Bhagwan Singh, Gyani
Bhagwan Singh, Gyani
Prominent Ghadr Leader (D. 1962)
Was born the son of Sarmukh Singh of the village of Varing, 15 km east of Tarn Taran in Amritsar district of the Punjab. Their ancestors, Kashmiri Brahmans, had migrated to the Punjab during the seventeenth century. Bhagwan Singh learnt Urdu at the village school and then joined Gurmat Vidyala, a missionary school at Gharjakh, in Gujranwala district, from where he passed the gyani examination. He was employed as a teacher in the Gurmat Vidyala, shifting after a short while to Khalsa School, Dasaa, in Sialkot district, where he studied Vedanta under Sadhu Har Bilas.
He delivered anti-government speeches during the agrarian unrest of 1907-08, and to escape prosecution left India sailing to Penang where he became a granthi or Scripturereader in the gurdwara, but his services were soon, terminated owing to his radical views. Bhagwan Singh next worked as a granthi at the Central Gurdwara in Hong Kong. Here he was twice prosecuted in 1911-12 and, though he was acquitted on both occasions, he had to leave the colony.
He reached Canada in April 1913 under the assumed name of Nattha Singh, but was deported by the immigration authorities on the charge of having entered the country under a false name. He was put on a Japanese ship going to Hong Kong, but he managed to escape en route and entered Japan where a unit of the Ghadr Party had been established by Maulawi Barkatullah. Bhagwan Singh and Barkatullah met the S.S.Komagata Maru on its outward journey at the end of April 1914 and addressed its inmates, setting sail soon thereafter for the United States and reaching Yugantar Ashram, the Ghadr Party headquarters at San Francisco, on 23 May 1914.
With the arrival of Bhagwan Singh the control of the gurdwara at Stockton passed from the hands of a moderate management to those of the revolutionaries. He addressed meetings and contributed patriotic and anti-British poems to the Ghadr. After the departure of Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna for India on 21 July 1914, Bhagwan Singh was elected president of the Ghadr Party. Besides guiding the work at party headquarters, he toured the Philippines, Japan, Shanghai (China) and Panama to enlist volunteers, establish branches and collect funds.
In Manila (Philippines) in May 1915, his address was "B.S. Jakh, Post Box 1070." British government had been bringing diplomatic pressure on the United States to check the Ghadr activity. The U.S. government acted swiftly after it had entered the war (World War I) and on 7 April 1917 took into custody Bhagwan Singh and 18 others who were brought to trial at San Francisco. The charge against them was the violation of American Neutrality Law by conspiring to organize the movement in Thailand and Burma in order to weaken one of the allied governments and to send arms and ammunition to them. Bhagwan Singh was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment which he spent in the United States penitentiary at MacNeil Island.
After his release, he and his comrades, who were in danger of being deported to India, applied for and were granted political asylum in the United States with the support of an organization known as Friends of Freedom for India. He edited the Punjabi monthly Navan Jug (New Age) which was in a way a continuation of the Ghadr.
Bhagwan Singh Gyanee repatriated to India in 1958 on the invitation of Partap Singh Kairon, then Chief Minister of the Punjab. He founded the Self-Culture Association of India, with headquarters at Saproon in the Himalayas. He travelled extensively addressing especially students at colleges and universities, his chosen themes being patriotism and national unity.