SEVĀ SIṄGH ṬHĪKRĪVĀLĀ (1882-1935), one of the founders of the Prajā Maṇḍal, a platform for ventilating the grievances of and for an open expression of the political opinion of the inhabitants of territories, mainly in the Punjab, ruled by Indian princes during British times, was born at Ṭhīkrīvālā, a village now in the Saṅgrūr district of the Punjab, on 24 August 1882. His father, Devā Siṅgh, was employed at the court of Mahārājā Rājinder Siṅgh, ruler of Paṭiālā state. Sevā Siṅgh had his schooling in Paṭiālā where he learnt Urdu, Persian, Punjabi and some English. In keeping with the family custom, he joined the personal staff of Mahārājā Rājinder Siṅgh of Paṭiālā as an aide-de-camp, but soon retired to private life in his native village to devote himself to social work. Amelioration of the conditions of rural tenants was his principal concern. As one committed to the Siṅgh Sabhā reform, he administered pāhul to a large number of young men, opened Gurmukhī classes in the village gurdwārā and worked zealously for popularizing the Anand form of marriage among the Sikhs. Defying the state embargo on political activity, he joined the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal founded in Amritsar in December 1920, and became its vice-president. For supporting the morchā or agitation of the Akālī activists at Jaito, he was arrested in October 1923, sent to Lahore Fort and detained there along with other Akālī leaders. He was released in November 1926, but was soon rearrested by Paṭiālā police. The Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal protested against his detention and decided (23 July 1929) to start an agitation to secure his release. Akālī leader Bābā Khaṛak Siṅgh addressed a series of meetings in the states of Paṭiālā, Nābhā and Jīnd, proclaiming that they would work together against the suppression of any political agitation within their borders.
In jail, Sevā Siṅgh started a fast in June 1929 which, he declared, would only cease with his death. A deputation of Sikhs representing moderate political opinion presented a memorial to the Mahārājā of Paṭiālā at Kaṇḍāghāṭ, in the Simlā hills, on 23 August 1929 seeking his release. Sevā Siṅgh was let off, but was taken into custody again on 2 November 1930 for his continued association with the Prajā Maṇḍal, and was sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years and a fine of Rs 10,000. The sentence was reduced and he was released on 12 March 1931, only to be re-arrested from his house in Ṭhīkrīvālā on 24 August 1933. In the court, Sevā Siṅgh refused to defend himself and dissociated himself from the trial proceedings. Protesting against the ill-treatment he suffered in Paṭiālā jail, he went on a hunger strike on 18 April 1934. Forcible feeding was tried, but he died in the early hours of 20 January 1935. Intrigue and foul play were suspected and the Prajā Maṇḍal demanded an open inquiry into the cause of his death. The state authorities kept the ashes under police guard in Gurdwārā Nihaṅgāṅ dī Baghīchī in Paṭiālā till 1938, when Mahārājā Bhūpinder Siṅgh's successor, Mahārājā Yādavinder Siṅgh, allowed these to be taken to Ṭhīkrīvālā, with full military honours. On his death anniversary which is observed on January 20, Sevā Siṅgh receives the honours of a martyr from the vast numbers of people who throng Ṭhīkrīvālā on the occasion.