GAṚGAJJ AKĀLĪ JATHĀ (gaṛgajj = reverberatingly thunderous) was the name given a dynamic group (jathā) of Akālī reformers, especially active in Mājhā region of the Punjab. The Jathā came into being on 19 April 1921, splintering from the parent body Central Mājhā Khālsā Dīwān. Tejā Siṅgh Bhuchchar, Jathedār of Srī Akāl Takht, then under detention, was elected in absentia its life president. Others associated with the Jathā were Bhāī Saran Siṅgh, vice-president; Bhāī Nirañjaṇ Siṅgh, of Chakk No.46, secretary; Bhāī Kāhn Siṅgh, also of Chakk No.46, assistant secretary ; and Bhāī Tejā Siṅgh, of Paḍhāṇā, treasurer. In the constitution of the Jathā approved on 6 June 1921, however, it was redesignated Gaṛgajj Akālī Dīwān, although the name Jathā also continued to be used. In the Memorandum on the Akālī Dal and the Shiromanī Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, 1921-22, prepared by the Criminal Investigation Department (Political) of the Punjab Government, it is referred to as "The Gargaj Akālī Jathā." According to the Memorandum, it was "the oldest of all the Akālī Jathas" which is evidently in reference to the parent body, the Central Mājhā Khālsā Dīwān originally formed in 1904 as Khālsā Dīwān, Mājhā. Of Gaṛgajj Akālī Jathā, the C.I.D. Memorandum dated 22 February 1922 records :
Its headquarters are at Tarn Taran but it exercises control over no specified area. Its Jathedar is Tejā Siṅgh Bhuchar, one of the conditionally released Gurdwara prisoners. The jatha has considerable influence in the Majha tract, though Teja Singh who is endeavouring to maintain a distinction between politics and religion, has lost most of his authority. Its membership is approximately 1, 500.
Activities of the Gaṛgajj Akālī Jathā were confined mainly to opposing the policies of the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal. Its leader and spokesman, Tejā Siṅgh Bhuchchar, under arrest since 15 March 1921, was released in September 1921 on assurance of good behaviour and on the intercession of Dayā Kishan Kaul, prime minister of the princely state of Paṭiālā. Kaul secured Bhuchchar's consent to preside over a factional Akālī conference proposed to be held at Paṭiālā on 12-13 December 1921 at which the Mahārājā of Paṭiālā was to be proclaimed the leader of the Sikh Panth. The plan, however, aborted owing to the Akālī agitation launched in Amritsar in November 1921 for the retrieval of the keys of the toshākhānā of the Golden Temple seized by government. Bhuchchar launched his own paper Gaṛgajj Akālī printed in a press financed by Paṭiālā state. Gaṛgajj Akālī Jathā supported Gurū kā Bāgh agitation but later renewed its opposition to the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee. It tried to obstruct kār-sevā of the Sarovar, the holy tank (17 June 1923), objecting to the use of gold basins and silver spades to be used by Pañj Piāre chosen to lead the sevā. The Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee declared Bhuchchar a tankhāhīā, i.e. laid him under penace for what were described as his rebellious activities. The Gaṛgajj Akālī Jathā had also been opposed to the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee decision about boycotting the 1929 Congress session at Lahore and advocated co-operation with the Congress. In 1936, it helped the Buḍḍhā Dal to take forcible possession of Burj Bābā Phūlā Siṅgh. The Jathā which had already become insignificant politically and religiously died with the murder of its leader, Tejā Siṅgh Bhuchchar, in 1939.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)