ON MONDAY morning, as the news of Canadian Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Jagmeet Singh being elected the first Sikh leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) reached India, most residents of Thikriwal village in Barnala were caught unawares. Many were unaware of the fact that a Sikh man having roots in their village has become the leader of a political party in Canada and is in race for Canada’s PM.
However, soon youngsters in the village, after getting the news through social media, spread the word. Euphoria and curiosity gripped the village residents and they started to explore the family tree of Jagmeet Singh. Since it has been decades that none from Jagmeet’s family visited the village, the present generation was unaware of his family’s ancestral history. Then, a few village elders who knew Jagmeet’s ancestors were called in at the gurdwara and asked to share their memories of his roots here. A special ardaas (prayer) was also held.
Although no one from the family visited the village for decades since Jagmeet’s father Dr Jagtaran Singh had shifted to Canada, the family’s grand old haweli has been preserved by the village in the memory of the martyr Sewa Singh, his great-grandfather’s first cousin. The martyr’s statue has also been placed at a chowk known as ‘Shaheed Sewa Singh Chowk’.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Nahar Singh, 82, a village elder said Hira Singh and martyr Sewa Singh were first cousins. Hira Singh was the great-grandfather of Jagmeet Singh. He died in Thikriwal village. “Jagmeet is from the family of the late Hira Singh. Hira Singh had three sons, including a cop, during British rule- Shamsher Singh. Shamsher Singh had a son, Jagtaran Singh, who moved to Canada after completing MBBS. Jagmeet Singh was born to Jagtaran Singh in Canada. Even today, not many are aware of the family’s history here but elders know it. We have preserved the family’s ancestral haweli and we want the family to visit,” said Nahar Singh.
As per some literature available with the village residents, Sewa Singh had started Parajamandal Lehar, a protest movement against British rule and rajwaadashaahi (princely states rulers) including the ancestors of the present Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh. “He was arrested from the haweli in our village. Earlier, the entire family of Jagmeet Singh used to live in this haweli together. Sewa Singh attained martyrdom after hunger strike of nine months against British and princely states rulers in 1938. It was a crucial part of India’s freedom struggle from Malwa of Punjab,” said Balwant Singh Thikriwal, another village resident.
The village residents added that they are “disappointed” over the denial of visa to Jagmeet and his family in 2013. “We have heard his speeches and interviews and he has expressed his desire to visit his ancestral village. We also want the family to come here and see the memorials of his ancestors. Since his father shifted to Canada, there has been no contact with them but now youths from Thikriwal have contacted him in Canada. They are in touch through social media,” added Balwant.
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