Edited byDr Prabhleen Singh, President, Young Progressive Sikh Forum, Delhi

Published by: Young Progressive Sikh Forum of India. First Edition: 2023, Pages 144.

Reviewed by: Prof. Hardev Singh Virk, #14017, 30 Ave, Surrey, BC, Canada

I have known Tarlochan Singh as my senior in Mohindra College Patiala and keep a track record of his achievements, He is a well-wisher of all his friends and foes as eulogized by Prof. Balkar Singh in his tribute. I had reviewed his books for The Sikh Review in the past. He sent me an online copy of his book under review. Prof. Dr. Karamjit Singh, Vice Chancellor of Jagat Guru Nanak Dev Punjab State Open University, Patiala pays glowing tributes to Sardar Tarlochan Singh in his Foreword: Padam Bhushan Sardar Tarlochan Singh is hailed as a walking encyclopedia on Sikhism, Sports, Indian politics, and Punjab. He is known as a Sikh Leader who is an able Parliamentarian, a well-read columnist, a successful communicator, and a proven administrator.

We get an overview of attainments of Tarlochan Singh after his M.A. in Economics in 1955 from Mohindra College, Patiala, affiliated to Punjab University, Chandigarh: Tarlochan Singh held several prestigious positions such as Director, Department of Tourism, Culture, Museum and Archaeology, Govt. of Punjab; and later Director, Publicity and Public Relations of 9th Asian Games Organizing Committee, New Delhi. He was appointed as a Press Secretary to the Presidents of India followed by the position of Managing Director of Delhi Tourism Govt. of India; Chairman of Delhi Tourism Corporation; Chairman National Commission for Minorities, Govt. of India with the status of Union Cabinet Minister.  There is a long list of sterling qualities of Tarlochan Singh recounted in the Foreword which are attributed to his “Sikhi Sidak”: “Having made a mark in public life as an achiever, still he always remains grounded, while drawing inspiration from Sri Guru Granth Sahib. As a true follower of the Sikh Gurus, he lives the concept of ‘Kirat Karo, Naam Japo & Vand Chhako’ in his life. The Foreword ends with a famous quote:

ਮੈਂ ਰਾਹਾਂ ਤੇ ਨਹੀਂ ਤੁਰਦਾ ਮੈਂ ਤੁਰਦਾ ਹਾਂ ਤਾਂ ਰਾਹ ਬਣਦੇ

Dr Prabhleen Singh, President, Young Progressive Sikh Forum, writes in his editorial note that Dr Rajinder Singh Raju Chadha, President International Punjab Forum, and Chairman Wave Group encouraged him to publish this book. I wonder how the Editor could undertake this herculean task of sorting, reading, vetting, editing, and compiling hundreds of letters, mementoes, awards, and other documents to prepare this coffee table book without altering its original content and impact. To cover lifetime achievements of Sardar Tarlochan Singh, whose activities cover all domains of human affairs, from academics, sports, politics, and as an ambassador of Sikhi, is not an easy task. Despite his hectic lifestyle, Tarlochan Singh has penned down one dozen books concerning Sikh history, politics, current affairs, and his biography. 

I find it difficult to classify this book in traditional genres. After reading its pages, I call it ‘memorabilia’, as it has some documents (photos and letters) worthy of being used as archival material for future generations of Sikh historians. After a brief introduction by the Editor, one can read messages of prominent personalities from different fields from India and abroad. Roopinder Singh, a senior journalist, and former Associate Editor of the Tribune, recalls his association with Tarlochan Singh from his childhood as his father, Giani Gurdit Singh’s, friend. He writes about this book: “A remarkable story of a person who was not only a witness to history but also someone who helped shape it from time to time”.

Bibi Inderjit Kaur, Bhai Sahiba, Sikh Dharma International, USA recalls, in her message of love and appreciation, about the friendship of Sardar Tarlochan Singh with Singh Sahib, Bhai Sahib, Bhai Harbhajan Singh Jee Yogi starting in 1969. The original text in Punjabi reads:

ਸ. ਤਰਲੋਚਨ ਸਿੰਘ ਦੀ ਪੰਥ- ਰਤਨ, ਸ੍ਰੀ ਸਿੰਘ ਸਾਹਿਬ, ਭਾਈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਭਾਈ ਹਰਭਜਨ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ਯੋਗੀ ਨਾਲ ਜਾਣ-ਪਛਾਣ, ਸਜਣ ਤਾਈ ਤੇ ਪਰਿਵਾਰਿਕ ਸਬੰਧ 1969 ਈ. ਤੋਂ ਹਨ।

Bibi Jee quotes a Shabad from Sri Guru Granth Sahib to appreciate and justify this friendship:

ਸਜਣ ਸੇਈ ਨਾਲਿ ਮੈ ਚਲਦਿਆ ਨਾਲਿ ਚਲੰਨਿ ॥

ਜਿਥੈ ਲੇਖਾ ਮੰਗੀਐ ਤਿਥੈ ਖੜੇ ਦਿਸੰਨਿ ॥

The most interesting Chapter of this book is Rashtrapati Bhawan Stories told by Tarlochan Singh in the interview recorded by the Editor. It covers the most difficult era of his life spent as Press Secretary to Giani Zail Singh, the then President of India. He tried to maintain decorum of his office as well as cordial relations with PM, Indira Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi. Tarlochan Singh was an eyewitness to many events happening in the Rashtrapati Bhawan during and after the Blue Star Operation as well as after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

I fail to understand why Giani Jee was in a tearing hurry to install Rajiv Gandhi as next PM? He was advised against this move by some senior Congress leaders and media persons. Tarlochan Singh reveals: Normally, the President of India ought to have waited for a formal letter from the ruling party, informing him of the election of Rajiv Gandhi as leader, of the majority party in Parliament. The oath ceremony was performed with utter silence. The Congress Parliamentary Board met after two hours and elected Rajiv Gandhi as its leader. It clearly shows that Giani Jee, as President of India, did not follow the rules but offered Rajiv, the constitutional office of PM on a platter. Perhaps, the absolute power corrupted him (Rajiv) absolutely and as an affront tried to ignore the President, rather insulted him in public. Tarlochan Singh was removed from his office in Rashtrapati Bhawan on bidding of PM, Indira Gandhi, as his tapes describing the situation after Blue Star Operation were revealed by him to the national media.

