Sirdar Kapur Singh was a Civil Servant, a parliamentarian and an intellectual par excellence. He was master of many sided learning. Besides Sikh theology, he was vastly learned in philosophy, history and literature.
He was born into a farming family, at the village Chakk in Ludhiana district on 2 March 1909. His father’s name was Didar Singh. Sirdar Kapur Singh received his Master’s degree, first class first, at the prestigious Government College, Lahore, after which he went to Cambridge to take his Tripos in Moral Sciences. He was a distinguished linguist and had mastered several languages of the east and the west. Besides his proficiency in English with extraordinary subtlety and fineness of expression, he had facility in Persian and Arabic as well as in Sanskrit.
In addition to these, he claimed easy acquaintance with such discrete fields as astrology, architecture and space science. In spite of his knowledge covering many disparate areas, Sirdar Kapur Singh’s principal focus was on Sikh literature and theology. He was a stickler for accuracy of fact and presentation. He stood up against any misrepresentation or falsification of any shade of Sikh thought and belief. He was most vigilant and unbending in this respect.
He was selected into the Indian Civil Service and served in various administrative posts in the cadre till 1947 under the British and later under the government of independent India. He worked as deputy commissioner of Kangra, Rohtak and many other places. In the post 1947 period, he was particularly irked by the growing narrow politics of the government biased against the Sikhs. What incensed him most was a circular letter dated 10 October 1947, issued by the state governor, Chandu Lal Trivedi, warning district authorities in the Punjab against what was described as the criminal tendencies of the Sikh people. Kapur Singh filed a strong protest against this utterly criminal branding of the Sikhs. He therefore invited the government’s wrath. Totally baseless charges were brought against him which led to his dismissal from the service.
Sirdar Kapur Singh became an ardent supporter of the Akali demand for a Punjabi speaking state. After a brief stint as Professor of Sikhism under the authority of the Akal Takht, he joined active politics in 1962 and was elected to the lower house of Indian Parliament and a member of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha (State legislative Assembly) in 1969. He was forthright in speech and an unrelenting critic of government’s policies where they impinged on the rights of the Sikhs. As a Sikh ideologue he was the moving spirit behind the Anandpur Sahib Resolution adopted by the Shiromani Akali Dal in 1975, which like several other of his pronouncements became a crucial enunciation of modern Sikh political formula and policy.
A very stirring Sikh document of the modern period was the Presidential address given at Hari Singh Nalwa conference convened at Ludhiana. Although it was nowhere specified, all important Sikh political or intrinsically scholarly documents of this period bear the imprint of Kapur Singh’s penmanship in sonorous phraseology.
The conference resolution said : “This conference in commemoration of General Hari Singh Nalwa of historical fame reminds all concerned that the Sikh people are makers of history and are conscious of their political destiny in a free India. This conference recalls that the Sikh people agreed to merge in a common Indian nationality on the explicit understanding of being accorded a constitutional status of co-sharers in the community, which solemn understanding now stands cynically repudiated by the present rulers of India. Further, the Sikh people have been systematically reduced to a sub-political status in their homeland, the Punjab, and to an insignificant position in their motherland, India. The Sikhs are in a position to establish before an impartial international tribunal, uninfluenced by the present Indian rulers, that the law, the judicial process, and the executive action of the State of India is consistently and heavily weighted against the Sikhs and is administered with unbandaged eyes against Sikh citizens. This conference, therefore, resolves, after careful thought, that there is left no alternative for the Sikhs in the interest of self-preservation but to frame their political demand for securing a self-determined political status within the Republic of Union of India. ” The author’s name is not mentioned here, but it is clearly the handiwork of Sirdar Kapur Singh.
Sirdar Kapur Singh, besides being an extraordinarily learned man, was a prolific writer. In addition to his Parasarprasna, in English, which ranks as a classic on Sikh philosophy, his other works include Hashish (Punjabi poems), Saptassrang (Punjabi biographies), Bahu Vistar (Punjabi essays), Pundrik (Punjabi essays on culture and religion), Mansur-al-Hallaj (monograph on a Sufi saint), Sachi Sakhi (memoirs), Sacred Writings of the Sikhs (a UNESCO publication), Me Judice (English miscellany), Sikhism for Modern Man, Contributions of Guru Nanak, The Hour of Sword, Guru Arjan and His Sukhmani.
Sirdar Kapur Singh died after a protracted illness at his village home in Jagraon in Ludhiana district on 13 August 1986.