boparai kalan
Dr. Harbhajan Singh Deol
Dr. Harbhajan Singh Deol with Giani Zail Singh
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HARBHAJAN SINGH DEOL is too much of an intellectual to be in politics though he dabbles in it from the periphery. Born in a politically conscious family of social activists of Ludhiana district, he went to England in 1965 where he worked in a factory while doing research in a university. He came back in 1972 and became a college teacher. In the late seventies of last century he was appointed an administrative member of the Punjab State Electricity Board followed by a stint in the Punjab Public Service Commission as a Member from where he resigned in the wake of Operation Bluestar in 1984.

Subsequently he joined Punjabi University,Patiala, as a Reader in the department of public administration. Soon after he was appointed Professor and chairman of the National Integration Chair set up by the university from where he was picked up by the central government to be the Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities from where he recently retired. He has produced some theoretical monographs in English like ‘‘Trade Unionism: An introduction’’, ‘‘Approaches to National Integration’’, ‘‘South Asian Spectrum’’ and "Socio-Religious Pluralism: An Identity Crisis’’.


Dr. Harbhajan Singh Deol saw the light of the day on 27th April 1936 in the north of India in the Punjabi village of Boparai Kalan (Ludhiana). It was a period of great socio political turbulence when the masses were facing tragic waves of war, blood and violence. Deol inherited the gospel of love, truth, freedom and struggle from his illustratious father, Principal Iqbal Singh, and was exposed to diverse linguistic, social, political and cultural influences in the course of his life.

He did his masters at Punjab University, Hoshiarpur and also did his post graduate studies at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Birmingham, U.K.  Thus equipped with a critical and keen outlook to analyze the social and cultural lives of people on a global level, Harbhajan Singh Deol has remained a keen observer and an active participant in the Trade Union movement both in England and India and is greatly respected for his trade Union activities.

He was elected  the President of Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union, Member of the Punjab Public service Commission and Administrative Member of the Punjab State Electricity Board prior to his joining the faculty of Punjabi University, Patiala as a Reader in the Department of Public Administration and was later selected as Professor and Head National Integration Chair at Punjabi University, Patiala.  He was appointed the Commissioner of Linguistic Minorities in India (with its  headquarters at Allahabad)  where he submitted three reports on the language problems of India through the President which were presented in both houses of the Indian parliament.

Harbhajan Singh Deol’s published works include Trade Unionism - An Introduction, Approaches to National Integration, Beaurocracy in Marxist Theory, Racism in Britain and many other works in English and Punjabi.

The Tribune January 2009: The intelligentsia can play a crucial role to cleanse the country’s political system, stinking due to criminal elements in it, provided it follows progressive writers who played a major role in liberating the country from the colonial rule, says Dr Harbhajan Singh Deol, scholar and former Commissiner, Linguisitic Minorities of India.

Recalling the role of progressive Urdu poets in the country’s freedom and social change, Deol says academic prowess and intellectual power of young progressive writers like Mulk Raj Anand, Sajjad Zaheer, Jyoti Ghosh and Promed Sen Gupta created in them an urge for liberating India from British imperialism, feudalism and cultural primitiveness in the 1930s.

“If writers in the 1930s can help through pen and thoughts to change the destiny of the country, the same role can be played by writers today and other streams of intelligentsia to weed out ‘operator’ type of politicians and their supporters from the Indian political system,” says Deol, who has authored “The Romance that Stayed” on progressive Urdu poets whose writings inspired millions to liberate the country from British rulers. The role of such writers has not been recognised by politicians ruling the country since 1946.

“In my book I have given an account of the contribution of Firaq, Josh Malihabadi, Asrar-ul Haq Majaz, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ali Sardar Jafri, Jan Nissar Akhtar, Kaifi Azmi and Sahir Ludhianvi, who through the poetic medium nurtured a movement giving fillip to the ideas of liberation from the foreign rule. Poetry and rhetoric when fused becomes a social fact and a social movement is born,” says Deol. “Present-day intelligentsia and writers can make this happen now,” he asserts.

The ground is fertile to bring about a change in the Indian social and political reality that is dominated by elements with a shady past and present.

Voices being raised here and there against such elements are capturing the popular imagination, but there is no collective effort by progressive intelligentsia, especially writers, to make it a movement for a change, he says.

“Artists and poets are the uncrowned legislators of the world,” he says adding that unfortunately the Indian social democracy succeeded in confining the radical poets to decorative titles, prizes, honours and the masses remain as desperate as ever.