Today in Sikh History :23rd May
|1606||Jahangir received false reports on Guru Arjan’s blessing Khusrau.
A report about Guru Arjan’s blessing Khusrau and affixing a saffron mark on his forhead poured into Jahangir’s eras. That made him to call for Guru arjan into his presence and set the stage for confrontation with the Sikhs. Khusrau’s indiscreet revolt against his father on April 6, 1606 had helped to strengthen the position of Islamic revivalists. Khusrau was pursued by Shaikh Farid Bukhari who in turn was being followed by Jahangir. Anyone helping Khusrau directly or indirectly was immediately punished. Khusrau crossed river Bease and was followed by Shaikh Fard Bukhari who inflicted on him a crushing defeat near Bhairowal. Khusrau was captured on April 27, 1606, near Chenab and brought as prisoner to Lahore. Upto May 22 there was no mention at all of Khusrau’s calling on Guru Arjan much less the latter’s blessing on him.
|1848||Maharani Jind Kaur exiled and sent to Banaras prison.
==> Maharani JIND KAUR: was daughter of Sardar Manna Singh Auhlakh, a resident of village Chandh, district Sialkot, Tehsil Jafarwall. She was wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and mother of Maharaja Dalip Singh. Once the British government gained control of the Khalsa Raj’s affairs, she was initially kept under house arrest at Saekhupura and subsequently jailed at Chunar fort (U.P. district Mizapur). However, she escaped in a beggar’s attire and reached Nepal, where she lived with dignity. In 1861, Maharani Jind Kaur reached England to visit her son Maharaja Dalip Singh, where she died on Aug. 1, 1863 at the age of 46. Her body was brought back and cremated in Nasik Nagar, on the outskirts of Bombay.
On March 27, 1924, Maharaja Dalip Singh’s daughter, Bamba Dalip Singh, brought the ashes of Maharani Jind Kaur from Nasik Nagar and buried it next to Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s samadh. Sardar Harbans Singh Rais of Atari performed the last rights (antim Ardas) on this occasion.
Here are a few glimpses of her life from "Maharani Jind Kaur" by Dr. B.S. Nijjar that also sheds light on the sad, unfortuante affairs of Sikh state after the death of Sher-i-Punjab, and offers a rare glimpse of the treachery of some Dogras and Brahmins.
At one time the Dogras has become so influential that the Raja Hira Singh wanted to be the king by pushing aside Maharaja Dalip Singh. The Sikh army did not like him. They liked Maharaja Dalip Singh.
There was a general discontent among the Sikh army and they were not happy with the way Rani was behaving. She had became louder in her demands. She asked for more jagirs for her brothers and more yearly allownaces for herself. She spoke of the designs against every survivor of the royal family and of intending flight to the southern side of Satluj where the English would at least secure for her son, his father’s protected territory. This, of course, was a great miscalculation on her part.
Rani an Accomplished Administrator
However, Rani issued a proclamation praising the fidelity of the Khalsa troops. She had shown considerable energy and spirit in conducting the State business, with the courage and determination seldom shown by any woman in Sikh history. Lord Hardinge had un-willingly praised her for her regular life and devotion to the State affairs. She commanded the obedience of regimental committee as well as Sardars, who were also represented in the Supreme Council of Khalsa. However, she committed the impardonable sin of compromising with the Army. Several conferences with the military officers took place and at one of those, the Sardars said that the army would not let the Government go on.
Weakness of Rani
Harding wrote to Ellenborough about administration of Rani Jind Kaur, on October 23, 1845 A.D., "Rani now reviews the troops unveiled, and dressed as a dancing woman, which displeases the old but gratifies the yourng; but her irregularities are so monstrously indecent that the troops have held her horse and advised her to be more chaste or they would no longer style her the Mother of all the Sikhs."
The officers adamantly told the Rani that that army could govern very well for itself. The demand of the increase in pay was, however, not conceded nor was it definitely refused. But the troops were declaring loudly that Rani and her brother were unfit to reign and must be imprisoned or put to death and Peshaura Singh [son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, but not of Jind Kaur] be seated on the throne. The general joy expressed at the death of Hira Singh [son of raja Gulab Singh dogra] and Pandit Jalla, was thus giving place to appreciation of the order and justice prevailing under their rule. The Khalsa army now became openly independent of the Civil authority and almost acted as Kingmakers.
