SEVA SINGH THiKRIVALA (1882-1935), one of the founders of the Praja Mandal, a platform for ventilating the grievances of and for an open expression of the political opinion of the inhabitants of territories, mainly in the Punjab, ruled by Indian princes during British times, was born at Thikrivala, a village now in the Sangrur district of the Punjab, on 24 August 1882. His father, Deva Singh, was employed at the court of Maharaja Rajinder Singh, ruler of Patiala state. Seva Singh had his schooling in Patiala where he learnt Urdu, Persian. Punjabi and some English.

In keeping with the family custom, he joined the personal staff of Maharaja Rajinder Singh of Patiala as an aidedecamp, but soon retired to private life in his native village to devote himself to social work. Amelio radon of the conditions of rural tenants was his principal concern. As one committed to the Singh Sabha reform, he administered pahul to a large number of young men, opened Gurmukhi classes in the village gurdwara and worked zealously for popularizing the Anand form of marriage among the Sikhs.

Defying the state embargo on political activity, he joined the Shiromani Akali Dal founded in Amritsar in December 1920, and became its vice-president. For supporting the morcha or agitation of the Akali activists atJaito, he was arrested in October 1923, sent to Lahore Fort and detained there along with other Akali leaders. He was released in November 1926, but was soon rearrested by Patiala police. The Shiromani Akali Dal protested against his detention and decided (23 July 1929) to start an agitation to secure his release.

Akali leader Baba Kharak Singh addressed a series of meetings in the states of Patiala, Nabha and Jind, proclaiming that they would work together against the suppression of any political agitation within their borders. In jail, Seva`Singh started a fast in June 1929 which, he declared, would only cease with his death. A deputation of Sikhs representing moderate political opinion presented a memorial to the Maharaja of Patiala at Kandaghat, in the Simla hills, on 23 August 1929 seeking his release. Seva Singh was let off, but was taken into custody again on 2 November 1930 for his continued association with the Praja Mandal, and was sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years and a fine of Rs 10,000.

The sentence was reduced and he was released on 12 March 1931, only to be rearrested from his house in Thikrivala on 24 August 1933. In the court, Seva Singh refused to defend himself and dissociated himself from the trial proceedings. Protesting against the illtreatment he suffered in Patiala jail, he went on a hunger strike on 18 April 1934. Forcible feeding was tried, but he died in the early hours of 20 January 1935. Intrigue and foul play were suspected and the Praja Mandal demanded an open inquiry into the cause of his death.

The state authorities kept the ashes under police guard in Gurdwara Nihangan di Baghichi in Patiala till 1938, when Maharaja Bhupinder Singh`s successor, Maharaja Yadavinder Singh, allowed these to be taken to Thikrivala, with full military honours. On his death anniversary which is observed on January 20, Seva Singh receives the honours of a martyr from the vast numbers of people who throng Thikrivala on the occasion.

References :

1. Ujagar Singh Bhaura, SardarSeva Singh Thikivale da Kaumi fivan
2. Gurcharan Singh, Jivan Sardar Seva Singh Thikrivala. Patiala, 1970
3. Tara Singh, Master, MenYad. Amritsar, 1945
4. Nijjar, B.S., Punjab Under the British Rule, vol. III. Delhi, 1974
5. Dard, Hira Singh, Meriari Kujh Itihasak Yadan. Jalandhai, 1955