Mischievous Propaganda is not Research
Dr H. S. Dilgeer
It is not possible for a scholar to call this book a piece of research. It is an aggressive work of mischievous propaganda, written with disdain and malice. A rigorous analysis of the text and motif of this book reveal the intentions of the writer.
Harjot Oberoi begins his book with a statement that no religion can be categorised in a proper manner. It is his “thesis” that Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam have never existed, at least in the Sikh Homeland. He further states that the inhabitants of the Sikh Homeland never wished to be classified as followers of a particular religion. He goes to the extent of saying that these people did not believe in. ideology of any religion. Harjot declares that there was no religion in the real sense. He evaluates this phenomenon as a sort of confusion about religion with an amalgam of superstition, witchcraft, idolatry, occult power worship and irreligious mentality; and, Harjot grants these attributes to all the religions i.e., Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam (p.1). To prove his point, he presents one example from the memoirs of a Hindu teacher (p.2). This Hindu teacher remembers the routine of his father who used to worship idols and also recite from Sikh scripture (both these forms of worship or faith are in complete contradiction to each other). Here, Harjot stresses the point that the Hindu teacher believed that millions of people never knew what their religious boundary was. The statement by the Hindu teacher, mentioning the word ‘millions’, has been taken by Harjot as final proof of the ignorance of the majority of the residents of the Punjab. For Harjot, a minor stray statement by one person is a decisive criterion of a particular issue. Harjor quotes this phenomenon as ‘tradition’ in worship in the nineteenth century. The Hindu teacher quoted by Harjot was born in 1863 and memories about his father must have been from the year 1875 or after. It Was the time when the Arya Samaj and the Singh Sabhas were founded.
Harjot quotes another “episode” from the travelogue of an Evangelist. This Evangelist missionary narrates an incident (not in the Punjab) about some palanquin bearers smoking hukka (tobacco). According to the author, (a) they seemed to be Sikhs (author is not sure), (b) they had cut their hair and had given up Sikhism. The author asserts that the palanquin bearers had renounced Sikhism and after giving up Sikhism, they could smoke tobacco. It, by no means, proves that a person having faith in Sikhism used to smoke tobacco. From this “evidence”, Harjot decides that smoking was a Sikh tradition. Great research indeed!
Further, Harjot makes a bold statement that hundreds of thousands of (why not millions?) Hindus regularly undertook pilgrimage to Muslim shrines in the early nineteenth century. Harjot does not give any evidence for this bold statement. Secondly, it is sheer ignorance to state so, as the early nineteenth century was a period of Ranjit Singh’s rule in the Sikh homeland where the Muslims (at least at that juncture) were not their particular favourites. The Sufi tradition virtually did not exist in the Sikh homeland after the fourteenth century. Thus, Harjot begins with a wrong premise based on false information and makes bold statements, which are not only unacademic but also mischievous. Harjot’s lies go to the limit of saying that the Sikh initiation (in Harjot’s words “unprecedented rite of initiation”) was begun (by some Sikhs?) in the eighteenth century (p. 24). There is not a single source which states this except Harjot’s own book. Hundreds of the sources, including several from the first decade of the eighteenth century, and even a few diaries of the dates when Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs, revealed Khalsa (on March 30, 1699), mention that the Guru Sahib made the initiation mandatory for the Sikhs.
Seriousness of Harjot’s work can be measured from his usage of particular names and terms. He uses the term Golden Temple instead of Darbar Sahib. Golden Temple may be used by an ignorant tourist or journalist; but an academician must know the real name of the Sikh shrine (Darbar Sahib) at Amritsar. Harjot has used the name ‘Golden Temple’ throughout the book. Similarly, he uses the term “baptism” for Sikh initiation. I hope he was not ignorant about the meaning of the specific Christian ceremony of baptism. One can smell his ulterior motives and seriousness of his work in using these and several other terms which are confusing and/ or mischievous.
Harjot (p.25) alleges that the British regime collaborated with the Singh Sabha movement to Sikhise the Sikhs. At several places in his book he contradicts himself. The evidence, from different sources, establishes that the British regime was, rather opposed to the Sikh revival movement. Harjot himself agrees that the birth of the Singh Sabha was a Iesult of fear of the Sikh leadership that the Sikh youth was being induced to adopt Christianity. How could the authorities Collaborate, cooperate, assist, help or otherwise facilitate such a movement which would go against the religion of the rulers.
Harjot relies more on gossip and guess work without any evidence. If there is any evidence which does not suit his propaganda he will ignore it or brand it as untrustworthy.
