Freedom Fighter, philanthropist, a legend in the Malwa belt, Dr Kehar Singh Sidhu was born in at village Sidhwan Bet near Ludhiana. The initial years of his education were in Jagraon and Khalsa High School, Ludhiana, during which he was deeply impacted by the hanging of young Kartar Singh Sarabha. Starting out his activism movement by distributing revolutionary papers like Gadar Goonj, Kehar Singh along with others learnt to make desi bombs from Raas Bihari Bose of Calcutta. When one of the bombs exploded , though no one was hurt, Kehar Singh’s name was struck off from school and he continued his studies under encouragement from the elder brother of Lala Lajpat Rai, at Arya High School. As it was the time of World War 1, and the British army needed doctors, Kehar Singh Sidhu took Admission at Medical School Agra, where he got a Diploma and a Medical Practioner’s license, and was inducted into the British Indian Army as a surgeon, being the only Sikh Doctor in his regiment.
His bravery during the war was mentioned in his Colonel’s report, and Dr Kehar Singh went on to serve at various places in India and Abroad, his longest tenure being in Mesopotamia. Dr Sidhu was posted at Ferozpur, with the 14 Sikh Regiment, where he participated in a protest in Favor of Guru Ka Bagh Morcha by wearing black turbans along with other personnel from his regiment, as a result of which his service was terminated and he was also fined 7000 Rupees to save his practioner’s license.
After he left the army Dr Kehar Singh participated in many protests, treating injured protesters, even spent Six months in Nabha jail along with Pandit Nehru. Later he began to provide free service at the hospital in Muktsar, many times visiting patients who couldn’t make it to the hospital. His work has found mention in ‘Garad Da Katil’ and Giani Zail Singh’s autobiography. Dr Kehar Singh was instrumental in the opening of the Guru Nanak Medical college and Hospital in Muktsar, promoting education for girls. He even donated Rs 35,000 from his personal funds to start a surgical ward in his late wife’s name. Founding the Dehati Janta Party in protest, against the following of the Russian pattern of agriculture, which involved grabbing from land from the farmers by the government, he joined hand with many eminent personalities and was instrumental in initiating ‘The Green Revolution ‘ in Punjab. Never a politician by nature, Dr. Kehar Singh choose to stay away from mainstream politics and instead began visiting villages to treat people during the great Plague and to spread Guru Nanak’s message. Recipient of the prestigious ‘Tamar Pattar’ from the Indian Government and the ‘ Red Cross Medal’ this legend passed away in 1986 at the age of 90 years, working tirelessly till the very end for his people.
The author is Opinder Kaur Sekhon A Chandigarh Based writer