The state-level function here to commemorate the Kuka Sikh martyrs, precursors of India’s freedom movement, was a lacklustre affair on Sunday, with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal opting to give it a miss.
Instead of the two, finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa presided over as chief guest. A few Kuka leaders also gave the function a miss. Dhindsa recalled the sacrifice of the Kuka patriots in 1872, when the 66 Namdhari Sikhs stood in front of a British cannon, raised the slogan of ‘Sat Sri Akal’, and were blown apart. They were protesting against cow slaughter.
The finance minister also said the state government would celebrate the 200th birth anniversary of Kuka leader Satguru Ram Singh on a massive scale. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said he would ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi to celebrate the occasion at the national-level. “For this, a team of Punjab leaders will meet Union home minister Rajnath Singh and give him a memorandum,” he added.
Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa demanded that besides Mahatma Gandhi, Satguru Ram Singh should also be declared father of the nation. Chief parliamentary secretary Farzana Alam was also present at the function to pay tributes to the Kuka martyrs.
Meanwhile, Congress leader and Fatehgarh Sahib legislator Kuljeet Singh Nagra gave credit to the previous Congress government of Punjab for allocating grants for developing memorials to the freedom struggle in the state.
Founders of freedom struggle
On January 17, 1872, much before the emergence of the national freedom movement, 66 Namdhari Sikhs led by their founder, Satguru Ram Singh, laid down their lives opposing the British colonial rulers.
The Namdharis were protesting against cow slaughter, which resulted in an altercation between them and the Muslims. The Muslim judge at Malerkotla ordered that an ox be butchered before the eyes of a protesting Namdhari, Gurmukh Singh. Following this, a batch of nearly 2O0 Namdharis proceeded towards Kotla to avenge the wrong. On the morning of January 15, there was a bloody skirmish between the Namdharis and the officials of the Malerkotla state that left eight men from Kotla and seven Namdharis dead. Later, they were arrested by the Patiala state, and the deputy commissioner ordered that they be blown apart with cannons.
The Bengal Revolution Act 1818 was used for the first time on them, and within a day of their arrest, they were awarded capital punishment. Bravely, 66 Namdhari Sikhs stood in front of the British cannon and raised the slogan of ‘Sat Sri Akal’ before being killed. For a century-and-a-half, their sacrifice was steeped in anonymity. Even the monument built in their honour at Malerkotla had no names — the khanda-like structure only had holes depicting the cannon strike.
A 1928 essay by Shaheed Bhagat Singh narrated their heroic feat.