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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Explained: What led to the 1955 police action at the Golden Temple?

Around 8,000 volunteers were arrested in the first week of July. Around 12,000 volunteers were arrested in agitation to lift ban on Punjabi Suba Slogan.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Chandigarh |
Updated: July 8, 2021 2:18:15 pm
It was at 4 am on July 4, 1955 that Deputy Inspector General of Police Ashwani Kumar led the police with shoes on inside the Golden Temple premises.

The SGPC has decided to organise an event to mark the anniversary of police action at the Golden Temple on July 4, 1955. The Indian Express explains what brought police to the Golden Temple during the Punjabi Suba Morcha.

What was Punjab Suba movement?

Punjabi Suba movement started in Punjab soon after the Independence. Shiromani Akali Dal was spearheading the movement for a Punjabi speaking state. However, there was also opposition to this idea.

What were the slogans used during the movement?

Those in favour of demand of used to raise slogan Punjabi Suba Amar Rahe and those opposing demand were raising slogans in favour of ‘Maha-Punjab’. It was on April 6, 1955 that Amritsar DC banned the slogans of ‘Punjabi Suba’ and ‘Maha-Punjab’ fearing law and order problem.

“It is suspected that slogans like Punjabi Suba or Maha-Punjab Amar Rahe (Long Live Punjabi Suba or Maha Punjab) or Punjabi Suba Zindabad or Death to Punjabi Suba, Sine Vich Goli Khavange, Punjabi Suba Banavange (we will take a bullet on chest for Punjabi Suba) can violate the law and order. Hence such slogans are banned under Section 144,” the order back then had read.

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What had happened after the ban?

SAD took it as an attack on freedom of speech and expression. After the ban was imposed, SAD held a meeting on April 24, 1955 in Amritsar and passed a resolution to start peaceful non-violent protest from May 10, 1955 if the ban on Punjabi Suba slogans was not revoked.

Tallest SAD leader of that era, Master Tara Singh, courted arrest on May 10, 1955 along with other SAD workers while violating ban order by raising Punjabi Suba slogans.

“Punjabi speaking state will have Punjabi speaking areas’ population. There should be no attempt to temper for increasing or decreasing its size artificially. Such attempts will only make things more complicated in addition to existing problems in India. This Punjabi speaking state will be under the Indian Constitution,” said Master Tara Singh, while giving his arrest.

The arrests of SAD workers continued across Punjab. Around 400 SAD workers were arrested in Ludhiana. Everyday, 20 to 50 SAD workers would come to Akal Takht for praying. Then they would go outside raising Punjabi Suba slogans to court arrest. Then Punjab CM Bhim Sen Sachar said, “Akalis have started their agitation on May 10, 1956 because first revolt against British had started on same day in 1857.”

Some leaders backing the idea of Haryana including, Ram Sharma, and Chaudhary Shri Chand had supported the SAD agitation. Freedom fighters and senior Congress leaders like Kedar Nath Sehgal, Abdul Gani Daar and Prof Mota Singh also supported Akalis and criticised ban on Punjabi Suba movement.

Professor Mota Singh had said, “The agitation by SAD is not communal and it is not against Hindus even slightly.”

A convention was called in Delhi on June 7, 1955. It was attended by leaders like Kedar Nath Sehgal, Ram Sharma, Left leaders Sohan Singh Josh and Harkrishan Singh Surjit, Chaudhary Bhan Singh and Randhir Singh. Leaders at this convention criticised ban on slogans and expressed sympathy with Akalis on the issue.

The non-violent movement reached its peak in July and large number of volunteers reached Akal Takht. It shifted the focus of Punjab government on Golden Temple. Police presence around Golden Temple was increased.

Several weapon licences were cancelled. Government also attempted to take away the traditional weapons from Akal Takht. These orders, however, were not compiled by SGPC.

How did police action at Golden Temple unfold?

It was at 4 am on July 4, 1955 that Deputy Inspector General of Police Ashwani Kumar led the police with shoes on inside the Golden Temple premises. The community kitchen was captured and langar was stopped. Police also took away utensils. Guru Ramdas inn was also raided and head priests of Golden Temple were arrested. Police also raided the office of SGPC and SAD, which were part of Golden Temple premises. Police used teargas shells in parikarma of Golden Temple. A flag march was carried outside Golden Temple. The main entrance of Golden Temple was closed during the time and the whole action lasted for a day. According to police, 237 persons were arrested during action.

What was the fallout of police action?

This police action only strengthened the agitation. Around 8,000 volunteers were arrested in the first week of July. Around 12,000 volunteers were arrested in agitation to lift ban on Punjabi Suba Slogan.

Finally, CM Bhim Sen Sachar lifted the ban on Punjabi Suba slogan on July 12, 1955. However, Master Tara Singh was released only on September 8, 1955.

SAD also demanded inquiry and action against responsible persons for July 4 police action at the Golden Temple.

After meeting an SGPC delegation in Chandigarh in September that year, Sachar visited Golden Temple to seek apology for July 4 police action.

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