MORCHĀ, in Persian mūrchah or mūrchal meaning entrenchments, fortification or battle-front, has, apart from its usage in military strategy, entered Indian political vocabulary via the Gurdwārā Reform or Akālī movement of the early 1920's. In that prolonged agitation for the liberation of Sikh historical shrines from the control of a corrupt priestly order, the Akālīs, as the reformers were then known, came into clash with the British rulers and mounted peaceful resistance fronts to assert them rights. These assuming the form of mass mobilization, meetings and marches to force the matter at issue, were styled morchās. The movement broke out into several such campaigns. Among them were Chābīāṅ dā Morchā for the recovery of the keys of the toshākhānā (treasury) of Srī Darbār Sāhib, Amritsar, which had been seized by the British deputy commissioner; Gurū kā Bāgh Morchā to assert Sikhs' right over the lands attached to the local Gurdwārā Jaito dā Morchā to win freedom of worship and of peaceful assembly's right to manage its historical shrines. These heroic episodes involving courage and suffering made the term morchā popular. It was appropriated by political parties who began to use it for their own agitations. For example, an agitation in 1938 against cut in canal water supply to peasants was called kisan morchā or Hārsā Chhīnā morchā, and agitations launched by protagonists of Hindi and another by paṭvārīs (village level revenue officials) during the chief ministership of Partāp Siṅgh Kāiroṅ in early 1960's were known as Hindi morchā and Paṭvārī morchā, respectively. More recently political groups have started using the term as synonym of political front or grouping. Examples are Jan Morchā, a splinter group of Janatā Dal, and Lok Hit Morchā, a party formed by some ministers and legislators of Haryāṇā expelled from the ruling Janatā Dal in 1989. A duly recognized independent political party is named Jhāṛkhaṇḍ Muktī Morchā.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)