Freedom Movement in Kangra, Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti
The strategic importance of Kangra, Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti impelled the Britishers not to restore these hill areas to their erstwhile rulers, unlike other hill states, after Anglo-Sikh war of 1846. Rulers of these areas were pension off and their areas under the direct British administrative control.
These were grouped together to make Kangra district with Dharamshala as headquarters. Ram Singh Pathania of Nurpur raised his voice, but was suppressed soon and Nurpur was captured by the British. Ram Singh fought bravely but died in the attempt.
British turned hills into good recruitment area for their ‘DOGRA REGIMENTS‘.
The British rulers do not want any growth of the feelings of nationalism in hills and were extra vigilant to suppress any national movement beginnings.
After Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts for a mass movement using INC, all these measures are waste.
A great number of people from Kangra hills were staying in relation to their jobs, business and study in Amritsar, Lahore, Delhi etc.
They eagerly came under the influence of Gandhi’s call for ‘boycott’ and ‘non cooperation movement‘ and gave up their jobs and studies and returned to their villages, they organized branches of INC, enrolled a large number of workers, held conferences and took out procession.
In Sujanpur Tira, at Tal, a conference was attended by prominent local workers such as Thakur Hazara Singh, Baba Kanshi Ram (PAHARI GANDHI), Gopal Singh and Chatur Singh.
Mela Ram Tair and Master Kundan Lal were sent from Lahore. In conference, pledges were taken by a large number of people for country’s freedom.
Pahari Gandhi took a pledge to wear only black clothes until the country became free. The ‘Baluch’ police‘ in order to break the spirit of the people, mercilessly beat them, snatched their Gandhi caps and looted their shops and houses.
In spite of all repressive measures, by 1930 the foundation of National movement had been deeply and firmly laid in the Kangra district.
The contributions made by Baba Kanshi Ram and Thakur Hazara Singh are noteworthy. They and their co-workers were convicted and sent to prison at Gurdaspur, Lahore, Attock and Multan.
Baba Kanshi Ram was given the title of ‘Pahari Gandhi’ by Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru in “Ghadriwala’ conference. (Some historians have disputed this fact).
May be slow, but government could not stop the spread of nationalistic feelings among the people. The decision of the INC to contest elections to the legislative assemblies movement gained momentum once again. Congress won all four seats from Kangra.
Thakur Pancham Chand, Thakur Dalip Singh, Shri Beli Ram and Pt. Bhagat Ram, were declared elected in 1939, Congres workers launched a large scale movement and disuaded the people from joining the army.
The Individual Satyagraha (1940) by Mahatma Gandhi, with a view to dispel the impression that India was supporting Britain’s war efforts, was conducted in Kangra district very successfully, where a large number of Congress leaders offered Satyagraha.
The ‘Quit India’ movement (1949) was greatly supported by Kangra people. In this galaxy of freedom fighters were luminaries like Mangat Ram Khanna, Hem Raj Sood, Comrade Ram Chandra, Paras Ram, Sarla Sharma, Brahma Nand and Pt. Amar Nath Sharma
Pt. Amar Nath Sharma, fighter from Lahore, after having evaded his arrest by Police for participation in the national movement, came to Palampur. In addition to all activities, he also started concentrating upon the social and educational work. He opened a number of educational institutions and Aushadhalayas (dispensaries).
In these activities, he was helped by Shri Kanhaiya Lal Butail, who had gained fame as the large hearted host of motional leaders like Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur, Jagjivan Ram and many leaders of Punjab.
The contribution of the people of Kangra district (Kangra, Una, Hamirpur, Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti) in the Indian National Army (INA) was of very high order.
For exceptional courage in INA, Major Mehar Dass (Naharpukhar) was awarded with ‘Sardar-i-jung‘ and Captain Bakshi Pratap Singh (Chadhiyar) with “Tagma-i Shatrunash‘.
Two Gurkha Brothers from Dharamshala, Shri Durga Mal and Shri Dal Bahadur Thapa were executed in Delhi. Others who were decorated by INA were Shri Hari Singh (Sarkaghat Mandi) ‘Sher-i-Hind’ and Lt. Amar Chand (Hamirpur) got medal for their exceptional courage.
The Spirit and light of national movement was kept alive in Una areas by Baba Laxman Dass, Bakshi Satya Parkash ‘Bagi’, Satyamitra, Pt. Hari Ram and Tirath Ram. It may be mentioned that Thakur Hazara was one of those leaders of Kangra who, as early as 1946, gave a call for the creation of a separate hill state.