Gurmukh Singh of Lalton (1888-1977)

Gurmukh Singh, the son of Hoshnak Singh, from the village of Lalton, Ludhiana, was a passenger on the Komagata Maru and later a Ghadr revolutionary. He appears in the famous group photograph taken on the Komagata Maru shortly after it arrived in May 1914, with Gurdit Singh in front on the left, and Gurmukh Singh the fourth person to the right. He is not mentioned in any documents or accounts as a member of the Passengers Committee or an organizer of the Komagata Maru, so his prominent position in this photograph may be by chance. Nonetheless, he was educated, having been sent to school in the city of Ludhiana and his uncles had influence with the authorities in the district, so he was a potential leader on the ship.

Gurmukh Singh was among the passengers arrested on September 29, 1914 at Budge Budge in the aftermath of the riot and confined to jail that night. And he was released with most of the others nearly three months later and sent back to his village where he, like the others, was under orders not to leave. At this time he joined the Ghadr movement and joined in robberies in two villages near his own, and travelled outside his district to meet Ghadr leaders in Amritsar and Lahore and to make contact with Sikh soldiers in their cantonments. He was arrested in Lahore in February 1915, charged in the Lahore Conspiracy Case of 1916 and sentenced to transportation for life in the Andaman Islands. In 1921 he was transferred with other Ghadr prisoners to South India to Salem Central Jail in what is now Tamil Nadu. In 1923 he escaped from a moving train during a transfer to Akola in Maharashtra—slipping his hands from his handcuffs and jumping with his feet still in chains—and made his way to Nanded in Hyderabad where he took refuge in the historic Sikh temple of Hazur Sahib. He reached the Soviet Union in 1924 and that was his base for the next ten years. In Moscow, he studied communist doctrine under Prof. AM Dayakov, of the USSR Academy of Sciences. He left Russia for trips to the United States where he encouraged activists in the still surviving Ghadr party to send young men to the Soviet Union for training. In 1934 he entered India from Afghanistan only to be arrested and taken into custody, where he remained until Indian independence in 1947.

Sources: Harban Singh ed., The Encyclopedia of Sikhism (Patiala: Panjabi University, 4th edition 2002); The Ghadr Directory, 1934, Compiled by the Director, Intelligence Bureau, Home Department, Government of India (Published, Patiala: Punjabi University, 1997); “Struggle for Hindustan: Ghadr Directory, Punjab Section, 1915 (published New Delhi:  Gobind Sadan Institute for Advanced Studies in Comparative Religion, 1996).