AJIT SINGH (1881-1947), patriot and revolutionary, was born in February 1881 at Khatkar Kalari, in Jalandhar district of the Punjab, the son of Arjan Singh and Jai Kaur. He had his early education in his village and then at Sain Dass Anglo Sanskrit High School, Jalandhar, and D.A.V. College, Lahore. He later joined the Bareilly College to study law, but left without completing the course owing to ill health. He became a munshi or teacher of Oriental languages, establishing himself at Lahore. In 1903, he was married to Harnam Kaur, daugher of Dhanpat Rai, a pleader of Kasur.
Ajit Singh came into the political arena in the agrarian agitation in the Punjab in 1906-07. The passing of the Punjab Land Colonization Bill (1906) and enhancement in the rates of land revenue and irrigation tax had created widespread discontent in the rural areas. The Colonization Bill aimed at stopping further fragmentation of land holdings in the Chenab Colony mostly inhabited by Sikh exsoldiers by introducing the law of primogeniture. This, and some other clauses of the Bill, caused great resentment among the cultivators, who regarded it as unjustified interference with their traditional rights insofar as they related to the division of property.
Popular feelings were further aroused by the prosecution, in 1907, of the editor of the Punjabee, an English language biweekly of anti government views. In this cinnate of social unrest and of anti British sentiment, Ajit Singh supported the setting up in 1907 of a revolutionary organization, Bharat Mata Society, with headquarters at Lahore. A large number of protest meetings and demonstrations against the Colonization Bill were held not only in villages but also in important cities such as Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Multan, Lahore and Amritsar. Many of these were addressed by Ajit Singh who had become a violent critic of the government. Besides referring to the immediate problems the peasantry faced, he exhorted the people to strive for the freedom of the country and end foreign rule.
On the recommendation of the Punjab Government, the Government of India deported Ajit Singh to Mandalay on 2 June 1907. Upon his release in November 1907, Ajit Singh returned to the Punjab amid much popular acclaim. He did not wait long to resume his anti British activities. He launched a newspaper, the Peshwa, with Sufi Amba Prasad as its editor. He also brought out a series of tracts and pamphlets, such as Baghi Masiha, Muhibbani Watan, Bandar Bant and Ungali Pakarte Pan/a Pakara, attacking British rule in India. Fearing prosecution for an article in the Peshwa, Ajit Singh, along with Zia ulHaq, escaped to Persia in 1909.
There he continued to work for India`s freedom and succeeded in building up a small revolutionary centre at Shiraz. In May 1910, he and his associates started, in Persian, a revolutionary journal, the Hayat. In September 1910, he shifted to Bushire, with a view to establishing contact with his comrades in India through Indian traders and seamen. His activities alarmed the British government. Considering further residence in Iran unsafe, Ajit Singh proceeded to Turkey via Russia where he met Mustafa Kamal Pasha, Turkish general and statesman. From Turkey he went to Paris and met Indian revolutionaries.
Later he shifted to Switzerland where he made the acquaintance of Lala Har Dayal and revolutionaries from other parts of the world South America, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, Egypt and Morocco. Here he also met the Italian leader and future dictator, Mussolini and the famous Russian revolutionist, Trotsky. Towards the end of 1913, he shifted to France which he left soon after the outbreak of World War I, to go to Brazil where he remained from 1914 to 1932. From Brazil it was easier for him to be in touch with the leaders of the Ghadr Party in the United States.
He also formed a society of Indians settled in Brazil to make them aware of their duty towards their mother country and also to raise funds to support India`s struggle for freedom. From 1932 to 1938, Ajit Singh worked in France, Switzerland and Germany. He renewed his contacts with the Indian revolutionaries working in Europe. He also met Subhas Chandra Bose. He wanted to return to India where, he thought, he could work more effectively for the cause dear to his heart. But the government, viewing him as a “dangerous agitator” and an “undesirable foreigner” (he having secured Brazilian citizenship) , did not allow his entry into the country.
On the eve of World War II, Ajit Singh shifted to Italy where, in order to intensify his activities and mobilize Italian public and government support in favour of India, he formed Friends of India Society. During his stay in Italy he formed a revolutionary army of the Indian prisoners of war. His passionate speeches in Hindustani from Rome Radio and his own example of sacrifice and suffering for the country made a deep impact on the Indian soldiers. After the fall of Italy, Ajit Singh was imprisoned and kept in an Italian jail and later, when Germans surrendered, he was shifted to a jail in Germany.
Hard life in military camps told upon his health. After the formation of the Interim government in the country under Jawaharlal Nehru, Ajit Singh returned to India via London. On 8 March 1847, he reached Karachi and then came to Delhi where the great wanderer was given a warm welcome by his countrymen. In Delhi, he was the guest of Jawaharlal Nehru, and he participated in the Asian Relations Conference which was then in session in Delhi. Ajit Singh died at Dalhousie on 15 August 1947 the day India became an independent nation.
1. Ganda Singh, ed., History of the Freedom Movement in the Panjab, vol. IV (Deportation of Lala Lajpat Rai and Sardar Ajit Singh). Patiala, 1978
2. Pardaman Singh and Joginder Singh Dhanki, ed., Bun`ed Alive. Chandigarh, 1984
3. Mohan, Kamlesh, Militant Nationalism in the Punjab 1919-1935. Delhi, 1985
4. Puri, Harish K., Ghadar Movement. Amritsar, 1983
5. Deol, Gurdev Singh, Shahid Ajit Singh. Patiala, 1973
6. Jagjit Singh, Ghadar Parti Lahir. Delhi, 1979