Bhai Budh Singh Tyagi
Bhai Budh Singh Tyagi was born in 1884 at Mirpur (now in the Pakistan-controlled area of Kashmir) in a sehajdhari Sikh family. His grandfather Lala Ganesh Das was a treasurer of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He started his career as an employee in the department of Bandobast and later became Tehsildar (tax collector) in 1912. Against his will he was elected as a member of the Praja Sabha from Mirpur and Poonch. He became Deputy Commissioner in 1925, but resigned and joined the freedom struggle. A good orator and a writer, he used to deliver lectures in the gurdwaras, and was made stage secretary (Master of Ceremony) of the Akali Conference held in Srinagar in 1928. He published several pamphlets, viz. Mulazmat ki-Zindagi, Faryad-i-Rayiet, Kisan Ki Dastan, Darde-Dil, Garibon Ke Dukh Ka Ilaj, Meri Karachi Yatra, among others
Bhai Budh Singh was one of the five prominent Sikhs who laid the foundation stone of the new building of Gurdwara Punja Sahib. The others include Bhai Jodh Singh, (Sant) Ranbir Singh and (Sant) Wisakha Singh.
In 1930 he took active part in the freedom movement. It was because of Bhai Budh Singh and Raja Mohamad Akbar Khan of Mirpur that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah changed the entire complexion of the freedom struggle by giving it a national character in 1939, throwing its doors open to Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims alike. Also associated with All Jammu and Kashmir Dogra Sabha he was elected President for three consecutive terms and elected the President of the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference twice in 1942 and 1944. This office was never held by any Sikh before or after Bhai Budh Singh.
His reformist work was his crusade against "begar" (slavery) in Kashmir. Begar was prevalent in Kashmir in those days. The credit for abolition of this goes to the endless efforts of Bhai Budh Singh and his associates. He was a great orator and he exhibited his eloquence and candidness wherever and whenever he spoke. He participated in the freedom struggle and was gaoled several times.
On March 18, 1948 he was appointed Minister for Health and Rehabilitation. In 1952 he was elected to Parliament. He represented Kashmir for 12 years. During these 12 years he delivered 45 speeches. He died in 1974.
To quote Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah: "with his crusading zeal, courage of conviction, radical views, capacity to undergo hardships and fire-brand eloquence, Budh Singh could be described as the father of political change in Jammu and Kashmir. He raised his banner of revolt against the monarchical rule long before any organised party started in the state, with his non-sectarian and cosmopolitan outlook, he also sought to bridge cultural and regional diversities that abound in the State”.