Patriots > Early Nationalist and Moderates > Satya Pal ( Dr.)
Satya Pal ( Dr.) (1884-1954)

Dr. Satya Pal was born at Wazirabad (West Pakistan) in 1885 in a middle-class Khatri family. His father, Lala Mani Ram, was employed under the Government. After graduation from the Forman Christian College, Satya Pal passed the M.B.B.S examination from the Medical College, Lahore, in 1908, standing first among the successful candidates from the Punjab University. His wife, Gian Dev, was a sister of Lala Ganda Ram Bhandari, an advocate of Amritsar. Satya Pal had two daughters but no son. He was simple and temperate in habits.

Owing to his strong patriotic leanings Satya Pal took an active part in public life from his early career. He was influenced by the political ferment caused by the new awaking and the agrarian unrest in the opening decade of the 20th century in the Punjab. Enthusiastically he joined the anti-Rowlatt Act agitation as one of the prominent political leaders of Amritsar. He became the spearhead of the nationalist movement against British repression along with Dr. kitchlew and symbolized Hindu-Muslim unity. He organized a band of Hindu Muslim workers in Amritsar, and actively participated in the Liberation struggle under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

In view of the key role played by him in the patriotic upsurge at Amritsar immediately before the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy (1919) he was arrested and taken to Dharamshala. He came into close contact with the notable political leaders of the Punjab as well as outside. The period of his greatest contribution to nationalism in the Punjab was during the Gandhian epoch, 1919-47. He continued to hold an exalted position in the political life of the Punjab except for the period of World War II (1939-45) when he joined the armed forces as a doctor in the I.M.S.

As a powerful speaker and a great organizer, he worked for Hindu Muslim unity with unprecedented fervour and, with the help of enthusiastic co-workers like Dr. Kitchlew, Mahashe Rattan Chand, Chaudhari Bagga Mal and others, put Amritsar in the forefront of the new political campaign. The historic Congress Session held at Amritsar in 1919 and attended by topmost political leaders of the country owed much of its success to the untiring

efforts of Dr. Satys Pal. In his own words: “Almost to a man the people spared neither money nor energy to make the Session a success.”

In his political views he was a progressive nationalist who believed in peaceful and constitutional methods for the liberation of the motherland since he had himself served the British in World War II as a doctor. He declared: “I was never a rebel, but to revolt for righteousness is out religion and duty.” He raised his voice against British repression and oppression during the Marital Law regime at Amritsar.

Though his activities were confined to the Punjab, he was not motivated by regionalism and possessed an all-India outlook on the problems of the country. Initially, he was in favour of Dominion Status for India because it was not expected to involve bitterness or bloodshed. But subsequently he favoured complete independence under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.

He contributed to the contemporary press on political subjects. For some time he published an Urdu newspaper, entitled the Congress, from Lahore. He was popular among all sections, and enjoyed considerable following in the Punjab. He was the co-author of ‘Sixty years of Congress’ with Prabodh Chandra.

He believed in social reform, shunned religious dogma and was tolerant towards other religions. He was a great protagonist of Hindu-Muslim Unity.

He sympathized with the political sufferers and the victims of the Marital Law. He rendered them free medical aid. He arranged the marriage of the daughter of Mahashe Rattan Chand, a hero of the anti-Rowlatt Act agitation, while the latter was deported to the Andamans in 1926. Satya Pal suffered repeated imprisonments in the struggle for freedom of the country.

He was recognized as a prominent Congress leader in the Punjab, held positions of responsibility in the organization and as the Speaker of the Punjab Legislative Assembly, took an active part in the political life of the State until his death in 1954.

Author : V. S. Suri