A Ghadr Movement Leader (1877-1957)
Was born on 13 April 1877 at Dadehar, a village in Amritsar district of the Punjab. His father, Dial Singh, and mother, Ind Kaur, were a God-fearing couple. One of his ancestors, Mohar Singh, is said to have received the rites of amrit at the hands of Guru Gobind Singh himself. Vasakha Singh grew up in a religious environment. As was usual in those days, he had his early education at the village gurdwara and learnt to read the Sikh texts. He took the Sikh initiatory rites at the age of twelve. He was married to Ram Kaur while he was quite young. His wife died within four years, but he did not marry again.
At the age of nineteen he joined the army which he left in 1907 to go to China. From China, he went on to the United States of America, where he had a partnership in a 500-acre farm with Baba Javala Singh of Thattian. Out of the income of the farm Vasakha Singh and javala Singh set up Guru Nanak Educational Society with a view to helping needy Indian students studying in America. He was also one of the builders of the Gurdwara at Stockton. As the first issue of the Ghadr, the weekly organ of the revolutionary Ghadr party, carrying reports of the conferences of Indian immigrants held in the States of Oregon and Washington, reached the hands of Indians working on California farms, they felt deeply stirred. Vasakha Singh went to Sacramento to attend the party meeting held on 31 December 1913, and was elected a member of the central executive committee. He responded to the party’s call to return to India and take part in the armed rebellion it had planned. But as he reached Madras on 7 January 1915, he was taken into custody. He was put under house arrest and detained in his village.
He retained his links with the ghadr party. When the plot was leaked out to the British by a spy, Vasakha Singh was seized by police along with several other Ghadr leaders. He was tried in the Lahore conspiracy case 1 (1915) and, on 13 September 1915, sentenced to transportation for life and forfeiture of property. He went on a strike for over a month in the Andamans as a protest against maltreatment of political prisoners. After his release from jail as a result of general amnesty to certain categories of political prisoners, he reached his village on 14 April 1920 in a very poor state of health. He, however, continued working actively for the freedom of the country. To help political prisoners languishing in jails, he helped form Desh Bhagat Parivar Sahaik Committee of which he was elected president.
In 1931, Baba Vasakha Singh’s movements were confined to the city of Amritsar, and in 1932, he was detained in his village for two years. He again went to jail in the years 1940 and 1942. Baba Vasakha Singh’s was a revered name in Sikh piety. He led a jatha of 100 volunteers to court arrest in Guru ka Bagh morcha. He was one of the Panj Piaras when the kar–seva or cleansing of the holy sarovar at Tarn Taran was commenced on 10 January 1931. He was also one of the Panj Piare who laid, on 14 October 1932, the foundation-stone of the new building of Gurdwara Panja Sahib. He had the honour to be appointed, in 1934, Jathedar of the Akal Takht at Amritsar.
He died in a hospital at Tarn Taran on 5 December 1957.