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Sardar Hukam Singh - A Parliamentarian

Discussion in 'Sikh Personalities' started by Taranjeet singh, Mar 30, 2010.

  1. Taranjeet singh

    Taranjeet singh India
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    Oct 21, 2009
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    Sardar Hukam Singh
    A humane parliamentarian

    As I entered the drawing room of the Ring Road residence of Sardar Hukam Singh in New Delhi, I saw him at the far end of the room—cold, stiff, erect and forbidding with his hands folded in greeting.

    As my eyes adjusted to the soft light of the room, I saw that I had been fooled by a life- sized cardboard cut out presented to the former Speaker of the Lok Sabha when he was Governor of Rajasthan.

    The real Hukam Singh was smiling warmly and beckoning me closer to him.

    I was not the only person to have been fooled in this manner. Many had been confounded by the two images, one an illusion and the other real. In fact, there were so many ironies about the man whose 10th death anniversary fell on May 27, 1993.

    As Speaker and Governor, he swore to uphold the Constitution, the very Constitution which he had refused to endorse as a representative of the Sikh community in the Constituent Assembly.

    A man who did not hold any political office before Independence, Hukam Singh rose to the highest echelons of political life in free India. He could be as firm as he could be polite — one could go on and on, but we must know more about the man who shaped the parliamentary traditions of our nation.

    He was born in Montgomery, now in Pakistan, on August 30, 1895. His parents were poor and after studying as the local gurdwara, he enrolled in high school. Hukam Singh’s father, Sham Singh, died before the former completed his matriculation.

    Hukam Singh graduated from Khalsa College, Amritsar in 1917. A job as inspector on the Department of Cooperative societies followed, but he resigned two years later.

    Hukam Singh passed his LLB examination in 1921 and started practising on Montgomery. He was nominated member of the newly formed Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC). The organisation was declared unlawful on January 7, 1924.

    The members offered themselves for arrest and Hukam Singh spent the next two years in Mianwali jail, where he came in contact with Baba Gurdit Singh (of the Kamagatamaru fame), Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and Sardul Singh Caveesher. He saw released on September 1929, and he resumed his legal practice in Montgomery till August 1947.

    Partition meant losing his home and nearly his life. Fanatic communal leaders had put a price of Rs 25,000 on his head, but Hukam Singh escaped from Pakistan—uprooted and penniless.

    Not for long. The Maharaja of Kapurthala appointed him a Judge on the recommendation of Giani Kartar Singh and Master Tara Singh (see Court Attire). He was soon nominated, through the intervention of Giani Kartar Singh, as a member of the Constituent Assembly, where he was sworn in on April 30, 1948.

    The Constitution was adopted and India was declared a Republic on January 26, 1950, and the Constituent Assembly became Provisional Parliament. Hukam Singh, as an Akali representative, did not sign the Constitution, contending that it did not have any legal safeguards for the minorities.

    He said then: “Today India is almost free of foreign domination and we pride ourselves on the freedom of our country. But the real content of freedom can only felt if the minorities are given due protection and provided safeguards for the development for the development of their culture, language and religion.”

    In 1951, Hukam Singh launched a weekly English-language journal, The Spokesman which he edited till he was unanimously elected Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha in 1956. Many were surprised at this. Not only was he an Opposition member, he was also one of the two MPs of the Akali Dal. (He had been the President of All-India Akali Dal in 1951). In fact, he continued to be an Akali till the General Committee of the Dal decided to join the Congress party in 1956.

    Some people accuse him of having struck a secret deal for giving up the demand for Punjabi Suba and getting the post of Deputy Speaker as a reward.

    Hukam Singh’s defenders however, maintain that he had consulted Master Tara Singh before accepting the post of Deputy Speaker, that the matter was even brought before the general house of the Akali Dal where no one opposed it and that he had accepted the post while being a member of the Opposition. Also, as Pratap Singh points out in Biography S. Hukam Singh, “The day when the bargain was allegedly struck, Hukam Singh was in Rohtak jail with Baba Harkishan Singh.”

    The charge did, however, hurt deeply. Pratap Singh narrates a poignant incident of how Hukam Singh, soon before he died, said that God was his only witness but that he was clear in his conscience that he had never betrayed the Sikh cause. “After saying so, Sardar Sahib was a bit emotional. Tears rolled down his cheeks. I tried to console him but he wept like a child,” recalls Pratap Singh.

