Khalistan Movement in Colonial Punjab: A Critical Reappraisal.

Byline: Amir Ali and Muhammad Iqbal Chawla


After the drop-scene of the Cabinet Mission, the Congress Party again began wooing the Sikhs by making promises, giving allurements, assurances and sweet talks. On the 6thJuly 1946, PanditJawaharLal Nehru, while speaking at Calcutta said, "The brave Sikhs of Punjab are entitled to special consideration. I see nothing wrong in an area and a set up in the North wherein the Sikhs can also experience the glow of freedom1." By this time, Nehru had already made personal contact with Partap Singh Kairon and the latter had promised to co-operate him; after this Nehru sent a telegram to Partap Singh Kairon and Colonel Niranjan Singh Gill (not to Master Tara Singh) which said that the boycott of the Constituent Assembly could lead to serious repercussions hence this decision should be reviewed; Nehru had suggested that even after the elections, the Constituent Assembly could be boycotted2.

After this Kairon held separate talks with Baldev Singh and Niranjan Singh Gill; the latter consulted Master Tara Singh and BabuLabh Singh (president of the Akali Dal) and after this he asked the Sikh candidates to file nominations for elections to the Constituent Assembly. For the four seats of the Constituent Assembly, Baldev Singh, Ujjal Singh, BawaHarkishan Singh and Narotan Singh filed papers as Akali candidates, and, Partap Singh Kairon, Kapur Singh (not I.C.S.), BabuBachan Singh and Shiv Singh filed papers as Congress nominees3. But, in the meeting of the PanthicPratinidhi Board held on the 14thJuly 1946, it was resolved that the nominations should be withdrawn and the boycott if the elections to the Constituent Assembly should be continued; at this all the eight Sikh candidates withdrew their nomination papers4.

In the meanwhile the Congress leaders again began contacting the leaders of the PanthicPratinidhi Board; they were able to win over the pro-Congress members of the Board e.g. Kairon, Udham Singh Nagoke, Sarmukh Singh Chamak, Sampuran Singh etc. besides they (Congress leaders) had also contacted Niranjan Singh Gill, GianiKartar Singh, Master Mota Singh, Baldev Singh; and, through their cronies the Congress maneuvered to get the Board members to change its decision; as a result, on the 14thAugust the Board allowed the Sikhs to file nominations for the election to the Constituent Assembly (before taking this decision they did not consult Master Tara Singh or BabuLabh Singh who was the president of the Akali Dal)5.

This weakened the Sikh position and they launched an agitation instead of participating in elections, the English would have been compelled to consider their demand for a Sikh State; but, the behaved in a confused manner which gave impression that some of them could be impressed upon easily and it was not difficult to create division among their leadership by sweet-talks, flattery, allurements and other methods of lobbying and maneuvering6. Here, at this juncture, Partap Singh Kairon and Udham Singh Nagoke had played the major role, the former due to ulterior motives and the latter due to his naive mind and blind pro-Congress and pro-Gandhi devotion.

Master Tara Singh was unhappy at this decision; he believed that the decision to contest elections would not be beneficial to the Sikhs and will affect their future besides trusting the Congress a blunder as it had been deceiving the Sikhs time and again; so, he announced that he would launch an agitation against the Congress and the British regime; at this Niranjan Singh Gill resigned from the PanthicPratinidhi Board. After this the Akali Dal took reigns of the PanthicPratinidhi Board but soon the Congressites began withdrawing from its activities; even Baldev Singh had been allured by berth in the Central cabinet; hence soon the Board lost its united force and became just another unit of the Akali Dal.

Master Tara Singh's fears against Sikh-Muslim Union

During this period, some British officials tried to convince Master Tara Singh to have union with the Muslims; they assured him some safeguards for the Sikhs in the constitution of Pakistan; Master Tara Singh was skeptical due to his experience of the past; referring to this, Mr. Henderson, who had a meeting with Master Tara Singh in Government House at Lahore, on the 19thJanuary 1947, recorded: "Master Tara Singh stated that the Sikhs had strong fears of Muslim domination. They desired some safeguards in Section B such as had been provided at the Centre in respect of major communal differences. Sikhs would then willingly co-operate in the work of the section. I asked him whether if no such safeguard was given whether they would refuse to enter into the Section. He said that it was doubtful that they would, although they might take a decision to enter the Section in order to state their case reserving their freedom to leave subsequently.

He (Master) stated that if British bayonets were not here, the Sikhs would revolt and seek to prevent Muslim...

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