Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala, popularly known as ‘Kirpan Bahadur’ was the real hero to found the Praja Mandal movement in the Punjab to raise the voice of the people against the despotic rules of the rulers of the Punjab state.
It was a time when the state rulers were terror to their subjects. The people had no right even to have the access to lay down their genuine grievances before their rulers. The honor of their females was always in danger.
Under such old times and the despotic rulers, “the lion of the Punjab states subjects”, Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala had come in to the rescue of the down-trodden people when he united them to stand against justice.
Sardar Sewa Singh Kirpan Bahadur was born in August 1878 at village Thikriwala, Patiala State. His father, Dewa Singh, was an important official at the court of Maharaja Rajinder Singh. Sewa Singh has his schooling in Patiala where he learnt Urdu, Persian, Punjabi and soem English. When he grew up, Sewa Singh also got appointment as a State official, but he did not allow his official position to come in the way of his interest in the educational and other programs of the Singh Sabha movement.
As a committed member of the Singh Sabha Reform Movement, Sewa Singh 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 Sikhs.
But as soon as Sewa Singh stepped out of the Lahore Fort, he was arrested by the Patiala police and detained in the Patiala jail. He was tried in the court of Barnala on the charge of a minor theft (stealing of a garwi a tiny round utensil) and though the charge could not be proved, he was not released. This act of high-handedness on the part of the State Ruler led to a fierce agitation in the State. Baba Kharak Singh demanding immediate release of the Thikriwala and condemning the State Government for its arbitrariness. Inside the jail, Sewa Singh sat on hunger strike as protests against mistreatment by the jail officials. When his condition grew critical, he was released on 24th August 1928.
When the Maharaja of Patiala saw the increasing popularity of the Praja Mandal movement in the State, he started negotiations with Sewa Singh in 1931. The negotiation, however, broke down over the demand of Sewa Singh for an elected assembly in the State. In July 1931 he went to Simla to attend the third conference of the Punjab Riasti Praja Mandal. The conference could not be held on account of disturbance created by some hirelings of Patiala, but Sewa Singh utilized the occasion to have a discussion with Mahatma Gandhi on the problems of State’s peoples.
On 15th May 1932 he presided over an Akali Conference at Khudiala and made a powerful speech. In April, 1933 he attended the fourth conference of the Punjab Praja Mandal at Delhi and played an effective role in its proceedings. A month and a quarter later he took part in a meeting of Praja Mandal leaders at Amritsar where it was decided to send jathas of people to the office of the Lahore Political Agent. In consequence, Sewa Singh was served with orders to quit Amritsar immediately and not to enter the districts of Lahore and Amritsar for two months. After that when he reached in Thikriwala, he was arrested by the Patiala police on 25th August, 1933. Several charges were levelled against him but he refused to defend himself. He was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 500 in the Khudiala Akali Conference Case. He had hardly been in jail for six months when he went on hunger-strike as a protest against ill-treatment by the jail authorities. The Government did not pay proper head to his health and he died on 20th January, 1935.
The state authorities kept the ashes under police guard in Gurdwara Nihangan ki Bagichi in Patiala till 1938, when Maharaja Bhupinder Singh`s successor, Maharaja Yadavindra Singh, allowed these to be taken to Thikriwala, with full military honours. On his death anniversary which is observed on January 20, Sewa Singh receives the honours of a martyr from the vast numbers of people who throng Thikriwala on the occasion.
- Gurcharan Singh, Jivan Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala, Patiala 1970
- Ujagar Singh Bhaura, Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala da Kaumi jivan
- Tara Singh, meri Yaad, Amritsar 1945
- B.S. Nijjar, Punjab under the British Rule, vol iii, Delhi 1974
- Hira Singh Dard, Merian kujh itihasik yadan, Jalandhar 1955