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Monday, October 18, 2021

Kuka movement: The story of Gaurakshak Namdhari Sikhs.

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Kuka movement is particularly a movement led by Kuka community or the Namdhari Sikhs who started various movements in India even before Gandhi stepped in and stared his political life .
Kukas were not part of the main-stream Sikhism of the Sikhs . They are distinct from Sikhs not just in attire but also way of life. They follow strict vegetarianism, consume no alcohol, not even coffee. The Namdharis wore homespun white turbans, which they wrap around heads (sidhi pagri).
They are also known as Kookas, Kukas, kooke, kooka or kookeh ‘criers’, for their shrieks (kuks) given in ecstatic meditative trance.
They were the strong opponent of the cattle slaughter and retaliated against Muslims for killing cows in 1872. The Kuka movement was started by Bhagat jawhar Mal and later his disciples Balak Singh and Ram Singh took the movement ahead . Kukas wanted to throw away the British and restore Sikh Sovereignty over Punjab. Kuka followers wore only hand woven clothes and boycotted British education, laws and readymade products. Hence it is clear that Kuka movement had dimensions of both Non-Cooperation and civil disobedience and all this happened around 1860s – 1870s , when Gandhi was born . They have often been recognised as the first challengers to the colonial rule in the region and also a strong opponent to cow slaughter.
One such story for this begins in 1871 when the then appointed Deputy commissioner of Amritsar gave an open permission to the Muslims for running cow slaughter houses.
This was a deliberate act by the Muslims and the British to hurt the feeling of the Sikhs and the Hindus. When the Namdhari Sikhs retaliated against this decision five of them were hanged without any trial .This incident had created a fire among the Hindus against the British and Muslims . The story did not end here.
Four months later a verbal conflict took place at Malerkota when a vegetable vendor was being brutal on his ox. Gurumukh Singh Namdhari requested him to show mercy on the animal, but this led to a verbal conflict and the matter reached the court.To everyones surprise the muslim judge ordered to slaughter the ox in front of Gurumukh Singh. This incidence ignited the feeling of revenge among the Sikhs. As a result on 13th Jan 1872 , about 150 Namdhari Sikhs under the leadership of Sant Hira Singh and Lehna Singh headed to Malerkotla against the wrong done by a fanatic Muslim judge.
They attacked the Malerkotla officials and many lives were lost . The Namdhari voluntarily surrenders themselves to the officials . As soon as the deputy commissioner , Mr. Cowen took charge of the incident he ordered that the Namdhari Sikhs to be blown to bits. On 17th January, 49 Namdhari Sikhs were blown away with cannon guns. Next day on 18th January a further 16 Namdhari Sikhs were blown to their deaths.
Among the Namdhari there was a 12 year old Bishan Singh , who was supposed to be spared on the grounds of mercy . Learning this he grabbed the beards of cowen and did not let it go till he was chopped into bits. He was the 50th shaheed on 17th January .
The British took this opportunity to arrest Sadguru Ram singh on the night of 17th January and was taken to Allahabad . later ,without any trial , he was exiled to Rangoon .
Today a 66ft tall memorial khanda stands in the grounds where the incident took place.
It has 66 holes , some small and some big , that symbolises the martydom of 66 kukas who sacrificed their life against the unjust rule for cow slaughter.
Where in history do we find such stories thaught to our future generations? The struggles and sacrifice of our martyrs go unnoticed and is been buried under the glorification of the Mughal rulers in our history books.

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