Journalist and Political Activist (1888-1948)
AMAR SINGH of the Sher-i-Punjab, journalist, scholar and a prominent figure in Sikh politics, was born on 27 May 1888 at Pindi Gheb in Attock district of the Punjab, now in Pakistan. His grandfather, Gauhar Singh, had held a civil appointment under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He spent his childhood and received education in Urdu and Persian in Jammu and Kashmir where his father, Gulab Singh, was an employee of the ruler, Maharaja Pratap Singh. After his father’s death, the family settled in Rawalpinili where Amar Singh ran a shop for some time before he adopted journalism as his profession. He launched the Lyall Gazette, a weekly in Urdu, under the patronage of the Chief Khalsa Diwan whose point of view on political, religious and social issues he supported and discussed in his writings. He gradually turned away from the moderate policies of the Diwan, and identified himself with the more radical politics of Baba Kharak Singh. In 1921, he renamed his paper Sher-i-Punjab ("Lion of the Punjab") which title became an epithet popularly added to his name. The paper still continues to be issued under this name, since the partition of the Punjab, from Delhi.
Besides journalism, Amar Singh was active in civic and political affairs. He was a member of the municipal committee, Lahore, for 16 years. He was virtually a permanent president of Singh Sabha, Lahore, and of the managing board of the local hist9rical Sikh shrines. In 1921, he was made a member of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and, during the Jaito morcha or agitation, he was arrested (7 January 1924) and sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment. He was elected to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee under the Sikh Gurdwaras Act in 1926 and 1930. During subsequent elections in 1933, 1936 and 1939 (the last in the series till after Independence), he came in as a coopted member. When in 1934 Baba Kharak Singh dissociated himself from the Shiromani Akali Dal and set up his own Central Akali Dal, Amar Singh was chosen to be the senior vice-president of the new party. In 1947, Amar Singh migrated to Delhi. He died at Kasaull on 9 July 1948.
Amar Singh wielded a powerful pen. He was an acknowledged master of Urdu prose, and he employed the talent to devastating effect in political and religious polemics. His humorous column Argara, written under a pseudonym, "Risaldar Major," mixing anecdote, wit and satire, was very popular in contemporary Urdu journalism. Amar Singh also composed verse in Punjabi, Urdu and Persian. He translated Omar khayam’s Rubaiyat into Punjabi verse. He also wrote two novels and several short stories in Urdu. He was as accomplished a speaker as he was a writer, and frequently addressed Sikh assemblies on religious and political issues.