MORCHĀ CHĀBĪĀṄ, campaign for the recovery of the keys of the Golden Temple treasury, marks a dramatic episode in the Sikhs' agitation in the early 1920's for reforming the management of their places of worship. The Golden Temple at Amritsar, which had a government-nominated sarbrāh or controller to manage it since 1849, carne under Akālī control in October 1920. The Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee nominated the old sarbrāh, Sundar Siṅgh Rāmgaṛhīā, member of the Committee appointed to administer the affairs of the Golden Temple. The sarbrāh functioned under the directions of the Committee, but, since he still retained possession of the keys of the toshākhānā or treasury of the Golden Temple, the Akālī reformers felt that official control, however nominal, still remained. On 20 October 1921, Shiromaṇī Committee resolved to ask Sundar Siṅgh to hand over the keys to its president, but before the decision was implemented, news reached the deputy commissioner of Amritsar who forestalled the Akālīs. On 7 November 1921, Amar Nāth, extra assistant commissioner, raided the house of Sundar Siṅgh Rāmgaṛhīā with a police party and took away the keys. On 11 November, the government appointed Captain Bahādur Siṅgh to replace Sundar Siṅgh. The Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee refused to recognize the new sarbrāh. On 12 November 1921 a protest meeting was convened in Bāgh Akālīāṅ at Amritsar which was addressed by Bābā Khaṛak Siṅgh and other Akālī leaders. Akālī meetings took place at Gujrāṅwālā, Gujjar Khān and other places. Captain Bahādur Siṅgh resigned, but government remained adamant . Dān Siṅgh of Vachhoā and Jaswant Siṅgh of Jhabāl, two prominent Akālīs, were arrested at a dīvān at Ajnālā on 26 November 1921. The Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee, then in session at the Akāl Takht at Amritsar, adjourned its meeting and soon over 50 of its members reached Ajnālā to continue the dīvān. The district authority declared the dīvān to be an "illegal assembly" and arrested all the prominent Akālīs, including Bābā Khaṛak Siṅgh, Sardār Bahādur Mehtāb Siṅgh and. Master Sundar Siṅgh Lyallpurī. The Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee on 27 November condemned the official action and called upon Sikhs to observe 4 December as a protest day. Sikhs were further asked not to join any function in honour of the Prince of Wales, who was likely to visit India early in 1922. Arrests continued to be made and Master Tārā Siṅgh and Amar Siṅgh Jhabāl were among those held. Failing to control Sikh protest and foreseeing how it might affect Sikh soldiers and the peasantry, the government announced on 3 January 1922 its decision to return the keys to the executive of the Shiromaṇī Committee so that Poh sudī 7/5 January 1922 could be celebrated as the birth anniversary of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, but the Committee refused to accept them until Sikhs arrested during the movement were released unconditionally. On 11 January 1922, Sir John Maynard, the Home Member announced in the Punjab Legislative Council the release of all Sikhs under detention. Still the Akālis refused to go and fetch the keys from the deputy commissioner. A government official was eventually sent to deliver the keys wrapped in a piece of red silk to Bābā Khaṛak Siṅgh, president of the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee, at a dīvān (19 January 1922) at Akāl Takht. The Akālīs' victory was hailed throughout the country. In the words of Mahātmā Gāndhī, "First decisive battle for India's freedom" had been won.


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  2. Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement. Delhi, 1983
  3. Teja Singh, Gurdwara Reform and the Sikh Awakening . Jalandhar, 1922
  4. The Civil and Military Gazette (Lahore). December 1921
  5. Josh, Sohan Siṅgh, Akālī Morchiāṅ dā Itihās . Delhi, 1972
  6. Pratāp Siṅgh, Giānī, Gurdwārā Sudhār arthāt Akālī Lahir . Amritsar, 1975
  7. Ashok, Shamsher Siṅgh, Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Prabandhak Committee dā Pañjāh Salā Itihās. Amritsar, 1982

Mohinder Siṅgh