Lost history of Sialkot
- By Ramanjit Singh
Sardar Ganda Singh Oberoi has played an important role in Sialkot's history. He and his brother Jhanda Singh Oberoi started the sports industry of Sialkot.
Sardar Ganda Singh Oberoi, born in Mitranwali, Sialkot, was a big landlord, industrial estate owner of pre-partiton era. He ran the Oberoi Estate at Puran Nagar Sialkot from 1925 to 1947. He died in Sialkot and was cremated in Pul Aik. He left his estate in custody of Khwaja Hakim Din.
Such was the grandeur of the Oberoi's home in Sialkot that the road where it was built (around 1901), people started calling it Paris Road because the mansion reminded them of Paris. It is said that before the women came out of their palatial homes on this street for their evening walk, the road was first sprayed with perfume.
According to this article in India Tribune,
"In the last decade of the 19th century, two brothers, Jhanda Singh Oberoi and Ganda Singh Oberoi, started manufacturing badminton and tennis racquets in Sialkot. The main buyers were, naturally, the British in the army cantonments across India. Natural resources were easily available around Sialkot and with rising demand, the brothers added cricket bats, polo sticks, hockey sticks, footballs and golf clubs to their list of products. That’s how the famous Sialkot sports industry came into being. One unintended consequence of the enterprise of the Oberoi brothers — and others — was sport being taken up in ever-increasing numbers by Indians living in the region. Sialkot to benefited from this sporting culture and a large number of sportspersons came from there, including women such as Kulwant Ghuman (a famous athlete from Ugoki, Sialkot)"
In this article, writer Muhammad Ashraf writes about the lost history of this great industrialist belonging to Sialkot. Link: https://www.thpsc.com/sardar-ganda-singh-oberoi-idol-impartiality/
"Sardar Ganda Singh Oberoi was the idol of merit, impartiality and generosity. His factories used to supply sports goods to whole of British India. Due to respect and regards for quality productions, the factory became supplier to the global British colonies and later to many parts of the world. In spite of the enormous riches, Sardar Sahib lived in a very simple house, parts of which still exist north of Sialkot telephone exchange (main office Paris road).
Sardar Ganda Singh loved the territory of Sialkot very much. He spent his money in various public welfare works. He was the founder of Ganda Singh High School with vast open areas for play grounds and green patches. The school had a big library having thousands of books, all arranged by Sardar Sahib. The entire area of this Ganda Singh High School is now fully occupied by Government Women Degree College Sialkot.
Sardar Sahib remained chairman of Sialkot Municipal Committee. It was during his tenure of chairmanship when he tried to give a beautiful shape to Sialkot city. If you visit Muhallah Mubarak Pura, you will find some very wide streets between Khadim Ali Road and Chah Jattan. It was an effort to shape the city wide, open and neat.
It is a catastrophe of circumstances that a person, who had been so impartial and so generous, is not remembered among people of Sialkot. His factory that had been a monument of pioneer achievements, has not been preserved.
To the best of available information, recorded and authentically quoted, there has not been a single person during the period from 1920 to 1945 who practically served the financial, environmental, educational and social interests of the citizens of Sialkot like Sardar Ganda Singh Oberoi.
What is then the justification for not naming the institution or the library both established in his personal property, after his name? It clearly reflects on our overall partiality and prejudice attitudes towards a great personality in the region in that era of quarter a century. Islam does not teach partiality. Islam teaches justice. It is a sign of thousands of years of slavery that the Muslims of the region have learnt hatred and partiality and practically apply it as and when they deem fit. You visit offices of Sialkot Municipal Committee, you will find senior most employees there refusing to have any record of Sardar’s tenures as chairman. You visit the Allama Iqbal Library on Paris Road, they will tell you that there is no material available with them regarding the life and social services of Sardar Sahib. It has been learnt from a close friend of late Mr. Riasat Ali, the librarian of Allama Iqbal Library, that he possessed a photograph of Sardar Sahib with Maulana Ibrahim Mir Sialkoti along with other dignitaries. That invaluable photograph is now missing altogether. You visit the government degree college for Women, you will hardly find any lecturer or professor who knows the founder of the premises of the educational institution where he is donating his services."
In similar vein, Sir Ganga Ram gave shape to modern Lahore. People may have forgotten these men, but the work and contribution of these men in the development of these cities will stand the test of time.