    Hukam Singh continued as Deputy Speaker till 1962, when he was elected to Parliament from Patiala constituency on a Congress ticket. He was then unanimously elected Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

    Sardar Hukam Singh, the first Sikh speaker of the Lok Sabha served during the tenure of three Prime Minister — Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi. He was often described as a fair and firm Speaker who set a number of healthy precedents in conducting Parliament.

    As R Gopal Krishna, a former Senior Assistant Editor and for 28 years, “the intellectual blood bank of the magazine” wrote in an article in The Illustrated Weekly of India in 1967: “The speaker is like both judge and schoolmaster. As schoolmaster Hukam Singh used the rod sparingly, as judge his sense of fairness and impartiality was never seriously questioned.”

    He did not stand for re-elected because he wanted to set the precedent that the Speaker must be elected unopposed and he could not be assured of this.

    He was appointed Governor of Rajasthan in 1967 and he retired in 1973. He took over as the President of the Singh Sabha Centenary Committee in 1973, with Giani Gurdit Singh as the General Secretary. The body was renamed Kendri Singh Sabha in 1976 at Anandpur Sahib. It was the apex body of Singh Sabhas in India and abroad.

    Hukam Singh fell ill in May 23, 1983. He was admitted to nursing home in New Delhi where he died on May 26, 1983. At his deathbed where his daughter, Raminder Kaur, his son-in-law, Brig Hari Singh (retd), and other family friends, including Partap Singh.

    The first Sikh President of India was also at the deathbed of the first Sikh speaker. Giani Zail Singh, on being informed by this writer about the precarious condition of the former Speaker, had rushed from Rashtrapati Bhavan to the nursing home. I saw the then President’s eyes filled with tears, even as he stood there with folded hands.

    Court attire

    Hukam Singh often narrated the anecdote of how he became Judge in Kapurthala State High Court, but was almost rejected summarily because of his attire. An interesting account of the incident is given in Biography S. Hukam Singh:

    When he (Hukam Singh) reached the palace, Maharaja Jagatjit Singh was sitting in the veranda. His Prime Minister was by his side. Hukam Singh wore a khaki shirt and trousers, but he had no coat or tie.

    On seeing him from a distance, the Maharaja enquired of his Prime Minister, Mr L.R. Sikand, as to who he was. Sikand guessed that he was probably the candidate recommended by Master Tara Singh who had come for an interview for a seat on the bench.

    The Maharaja was known for his refined taste and cultured manners. He outright rejected Hukam Singh. The Maharaja’s view was that with a trouser and shirt, one must have a tie.

    But destiny was playing its own part. The Prime Minister intervened and said: “He is a refugee coming here without any belongings. When he draws salary from the treasury of Your Highness, then he will buy ties and other things.” The Maharaja agreed to appoint Hukam Singh as a Judge of the High Court

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  3. rajneesh madhok

    rajneesh madhok India
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    Jan 1, 2010
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    Re: Sardar Hukam Singh- A Parliamentarian

    Dear Taranjeet ji,
    Thanks for providing information regarding Sardar Hukam Singh, his humble attitude. On reading the first line I was also confused whether you are saying true but on shifting to the next line when you made a detail about the Life sized cardboard Cut out I got he real story.
    Any how you got the experience of your warm welcome. This is not a story but you got befooled it happened in reality. Any way you got confounded by two images, anyway I hope that it should happen in reality. I was also astonishing to read the first line and was abit confused that how you met him and then I was putting strike on my memory.

    Every body was familiar about his adamant attitude, it was the matter of great concern that when he had refused to endorse as a representative of Sikh community in Assembly.
    A admire his struggle and his ability to rise up to the top level in politics.