Harjot has coined a novel term, “principle of silence” in this book. He says (p. 30) “historical texts are virtually silent about religious diversity, sectarian conflicts, nature worship, witchcraft, sorcery, magi-cal healing, omens, wizards, miracle saints, goddesses, ancestral spirits, festivals, exorcism, astrology, deviation, and village deities.” He con-fesses there is no evidence to establish this (propaganda). So, he coins a new term to establish at there might have been “a lot of anti- Sikhism in an ordinary Sikh.” Secondly, he seems to be angry as to why Sikh1sm rejects every type of superstition and its products. Thirdly, Harjot does not use this principle of silence in the case of other world religions, especially Islam. He does not conclude with the same premise that the Muslinls worshipped idols, pictures and statues of Mohanlffied, that they had been eating pork or that they worshipped Hindu gods, and so on. The principle of silence does not apply to Hindus eating beef, practising incest, stealing from temples, worshipping Ravana, and so on. Harjot’s principle of silence denies all the existing authentic sources in order to make bold statements and mischievous propaganda against doctrines and the history of the Sikhs.
Harjot (p. 31) blames the British writers for honestly recording the ideals of the Sikh faith. When, however, some writers mention minor instance of corruption aberration, Harjot accepts it as a tradition among the Sikhs. If Harjot were to write history of Scandinavian religious life, he would certainly say that incest, adultery, hatred, robbery were accepted princples of Christianity (or traditions in Chrichanity) as these traditions were very popular in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, during the hey days of Christianity and that even now-a days this type of “ethical” practice(s) are accepted among the Christians of these countries.
On the one hand, Harjot rejects even Trumpp for not mentioning What Harjot wants to propagate (in spite of the fact that Trumpp had a strong anti-Sikh bias). But, on the other hand, Harjot accepts the account of ignorant travellers, who, without any knowledge of language, philosophy and even proper terms for the local phenomena mention some incidents based on hearsay. This pattern has been adopted by Harjot throughout this book.
On page 33, Harjot says that the Punjabis, or at least the non- Sikhs, did not consider Sikhs as “hermetically sealed off’ from the rest of the people in the Punjab or elsewhere. As Harjot is expected the ignore (or conceal) all the evidence, he does not want to talk about the Hindus of Delhi refusing to have trade links with Sikhs simply because the Sikhs had got initiation (Sainapat : Gur Sobha). Harjot rejects the evidence of the Persian writers mentioning that a soldier of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur’s army rejected the claims of his mother that he (the boy) was a Hindu and not a Sikh (the boy-refused to save his life by renouncing Sikh faith). Harjot does not bother about the order by Parrukh Siyar declaring it a crime to be a Sikh. The history (per chance these are the Persian sources and not the Sikh sources) records that all the Hindus shaved their beards so that none should consider them as Sikhs. Harjot does not mention Lakhpat Raits (a Hindu minister of the Moguls in the Punjab in 1740s) crusade against the Sikhs with a declaration that he will eliminate the Sikhs from the earth. Still, Harjot tries to assert that the Sikhs had no separate identity.
Harjot’s dishonesty as an academician (I shall present convincing evidence that Harjot’s work is mischief, lies, propaganda, ignorance and hence un-academic trash in the forthcoming paragraphs too) leads him to make another un-academic statement. I use the term statement as he never presents any argument, logic or evidence to corroborate or prove even a part of his statement. His usual rhetoric is “it seems”, “it may be”, “it is likely”, “it is silent”,... and so on. He (P. 33) rejects the thesis of Dr Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, because this precious piece of research exposes all the propaganda launched by him (Harjot) in this book. He rejects the scholarly work of Dr Gurdarshan Singh by saying “It fails to pursue any implication of tbe fact that the Sikhs were not a homogenous social group”. Harjot is angry as to why Gurdarshan Singh did not begin with gossip or anti-Sikh guesswork. Second objection by Harjot is that Dr Gurdarshan Singh assumes the Singh Sabha as ‘greatest reform movement’ among the Sikhs. Dr Gurdarshan Singh has most diligently established the achievements of the Singh Sabha movement (Harjot, elsewhere, accepts the role of the Singh Sabha movement which proves the conclusion made by Dr Gurdarshan Singh). Harjot is angry as to why the scholar has been successful in presenting the performance of the movement. Similar are the other objections levelled by Harjot against Gurdarshan Singh Harjot (P. 34) laments that research has evaluated Kukas as deviants). Harjot does not prove that the Kukas were not deviants). Harjot wanted that the deviants should not be evaluated on the basis of the principle of the philosophy. He wants that deviations and aberrations should be accepted as “tradition.” If we apply his logic to the Christian would then Pope John Paul II will be considered as fundamentalist, and the cult leader David Koresh (who committed suicide) and the other cults will become “traditions” and “norms”. The criticism (or envy) of Harjot against scholarship of Gurdarshan Singh’s work is un-academic and biased.
