SUNDAR SINGH LYALLPURI, MASTER
SUNDAR SINGH LYALLPURI, MASTER (1885-1969), teacher, journalist and politician, was born on 4 April 1885, the son of Lakhmir Singh Kamboj and Ram Kaur, of the village of Bahorii, 12 km south of Amritsar. The family later moved to the canal colony in Sheikhupura district where they founded a new village, Chakk No. 18 Bahoru. Having completed his early education in Bahoru and in Shahkot, district Sheikhupura, Sundar Singh took his B.A. (Honours) degree at Khalsa College, Amritsar, and his B.T. at Government Training College, Lahore.
In 1908, he joined Master Tara Singh, the future Akali supremo, to teach at Khalsa High School, Lyallpur, on an honorarium of barely 15 rupees a month. Later he served successively at Khalsa High School at Chakk No. 41 and at Sangla. What brought Master Sundar Singh Lyallpuri into politics was his contact with Sardar Harchand Singh of Lyallpur, active in the nationalist movement. In 1908, the Punjab Government changed the constitution of the governing body of the Khalsa College, Amritsar, in order to ensure firmer control over the affairs of the college. Master Sundar Singh published, in July 1909, a strongly worded pamphlet entitled Ki Khalsa College Sikkhan Da Hai ? ( “Does the Khalsa College belong to the Sikhs?” ).
He argued therein that the British intended to rob the Sikhs of their college as they had, by a grave breach of faith, previously swallowed up their kingdom. He also castigated Sundar Singh Majithia, the secretary of the Khalsa College Council, for having brooked official interference. The same year. he started publication from Lyallpur of a Punjabi newspaper, Sachcha Dhandora ( “The True Proclamation” ). According to a report from the then Assistant Director of Criminal Intelligence, dated 11 August 1911, it printed “largely echoes of the violently nationalistic writings which were then appearing in the Punjab press and which culminated in a series of press prosecutions during 1909-10.”
Sachcha Dhandora too fell a victim to prosecution and suppression. Sundar Singh was also in the forefront of the agitation against the demolition of a wall of Gurdwara Rikabgahj to suit the government`s construction plans in New Delhi. To promote the cause of Gurdwara reform, Master Sundar Singh launched from Lahore on 21 May 1920 a daily newspaper, the Akali. The main objectives announced by the Akali were democratic control of Sikh shrines and of the Khalsa College, reconstruction of the demolished wall of Gurdwara Rikabganj, political and national awakening among the Sikh masses, and the establishment of a representative Sikh body based on democratic principles.
Sohan Singh Josh, Akali Morchian da Itihas, describes Master Sundar Singh as “the life and soul of the Akali.” In July 1922, Akali was amalgamated with Pradesi Khalsa and published as Akali te Pradesi from Amritsar. Master Sundar Singh was arrested on `26 November 1921 at Ajnala during the agitation for the restoration to the Sikhs of the keys of the Golden Temple treasury and was sentenced to six months` imprisonment with a fine of 4,000 rupees.
However, he did not support the agitation launched by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak, Committee in 1923 for the reinstatement of the deposed Maharaja of Nabha. He was of the view that it would not be correct for the Shiromam Committee which was a religious body to involve itself in politics and (hat the Nabha question liad better be dealt with by the Central Sikh League. Master Sundar Singh was among the Akali delcnues who refused to accept release from jail on the condition that they would implement the Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925.
Besides his articles in his newspaper, Master Sundar Singh published tracts on burning topics of the day in which he also made use of his poetic talent. The topics covered varied from the lives of the Gurus to the evil of drinking and scenes from Guru ka Bagh agitation. In 1924, he restarted the Akali, this time in Urdu, from Lahore, and launched tlie Hindustan Times from Delhi, but they did not long survive his arrest soon after they had made their appearance. The Guru Khalsa, Daler Khalsa, Melu, Kundan and Navan Yug were some of the other papers he started, but none of them lived long. Sundar Singh tried his hand at business and set up a shop in Bombay, but it had to be closed down within two years. After Independence, he was awarded a pension and allotted some land in Hissar district. Pie died at his new home on 5 January 1969.
1. Piar Singh, Teja Singh Samundn. Amrilsar, 1975
2. Pratap Singh, Giani, Gurdwara Sudhar arrhat Akali Lahir, Amritsar, 1975
3. Josh, Sohan Singh, Akali Morchian da Itilias. Delhi, 1972
4. Ashok, Shamsher Singh, Shroinani Gurdwara Piabandhak Committee da Pahjah Sala Itilias. Amritsar, 1982
5. Ganda Singh, ed., Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement. Amritsar, 1965