Updated: June 16, 2022
Gyani Zail Singh or simply Zail Singh was the first Sikh to serve as the President of the Republic of India. He was the seventh President of India serving from 1982 to 1987. Prior to his presidency, he was a politician with the Indian National Congress party, and had held several ministerial posts in the Union Cabinet, including the post of Home Minister. He also served as the Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1983 to 1986.
His presidency was marked by Operation Blue Star, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. He was born on May 5th, 1916 and died on December 25th, 1994.
Zail Singh was born in a mud house to a poor family in Faridkot district in Punjab, India. His father's name was Bhai Kishan Singh while his mother was Mata Ind Kaur. His father worked as the village carpenter. He was the youngest among six siblings who included five brothers and a sister. His mother died when he was just a child. The children were later brought up by the sister of their mother. Zail Singh was brought up in a religious environment by his family and became well versed in the holy scriptures of the Sikhs by an early age.
Although he did not have a matriculation certificate, Zail was accepted into the Shahid Sikh Missionary College at Amritsar. However, he was a very confident young man highly skilled in the art of public speaking. Because of his knowledge of the Guru Granth Sahib and because of his extensive training in religious studies, he acquired the title 'Gyani' while in college. He was very fluent in Punjabi and Urdu and could hold his audience in a trance with his oratory skills.
He was married to Pardhan Kaur and was blessed with one son and three daughters.
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