His prejudice against Sikhs takes another form. He says that punjab is not the “homeland” of the Sikhs (p. 42).The argument he presents is that some Sikhs had been living outside the Punjab. He says that the Sikhs were only 6.5% in the British politically administered unit under the name of the Punjab. He then, refutes himself in the very next sentence. He agrees that the bulk of the Sikhs was concentrated in the central Punjab. He, however, wishes to call this area “two Doabs” (between river Chenab and Sutlej). In the following sentences, he creates other new terms as Majha Sikhs, Doaba Sikhs and Malwa Sikhs. There never existed any such categories. Applying his logic to England, one shall have to say London Christians, Sussex Christians, Wessex Christians, Middlesex Christians, Midland Christians, etc. In fact, any Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Aad Dharmi, belonging to Doaba will be a Doabia, from Malwa a Malwaee and from Majha a Majhail, from Rajasthan a Rajasthani, from Haryamt a Haryanvi. He says that the Sikhs of the Majha area considered themselves as superior to the Sikhs from the other zones because Lahore was the capital of the Punjab and Darbar Sahib was at Amritsar. May be he does not know that the other major Sikh shrines are outside Majha (Anandpur Sahib, Kiratpur Sahib, etc.) and these were the capitals of five Gurus (Guru Hargobind Sahib to Guru Gobind Singh Sahib). No other place has been the residence or capital of so many Gurus. Thus, this argument too, is lllvaIid and mischievous. His quotations from some travelers and officers do not support distinctions among Sikhs living in different areas.
Harjot’s whole writing about “early Sikh tradition” (P. 47-48) presents another big lie by saying that the Sikh notions of time, space, holiness, mythology, kinship, social distinction, purity and pollution, gender, sexuality, etc. were firmly rooted in Indic cultural thinking. This is shocking. I don’t think Harjot is so naive that he does not know even the basic philosophic postulates of Sikhism. Sikh philosophy is altogether different from the Indic thought. Nota single scholars hips found anything common between Sikhism and extremist Indian as Hindu cultural thinking.
Harjot says that Guru Nanak’s basic teaching was Naam Simran (meditation) only. This too is ignorance. Guru Nanak Sahib taught honest earning, sharing with others, as essentials for becoming a self realized person (Sachiara). Plain meditation may be Hindu thought. Sikhism turns a man into a social and spiritual superman. Attacking the successors of Guru Nanak Sahib, Harjot says “(the successors of Guru Nanak Sahib) found it hard to su.stain his minimalist teaching”. This again is ignorance or malice of Harj ot. It is strange that he writes about Sikhism even without reading or/and understanding the message of Guru Nanak Sahib.
Commenting upon Bhai Gurdas’s verse, mentioning some of the qualities of a good Sikh, Harjot says “(In Bhai Gurdas) there are no explicit statements on an independent Sikh identity”. May be HarJot wished Bhai Gurdas should have written for school boys. Harjot himself accepts (p. 51) that Bhai Gurdas distinguishes between a god Muslim, a good Hindu and a good Sikh. The third path suggested by Bhai Gurdas explains, in unequivocal terms, the separate, distinct and superior identity of Sikh religion; and Harjot mentions the same in the sentence with which he attaches a foot note simply to promote Surjit Hans’s poor work “Reconstruction of Sikh History from Sikh Literature” by calling it brilliant work. All the scholars of Sikh studies have rated Surjit Hans’s work as one of the poorest works on Sikh studies. Surjit Hans, however, in the book referred to by Harjot, does not debate distinctness of Sikh Literature and Sikh History.
Further, Harjot calls Janamsakhis as mythical literature and in hagiographic tradition. Several scholars have proved that the propagandist W.H. McLeod, who used this mischievous term for Janamsakhis, was not only ignorant of geographical, political and the other details of the said literature, but also was dishonest and deceitful. (If we apply the McLeod’s method to the Hindu book Ramayana, Ram becomes unreal and Hinduism becomes fiction). Harjot, to confuse the readers, quotes one story. This story, like that of the revelation of The Ten Commandments to Moses and Quran to Mohammed, depicts as to the phenomenon when God made revelation to Guru Nanak Sahib. Harjot deliberately tries to present this incident as an anecdote. This is how Harjot moves with stray stories and unimportant and meaningless issues and draws conclusions from such baseless material. From such material, Harjot makes a statement that “it needs to be categorically stated” that Sikhs were still in the process of evolution and growth. This pattern, apparently illogical and childish and hence un-academic, is the most prominent feature of Harjot’s book. Harjot, now takes it for granted that the Sikhs were not a separate identity and further states that there were several categories associated with the Sikh tradition (p. 53). He reckons the categories as Nanak-Panth, Gurmukh- Panth, Nirmal-Panth, Gursikh, Gurmukh-Marg. A scholar shall laugh at the ignorance of Harjot who considers synonyms as names of different categories. There was no Gurmukh-Panth or the other Panths as stated by Harjot. All these synonyms are like calling a person nice, good, noble, fine, etc. For Harjot, these are different categories; he lists still some other “categories” in the following chapters and forgets that he had said something else in the preceding pages.
