Jaiton is a small town in Faridkot District of Punjab. It is located on the Faridkot Bathinda road. Gurdwara Gurusar dedicated to Guru Gobind Singh is located towards west of this town. Famous Gurdwara Tibbi Sahib is located towards east of Jaiton. This place came to the limelight during the Akali movement Jaiton da Morcha (agitation of Jaiton). This movement took place from 1923 to1925.
Jaiton Morcha was an Akali agitation for the restoration of Maharaja Ripudaman Singh of Nabha (a princely state in the Punjab) to his throne. The Maharaja had strong pro Akali sympathies. He had supported the Guru ka Bagh Morcha. He started donning a black turban as a mark of protest against the massacre of the reformists at Nankana Sahib. His contacts with the Indian nationalist leaders had irked the British government. He was forced to abdicate in favor of his minor son, Partap Singh by British Government on July 9 1923. The British officials declared his abdication to be voluntary. The Akalis and the nationalist leaders condemned it as an act of highhandedness of the British Government.
Master Tara Singh denounced the measure and considered it equivalent to removal of Maharaja Duleep Singh’s from the throne of the Punjab. A committee was set up to restore the throne of Maharaja of Nabha. People of Punjab were requested to observe July 29, 1923 as a day to pray for restoration of the throne of the Maharaja.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee dispatched a telegram to Lord Reading, the Viceroy of India on August 2, 1923, challenging the official version that the Maharaja had voluntarily relinquished his gaddi (throne). The Viceroy was requested to order an independent enquiry to establish the truth. Three days later, the committee passed a resolution asking its executive committee to carry on a peaceful campaign to restore Maharaja Ripudaman Singh back on the throne of Nabha. A Nabha government ordinance prohibiting public discussion of the issue was defied by the Sikhs. They started convening meetings to condemn the deposition of the Maharaja.
Following a public march, a divan (congregation) was held at Jaito (located in Nabha territory) on August 25, 1923. During this congregation, sympathies were expressed to the Maharaja and the government action was strongly condemned. Nabha state authorities arrested the organizers of the divan on August 27. The divan was originally scheduled to conclude on August 27, but the arrests made by police provoked the Akalis to continue it indefinitely. They started a series of akhand paths (continuous recitations of the Guru Granth Sahib). The police made more arrests on September 14, 1923. During arrest, the police displaced the granthi sitting at an akhand path and replaced him with their own reader, Atma Singh. The sacrilege committed by the police created a great commotion among the Sikhs. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee condemned this action on September 29. The committee declared its determination to obtain the Sikhs’ right to free worship. The government denied that the akhand path was interrupted. The jathas (group of voluntary Sikhs) kept pouring in at Jaiton. The Secretary of State requested the Viceroy to stop to the Akali operation by arrest and prosecution of all the organizers as abettors. As a result, the Punjab Government declared both the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Shiromam Akali Dal as unlawful associations. All the 60 members of the interim Shiromani Committee were arrested on charges of treason against the King. Akali jathas were stopped to enter Nabha territory. Volunteers were arrested, beaten by police and left off in distant deserts areas without food or water.
To intensify the agitation, the Akalis increased the size of the jathas. 500 Akalis marched from the Akal Takht On February 9 1924. They received unprecedented welcome in villages and towns through which they passed. S. Zimand, a New York Times correspondent who witnessed the jatha on the march, observed thatThe Jatha was moving in perfect order and non violence with large crowds of public on its right and left, five Nishan Sahibs in the front and Guru Granth in the middle. The jatha reached Bargari (a village on Nabha Faridkot border, located at a distance of about 10 km from Jaito) on 20 February 1924.
The Nabha administrator, Wilson Johnston took position with a large force at a distance of about 150 meters from Gurdwara Tibbi Sahib. The jatha marched towards the Gurdwara on February 21. The volunteers refused to obey the instructions of Wilson Johnston to stop and disperse. The administrator ordered the army to open fire. In two volleys of fire lasting about five minutes, several volunteers died. The official estimate of the casualties was 19 dead and 29 injured. The Akali figures were much higher.
The firing on the peaceful jatha of Akalis caused resentment throughout the country. Another 500 volunteers Shahidi jatha left Amritsar for Jaito on February 28, 1924. It was taken into custody on March 14. Thirteen more 500 volunteers’ jathas reached Jaito and courted arrest. Sikh jathas also came from Canada, Hong Kong and Shanghai to join the campaign.
The Governor of the Punjab, Sir Malcolm Hailey, tried the policy of creating a schism in the community by creating parallel Sikh Sudhar Committees representing moderate and pro government sections. A 101 strong jatha was allowed to perform an akhand path at Jaito. But this did not conciliate the general Sikh opinion. It also did not affect the tempo of the agitation. On the issue that the Akalis were allowed to perform an akhand path at Jaito, the government was prepared to start negotiations through Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and Bhai Jodh Singh. But, it was adamant on the question of making restitution to the deposed Maharaja of his state.
In the meantime, the Punjab Government introduced in the Legislative Council the Sikh Gurudwaras Bill. It was unanimously passed on July 7, 1925. After the bill was passed, Sir Malcolm Hailey, Governor of the Punjab, announced during his speech to the Punjab Legislative Council that the Administrator of Nabha would permit the bands of pilgrims to precede for religious worship to Gurdwara Gangsar at Jaito. The announcement was followed by the release of most of the Akali prisoners. The Akalis started a series of 101 Akhand Path recitations. It was concluded on August 6, 1925.