Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir: A Seasoned Politician and Scholar
-Dr. Ravindra Kumar
Gyani Gurmukh Singh Musafir was one among those prominent figures who emerged on the socio-political scene of Punjab in the Gandhian era of India’s freedom movement. Besides being a leading freedom fighter, Musafir was a seasoned politician, an eminent Punjabi writer, scholar, poet and an orator. He could be listed as a known face combining the Congress-Akali politics in Punjab.
Born on January 15, 1899 in a Sikh family of village Adhval in Campbellpur District, Punjab [now in Pakistan] Gurmukh Singh, after completing primary studies in his native village itself, was sent to Rawalpindi by his father Bhai Bhagat Singh for secondary level of education. Soon after his matriculation in 1918, he was appointed as a teacher in the Khalsa High School of Kallar [Kahar] in Chatwal Distict. He earned the epithet Giani after he passed an exam by this name.
It was during his stint as a teacher at Kallar that two incidents of extreme atrocities and cruelties of the Colonial Government took place in Amritsar on April 13, 1919 and in Nankana Saheb on February 20, 1921, respectively. In both the incidents people agitating peacefully were subjected to murderous assaults. Gurumukh Singh Musafir could not remain a mute spectator to these acts of injustice; he quit his job and entered public life. He was in the forefront of the famous Guru ka Bagh Agitation in 1922. It was also in this year that he started composing poems imbued with enthusiasm and nationalism. These poems inspired many to join the freedom struggle. He is also credited with bringing in a new style in Punjabi poetry. His lines on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre reveal his pain for the tragedy:
“Tat tar goli chali wang holi,
Hoya khun da harh ravan ethe
Haddi walam te jussa dwat bania
Likehia khun sang baith paiman the”
[Meaning thereby: The firing started like Holi and there ran the flood of blood, with bone as pen and body as ink pot the pledge was written with blood]
Giani Gurumukh Singh Musafir was a spirited freedom fighter who was very involved in the freedom struggle in as many aspects as he could. It was in fact this dedication and sincerity that propelled him to be one of the prominent leaders of the time. It was these qualities that helped him grace the highest religious chair in Sikhism –the Jathedar of Akal Takht. He was also appointed as the General Secretary of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee.
He also participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement, started by Gandhiji in 1930, the Individual Satyagraha [1940-41] and the Quit India Movement . He courted arrest on various occasions and was sentenced to prolonged imprisonment each time. While in jail for his involvement in the Quit India Movement, he received the news of death of his father, one of his sons and a daughter. Despite facing such tragedies, he refused to be released on parole. Such was the spirit of Giani Gurumukh Singh.
Gyani Gurumukh Singh Musafir became a close friend of Jawaharlal Nehru after meeting him during the freedom movement of the country and they remained friends for a long. After independence, he was elected as the President of the Punjab PCC, a Member of the CWC and also to Lok Sabha in 1952, 57 and 62 respectively, and to Rajya Sabha in 1968. For a short period [1966, November 1-1967, March 8] he also occupied the office of the Chief Minister of the State of Punjab. While holding all these positions Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir worked for the welfare of common men. Moreover, harmony, unity and secularism were the foremost basis of his approach and work.
Along with nine volumes of collections of his poems, he published four biographical works –two each on Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru respectively. As a scholar and writer he participated in the International Writers’ Conferences in Stockholm, Sweden  and Tokyo, Japan .