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Master Tara Singh

(1885 – 1967) – (Punjab)

Master Tara Singh (Aged 82) a veteran Akali leader and freedom fighter, was a prominent figure in Sikh politics for more than forty years. He was born on 24 June 1885 in Haryal, The. Gujarkhan Distt, Rawalpindi, India (now in Pakistan). His earlier name was Nanak Chand, and his father Bakshi Gopi Chand belonged to a ‘Sehajdhari Sikh’ (Hindu) family and worked as a village patwari.

At the age of sixteen, he took Amrit from Sant Attar Singh, was renamed Tara Singh, and became the first to convert to Sikhism in his family. He received his primary education in the village school and later in a mission school in Rawalpindi. He graduated from Khalsa College, Amritsar, where he captained the college Hockey and Football teams and was known as a ‘Pathar’ (rock-like).

Once, the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Indian Army was impressed by his game and offered him a direct commission, which he refused as he wanted to be an educationist. After completing his teacher’s training from Govt. Training College, Lahore, he started his career as the Headmaster of Khalsa High School, Layalpur, drawing Rs. 15 per month from his pay of Rs. 150, and donated the rest to the school funds.

Master Tara Singh actively participated in the Sikh Gurdwara Reforms Movement from its very inception. After the Nankana Sahib tragedy in 1921, wherein more than 200 Sikhs were killed, he left his teaching profession and became a full-time public worker. He was the first General Secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and later its President for various terms. After the successful end of the Gurdwara Reforms Movement, Master Tara Singh declared, “Now it is our duty to struggle for the freedom of our biggest Gurdwara, our Country, from the clutches of British Imperialism.”

During the Non-cooperation movement in 1930, the police opened fire on the Pathans (lal kurti) in Peshawar. Master Tara Singh took a jatha of 101 Sikh styagrahis from Akal Takht, Amritsar to Peshawar in protest. He was arrested and released after the Gandhi-Irwin pact of 1931.

He, along with other Akalis, remained a member of the Indian National Congress till 1940, with dual membership of Akali Dal and Congress. Later, he continued to participate in the National Freedom Movement as the leader of the Akali Party. After Independence, Master Tara Singh raised his demand for the re-demarcation of the boundaries of Punjab on a linguistic basis. During this struggle, he was arrested in 1949, 1953, 1955, and 1960. He passed away in 1967.