Rarely has a scholar devoted a Quarter Century – in the Service of Humanity after a distinguished career as an Army Officer. Capt. Bhag Singh was the Veteran of World War II (1939-45), wherein he earned an MBE for his chivalry and distinguished service! The Sikh Review has been fortunate, over the years since its inception in 1953, to have the guidance and support of a galaxy of several dedicated Sikh scholars who generously contributed to the Journal in terms of talent, time and funds. Captain Bhag, MBE a World War II veteran, Founder Editor of the Sikh Review has served the journal almost as long as he served India's Armed Forces, both with rare distinction!
When a bright youth - who barely scrapes through the Matriculation examination - joined the British Indian Army in the Ranks, few knew of Bhag Singh's hidden talents. He rose to the Rank of Captain in the elite British Indian Army and saw action in the African Front – for his GALLANTRY he was awarded MBE.
On retirement after World War II he took up residence in Calcutta and initiate the proposal to establish a Sikh Study Group, as also a Monthly Journal, in English, for educating the non-Punjabi knowing Sikhs with regard to the matchless Moral and Spiritual values of Sikhism, spreading its message in India and across the world. He became the King-Pin of the Monthly Journal for the next Thirty-Two Years (something unparalleled in the history of journalism).
While based in Calcutta, he was instrumental in forming Managing Board for Historical Sikh Shrines in what was then East Pakistan. He eventually succeeded in wresting a string of abandoned historical Sikh Gurdwaras in Bangladesh. A grudging, even hostile administration for what became Bangladesh. Displaying a rare courage and devotion he led a delegation of Sikhs to Dhaka to contact the President Sheikh Mujib-Ur-Rahman and officials, in order to reclaim the Historical Sikh Shrines in that Country associated with Guru Nanak and Guru Teg Bahadur Ji.
He had, during his stay in Calcutta, so completely identified himself with the local people and cultural institutions that he earned high esteem for the Sikh Religion and Culture. The Ramakrishna Mission, and other Institutions, extended to him great courtesy and admiration. He was nominated to head a delegation of Bengalis to tour Assam after the anti-Bengali violence, and talk to the Central Government on their behalf, by the West Bengal Human Right Association.
He had gone around propagating the idea of the projected Sikh Journal in English, soliciting support among the disparate Sikh academic fraternity. The response had ranged from daunting warnings, as to the unmanageable dimensions of the task, to the pledges of help with contributions. It did not take the Sikh Review long to achieve the miracle of publication – in the English Language, creating interest of most academic heavy weights. The goodwill of the academic fraternity was a significant and vital part of what the Sikh Review needed.
A more problematic issue was the finances, the editorial and administrative frame-work. While the former were provided by a dedicated team of the Founding Members of the Sikh Cultural Centre, the Mother organization, and well-endowed well-wishers, a remarkable Editorial cum-Administrative setup sprang up round the face of the person of Marguerite Allan, the distinguished American journalist – and wife of ace civil aviator, A S Randhawa, a nephew of Dr. M S Randhawa, ICS, the famous scientist administrator, author and connoisseur of Art. Capt. Bhag Singh's residence and Sardarni Kuldip Harbans Singh’s Chowinghee Road Flat became the 'Working Office'!
Running of the Sikh Review has not been an easy job. The catalogue of the chores connected with the production of a monthly magazine, particularly when it is run entirely by voluntary effort, is mind boggling! These included securing and sifting material for printing, Editing and arranging it, tackling printers and reading proof copy, ensuring the dispatch of every Monthly issue when it is ready, and – last, but not the least - soliciting advertisements for making up the deficit between the cost of production and the rather modest value realized by way of subscriptions.
In the post 1984: Bluestar years, when the Sikh Review, true to its tradition, became the voice of deep Sikh anguish, the entire organization, including the undaunted Army Capt. Bhag Singh, were shadowed by government secret service men with suspicion. Indeed Capt. Bhag Singh's Passport was confiscated; it had to be recovered by herculean effort – much later.
These are just a few of Capt. Bhag Singh's numerous achievements. They are illustrative of the elements of greatness - without which no achievement is possible! For want of space, a whole array of the official, Panthic and personal activity – has been left untouched.