Sundar Singh Majithia, Sardar Bahadur Sir
Statesman and Reformer (1872-1941)
Was the younger son of Raja Surat Singh (D. 1881). He was born on 17 February 1872 at Majitha (31°-38’N, 74"-52’E), a village 18 km northeast o£ Amritsar (hence the surname Majithia). He was educated at Government School, Amritsar, and Aitchison College, Lahore, finally joining Government College, Lahore, to pass the intermediate (undergraduate) examination. Soon after leaving college, he joined Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Amritsar, affiliated to the Khalsa Diwan, Amritsar, taking over as its secretary in 1894. In. 1895, he became a member of the governing council of the Khalsa College, Amritsar, for the establishment of which he had worked with unsparing energy. He was the secretary of the college council from 1902 to 1912 and president of the council as well as of the college managing committee from 1920 till his death in 1941. Sundar Singh was a founder-member of the Chief Khalsa Diwan, established in October 1902, holding the office of secretary from 1902 to 1920 and again from 1934 to 1937. In 1932-33, he acted as the president of the Diwan. He took a leading part in the founding of the Sikh Educational Conference in 1908, and presided at its annual sessions in 1911, 1924 and 1935. He also inaugurated Khalsa Advocate, an English monthly, to propagate the policy and activities of the Chief Khalsa Diwan.
Sardar Sundar Singh’s political career began in 1909 when he was nominated a member of the Viceroy’s Legislative Council. In the Council he worked assiduously to steer the Anand Marriage Bill which had been introduced by Tikka Ripudaman Singh of Nabha during his tenure as a member. He was mainly instrumental in having the ban on the carrying of a full-sized kripan or sword by Sikhs as their religious emblem lifted throughout India and Burma and in having a 20 per cent share for Sikhs reserved in government services in the Punjab. On 16 November 1920, he was elected the first president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee which office he resigned early during the following year after his election to the Punjab Legislative Council and appointment as an executive councillor and revenue minister in the Punjab Government. At the time of the Round Table Conference, he led a Sikh deputation which met the Commander-in-chief on 8 July 1931 and the Viceroy on 9 July 1931 to present a charter of 17 demands on behalf of the Sikhs to secure protection for them as a minority.
During the first legislative elections held in 1936 under the Government of India Act 1935, Sundar Singh was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly from Batala constituency on the nomination of the Kalsa National Party which he and SirJogendra Singh had founded, and joined, on 1 April 1937, the Unionist Coalition government in the Punjab under the premiership of Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan as revenue minister. He retained his Cabinet seat until his death at Lahore shortly after the midnight of 1-2 April 1941. The cremation took place at Amritsar on the premises of his permanent residence.
Sundar Singh’s field of activities extended to commerce and industry as well. He was one of the founders of the Punjab and Sind Bank established at Amritsar in 1908. He was one of the pioneers of sugar industry in India and set up in 1911 a mill at Sardarnagar, in Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh. He was nominated one of the governors of the Imperial Bank of India in 1933. In politics, Sundar Singh was essentially a moderate, and he received from the British Government several honours and awards. He was made a Sardar Bahadur in 1911 and Companion of the Indian Empire (C.I.E.) in 1920. He was knighted in 1926. In 1926, the University of the Punjab awarded him the degree of Doctor of Oriental Learning (D.O.L) honoris causa.
Sundar Singh had in 1887 married the daughter of Sardar Bishan Singh Kandaula, in Ludhiana district, maternal uncle of Raja Bikram Singh of Faridkot. After her death the same year, he married the daughter of Sardar Sir Attar Singh of Bhadaur. He had three sons, two of whom Kirpal Singh Majithia and Surjit Singh Majithia entered politics. After Independence, Surjit Singh was elected to Parliament and became a deputy minister in Jawaharlal Nehru’s government.