SHER SIṄGH, Giānī (1890-1944), political leader, orator and newspaper editor, was born the son of Varyām Siṅgh and Nand Kaur at the village of Ṭhīkrīvālā, now in Saṅgrūr district of the Punjab, in January 1890. An attack of smallpox when he was barely two years old left him totally blind. Yet he educated himself, first receiving instruction at the hands of two Sikh schoolmen, Sant Javālā Dās and Sant Bholā Siṅgh, and then attending for nearly five years an institute for the blind children at Daudhar. He gained good command of Sikh theology and scriptures and came to be known as a Giānī. Early in his life he took to preaching. The first centre he chose was Peshāwar where he reained from 1911 to 1915, thereafter shifting to Rāwalpiṇḍī, his host in that town being Nānak Siṅgh, then a rising poet, who later became famous as a Punjabi novelist. From Rāwalpiṇḍī, Giānī Sher Siṅgh started a series of Punjabi tracts and books, Gurmat Parchār Laṛī, to which he contributed the lives of Gurū Hargobind, Gurū Har Rāi, Gurū Har Krishan and Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. The Nitnem Saṭīk, Gurū Sāhib te Ved, Gurū Granth te Panth and Rāgmālā Darpaṇ are some of his other better-known works.
Transferring himself to Amritsar, he edited successively the Pardesī Khālsā, the daily Qaumī Dard, Aslī Qaumī Dard, the Sikh Sevak and the Khālsā Sevak. His last newspaper was the weekly Punjab which he launched in 1938, after severing connection with the Khālsā Sevak. As a newspaper editor, Giānī Sher Siṅgh enjoyed great influence. His editorials were marked by forthrightness, a flair for polemics and argument and remarkable political acumen, and he was known for his strong advocacy of Sikh rights and interests. Besides his journalism, Giānī Sher Siṅgh also took active part in politics. He made powerful speeches from the Congress platform and was taken into custody for one of these and confined in jail from 23 June 1922 to 30 June 1923.
He was again arrested in October 1923 when the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee of which he was a member was declared to be an unlawful organization. He was released from Lahore Fort towards the end of January 1926 along with 19 other Akālī leaders who agreed to give an undertaking to work by the newly passed Sikh Gurdwārās Act. The other section of the Akālīs, led by Tejā Siṅgh Samundrī and Master Tārā Siṅgh, refused to give any such undertaking and continued in confinement. This was the beginning of a schism in the Akālī ranks which resulted in the formation of two separate parties -- Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal and the Central Akālī Dal Giānī Sher Siṅgh was a leading figure in the latter. Giānī Sher Siṅgh served another term in jail from 16 November 1931 to 17 May 1932 for participation in the Akālī morchā at Ḍaskā.
In the first elections held under the Sikh Gurdwārā Act in the summer of 1926, Giānī Sher Siṅgh was elected unopposed to the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee. In the committee his role was that of the leader of the opposition who for many a long year gave the ruling party led by Master Tārā Siṅgh a stubborn fight. Giānī Sher Siṅgh, who was vice-president of the Central Sikh League, represented the Sikhs in All-India forums such as the All-Parties Conference held at Lucknow in August 1928 and the Unity Conference convened by Madan Mohan Mālavīya and Shaukat 'Alī at Allāhābād in November 1932. In the elections to the provincial assemblies held in the winter of 1936-37 under the Government of India Act of 1935, Giānī Sher Siṅgh lent powerful support to the Khālsā National Party sponsored by Sir Sundar Siṅgh Majīṭhīā and Sir Jogendra Siṅgh and played a crucial role in bridging the gap between the elitist group and the masses. The Khālsā National Party won more than half of the Sikh seats against the Akālī--Congress alliance and its representative Sundar Siṅgh Majīṭhīā joined the ministry formed by Muslim dominated Unionist Party. The wrangling between Master Tārā Siṅgh's Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal and Giānī Sher Siṅgh's Central Akālī Dal continued until the two leaders decided to bury the hatchet, formally arriving at a compromise on 15 November 1941. Together they campaigned for Āzād Punjab, a formula for readjusting the boundaries of the Punjab aiming at subtracting the Hindu-Sikh majority areas from the Muslim League's scheme of Pakistan.
Giānī Sher Siṅgh died on 7 October 1944 in the Civil Hospital at Amritsar where he had been under treatment for a tumour in the brain.