Saturday, June 3, 2023



Jathedar Jagdev Singh Talwandi: A valiant general of the Sikh quam – by KS Chawla

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By : K S Chawla

Jathedar Jagdev Singh Talwandi who passed away on September 19 was a valiant general of the Sikh quam.

Jathedar Talwandi who rose from the ranks served as the president of the Shiromini Akalidal and president of the SGPC during his political career. He started his career from a sarpanch of the village.

KS ChawlaJathedar Talwandi who was known for his aggressive and assertive attitude was the ‘Loh Purush’ (Iron Man) of the Akalidal. He was elected to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha thrice in 1967, 1969 and 1972 and was inducted as a minister in the Gurnam Singh and Parkash Singh Badal Governments.

He was detained under the MISA for eighteen months during the emergency imposed by Mrs. Indira Gandhi and remained in Patiala jail with Late Prime Minister Chander Shekhar and other leaders of the political parties and the Akalidal.

As emergency was lifted by Indira Gandhi in January 1977, all the political leaders opposed to Indira Gandhi were released and there was a talk of merger of political parties and forming one political party in the Centre. The Janata Party emerged on the scene as a result of the parleys and with the blessings of Lok Nayak Jayaparkash Narayan. But it was Jathedar Talwandi who was then acting president of the Akalidal declared that the Akalidal would cooperate with the newly formed Janata Party but would not merge with it and would remain its separate entity. His strong stand at that crucial period was a historic one.

As in 1977, general elections in the country, Congress was routed and Janata Party came into power with Morarji Desai as the Prime Minister of the first Non-Congress Government in the Country. Akalidal became a coalition partner in the central government and Parkash Singh Badal was inducted as Agriculture Minister in the Morarji Desai Government. It is pertinent to mention here that all the senior leaders of the Akalidal including Parkash Singh Badal, Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Jathedar Jagdev Singh Talwandi, Surjeet Singh Barnala and Jathedar Mohan Singh Tur contested the Lok Sabha elections in 1977 and won hands down, Jathedar Talwandi was elected from Ludhiana Lok Sabha seat.

Parkash Singh Badal could not pull on in the central government and soon fell sick. He came back to his village Badal and later was admitted in PGI Chandigarh.

It was Jathedar Talwandi who became instrumental in bringing Badal back to Punjab politics. This writer who had close association with Jathedar Talwandi was told by the Jathedar himself that he persuaded Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra to agree to bring Badal back to Punjab politics. Jathedar Talwandi accompanied by Jathedar Tohra and CPM leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet went to PGI and told Badal that they had decided to bring him back to the Punjab politics. Badal immediatelyjumped over his bed and accepted the decision with gratitude, Talwandi had told me. Surjeet Singh Barnala was then inducted as Agriculture Minister in the central cabinet.

In the 1977 Vidhan Sabha elections which followed the Lok Sabha elections, Akalidal and Janata Party came into power with Parkash Singh Badal as Chief Minister.

The trio of Akalidal consisting of Jathedar Talwandi, Jathedar Tohra and Parkash Singh Badal dominated the political scene and there was smooth sailing of the Government. But an unfortunate incident happened on April 13, 1978 when a clash took place between the Nirankaris and Akhand Kirtani Jatha followers in which thirteen Sikhs were killed.

In order to boost the morale of the Sikhs and the people of Punjab, Jathedar Talwandi took the decision to organize the All India Akali conference in Ludhiana in the month of October 1978. The conference was a big success and the Anandpur Sahib resolution was passed with some amendments. Janata Party President Chander Shekhar also addressed the conference.

The Akali-Janata Government was working smoothly when issue of alleged corruption by Sukhjinder Singh who was education minister came on the surface. Badal wanted to remove Sukhjinder Singh while Jathedar Talwandi and Jathedar Tohra were against it. However, Sukhjinder Singh was ousted from the cabinet and two more ministers Jaswinder Singh Brar and Randhir Singh Cheema also resigned as a show of solidarity with Sukhjinder Singh. This widened the differences between Badal on one side and Talwandi and Tohra on the other.

However, Tohra made up with Badal and Talwandi was left in the lurch. A complaint against Talwandi was made to the Akal Takhat and he was summoned by the Jathedar Akal Takhat who declared hisn’t ‘tankhwaya’ and Talwandi had to clean utensils at Harmander Sahib as a part of punishment. Thereafter differences between Badal and Talwandi continued to widen and in 1980 Talwandi parted company with Badal and formed his own Akalidal (Talwandi). Meanwhile in 1980 Indira Gandhi returned to power and she dismissed Badal Government.

Jathedar Talwandi launched morcha for the achievement of Anandpur Sahib resolution from Anandpur Sahib and led a jatha to Delhi where he was detained in Tihar Jail. He remained in Tihar jail for more than 18 months and on an appeal from the Akal Takhat and sant Harchand Singh Longowal who was dictator of Dharam Yudh morcha, Jathedar Talwandi came out of Tihar Jail and offered himself for arrest in Dharam Yudh Morcha alongwith one thousand followers at Ludhiana. He was kept in Ludhiana jail where Parkash Singh Badal was already lodged.

As the Punjab state was engulfed in militancy and the operation blue star took place in 1984 and all the senior leaders of the Akalidal were detained in different jails in the country. Sant Harchand Singh had been Assassinated in August 1985. In the Vidhan Sabha elections, Surjeet Singh Barnala was elected Chief Minister of Punjab and his Government was also dismissed in 1987. The Akalidal was leaderless.

Baba Thakur Singh acting head of the Damdami Taksal wrote to Jathedar Talwandi to take over the reins of the Akalidal at this ‘critical juncture Talwandi was reluctant to take over the reins but Bhai Shaminder Singh brought a message from Parkash Singh Badal who was detained in Trivandrum jail requesting Talwandi to become the president and lead the Akalidal. In 1989, Talwandi became the president of the Akalidal and in November 1989, a murderous attack was made on him when he came and out of his village by the militants. His most loyal supporter Harjinder Singh Jind a member of the SGPC and his gunman were killed in the attack and Talwandi and his personal assistant Ujagar Singh were badly injured.

On his release from Jail, Badal resumed the presidentship of the Akalidal and in 2001 Jathedar Talwandi made president of the SGPC. He was instrumental in the telecast of the gurbani programme from ETC Channel. Talwandi also restored some of the restrictions imposed by Bibi Jagir Kaur as president of the SGPC.

Jathedar Talwandi was a man of strong principles and conviction and never compromised with the same during his political life. The Akalidal has lost a dedicated and committed Taksali leader and son of the soil the gap caused by his death, is difficult to fill.

KS Chawla is a senior journalist.
He can be contacted at 9988644244
[email protected]
[email protected]

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