Kapur Singh: Maker of History
by Major Gurmukh Singh
Today - March 2, 2009 - marks the Birth Centenary of Bhai Sahib Sirdar Kapur Singh, a towering figure in both Sikh polity and Letters during much of the Twentieth Century.
Sirdar Kapur Singh (1909-1986) - civilian, parliamentarian and intellectual, was a master of many-sided erudition. Besides Sikh theology, he was vastly learned in philosophy, history and literature.
He was born into a farming family at the village Chakk in Ludhiana district on March 2, 1909. His father's name was Didar Singh.
Kapur Singh attained the rank of "First Class First" when he received his Master's Degree at the prestigious Government College, Lahore. He then went on to Cambridge, England to take his Tripos in Moral Sciences.
He was a distinguished linguist and had mastered several of the languages of the East and the West. Besides English, which he could spin around his fingers with extraordinary finesse and subtlety, he was fluent in Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit.
In addition to these, he had easy acquaintance with such discreet fields as astrology, architecture and space science. But, in spite of his knowledge covering many disparate areas, Kapur Singh's principal focus in his life work remained on Sikh literature and theology.
He was widely known to be a stickler for accuracy of fact and presentation. He stood up foursquare to any misrepresentation or falsification of any shade of Sikh thought and belief. He was most vigilant and unbending in this respect.
He was selected for the elite Indian Civil service, and served in a number of senior administrative posts. In 1947, for example, he was appointed Deputy Commissioner - the top Government bureaucrat of the region - of Kangra.
Shortly after India won independence, while in this role, he became aware of - and irked by - the increasingly narrow policies of the new Indian Government and its bias against Sikhs.
What particularly incensed him was a circular dated October 10, 1947, issued by the Governor of the State, Chandu Lal Trivedi, warning district authorities in the Punjab against what was described as the "criminal tendencies of the Sikh people"!
Deputy Commissioner Kapur Singh immediately filed a strong protest against this wild and mischievous slur, thus inviting the Governor's personal wrath upon himself.
Charges were promptly brought against Kapur Singh for "insubordination" and he was dismissed from the service.
Thereafter, Kapur Singh became an ardent supporter of the Akali demand for a Punjabi-speaking state [along the lines of other Indian states, which had been carved on linguistic lines to accord protection for the respective languages and cultures.]
After a stint as Professor of Sikhism under the aegis of the Akal Takht, he joined active politics.
In 1962, he was elected to the Lok Sabha of the Indian Parliament - India's "House of Commons".
In 1969, he ran for and was elected to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha - the State Legislative Assembly.
Kapur Singh made a mark during this period through his forthright speech and as an unrelenting critic of the government's policies, especially in the area of the rights of India's Sikh minority.
As a leading Sikh ideologue, he was the moving spirit behind the Anandpur Resolution, which was adopted by the Shiromani Akali Dal in 1973 and, like several other of his pronouncements, became a crucial enunciation of modern Sikh political policies and aspirations.
A very stirring Sikh document of the modern period was the Presidential Declaration at the Hari Singh Nalva Conference convened at Ludhiana on July 14, 1965.
Although his authorship was nowhere specified - as was the case with all important Sikh political or intrinsically seminal documents of this period - the document clearly bore the imprint of Kapur Singh's penmanship. It said:
1. This Conference, in commemoration of General Hari Singh Nalva of historical fame, reminds all concerned that the Sikh people are makers of history and are conscious of their political destiny in a free India.
2. This Conference recalls that the Sikh people agreed to merge in a common Indian nationality on the explicit understanding of being accorded a constitutional status of co-sharers in the community, which solemn understanding now stands cynically repudiated by the present rulers of India.
Further, the Sikh people have been systematically reduced to a sub-political status in their homeland, the Punjab, and to an insignificant position in their motherland, India.
The Sikh people are in a position to establish before an impartial international tribunal, uninfluenced by the current Indian rulers, that the law, the judicial process, and the executive action of the State of India is consistently and heavily weighted against the Sikhs and is administered with unbandaged eyes against Sikh citizens.
3. This conference, therefore, resolves after careful thought, that there is left no alternative for the Sikhs in the interest of self-preservation but to frame their political demand for securing a self-determined political status within the Republic of Union of India.
The author's name is not mentioned, but it is clearly the handiwork of Kapur Singh. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee's publication at the time of the Nirankari attack on the Sikhs a decade and a half later, is described thus:
THEY MASSACRE SIKHS:
A White Paper
The Sikh Religious Parliament (SGPC)
Sirdar Kapur Singh, besides being an extraordinarily learned man, was a prolific writer.
In addition to his Parasaraprasna,* in English, which ranks as a classic on Sikh philosophy, his other works include:
Hashish (Punjabi Poems)
Saptasring (Punjabi Biographies)
Bahu Vistaar (Punjabi Essays)
Pundrik (Punjabi Essays on Culture & Religion)
Mansur al-Hallaj (Monograph on a Sufi Saint)
Sacchi Saakhi (Memoirs)
The Sacred Writings of the Sikhs (a UNESCO publication)
Me Judice (English Miscellany)
Sikhism for Modern Man
Contributions of Guru Nanak
The Hour of Sword
Guru Arjan and His Sukhmani
Sirdar Kapur Singh died after a protracted illness at his village home in Jagraon in Ludhiana district on August 13, 1986, at the age of 77.