Sunday, December 11, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

 

2nd March

 

1909 Sirdar Kapur Singh, the Sikh scholar, statesman and administrator, was born at Mannan Kalan Chakk.

==> Sirdar Kapur Singh (1909-1986), the Sikh scholar, statesman and administrator, was born on 2 March 1909 at Mannan Kalan Chakk. His parents (father: Sardar Didar Singh, and mother: Harman Kaur) were upper middle class peasants at Lyallpur, now known as Faisalabad in the modern-day Pakistan. Young Kapur Singh spent his early childhood at Faisalabad where the environment was saturated with the Sikh rennaissance movement spearheaded by the Singh Sabha ideology.

Sirdar Kapur Singh joined the Lyallpur Khalsa School for his early education. The school was the run under the stewardship of Master Tara Singh, the undisputed leader of the Sikh community during and around the Partition in 1947 when the Sikhs passed through a very crucial phase in the life of community. If the Singh Sabha was working hard around the turn of the century to revive the pristine doctrines of the Sikh faith, the Akali Dal under Master Tara Singh's leadership was responsible for instilling among the Sikhs the feeling of community consciousness. Kapur Singh was fortunate enough to spend his formative years at school under the tutelage of Master Tara Singh.

Having completed his matriculation from the Lyallpur Khalsa School, Kapur Singh shifted to Lahore where he joined the Government College for his graduation. He did his M.A. in Philosophy from Panjab University (1951), securing first position in the University. Thereafter, he sailed down to England to join the Cambridge University from where he got another Master's degree in Philosophy and Moral Science. Bertrand Russell, the well-known and much acclaimed British philosopher, was his tutor at Cambridge.

In 1934, he earned a Tripos from the Cambridge University, and also passed the I.C.S. examination to join the elite bureaucratic class in the British India. He served in that capacity both before and after the independence of India. However, change in political leadership did not matter much for a man of Kapur Singh's mettle who always stood staunchly and fearlessly by his principles.

During his tenure as an I.C.S. officer, Sirdar Kapur Singh performed his duties according to the dictates of his conscience, without ever trying to please his political bosses at the cost of rules and values. He served as Deputy Commissioner for about fifteen years. Some incidents from his commissionaries stand witness to the strong convictions of Sirdar Kapur Singh. We quote here one from the pamphlet issued by the Shiromani Akali Dal at the time of Parliamentary elections of 1962. In 1939 when he was the Deputy Commissioner of Gurjarat, some Nihangs of village Ahla were murdered. Sirdar Kapur Singh, while handling this case, challenged men like Sir Umar Hayat Khan Tiwana. Then, in 1944, he got released about 2200 cows (in Gurgaon) meant to be slaughtered. Next year, twenty Muslim butchers were murdered at Farukh Nagar, a town in the Gurgaon Commissionary under him. The Unionist Government resolved to hand two Hindus for each Muslim dead. Sirdar Kapur Singh faced, singly, the ire of the government and saved all Hindus. In 1942 when he served in the Karnal district, he went on to live with Mahatma Gandhi at Seva Gram. After this brief sojourn he never allowed firing on the Congressmen. Similarly, after independence, he developed close relations with the Sikh leader, Master Tara Singh. In 1942, Mahatma Gandhi was a rebel in the eyes of the British Indian government; and similarly in the 1950's Master Tara Singh was no less than a traitor. Ironically, this kind of love for humanitarian values could pass with the British government in India but not so after independence. So Sirdar Kapur Singh was suspended in April 1949 on "frivolous" charges, and then unceremoniously dismissed from service on 2 September 1953.

After Sardar Kapur Singh became free from his bureaucratic assignment, he joined politics so that he could serve his community and fight for the genuine demands of the Sikhs and the Punjab. He fought the 1952 Parliamentary election and was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Ludhiana constituency. He was elected in 1969 to the Punjab Legislative Assembly. He availed of both these terms to highlight the genuine grievances of his community. He was an ardent supporter of the demand for "an autonomous Sikh Homeland within Indian Union". His aim was two-fold: on the one hand, he wanted the Sikhs "to be able to make their full contribution in the interests of the country and unity of the nation", and, on the other, to let the Sikhs also enjoy, as once Jawaharlal Nehru stated, the glow of freedom. Sirdar Kapur Singh was rather unhappy with the "Sant" leadership of the Sikhs. He also stated that not all Congressmen at the Centre were communal and thus untouchable though a suspicion was taking roots in their minds that the Sikhs aspire for political power only to create a sovereign state like Pakistan. Unfortunately, this suspicion still persists in the minds of most of the Congressmen, and the Sikh leadership has failed miserably to wipe out this ill-conceived suspicion. And, this has been partially responsible for the present human tragedy in Punjab.

Sirdar Kapur Singh was an intellectual of high calibre, with a restless, introspective and thinking soul. He has several publications, both in English and Punjabi, to his credit. Parasharprasna, a thesis on the status and significance of Sikhism, and Sachi Sakhi (Punjabi), political memoirs and analysis of contemporary Sikh history, are two of his more important titles. Pundrik and Saptshring are fine example of Punjabi prose, the former being a collection of cultural essays and the latter biographies of seven great men. He was the first person to render in Punjabi the known Buddhist text Dhammapada. Some of his unpublished works have been published posthumously by Guru Nanak Dev University (1993).

- "Sirdar Kapur Singh: The Unsung Sikh Statesman," by Dr. Dharam Singh, Punjabi University, Patiala

1928 Nehru Committee accepted Sikhs right to bear Kirpan.

 

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