    I am astonished to know that he was polite, till today we have heard that he had adamant on all subjects, but his contribution to shape the parliamentary traditions is quite considerable.
    Thanks for providing details regarding him. It is really great achievement that he had been enrolled in local gurdwara in Montgomery, Pakistan and did his matriculation in Gurdwara’s school. It is really shocking that he lost his father before getting the degree of matriculation.
    We had a knowledge that Mr. Hukam Singh was LLB but he was practicing in Montgomery is the addition to my knowledge. From the very beginning his credentials regarding the member of SCPC is being known to the public. But again I don’t have this knowledge that this organization had been declared unlawlful in 1924.
    It is really great to Hukam Singhji that he offered himself for the arrest and willfully spent two years in Mianwali jail, where he came in contact with the world renowned personalities. Really great that he again practiced from 1929 to 1947 in Montgomery.
    The episode of partition is still in the memories of most of the people migrated from Pakistan. I add to the memory of partition. My grand father was a Railway official. Two months Before partition my grand father got posting in Narowal in Pakistan. My grand Ma and my father had been telling us the story that the first train before their departure from Lahore had been butchered, Luckily they had been traveling in second train that reached to Amritsar station and the people reached safe and sound. Everybody had been uprooted during partition from Pakistan and all their belongings have remained in Pakistan and when they people reached India that moment they had been penniless.

    Yeah in those days all the prime posts had been allotted with recommendations. Mostly the Maharajas used to appoint the person according to his caliber. Thanks for providing information that he was appointed with the intervention of Giani Kartar Singh as a member of Cosntituent Assembly.
    Yeah it is that our constitution had been adopted in Jan 26, 1950 and the first constituent Assembly became provisional Parliament. The role of Hukam Singhji is still being remembered when he had not signed the papers in constitution and raised his voice that its contents are not containing the points to safeguard minority communities.
    The episode of delay in implementing the constitution should be considered. The role of Lady Mountbatten should be considered here. I don’t like to elaborate the story. The members will certainly provide details about the Lady Mountbatten’s role in free India from 1947 to 1950. Why the matter of Kashmir could not be resolved? What was the role of Sardar Patel at the time of resolving the states issues. Why Nehru could not resolved the issue of Kashmir. Why the constitution of Kashmir is different from India when Maharaja of Kashmir had opted to remain with India.
    It is really a great achievement that he had been unanimously elected Deputy Speaker of LokSabha in 1956. It was really an astonishing point because first he was opposition member and secondly there were only two MPs of Akali Dal. His contribution to Akali Dal is quite remarkable, when the Gerneral Committee of the Dal had decided to join the congress party in 1956 he was not so much in favour to join congress.
    His contribution to India as a Deputy Speaker is quite remarkable. The allegations made on him that he had mde secret deal for giving up the demand of Punjabi Suba and he was provided the Loli-pop by Congress as a Deputy Speaker is a mere allegation because he had consulted Master Tara Singh before accepting the post of Deputy Speaker and the meeting had been arranged and the General House had also accepted the proposal. Taranjeet ji, I have no idea about the Biography of S. Partap Singh that he was in Rohtak jail with Baba Harksihan Singh when the bargain was struck. Kindly provide the source of your information.
    However the charge he took has been in news for quite a long time. But it is very sure that S. Hukam Singh was a man of principles, the allegations put on him that he betrayed the Sikh cause can not be entertained.
    Taranjeetji, kindly elaborate who is S. Partap Singh and what is his relation with S. Hukam Singh.
    It was well known fact that S. Hukam Singh was a strong Akali politician. Then how he turned to Congress is still a conspiracy. He was a man of principles and served with dignity with three Prime ministers of India. His contribution and image like a Firm Speaker is quite remembered and he set examples of healthy precedent in conducting Parliament.
    Taranjeet Singhji, The Editor of Illustrated Weekly of India was S. Khushwant Singh and Mr. R. Gopal Krishna, former Senior Assistant Editor had written the article in Illustrated Weekly of India in 1967 on the instigation of S. Khushwant Singh in which he had remarked that the Speaker is like both Judge and Schoolmaster. It is no doubt that he had a clear image as a teacher and as a judge and his decisions and judgements were quite impartial.
    His tenure as Governor of Rajasthan was also remarkable. His tenure as Presidentship of Singh Sabha Centenary committee is also remarkable. This apex body had done quite a nice job for the upliftment of Sikhism.
    President Giani Zail Singh was also very close to S. Hukam Singh. On the departure of S. Hukam Singh President Giani Zail was also very much shocked with the incident and he had been besides his death bed till his expiry.
    We bow our head and salute this Great personality.
    Rajneesh Madhok
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