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Story of our first Olympic captain Jaipal Singh (7/17/2012)
--K. Arumugam
Story of India’s first Olympic hockey captain Pramod Pahan (later Jaipal Singh).
The ‘Oxford Blue’ rebel lost his Degree as leave refused for the Amsterdam Olympics


Lost the prestigious ICS degree because of Hockey
Fought against prejudices within the 1928 Indian team and paid for it.
Shunted out of a Princes Colleges Principal post as he was not a ‘White’.
Not selected for second Olympics, as he was branded a ‘rebel’.
Won all the Parliament elections handsomely till he died.

Hockey had no other colourful, ‘controversial’ and outright personality than Jaipal Singh, a truly multi-faceted genius.

Indian hockey world today appreciates Viren Rasquinha not only for his field exploits as a player, but also for his academic excellence, -- an Indian School of Business graduate, heading a big organization such as Olympic Gold Quest. undefined

Hockey world too take pride in Aslam Sher Khan and Pargat Singh: simply because they excelled on the political front, even becoming Minister in the parliament.

To be in other field brings in that extra bit of profile to a hockey player as the cases of Viren, Aslam and Pargat vouchsafe.

If that is the yardstick of a public personality that fill up the great canvass of Indian hockey, Jaipal Singh stands out tall.

Jaipal Singh was requested to lead India at the Olympics even as he was a student in England.

Why? Was there was no suitable candidate in India? Why the search goes to England?

Here commences the great story of Jaipal Singh.

He was a popular hockey player of his university. His profile and exploits on the field had well been covered British media of his times. undefined

This is how Jaipal Singh looked at his early days: “I was called the finest fullback…there was nothing extraordinary in my play. I was a sprinter, I could outrun the cumbrous British forwards’.

He was selected to his University team without trial, and then moved up to play for the prestigious Wimbledon Hockey Club.

He was also a good organizer, and brought his College and University teams to Indian Princedoms every year -- to Baroda, Patiala, Bhopal among others. One great development of these tours is formation of Indian Hockey Federation. During one of his visits only Ansari of Bhopal, advised by Jaipal, formed the Indian Hockey Federation. An amazing story how a player helped to form his National Sports Federation. This is only a sample of his life, which is full of such vision and fortitude.

How could a tribal boy, of Munda clan, born in a remote area of the country, go to England for higher studies in the first place? This question might haunt the readers.

Jaipal Singh was born in Takra Pahantoli, a village that completely converted to Christianity to the Anglican Communion. Jaipal Singh’s original name was Pramod Pahan. His name was changed to present one at his school, Saint Paul’s.

The day he joined the school was considered his birthday, and it stayed forever – January 3.

When the school principal Canon Gosgrave retired and moved to England, he took Jaipal with him, and this is how Pramod Pahan, now somehow Jaipal Singh, landed in the West.

The rest is history.

Jaipal, now a smart youngman, was doing probationer of the Indian Civil Service at Oxford when the call for leading India came calling. He applied for leave, did not get it, still went ahead. The streak of rebellion came to the fore, for the first time on such a grand scale.

Jaiapal, though new to the Indian team, was respected by them, and had no difficulty to mingle.

He defied the colleges’ diktat and participated in the Olympics to lead India to the first Olympic gold. undefined

He paid a big price for that. He returned to Oxford only to be told that he had broken his probationer term and he would have to stay one more year. ‘Captaining India to world Championship was no prize for the British’, he once observed.

What did Jaipal Singh do?

He resigned from the ICS and refused to pay back 350 Pounds due to the college!

He later in his life observed: “I was not sent to jail for doing this”.

Jaipal’s career suffered because he could not complete the prestigious ICS, but he never regretted for this in his entire career.

This gains enormous significance against the backdrop of another factor.

Iftikar Ali Khan Pataudi, father of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, was also selected for the same Indian hockey team, but he did not go to the Olympics. He was a colleague of Jaipal in Wimbledon Club too. His first love was cricket and did bother to play for India at hockey, though by all accounts he did not seem to be any great in hockey.

However, today’s Indian public know more about Pataudis who refuse to play for India than Jaipal Singh’s who suffered because they chose to play for India.

Regarding Nawab of Pataudi Sr. Jaipal had said: ‘He would have never got his Hockey Blue. He had wonderful eyesight but he could not face rough play”.

At Amsterdam in the Olympics, Jaipal did not tolerate the over-bearing attitude of some Anglo-Indians. He overruled them, and when things did not go the way he was expecting, he did not bear it, walked out of the camp.

He lost the ICS and also the Amsterdam Olympics finals simply because he stood for principles, and won’t compromise.

But the establishment did not take his acts kindly. He was not selected for the next Olympics, even though he was very well available in Calcutta -- where the trials were held -- and was a popular hockey player in the prestigious Calcutta Hockey League.

Dhyan Chand in his autobiography ‘Goal’ considers this is wrong to sideline the player.

However, this is the storyline of the great personality of Jaipal Singh.

He worked for many leading business establishment of his time including Dunlop and others in India after returning India, but when he was posted as Principal of Princess College in Raipur – where only the kith and kin of ruling Kings and Princes enrolled – our own Indian Kings and Princes saw to it their wards don’t study under a non-white, and was soon made things difficult for him to continue.

undefined Jaipal had to move out, and landed as a Minister in the Bikaner Government.

Independence offered new scope for Jaipal’s quest for equality in the Indian society, despite the fact that the rulers by and large migrated back home.

He started Adivasi Mahasabha, won five consecutive elections for Parliament from Ranchi, fought for tribals’ reservation in the Indian Constitution. He had long feud against ruling Congress and its messiah Jawaharlal Nehru in securing his points of view, and he would not bother. He edited a newspaper and a magazine to create awareness among the weaker sections, worked fulltime for the welfare and rights of Jharkhand tribals.

Today these tribals have a separate State, Jharkhand, seeds of which was sown by the vision and mission of Jaipal Singh. A hockey player remains the collective consciousness of a whole race, the tribals of Eastern part of India, and it is tribute to Indian hockey.
Photo Captions (from top)

Jaipal Singh in his 40s
Sitting in a Chair as Member of Parliament
With Indian National Congress President K. Kamraj when he merged his Adivasi Mahasabha with Congress
Jaipal Singh (extreme right) and Fakruddin Ali Ahamad (extreme left) when studied together in the same college. Fakruddin later became President of India.

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