Tara Singh (activist)

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Tara Singh
Master Tara Singh.png
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

Master Tara Singh (24 June 1885 – 22 November 1967) was an Indian Sikh political and religious leader 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, the Indian journalist and politician Rajinder Kaur, was killed by Sikh militants in Bathinda.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Singh was born on 24 June 1885 to a Khatri family in Rawalpindi, Punjab Province in British India.[5] 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 Mohandas K. 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]

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 him 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. ^ "Ranjit Singh's statue unveiled in Parliament House". The Tribune (Chandigarh). 21 August 2003.

Further reading[edit]

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