Freedom fighter Makhan Singh, whose birth centenary falls on Friday (December 27), spent 17 years in jail for Indian and African independence. However, he has remained forgotten by successive governments as well as Leftists all these years.
Makhan Singh (1913-1973) is known as the founder of trade unionism in Kenya.
Celebrated Punjabi playwright Atamjit, who wrote a play on Makhan's life a couple of years ago, calls him a true hero. "His selflessness, dedication, sacrifice, universal brotherhood and nonviolent approach is a valuable model in today's world of so-called globalisation. He was a true torchbearer of peace, brotherhood, justice and freedom," said Atamjit.
The playwright said he hadn't heard Makhan's name before 2005, when he got a chance to visit Ethiopia and Kenya as part of the visit of a delegation of college principals, organised by Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.
"It is so amazing that a person spent 16 years of his life behind bars for a country (Kenya) that was not his place of birth," said Atamjit.
London-based poet Amarjit Chandan, who knew Makhan as he was his father's close friend, slammed the Punjab government for not remembering freedom fighters and architects of modern Punjab.
"Punjab's kabaddi-loving politicians didn't bother to remember great Punjabis such as Bhai Kahn Singh of Nabha, the lexicographer; martyrs of the Panja Sahib saka (90th anniversary); the Ghadar movement; and now Makhan Singh's birth centenary. Centenaries of two builders of post-1947 Punjab MS Randhawa and Partap Singh Kairon were totally ignored," he said.
Makhan Singh was born in Gujranwala district. At the age of 13, he moved to Kenya. In the mid-1930s, he formed the Labour Trade Union of Kenya. He was detained in a desert prison camp in northern Kenya in the 1950s by the British colonial rulers.