Thakur Deshraj (1903 1970) was a social worker, journalist, nationalist, freedom fighter and author of many books. He was from Rajasthan state in India. He was revenue minister in the princely state of Bharatpur.
Thakur Deshraj in Shekhawati farmers movement
In Sikar district, Rajasthan, there were 500 villages of the Jats in one grouping, but in contrast to Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab their condition was very backward during British rule. The condition was poor and destitute. The reason for this was the existence of the Rajput feudal Thakurs (Bikaner and Shekhawati). In this vast spread out region, there was not a single primary school. The farmer communities, including Jats, could not put Singh to their names. They were not allowed to wear gold ornaments. On his wedding day the their bridegroom was not allowed to ride a horse. Fifty-one kinds of taxes called lagh were imposed on the farmers. There was no Law or Court. The only law was that of the Thakur. The Jats and other communities had totally suppressed by the continual atrocities committed by the feudal arrogant Rajput .
Thakur Deshraj wrote the Jat history in 1934 at the same time he also published local newspapers to promote the farmers to fight for their rights and awakened them to realize the self-respect. He started a newspaper named Rajasthan Sandesh in 1931 for this purpose. With his efforts the All India Jat Mahsabha could be associated with the farmer movement in Shekhawati.
Pushkar adhiveshan (conference) 1925
Thakur Deshraj came to Pushkar in 1925 in the adhiveshan of All India Jat Mahasabha, which was presided over by Maharaja Kishan Singh of Bharatpur. Sir Chhotu Ram, Madan Mohan Malviya, Chhajju Ram etc. farmer leaders had also attended. This function was organized with the initiative of Master Bhajan Lal Bijarnia of Ajmer-Merwara. The farmers from all parts of Shekhawati had come namely, Chaudhary Govind Ram, Kunwar Panne Singh Deorod, Ram Singh Bakhtawarpura, Chetram Bhadarwasi, Bhuda Ram Sangasi, Moti Ram Kotri, Har Lal Singh etc. The Shekhawati farmers took two oaths in Pushkar namely,
- They would work for the development of the society through elimination of social evils and spreading of education.
- Do or Die in the matters of exploitation of farmers by the Jagirdars.
Visit to Mandawa
Thakur Deshraj came to Mandawa in 1929 to take part in Arya Samaj function and realized the social problems of Jats in Shekhawati region. He published a series of articles in Jatveer on the acts of oppression on farmers, which awakened them. Later Jatveer paper was also published from Jhunjhunu. The paper Ganesh published by him from Agra also played an important role in farmers movement. Thakur Deshraj along with Pundit Tarkeshwar Sharma circulated hand written newspaper called Gram Samachar started in 1929. Later he also published newspaper Kisan . All these papers created a revolutionary change in the farmers.
Formation of Rajasthan Jat Mahasabha
In the series of Pushkar function next adhiveshan of All India Jat Mahasabha was organized at Delhi in 1931 under the chairmanship of Rana Udaybhanu Singh of Dholpur state. Large number of farmers from Shekhawati took part in it. At this adhiveshan Thakur Deshraj constituted Rajasthan Jat Mahasabha .
Establishment of Shekhawati Kisan Jat Panchayat
With the efforts of Thakur Deshraj a sabha of Rajasthan Jat Mahasabha took place at Badhala village in Palsana. It was attended by famous revolutionist Vijay Singh Pathik, Baba Nrisingh Das, Chaudhary Laduram (Gordhanpura). It was resolved in this meeting that
- Jat Panchayats be established to prevent the excesses of Jagirdars,
- The sons of farmers be given education and fight with Jagirdars with the organizational support.
- Efforts are made for the economical, social and cultural development of farmers.
- The farmers are given the khatoni parcha after the settlements of their lands.
With these objectives Shekhawati Kisan Jat Panchayat was established in 1931 in Jhunjhunu.
Jhunjhunu adhiveshan (conference) 1932
There was a grand gathering of farmers under the banner of Jat Mahasabha in Jhunjhunu on 11 13 February 1932. 60000 Jat farmers attended it. Thakur Deshraj camped at Jhunjhunu for 15 days to make it a success. The farmers from all parts of India attended it. It was presided by Rao Sahib Chaudhary Rishal Singh Rayees, who was escorted from station to the place of meeting on elephant accompanied by a carvan of camels. This program was of Jats but all the communities cooperated and welcomed. Kunwar Panne Singh Deorod welcomed this rally whereas Vidyadhar Singh Sangasi did the welcome of Jaipur Prantiya Jat Kshatriya Sabha rallies. Though the Jagirdars did all attempts to make it a failure, but it proved a success. On the appeal of fund collection the participant farmers donated their gold ornaments, which they were wearing. This was the first opportunity of awakening the Shekhawati farmers and proved a grand success. Sardar Harlal Singh and Chaudhary Ghasi Ram had traveled a lot for its publicity and spread its message. Some of the competent people were awarded Kshatriya titles. For example Chaudhary Har Lal Singh was awarded as Sardar , Ratan Singh of Bharatpur as Kunwar and Chaudhary Ram Singh as Thakur . Thus the Rajput monopoly over these titles vanished.
As the tenth guru of Sikhs Guru Gobind Singh made Sikhs as Singh , Thakur Deshraj made the farmers of Shekhawati as Singh . Thakur Deshraj floated three slogans in this function namely,
- Keep your aims high
- Leave the social evils
- Change your dress and put Singh after your name.
The Jhunjhunu adhiveshan brought wonderful changes in the life and culture of the farmers of Shekhawati. Their morals were boosted up and other classes accepted the Jats as noble Aryans and Kshatriyas. The success of Jhunjhunu adhiveshan not only changed the life of Shekhawati farmers but those of Jaipur and Bikaner princely states also. After this there were programmes started to improve the social life of the Jat community.
