Daljit Singh (1883-1937)

Daljit Singh, from the village of Kauni, near Muktsar, Faridkot, Punjab, was Gurdit Singh’s personal secretary on the Komagata Maru. He was then twenty-one, a graduate of Khalsa School Amritsar and literate in English, Gurmukhi and Urdu. What recommended him to Gurdit Singh was his past experience as the associate editor of Punjabi Bhain, a weekly promoting women’s education, published in Ferozepur. Along with his friend Bir Singh, also from the Muktsar area, he was staying at the Hong Kong gurdwara on his way to the United States for higher education when Gurdit Singh recruited him. His involvement with the Komagata Maru began at the earliest stages, while Gurdit Singh was still winding up his own business affairs in Singapore and trying to hire a ship in Calcutta before he finally found the Komagata Maru in Hong Kong. Daljit Singh’s role as a loyal lieutenant continued for the length of the voyage to Canada and back to India. Years later Kartar Singh of Mehli, one of the rank and file passengers, remembered him as not outstanding but “okay,” a yes man to Gurdit Singh.

Daljit Singh was among the passengers who escaped the police at Budge Budge and he was one of the few who evaded arrest for years afterwards, even though he came back to Ferozepur where the police had him listed as one of the five most dangerous men in the district. At some point he established himself in Amritsar under the assumed the name of Rai Singh, and he made a connection with the Master Tara Singh, the emerging leader of the Akali Gurdwara Reform movement. Early on he was a member of the staff of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, which took over the administration of the Golden Temple in 1920. He finally reappeared publicly in May 1923 when he got involved in a controversy over the succession to the throne of the Sikh princely State of Nabha, acting as a principal spokesperson in Sikh community’s protest against British interference. Nabha is near Daljit Singh’s District of Faridkot, which explains his immediate involvement. Speaking out as he did led to his arrest along with Master Tara Singh and others and earned him a sentence from October 1923 of six years imprisonment. He served three years of his sentence before being released on condition that he not enter Nabha State without official permission. He now began playing a public role in Sikh politics, and in December 1926 he was elected Vice-President of the Shiromani Akali Dal, the political organization that led the Sikh agitation against the government and for reform of the management of Sikh gurdwaras. By the 1930s he was the manager of the Gurdwara at Muktsar, a position he held for the next number of years.

Sources: Harban Singh ed., The Encyclopedia of Sikhism (Patiala: Panjabi University, 4th edition 2002); Struggle for Free Hindustan: Ghadr Directory, Punjab Section, 1915 (published New Delhi:  Gobind Sadan Institute for Advanced Studies in Comparative Religion, 1996); Report of the Komagata Maru Committee of Inquiry, (Calcutta, 1914); Library and  Archives Canada, Immigration Files, RG 76.