Role Of Sikh Women In Gurdwara Reform Movement

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"Gurdwara Reform Movement & The Sikh Awakening" , which is a detailed eye-witness account by Ruchi Ram Sahni published and written in 1922 and later distibuted by the SGPC.

As an eye-witness of some of the thrilling, if tragic incidents over the country, he writes many personal breathtaking accounts of the remarkable awakening amongst the Sikhs, their heroic struggles for freedom and purification of their historical places of worship.

On April 17, 1921, fifteen dacoits armed with guns and pistols entered the village of Kallar, District Rawalpindi, at 11 p. m. and began to loot the shops. The villagers came out when they heard the noise, but retired soon after when the dacoits began to fire on them. Only the Akalis were left on the spot to face the robbers. They shouted Sat Sri Akal, and rallied each other to save the village at any cost. The dacoits also challenged the Akalis to come forward at the peril of their lives. The Akalis continued to advance, showering stones on their enemies and receiving bullets in return. The fight went on for about an hour. When the Akalis got near enough to use their lathis the dacoits ran away. The all-vigilant police reached the spot after the dacoits had made good their escape, although the whole place had been ringing for an hour with the shouts of Sat Sri Akal and the Bounds of bullets at the dead of night. It is worthy of note that the police station is just outside the village. Twelve Akalis received bullet wounds, some of them getting two or three each.

The following letter, dated 11th March, 1922, sent by Mr. C. A. Macpherson, Superintendent of Police, Amritsar, to the Shromani Committee, will speak for itself :-

" Dear Sir, -A number of men said to be Akali Sikhs working at the Darbar Sahib tank performed a very gallant and meritorious act last evening. They rescued Lala lshar Das and his family from the hands of armed robbers. I have not been able to ascertain their names, and am thus unable to convey to them any appreciation of their conduct. If your Committee can very kindly help me in this matter, I should be most grateful. I would also like to draw the attention of the Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee to the action' of one Banta Singh of Dhotian who boldly tackled a man armed with a revolver, a truly lion-hearted and altruistic act.. His service's will be duly acknowledged, but I feel that his name and fame cannot be too widely known.. . With greetings. Yours sincerely, (Sd.) C. A. Macpherson, Supdt., Police. "

In regard to the temperance reform, the Akali movement has a short time what hundreds of societies founded for that purpose could not do in fifty years. Drunkenness has been practically stamped out from all villages where the Akalis are strong. It is impossible for an Akali to drink. For effecting this and other social reforms the Akalis have organized Panchayats, in which they co-operate with Non-Akalis, whether Sikh, Hindu or Mohammedan. For some time they left off taking even tea, lest it should become a craving and take the place of wine or bhang. They have removed other evils too, like the holding of nautch parties with prostitutes. They have made life quite -simple. An Akali would be rarely seen in anything but Khaddar. The Akalis are doing their utmost to get rid of the curse of untouchability. Rather their whole movement, as we have seen, began with a contest on this point with the old priests.

All these reforms have been made possible by the remarkable awakening among the Sikh women. They are working shoulder to shoulder with their husbands and brothers to justify Guru Gobind Singh's baptism, which they receive along with men. In the beginning of the present movement an old-fashioned Sikh happened to remark, before an assembly of Sikhs at the Akal Takht, that women should not be allowed to come upon the sacred Takht, as they did not show the same force of character as men. As soon as these words were uttered, a host of women, old and young, wearing kirpans, came forward and demanded of the Sikh to tell them what the men could do which they, the women, who had received Guru Gobind Singh's Amrit, could not do. They carried children in their arms, and were not ashamed of being mothers. Some of them, in their zeal to work along with men, have taken to tying turbans. The Akali Jathas of Amritsar, Lahore, Ludhiana,. Ambala and Nabha are in favour of this practice.