Desh Bhagat Parivar Sahaik Committee
Helping Families of Patriots 1920
Originally named Sikh Desh Bhagat Parivar Sahaik Committee, to help the families of patriots, was set up in October 1920 under the chairmanship of Baba Vasakha Singh, a Ghadr revolutionary who had been sentenced to transportation for life, but was released from the Cellular Jail, Andamans, on medical grounds in 1920. He reached his village, Dadehar in Amritsar district on 14 April 1920, and almost immediately started preparing lists of families of other patriots who had been with him in the Andamans. As his poor health did not allow him to travel, he contacted those families through his younger brother, Magghar Singh, and communicated to them the news of their relatives in detention. He was deeply touched to hear stories of the hardships of these families, which had not only been deprived of their bread-earners, but also had their properties confiscated. He also gathered mailing addresses of many other families in similar straits.
In October 1920, the Central Sikh League held its second annual session in Bradlaugh Hall, Lahore. It had invited some released freedom fighters to the session in order to honour them. Baba Vasakha Singh was one of them. From the pulpit of the Sikh League he made a fervent appeal, seeking help for the families in distress. At his suggestion, the League resolved to set up to this end Desh Bhagat Parivar Sahaik Committee. Baba Vasakha Singh was unanimously chosen to be its chairman, an office he held throughout its life. The aims and objects of the Committee were:
1. To provide economic assistance to needy families of the patriots;
2. To look after the education and upbringing of their children;
3. To visit detained patriots to convey to them news of their families and to bring to the families news from them;
4. To create public opinion in order to press for release of political prisoners; and
5. To defend political prisoners in courts of law.
Baba Vasakha Singh and other members of the committee made a tour collecting information about those detained in jails for their political views or activities and acquainting themselves with their problems which they brought to the notice of the people through their press statements and public speeches.
The committee also raised a fund to aid the families of detainees. Baba Vasakha Singh toured the entire country and also went abroad to Burma, Singapore, Hongkong, Shanghai and other places in South East Asia to collect donations. Donations also began to flow from western. countries into the committee’s office set up in a hired building near the Darbar Sahib, in Amritsar.
Up to 1930, the committee’s efforts were primarily directed to meetings with political prisoners and to providing financial assistance to their families. The second phase began when it started mounting pressure for the release of political prisoners who had already spent many long years in jails. By this time Baba Vasakha Singh had also begun his work in the Kirti-Kisan (workers and peasants) movement which the government distrusted because of its leftist leanings and involvement.
The committee’s sphere of activity extended to ensuring the welfare of the families of those taken prisoners in the Kirti-Kisan campaign. On the outbreak of World War II the offices of the Desh Bhagat Parivar Sahaik Committee was raided by police and the records seized.
After independence in 1947, when most of the political prisoners were released by the new government, the committee remained dormant until 1952 when it was reactivated in Jalandhar to raise funds for a memorial in honour of the patriots. In 1955, the Desh Bhagat Parivar Sahaik Committee was amalgamated with the newly formed Desh Bhagat Yadgar Committee.