The gurdwara reforms activist who later dreamt of freedom in red

He may have come to prominence as an Akali leader and a known face of the Gurdwara Reform Movement, but Sohan Singh Josh, who later joined the Communist Party wrote in his will that no religious ceremony be performed post his death. His ashes were immersed in the Ravi river.

Born on November 12, 1898, at Chetanpura in Punjab to a peasant father, Sohan Singh Josh, who completed his higher education but could not continue his studies further owing to financial constraints was an active member of the Akali movement that started in 1921, and he travelled extensively to preach against the British government.

Tried in the Akali Leaders’ Conspiracy Case and sentenced to imprisonment for anti-British activities, Josh became a member of the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee and the Shiromani Akali Dal. He was also the founder-member of the undivided Communist Party of India and the General Secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Party of undivided Punjab.

An excellent writer, Josh, in journalism, found a platform to voice his opinions against the Raj. He was associated with the paper ‘Kirti’, for which he collaborated with Bhai Santokh Singh, a Communist leader trained in Moscow.

The paper became ‘Parbhat’ in 1935. Josh was its editor and publisher. In fact, Bhagat Singh had worked for ‘Kirti’ for three months. His articles were generally published under the names of ‘Rukn ud Din’ and ‘Svatantra Singh’. In later years, he edited the Communist papers ‘Jang-i-Azadi’ and the ‘Navari Zamana’ daily.

In fact, in 1928, he took a major part in establishing the Kirti Kisan Party and in December 1928 he presided over the first All India Workers and Peasants Conference held at Calcutta. He was also working for the Naujavan Bharat Sabha set up by Bhagat Singh and his friends. In February 1929, he was elected its president.

Josh was also imprisoned in the Meerut Conspiracy Case. Released in 1933, he joined the Communist Party of India and in 1943 became the editor of a newly founded communist paper, Jang-i-Azadi.

His books in Punjabi include ‘Bangali Sahit di Vanagi’, ‘Rut Navian di Ai’, ‘Men Rus Yatra’, ‘Panjabi Bolt te Bhasha Vigian’, ‘Ikk Inqalab Ikk Jivani’, ‘Akali Morchian da Itihas’, ‘Kamagata Maru da Dukhant’, ‘Bhagat Singh nal Merian Mulakatan’, ‘A History of the Hindustan Ghadr Party’, in two parts (English), was published in 1977-78. He wrote an autobiography, two novels and some stories which lie unpublished.

Sohan Singh Josh died on July 29, 1982 in Amritsar.

Sadly, despite his important contributions, he remains unsung. In an interview, his son Devinder Singh Josh said that all the money that his father got from different awards was spent on the welfare of people. He also added that proper treatment was not

arranged when the freedom fighter suffered a major cardiac arrest.

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