Harchand Singh Laungowal (1932-1985)
Sant Harchand Singh Laungowal was a Sikh political and religious leader in 1970’s and 1980’s. He was born on 2nd January 1932 at the house of Mansa Singh and Karam Kaur of village Gidarianai, in the princely state of Patiala. Harchand singh started attending Gurdwara’s school at the age of five, then seminary at a nearby village named Maujo. There under Sant Jodh Singh, he studied Sikh theology and Sikh texts and practised Sikh music. His entry into punjabi politics was much later but the influence to politics was from beginning as his mentor Jodh singh was a member of Akali Dal.
Harchand Singh left Maujo at age 21. He moved to a village named Kiron Kalan serving as a Granthi at the village Gurdwara. He moved to village Laungowal the following year, a small town 16km Southwest of Sangrur. There he raised a gurdwara in memory of the celebrated eighteenth-century Sikh scholarly personage and martyr, Bhai Mani Singh , who was native of Kaimboval village, then a ruined mound. In 1962, Harchand Singh was named Jathedar or head of the shrine at Damdama Sahib (Talvandi Sabo) but he carried to the new station the word "Laungowal" which had got permanently suffixed to his name. In June 1964 he led out a Jatha of volunteers to Paonta Sahib, in Himachal Pradesh. This was the beginning of his dramatic political career. In 1965, he became the president of the Akali Jatha of Sangrur District and a member of the working committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal. In the mid-term poll held in 1969 he was elected as a nominee of the Shiromani Akali Dal, to the Punjab Legislative Assembly, defeating the Congress heavy weight, Babu Brish Bhan, who had been chief minister of Patiala and East Punjab States Union. In 1977 in the general election of India, he was given the Akali nomination for Parliament from a constituency from Punjab but he declined the offer which enhanced his political reputation and stature. In 1975 he was asked to led the Akali Dal’s resistance against the Emergency clamped down upon the people of India denying all civil liberties.
Harchand Singh retired from politics in 1977 but was recalled in 1980 to lead Akali Dal, Then he was made president of Akali Dal. His presidentship of party was a period of extreme turmoil and trial for Sikhs. India army entered Golden Temple in 1984 and holy shrine suffered attack and desecration. The assasination of Indira Gandhi brought riots against Sikhs in Delhi and many Northern Cities. However, the general elections of January 1985 saw the Sikhs busily involved in electioneering. After this election, Harchand Singh Laungowal and Rajiv Gandhi prime minister of India signed an accord under which many of demands of Sikhs were accepted by Rajiv Gandhi (these demands are still not implemented). But before the profess had come full circle, the Sant was shot by an unidentified young man presumed to be an extremist Sikh Youth. This happened on 20 August, 1985 at the Gurdwara in Sherpur, not far from Laungowal.