Tara Singh (activist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Master Tara Singh)

Master Tara Singh
Born(1885-06-24)24 June 1885[1]
Rawalpindi, Punjab, British India (present-day Pakistan)
Died22 November 1967(1967-11-22) (aged 82)[1]
Singh on a 1985 stamp of India

Tara Singh (24 June 1885 – 22 November 1967) was a Sikh political and religious figure in India in the first half of the 20th century. He was instrumental in organising the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee and guiding the Sikhs during the partition of India, which he strongly opposed.[2]

He later led their demand for a Sikh-majority state in East Punjab. His daughter was the Indian journalist and politician Rajinder Kaur.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Singh was born on 24 June 1885 in Rawalpindi, Punjab Province in British India into a Malhotra Khatri family.[5][6] Later he became a high school teacher upon his graduation from Khalsa College, Amritsar, in 1907. Singh's career in education was within the Sikh school system and the use of "Master" as a prefix to his name reflects this period.[1]

Political career[edit]

Singh was ardent in his desire to promote and protect the cause of Sikhism. This often put him at odds with civil authorities and he was jailed on 14 occasions for civil disobedience between 1930 and 1966. Early examples of his support for civil disobedience came through his close involvement with the movement led by Mahatma Gandhi. He became a leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) political party, which was the major force in Sikh politics, and he was similarly involved with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (Supreme Committee of Gurdwara Management), an apex body that dealt with the Sikh places of worship known as gurdwaras.[1]

He was instrumental in getting the Sikh State resolution passed by Akali Dal under his leadership in 1946, which declared Punjab as the natural homeland of the Sikhs. He also advocated for a "Azad Punjab" (Free Punjab) before demanding the independent nation of "Sikhistan" at the time.[7][8] He later led their demand for a Sikh-majority state in East Punjab. A devout worker for the cause of Sikh religious and political integrity, Tara Singh often found himself in opposition to Indian Government. He was jailed for civil disobedience 14 times between 1930 and 1966.[9] In the 2020 biography of former Punjab CM Partap Singh Kairon, it has been documented that Tara Singh revived his demand for a separate nation for Sikhs after Independence.[10] In 2018, his granddaughter in law mentioned that Master Tara Singh’s “dream of an autonomous Sikh state in India remains unfulfilled.[11]

Partition of India[edit]

As with other Sikh organisations, Singh and his Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) condemned the Lahore Resolution and the movement to create Pakistan, viewing it as welcoming possible persecution; he thus strongly opposed the partition of India, saying that he and his party would fight "tooth and nail" against the concept of a Pakistan.[2]

Independent India[edit]

Singh's most significant cause was the creation of a distinct Punjabi-speaking state. He believed that this would best protect the integrity of Sikh religious and political traditions. He began a hunger strike in 1961 at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, promising to continue it to his death unless the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to his demand for such a state. Nehru argued that India was a secular country and the creation of a state based on religious distinction was inappropriate. Nonetheless, Nehru did promise to consider the issue. Singh abandoned his fast after 48 days. Singh's fellow Sikhs turned against him, believing that he had capitulated, and they put him on trial in a court adjudged by pijaras. Singh pleaded guilty to the charges laid against him and found his reputation in tatters. The community felt he had abandoned his ideals and replaced him in the SAD.[1]

The linguistic division of the Indian state of Punjab eventually took place in 1966, with the Hindi-speaking areas redesignated as a part of the state of Haryana. Singh himself died in Chandigarh on 22 November 1967.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Tara Singh". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b Kudaisya, Gyanesh; Yong, Tan Tai (2004). The Aftermath of Partition in South Asia. Routledge. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-134-44048-1. No sooner was it made public than the Sikhs launched a virulent campaign against the Lahore Resolution. Pakistan was portrayed as a possible return to an unhappy past when Sikhs were persecuted and Muslims the persecutor. Public speeches by various Sikh political leaders on the subject of Pakistan invariably raised images of atrocities committed by Muslims on Sikhs and of the martyrdom of their gurus and heroes. Reactions to the Lahore Resolution were uniformly negative and Sikh leaders of all political persuasions made it clear that Pakistan would be 'wholeheartedly resisted'. The Shiromani Akali Dal, the party with a substantial following amongst the rural Sikhs, organized several well-attended conferences in Lahore to condemn the Muslim League. Singh, leader of the Akali Dal, declared that his party would fight Pakistan 'tooth and nail'. Not be outdone, other Sikh political organizations, rival to the Akali Dal, namely the Central Khalsa Young Men Union and the moderate and loyalist Chief Khalsa Dewan, declared in equally strong language their unequivocal opposition to the Pakistan scheme.
  3. ^ Rajinder Kaur, Dr. (Shrimati). Rajya Sabha Council of States
  4. ^ "Dr Rajinder Kaur (1931–1989)". Sikh history. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  5. ^ Tambiah, Stanley J. (3 January 1997). Leveling Crowds: Ethnonationalist Conflicts and Collective Violence in South Asia. University of California Press. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-520-91819-1.
  6. ^ "Ranjit Singh's statue unveiled in Parliament House". The Tribune (Chandigarh). 21 August 2003.
  7. ^ Grewal, J.S. (2018). academic.oup.com. doi:10.1093/oso/9780199467099.003.0011 https://academic.oup.com/book/3615/chapter/144931833. Retrieved 7 December 2023. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ "Looking back at the Khalistani movement". The Times of India. ISSN 0971-8257. Retrieved 10 June 2023.
  9. ^ Grewal, J.S. (22 March 2018). "The Second Battle: (1960–2)". Master Tara Singh in Indian History: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Sikh Identity. Vol. 1. Oxford University Press. pp. 560–581. doi:10.1093/oso/9780199467099.003.0024. Archived from the original on 11 June 2023. Retrieved 2 August 2023.
  10. ^ M Rajivlochan (14 April 2023). "Kairon gave precedence to region over religion". The Tribune. Archived from the original on 6 May 2023. Retrieved 31 July 2023.
  11. ^ "Master Tara Singh's dream of autonomous Sikh state remained unfilled, says granddaughter-in-law". Hindustan Times. 24 June 2018. Retrieved 14 October 2022.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]