S Sohan Singh
Walking from Bakshi Nagar, Jammu to Gandhi Nagar, Jammu and back a distance of 12 km was often seen a tall old man, S Sohan Singh (Retd Chief Conservator of Forests). A straight walking man, without any support or the bend of an old person, S Sohan Singh was 82, seen moving on foot always with a mission to collect information and life experiences of others while sharing with them his own experiences of life. He left this mortal world suddenly without any illness after the morning walk on 17th January, 2007 at his Bakshi Nagar residence. He was a luminary, a scholar, a great thinker and an author of many books, who worked round the clock with a zeal to bring about reforms in the society.
He was a shining example of honesty, simplicity and saintly character. He was unlike the persons of his status having big mansions, with luxurious life, moving in cars and spending time in gossip and clubs, etc. S Sohan Singh often attracted attention of the people who knew about him and could not help admiring the simple and purposeful life of S Sohan Singh.
He occupied a very high position as Chief Conservator of Forests, he was scrupulously honest and no temptation could change his path of life. Once he had to draw his GP Fund for the marriage of his daughter, a surprise for his Minister and others around him. An IFS Officer, he was a Master of his profession and the Forest Department benefitted highly under his able guidance. He was, infact, a real asset for the department.
Once his Minister asked him about the number of officials who were placed under suspension, being absent or late on duty or for their poor performance working under him. S Sohan Singh replied, that he had not placed anyone under suspension in his service career. This reply surprised the Minister who again asked S Sohan Singh if he found everyone under him so punctual or efficient. S Sohan Singh replied that if anyone was absent or inefficient, he considered it as his own fault for not giving proper training or guidance to him. He always believed in correcting the people rather than punishing them. This reply was quoted by his Minister in number of conferences as an example of a great thinker and a saint.
S Sohan Singh was tirelessly collecting eye witness accounts and experiences of the victims of the refugees of 1947 from the Pakistan occupied Area of Jammu and Kashmir State.
A scholarly person, who had extensively read about religious and life stories of great people had actually modeled his own life accordingly. He had clear conception about social, cultural and religious matters besides his own technical profession concerning environment. He was simple, humble, yet strong in his convictions and ways of his life. He wanted to write articles and stories from the life of Mahatma Budh Singh. He told everyone that we are in advancing age and that this body was a feed for only 10 mds of wood with which we will be cremated. Why not therefore we make best use of it by writing about our experiences and views of life for the benefit of others. he never corrected what he wrote. Once you grasp the subject, the words will follow, he said. About the rewards and titles often conferred on people, he said that only mad persons confer these awards on others and recipients were shameless people ‘‘Kulah Dende Bawle Lehnde Bout Nilaj’’ i.e in old days, people wielding powers, would confer their conical caps on those with whom they were pleased and those receiving them were shameless people while those giving them, were mad persons.
S. Sohan Singh was very critical about the discriminatory attitude of the Central and State Governments towards Refugees of 1947. About four days prior to his death, he met me and exchanged views on many matters about the publication of articles and the role of Refugee Organisations. He also wanted radical reforms in our society, religious matters, customs, etc., which consumed the public.
S. Sohan Singh was a great saint. An illustrious and rare son of the soil whose presence was a source of light and guidance for his friends, society and professions. The void created by his absence is too difficult to fill. With the passage of time, people will realize the greatness of this man by reading his articles and learning about his practical life. He has left an indelible mark on the sands of time.
To preserve the heritage of his writings and thoughts should be our primary duty including that of his illustrious children.