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Darshan Singh Pheruman

(1885 – 1969) – (Punjab)

Darshan Singh Pheruman (Aged 84) born into a Sikh family in Amritsar, India on August 1st, 1885, enlisted in the Indian Army as a sepoy in 1912. He left the army in 1914 to establish his own construction business in Hissar. However, he later abandoned his business to join the Gurdwara Reform Movement. In 1921, he was imprisoned for a year for participating in an agitation to recover the keys of the Golden Temple treasury from the British deputy commissioner of Amritsar.

In December 1924, Pheruman led a group of Sikhs known as Shahidi jatha (the 14th of 16 groups) into the Jaito agitation as part of the Gurdwara Reform Movement. This resulted in another arrest and a ten-month imprisonment, which concluded with the implementation of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925. He participated in the Non-cooperation movement in 1926 and was jailed for 14 months.

In 1926, Pheruman was detained in Malaya because of his past record in India. He was denied permission to wear Kacchera, one of the five articles of Sikh faith that Sikhs must wear all the time, in prison. In protest, he began a hunger strike that lasted over three weeks. Upon his return from Malaya, he was imprisoned three times for joining the civil disobedience movement. He supported the Akali Dal’s participation in the Quit India Movement and was involved in it himself.

After India gained independence, Pheruman served in the Rajya Sabha until 1964. He left the Indian National Congress in 1959 and joined the newly-formed Swatantra Party.

Akali Dal demanded transfer of Punjabi speaking areas including Chandigarh to Punjab after its creation on linguistic lines in 1966. Sant Fateh Singh went on a fast in December 1966, but ended it after Indian PM Indira Gandhi promised to arbitrate the dispute. However, no action was taken and in 1969, Pheruman accused Fateh Singh of breaking his ardas.

Darshan Singh Pheruman announced a fast until death to uphold the dignity of ardas and for the disputed areas. Arrested on 12 August in Amritsar, he started a fast inside the jail on 15 August. Refusing all forms of feeding, he was admitted to the hospital on 27 August and died on 27 October 1969, after 74 days of hunger strike. A new Akali Dal was formed by his supporters in his name after his death.

Shaheed Darshan Singh Pheruman Memorial College for Women and Shaheed Darshan Singh Pheruman Public School were established in 1974 and 1981 respectively in his memory by the Shaheed Darshan Singh Pheruman Memorial Trust. A Sikh Gurdwara in Dholewal is also named after him.