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Sikhs in 1900s

Famous Sikhs:Dr. Parkash Kaur

Dr. Parkash Kaur was born in village Khara in the year 1914. Her childhood was spent at her maternal home or where ever her father, who was a police inspector, was posted. Her initial education was in a hostel in the famous Bhai Takhat Singh Kaniya Maha-Vidalaya, Ferozepur. In 1937 she completed her studies from Medical College Amritsar. There after she joined Lady Emerson Red Cross Hospital, Amritsar under the famous lady Doctor King as a house surgeon. She was given the charge on Dr. King?s return to England. In 1937 she was married to Dr. Upkar Singh, a graduate from King Edward Medical College who was the son of the Freedom Fighter S. Amar Singh Jhabal. On the instructions of S. Amar Singh Jhabal not to serve on any government post and also to serve the people she resigned her job and set up a hospital in Fatehgarh Churian along with her husband. This hospital was very popular and they ran it for 9 years.

S Amar Singh Jhabal had himself resigned from the post of Police Inspector as a part of opposing the British and had had been to jail a number of times during Gurudwara movement and struggle for independence. In 1945-46 he was appointed as the President of Amritsar District Congress Committee. In 1946 general elections Amritsar district was reserved for a woman candidate. There was only one candidate for each district. S. Amar Singh Jhabal asked Dr. Parkash Kaur to leave her medical practice and fight the election as a Congress candidate. She won that election with the highest margin in whole of Punjab.

Partition of India took place soon after this election. Refugee camps were established for Hindus and Sikhs who were uprooted from Pakistan. Government created a separate organization for this purpose under Mrs. Mridulla Sarabai and Bibi Umtus Salaam. Dr. Parkash was appointed as the convener of Punjab camps and the in charge of its office at Amritsar. The organization was also involved in recovering Hindu and Sikh girls left behind in Pakistan and transferring Muslim girls from India. In the performance of this duty Dr. Parkash Kaur went into Pakistan with Miss Umtus Salaam and faced many dangerous situations. The day Jinnah died they were caught in the riots in Pakistan and had to make a hurried getaway.

In 1948 RSS (Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh) started a movement against Shiek Abdullah. Dr. Parkash kaur and Mridullah Sarabai organized the Congress workers of Jammu and Pathankot into "Friends of Kashmir Society". Dr. Parkash kaur was the President of this Society. This Society actively opposed RSS for over a year.

In 1948 the constitution of India was under revision and the provincial legislature was asked to give their suggestions. On 2nd April 1949 the Speaker of Punjab Legislative Assembly constituted an Advisory Committee of 36 Legislators( 14 Sikhs, 22 Hindus) These included personalities such as S. Kapur Singh, S. Partap Singh Kairon, S. Ishar Singh Mujail, Giani Kartar Singh, Gopi Chand Bhargava, Bhim Sen Sachar, etc. Dr. Parkash Kaur was also a member of this Committee. Dr. Parkash kaur realized that a whispering campaign was on by Mahasha Community (Arya Samajis) to make Hindi as the State Language in place of Urdu. She had talks with a number of Sikh members but found them not taking the matter with the seriousness it deserved. Realizing that a decision taken would have long-range effect on Punjabi, Punjabiat and Sikh religion she decided to go it alone. Without informing or taking anybody in confidence she wrote to the Secretary of the East Punjab Congress Assembly Party for permission to move a resolution that Punjabi be declared the Language of Punjab. Permission was refused on the ground that it was too late to consider her request for it to be included in the agenda of the session, which was already on. She immediately applied for permission to move the resolution in the 1949 Budget Session. She had fired the very first shot in the battle for declaring Punjabi as the Language of Punjab. The battle was on.

A Realizing that she had one year to prepare her case. She needed authentic material to support her case. In her quest she involved Prof. Pritam Singh. He produced an English to Punjabi dictionary, which was published in 1856 by Ludhiana Christian Mission. He also provided her with irrefutable sources in favor of Punjabi. She also procured the resolution published in the Gazette of India dated 10th August 1948. It had recognized Punjabi as one of the 14 regional languages, which had their own areas of influence. After collecting all the material she contacted a large number of Sikh leaders and was shocked to find that except for S. Ujjal Singh nobody else cared. In fact one renowned Sikh personality went to the extent of telling her that it did not matter if Hindi became the State Language of Punjab. A large number of members moved amendments to her resolution in a bid to stall the same. However the resolution survived the ballot and was listed to be moved on 10th March 1949. She tabled the following resolution: "Whereas the Government of India (i) has accepted the principle that the child should be instructed in early stage of his education through the medium of the mother tongue and (ii) is of the opinion that in the larger interest of the country, it is desirable that the policy enunciated by it should be followed by all Provincial and State governments, this Assembly recommends to the Government that steps be immediately taken to recognize (a) Punjabi written in Gurmukhi script as the provincial language and that it should be given the place hitherto enjoyed by Urdu in educational institutions and in official work in the province and (b) Hindi in Devnagri script as the Federal language which should be taught from the fourth primary class and be a compulsory language there after. The Assembly further recommends that in regions of this province where Hindi is the mother tongue it may be treated as the mother tongue of these tracts and be the medium of instruction in junior basic stage of compulsory education for the ages between 6 and 11 years but after junior stage the language of the province should be the medium of instruction-Hindi of course to be continued as the Federal Language."

The resolution was presented by her over a period of two days i.e. 10th and 31st March 1949. On 30th March she was approached by S. Dalip Singh Kang and Giani Kartar Singh that Dr. Gopi Chand Bhargava was willing to give an assurance next day, in the house to consider the suggestion and she should not proceed further. However Dr. Parkash kaur declined the offer on the ground that she had asked for the Punjabi language till then but the next part was regarding acceptance of Punjabi script and she considered it very vital. On 31st she concluded her presentation. Before any body else got up Dr. Gopi Chand Bhargava stood up and after talking briefly about the background gave the following assurance: – "I assure the honorable members that the Government has noted their views and will again welcome the suggestions of those who may like to make these, in deciding the questions. All these views will be borne in mind at the time of making the decision. I hope that in view of this assurance, the Hon?ble lady member will not press her resolution and will withdraw it."

In view of the assurance of Dr. Gopi Chand Bhargava and realizing that the point had been driven home and brought on record Dr. Parkash Kaur withdrew her resolution. This proposal was implemented in Toto in Punjab.

She was a member of the Kasturba Memorial Trust established for rehabilitation of refugees. She continued operating Red Cross camps in villages. She was a member of the State Social Welfare Board continuously from 1954 to 1978 and worked endlessly for the welfare of women and children.

In 1956 she was included in the Cabinet by S. Partap Singh Kairon as the first lady minister of East Punjab, and was given the portfolios of Social welfare and Health.

She started the move for setting up Health Centers in villages. After leaving active politics she continued the social work as member of the State Social welfare Advisory Board, Amritsar Red Cross Society, Amritsar Project Implementation Committee and Village Development Board and Khadi board. She breathed her last on 29 May 1994 amongst her family.


Article taken from these books.
Encyclopedia of Sikhism edited by Harbans Singh ji.


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