Captain Bhagwan Singh

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Captain Bhagwan Singh
Captain Bhagwan Singh

Captain Bhagwan Singh Chahar (1916 – 1995) was a unique diplomat, a radical student leader, army officer, Indian Administrative Service officer, High Commissioner of India to Fiji and a devoted social worker.

Childhood

Captain Bhagwan Singh was born on 1 April 1916 in a Hindu Jat family of Chahar clan in village Jain Gara of Kirawali Tehsil in Agra district of Uttar Pradesh in India. His father’s name was Bere Singh. Bere Singh was in Fiji colonial service. He left for Fiji immediately after the birth of Bhagwan Singh. In 1925, after 15 years of service in Fiji, his constant battles with the authorities and his worsening asthma persuaded his father Bere Singh to return to India on premature retirement. Bhagwan Singh could first see his father after almost nine years when he finally returned to India in 1925.

Education

He was admitted to Victoria High School and put in boarding in the Jat House in Agra. He did not understand English and could hardly read a few words. Under these circumstances he was compelled to find solace in the ‘Satyagrah’ movement. Later his father forced to join back the school and he was admitted to Government High School Agra. He did his High School from Government High School Agra in 1934.

After passing out from High School he joined Agra College. It was a turbulent time for the nation. Bhagwan Singh joined the mass movements and enrolled himself in Arya Samaj, graduated into the Nagri Pracharini Sabha and was drafted into Hindi Journalism. He came in contact with Vijay Singh Pathik of Bijaulia Kisan Satyagrah fame in Mewar and started working for his weekly ‘Sanghars’, launched in collaboration with Acharya Narendra Dev. He was one of the signatories of the Uttar Pradesh Students Federation Charter. He joined the U.P. Socialist leadership, which formed the radical group of the national struggle for independence.

Bhagwan Singh completed his MA degree in History from Agra College, Agra in 1940. Later during the Second World War, at the behest of Sir Chhotu Ram, he accepted King’s commission in the army and became second lieutenant. In 1943 he was promoted as Captain and since then he was known as Captain Bhagwan Singh through out his life.

Joined Indian Administrative Service

Subsequent to his selection in the war-reserved vacancies in the I.C.S. he was posted as Assistant Magistrate, Allahabad, in 1945. He was town Rationing officer Prayag. Later he was appointed group-testing officer of Federal Public Service Commission Board. He was the first Jat Indian Administrative Service officer.

As a civil servant he got various assignments as under: 1948: Collector Bulandshahr 1950: Deputy Commissioner Raibareli 1953: Chairman Central Tractor Organization, Delhi 1957: Joint Secretary, Rehabilitation Ministry, Branch Secretariat, Calcutta 1959: Managing Director, Jammu and Kashmir Minerals Ltd., In Industrial Management Pool. 1964: Commissioner Municipal Corporation, Delhi 1965: Chairman Indian Tea Board Calcutta 1971 - 1976: High Commissioner of India to Fiji, Tonga, Nauru and other South Pacific countries.

High Commissioner of India to Fiji

In 1971, Captain Bhagwan Singh was Additional Secretary in Government of India’s the then Foreign Trade Ministry, was posted to Suva in Fiji as High Commissioner. Captain Bhagwan Singh was also accredited to the other South Pacific island countries. While his posting created a considerable stir at home, it was also a significant event in the history of Pacific region. It created different reactions in different fields. The Hindi media welcomed it. But a group of IAS officers thought that it was cowardice on his part to runaway to the Foreign Ministry to avoid confrontation with his minister Lalit Narayan Mishra with whom he was not pooling well. The Indian Foreign Service on the other hand, saw in it an intrusion into their well fortified preserve at the high levels of High Commissioner and Additional Secretary.

In his five years stay in Suva, Captain Bhagwan Singh became a part of folklore of the Pacific. But behind his immense popularity and success, lay another story which made him very special in the eyes of the ordinary people as well as the leaders of this disparate community of nations.


Even before Captain Bhagwan Singh arrived in the Pacific, a legend had grown around his name. His grandfather and grandmother were amongst the first group of Indian indentured labours to arrive in Fiji. His father, Bere Singh, was born there and after receiving his education in India went back to serve in Fiji for 25 years. He was a symbol of pride not only to the Indians of Fiji whose forefathers had come as indentured labourers, but also to the people of different Pacific nations who were themselves emerging as free citizens of independent nations. The grandson of an indentured ‘coolie’, Ram Chander, had now returned to Fiji as India’s High Commissioner.

For five crucial years, 1971 – 1976, Captain Bhagwan Singh carried the name of India to almost every village of Fiji, and adjoining islands of South Pacific. In one of the last areas to emerge from western colonial rule, Captain Bhagwan Singh’s unorthodox blend of quit diplomacy and high visibility in public relations, and his own flair to win friends and influence people, made him win the hearts of Pacific Islanders for his country.

The Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, appreciated his role in cementing the relationship between the two major ethnic groups of Fiji. As a bonus, she granted him unprecedented awards of two extensions in the service of Fiji, which was unpalatable to his colleagues in the Indian Foreign Service. This enabled him to act as the Dean of the growing diplomatic corps in Fiji.

Social Services

Captain Bhagwan Singh retired from Indian Administrative Service in 1976 and settled at Delhi. Even after retirement he was very active in social service. He was Executive Director of ‘Shri Ram Fibres Ltd.’ for seven years. He was very busy in social service as Chairman of ‘Kusht Niwaran Sangh’, ‘International Cooperative Council, India’, ‘College of Arts Delhi Advisory Committee’, ‘Summerfield Public School Executive Committee’, ‘Raja Mahendra Pratap Trust Vrindavan’. He was Administrator Vedic College Baraut and Vice Chairman of Maharaja Suraj Mal Institute, Delhi.

Bhagwan Singh was President of All India Jat Mahasabha where he did a wonderful work of awakening the Jats by publishing and distributing lot of literature about great persons.

As author

Bhagwan Singh was a good reader and a writer also. He has written a number of books and articles. He has written historical articles on Veervar Gokula, Amar Shahid Chaudhari Shahmal, Raja Mahendra Pratap etc. The important books written by him are:

  • Ratangarbha, Bharat Bhumi
  • Indian Tea
  • Fiji
  • My Fathers Land Fiji
  • Ujale apani yadon ke
  • Safal Prashasak Govind ballabh pant

About his family

Bhagwan Singh was married in 1934, while he was in high School, at an early age of 18 years to Shantaji. Captain Bhagwan Singh had one son Ajay Singh who is an Indian politician, formerly Central Railway Minister. He had three daughters namely Abha, Vibha and Shubha.

Death

Captain Bhagwan Singh died on 16 July 1995 at his Delhi residence.

References

  • Bhagwan Singh: My Father’s Land Fiji, Tamavua Enterprises, 64 Poorvi Marg, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi, 1984
  • Nav Jat – veer Patrika, Jat Samaj Kalyan Parishad, Gwalior, 1995

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