Chattur Singh

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Chandersen Chattur Singh
Member of Legislative Council (Fiji)
North Western Indian Division
In office
1937–1940
Preceded by Muniswamy Mudaliar
Succeeded by B. D. Lakshman
Personal details
Born Ba, Fiji
Profession Law Clerk, Landlord
Religion Hindu (Arya Samaj)

Chandersen Chattur Singh caused a major sensation in early Fiji Indian politics, when against all odds he defeated A. D. Patel, a well known lawyer and political ally of Vishnu Deo, in the 1937 Legislative Council Election.

Early Political Activities[edit]

Chattur Singh was one of the first Fiji-born Indians to take an active interest in politics. He opposed the Residential Tax Legislation (poll tax) of 1922, which imposed an annual tax of one pound on all Fiji residents between the ages of 18 and 60, by refusing to pay the tax. The court ordering his bicycle to be sold to pay for the tax.[1] In the early twenties he formed the Young Men’s Indian Association of Lautoka, which in 1926 asked for an Indian member to be nominated again to the Legislative Council and Badri Maharaj was re-nominated. Chattur Singh had been an early supporter of common roll and on a visit overseas in 1929, put the case for Fiji Indians to H.S.L. Polak, the Secretary for the Indians Overseas Association. In 1931, he appealed to Jawaharlal Nehru for help for the Fiji Indians in their fight for common roll.

The 1937 Election[edit]

In the 1937 election, Chattur Singh decided to contest the North Western Indian Division[2] against A.D. Patel. Singh was a law clerk (for Lautoka lawyer, Douglas Charmers) while Patel was an accomplished lawyer and had the support of Vishnu Deo. Chattur Singh used an ingenious technique to fight the election. He used the Fiji Indian’s dislike of Gujarati traders and money lenders, and the fact that A.D. Patel was an India-born Gujarati, to turn the election to one between Fiji-born and India-born. Together with Ayodhya Prasad and other young men he organised a secret organisation called the New Youth Army. Chattur Singh won the election by 671 votes to Patel’s 651 with 66 votes being invalid.

Political Decline[edit]

Later in 1937, when the Kisan Sangh was formed, its members were mainly those who had supported Chattur Singh in the election campaign. Aware of the power of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, Chattur Singh soon distanced himself from the Kisan Sangh. He claimed to represent the mill workers and farmers in their struggle for better remuneration, but without a political base, did not have enough support to contest the next election in 1940. During the Second World War, he supported the war effort and had his son enlisted in the army. In the 1947 Legislative Council, Chattur Singh challenged the incumbent, A.D. Patel, and lost by 1972 votes to 1106. He attempted another comeback in 1956, losing to Ayodhya Prasad in a five-way race.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sharma, Guru Dayal (1987). Memories of Fiji: 1887 - 1987. Guru Dayal Sharma, Suva, Fiji. pp. 85–86. 
  2. ^ "Fiji Elections Archive: Elections for the Legislative Council, North Western Division 1929 - 1959". Archived from the original on 2009-10-24.