Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal was an organisation for the people of the princely states of Punjab
that was established in the year 1928. It was formed to provide and secure civil liberties and political rights to these people. During the rule of the British Empire in India
, the Indian National Congress
had been the representative of the people of these states and had obtained certain privileges and appurtenances of renowned authority, from the British government, through constant agitation and protest. Constitutional and administrative reforms of adequate importance were also incorporated in Punjab, as well as in other regions under the British Government of India
. Moreover, several socio religious reform movements also encouraged the people and brought about much progress. In Punjab, the Indian freedom struggle
took the shape of forceful agitation against the strictly oppressive Rowlatt Acts
that had concluded in the Jallianvala Bagh massacre on 13th April 1919. This was followed by the Gurdwara reform movement that aimed at releasing the Sikh shrines from the grasp of dishonest priests who were supported the British authorities, as well as the fierce actions of the Babar Akalis.
Formation of Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal
The populace of the other princely states of India was under autocratic and arbitrary reign of the rulers of the princely states. They had no freedom of speech and no reputed institutions like assemblies and legislative councils, were established. Most of the native rulers were extravagant and spent the revenue on personal expenses. As a result the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal was established to counter the situation and to provide a public platform for the support of the subjects. The All India States People`s Conference was also formed on 17th September 1927 to support the rights of the people in around 600 princely states in India. The initiative for the institution of the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal emerged from the Akali workers who belonged to the princely states in the Punjab region. These workers were released from servitude due to their active participation in the extensive struggle for the improvement of the management of Sikh shrines and places of worship. They suffered from various injuries and were even imprisoned by the authorities.
The establishment of the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal was officially declared at a public conference that was organised by the workers at Mansa in the state of Patiala on 17 July 1928. Seva Singh Thikrivala of Patiala
was elected as the President and Bhagvan Singh Laungovalia became the General Secretary. In the constitution that was adopted later, the membership of the organisation was open to all adult populace of the states of Punjab without distinctions of class, caste or religion. A general council of two hundred members was elected every two years by its members. The council also had to elect an executive committee of fifteen members.
Development of Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal
The extent of the activities of the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal was expanded to incorporate all the princely states in the region of Punjab, Shimla
. The Praja Mandal, being the central organization, was affiliated to the All India States People`s Conference and organized and managed the activities of the local units. The primary objectives and purpose of the institution were the protection of the rights and liberties of the people, the establishment of representative units in the princely states and the improvement of the state of the subjects and peasants.
Initially the activities of the organisation were limited to the 4 Sikh princely states of Faridkot, Jind, Nabha and Patiala. Moreover they particularly focused their movements against the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh
. Gradually the Praja Mandal intensified its activities and agitations. The initial regular session of the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal was held on 27th December 1929 at Lahore. A resolution was adopted that strongly condemned the maladministration of Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala. At a later period, the activities of the organisation expanded to other Indian princely states. A morcha was commenced in the state of Jind as a protest against the augmentation of land revenue and against forced free labour. In Kapurthala state, the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal demanded the obliteration of repressive taxes and the establishment of a responsible government. The third annual conference of the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal was held in July 1931 at Shimla. Its primary demand was the deposition of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh.
Culmination of Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal
Later in 1931, Patiala the government issued the Hidayat (instruction) of 1988 Bk to counter the Praja Mandal and ban all political activities in the region. In January 1933, Seva Singh Thikrivala was arrested under the provisions of the Hidayat. On 20 January 1935, he died in Patiala jail. This marked the end of a significant phase of the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal and the movement against the princely states lost momentum and pace. In early 1936, the government of Patiala signed an agreement with Tara Singh, the Akali leader, which resulted in the liberation of the Akali prisoners. The Praja Mandal was further weakened by the withdrawal of the Akalis.
In the year 1945, the Communists were expelled from the Indian National Congress and the all India State People`s Conference established a regional council for the Punjab states. Brish Bhan was appointed as the Chairman of the council and Harbaris Lal became the General Secretary. Thus the leadership of the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal was transferred to the urban Hindus of the Punjab states. The struggle for administrative and constitutional reforms of the princely states of India sustained. Most of these states witnessed severe agitations, and the region of Faridkot experienced the brutal agitation in the year 1946. On 27th May 1946, the visit of Jawaharlal Nehru
marked the end of the agitation.
Giani Zail Singh, a local leader and future President of India organized and led the movement. After the nation gained independence in the year 1947, PEPSU was formed, which was a union of the states of Kalsia, Nalagarh, Kapurthala, Faridkot, Malerkotia, Jind, Nabha and Patiala; on 15 July 1948 the princely regimes culminated and the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal was lapsed. The organisation was replaced by the PEPSU Pradesh Congress.