Jawahar Singh Comes to Power
After the overthrow of of Raja Hira Singh and his favourite Pandit Jalla, the ministerial office was not immediately filled and for some time all power of the Sikh Kingdom remained in the hands of the "Army Panchayat." In May, 1845, A.D., however, Jawahar Singh brother of Rani came to power as he was appointed to the exhalted office of Prime Minister for five months from May 1845 to September 1845 A.D. The Prime Minister immediately did his best to win over the army. He raised the salary of the soldiers by half a ruppes and thus consolidate his position. [An average soldier made about Rs/. 11 a month at that time.]
The Dogra Rajas could not tolerate the high position of Jawahar Singh and thus spared no effort to exploit the Khalsa soldiers against him. Raja Gulab Singh instigated Pishaura Singh, another son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to revolt as he was to be fully supported by the former. At the instigation of the Dogra Rajas, Prince Pishaura Singh revolted and occupied Attok, but was defeated by Jawahar Singh’s forces and murdered. It was a blunder on the part of Jawahar Singh as the Sikh army did not appreciate this hasty step of their Prime Minister and turned against him. Raja Lal Singh, the Commander-in-chief of the Khalsa Army, all the more, exploited this situation. A meeting of the Army Panchayat was called and the matter was put before them.
Ultimately Jawahar SIngh was summoned to appear before the Army Panchayat. Jawahar Singh was not unaware of the fury of the Army Panchayat. He rather fully anticipated his fate. Therefore, he took his nephew Maharaja Dalip Singh with him in the hope that the presence of the Maharaja might influence the Khalsa troops in his favour in securing a pardon.
But the fierce and infuriated soldiery sorrounded the elephant on all sides, and the boy Dalip Singh was rougly snathced from the arms of his uncle. Jawahar Singh bowed before the troops, and with folded hands, implored them to hear him for a moment. They, however, would not allow him to utter a word even. He was stabbed with a bayonet on the left, and as he bent over on the right, a man sent a bullet through his brain. Jawahar Singh fell from the ‘howdah’ a corpse, and his body was dragged from the elephant and mangled with swords of those who sorrounded it.
Bawa Rattan Singh and Bhai Chaittu, the councillors of Jawahar Singh, were killed without any ceremony, on the same spot. The cash, in gold and silver coins, which Jawahar Singh and the Rani had brought with them and their fort, was now plundered by the soldiers, and the Rani and her slave girls were compelled to retire to the tents which had some days previously been pitched for their reception. The whole thing was, thus, well premeditatd and planned. The boy Dalip Singh was separated from his mother for a while and kept with the soldiery, fearing that the Rani in her rage and excitement might destroy herself and her child. When these fears had subsided, the prince was again made over to his mother. The soldiers. however, kept a strict watch over Rani’s tents the whole night, to prevent any accident. She passed the night in fearful screams and shrieks, lamenting over the death of her beloved brother and cursing the Khalsa. As morning broke, she was permitted to to see the mangled body of her brother. Her lamentations and painful cries renewed with a violence which moved the bystanders to pity and melted even the iron hearts of those who had been instrumental in causing her brother’s murder.
Weeping bitterly, Jind Kaur threw herself and her child on the body of her brother. When partly by entreaties and partly by force, she was separatd from the corpse, she rolled upon the ground, tearing her hair and her clothes. This hearth rending spectacle touched the sympathies of the most valorous spectators. The scene was terminated at noon, when the Maharaja with great difficulty, was persuaded to return to the city. The corpse of the murdered prime minister was also carried to the city, where his funeral obseques were performed outside the Masti Gate, in the presence of several Sardars of the court.
|1914||Guru Nanak Jahaz (Koma gata Maru) reached Vancouver port, Canada. However, it was forced to return to India.
==> KOMA GATA MARU: Punjabis traveling to foreign land in search of better jobs were being discriminated against at the begining of 20th century. The Canadian government had issued prohibition against their entry and the British ships had refused to accept any Punjabi travelers. The Canadian law stated, for the purpose of preventing immigration from india and other countries, that only those passengers could land in Canada who travelled on a through ticket without any break in journey from their land of birth. However, no company provided such a service between the Indian and Canadian ports. As a result, many Punjabis were stranded for months in Hong Kong, unable to get tickets for their final destination, Canada.
Baba Gurdit Singh of Sarhali village, a well established businesses in Calcutta, Malaya, etc., heard of the stranded Punjabis in Hong Kong and decided to challenge this prevalent situation. He rented "Koma Gata Maru", a Japanese ship and named it "Guru Nanak Jahaj". Sri Guru Granth Sahib accompanied the passengers along with Kesri Nishan Sahib.
