Channan Singh, Sant
President of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (1907-1972)
Elected president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, successively from 1962 till his death in 1972, was born in 1907
to Tarlok Singh and Prem Kaur, a peasant couple of modest means, belonging to the village of Mullahpur, in Ludhiana district of the Punjab.
As a small boy, he attended the Nirmala monastery located in his village where he learnt to read and write Gurmukhi and made his early acquaintance with Sikh scriptural texts. In 1923, when batches of Sikh volunteers were marching through the countryside to Jaito, site of the Akali agitation, Channan Singh, along with some other pupils of the Nirmala dera, persuaded one such jatha or band of volunteers to make a detour to his village, where he served them food with love and devotion.
In 1928, when his elder sister’s husband suddenly died, he migrated to her village, Chakk No. 18 Z, in Ganganagar district of Rajasthan, to take care of her and her young children. Four years later, he joined the army as a sepoy. He was in Calcutta with his regiment when he fell sick and had to be hospitalized for some months. During this illness he decided to withdraw from worldly affairs, lead a celibate life and dedicate himself to religious pursuit.
As he obtained his discharge from the army, he came in contact with Sant Fateh Singh, who then (in 1933) barely 22, remained absorbed in meditation most of the time. This determined his life’s calling. He began to assist Sant Fateh Singh in his programme of religious and educational uplift of the, Sikhs. From 1940 onwards, he was Sant Fateh Singh’s constant companion and helpmate in his campaign for opening Sikh schools and preaching the word of Guru Nanak. This work was confined mainly to Ganganagar district of Bikaner state.
Sant Channan Singh’s first introduction to politics was in 1949, when he led a jatha of 20 Sikhs from Ganganagar to participate in the Akali agitation against the Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU) ministry. He was arrested and sentenced to eight months in prison. On release from jail, he took out another jatha, this time from
Ludhiana district, and reached Patiala, where he was again arrested and detained in jail till the end of the agitation. He served a brief term in jail in 1953 when he took part in the farmers’ agitation in Ganganagar against the increase in land revenue and a longer one in 1960 in the Akali campaign for a Punjabi speaking state.
In 1950, he was unanimously elected Jathedar of the Akali Dal of Ganganagar, a position he retained until his election as president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in 1962. During the period, he also served as president of Sri Guru Singh Sabha of Ganganagar and was a member of the working committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal, representing Ganganagar.
From 1958-60, he was vice-president of the Dal. He represented Gananagar district in the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee as well. In October 1962, he was elected president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. He continued to hold this office until his death on 29 November 1972.