Harjot resents that the Adi Granth became a declaration of separate Sikh identity in 1604. He does not want to accept the his-toricity of this fact. His only argument is that there might have been some more such compilations. Even if there were a couple of other compilations of some poets (not Sikhs) in Hindustan, how does it annul the historicity of the Sikh identity? Harjot is silent about it. He wants that his propaganda should be accepted without any logic and/ or evidence. On the very next page (p. 55), Harjot agrees that ‘there is no denying the fact that the Adi Granth has become a key cultural marker of Sikh ethnicity, it would be a gross misinterpretation to view it in the same vein for the early seventeenth century. “Harjot, here too, does not offer any argument or evidence. The history, the tradition and the sources are crystal clear about the facts which Harjot wants to ignore in order to push his academic sabotage, which seems to be the motive of Harjot’s book.
Harjot, as he presents his funny ‘theory of silence’ or ‘theory of guess’, makes another strange statement. He says “just as there is no fixed Guru Nanak in the Janamsakhis, there is no fixed Sikh identity in the early Guru period. A simple student of Sikh history knows about the personality of Guru Nanak Sahib in the Janamsakhis; and there is nothing that is confusing, ambiguous, or uncertain. The person (character) of Guru Nanak Sahib in these sources (Janamsakhis) is exactly according to Sikh philosophy and this uniformity exists in all the Janamsakhis. Still, Harjot presents his funny tautology “no fixed Guru Nanak, so no fixed Sikh identity.” Strange logic.
As a true member of “Anti-Sikh school”, Harjot supports McLeod’s propaganda that the Jat influx into the Sikh movement gave rise to new Sikh cultural patterns. Firstly, Harjot, here, accepts the separate Sikh identity. Secondly, the malicious propaganda of Jat influx is untrue and baseless. Harjot has not questioned the authenticity of the writings of Bhai Gurdas. Bhai Gurdas has recorded the names of the followers of the Sikh Gurus in his Vaar 11. In this Vaar, Bhai Gurdas has given the names of the Sikhs who joined Sikh faith during the time of the first Six Gurus. In Pauris 29 to 31, the names of the Sikhs who embraced Sikh religion at the time of Guru Hargobind Sahib are also available. A reading of the names of the Sikhs and their castes will show that most of these Sikhs were non-Jats. Several scholars had already refuted the blatant lies of McLeod much before Harjot wrote this book (See Jagjit Singh : The Sikh Revolution, and also writings of Sardar Daljeet Singh, Dr K.S. Mann, Dr Tarlochan Singh, Dr Noel Q. King, etc.), but Harjot does not want to bother about logic or truth (I do not want to believe that Harjot had not read rejection of McLeod’s propaganda). Harjot quotes only from Anti-Sikh school i.e. W.H. McLeod, J.S. Grewal, Surjit Hans, Indu Banga, Pashaura Singh, Joyce Pettigrew, etc., or communists like Chetan Singh, etc.
Harjot does not hide his disdain for everything that is specifically Sikh. For Sikh initation, he uses the term “unusual initiation rite” (p. 61). Are there any standard or usual initiation rites in the other religions? Quoting an incident from Sainapat’s book Gur Sobha, Harjot mentions that the Brahmin and Khatri Sikhs opposed and hated initiated Sikhs. On page 46 of Sainpat’s book, there is no mention of Brahmin and Khatri Sikhs. Sainapat mentions the boycott of the initiated Sikhs by non-Sikhs. Such lies are common throughout Harjot’s book which point to the conspiring nature of Harjot’s work.