On April 4, 1914, this ship sailed out of Hongkong and reached the Vancouver port on May 23, 1919, with 167 passengers. However, these passengers were not allowed to land at Vancouver and were forcibly returned to Calcutta in the same ship, after a long and painful struggle. Upon return, the ship was fired upon by the British at BajBaj Ghat in Calcutta. The returning passengers were either arrested or killed. Only a few managed to escape. Baba Gurdit Singh jee escaped the death and lived in disguise for almost 8-9 years. What started as a simple individual business venture turned into a major political event. The returning passengers were no longer considered as better job opportunity seekers but were prosecuted as freedom fighters.
-Ref. Hindustan Gadar Party: A Short History by Sohan Singh Josh, People’s Publishing House, New Delhi, 1977.
KOMAGATA MARU INCIDENT – A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Komagata Maru was a merchant ship leased by S. Gurdit Singh to move Indians to Vancouver, Canada. The Canadian govt. was anti-Indian and did not favor their entry to Canada. This adventure was neither directly connected to the Ghadar Party nor was it an outcome of any freedom figting organization. However, it gave a unique twist to the Indian history and freedom struggle in India. The Ghadar journal helped to give it a direction of prevalent discontent and moulded it into a radical movement. And there was a very good reason for it.
The Canadian govt, in order to check further influx of Indians, adopted tought measures. Most notorious of them was "Canadians Privy Council Order No. 920," popularly known as "Continuous Journey Clause." This made the lives of Indo-Canadians very difficult. They could not visit their families and they could not visit them because there was no direct ship service from India to Canada. The Indians, specially Sikhs, used all means to persuade the Canadian govt to withdraw the order, but they won’t listen. A deputation of Bhai Balwant Singh, Narain Singh, Bhai Jawala Singh, and Bhai Nand Singh even went to London in April 1913, and later visited India to present their case to the British and British-Indian govt, respectively. It all failed.
Baba Gurdit Singh, a wealthy businessman from Singapore, in order to satisfy the continuous journey clause, chartered his own ship from a Japanese company that would take passengers directly to Canada. The ship sailed on April 4, 1914 from Hong Kong with 165 passengers on board. More passengers joined in Shanghai, Moje and Yokohama and the number rose to 376. 346 were Sikhs and remaining were Punjabi muslims and Hindus. (Some people put the total at 372.) Before leaving, he consulted a leading Britsh solicitors at Hong Kong who assured him that there was no bar to the Indian admission to Canada. He agreed to pay $60,000 as the charter fee.
The ship arrived on the shores of Vancouver on May 23, 1914. The passengers were not allowed to land and the ship was cardoned off by the police. The "Times" (London) of that day carried a categorical statement of the Prime Minister of British Columbia that they would not admit these orientals. Leading Indians (mostly Sikhs) in Vancouver formed a ‘Shore Committee.’ It paid $22,000 as installment of the charter money for the ship, and filed a test case in the Supreme Court in the name of one passenger Munshi Singh in the hope that they would get more favourable verdict. On July 7, the full bench of Supreme Court gave its unanimous decision that they cannot overrule the Immigration Department’s dicision.
Food had run out in the ship. Some local Sikhs managed to deliver potatoes and other things on one occasion during the night on a hired boat. The passengers were very angry and they took control of the ship from the Japanese Captain. The Canadian govt retaliated by ordering a harbour tug "Sea Lion" (sort of tow truck for ships) to push the ship out of the shore. The angry passengers mounted an attack on the police by throwing lumps of coal and bricks. The army regiments had taken positions and it was like a war zone. The Sikhs of Vanocuver were so angry that and decided to burn the city of Vancouver if their countrymen were fired upon by the police, army and the militia who had sourrounded the ship. Somehow a decision was made and the ship sailed back into the sea towards India. Before the ship reached Yokohama, the war broke out. The British govt ordered that no passengers were allowed to land from where they had boarded the ship. At Yokohama, Bhai Sohan Singh Bhakna had delivered 200 pistols and a several hundred cartridges when the ship docked there for a short period. In addition, Ghadar Party literature was also loaded into the ship in flour bags. Many Ghadarites had also boarded the ship from Shanghai.
The Komagata Maru (Guru Nanak Jahaj) reached Calcutta at Budge Budge harbour on July 23, 1914 after a two-month long struggle.
