The India-Pakistan partition was one of the darkest chapters for the Sikh community. The split created the independent nations of Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India, separating the provinces of Bengal and Punjab along religious lines, which later caused bloodshed and a massive death toll among Sikhs.
Many Sikh leaders opposed the partition, seeing it as a ploy to divide the Punjab Province and Punjabi people, as all had a common culture. 'Master' Tara Singh was one among the fearless leaders who opposed the partition tooth and nail.
Singh was born on June 24, 1885, to a Khatri family in Rawalpindi (now Pakistan). The teachings of Sikhism so influenced him that he converted to a Sikh at 12. Later he became a high school teacher upon graduating from Khalsa College, Amritsar, in 1907.
Nicknamed Master For His Contribution Towards Education
According to a report in Live History India, he would give Rs 135 of his monthly income of Rs 150 to the school treasury for the betterment of education. Due to his valuable contribution as a teacher, he was nicknamed 'Master'.
Singh was ardent in his desire to promote and protect the cause of Sikhism. This often put him at odds with civil authorities, and he was jailed 14 times for civil disobedience between 1930 and 1966.
Early examples of his support for the movement came through his close involvement with the movement led by Mahatma Gandhi. He emerged as a leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a major force in Sikh politics. Similarly, he was involved with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, an apex body that dealt with gurdwaras.
Recruited Sikh Army In First World War
A famous staunch Sikh leader, he recruited Sikhs to join the army during the First World War. As a result, the British Government had given separate communal representation to Sikhs like Muslims in the 'India Act' of 1919.
According to Wikipedia, Singh's most significant cause was creating a distinct Punjab-speaking state. He believed this would best protect the integrity of Sikh religious and political traditions.
In 1961, Tara Singh declared that he would fast until the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru ceded a portion of Punjab as a Sikh state or until death claimed him. He began his fast at the Golden Temple at Amritsar, but Nehru responded that submission to his demands would be against India's secular constitution and unfair to the Hindus in Punjab.
After a personal letter from Nehru promising to investigate Sikh claims, Singh broke his 48-day fast, incurring the wrath of people from his community. Tara Singh was brought to trial before a council of pijaras (Sikh religious leaders) and pleaded guilty. His failure to starve to death in defence of his ideals had discredited him as a SAD leader, and Sant Fateh Singh was elected in his place.
Tara Singh's dream of a Punjabi-speaking state was realised in 1966 when the Indian state of Punjab was divided, and the Hindi-speaking portion of it was created as the separate state of Haryana.