Shiromani Akali Dal celebrates 100 years: his journey so far and that of the Punjab
100 tumultuous years for Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), conceived in December 1920, one year after the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh. The history of its many morchas and agitations has also been a Punjab trip.
Professor Ashutosh Kumar, a political scientist with bodywork on the party, says it is the only party that claims to protect the interests of Sikhs, whether in India or abroad. “In addition, SAD believes that Sikh nationalism and Indian nationalism are coterminus. “
SAD was formed as a group of volunteers on December 14, 1920 to liberate the gurdwaras from the control of the mahants (priests) appointed by the British government, a month after the formation of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on November 15. Dalmegh Singh, former secretary of the SGPC, said the movement had started for several reasons, an immediate trigger being the “teasing eve” of a deputy commissioner’s daughter as she paid tribute to Nankana Sahib. “This incident sparked outrage and it was felt that the gurdwaras should be freed from the mahants.”
Akali Dal launched a peaceful struggle that lasted four years and resulted in the deaths of 4,000 demonstrators, who were attacked by both mobs and the British administration. The morcha ultimately led to the enactment of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act 1925, which brought the gurdwaras under the control of the SGPC. He also pitted the party against the colonial government, paving the way for its alliance with the Congress Party.
The pre-independence era
The Akali Dal aligned itself with Congress during the pre-independence period, beginning in the 1930s and continuing into the 1940s. Kiranjot Kaur, granddaughter of Master Tara Singh, a former ruler of Akali, said over the phone that it was thanks to “Master Tara Singh’s efforts that half of the Punjab was prevented from reaching the Pakistani side at the time of the partition”. She credited Master Tara Singh with bringing Sikh leaders to the “negotiating table”.
Punjabi Suba Movement
The Akali Dal began calling for the creation of a Punjabi Suba shortly after the Indian government appointed the State Reorganization Commission in December 1953. The request arose in part from the concentration of Sikhs, who made up 35 % of the population in the post. -Pendjab sheet music.
In 1956 the Akali Dal, led by Sant Fateh Singh, started a movement for Punjabi Suba with thousands of protesters seeking to be arrested.
The decision of Chief Minister Bhim Sen Sachar to make Hindi and Punjabi the official languages of the state in 1957 gave new impetus to Morcha. The decision of the State Reorganization Commission to reject the request for a suba based on the Punjabi language, on the grounds that it was not distinct enough from Hindi to be considered a separate language, was the climax . Akali Dal called this discriminatory, pointing out that each of the 14 official languages had been given a state.
The two main rulers of Akali, Sant Fateh Singh and Master Tara Singh, sat on long fasts, the first for 22 days towards the end of 1960, and the second for 48 days from August 15, 1961, to obtain support for their request, but Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru remained unmoved. In total, around 57,000 Akalis were imprisoned during this unrest.
The movement for a Punjabi-speaking state also had supporters among other faiths, including Seth Ram Nath, a congressional minister who broke ranks in support of it.
Akalis suspended the Punjabi Suba movement during the wars of 1962 and 1965 and instead participated in the war efforts with a generous supply of men and materials. Fateh Singh made a personal contribution of Rs 50,000 and twice Nehru’s weight was handed over to the government in gold.
Finally, the Gulzari Lal Nanda government at the Center gave in and Lok Sabha passed the Punjab Reorganization Act 1966, and the Punjab in its present form became a reality on November 1, 1966.
Historian JS Grewal says the Centre’s decision resulted in a “langra Punjab” (a Punjab whose demands had not been met). Problems with the state capital and the number of Punjabi speaking regions remained, “which continued over the years and led to Charm Yudh Morcha in the 1980s”.
Resolution of Anandpur Sahib and Dharam Yudh Morcha
A year after the crushing victory of Congress in the legislative elections of 1972, the Akali Dal, who fell into the hands of the Orthodox leaders after the death of Sant Fateh Singh who had given him a secular ideology, adopted it. Resolution Anandpur Sahib, seeking independent political status for the community.
In 1978, the party revised the resolution and shifted the focus from the panthic agenda (Khalse ka Bol Bala) to state autonomy. SGPC Chairman Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who proposed the resolution, stressed that decentralization of power is important for economic growth and that strong states do not translate into a weak center. The resolution also called for the transfer of Chandigarh to the Punjab and the readjustment of the borders to include some Punjabi-speaking territories of neighboring states.
