Hardit Singh Malik
Administrator, Diplomat and Sportsman (1894-1985)
Was the second son of Sardar Bahadur Mohan Singh and Sardarni Lajvanti of Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan. Born on 23 November 1894, Hardit Singh was coached privately at home until he was, at the age of 14, sent to the United Kingdom where he joined Eastbourne Public School. Graduating from East Bourne, in 1912, he joined Balliol College, Oxford, where he received his B.A.Honours degree in Modern History in 1915. He was among the very few Sikh boys who, true to their religious faith, attended British schools and colleges with full-grown, untrimmed hair and a turban.
He had the distinction of captaining the cricket teams, both at his school and college. World War I had broken out in 1914. Hardit Singh joined the French Red Cross as an ambulance driver in 1916, and in early 1917 was admitted to the Royal Flying Corps, later redesignated as Royal Air Force, as a fighter pilot, the first-ever Indian pilot to be commissioned. Early in 1919 Flying Lieutenant Malik Hardit Singh came back to India and, on 13 April 1919, he was married to Parkash Kaur, the youngest daughter of Bhagat ishvar Das, an eminent lawyer of Lahore. In July 1919 he returned with his bride to England, where he sat the Indian Civil Service examination at which he came through with flying colours.
Back in India in January 1922, he started his new career as assistant commissioner of Sheikhupura district and was soon promoted to deputy commissioner. In 1930, he was posted as deputy trade commissioner to London and was transferred to Hamburg in Germany as trade commissioner in 1933. Returning to India in 1934, Malik served as deputy secretary and then as joint secretary in the Commerce Department of Government of India from 1934 to 1937. He served next as India’s trade commissioner in Canada and then for five years in the United States of America. Back in India early in 1944, his services were borrowed by Maharaja Yadavinder Singh of Patiala. He served as the prime minister of the princely state of Patiala from 1944 to 1947.
After Independence, Malik Hardit Singh was appointed free India’s first High Commissioner to Canada. During the two years he remained in that post, he succeeded in having full citizenship rights granted to Indian settlers in Canada, most of whom were Punjabis, largely Sikhs. His next appointment was as India’s Ambassador to France where he served until his retirement in 1957.
His last years were spent in Delhi. He died on 31 October 1985 after an year-long illness. Throughout his life he remained a devout, cheerful and hard-playing Sikh, serving with enthusiasm a host of associations and institutions he happened to be connected with. He was playing golf until the age of 88.