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Singh, Makhan (1913–1973)

Zarina Patel


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Makhan Singh was the founder of the trade union movement in Kenya as well as a South Asian patriot who participated in the anticolonial struggle both in India and in Kenya. He was born and grew up in the Punjab during revolutionary times. His father, a modest carpenter, was a very religious Sikh. The combination of radical politics and humanitarian ideals shaped Makhan Singh's thinking. In 1927 he migrated to Nairobi, Kenya. A brilliant student but lacking financial resources, he joined his father's printing press. There he learned more about the exploitation of workers and colonial injustices and met with members of the Ghadr Party, an ally of India's Communist Party. At the age of 22 Makhan Singh took on the unpaid post of secretary to a group of Indian workers struggling for their rights. He then formed the trade union movement, which spread out to Tanganyika and Uganda and brought in the large mass of African workers, uniting Asians and Africans. Apart from the gains made by the unionists, the organization became the voice of the freedom struggle and thus a major threat to the colonialists. In 1939 during a visit to India, Makhan Singh was arrested and imprisoned. He was released in 1945 and worked with the Communist Party, but returned to Kenya in 1947 when India became independent. The colonial government made several attempts to deport Singh from Kenya but was not successful. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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