Jaipal Singh was born on 3 January 1903 in present-day Ranchi in Bihar. He studied at St Paul’s School in Ranchi before being sent by its principal to study at St John’s College, Oxford. He graduated in 1926 with honours in economics and was also the first Indian student to become an Oxford Blue in hockey. In 1928, Singh captained the India Hockey Team at the Amsterdam Olympics to win the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal.
In 1938, Singh returned to Ranchi and a year later was elected as the President of the Adibasi Mahasabha.
Contribution to Constitution Making:
In 1946, Singh was elected to the Constituent Assembly from Bihar. He was one of the few Independent candidates to have been elected to the Constituent Assembly, a platform that he would use to voice the concerns and promote the interests of tribal people across India.
Singh continued to strive for tribal rights post-independence.
After retirement from active hockey, he served as Secretary of the Bengal Hockey Association and as a member of the Indian Sports Council.
Singh died on 20 March 1970 in Delhi. The Government of Jharkhand named the grand games complex and games village built in Ranchi as the Singh Munda Games Complex. The Adibasi Mahasabha, of which he was previously President, attained its objective of carving out a separate state, Jharkhand, from Bihar in 2000, thirty years after his death.
Singh’s key writings and speeches are collected in Adivasidom. Edited by Ashwini Kumar Pankaj, this book accounts Singh’s views on several political issues and articulates the Adivasi community’s demands.