Jaito Morcha Movement completes 100 years, know the golden history of this incident related to Indian freedom struggle

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‘Jaito Morcha’ is the golden history of the Indian freedom struggle movement carried out by the Gangsar Sahib Sikhs in a non-violent and peaceful manner. Jaito Morcha movement has completed 100 years on 21st February 2024. This is the history of a courageous struggle which was carried out non-violently by the Sikhs to save their culture and religious places from the British. The British considered it their priority to crush the Bahadur community to establish their rule in Punjab. The British committed atrocities on the Sikhs, against which the Sikhs formed organizations and these organizations played a very important role in the Jaito Morcha movement. This was the main conflict between the Sikhs and the British. Maharaja Ripudaman Singh of Nabha State was very popular among the Sikhs, so the British government tried to remove him by forcibly removing Maharaja Ripudaman on 9 July 1923 and installing his minor son on the throne.

On August 5, 1923, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, in a meeting organized by the Maharaja of Nabha, passed a sympathetic resolution stating “The injustice done to Maharaja Ripudaman Singh should be redressed by all reasonable and peaceful means.” Acting on this resolution, the Shiromani Gurdwara Management Committee decided to celebrate ‘Nabha Day’ on September 9, 1923. An appeal was made by the Sikh Sangat to participate in religious diwan, city kirtan and ardas in every village to remove the injustice done to Maharaja Ripudaman Singh. And thus preparations began with full enthusiasm to celebrate Nabha Diwas with great enthusiasm everywhere.

The Sikh Sangat decided to decorate the Diwan and perform Sri Akhand Path Sahib at Gurdwara Sri Gangsar Sahib, Jaito, Nabha on 25, 26 and 27 August 1923. The British prepared a list of names of Sikhs to disrupt the program and intimidate the Sangat running the langar. He also harassed the Sikhs of Nabha princely state. Seeing the worsening of the situation, the managers appealed to the Diwan for langar service, accepting which Sardar Nand Singh (Princely State Faridkot) offered to arrange the langar. Due to the appeal made by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee to the Panth, Nagar Kirtans were taken out, Diwans were decorated, resolutions were passed and Ardaas were performed in almost all the Sikh princely states and cities of Punjab celebrating ‘Nabha Day’ on 9 September 1923. Nagar Kirtan was also taken out in Jaito Mandi and Shri Akhand Path Sahib was started by decorating the Diwan in Gurudwara Shri Gangsar Sahib.

At this time the administration of Nabha State was under Mr. Wilson Johnston appointed by the British Government. On September 9, 1923, Sikh Akalis participating in the Nagar Kirtan were arrested. On September 14, 1923, British soldiers entered the Sikh Diwan and arrested all the attendants including the servicemen. He also grabbed Giani Inder Singh, who was serving Sri Akhand Path Sahib, by his arm and threw him down and dragged him away. This information spread everywhere, after which the Sikhs gathered and protested.

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee sent three groups of its members at different times to Gurdwara Sri Gangsar Sahib, Jaito. Members of each group were arrested by the police. Seeing this, the Sangat decided to send a group of 25-25 Sikhs every day to Gurudwara Sri Gangsar Sahib, Jaito. The first such group left on foot from Sri Akal Takht Sahib on 15 September 1923. Seeing no satisfactory results by sending Jaito to 25-25 Sikhs every day, the whole country went into deep thought, but immediately after deep consideration, Shiromani Committee decided to send Jaito to 500-500 Sikhs instead of 25. Under this decision, he set out to start Sri Akhand Path Sahib at Gurudwara Sri Gangsar Sahib, Jaito on February 9, 1924. After marching for several days, the martyrdom group reached its final stage on February 20, 1924. After reaching Bargadi village of Faridkot on 21 February 1924 in the morning, after finishing the Kirtan and Diwan of “Aasa Di War”, the group started towards Jaito, which was at a distance of 5-6 miles.