Under the heading “Boundaries and Transgressions”, Harjot refers to Sikh culture and says that the Sikhs did not have a distinct set of life-cycle rituals. Harjot’s ignorance of Sikh philosophy is apparent. Obviously, he has not read the Sikh scriptures. Further, when he propagates that the Sikh code of conduct was “innovation” of the eighteenth century, he quotes only from Chaupa Singh’s Rehitnama. He does not talk abolit Bhai Daya Singh’s Rehitnama and Bhai Nand Lal’s Rehitnama and fankhahnama, because a perusal of these two works would reject everything said by him. Harjot has adopted this design throughout his book. He presents un-authentic, vague and partial works and ignores authentic, genuine and proper sources. Further (p. 65), Harjot calls these Rehitnamas as “newly instituted”, whereas the Rehitnamas date from CE 1700. Bhai Daya Singh and Bhai Nand Lal were contemporaries of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib. Thus, these sources are neither un-authentic nor new. These are treaties about the religious culture, as prevalent at or before the period of writing of a particular Rehitnama. If one Rehitnama does not give every detail, how does it mean “chaos” as Harjot puts it. In fact, Harjot is sad as to why these fine source books are available. Harjot’s conspiracy stands thoroughly exposed. While talking about Guru Granth Sahib, he says (p. 69), “Fortunately for them, there emerged from the time of Guru Nanak the doctrine of an eternal Guru.” Harjot’s aggressive and prejudiced mode exposes him. He uses the word “fortunately”. He is angry as to why this evidence or ideology is available. He talks in prejudiced manner and expresses his jealousy. He wants to confuse the reader with vague, stray points and issues with his euphuistic language which may have rhetoric but no logic. Thus, the chapter “Boundaries and Transgressions” is superficial, and is more than an exercise in confusion. Harjot offers nothing beyond guesses and baseless assumptions.
“Paradox: The Khalsa Sehajdhari duality” is another section which exposes the designs of Harjot. The very first point he presents is propaganda. He says thousands of the Sikhs took to Khalsa identity, some in pursuit of worldly power and the others out of deep religious conviction. (p. 71). Firstly, Harjot does not present, throughout the next 20 pages, any evidence or argument to prove that the people joined Khalsa brotherhood for worldly power. It was the time when joining Sikh brotherhood meant sacrificing one’s life. The regime had announced that anyone calling himself a Sikh was to be eliminated. Prices on the heads of the Sikhs were of offered. Prof. Hari Ram Gupta, much before Harjot could dream of writing, had dealt With this point. Ac-cording to Prof. Hari Ram Gupta, people joined the Sikh army because of faith. But, still there were persons who joined for plunder and worldly power. They were only Hindus and they did not embrace Sikhism. Perchance Prof. Hari Ram is a Hindu and not a Sikh. The story of the time of (Maharaja) Ranjit Singh is a different one. The Hindus from Jammu, Hindustan (U.P., etc) and the hill areas “became” Sikhs and as soon as the British annexed the Sikh homeland these Hindus renounced their faith. They did not call themselves evev Sehajdharis.
Harjot, here, does not talk of Sehajdharis but presents the point that Khalsa was capturing power in the Sikh homeland and in this process attainment of power had made some Sikhs as men of political aspirations. Kesar Singh Chhiber refers to this situation. Harjot calls Kesar Singh as “detractor”, because he talks of ideology and rejects power-capturing as an un-Sikh approach. Harjot resents as to why Kesar Singh talks of ideology. From here, Harjot moves to make another “statement’ : “It simultaneously came to be accepted that there were alternative ways of being a Sikh: the Sikh Panth was not coterminous with Khalsa and it was possible to be a Sikh without being a Khalsa.” When Kesar Singh condemns un-Sikh like style of some Sikhs, it does not, in any way, mean that a man not living Sikhism could be another form of a Sikh. It is like saying that one can still be a kind of Christian without having faith in Christ, that a Muslim without having faith in Mohammed was still a type of Muslim. Harjot picks up vague and meaningless points and draws sweet conclusions to prove (which he does not) his statements and propaganda. He chooses sentences, gives them his own meanings and then declares that his point stands proved. This is neither research nor scholarship nor academics.
Now, a word as to who is Sehajdhari? Sehajdhari is a person who adopts Sikhism in stages or in a bit slow manner. For a Sehajdhari, it is a must that he should adhere to Rehatmaryada (code of conduct), he must not cut his hair and have faith in Khande da Pahul (Sikh initiation). When a Sehajdhari lives his life according to Sikh ideology he is supposed to adopt Sikh culture. Hence, social ceremonies, including those relating to birth, marriage, death, etc. must be performed in accordance with the Sikh ideology. The children of a Sehajdhari,too, with the Sikh ideology. The children of a Sehajdhari, too, will be Sikhs. There were several Sahajdhari families up to nineteen-fifties. The children of these Sehajdhans got initation. The major examples of these case are : Master Tara Singh, Sadhu Singh Hamdard, Harbans Singh Manchanda and several others. Bhai Harbans Lal (USA) is the most recent example of a Sehajdhari family. A Sehaidhari is not a Hindu. On the other hand, there are instances when children of Sehajdhari families renounced Sikhism and joined Hindu religion. Lala Lajpat Rai was one of such persons. Lala’s mother Gulab Devi was a Sehajdhari Sikh. She brought up her son as a Sehajdhari. Lala Lajpat Rai had unshorn hair and beard till the age of thirty. He used to tie his beard and had a turban even when he had been practicing as a lawyer in Hissar. After that, he renounced Sikhism and became a Hindu. Sehajdhari is a Sikh who plans to get initiation in near future but, still before initiation, he lives his life like an initiated Sikh. Harjot refers to anti-Sikh writer McLeod’s meaning of Sehajdhari. McLeod wants to propagate that “those who attain the state of ineffable bliss” are Sehajdharis. If we accept this meaning then all the initiated Sikhs too are Sehajdharis; and also all the non-Sikhs who attain such a stage are Sehajdharis. McLeod and his associates of Anti-Sikhism school have presented several such funny but notorius statements of this type.
