JAITO MORCHĀ, the name given to the Akālī agitation for the restoration to his throne of Mahārājā Ripudaman Siṅgh of Nābhā, a Sikh princely state in the Punjab. The Mahārājā had strong pro-Akālī sympathies and had overtly supported the Gurū kā Bāgh Morchā and donned a black turban as a mark of protest against the massacre of the reformists at Nankāṇā Sāhib. His contacts with the Indian nationalist leaders and involvement in popular causes had irked the British government. On 9 July 1923, he was forced to abdicate in favour of his minor son, Partāp Siṅgh. Although the British officials pronounced his abdication to be voluntary, the Akālīs and other nationalist sections condemned it as an act of highhandedness on the part of the government. Master Tārā Siṅgh denounced the measure as equivalent to Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh's removal from the throne of the Punjab. The committee set up to have the Mahārājā of Nābhā restored to the gaddī appointed 29 July 1923 to be observed in all the principal towns of the Punjab as a day of prayer in his behalf. On 2 August 1923, the Shiromanī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee sent a telegram to Lord Reading, the Viceroy of India, challenging the official version that the Mahārājā had relinquished his gaddī voluntarily, and seeking an independent enquiry to be instituted. Three days later, it passed a resolution asking its executive committee to carry on a peaceful campaign to have Mahārājā Ripudaman Siṅgh reinstalled on the throne of Nābhā. A Nābhā government ordinance prohibiting public discussion of the issue was defied by the Sikhs, who began convening meetings to condemn the deposition of the Mahārājā. On 25 August, a dīvān was held at Jaito, in Nābhā territory, following a public march and resolutions were adopted expressing sympathy with the Mahārājā and condemning government action. On 27 August, Nābhā state authorities arrested the organizers of the dīvān on charges of delivering "political speeches." The dīvān was originally scheduled to conclude on 27 August, but the arrests made by police provoked the Akālīs to continue it indefinitely and to inaugurate a series of akhaṇḍ pāṭhs or unbroken recitations of the Gurū Granth Sāhib. The police made more arrests and introduced at an akhaṇḍ pāṭh on 14 September 1923, their own reader, Ātmā Siṅgh, displacing the granthī sitting in attendance and reading the holy text. The sacrilege thus committed created a great commotion among the Sikhs. On 29 September the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee condemned the official action. It simultaneously declared its determination to have the Sikhs' right to free worship reaffirmed. The government denied that the akhaṇḍ pāṭh had been interrupted. Yet the jathās kept pouring in. The Secretary of State directed the Viceroy "to put an effective stop to the Akālī operation by the arrest and prosecution of all the organizers as abettors." The Punjab Government acting on the directive declared both the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee and the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal as unlawful associations. All the 60 members of the interim committee of the Shiromaṇī Committee were arrested on charges of treason against the King Emperor. Akālī jathās were stopped on entering Nābhā territory, taken into custody and beaten by police. They were then left off in distant deserts without food or water. To intensify the agitation, the Akālīs increased the size of the jathās. On 9 February 1924, 500 Akālīs marched from the Akāl Takht, receiving unprecedented welcome in villages and towns through which they passed. S. Zimand, a New York Times correspondent who witnessed the jathā on the march, observed : "The Jatha was moving in perfect order and non-violence with large crowds of public on its right and left, five Nishan Sāhibs in the front and Guru Granth in the middle."

        On 20 February 1924, the jathā reached Bargāṛī, a village on Nābhā-Farīdkoṭ border, barely 10 km from Jaito. At Jaito, about 150 metres from Gurdwārā Ṭibbī Sāhib, stood the Nābhā administrator, Wilson Johnston, with a large force of state constabulary. On 21 February, the jathā marched on towards the Gurdwārā, refusing to stop or disperse as demanded by Wilson Johnston. The administrator ordered the army to open fire. In two volleys of fire lasting about five minutes, several fell dead. The official estimate of the casualties was 19 dead and 29 injured. The Akālī figures were much higher. The firing on the peaceful jathā of Akālīs caused resentment throughout the country. On 28 February 1924, another 500 strong Shāhīdī jathā left Amritsar for Jaito where it was taken into custody on 14 March. Thirteen more 500-strong jathās reached Jaito and courted arrest. Sikh jathās also came from Canada, Hong Kong and Shanghai to join the campaign. The Governor of the Punjab, Sir Malcolm Hailey, tried the policy of creating a schism in the community by having parallel Sikh Sudhār Committees representing moderate and pro-government sections. A 101-strong jathā was allowed to perform an akhaṇḍ pāṭh at Jaito. But this did not conciliate the general Sikh opinion, nor did it affect the tempo of the agitation. On the issue of the Akālīs being allowed to perform an akhaṇḍ pāṭh at Jaito, the government was prepared to start negotiations through Paṇḍit Madan Mohan Mālvīya and Bhāī Jodh Siṅgh, but it was adamant on the question of making restitution to the deposed Mahārājā of his state. In the meantime, the Punjab Government introduced in the Legislative Council the Sikh Gurdwārā Bill which was unanimously passed on 7 July 1925. After the bill was passed, Sir Malcolm Hailey, Governor of the Punjab, announced during his speech in the Punjab Legislative Council that the Administrator of Nābhā would permit the bands of pilgrims to proceed for religious worship to Gurdwārā Gaṅgsar at Jaito. The announcement was followed by the release of most of the Akālī prisoners arrested in the course of the restrictions on the performance of akhaṇḍ pāṭh and the Akālīs starting a series of 101 such recitations which was concluded on 6 August 1925.


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  2. Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement. Delhi, 1978
  3. Sahni, Ruchi Ram, Struggle for Reform in Sikh Shrines. Ed. Ganda Singh. Amritsar, n.d.
  4. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983
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  7. Ashok, Shamsher Siṅgh, Shiromanī Gurdwārā Prabandhak Committee dā Pañjāh Sālā Itihās. Amritsar, 1982

Mohinder Siṅgh