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Ghadar martyrs to war heroes: The 17 names Punjab govt has chosen to rename its schools

The Punjab government has said it will rename 17 government schools after Ghadar leaders and other freedom fighters, martyrs and soldiers who died in wars.

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New Delhi: A lesser known chapter of India’s freedom history has been memorialised with the renaming of schools in Punjab after martyrs of the Ghadar movement. The Punjab government last week announced the renaming of 17 government schools after Ghadar leaders and other martyrs.

Those martyred in the India-Pakistan wars of 1971 and 1965 are also included in the list of 17.

The Ghadar movement, an international political movement founded by expatriate Indians to overthrow the British rule in India, was active between 1903 and 1917. In 2020, more than a century later, Ghadar heroes found a place at the Golden Temple complex museum.


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The 17 martyrs and freedom fighters  

Lala Jagat Narayan: The prominent legislator, freedom fighter and editor is among the 17 names chosen for the schools. Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Nehru Garden, Jalandhar, will now be called the Late Lala Jagat Narayan Government Girls Senior Secondary School. Jagat Narayan was a freedom fighter who later became a politician. He was also the founder of the Hind Samachar media group, which started at the peak of the Khalistan insurgency in the 1980s. Narayan, who was against the Khalistan movement, was shot dead by two assassins on 9 September 1981.

Uttam Singh Haans: Government Senior Secondary Smart School, Haans Kalan, Ludhiana, has been named after Shaheed Uttam Singh Haans. Singh was a prominent Ghadarite. According to Professor Chaman Lal, Honorary Adviser, Bhagat Singh Archives and Resource Centre, New Delhi, Uttam Singh was an active member of the Ghadar movement.

Amandeep Singh: The slain CRPF sepoy is another martyr after whom a school — the   government primary school in Bilaspur, Hoshiarpur district — has been renamed. According to the Punjab education department, he was a sepoy in the 11th CRPF battalion and died in an encounter with Maoists on 24 March 2011 in Palamu district of Jharkhand.

Kabul Singh: Government Senior Secondary Gobindpura, SBS Nagar district, has been named after Desh Bhagat Master Kabul Singh. Singh was a prominent Ghadar activist.

Thakur Das: Gadari Baba Thakur Das Ji was also a prominent Ghadar activist. A government school in Dhura village of Sangrur district has been named after him. He was one of the founding members of the Ghadar Party in California.

Babbar Dalip Singh: Government Primary Smart School Gosal, SBS Nagar, has been named after Babbar Dalip Singh. He was from Gosal village in Jalandhar district and was associated with the Babar Akali Jatha, a group of Sikh militants who broke away from the Akalis over their insistence on non-violence during the Gurdwara Reform movement. In March 1922, warrants for his arrest were issued for delivering speeches recommending the creed for “reforming”, a euphemism for the liquidation of jholichuks or British loyalists.

Bhai Mewa Singh: Government Senior Secondary School Lopoke, Amritsar, will be renamed after Shaheed Bhai Mewa Singh. According to Prof. Lal, Mewa Singh was a freedom fighter who was assassinated in Canada in 1915. He fought against the injustice meted out to Indians living in Canada.

Mukand Singh: The Government Senior Secondary School in Dharmgarh, Sangrur district, has been named after Sepoy S. Mukand Singh who attained martyrdom on 17 December 1971 during Operation Cactus-Lilly. This was an Indian military operation that was part of the Bangladesh liberation war.

Baja Singh: The Government Middle School in Kalaudi, Sangrur, has been named after S. S. Baja Singh who was martyred during India’s Independence struggle. He was posthumously awarded the Tamra Patra by former prime minister Indira Gandhi on the 25th anniversary of Independence Day. 

Harnam Singh: A government senior secondary school in Chahar village has been named after revolutionary Harnam Singh. Singh was also one of the freedom fighters to be facilitated by Indira Gandhi on 25th Independence Day. 

Sukhdev Singh: Government Middle School, Baddowal, Ludhiana has been named after Sepoy Sukhdev Singh who attained martyrdom in the India-Pakistan war of 1965. 

Gajjan Singh: Government High School Kandala in SAS Nagar, Mohali, has been named after Shaheed Naik Gajjan Singh, also a martyr of the 1965 war. 

Banta Singh Dhaliwal: Government Elementary School Kalehana in Patiala has been named after freedom fighter Banta Singh Dhaliwal. He took part in the Quit India movement from 1942-43 and served a jail term in Lahore. Also felicitated by Indira Gandhi on the 25th anniversary of Independence Day, Dhaliwal died in 2012. 

Shingara Singh: Government Senior Secondary School (Boys), Chohla Sahib, in Tarn Taran district has been renamed Lance Naik Shaheed Shingara Singh Government Senior Secondary School. He attained martyrdom on 17 December 1971 during the India-Pakistan war. He was later awarded the Maha Veer Chakra.

Gursahib Singh: Government Elementary School Bhakna Kalan in Amritsar district has been named after Shaheed Gursahib Singh. He was martyred on 13 October 2014, during Operation Rakshak in Pulwama, a counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operation in Jammu and Kashmir. 

Hakam Singh: Government Middle School, Maure, in Amritsar has been named after Namdhari Shaheed Hakam Singh. The Namdhari Sikh was part of the Kuka Movement and fought for India’s freedom. He was hanged by the British on 15 September 1871.

Taara Singh: Government High School Ajner in Fatehgarh Sahib district has been named after Shaheed Taara Singh. Singh was also martyred during the 1971 India-Pakistan war.


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Needed: a plaque in every school

Prof. Lal, who has done extensive research on Bhagat Singh and other freedom fighters from Punjab, believes that the 17 names have a mix of war heroes from the first and second world wars and martyrs of India’s freedom struggle. It needs to be clarified who belongs to which era, he said.

“I appreciate the Punjab government’s efforts to rename schools after freedom fighters, but they should not simply rename the schools, they should also provide some information about these people, their lives and backgrounds. There should be a plaque in every school with the background of each martyr,” he told ThePrint.

Punjab Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla told ThePrint that this is not the first time the government has dedicated schools in names of martyrs, they have done it in the past as well.


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