In God’s keeping he rest in peace. Our love for him shall never cease.
In the passing away of Dr. Raghbir Singh Dugal, which sad event took place on Sunday the 20th. January 1957 at New Delhi, both Burmese and Indian have lost a gem, a gentleman of sterling virtues, who rendered for the cause of education, religion and peace and multifarious social activities had endeared the hearts of all communities living in Burma. His name will ever be cherished with grateful memory as by his selfless work and devotion to duty, he brought credit not only to his own community but to the entire country.
Born at Sayad Kasran in Rawalpindi District in 1897 he at the age of 14 accompanied his elder brother S.Kartar Singh Dugal to Rangoon where he received his early education and qualified for Medical profession by passing with credit the final examination of the Medical school at Rangoon. He stood first in his class winning at the same time two gold medals for distinction in Medicine and Surgery. He was also a sportsman of a high caliber. He stood first in Motor cycle race and won a gold medal for the same.
From the very beginning of his career, he showed an independent spirit. There was such an acute shortage of medical personnel in Burma that the Government of Burma was inducing students in other provinces of India,
Particularly Punjab, to get medical education with the stipends and monetary help offered by the Government of Burma in return for their services under them. Dr. Dugal could get service under the Government for mere asking but he preferred to be under no ones yoke and so he set up his practice at Rangoon. In no time he becomes a very popular and an eminent physician and he was very much sought after because of his never failing courtesy and kindliness, sincere and benevolent heart and above all sympathetic treatment of his patients.
Side by side with his professional work, he immersed himself heart and soul in social activities of a great cosmopolite city as that of Rangoon and in a very short time, he was at the helm of public activities. It is worthy of note that upto the last moment of his life, he never touched liquor. He was unanimously elected as a Secretary of the Sikh educational committee Burma, Manager of the Khalsa High School Rangoon and a member of the Executive Committee of the Sikh Temple Rangoon.
The splendid work which he did both in the Sikh Temple or the school can be gauged from the fact that our Gurudwara was recognized by every body as the best managed Gurudwara in the whole of India in every way and the school showed excellent results in Burma, whether in regard to its pass-percentage, winning of scholarship or sports events. It is a matter of pride to the community that due to his untiring efforts and conscious working, our students with are studies upto Metric-standard competed with and fared better than graduates of our country as is evidenced by their being invariably selected for several covetable jobs.
The Sikh community of Burma, of course, did recognize and appreciate his work in many spheres of public life by electing him year after year to several posts of trust one such occasion was when he was elected as a President of the Chief Khalsa Diwan of Burma, but other communities also vied with one another to do honour to him for his selfless work and devotion to duty, as is evidenced by the fact that for years he was elected not merely as a consellor of the corporation of Rangoon but had the unique honour and privilege to be the first Mayor of Rangoon from amongst the Indian community. Incidentally it may also be mentioned that at that time Dr. Dugal was the youngest member of the corporation of Rangoon when he was so elected as a Mayor of Rangoon.
His advice was eagerly sought both by the Executive as well as by the members of the public. If he was consulted by the authorities at momentous events such as communal disorders, which as bad luck would have it, occasionally broke out and thus marred the good name of our country, members of different communities, be they Burmese, Sindhis, Marwaries, or Iranians etc sought his advice on all important matters, During the Labour Riot of 1930, Dr. Dugal was approached by all concerned to wait in deputation on His Excellency the Viceroy of India.
The Iranian Association of Burma even changed its constitution to admit Dr. Dugal as one of its members and thus he had the unique distinction of being its only non-Iranian and non-Muslim member.
His love of literature and journalism promped him to start the publication of the Burma Medical Journal, which was the only Magazine of its kind in Burma and his editorials were read and appreciated by all. Again it was love of literature that enabled him to be member of Rangoon University
Senate for several years and he was an active member of the Burma Medical Council for 25 years. He contributed articles in the press on the burning topics of the day and his views particularly on politics indicated what a patriotic he was. Through sheer self-study, in Urdu, Punjabee, English and Persian- the last language he spoke in such a chaste and high flown manner that even set the Persians to admire.
He was an excellent speaker and people eagerly awaited to hear his words of wisdom. There was also a quick response to any appeals made by him for just causes such as Riot Sufferers Relief Association etc. In March-April, 1947 when fair name of India was tarnished as a result of unfortunate partition of our motherland and riots first broke out in Rawalpindi and neighbouring Districts, people of Burma responded generously to the appeal made by Dr. Dugal and large sums of money were remitted to the Leaders in the Punjab for the relief of sufferers in riot.
