Ishar Singh Marhana
Akali activist and Ghadr revolutionary (1878-1941)
Was born on 1 January 1878, younger of the two sons of Bhai Jind Singh and Mai Chand Kaur, of farming stock of the village of Marhana, near Tarn Taran, in Amritsar district of the Punjab. He learnt Gurmukhi in the village gurdwara and recited avidly his daily hymns every morning and helped his father and elder brother, Asa Singh, with fanning. As he came of age, he was married to Bibi Har Kaur, daughter of Bhai Hira Singh, of Khanpur village in Nakodar lahsil of Jalandhar district.
Ishar Singh went abroad in search of better prospects, and, travelling through Singapore, Hong Kong and Panama, reached California (U.S.A.) in 1908. He came in contact with Vasakha Singh and Javala Singh, also Punjabi immigrants from Amritsar district. They formed a company and, hiring a 500-acre piece of land near Holt, started an agricultural farm which prospered.
When Indian immigrants settled mostly in California and Oregan states formed the Hindustani Association of the Pacific Coast, Ishar Singh too became one of its members. This body later became the famous Ghadr party which planned a revolution in India during World War 1 (1914-18). The plan however aborted and the Ghadr revolutionaries were tried in what is known as Lahore conspiracy case. Ishar Singh was one of those who got away with a reduced sentence of 7 years.
By the time he came out of prison, Akali movement for the reform of shrine management had got under way. He was automatically swept into it. In 1922 he set up a huge conclave of the Akali reformists in his own village, Marhana, where he delivered a forceful anti-government speech for which he was arrested, tried and sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment which he underwent in different jails at Rawalpindi, Campbellpore, Montgomery and Multan. On release in 1929 he was elected jatheddr (leader) of the district Akali Jatha of Amritsar. In 1930, he was elected a member and vice-chairman of Amritsar Darbar Sahib Managing Committee for three years. Ishar Singh also participated in the Civil Disobedience movement of 1930-31 for which he got six months in jail besides a fine of Rs 150. In 1933 he was elected a member of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. He was re-elected in 1936 and was appointed chairman of Sri Darbar Sahib Managing Committee in which capacity he worked until his death, after a brief illness, on 16 August 1941.