KARTĀR SIṄGH JHABBAR (1874-1962), famous for his spirited role in the Gurdwārā Reform movement, was born the son of Tejā Siṅgh in 1874 at the village of Jhabbar, in Sheikhūpurā district, now in Pakistan. His grandfather, Maṅgal Siṅgh, had served as a commandant in Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh's army. Kartār Siṅgh had no formal education, but somewhat late in life he went through a course of Sikh religious learning and trained as a missionary at Khālsā Updeshak Mahāvidyālā, Gharjākh, which he attended from 1906 to 1909. Upon completing the course, he took up preaching. In 1912, he set up Khālsā Dīwān Kharā Saudā Bār at Gurdwārā Sachchā Saudā, Chūhaṛkāṇā. He also opened in the town in 1917 a middle school. In 1919, Kartār Siṅgh took active part in anti-government demonstrations and addressed meetings protesting against the Jalliāṅvālā Bāgh massacre. For this he was arrested and was, on trial, sentenced to death on 22 May 1919. The punishment was reduced on 30 May 1919 to transportation for life. He was, however, released from Andamans jail in March 1920 in the wake of royal clemency.
In early October 1920, Kartār Siṅgh led a jathā of Sikh volunteers to Siālkoṭ to liberate Gurdwārā Bābe dī Ber from the control of a corrupt mahant or custodian. The shrine was taken possession of and a committee of lay Sikhs was formed to manage it, with Bābā Khaṛak Siṅgh as president. This was the beginning of the Gurdwārā Reform movement. Kartār Siṅgh Jhabbar, along with Tejā Siṅgh Bhuchchar, got the Akāl Takht released on 12 October 1920.Tejā Siṅgh was appointed jathedār or provost of the Takht. Jhabbar was included in the 9-member committee set up for the management of the Golden Temple. He continued to be in the vanguard of reformist Sikhs' campaign for liberating historical shrines. The more important ones he helped to take possession of were Gurdwārā Pañjā Sāhib (November 1920), Gurdwārā Sachchā Saudā (December 1920), Gurdwārā Tarn Tāran (26 January 1921), and Gurdwārā Gurū kā Bāgh (31 January 1921). Following the possession of Gurdwārā Janam Asthān at Nankāṇā Sāhib, the birthplace of Gurū Nānak, where about 150 reformist Sikhs had been murdered by the mahant and his men on 20 February 1921, Kartār Siṅgh was arrested on 11 March 1921 and remained in jail for about six months. He was rearrested in June 1924 and sent to Campbellpore jail. In September 1925 he was transferred to Multān jail and in April 1926 to Rāwalpiṇḍī. He remained in custody for more than four years and was released in December 1928.
After the control of the gurdwārās was, by government legislation of 1925, made over to a representative board of the Sikhs, Kartār Siṅgh retired to a comparatively quiet life at his village. In January 1933 he faced a charge of murder following a clash which took place at Nankāṇā Sāhib over the possession of a portion of the Gurdwārā land, but was acquitted by the court. In 1937, he led a jathā to Koṭ Bhāī Thān Siṅgh and convened, in defiance of the orders of the local Muslim chieftain, a Sikh dīvān. After the partition of Punjab in August 1947, Kartār Siṅgh came over to what was then designated as East Punjab, and settled down at the village of Hābṛī, in Karnāl district, where he died on 20 November 1962.
Kulwant Siṅgh Virk