Jogendra Singh, Sir
Scholar and Statesman (1877-1946)
Of old Sikh lineage, and counted among the politest and most accomplished men of his day, was born the second son of Javala Siiigh on 25 May 1877 at Aira Estate, in Kheri district of what then used to be the United Provinces. His ancestors belonged to the village of Rasulpur in Amritsar district of the Punjab. In old family records he was usually referred to as Jogendra Singh Rasulpuria. His grandfather, Punjab Singh was a soldier in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s ghorcharas, irregular cavalry. He was awarded a jagir in Oudh in recognition of military service rendered by him after the annexation of the Punjab to the British dominions.
Jogendra Singh inherited in 1898 an area of over 12,000 acres of land known as Aira Estate. Self-educated, he was a man of high intellectual calibre and culture. From the very beginning, he had a flair for language and acquired especially mastery of the English language which he used with a rare finesse. His introduction to public life was through journalism. Besides publishing articles on farming and allied subjects in papers in India and abroad, he edited for some time his own journal East & West which he had taken over from Behramji Malabari, a noted Parsi journalist.
Two of his books directly on Sikh themes were late in coming. Thus Spake Guru Nanak was published in 1934 and Sikh Ceremonies in 1940. Prior to that he had published two of his works of fiction, Nur jahan and Nasrin, both in London. His life of B.M. Malabari was published in London by G. Bell and Sons in 1914. Another novel, Kamla, was published in Lahore in 1931 with a Punjabi translation from the pen of Gurmukh Singh Jeet. A novel, Rasili, was serialized in East & West (in 1911-12). After the death of Malabari, he took over the magazine East & West, of which he became the editor. In the thirties he launched his monthly, The Khalsa Review. His The Persian Mystics is a rendering into English of the sayings of the mystic Abdullah Ansari (1005-1090) of Herat. The first edition of the book carrying a Foreword, by M.K. Gandhi, dated 14 April 1938, was published by John Murray, London, in October 1939. It was reprinted posthumously in March 1951 and again in June 1959.
Jogendra Singh’s interest in letters gradually waned as other claims arose. In 1911 he had to go to the princely state of Patiala as Home Minister. In 1926, he was nominated to the Punjab Legislative Council and appointed minister for Agriculture and Public Works. This nomination was repeated three times and for three terms successively he became a minister in the Punjab Government. A pioneer in tractor cultivation, he laid the foundation of mechanized farming in the Punjab. He helped establish hosiery industry in Ludhiana. The Mandi Hydro-electric Project was completed during his tenure. The adjoining town of Jogendra Nagar was named after him.
Jogendra Singh was knighted in 1929. In 1936, in collaboration with Sundar Singh Majithia, he founded the Khalsa National Party which won majority of the Sikh seats at polls in the 1937 elections under the Government of India Act of 1935. Sir Jogendra Singh then chose to retire from politics, though he continued his single-man campaign through his writings in the Press, especially in The Statesman and The Tribune, in favour of acceptance by political parties of the second part (Federation) of the Government of India Act of 1935. Patiala called him again, this time as prime minister.
In 1941, the British Viceroy of India expanded his executive council to give representation to popular elements in the political life of India. At the time of the expansion the Sikhs were not given any representation which was resented by them and they held a protest meeting in Amritsar which was presided over by Sir Jogendra Sifgh. At that time his friend and fellow scholar, Umrao Singh Majithia, father of Amrita Sher-gil, wrote to him a letter consoling him and quoting to him one of Akbar Allahabadi’s couplets:
You need not be dismayed, dear friend. Almighty Allah’s summons are close at hand,
You must remain prepared for the call.
As it transpired, when the Council was next expanded in July 1942, Sir Jogendra Singh was nominated a member. He was thus the first Sikh to be a member of the Viceroy’s executive council and his portfolio included the departments of Health, Lands and Education.
Sir Jogendra Singh was Pro-Chancellor of Delhi University. He served on several committees and commissions such as the Indian Sugar Committee, the Indian Taxation Enquiry Commission, and the Indian Sandhurst Committee. He was also a Fellow of the Panjab University.
Throughout, Sir Jogendra Singh had been a leading figure in Sikh affairs. He had worked for the Chief Khalsa Diwan, Khalsa College Managing Council and the Sikh Educational Conference, presiding over four of its annual sessions, at the 2nd (1909 Lahore), 5th (1912 Sialkot), 18th (1927 Rawalpindi) and 23rd (1933 Peshawar). He was also one of the founders of the Khalsa Defence of India League and a member of the Sikh delegation meeting the Cripps Mission (31 March 1942) on behalf of the Sikhs.
As a liberal elder statesman, Sir Jogendra Singh enjoyed wide esteem in the country. He attracted equal notice for his scholarship and literary accomplishment as well as for his personal qualities of courtesy and humility.
Sir Jogendra Singh died of a paralytic stroke at Iqbal Nagar, district Montgomery, now in Pakistan, on 3 December 1946.