Born On: September 25, 1914
Born In: Sirsa, Haryana
Died On: April 6, 2001
Career: Freedom Fighter, Political Leader
Right from the Indian freedom struggle to opposing the Emergency period to forming Haryana state to serving as the Deputy Prime Minister of India, Chaudhary Devi Lal has several credits to boast of. He was a notable personality who did not think twice before jumping into the freedom movement and left his studies in the middle. Post independence, Devi Lal emerged as a leader of farmers and made several efforts for the betterment and upliftment of common people. Elected twice as the Chief Minister of Haryana, Devi Lal was constantly involved with improving the conditions of rural people and farmers. It was his popularity and generosity towards the common man that earned him the title of “Tau” (elder uncle) amongst masses. He is best remembered for forming the state of Haryana and grooming several normal people into good politicians who served not only in Haryana, but on national level.
Chaudhary Devi Lal Sihag was born as Devi Dayal in the village of Teja Khera in Sirsa district of Haryana state. He was born to Chaudhary Lekh Ram Sihag and Shugna Devi. He belonged to a wealthy Jat clan of Bagris with his father being the landlord of Chautala village and owner of 2750 bighas of land. Dayal received his education up till middle school and was actively involved in wrestling at an “Akhara” in Badal village in Punjab.
Indian Freedom Movement
Chaudhary Devi Lal was a fervent adherent of Mahatma Gandhi and hence, took active participation in the Indian freedom struggle right from the British Raj. When Gandhi sent a call for freedom movement, both Chaudhary Devi Lal and his elder brother, Chaudhary Sahib Ram, left their studies midway and plunged into the struggle. For this act of his, Devi Lal was even imprisoned for one year at Hissar Jail on October 8, 1930. But this did not lessen his passion and enthusiasm for Indian freedom movement. This became evident when he participated in the 1932 movement for which he was yet again sent behind bars at Sadar Delhi Thana. In early 1938, he was elected as a delegate of All India Congress Committee. Later in March the same year, his brother Chaudhary Sahib Ram was appointed as MLA in a by-election on a Congress ticket.
Being a true 'satyagrahi’, Sahib Ram was arrested in January 1940 with Devi Lal and over ten thousand people forming witness to this incident. He was fined with Rs. 100 and was imprisoned for nine months. With the Quit India Movement at its peak, both Devi Lal and Sahib Ram were arrested on October 5, 1942 and sent to Multan jail for 2 years on the pretext of participating in the freedom struggle. After Devi Lal was released from prison in October 1943, he got his brother Sahib Ram released on parole. Viewing both the brothers’ eagerness and keenness for the Indian freedom movement, Sir Chhotu Ram, the then Revenue Minister, along with Lajpat Rai Alakhpura, visited Chautala village and tried to persuade the brothers to quit Congress and join the Unionist Party. However, they refused to leave Congress Party at any cost.
Post Independence Politics
Since Devi Lal belonged to a farming village, he gained immense popularity after India became independent. He became a leader of the farmers and even began a farmer’s movement for which he was arrested, along with 500 workers. After a while, the then Chief Minister, Dr. Gopi Chand Bhargawa made an agreement with Devi Lal, leading to the amendment of Muzzara Act. In 1952, Devi Lal was elected as a member of Punjab Assembly, and in 1956, he became the Congress President of Punjab. It is believed that Devi Lal was one of the strong reasons and support behind the formation of Haryana as a separate state. He was elected to the Assembly from Sirsa in 1958. After serving in the Congress Party for 39 years, Devi Lal quit in 1971. Later in 1974, he stood from Rori constituency against Congress and was successfully elected.
When Indira Gandhi declared the Emergency in 1975, Devi Lal was one amongst the opposition leaders to be imprisoned for 19 months in Hissar Jail and Mahendergarh Fort. After the Emergency period was called off in 1977, general elections were held and Devi Lal contested on a Janata Dal ticket. He won and became the Chief Minister of Haryana. He was popularly known as “Sher-e-Haryana” (Lion of Haryana) for his brave opposition to Emergency and dictatorial misrule. He served as the Member of Parliament from 1980 to 1982 and was elected to the State Assembly from 1982 to 1987. During this period, he formed Lok Dal and began Nyaya Yudh under “Haryana Sangharsh Samiti”. This led to his immense popularity amongst the general public. In the 1987 state elections, his party won a phenomenal 85 seats amongst the total 90 member house. Surprisingly, congress could manage to fetch only 5 seats. Thus, Devi Lal became the Chief Minister of Haryana for the second time in 1987.
Deputy Prime Minister of India
When the parliamentary elections took place in 1989, Devi Lal successfully won from Sikar in Rajasthan and Rohtak in Haryana. Thus, he became the Deputy Prime Minister of India on October 19, 1989. He served in the office till June 21, 1991. Later in August 1998, he was elected in Rajya Sabha.
Chaudhary Devi Lal died on April 6, 2001 at the age of 86 years. His last rites were performed at Kisan Ghat, where the Samadhi of another former Prime Minister of India Chaudhary Charan Singh lies, on the banks of River Yamuna.
1914: Born in Tej Khera village, Sirsa, Haryana
1930: Joined Indian freedom movement and imprisoned for one year
1932: Sent to jail for the second time for his participation in the freedom struggle
1938: Elected to All India Congress Committee
1942: Imprisoned in Multan jail for 2 years on October 5
1943: Released from prison in October
1944: Refused to join the Unionist Party
1952: Elected member of Punjab Assembly
1956: Became Congress President of Punjab
1958: Appointed in Assembly from Sirsa
1971: Quit Congress Party
1975: Sent to jail for 19 months during Emergency
1977: Elected Chief Minister of Haryana on Janata Dal ticket
1980: Served as Member of Parliament till 1982
1982: Served as member of State Assembly till 1987
1987: Became Chief Minister of Haryana for the second time
1989: Appointed as Deputy Prime Minister of India on October 19
1998: Selected in Rajya Sabha
2001: Died on April 6, aged 86