TEJĀ SIṄGH BHUCHCHAR (1887-1939), one of the pioneers of the Gurdwārā reform movement in the 1920's was the eldest son of Mayyā Siṅgh and Mahitāb Kaur, of the village of Bhuchchar Khurd, 25 km from Tarn Tāran, in Amritsar district. He was born on 28 October 1887 at Mīeṅ ke Mauṛ, popularly known as Bhāī Pherū, the village of his mother's parents, now in Pakistan. He attended the village school and assisted his father in tilling their lands. When Khālsā Dīwān Mājhā was revived in 1918 under the name of Central Mājhā Khālsā Dīwān, Tejā Siṅgh had himself initiated and took the vows of the Khālsā. He became an active member of the Dīwān, which concerned itself mainly with reforming the ceremonial in Sikh holy places, especially at Tarn Tāran and Amritsar. At the annual meeting of the Dīwān held at Bhuchchar in March 1919, Tejā Siṅgh was elected its jathedār or leader. A few weeks later, on 13 April 1919, occurred the Jalliāṅvālā Bāgh tragedy and the British Brigadier-General E.H. Dyer, who had ordered the shooting, was received and honoured by the government appointed sarbarāh, or manager, and the priests of the Harimandar at Amritsar which deeply hurt the feelings of the Sikhs. A public agitation started against the sarbarāh in which the Central Mājhā Khālsā Dīwān, under the leadership of Jathedār Tejā Siṅgh Bhuchchar, took an active part. As the Gurdwārā Reform movement got under way, Tejā Siṅgh Bhuchchar led a jathā of 25 Akālī volunteers which liberated Gurdwārā Bābe di Ber at Siālkoṭ on 5-6 October 1920. Upon the occupation, on 12 October 1920, of Srī Akāl Takht by the reformist Sikhs, he was named its first jathedār. He was also a member of the provisional committee of nine Sikhs appointed the following day by the deputy commissioner of Amritsar to manage the shrines till the formation of a regular committee. Tejā Siṅgh took the initiative in summoning a general meeting of the Sikhs which formally elected, on 15-16 November 1920, a 175-member committee, called Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee. He joined the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal formed on 14 December 1920, and led a jathā of 40 Akālī volunteers to Tarn Tāran and liberated the Darbār Sāhib on 26 January 1921. On 5 February 1921, he took possession of Gurdwārā Bhāī Jogā Siṅgh at Peshāwar. On 15 March 1921, Tejā Siṅgh was arrested along with 14 other Akālī activists. He was tried by a special magistrate at Lahore and awarded a nine year sentence which was suspended by government in September 1921.
While Jathedār Tejā Siṅgh was still in jail, his supporters in the Central Mājhā Khālsā Dīwān formed, on 19 April 1921, a new organization, the Gaṛgajj Akālī Jathā (later, Gaṛgajj Akālī Dīwān), and elected him in absentia its president for life. Neither the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee nor the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal had favoured his taking control of the Gurdwārā forcibly and he had gradually drifted away from them. As he was released from jail, the government made overtures to him through Dayā Kishan Kaul, prime minister of Paṭiālā state, and succeeded in securing his consent to preside over a rival Akālī conference proposed to be held at Paṭiālā on 12-13 December 1921 at which Mahārājā Bhūpinder Siṅgh of Paṭiālā was to be elected leader of the Sikh community. But the plan did not materialize owing to Akālīs getting themselves involved in November 1921 in the agitation for the recovery from government of the keys of the Golden Temple treasury. However, Tejā Siṅgh's opposition to the central Akālī leadership continued. To strengthen the Gaṛgajj Akālī Dīwān, he floated on 22 February 1922 his own daily newspaper, Gaṛgajj Akālī, with financial assistance from the Mahārājā of Paṭiālā. He supported the Gurū kā Bāgh agitation but, later, he renewed his attack on the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee through his new newspaper Babar Sher, which started publication from 15 June 1923. He stoutly opposed the proposal for the use of gold basins and silver spades for the inauguration of kār-sevā, the desilting of the Amritsar sarovar. On 17 June 1923, a band of volunteers from the Gaṛgajj Akālī Dīwān tried to disturb the inauguration ceremony. The Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee, at its meeting the following day, declared Tejā Siṅgh a tankhāhīā, guilty of the breach of Sikh code of conduct, and removed him from the membership of the committee. For his contacts with Master Motā Siṅgh, a leader of the radical Babar Akālī movement, he was re-arrested on 10 December 1923. Cancelling its earlier resolution, the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee readmitted him to its membership. The Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal celebrated his release on 5 November 1929 by presenting him with an address of welcome.
Tejā Siṅgh died in the Civil Hospital at Amritsar on 3 October 1939, succumbing to injuries he had suffered at the hands of his brother, Sevā Siṅgh, in a family feud.
Kulwant Siṅgh Virk