Harjot presents a letter to prove his point. It is a letter dating back to 1783, from Bihar. It was the period when the Udasis (Udasis have nothing in common with Sikhism) and the other groups had been approaching the Sikh rulers for donations. The Sikh rulers, as a matter of generosity, which is a part of the Sikh culture, used to grant money or other forms of financial assistance to anyone who approached them. The Hindu ministers and the other officials used to induce the Sikh rulers to donate a lot to them. In return these sects exhibited their interest in Sikhism too. The details of such donations can be seen in the records of the Sikh rulers. Sohan Lal Suri’s Umdat-ut-Twarikh is full of such boring details. It was this attitude of the Sikh kingdoms which brought the Sikh scriptures in the deras of the Udasis. Otherwise, there is nothing in common between Udasi-ism and Sikhism. Sikhism rejects the basic postulate of Udasis, i.e. renunciation of this world. Rejection of Yoga, too, is basic in Guru Nanak Sahib’s teachings. A Sikh has to live a life of detachment within this world. It is not the dress code or hair or any thing else that creates distinction between Sikhs Udasls. Both faiths are the opposite poles without any meeting point. Udasis never considered themselves a part of the Guru Nanak tradition. The Udasis had their own dera even at Amritsar by the side of the building of the Akal Takht. Udasis, however, had occupied the Sikh shrines during the period of the persecution of the Sikhs by the state during the eighteenth century. The Moguls did not harass the Udasis, as they asserted that they were not Sikhs. It was until the Sikh misls established their rule in the Sikh homeland that the Sikh shrines remained occupied by these elements. Some of these (Udasis etc.), chose to be considered Sikhs, With an intention of continuing their livlihood from the income of the Sikh shrines, occupied by them.
During the rule of (Maharaja) Ranjit Singh also, the Hindu ministers were so powerful that it was virtually a Hindu state with a Sikh as a king. Details of daily diaries show that Ranjit Singh was under vast influence of the Hindu ministers. Reference to Sikhism are minor and un-important (Sohan Lal Suri : Umdat-ut- Twarikh). One thing, however, to the sadness of Harjot, is clear that Ranjit Singh’s diaries don’t mention anything of Sehajdhari, Nanakpanthi or the like. The reference to Sikhs is unequivocal and same is about Hinduism and Islam. But, Harjot who puts this blame on the British will not consider this evidence (daily diaries of Ranjit Singh), inspite of the fact the diarist was a Hindu, because these diaries don’t mention any “traditions” in Sikhism.
Harjot quotes a paragraph from Malcolm (p. 88) mentioning un- Sikh like practices of the “new converts to Sikhism. Malcolm con-firms that the Sikhs and the Hindus were two different identities (see quote by Harjot). Secondly, Malcolm refers to adoption of a “new religion”. Thirdly, Malcolm points out that these Hindus were not true to Sikhism (they embraced Sikhism for special benefits from the Sikh rulers). How could this make a different tradition within Sik-hism? So, this chapter of Boundaries and Transgression, Sehajdharis and different traditions in Sikhism is based upon false information, irrelevant points and misstatements. This pattern continues throughout the book. I have dealt one chapter of Harjot with extra details; the rest of the book, as it has the same motives an patterns is being dealt with briefly.