At the time of Japanese invasion of Burma in December 1941, people anxious to leave Burma were prepared to pay any price for their streamer passage to India. Dr. Dugal was entrusted with the heavy task of arranging accommodation and disposal of berths for the streamers of so India Navigation co and he so ably discharged his duties cast on him that brought admiration from all concerned. Easily he could have travelled to India comfortably by Boat, but he stuck to his duty and ultimately when streamers stopped plying between Burma and India, he trudged all the distance on foot and bore so many hardships. On arrival in India he together with his colleague and co-traveller Mr. H.K.Dadachanji submitted an elaborate report to the Government of India describing their woeful experience in travelling by the Manipur route and also submitted written suggestions for the removal of discrimination against and grievances of
The Indian evacuees using this route. These suggestions were accepted by the Government of India. Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru commended the same in the following words.
“The suggestions made by Dr. R.S.Dugal and Mr. D.K.Dadachanji to start a central non-official organization in Delhi to deal with the Evacuee and Refugee problem and to keep in touch with the Government in regard to this, seems to me an excellent one and worthy of support from the public. As president and secretary of the Burma Indian Association, they are specially fitted for this task and they have the necessary personal experience also.”
His services were rewarded when title of Sardar Bahadur was conferred on him in recognition of his manifold social activities particularly for his work in connection with the all Burma T.B. & Leprosy Relief Association of which he was the Secretary from its very inception. Only in December last when specialists from more than 70 countries of world gathered in Delhi to confer about methods to combat the scourage of T.B., Dr. Dugal was asked by the Government of Burma to represent then at this conference and much though he desired to attend and take part in the deliberations of these specialists along with his other colleagues from Burma, he was dissuaded by the physician attending upon him not to do so, as he was confined to bed owing to an attack of Asthma etc.
He was associated with the Burma Red Cross society as its secretary for a very long time and several other organisations such as Rama Krishna Hospital, Rangoon.
After the second world ‘war’ he was recalled by the Government of Burma and although he was advised by his friends to stay on in India-land of his
Birth-he decided to return to Burma- the land of pagoda a where he had domiciled for good.
Since India and Burma attained their independence, it was felt that there was really no need to continue so many Indian Educational Institutions functioning in Burma, so they had to be closed down with the result that such Indian students who had to pass their examination a with Indian vernaculars had either to leave Burma for getting their education in India on to give up studying their vernaculars. So the Indian Educational society of Burma was organised by Dr. Dugal which was affiliated with the University of Calcutta and where education was imparted upto the Intermediate standard. Indian students in Burma were thus spared the necessity of leaving Burma for the purpose of getting their education in India.
The greatest and the noblest work accomplished by Dr. Dugal however his initiative to found the Guru Nanak Free Dispensary and Eye Hospital at Rangoon, affiliated with the Sikh Temple. Far sighted as he was, it occurred to him that the surplus income of the Sikh Temple Rangoon, with was formerly utilized for the benefit of the Khalsa High school, under a Trust scheme sanctioned by the High Court, Rangoon, in 1939 and which could no longer be used as the said school had been closed, should be spent for running the said Guru Nanak Free Dispensary and thus it would not only be beneficial to the citizens of Rangoon, but it would also perpetuate for ever the sacred name of Guru Nanak in Burma, with this noble scheme in his mind, Dr. Dugal appealed once again to the generous public of Rangoon and requisite amount was subscribed in no time, within a few months a fine five storied building was put up to house the ground
Floor for the purpose of running the said Dispensary and the upper flats were let but on rent to defray the expenditure of the Dispensary.
All credit is due to Dr. Dugal the prime mover of this charitable Institution, where hundreds or ailing persons are daily attended to and given medicines free of cost.
When news of his recent illness reached Rangoon, the people of Rangoon assembled in hundreds at the Sikh Temple there and chanted prayers besides observing Akhand Path.
Oh, how I wish our countrymen could imbue the qualities or Dr. Dugal. India needs such candid workers and stalwarts like Dr. Dugal, who are more precious for the welfare of mankind than some of so-called leaders of the day.
Following the maxim more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of our prayer is to God the Almighty to grant peace to the departed soul and fortitude to the members of the bereaved family and friends.