The Canadian govt had employed agents to commit murders of the Indian community leaders. One such agent was Bela Singh and his band who worked for the Canadian immigration and Mr. William Hopkinson (a high official on the govt) who was a great enemy of the Indian community. Their main job to strike terror in the heart of the Indian (Sikh) community. On September 5, 1914, Bela Singh fired at the Sikh congregation which had gathered to mourn the death of one Ram Singh by Ram Singh. Bela Singh went on firing with two pistols and killed two people and seriously wounded several others. A case was filed agaisnt him. Bhai Mewa Singh shot dead Mr. Hopkinson in the court who was there as a defense witness. Bela Singh was later acquitted. This infuriated the Indian immigrants in Canada. Bhai Mewa Singh was later sentenced to death. Mewa Singh, in his confessional statement said, "This is what led me to take Hopkinson’s life and sacrifice my own life to in order to lay bare the opposition exercised upon my innocent people through his influence in the eyes of the whole world. And I, performing the duty of a true Sikh and remembering the name of God, will proceed towards the scaffold with the same amount of pleasure as the hungry baby does towards its mother. I shall gladly have the rope around my neck thinking it to be a rosary of God’s name ."
Bhai Mewa Singh’s martyrdom day used to be celebrated in Vanvouver Gurdwara every year (maybe it still is). (I have added this note only to emphasise that govt agents are always active in our own community.)
In the diwans held at Gurdwaras of Shanghai and Hong Kong, Komagata Maru formed a central issue and Indians were asked to return to India to avenge the insult. It was no coincidence that the first jatha of Ghadarites came from Shanghai and reached Calcutta alomost on the heels of Komagata Maru. All those who arrived on subsequent ships at Calcutta were rigorously inspected, and those suspected to be dangerous were either arrested or forbidden to reside elsewhere other than their native villages. Many Ghadarites reached Punjab using various routes and methods.
Komagata Maru Reached Budge Budge Harbour (ghaat)
Komagata Maru arrived at Calcutta on September 29, 1914. The passengers pretty much knew what was in store for them in India. Therefore, they threw all the objectionable things in the sea. When they arrived in Calcutta, they were searched thoroughly three times. No arms were found.
At Calcutta, the police wanted the passengers to board the train bound for Punjab immediately, but the passengers insisted that they have to deposit the Holy Guru Grnath Sahib (which was on baord) in one of the local Gurdwaras. Some boarded the train while the other defied the police and started to march towards Calcutta in the form of a procession. The police informed the 2nd Battaion of Royal Fusileers. Thirty English policemen barred the processions’ entry into the city. A brawl followed and police opened fire, killing 18 processionists and wounding at least 25. The police chief was shot dead by Bhai Munsha Singh who was one of the passengers. Two other officials were killed and and eleven got injured. Two Punjab policemen were also dead. The officials were cared for and got medical treatment, but no one cared for the wounded passengers. Many passengers were tortured. Sixty passengers escaped from the police seige and crossed river Houghley during night. Seventeen of them were later arrested.
Komagata Maru incident created a sharp reaction against the injustice to the passengers all over the world, but the premier organization of India, Indian National Congress, which was supporting the British Imperialist Goverenment’s war efforts in the World War I with money amd men, did not utter single word of condemnation against the foreign rulers.
The saga of Komagata Maru is the story of callous attitude of the Imperial Government and the racist policy of the Canadian government at that time. While every action of the passengers cannot be justified, it was a reaction to the treatment that was meted out to them. Komagata Maru became a by-word for British oppression among the Punjabis. A passenger told an enquiring British officer, "This ship belongs to the whole of India. This is the symbol of the honour of India and if this was detained, there would be mutiny in the armies."
Soon after this incident, Ailane-e-Jang (Proclamation of War) was prepared by the Ghadar Pary which was circulated to a very large number of people. An important meeting was held in Sacramento, (California) and Indian were asked to go back home and wage a war against the Britors who were fighting the World War I. A large number of Punjabis did go back to India and started their revolutionary activities. Shahid Kartar Singh Sarabha, Raghubor Dyal Gupta and many others did not even wait for the meeting and left for India. Little bit later 60-70 Indians left by S. S. Korea which included some prominent leaders on the West Coast of USA. Some of them were sent to other countries to persuade the Indians of other countries such as Burma, Phillipines, China, and Hong Kong to go back to India and start the revolution.
Baba Gurdit Singh, who escaped the police bullets, remained underground until 1920. On the advice of Mahatma Gandhi, he made a volunatary surrender at Nankana Sahib and was imprisoned for five years. (Mahatma Gandhi did not help him in any other way!) He died on July 24, 1954.
Such was the story of Komagatu Maru.
|1921||Bela Singh and Ganda Singh are arrested and the militant Akali’s conspiracy to murder J.W. Bowring, for his part in the Nankana Sahib massacre, ends in a fiasco. A government agent, Sadhu Singh, poised as a straunch Akali supporter working for "Akali" newspaper facilitated their arrest. They were tried under Babbar Akali Conspiracy Case Trail No. 1.|