The Jat Prajapati Maha-Yagya 1934
After successful Jhunjhunu adhiveshan in 1932, a deputation of Jats from Sikar district, under the leadership of Prithvi Singh Gothra met Thakur Deshraj and requested him to do a similar adhiveshan in Sikar also. After long discussions Thakur Deshraj proposed to have a yagya at Sikar. A meeting for discussing this issue was called in Palthana village in October 1933. This was attended by all activists from Shekhawati and one member was invited from each family in Sikar district. About 5000 people gathered in the meeting. The Sikar thikana wanted to make this meeting a failure. For this, the thikanedar sent hundreds of handcuffs loaded on camels along with the police force to terrorize the people taking part in the meeting. Thakur Deshraj addressed the people that
- "these handcuffs would get you independence. If you are afraid of these you would never get freed. We have gathered here for a religious purpose and we will complete".
These words of Thakur Deshraj played a lightning effect amongst the people and they all were energized for further struggle with the Jagirdars. People listened the leaders very calmly and meeting was a great success. Police could do nothing. The leaders who attended the meeting were Sardar Harlal Singh, Chaudhary Ram Singh Kunwarpura, Chaudhary Ghasi Ram, Kunwar Net Ram Singh, Panne Singh Deorod's elder brother Bhoor Singh etc. There was a speech by Master Ratan Singh Pilani. A resolution was passed in this meeting to conduct a seven day "Jat Prajapat Mahayagya" (Prayer ceremony for the Lord of Universe) in Sikar on next basant in 1934, to spread the principles of Arya Samaj and create awakening in Shekhawati. It was decided for this purpose to collect ghee and money from each household. A yagya committee was formed consisting of Chaudhary Hari Singh Burdak of Palthana village as its president, Master Chandrabhan Singh as minister. Deva Singh Bochalya, Thakur Hukum Sing and Bhola Singh were put in charge of publicity. The office of managing committee was earlier in Palthana. In December 1933 this office was transferred to Sikar.
The Jat Prajapati Maha-Yagya took place at Sikar from 20 29 January 1934. Kunwar Hukam Singh Rahees Angai (Mathura) was made Yagyapati or Chairman of the Yagya. Chaudhary Kaluram of village Kudan was the Yagyaman. Acharya Shri Jagdev Sidhanthi received an invitation for this Yagya at his Gurukul at Kirttal, In that invitation was he requested to attend the Yagya and bring twenty Bhramcharis and disciples with him. Volunteers went to all the households in all the villages in the region and collected material that would be needed. They collected Ghee, Flour, Gur, and invited all the householders to participate. Hundreds of cans of Ghee and hundreds of sacks of flour were collected.
During the Yagya 3000 men and women adopted the Yogyopavit, which was a symbol of "Kisan sangathan"(farmers' organization). Sheetal Kumari daughter of Kunwar Netram Singh adopted yagyopavit. Chaudhary Chimana Ram of Sangasi brought his wife wearing salwar-kurta. The unity of Jat farmers in this Yagya had terrified the Jagirdars of Sikar. The role played by Sardar Har Lal Singh and Thakur Deshraj was unparallel which made this yagya a grand success.
In December 1934, All India Jat Students Federation Conference was organized at Pilani; the coordinator of it was Master Ratan Singh. Sir Chhotu Ram, Kunwar Netram Singh, Chaudhary Ram Singh, Thakur Jhumman Singh, Thakur Deshraj and Sardar Har Lal Singh, along with large number of farmers from various states, attended it. This conference gave a great strength to the Jat youth.
Expelled from Jaipur State
He was expelled from Jaipur State by the Jaipur Sarkar on 10 April 1935 due to which he could not guide the farmers of Shekhawati any more. After this in 1938 he joined Bharatpur Rajya Praja Mandal, Zamindar Kisan Sabha, Braj-jaya Pratinidhi Sabha. He joined Bharatpur state cabinet also as revenue minister. After Independence he left politics and concentrated on Jat History.
Deshraj is author of the book on the History of the Jats in Hindi, Jat-Itihasa () published in 1934. He also published local newspapers to promote the farmers to fight for their rights and awakened them to realize the self-respect. He started a newspaper named Rajasthan Sandesh in 1931 for this purpose. He published a series of articles in Jatveer on the acts of oppression on farmers, which awakened them. Later Jatveer paper was also published from Jhunjhunu. The paper Ganesh was published by him from Agra. Deshraj along with Tarkeshwar Sharma circulated hand written newspaper called Gram Samachar started in 1929. Later he also published newspaper Kisan. All these papers created a revolutionary change in the farmers. He published History of Jats of Marwar in 1954 and 'Sikh Itihas' in 1954.
As a journalist he wrote about the oppressive measures of the Jagirdars in Shekhawati region in Rajasthan and the Nawabs of Loharu in Haryana. His voice through these news papers reached up to House of Commons of the United Kingdom. Questions were asked in the House of Commons about excesses by Jagirdars on farmers of Shekhawati.
- Dr Gyan Prakash Pilania: Shekhawati Kisan Andolan ke Prernakunj Thakur Deshraj, Jat Samaj, Agra, June 2005
- Jat Samaj: Agra, August 1991
- Dr Mahendra Singh Arya: Jat Gotra Shabdavali, Jaypal Agencies Agra,
- Thakur Deshraj: Jat Itihas (Hindi), Maharaja Suraj Mal Smarak Shiksha Sansthan, Delhi, 1934, 2nd edition 1992.