Sikh Personalities


Gurmukh Singh Musafir, Poet and politician, was born the son of Sujan Singh on 15 January 1899 at Adhval, in Campbellpore district, now in Pakistan. Gurmukh Singh attended the village primary school and went to the city of Rawalpindi to pass the middle school examination. He trained as a junior vernacular teacher and took Up, in 1918, appointment at Khalsa High School, Kallar, where Master Tara Singh, who later became famous as a political leader, had been the headmaster during 1914-16. His four years there as a teacher earned him the epithet Giani, 'Musafir' being the pseudonym he had adopted. Young Gurmukh Singh had heen much affected by the massacres at Jallianvala (13 April 1919) and at Nankana Sahib (20 February 1921) and, in 1922, he gave up teaching to plunge into the Akali agitation for gurdwara reform. He composed poetry full of patriotic fervour and recited it with gusto at Sikh Divans. For taking part in the Guru ka Bagh agitation in 1922, he uderwent imprisonment. Side by side with his involvement in religious reformation, he started taking interest in nationalist politics and courted arrest in the Civil Disobedience launched by the Indian National Congress in 1930. The same year he was appointed head (Jathedar) of Sri Akal Takht, central seat of religious authority for the Sikhs. He held this office from 12 March 1930 to 5 March 1931. He also served for a time as secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee as well as general secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal. He went to jail again in Satyagrah (1939-41) and Quit India (1942-45) movements. He became president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee in 1949. He was also a member of the All-lndia Congress Working Committee. He was elected a member of the Lok Sabha successively in 1952, 1957 and 1962. He did not complete his last term in the Lok Sabha and resigned in 1966 to take over as chief minister of the reorganized state of the Punjab On 28 March 1968, he reentered Parliament, this time as a member of the Rajya Sabha

An active politician throughout his life, Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir also won renown as a poet and writer His published works include nine collections of poemsó Sabar de Ban, Prem Ban, Jivan Pandh, Musafarian, Tutte Khamb, Kav Sunehe, Sahaj Seti, Vakkhra Vakkra Katra Katra and Dur nere; eight of short stories vakkhri Duniya, Ahlane de Bol, Kandhan Bol Paian, Satai Janvari, Allah Vale, gutar, Sabh Achcha, and Sasta Tamasha; and four biographical works - vekhia sunia Gandhi, Vekhia Sunya Nehru, Baghi Jarnail and Vihin Sadi de Shahid. He represented Indian writers at International conferences at Stockholm in 1954, and at Tokyo in 1961. He was posthumously decorated wilh Padma Vibhushan, the second highest national award of India.

Strikingly handsome, with a flowing white beard setthig off his statuesque , glowing face, Gurmukh Singh Musafir was well known for his joie de vivre, his style and humour. He had a huge capacity for laughter.

He fully enjoyed the experience of living and had mastered the art of being happy. He got on with people of all ages and occupations. He was genial, humble and utterly guileless. He was above malice. He was exempt from intrigue. In politics, the highest positions came to him, hut he manoeuvred for any. He was ambitious yet he was from the beginning assured of his direction and identity. This was the secret of his strength -- and success.

Giani Gurmukhi Singh Musafir died in Delhi on 18 January 1976.

1. Ashok, Shamsher Singh, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak 
   Committee da Panjah Sala Itihas. Amritasr, 1982.
2. Harbans Singh, the Heritage of the Sikhs, Amritsar.

Excerpts taken from these books.
The Encyclopedia of Sikhism by Harbans Singh.