ĪSHAR SIṄGH MAJHAIL (1901-1977), politician and legislator, was born in January 1901, the son of Bhāī Āsā Siṅgh and Māī Basant Kaur, an agriculturist couple of Sarāi Amānat Khān village, in Amritsar district. He was only about two and a half years old when his father went abroad to Indonesia in search of a better living. He died in Indonesia soon after and Īshar Siṅgh was brought up by his widowed mother, a deeply dedicated and religious-minded woman. He completed his high school by fits and starts owing to narrow financial circumstances. He graduated from school in 1922 from Mālvā Khālsā High School, Ludhiāṇā. Since the last school he attended was Mālvā Khālsā High School and since he was one of the fewest students at that school coming from the Mājhā districts of Amritsar and Lahore, he started using the surname 'Majhail', of or from Mājhā, which stuck to him for the rest of his life. He had grown up into a handsome young man, though somewhat frail, but fair complexioned and erect with a sharp aquiline nose.
As soon as he had finished school, Īshar Siṅgh received offer of appointment as a teacher at Kokarī Kalāṅ, then in Fīrozpur district, but he declined it and joined instead the Akālī movement for the reformation of Gurdwārā management. For participating in the Gurū kā Bāgh campaign (1922), he was sentenced to six months in jail. Īshar Siṅgh Majhail also participated in the Jaito morchā or campaign (1923) in which he was arrested and sentenced to a two-year term. In 1927, he accompanied Bābā Vasākhā Siṅgh to Burma on a fund-collection drive on behalf of the Desh Bhagat Parivār Sahāik Committee.
In October 1927, Shahīd Sikh Missionary College was set up by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee to train Sikh preachers. Īshar Siṅgh Majhail joined the college and completed the two-year course it offered. But he was soon drawn into the political maelstrom. His principal guide, his alter ego, at that time was Jathedār Ūdham Siṅgh Nāgoke. He took part in the farmers' agitation of 1930 and suffered imprisonment for six months. The term was subsequently extended by another year for having in his possession a newspaper while in jail. In 1936 he participated in Gurdwārā Shahīd Gañj (Lahore) morchā.
In 1937, there was acute tension between the Sikhs on the one hand and Muslims on the other. The point at issue was what was called jhaṭkā. Jhaṭkā in Punjabi means a sudden jerk or blow. Among Sikhs the word jhaṭkā is used to designate animal flesh for which a bird or animal has been killed with a single blow of the sword or axe. The single-blow killing was the Sikh way of killing an animal or fowl for food over against the Muslim way of slow killing with the pronouncement of the Muslim religious formula with it. Followers of both faiths had quite frequently fought between themselves over these two styles of killing the animals. An Akālī procession supporting jhaṭkā at Jaṇḍiālā Sher Khān, in Sheikhūpurā district, was attacked by a Muslim mob. Two Sikhs were wounded and carried away by the mob. Īshar Siṅgh Majhail and Jathedār Mohan Siṅgh Nāgoke came out with drawn swords and drove away the mob rescuing the wounded Sikhs.
When Sikh National College was set up in Lahore in 1938, Īshar Siṅgh Majhail was appointed secretary of its managing committee. During 1940-41 he was president of the managing committee of Srī Darbār Sāhib, Amritsar. He was one of the group within the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal which opposed the Dal's policy of assisting the British war effort during the 1939-45 war. He on the other hand took part in the Quit India movement launched by the Indian National Congress in 1942 and was detained under Defence of India Rules. In February 1946, he was elected a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly. After the partition of the country in 1947, he was given a berth in the Congress ministry formed by Gopī Chand Bhārgava. He was re-elected to the state legislative assembly in the general elections held under the new constitution in 1952 and was again appointed a member of the cabinet. In the fifties Īshar Siṅgh Majhail lost interest in active politics and devoted himself to the development of his agricultural farm, in the village of Arno, in Paṭiālā district. His health was also declining and he died on 20 April 1977 at Chaṇḍīgaṛh.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)