Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir

Poet, politician, and freedom fighter

Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir(15 January 1899-18 January 1976), poet and politician, was born the son of Sujan Singh on 15 January 1899 at Adhval, in Campbellpore district, now in Pakistan. Gurmukh Singh attended the village primary school and went to the city of Rawalpindi to pass the middle school examination. He trained as a junior vernacular teacher and took up, in 1918, appointment at Khalsa High School, Kallar, where Master Tara Singh , who later became famous as a political leader, had been the headmaster during 1914-16. His four years there as a teacher earned him the epithet Giani, ‘Musafir’ being the pseudonym he had adopted. Young Gurmukh Singh had been much affected by the massacres at Jalliarivala (13 April 1919) and at Nankana Sahib (20 February 1921) and, in 1922, he gave up teaching to plunge into the Akali agitation for gurudwara reform. He composed poetry full of patriotic fervour and recited it with gusto at Sikh divans. For taking part in the Guru ka Bagh agitation in 1922, he underwent imprisonment.

Akal Takhat and politics

Side by side with his involvement in religious reformation, he started taking interest in nationalist politics and courted arrest in the Civil Disobedience launched by the Indian National Congress in 1930. The same year he was appointed head of Sri Akal Takht, central seat of religious authority for the Sikhs. He held this office from 12 March 1930 to 5 March 1931. He also served for a time as secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee as well as general secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal. He went to jail again in Satyagrah (193941) and Quit India (194245) movements. He became president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee in 1949. He was also a member of the AllIndia Congress Working Committee. He was elected a member of the Lok Sabha successively in 1952, 1957, and 1962. He did not complete his last term in the Lok Sabha and resigned in 1966 to take over as chief minister of the reorganized state of the Punjab. On 28 March 1968, he re-entered Parliament, this time as a member of the Rajya Sabha.

Writer and Poet

An active politician throughout his life, Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir also won renown as a poet and writer. His published works include nine collections of poems Sabar de Ban, Prem Ban, Jivan Pandh, Musdfaridn, Tutte Khambh, Kdv Sunehe, Sahaj Sell, Vakkhrd Vakkhrd Katrd Katrd and Dur Nere; eight of short stories Vakkhn Duma, Ahlane de Bot, Kandhdn Bol Paidn; Satdl Janvari; Allah Vale, Gutdr, Sabh Achchhd, and Sastd Tamdshd; and four biographical works Vekhid Sunid Gdndhi, Vekhid Sunid Nehru, BaghlJamail and Vthvin Sadi de Shahid. He represented Indian writers at international conferences at Stockholm in 1954, and at Tokyo in 1961. He was posthumously decorated with Padma Vibhushan, the second highest national award. Strikingly handsome, with a flowing white beard setting off his statuesque, glowing face, Gurmukh Singh Musafir was well known for hisjoie de vivre, his style and humour. He had a huge capacity for laughter.