In the chapter “Sanatan Tradition and Transmission”, Harjot has not been able to present any evidence to prove that there should have been something un-Sikh among the Sikhs. His desire to present Guru Granth Sahib and Dasam Granth as two traditions, does not hold water. A minor reference from Malcolm that the Sikhs respected Dasam Granth, does not reject hundreds of sources, history, traditions and faith of the Sikh nation with regard to Eternal Guru Guru Granth Sahib similarly, the activities and conspiracies of the Hindu occupants of the Sikh shrines do not legitimise their anti-Sikh functions, nor does it become a tradition. Harjot’s presentation of Anandghan’s anti-Sikh writings, further proves that Harjot wants to present all anti.Sikh material as Sikh literature. Some fanatic Muslim writers, Anandaghan or Arya Samaj or Christian missionaries had been propagating from time to time such literature to promote vested interests. All the propaganda has been presented by Harjot as “Sanatan Sikh tradition”. It is highly un- academic
Harjot presents stray references of Hindu slant of the writer of Gur Bilas Patshahi Chhevin (1718) as Sanatan Sikhism. For Harjot such misrepresentation and/or subjective presentation of the per-sonality of the writer need not be corroborated by basic Sikh philosophy or any other source. Installation of Hindu idols in the Sikh shrines by the Hindu managers does not legitimise them as Sikh tradition. This “business” of Hindu priests is not a phenomenon of Ranjit Singh period only. Even recently, a priest Narain Singh of Manikaran, who became Narayan Hari later on, installed Guru Granth Sahib and put a large number of pictures of so-called gods and god-desses in the same hall in order to get donations from all sections. One can find the statues of Christ and Guru Nanak Sahib at Rishikesh’s Hindu temple. All this is the business manouvering of the (Hindu) priests. The same happened to the Sikh shrines as the greedy priests would do everything to earn money. These Hindu priests had monop-olised the Sikh shrines to the extent that the so- called outcastes were not allowed to enter major Sikh shrines. Harjot wants to establish it as a tradition. The occupants of the Sikh shrines had become debauches and even criminal, and all they practised was like that of a Bohemian cult or a sort of Mafia; Harjot wants that the activites and practices of these gangs should be accepted as a norm and tradition in Sikhism.
Harjot refers to the descendants and relatives of the Sikh Gurus as traditions. The Sikh history is unambiguous on this point that their was no approval of a descendant of the Gurus as a representative of the faith. The succession of Guru-ship was never in doubt. Guru Nanak Sahib never approved of Sri Chand or Lakhmi Das as successors. Similar was the verdict about Datu and Dasu, Mohan and Mohri, Prithi Chand and Mahadev, Ram Rai and Dhir Mal and other children of the Gurus. The succession was never confusing. These ascetics tried to earn in the name of their ancestors. Such tactics can be, and have been, adopted by the families of all the prominent religious, political and the other personalities. This, however, does not make it a tradition. The Bedis, Sodhis and Bhallas etc., were not much successful before Ranjit Singh. It is possible that the Hindu advisors of Ranjit Singh were responsible for “commercialization”of these families for various reasons.
Harjot’s reference to Bhais and Gianis too is misleading. The respectable members of the Sikh nation were not a class in themselves as Harjot wishes to establish. The respect of a soical worker does not grant him the status of a sub-guru. Harjot wished to establish such a class, though he fails to convince anybody.
In the chapter “An Enchanted Universe: Sikh participation in Popular religion” Harjot again picks up the acts of some aberrants and makes a statement that it was the so-called “popular religion” that had been accepted by some people. Harjot, referring to reports from the journals of the Singh Sabha, claims that these were the accepted norms. He says that the Singh Sabha tried to bring an end to the deviations (in Harjotian terms, the popular religion). He had already referred to Kesar Singh Chhibber’s criticism of the un-Sikh approach of some Mislleaders with regard to power politics (an un-Sikh pattern). Thus, a few deviants have always been there and the intelligentsia has always tried to correct the aberration. Harjot’s reference to Sakhi Sarvar worship too is based on false/ mischievous information. Harjot ignores H.A. Rose (whom he quotes elsewhere) who recorded that there was enemity among the Hindus whoworshipped Sakhi Sarvar and the Sikhs who rejected him (Sakhi Sarvar). The Sufi tradition (Harjot p. 155) was at its apex during the period of Sheikh Farid but it disappeared after fourteenth century. Similar is the presentation of Harjot with regard to Gugga, Sitla, astrologers and the other Hindu cultural religious patterns in practice by a few deviants. Harjot wants the reader to accept it as tradition.
This is an angry book written with contempt for Sikh ideology. This is proved by the vituperative addresses, sentences, statements and aggressive tone. While referring to the criticism by the Sikh intellectuals, writers and elites, Harjot uses the term primitive protest. Even under this heading he displays his confusion. While referring to the criticism of the Sikh writers with regard to adoption of un-Sikh like activities by Sikhs, he calls Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha as the beginner. Here, he refers to Gurbilas Patshahi Chhevin. Earlier, he had referred to Kesar Singh Chhiber too. He stands no were. Though this is a proven fact that the Sikh writers have never ignored the lapses of aberrants or the new entrants in the Sikh faith, these deviants or ignorant people always needed help to know the concept till they became fully conversant with the ideology.
