K. B. Singh

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Kunwar Bachint Singh
Member of legistrative assembly
Preceded by Vishnu Deo
Succeeded by Vishnu Deo
Nominated Indian Member
In office
1937–1947
Member of Executive Council (Fiji)
In office
1946–1947
Succeeded by A.D. Patel
Personal details
Born India
Religion Hindu (Arya Samaj)

Kunwar Bachint Singh OBE[1] arrived in Fiji in 1927 as a teacher for the Arya Samaj in Fiji but his association with Vishnu Deo led him to play an active role in aggressively promoting the Arya Samaj and finally into politics. He was elected into the Legislative Council as a protégé of Vishnu Deo but after the election took an independent stance opposed to the wishes of the majority of the Fiji Indians. He supported nominated instead of elected representation, actively supported the war effort and even attempted to set up a farmers union opposed to a number of existing unions. The Government rewarded him for his loyalty by nominating him into the Legislative Council thrice, appointing him as a Justice of Peace and as a member of the Executive Council.

Early life[edit]

Singh was born in Jalandhar, Punjab, India. He migrated to Singapore then came to Fiji in 1927 as a teacher and taught at Viti School near Nausori.[2] He worked hand-in-hand with Vishnu Deo, in June 1930, to establish the Fiji Indian Labour Union to represent unemployed Punjabi immigrants.

Election to Legislative Council[edit]

In 1932, when Vishnu Deo needed a candidate to oppose a rebel candidate who had nominated for a seat in the Legislative Council against the call for boycott from Vishnu Deo and other leaders, K. B. Singh was an obvious choice. He was regarded as a loyal supporter of Vishnu Deo and common roll. K.B.Singh defeated his opponent for the Southern Indian Division,[3] capturing 79 percent of the formal votes cast. On 14 October 1932, under the guidance of Vishnu Deo, K.B. Singh put forward a motion for common roll. The Governor convinced him that his fears were unfounded and asked him to withdraw the motion so that he could discuss it with the Secretary of State. Contrary to Vishnu Deo’s advice, he withdrew the motion. In February 1933, the Secretary of State informed the Legislative Council that it was impracticable to have common roll. K.B. Singh resigned and was re-elected with Vishnu Deo’s support (with an increased majority of 94% over the same rival). He took his seat in the Legislative Council, contrary to Vishnu Deo’s instructions and evaded the common roll issue. He was denounced in public meetings organised by Vishnu Deo and his associates but was rewarded by the Government by being made Justice of Peace. On 23 March 1934, he introduced another motion for common roll which was defeated but its consequence was that new motion could not be introduced immediately after next election.

Supporter of Nomination System[edit]

Fully aware that he would not be able to retain his seat in the next election, K.B. Singh accepted the Governor’s advice and moved a motion calling for members of the Legislative Council to be nominated and not elected. The motion was passed but the Colonial Office implemented a compromise, combining election and nomination. The Legislative Council was increased to 31, made up of 15 unofficial members, made up of 5 members from each ethnic group, and 16 official members. All the Fijian seats were to be nominated by the Great Council of Chiefs, but three each of the Indian and European seats were to be elected on communal franchise and the remaining two filled through nomination. Following the 1937 election, he was nominated into the Legislative Council by the Governor.

Supporter of Native Land Trust Board[edit]

In 1940, K.B. Singh supported the Native Land Trust Bill, which gave control of native land to the Native Land Trust Board. In the 1943 debate in the Legislative Council, on the sugar cane dispute, he condemned the rivalry among Indian leaders when B. D. Lakshman asked for a Royal Commission and Vishnu Deo for a Court of Arbitration. He said that,” when elephants fight the grass is trampled”, pointing out that rivalry among Fiji Indian leaders only harmed the humble farmer.

Support for Fiji's war effort[edit]

In May 1943, K.B. Singh was commissioned as an officer to raise recruits for the Fiji Labour Corps to support the military effort. With stiff opposition from Vishnu Deo, only 300 Indians joined the military service. In 1944, he proposed the raising of a unit of Fiji Indians to serve in the Indian Army but this was rejected by the British Government.

Later years[edit]

In 1946 K.B.Singh was appointed to Executive Council. During the same year, he also attempted to establish a new union known as the Southern Division Farmers Union. There was widespread opposition to this until Vishnu Deo took over its leadership. He remained in the Legislative Council as a nominated member until 1947.

K.B. Singh made numerous attempts to get back into the Legislative Council as an elected member, but without success. In the 1963 election, he was defeated by Andrew Deoki for the Southern Indian seat. In the 1966 election, he was defeated by K.C.Ramrakha of the Federation Party for the Tailevu Rewa Indian Communal seat.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Committee to advise on closure of Nausori Mill". Fiji Times. 3 February 1958. 
  2. ^ Sharma, Guru Dayal (1987). Memories of Fiji: 1887 - 1987. Guru Dayal Sharma, Suva, Fiji. p. 99. 
  3. ^ "Fiji Elections Archive: Elections for the Legislative Council, Southern Division 1929 - 1959". Archived from the original on 2009-10-25.