GUWAHATI, Dec 13 - Former judge of the Gauhati High Court, Dr Thirnarayan Singh, has provided a lot of information to this newspaper on the old Sikh settlers of Gauhati. Justice (Retd) Dr Singh is the lone son of pioneer industrialist of the State, Late Sardar Lal Singh.
In an e-mail, Dr Singh, who is now 85-year-old and presently based in Delhi, said that the Sikhs settled in Guwahati and its suburbs can be divided into three groups � the original settlers, who came to Gauhati with the expansion of the railway; the second group that came to Gauhati when they were displaced from West Pakistan after the partition of the country; and the recent settlers, who came to Guwahati from Delhi and other places after the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and are to be found around the Beltola area.
Dr Singh referred to an article, Story of Guwahati Sikh Mandir, written by Sardar Dhyan Singh, in which it is stated that the land for the Fancy Bazar Gurudwara was acquired between 1902-06 and �it was the then Station Master Sardar Alla Singh and others like Sardar Kishan Singh, Sardar Keshar Singh and Sardar Jiban Singh felt the necessity for the Gurudwara at Gauhati.�
Dr Singh said that his grandfather, Sardar Keshar Singh, had migrated around late 1890s to Gauhati, based on the testimony of Maulavi Tajuddin Ahmed, son of Late Danish Ahmed (recorded on 2-1-52), in a civil suit. Maulavi Tajuddin Ahmed had deposed that he was in the service of the Railways in 1895 and was an �Honorary Magistrate� and that �Keshor Singh was at Railway Colony,� said Dr Singh.
Sardar Nanak Singh was also an original settler, who had a shop of dry fruits at the Fancy Bazar Gurudwara. �I have sweet memories of dropping at that shop with my father, as early as 1938 or so. His son, Late Sardar Birender Singh, was nominated by the Government of Assam as a municipal ward commissioner of Gauhati. The family owns the magnificent building, Raj Singh Palace, adjacent to the Gurudwara at Fancy Bazar.
�The other person is another Kishan Singh, who had settled at Ulubari, which was then considered the outskirts of Gauhati. He was in the service of Burma Oil Company and had married a lady from the Assamese Sikh community of Barkola,� said Dr Singh.
In another e-mail, Dr Singh said there were two pioneering feats of his father, Late Sardar Lal Singh, which needed mention. In 1951, Late Lal Singh directly imported agricultural machinery from the USA, Canada and UK and became the first businessman in Assam to do so.
Earlier, in 1950, he (Sardar Lal Singh) procured old tractors from the tea estates and started mechanised farming at Khetri. The farm was visited by the then Agriculture Minister of the State, Late Omeo Kumar Das, accompanied by the then Food Commissioner of India RK Patil, said Dr Singh.