirations were not being met and renewed the demand for Punjabi speaking state. The first Punjabi Suba conference was held at Amritsar on October 12, 1958, bringing the confrontation to a climax.

This was the cue for the Kairon-led Congress and the entire Punjab government machinery to start working overtime to remove Master Tara Singh from the presidentship of the SGPC.

 Giani Kartar Singh
 
By this time, Giani Kartar Singh had deduced that Kairon had proven to be strong. He wanted to bury the hatchet with the CM. Kairon made him a hatchet man by giving him the task to cut down Master Tara Singh to size. Both, Gian Singh Rarewala and Giani Kartar Singh ganged up against Master Tara Singh.

Giani Kartar Singh was successful in bringing together all the opposition groups, including 22 Communists, with his own group by promising them important offices in the executive of the SGPC. 

Prem Singh Lalpura with Sant Fateh Singh 
 
On November 16, 1958, Master Tara Singh was defeated by 77 votes to 74 votes, a development applauded by the entire communal Hindi press. It was declared as a vote against the Punjabi Suba issue. It was Prem Singh Lalpura who had defeated Master Tara Singh.

Master Tara Singh found himself back in the reckoning on February 13, 1959 when he was elected as the Akali Dal president.

He was soon arrested to sabotage the march he had planned in Delhi. The silent march took place on March 15, in which more than 4 lakh Sikhs participated.

Master Tara Singh, who was kept in the Dharamshala jail, wrote to Nehru, suggesting that an impartial person should arbitrate on the question whether the Punjab government of the Congress party had interfered in the religious affairs of the Sikhs by passing the Sikh Gurdwara Amendment Act. He also questioned the motives of Giani Kartar Singh and proposed that his complaint be referred to Acharya Vinoba Bhave, or C Rajagopalachari or Jai Prakash Narayan, or all of them.

Nehru wrote back to him in jail, saying it would be unprecedented to refer an Act passed by the legislature to any arbitrator.

Master Tara Singh was finally released on March 21. The Akali Dal was preparing to contest the elections to the SGPC on the issue of Punjabi speaking state. The Congress seemed to be fully prepared to interfere. Maharaja Patiala suggested that instead of holding the elections, the members be chosen by the sangat, or through a draw of lots carried out within the gurdwara premises.

On April 8, 1959, Pratap Singh Kairon issued a statement claiming that the Patiala Maharaja’s stance was the best way to end the bitterness between the government and the Akalis. 

A super-confident Kairon, Giani Kartar Singh and Rarewala were instrumental in setting up the Sadh Sangat Board to oppose the Akali Dal in the ensuing SGPC elections. Giani Kartar Singh, in fact, quit his ministry after some people objected to a minister meddling in gurdwara polls.

Now, the aim was clear — ousting the Akalis from gurdwara management.
 

Since the Delhi Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee still had Akali leadership, Kairon was keen to shut the financial tap. On May 20, 1959, Lalpura suspended the DGPC and replaced it with an 11-member committee with Sajjan Singh as the president.

But the committee failed to take the actual control of the gurdwaras. Finally, about a 100 armed-to-the-teeth men of the Congress swooped down on Gurdwara Sisganj Delhi for taking forcible possession but the Master's group thwarted the effort. 

The showdown also witnessed tear gas shells. A total of 68 people were arrested. 
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Neither the Congress nor the communists leave any stone unturned in their fight to take control of the gurdwaras
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Master Tara Singh addressed a public meeting in Delhi on May 25 and expressed his desire to set up a volunteer force of 1,000 marjeevras to prevent anyone from taking control of DGPC. Finally, an agreement was signed between Master Tara Singh and Lalpura on May 30, 1959 at the residence of Baldev Singh.

Cartoon in Daily Pratap: Supporters of Pratap Singh Kairon have turned themselves into a party to contest Gurdwara elections.  
 
When Giani Kartar Singh and others realised that Master Tara Singh could sweep the SGPC polls, the Congress propped up a Sadh Sangat Board. The communists also came to their help and their Desh Bhagat Board also joined in these efforts. The two reached an electoral alliance on December 30, 1959.

Neither the Congress nor the communists leave any stone unturned in their fight to take control of the gurdwaras but the election results showed the Sikhs rebuffing such designs. 

On January 16, 1960, about 18,50,000 Sikhs voted to elect 136 SGPC members. Three days later, the results were declared. The Akali Dal secured 132 seats, the Sadh Sangat Board won 4 and the intellectual prowess of the Desh Bhagat Board comrades could not get them a single seat.

Tripat Singh Bajwa with Sikh leaders
 
Now that Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa has marked the 60th anniversary of the ousting of an SGPC chief by the proxies of the Congress party, it is anyone's guess what this power tussle can lead to, but if history is any guide, then the Congress in Punjab will be treading where fools have been before, and singed themselves badly.
 
Post Script: 

When Communists Supported Khalistan

Some of the younger readers would be surprised to know that there were 32 Communist members of the SGPC who backed Giani Kartar Singh's efforts. 

The fact is that India's communists are recent lovers of the 'unity and integrity of the nation' mantra. While their fulminations now match those of the saffron-hued politicians, the fact is that there was a time when Communists were more bothered about the poor and the downtrodden than about painting themselves champions of national integrity.
 

Travel back to the times when hectic confabulations were on about the fate of India, Punjab, and the Sikhs. The Communists, hold your breath, were a strong votary of a separate Sikh state at one time.

When the SGPC passed a unanimous resolution on March 9, 1946, demanding a separate Sikh state, it was supported by the Communists along with the Nationalists and the representatives of the princely states. Of course, it was to counter the demand for Pakistan.
 

Cartoon in Daily Pratap dated July 11, 1959, making fun of Maharaja Patiala's

suggestion about choosing members of the SGPC either through Sangat or draw of lots.  

 

 

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