Despite the atrocities committed by the British, 13 other martyr groups of 500-500 Sikhs reached Jaito and were arrested. Barbed wire was installed on the road leading to Gurudwara Sri Gangsar Sahib and heavy police deployment. Machine guns were installed on the fort near the Gurudwara and the British army and police were standing with guns pointed at various places. The martyr group was about 150 yards behind Gurudwara Sri Tibbi Sahib where a British officer stopped the group from moving forward and said, “Wait, do not move forward. Otherwise the gun will go off, bullets will be fired.” Everyone heard this order, but the group did not stop and continued moving towards Gurudwara Sri Tibbi Sahib. Even when a child being carried by a mother was shot dead, the mother laid the body of the child on the ground and went on with her companions, however, soon afterwards she too was shot. She was beaten to death and she too became a martyr. Despite this, none of the Sikhs of the group disturbed the peace. Seeing this the British officer ran towards the army and ordered the army to open fire. Following the order, firing started from all three sides. After some time, bullets started firing for the second time. This firing continued continuously for five minutes, but the group of Sikhs moved forward peacefully, with courage and coolness. According to history, in this firing, about 300 Sikhs were injured and more than 100 Sikhs were martyred.

By the time the firing stopped, all the Sangat had reached Gurudwara Sri Tibbi Sahib. After this, efforts were started to bring the injured and martyred Sikhs of the group to Gurudwara Sahib. This painful incident that took place in Gurudwara Sri Gangsar Sahib of Jaito spread a wave of anger among Sikhs not only in India but also abroad. In this front of Jaito, apart from a group from Calcutta, a group including 11 Sikhs came from Canada, two groups came from China, one from Shanghai and the other from Hong Kong. The enthusiasm among Sikhs to visit Gurudwara Sri Gangsar Sahib and start Sri Akhand Path Sahib Ji increased even more. As a result, a total of 17 martyr groups marched sequentially and ultimately succeeded in this front. The seventeenth martyrdom group set out on foot from Sri Akal Takht Sahib via Lyallpur towards Jaito on 27 April 1925. On the way, the Sikhs received information that the British Government had removed all restrictions in this regard. This group reached Gurudwara Sri Gangsar Sahib Jaito and thus the first Sri Akhand Path Sahib was started there.

The Sikhs had to make tireless efforts for one year and ten months to free Sri Akhand Path Sahib from all restrictions and start afresh at Gurdwara Sri Gangsar Sahib, Jaito. During this conflict, hundreds of Sikhs were martyred, thousands of Sikhs were injured, many became disabled. The property and houses of many Sikhs were confiscated by the British government and they were exiled from their respective princely states. The posts of many Sikh Sardars were also snatched away. It is not possible to fully describe the difficulties, tortures and various types of torture that the Sikhs had to face in jails during this entire struggle.

The Governor of Punjab, Sir Malcolm Hailey, was ready to start negotiations through Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and Bhai Jodh Singh on the issue of the British Ruler giving permission to the Sikhs to perform Sri Akhand Path Sahib in Jaito, but the British Government was ready to initiate talks with Maharaja Ripudaman Singh. Was not interested in re-establishing it in his kingdom. But meanwhile, the Sikh Gurdwara Bill was passed unanimously by the government on 7 July 1925.

The struggle of this Jaito Morcha led to historically positive results in the future. All the prisoners were released. All restrictions were removed and 101 Sri Akhand Path Sahib was completed in its entirety by the Sikhs on 6 August 1925. Suffice it to say here that the Sikhs successfully carried out the first peaceful and non-violent movement against the British while protecting their country and religion.

Following the path of love of Guru Sahib, the Sikhs also gave the message to the British government that along with showing courage in wars, Sikhs can also express peaceful protest and achieve victory.

The Sikhs who participated in this front were tortured and martyred by the British government. Indians will always remain humble in honor of the sacrifice made by the Sikhs to protect the country and religion. While the success of Jaito Morcha was a crushing defeat for the British on one hand, it also inspired India’s freedom movement to set guidelines.

-Jagjit Kaur Neeru Singh Gyani

Director, Punjabi Sahitya Academy

(Author Neeru Singh Giani Nanaji Late Sardar Jamait Singh was a freedom fighter who took part in the Jaito Morcha movement)

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