50 yrs on, Teja Singh Sutantar continues to live in folk tales : The Tribune India

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Liberator of gurdwaras from mahants

50 yrs on, Teja Singh Sutantar continues to live in folk tales

50 yrs on, Teja Singh Sutantar continues to live in folk tales

Teja Singh Sutantar



Tribune News Service

Vishav Bharti

Chandigarh, April 12

Teja Singh Sutantar, who saved the life of Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew, the hero of Jallianwala Bagh, and hundreds of Muslims from communal rioters during the Partition, lives on even 50 years after his death.

It was communist leader Sutantar’s 50th death anniversary today. He still lives on in folk tales of Punjab not just as a saviour of Kitchlew or hundreds of other Muslims but also as a liberator of gurdwaras from mahants, and for divesting feudal lords of their land and distributing it among the landless. He also fearlessly took on the royals and was a distinguished Member of Parliament.

Born as Sumand Singh in Aluana village of Gurdaspur, he became Teja Singh when he liberated Veela Teja gurdwara from the clutches of the British-backed Mahants. Sutantar was added to his name when he led ‘Sutantar jatha’, which was at the forefront of gurdwara liberation.

Former CPI MLA Hardev Singh Arshi said: “We were crushed under three types of slavery. At villages, we were enslaved by feudal lords. Over them were royals and British colonial masters were on the top. It was Sutantar who first led an epic battle against the three kinds of oppression during PEPSU-Mujhara land struggle.”

“He snatched 16 lakh acres from feudal lords, who were backed by the Patiala state, and distributed it among the landless in 784 villages of the Malwa region,” said Arshi.

Sutantar did not hail from Sangrur. Despite this, he won the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat in 1971 because of his services to the people of the region.

Moved by the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919, Sutantar always admired Kitchlew. When Akal Sena planned to assassinate Kitchlew, he deputed 40 armed persons at his Amritsar residence. Those moments are beautifully recalled by communist leader Inder Singh Murari in his memoir.

“We were 40 people, all armed, who would stand guard day and night around Kitchlew’s house. This went on for a month. Then one day, we whisked him to Delhi. Kitchlew remained indebted to Sutantar till his last breath. Kitchlew always referred to Sutantar as a ‘khuda’ who saved his life,” says Murari in his memoir. While unveiling Sutantar’s statue at Nihalgarh village today, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said when Teja Singh was elected as an MP, he carried a ‘jhola’ (cloth bag) dangling from his shoulder even inside the Parliament. “He died in the Central Hall of Parliament. When his bag was opened, two stale ‘rotis’ and a piece of pickle were found in it. Such was his life!” recalled Mann.

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