I read with interest the note of Tarlochan Singh regarding his dismissal from service of Punjab government by the then powerful CM of Punjab, Partap Singh Kairon. It was not due to some deficiency in the service rendered by Tarlochan Singh as PR officer but, on the contrary, due to political rivalry between CM and his Irrigation Minister, Gian Singh Rarewala. It was his good luck; he was not removed from the service but only transferred to a remote area of Punjab. In later years, Kairon reconciled and never let him down. This shows the qualities of head and heart of Tarlochan Singh and his skill in dealing with politicians of all hues. In my view, he had best of personal relationship with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, BJP supremo and PM of India, who supported Tarlochan Singh to reach Rajya Sabha as MP from Haryana and nominated him Chairman, Minority Commission of India, a Cabinet rank post. 

I was mesmerised by the tribute paid by Professor Balkar Singh of Punjabi University Patiala, a lifelong friend of Sardar Tarlochan Singh, in his short essay, “Man Who Stood for Panthic Causes”. He writes: Life endeavors of S. Tarlochan Singh have met with success because he pursued these with unflinching faith and a detached attitude. These qualities of head and heart have helped him in struggling for the chosen causes and succeed in their resolution with aplomb. He goes on to describe Tarlochan Singh’s sterling qualities: He always stood for Panthic causes without becoming a narrow minded fundamentalist. He, as a humble Sikh, has never been oblivious of Sikh concerns while participating in political activities. Free from the taint of fear and jealousy he remains in touch with even those who do not see eye to eye with him. At times he feels sad at the indifference of the Sikhs towards the pressing problems of the community.  I also find mention of Tarlochan Singh opposing Jawahar Lal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, at Fatehgarh Sahib, as a member of Sikh Students Federation for which he suffered imprisonment and torture in jail. He became a popular leader of Sikh youth.

Shubhabrata Bhattacharya, Former Editor, The Sunday Magazine calls Tarlochan Singh: “The Mosaic of PR Man”. Nikky Guninder Kaur Singh (USA) calls him “A Bridge with the Past”. Nikky pays glowing tributes to his persona: “There are not many people who inspire others to stay connected with the past while building modern edifices. Tarlochan Singh, the parliamentarian is one of them. With his vast experience in various aspects of public life combined with the warmth and charm of the old world, he stands tall and communicative”. Prabhjot Singh calls him “India’s Sports Rattan”. Khushwant Singh thanks Tarlochan Singh for his help in the award of Nishan-E-Khalsa (Order of the Khalsa) from the Punjab Government on Baisakhi of 1999 at Anandpur Sahib and an honorary doctorate from Guru Nanak Dev University Amritsar. He further writes: “If there was one person who saved Giani ji from being ostracized by the Sikh community by being declared a tankhaiya by Jathedars, it was Tarlochan Singh”.

“A Profile of Action” records events and appreciations of Tarlochan Singh. It starts with a letter of President George W. Bush, followed by other dignitaries from India and abroad, including Queen of England and President of France. The volume of these documents, both in quality and quantity, defies my imagination. I cannot imagine this represents the action profile of a single individual! Khushwant Singh pays glowing tributes to Tarlochan Singh, in his weekly newspaper column, for his multifarious activities as Chairman Minority Commission. He was instrumental in introducing Harvester Combines in Punjab/India in the capacity of Chairman Markfed. He has some magic touch to transform Corporations running at a loss into profitable enterprises.

Prof. Manjit Singh of Delhi University covers all aspects of Tarlochan Singh’s life and work under his write up “Face to Face with Tarlochan Singh”. The interview ends with Manjit Singh asking for a feeling of satisfaction to which Tarlochan Singh replies: “I feel fully contented. Recently, I was being awarded Padma Bhushan 2021 by the President of India. I have travelled worldwide and received lifetime achievement awards, by many National and International organizations. I am a regular contributor to many newspapers and T.V. Channels”. 

The book concludes with Tarlochan Singh’s “Historic Speech in Parliament”, delivered on 14th Dec. 2009 in Rajya Sabha during his call attention motion on killing of Sikhs in 1984 (Original Speech is in Hindi). A book on his Parliamentary Speeches in English (translated into Punjabi), edited by Prof. Kehar Singh, has been published by Punjabi University, Patiala, which was reviewed by me. During his tenure as MP Rajya Sabha, he was successful in introducing Anand Marriage Act. In 2021, he collected speeches of Hukam Singh, Kapur Singh, Khushwant Singh and his own, delivered in Indian Parliament and I got the privilege of compiling these speeches in the form of a book “Fighting for the Sikh Causes in Indian Parliament”. 

I wish Sardar Tarlochan Singh a long innings of successful public life. His critics blame him that he is doing all his actions for personal glorification. I believe if Tarlochan is fighting for Panthic and Punjab causes, glory will surely kiss his feet. Prabhleen Singh, Editor of this Memorabilia, deserves all praise for bringing so much archival material under one cover. The publication of this book is being sponsored by Sarbat da Bhalla Trust headed by Sardar S.P. Singh Oberoi of Dubai, UAE.

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