Poet, teacher and leader ... in the truest sense of the word ... Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir was all that and more.
He epitomized a generation of leaders who came into the world of politics as a logical extension of the task they had undertaken when they joined the freedom struggle.
Sardar Gurmukh Singh was Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht for a brief period and also General Secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.), Amritsar.
Later, along with a number of Akali leaders, he joined the Congress party and was President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee and a member of the Congress Working Committee.
*He then served as Chief Minister of Punjab, after almost four terms of five years each as a Member of the Indian Parliament. Later, he went back to Parliament in New Delhi to serve another two terms*.
Gurmukh Singh was the son of Sujan Singh. He was born on January 15, 1899 at Adhval, in Campbellpore district, now in Pakistan. He became a teacher at the age of 19, he passed Honours in Punjabi while in service, and this earned him the title Giani. "Musafir" was a takhallus (nom-de-plume).
The 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar and the 1921 Nankana Sahib Massacre in which many Sikh pilgrims were killed, left a deep impact on the young man. Thereafter, he became so involved in the Gurdwara Reform Movement that he had to give up his teaching career.
He recited his own patriotic poems at Sikh gatherings. He was imprisoned for his role in the Guru-ka-Bagh agitation in 1922, when Sikhs had launched a peaceful protest against a mahant.
Later that year, he was appointed Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht (March 12, 1930 to March 5, 1931). He also briefly held the post of Secretary, S.G.P.C., and General Secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal.
While we focus on the activist, we must not forget the writer. The renowned Principal Teja Singh once wrote: "With his vast experience, Gurmukh Singh Musafir draws his stories from life itself. He tells about suffering with a pen dipped in blood. And the paper on which he inscribes his tale gets lacerated."
The experience included much incarceration. Gurmukh Singh also courted arrest in the Civil Disobedience program that the Indian National Congress started in 1930.
He was imprisoned from 1939-41 and 1942-45 for his involvement in the Satyagrah and Quit India agitations. The imprisonments took their toll.
His father died when he was in prison. He could not even attend the last rites of an infant son. And his grief at the death of Rajinder Kaur, his 19-year-old daughter, came out in the form of a poignant short story, Baaghi di dhee, which was later made into a film.
In his book on Gurmukh Singh Musafir, the eminent writer Kartar Singh Duggal says: "Gianiji's greatest support in life was his wife (Ranjit Kaur) - a lady cast in a heroic mould. But for her, he could never have involved himself the way he did in the freedom struggle. She suffered trials and tribulations, but did not wince for a moment. During his repeated absences from home, she looked after the family, and brought up and educated the children the best she could. There were days when there was not enough to eat. There were days when the children had to be removed form their schools for non-payment of fees."
Once, as Gurmukh Singh was being arrested, a bystander taunted him about his duties regarding his wife and children. That very night, in prison, he wrote the moving poem on his wife: Jeendi rahe mere bachian di maan.
He had five sons - Mandev, Parmdev and Sachdev live abroad. Jaidev and Jatinder Dev have passed away.
In 1947, Gurmukh Singh became president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee and was made member of the All-India Congress Working Committee, a position he retained for twelve years.
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 Punjab on November 1, 1966 for a short while.
Musafir re-entered Parliament, this time as a member of the Rajya Sabha 68-74, and for the second term thereafter.
All through his life, he continued writing and his published works include nine collections of poems - Sabar de Ban, Prem Ban, Jivan Pandh, Musafarian, Tutte Khamb, Kav Sunehe, Sahaj Seti, Vakkhra Vakkra Katra Katra and Dur nere; eight of short stories - Vakkhri Duniya, Ahlane de Bol, Kandhan Bol Paian, Satai Janvari, Allah Vale, Gutar, Sabh Achcha, and Sasta Tamasha; and four biographical works - Vekhia Sunia Gandhi, Vekhia Sunya Nehru, Baaghi Jarnail and Vihin Sadi de Shahid.
He represented Indian writers at international conferences at Stockholm in 1954, and at Tokyo in 1961. He was a good speaker, with a considerable stage presence, as a result of which he was much in demand.
Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir died in Delhi on January 18, 1976. He was posthumously decorated with Padma Vibhushan, and his book of short stories, Urwar - Par won the Sahit Akademy Award, again posthumously.
A trust, named after him, was set up in his memory that very year and it has a memorial in the shape of a 260-seat auditorium with a small library and reading room in Sector 24, Chandigarh, Punjab.
The trust also published all his literary works in four volumes in 1999, which marked the centenary of his birth. Department of Posts issued Commemorative postage stamps on him was issued in 2001.
His only surviving daughter, Sardarni Joginder Kaur Sant, lives in Chandigarh. She is General Secretary of the Trust. She has kept the flame of her father's memory alive.
Issued Date 27.01.2001
Denomination : 300 Paise