The Akalis have entered into negotiations with the Congressional government at the Center over the resolution. The talks having failed, the party led by Sant Harcharan Singh Longowal launched Dharam Yudh Morcha on August 4, 1982, in alliance with Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, leader of the Sikh seminar Damdami Taksal whose Dharma Prachar movement and radical rhetoric had won him a big following in the hinterland.
Soon, Pakistani-backed activism swept through the Punjab with hard-line supporters calling for a separate sovereign Sikh state. The Akali Dal was divided into many factions as the moderates were pushed to the margins.
The stalemate between the Center and Akali Dal led to Operation Bluestar in June 1984, which was followed by the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards and the anti-Sikh pogrom in October.
A year later, Akali’s moderate rulers led by Longowal resumed talks with the central government led by Rajiv Gandhi which resulted in the Rajiv Gandhi-Longowal agreement on July 24, 1985. Akali’s government led by SS Barnala that followed did not last very long, and with radical elements taking control of the state, he was placed under the president’s reign for five years starting in 1987.
But in the mid-1990s, Akali Dal, led by Prakash Singh Badal, managed to draw most of the moderate factions into its fold, and hardliners like Akali Dal (Amritsar) were gradually marginalized.
Moga Declaration and Return to Punjabiyat
It was in 1996 that Akali Dal announced his ideological transformation into a party of all Punjabis, regardless of religion or geography in his Moga Declaration. In his speech to Moga, party chairman Prakash Singh Badal said Akali Dal represented “Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiyat”. Moga’s statement said, “The spirit of the Punjabiyat would be strengthened so that these issues are projected as problems common to the whole of Punjabis rather than a part of it.”
The party has now admitted large numbers of Hindus and in the 2012 parliamentary elections 10 of its 11 Hindu candidates won.
SAD and SGPC
The origin of the SGPC’s close ties with the Akali Dal lies in the genesis of the latter. It was born as the political-institutional wing of the religious body. Additionally, Sikhs believe in the concept of Miri-Piri, or conjunction of spiritual and temporal power.
Akali Dal first consolidated its grip on the SGPC in the 1960 elections to the gurdwara body when its members won 136 of the 140 seats. Even today, the Akali Dal reigns over the SGPC.
The SGPC with its enormous material resources has given its support to all Akali unrest, be it Punjabi Suba Morcha or Dharam Yudh Morcha. In addition, there is an easy fluidity between the two organizations with members and GSTP leaders joining Akali Dal. Akali leader Master Tara Singh, for example, led the SGPC in 1931. Likewise, Bibi Jagir Kaur, the first female head of the SGPC, was an Akali lawmaker,
Akalis and BJP
Despite its success in creating a Punjabi Suba in 1966, the SAD did not win the 1967 assembly and legislative elections. It was only after bonding with Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), supported by the RSS and Arya Samaj, that he came to power in 1967 and 1969. Later, after the re-emergence of the state of activism, the Akalis have linked up with the VJP. Akali Dal was the first to support the BJP-led NDA at the Center in 1998. Since 1997, Akali Dal has fought every election in the state in alliance with the BJP, winning three assembly elections.
Their relationship deteriorated in 2020 when Akali Dal opposed the three contentious farm laws following a massive farmer uprising in Punjab. The party, which initially supported the laws, left the central government and severed ties with the BJP as soon as the laws were passed in September.
Newsletter | Click for the best explanations of the day to your inbox
Akali Dal today
Once known for its strong cadre and internal democracy, Akali Dal now faces the accusation of being a stronghold of the Badals. It was in 2004 that party boss Parkash Singh Badal appointed his son Sukhbir Badal as party chairman, becoming the first sitting chairman to do so. Although Sukhbir was widely credited with strengthening the party’s secular credentials, this was accompanied by poor governance coupled with a concentration of power in the hands of the family. Burdened by cases of sacrilege and rampant drug trafficking during its 10-year mandate, the party recorded its worst performance ever in the 2017 Assembly polls, winning just 15 of 117 seats.
With an eye on Dalit voices, the SAD has now linked up with the Bahujan Samaj party, which is running for 20 seats.
(With contributions from Navjeevan Gopal)