GURMUKH SIṄGH, BĀBĀ (1888-1977), a Ghadr revolutionary, was born in 1888 to a poor peasant, Hoshnāk Siṅgh, of the village of Laltoṅ Khurd, in Ludhiāṇā district. Second of three brothers, he was sent to school at Ludhiāṇā. His ambition was to join the army, but he could not be enlisted owing to medical reasons. In 1914, he boarded the ship Komagata Maru, hired from a Japanese firm by Bābā Gurdit Siṅgh, to go to Canada. But events stalled Gurmukh Siṅgh's plans. The ship was not allowed to land at the Canadian port and was obliged to return to India. At the Indian port of Budge Budge, however, a worse fate lay in store for the ship's passengers. The British authorities had kept a train ready to bring these passengers to the Punjab without letting them go into the city of Calcutta. There were protests and the police resorted to firing, killing several of the passengers. Many, including Gurmukh Siṅgh, were apprehended and put into the train. Gurmukh Siṅgh was spared imprisonment on assurances given by his uncles who had influence with the authorities. He was nevertheless interned in his village.
Gurmukh Siṅgh secretly joined the Ghadr movement then being led in the Punjab by Kartār Siṅgh Sarābhā and his comrades. In furtherance of the programme of the movement, Gurmukh Siṅgh took part in two dacoities in the villages of Sāhnevāl and Mansūrāṅ, in Ludhiāṇā district. He also made efforts to establish secret contacts with Indian soldiers in some of the Punjab cantonments.
Gurmukh Siṅgh was arrested in what came to be known as the Lahore conspiracy case of 1916, in which Kartār Siṅgh Sarābhā and some others were sentenced to death. Gurmukh Siṅgh, sentenced to transportation for life, was sent to the Aṇḍamans. In 1921-22, under pressure of the nationalist elements, these prisoners were transferred to Salem jail in what was then known as the Madrās Presidency, the present state of Tamil Nāḍū. From the train which was carrying them to Akolā, Gurmukh Siṅgh managed to escape as it was passing through a jungle at night. The constables escorting him and their two companions had gone to sleep, and Gurmukh Siṅgh, turning his soft lean hands of a young man to advantage, slipped off his handcuffs and jumped off from the train, his feet still in irons. In a nearby village he found someone who filed off his irons. Gurmukh Siṅgh then managed to reach Nāndeḍ, then in Hyderābād state, to seek shelter in the Gurdwārā Hazūr Sāhib. Eventually, the priest of the Gurdwārā helped him to return to the Punjab, where he remained in hiding for two years on the outskirts of the Golden Temple, disguised as a Keshādharī Paṇḍitjī.
In 1924, Gurmukh Siṅgh managed to reach the Soviet Union where he received his communist doctrine at the hands of teachers like Professor Dyakov. For the next ten years Gurmukh Siṅgh kept shuttling between the Soviet Union and the United States of America where he put new life in the lingering Ghadr party and made it send many young Punjabi students to the Soviet Union to be instructed in Communism. Once during these ten years, in 1931-32, Gurmukh Siṅgh along with another Punjabi revolutionary, Ūdham Siṅgh Kasel, tried to come back to India. But they were apprehended in Afghanistan and barely escaped with their lives. Indian Congress leaders tried vehemently to get them freed by the Afghān government as Indian citizens, but succeeded only in persuading the Soviet Union to get them extradited as Soviet nationals. Nevertheless, Gurmukh Siṅgh succeeded in reaching India in 1934, but was soon taken into custody. He was released only after the country attained freedom in 1947. Bābā Gurmukh Siṅgh continued his political activity. He brought out two extremist Communist journals, the monthly Path of Peace in English and the Desh Bhagat Yādāṅ, a Punjabi weekly. He was also instrumental in having the Desh Bhagat Memorial Hall at Jalandhar erected.
Bābā Gurmukh Singh, who remained a bachelor all his life, died on 13 March 1977.
Sant Siṅgh Sekhoṅ