The chapter “Conserving Sanatan Sikh Tradition: The Foundation of the Singh Sabha” too, is full of misrepresentations, false information and distortion of facts. Harjot presents stray acts as authentic tradition as portrays the deviants as representatives. Harjot’s quotations from the Census prove nothing but a confused state of mind or lack of information with the officials who recorded the census. This, however, proves that the British were not classifying religious boundaries. If the :British were doing so, then there would not have been confused entries with regard to faith (Harjot p. 212). In the chapter “A New Social Imagination: The making of Tat Khalsa”, Harjot does not conceal his dislike and hatred for the intellectual leadership of the Singh Sabha movement. For the Sikhs who dared check the onslaught of the anti-Sikh forces, Harjot coins a new term ‘Tat Khalsa’. His approach for the Sikh intelligentsia is aggressive and cruel. He despises their act of sifting chaff from grain. He laments why Sikh intelligentsia was successful in bringing an end to most of the un-Sikh interference in the Sikh world. Harjotain contempt for the Singh Sabha leadership reaches its height when he writes about Giani Ditt Singh. “It is ironic that Ditt Singh, an untouchable himself, took to censoring inter-caste commensality”. Harjot accepts, on the one hand, that Giani Ditt Singh, inspite of his family of birth, was respected by the whole of the Sikh nation (Harjot must be feeling perturbed over this). Secondly, Harjot wants to present Giani Ditt Singh as an untouch-able writer. The use of the word “ironic” further exposes the mind of Harjot.
Further, he is grieved that Singh Sabha was successful in revival (in his words Sikhising). He attributes this success to the mass scale campaign by the Sikh intelligentsia. He, however, ignores the fact that the anti- Sikh propaganda by the Hindus, the Arya Samaj, the Christian organisations was more powerful. All the Sikh shrines were occupied by the Hindu managers, Udasis and the henchmen of the regime. The financial sources of the Sikh leadership were so meager that their Journals and the other organs could not survive for a long time. The Sikh aristocracy, the rulers, etc. had turned their back to the Singh Sabha, and still the Sikh masses accepted the Singh Sabha’s lead. The journals of the Singh Sabha were in English language which could be understood by 1% of the Sikhs. The Hindu occupants of the Gurdwaras issued a Hukamnama against Professor Gurmukh Singh excommunicating him. All these tactics, activities and attacks were such as no ordinary organisation could have survived, much less played an effective role. Inspite of this, the Sikh nation, as a whole, rejected most of the un-Sikh culture.
A study of this book leaves no doubt about the ulterior motives of Harjot. He sympathises the debauch Hindu Mahants (managers), he dislikes Sikh opposition to immoral practices, he laments end to the celebrations of the fairs where eve-teasing, drunkenness and vulgarity were prevalent, he sympathises with
the fortune-tellers whom the Sikhs rejected, he does not like that the Sikhs don’t observe fasts like Hindus, he feels sorry for the Sikhs learning Gurmukhi and he hates all reforms. Above all, he dislikes the Sikhs accepting the command of the Tenth Guru, installing Guru Granth Sahib as Guru Eternal.
Harjot ignores all genuine sources and chooses minor stray irrelevant references that suit formulations. He does not consider (may be he has not read them) Gurbilas Patshahi Dasvin (Koer Singh), Mahima Parkash, Bhatt Vahis, Rehitnamas, the writings of Bhai Gur-das, Bhai Mani Singh, Bhai Nand Lal, the Persian sources like Dabis-tan-e- Mazahib, Ibrat Namah, Jang Namah, Twarikh-e-Hind; Tarikh-e-Sikhan, Umdat- ut-Twarikh, etc., the works of Bhai Jodh Singh, Karam Singh Historian, Hari Ram Gupta, Prem Singh Hoti, etc. Harjot has ignored hundreds of the sources in favour of petty, ir-relevant references and the works of aberrants and anti-Sikh writers. As a result, his book is no more than an addition to literature of vile propaganda.
Why did he do so? It is not easy to answer this question. But one can analyse his background, life style, career and association. Harjot was a Student of Marxist teachers (i.e.” Romila Thapar, Bipin Chander, K. N. Pannikar, etc.) at the J.L.N.University, Delhi. After this, he joined Australian University for his Ph.D. studies. It seems that he was awarded Ph. D. degree because he joined Eurocentric racist group and wrote his thesis according to the wishes of this school. Immediately after getting Ph.D. degree, like Pashaura and other members of this Anti-Sikh Eurocentric Racist School, he was appointed to the Chair of Sikh Studies at Vancouver. Since then, he along with the other leaders of the Anti-Sikh school, led by W. H. Mcleod, no wonder is busy in production of Anti-Sikh literature.
A word about the Oxford University Press.Why is this prestigious publishing house some anti-Sikh propagation? It seems some anti-Sikh organization is influencing some of the editors. I hope the managers of this reputed house shal1look into the matter and bring an end to this sad state of affairs.
To sum up, Harjot’s book is no academic work. Vagueness, ambiguity, uncertainty, confusion are its main features. It is an angry work written with prejudice, hatred, disdain, malice and ill will, and is fun of mischievous propaganda based on misinformation. It seems to be a part of some international conspiracy.
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