|Achhar Singh Chhina|
Achhar Singh Chhina
|Born||October 01 1899
Amritsar, Punjab, India
|Died||March 21 1981 (aged 81)
Amritsar, Punjab, India
Achhar Singh Chhina (1899-1981), was an Indian communist politician and activist for independence from British rule. His active role in the Communist Party began at Khalsa College, Amritsar where he networked with other future leaders including Pratap Singh Kairon. He studied at the University of Berkeley, working for Indian independence from the British Raj in the United States of America and Canada until 1931 when he studied in Russia. He returned to Lahore, India in 1936. Chhina became embroiled in the Fatehwal Murder Case (1938-1939), gaining acquittal.
From 1942, Chhina played an active leadership role in the Communist Party of India, spearheading international efforts and presiding over the Punjab Kisan Sabha. He served as a Communist Party of India Member of the Legislative Assembly in the Punjab Legislative Assembly for two terms. Following Indian Independence from British rule in 1948, Chhina continued working in the then underground communist party in India, spending time in jail. He was released and in 1957 he won a seat to the Punjab Legislative Assembly, holding that position until 1962. In 1962, he stood for election to become a Member of Parliament (MP) from Taran Taran, losing by 1600 votes. Although Chhina's choice of communist ideology had been misguided, his intentions left the legacy of a patriot who lived to make India a better county for all.
Born at village Harsha Chhina, Tehsil Ajnala, Amritsar, Punjab, India, in 1899, Achhar Singh Chhina completed studies at Khalsa College, Amritsar. He played an active role in college politics along with Pratap Singh Kairon, later the Chief Minister of Punjab. In 1920-1921, the students and teachers of the Khalsa College registered their protest against the British rule by boycotting the visit of the Prince of Wales to the college.
In 1921, Chhina and Pratap Singh Kairon went to the USA for further studies. Both entered Berkeley University, California Masters in Economics program. The same year he joined the Ghadar Party in San Francisco, an organization of Indians in the USA and Canada dedicated to winning independence from the British Raj. He gained valuable experience with participating in political organizations in the Ghadar Party.
In 1932, Chhina departed the USA and went to the USSR for studies in communism. He returned to India in 1936, the British arresting him in Lahore the same year, detaining him in Lahore Fort for two months.
In 1937, British Government refused Achhar Singh Chhina permission to travel outside his home village for one year. In March 1938, on completion of his village confinement period, the communist party organized a conference at Fatehwal village Amritsar, designating Chhina and Mohan Singh Batth as chairpersons. During the conference, attendees murdered two people whom they suspected of spying for police. Police arrested Chhina and Joginder Singh Chhina, along with 47 other persons, under section 302 IPC, charging them with murder.
The case attracted national attention, the communist party establishing a legal team to defend those arrested. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and Saifud-din Kichlu headed the team, Kichlu representing the defendants as their chief advocate. Police had coerced Ram Lal, a police constable, to give a false statement that at the time of murder Achhar Singh Chhina was the main person to attack and kill the victims. Lal refused to give that statement in the court. The judges found Achhar Singh Chhina "not guilty" on all counts while sentencing Joginder Singh Chhina to 20 years. Chhina went underground as a result of police efforts to seek ways to rearrest him following the Fathehwall Murder Case.
Subash Chandra Bose, known by the popular name "Netaji" or "Respected Leader," first met Achhar Singh Chhina in April 1939 when Netaji visited the Gaya district where Chhina was hiding from the police. Netaji advised Chhina to remain underground, as the police were anxious to arrest him on false charges.
Netaji took an interest in Chhina, viewing him as a leader for the budding communist movement and for the independence movement in India. Netaji initiated a series of moves meant to raise Chhina into a prominent leading role. In one of his first moves, Netaji arranged a meeting between Niranjan Singh Talib, a well-known freedom fighter, and Chhina in early June 1940. Next, during Chhina's visit to Calcutta, Netaji encouraged Chhina to travel to the Soviet Union with him to meet Stalin. Chhina accepted the offer, traveling to the Frontier Province to make arrangements for their illegal trip.
While in the Frontier Province Chhina met Bhagat Ram Talwar who made arrangements for Netaji and his lodging in Peshawar as well as the logistics necessary for their underground trip to Kabul. Their plans were thwarted when police arrested Netaji on charges stemming from the Black Hole of Calcutta Movement in 1940 before he could travel to Peshawar.. Chhina decided to make the trip alone in 1940, crossing the Hindukush Mountains on foot through Kabul to the Soviet Union to discuss Indian independence with top Soviet leaders.
In 1942, the Communist Party of India (CPI) officially opposed the Quit India movement. Chhina (known as ‘Larkin’ in Soviet Union) actively participated in international intrigue. He worked closely with CPI to develop directives, carrying those directives from the Soviet Union to India with the full knowledge of the British authorities. While crossing the Hindukush, the British authorities at Gilgit arrested him, transporting him to Lahore for detention in Lahore Fort. After four months in Lahore Fort, the British transferred him to the Campbellpore Jail from where he was released on May 1, 1942.
President of the Punjab Kisan Sabha. In 1942, Chhina was elected as President of the All India Kisan Sabha - Punjab association, holding that position for seven years, until 1949. He also held the post of Secretary of the Punjab Communist Party.
Harsha Chhina Mogha Morcha. While President of the Punjab Kisan Sabah, he organized the Harsha Chhina Moga Morcha in 1946 with the support of the Communist party. Acchar Singh Chhina, Sohan Singh Josh, Purran Singh, Mohan Singh Batth, Jagbir Singh Chhina, and Gurdial Singh Dhillon organized the Morcha in opposition to the ruling party which resulted in the arrest of Achhar Singh Chhina, Sohan Singh Josh, and Gurdial Singh Dhillon along with 950 protestors, all detained in Lahore jail for three months. Due to the activities of Harsha Chhina Mogha Morcha, discussion among the political parties in the Punjab government resulted in granting water to farmers for irrigation.
In 1948, after Indian independence, Chhina went underground until found and arrested by the Republic of India in 1950, detaining him in Ambala jail. While he was in jail, he was elected from Ajnala as a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly (MLA) in 1952. In 1957, he was again elected from Ajnala as a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly (MLA) and remained its member till 1962. He was a founder of Naveen Janta Public school, which the Punjab Government took over later, renaming it Comrade Achhar Singh Chhina Senior Secondary School.
The idea of communism has had a very strong appeal to some Indians. During the Cold War, the USSR sought to cultivate the Communist Party of India with the intention of bringing India fully into the communist block of nations. Achhar Singh Chhina played a central role in working with Russia to achieve that objective. Curiously, Chhina was close with both the USA and Russia during the 1920s and 1930s. He had an opportunity to see the uncensored workings of both the American Republic and the Soviet totalitarian empire. In spite of Chhina's experience, he continued with unabated zeal to promote communism in India.
India, like the United States, proved a difficult environment to promote communism. Still, India's caste society, and the grinding poverty of the post-Independence India, proved openings that the communists could exploit. Singh worked actively, and unsuccessfully, to that end. Chhina had the best of intentions to help India. In the end, with the demise of world wide communism beginning with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, his work to promote communism in India bore no fruit. Although his choice of communist ideology had been misguided, his intentions left the legacy of a patriot who strove to make India a better county.
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