SĀDHŪ SIṄGH HAMDARD (1918-1984), double-barrelled journalist, excelling in both Urdu and Punjabi and an innovative poet, who carried in his name the pseudonym "Hamdard", "sharing with all the pangs of their hearts," "friendly towards all," was born in 1918 in a peasant family of moderate means living at the village of Paddī Maṭvālī, near Baṅgā, in Jalandhar district of the Punjab. He was attracted by the revolutionary activity which was then stirring the hearts of the youth in his neighbourhood. As a high school student, he was active in Chaudhrī Sher Jaṅg's group of the radicals in the Yug Palṭāū Dal, party to impart a radical turn to the age. The Dal was formed in 1939-40 by Giānī Harbaṅs Siṅgh of Sarhālā Khurd in Hoshiārpur district. The Dal ceased to exist after the arrest and execution of its founder. Sādhū Siṅgh then joined the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee taking over its publicity wing.
In 1944, Sādhū Siṅgh entered the field of journalism. He took up editorship of the Daily Ajīt (Urdu) and retained this position until 1957. In 1955, he also became chief editor of the Punjabi Ajīt The birth of the Ajīt was an entirely new phenomenon in Punjabi journalism. It marked a new era of change and experimentation. In Sādhū Siṅgh's hands, Punjabi journalism matured and reached new heights. The Ajīt and Sādhū Siṅgh Hamdard became synonymous terms, he had so lovingly nursed the paper. Sādhū Siṅgh set its permanent seal on Punjabi journalism. He created a new taste in Punjabi writing aid introduced several new techniques. His services to Punjabi journalism, to what he did to give it a new face and format, were widely acknowledged. In 1963, the Punjab Government honoured him with the title of Shiromaṇī Pattarkār (the journalist of the year). He was chairman of the reception committee of All India Newspapers Editors Conference held at Jalandhar in 1973. He also edited two monthly magazines Tasvīr and Drishṭī.
Within his lifetime, Sādhū Siṅgh converted all his property and assets into a public trust for the advancement of Punjabi culture and letters.
As a poet Sādhū Siṅgh Hamdard will be especially remembered for popularizing the ghazal form in Punjabi. His collection of Punajbi poems in this genre, entitled Ghazal, won him a first prize from the Punjab Government in 1963. An anthology of his prose writings assembled under the title Akkhīṅ Ḍiṭhā Rūs, a travelogue on his visit to Soviet Russia in 1967, also won the Punjab Government award in 1972-73. He also wrote some novels built around heroic episodes from Sikh history as well as some short stories. Gurū Nānak Dev University, Amritsar, awarded him the Ph.D. degree for his thesis on "Origin and Development of the Punjabi Ghazal." He was a fellow of that University and a member of its Syndicate. He was also a member of the Advisory Committee of the Languages Department and Press Advisory Committee of the Punjab Government, and of the Indian Academy of Letters (1973-1978). He was also president of the Kendrī Punjabi Lekhak Sabhā during 1972-79 and founder president of Bazm-ī-Adab (Urdu).
Dr Sādhū Siṅgh Hamdard was also awarded the title of Padma Shrī by the Central Government in January 1984, but he surrendered the honour in protest against the army action in the precincts of Golden Temple, Amritsar, in June 1984.
Sādhu Siṅgh Hamdard died at Jalandhar on 29 July 1984.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)