Struggles for Gurudwara Reform and Temple Entry

 

  • The Akali movement
  • The movement arose with the objective of freeing the Gurudwaras from the control of ignorant and corrupt priests (mahants).
  • Apart from the mahants, after the British annexation of Punjab in 1849, some control over the Gurudwaras was exercised by Government-nominated managers and custodians, who often collaborated with mahants.
  • The government gave full support to the mahants. It used them to preach loyalism to the Sikhs and to keep them away from the rising nationalist movement.
  • The agitation for the reform of Gurudwaras developed during 1920 when the reformers organized groups of volunteers known as jathas to compel the mahants and the government appointed managers to hand over control of the Gurudwaras to the local devotees.
  • Tens of Gurudwaras were liberated within an year.
  • To manage the control of Golden Temple and othe rGurudwaras the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee was formed in November 1920.
  • Feeling the need to give the reform movement a structure, the Shiromani Akali Dal was established in December 1920.
  • The SGPC and Akali Dal accepted complete non-violence as their creed.
  • There was a clash between the mahant and the Akalis over surrendering the gurudwara at Nanakana. This led to killing of about 100 akalis.
  • The Nankana tragedy led to the involvement of Sikhs on a large scale in the national movement.
  • Keys Affair: In October 1921, the government refused to surrender the possession fo the keys of the Toshakhana of the golden temple of the Akalis. This led to protests. Leaders like Baba Kharak Singh and Master Tara Singh were arrested. Later, the government surrendered the keys to keep the Sikhs from revolting.
  • Guru ka Bagh gurudwara in Ghokewala was under dispute as the mahant there claimed that the land attached to it was his personal possession. When few akalis cut down a tree on that land they were arrested on the complain of the mahant. Seeing this thousands of akalis came and started cutting down the trees. About 4000 akalis were arrested. Later, the government didn’t arrest but started beating them up severly. But the alakis kept turning up. Ultimately the government had to surrender.
  • The akali movement made a huge contribution to the national awakening of Punjab.
  • However, the movement encouraged a certain religiosity which would be later utilized by communalism.
  • In 1923, the Congress decided to take active steps towards the eradication of untouchability.
  • The basic strategy it adopted was to educate and mobilize opinion among caste hindus.
  • Immediately after the Kakinada session, the Kerala Provincial Congress Committee (KPCC) took up the eradication of untouchability as an urgent issue.
  • KPCC adeiced to organize an procession on the temple roads in Vaikom, a village in Travancore, on 30 March 1924.
  • During the processions, the satyagrahis were arrested and sentenced to imprisonment.
  • On the death of Maharaja in August 1924, the Maharani released the Satyagrahis.
  • Gandhiji visited Kerala to discuss the opening of temple with Maharani. A compromise was reached whereby all roads except for the ones in the Sankethan of the temple were opened to the harijans.
  • In his Kerala tour, Gandhi didn’t visit a single temple because avarnas were kept out of them.
  • The weakness of the anti-caste movement was that through it aroused people against untouchability it lacked a strategy of ending the caste system itself.

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