Ishar Singh, Majail
Politician, Legislator and Campaigner (1901-1977)
Was born in January 1901, the son of Bhai Asa Singh and Mai Basant Kaur, an agriculturist couple of Sarai Amanat Khan village, in Amritsar district. He was only about two and a half years old when his father went abroad to Indonesia in search of a better living. He died in Indonesia soon after and Ishar Singh was brought up by his widowed mother, a deeply dedicated and religious-minded woman.
He completed his high school by fits and starts owing to narrow financial circumstances. He graduated from school in 1922 from Malva Khalsa High School, Ludhiana. Since the last school he attended was Malva Khalsa High School and since he was one of the fewest students at that school corning from the Majha districts of Amritsar and Lahore, he started using the surname `Majhail’, of or from Majha, which stuck to him for the rest of his life. He had grown up into a handsome young man, though somewhat frail, but faircomplexioned and erect with a sharp aquiline nose.
As soon as he had finished school, Ishar Singh received offer of appointment as a teacher at Kokari Kalan, then in Firozpur district, but he declined it and joined instead the Akali movement for the reformation of Gurdwara management. For participating in the Guru ka Bagh campaign (1922), he was sentenced to six months in jail. Ishar Singh Majhail also participated in the Jaito morcha or campaign (1923) in which he was arrested and sentenced to a two-year term. In 1927, he accompanied Baba Vasakha Singh to Burma on a fund-collection drive on behalf of the Desh Bhagat Parivar Sahaik Committee.
In October 1927, Shahid Sikh Missionary College was set up by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee to train Sikh preachers. Ishar Singh Majhail joined the college and completed the two-year course it offered. But he was soon drawn into the political maelstrom. His principal guide, his alter ego, at that time was Jathedar Udham Singh Nagoke. He took part in the farmers’ agitation of 1930 and suffered imprisonment for six months. The term was subsequently extended by another year for having in his possession a newspaper while in jail. In 1936 he participated in Gurdwara Shahid Ganj (Lahore) morcha.
In 1937, there was acute tension between the Sikhs on the one hand and Muslims on the other. The point at issue was what was called jhatka. jhatka in Punjabi means a sudden jerk or blow. Among Sikhs the word jhatka is used to designate animal flesh for which a bird or animal has been killed with a single blow of the sword or axe. The singleblow killing was the Sikh way of killing an animal or fowl for food over against the Muslim way of slow killing with the pronouncement of the Muslim religious formula with it. Followers of both faiths had quite frequently fought between themselves over these two styles of killing the animals. An Akali procession supporting jhatka at Jandiala Sher Khan, in Sheikhupura district, was attacked by a Muslim mob. Two Sikhs were wounded and carried away by the mob. Ishar Singh Majhail and Jathedar Mohan Singh Nagoke came out with drawn swords and drove away the mob rescuing the wounded Sikhs.
When Sikh National College was set up in Lahore in 1938, Ishar Singh Majhail was appointed secretary of its managing committee. During 1940-41 he was president of the managing committee of Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar. He was one of the group within the Shiromani Akali Dal which opposed the Dal’s policy of assisting the British war effort during the 1939-45 war. He on the other hand took part in the Quit India movement launched by the Indian National Congress in 1942 and was detained under Defence of India Rules.
In February 1946, he was elected a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly. After the partition of the country in 1947, he was given a berth in the Congress ministry formed by Gopi Chand Bhargava. He was re-elected to the state legislative assembly in the general elections held under the new constitution in 1952 and was again appointed a member of the cabinet. In the fifties Ishar Singh Majhail lost interest in active politics and devoted himself to the development of his agricultural farm, in the village of Arno, in Patiala district. His health was also declining and he died on 20 April 1977 at Chandigarh.