When Guru Nanak in his mystic trance was honoured by cosmic enlightenment, he, challenged the prevailing status quo by saying “I am neither a Hindu or a Musalmann”. The founder of Sikh religion created a multitude of enemies who went into “cognitive dissonance” and reacted very sharply to Sikhism as an independent religion. Historically speaking a positively actualized and evolved Sikh of Guru Nanak’s times, or Guru Gobind Singh’s Khalsa, has been enigma to the role dancing, docile, linear, convergent, myopic, “instrumental” Sikh researchers. H. Oberoi is one such pseudo-Sikh who has chosen to follow blindly Trumpp-McLeodian paradigms to make a living as a professor at the cost of a troubled Sikh community.
Sikhs had many enemies. The Mughal rulers, the enemies within, the close minded Arya Samajists, and finally the Eurocentric Colonial Missionary Research Scholars, have all taken sadistic pleasure in destroying Sikhism. These scholars, with their role dancing disciples, want to bring correctness to Sikh history. They use social science methods, developed in Europe, to understand Sikh Gurus and their mystic writings. Calvinistic thought and an arrogant belief in the inferiority of Asian religions is at the root of their Euro centric research. Oberoi’s work, under cover of Academic Freedom, forgets all norms of civility, and even tramples over the guidelines set by Social Science Research Council of Canada (1993).
Dr Oberoi is a willing victim of “scholarly”, unsubstantiated arrogance when he calls Aad Sri Guru Granth Sahib an amorphous collated anthology without uniqueness. Clumsy distortions, mindless anthropological constructions and assumptions, producing ig-nominious forged postures, sacrilegious statements about mystic Gurus, effectless effort of a bland, blunted, unattached, constricted, shallow, pathetic Oberoi has produced a disjointed cynical, conscienceless and unscrupulous book called “Construction of Religious Boundaries” to attack the independent Sikh Identity. His parasitic personality has caused embarrassment, humiliation and disgrace to the independently emerging Sikh community of Canada. In writing this book, he has shown his pathological idenification with Eurocentric paradigms, and has attempted to bring nihilistic depersonalization by biting the hands that fed him. A strong reaction formation to his childhood socialization gets verbalized in this book, which could be easily called an incoherent Eurocentric autoecholalia or anthropological word salad.
Many senior scholars of Sikh Studies have attempted to make sense of the garbled rambling of Oberoi, which can be seen from their credentials. All feel indignant because of the obnoxious, egocentric, and disdainful verbigerations of Oberoi and other Eurocentric “instant” role dancing Sikh historians. We would recom-mend that Oberoi and his “think tank” will benefit if they read Dr Edmund Hasserl’s book entitled “General Introduction to Phenomenology” (Allan and Urwin, New York). Some of the points are as follows:
Sikhs migrated to North America 100 years ago, and worked hard against racial discrimination and immigration bans. But still, they maintained their independent identity by establishing different Sikh Gurdwaras since 1907. Ever since the 1960s, as immigration policies in North America became more liberal, more educated Sikhs got the chance to migrate. Sikhs wanted to work with westeners at academic levels in the hope of getting a partnership which would secure best results at western universities, and paid with open mind to the U.B.C, U.O.T., Univ. of Michigan, and Columbia Univ. As the Sikhs have no political independent power to promote their Own identity, the Punjab crisis in the early 1980s forced the western Sikh community to take the responsibility on themselves to project the authentic image of Sikhism in the West (which was being eroded politically by anti-Sikh forces). Sikhs contributed generously so that a generation of promising young scholars would provide some long-term faculty appointments ending in long lasting results that would provide the future generations’ with the true Sikh identity and their roots as enshrined in Sikh scripture and early 17th and 18th century historical process in the making of Khalsa Sikh identity we]] documented in Persian and Sikh historical literature. The Sikh community gave all their trust, understanding, commitment and respect to the western university tradition of freedom of academic inquiry. They also thought that the western scholarship would also abide by the academic responsibility, honesty, humility, and integrity. They also hoped that the evidence and critical analysis would not mean hostility or insensitivity. But, all the dreams of the perspective donors were shattered at the U.O.T. by the planned attack on the authenticity of their Sikh scripture (original available in Kartarpuri Bir) by the use of unauthenticated MS#1245 (with no date, no history before 1987, no authorship). Somebody published articles under the authorship of Dr Loehlin while he was invalid or dead. The same author later on at Akal Takhat accepted the charges for doing such irresponsible research (for details, read “Abstract of Sikh studies”, July ’94). At the U.B.C there was a clear cut understanding in the memorandum agreement that the chairperson would present m accurate manner the Sikh doctrines, religious practice, and philosophy. Inspite of this agreement, the chairperson academically suppressed the historical evidence by Dr Rose and the Sikh identity as established in Sikh scripture and early Persian and Sikh historical sources of 17th and 18th century. Dr Oberoi, masquerading as a Sikh historian, will identify with the agressor “due to his repression, projection oriented personality and would become a ‘turn-coated Sikh Scholar”, thereby inflicting subjective pain to 16 million Sikhs.
Dr Oberoi has openly admitted that he is not a student of religion. Then why did he write about the “religious boundaries”? Sikhs feel that he simply did this to make his masters happy, who helped him to get his job. S. Mohinder Singh Gosal, President of the Sikh Societies of Canada, said “that there is sufficient evidence to prove that the two year delay to start this chair was intentional under pressures from anti-Sikh political forces”. It is possible that the two year wait was a design to hire a groomed applicant,. We request that the Multi-Culture Department, who is also a party to the contract with U .RC, should investigate this issue. Dr Oberoio did as Asad notes, “it is a notorious tactic of political power to deny a distinct unity to populations it seeks to govern, to treat them as contingent and indeterminate... It is precise-ly the viewpoint of interventionist power that insists on the permeability of social groups, the unboundedness of cultural unities, and the instability of individual selves’ (Talal Asad. “Multiculturalism and British Identity in the Wake of the Rushdie Affair”, Politics and Society 18(4) 1990). The Sikh Gurus made a new scripture with new ideologies and a new separate Sikh identity. The Vedas and Upanishads are without doubt the scriptures of all Hindu systems. Sikhism completely denies their authority and Guru Nanak even calls some of their injunctions to be wrong. The Sikh Gurus were clear and particular about the independent and separate identity of their religious system, and they compiled and authenticated the Sikh scripture in 1604. The Tenth Master took two important steps in this regard. First, he introduced the Nash doctrine, thereby making a complete and final break with all other Indian ideologies. Secondly, he sanctified Guru Granth as the living Guru and the sole scripture of the Sikhs, so that nobody would have the chance of any addition, alteration, or any departure from the authenticities or contents. To defme Sikh identity without the basis of the Sikh scripture is inadequate.
The Sikh community is clearly aware of the implications of methodological atheism that charcterize all rational empirical research today. We will give one example here that shows how these critical scholars manipulated the concept of rational empiricism. Numerous examples can be found in different books related to this issue.
Perspective donors felt cheated and humiliated, when the famous doctrine of succession of Guru Granth as the living Guru of the Sikhs from October 6, 1708 was altered. There are enough historical sources (Sikh, Persian, Sanskrit, Indian and European historians as quoted by Dr Ganda Singh, Dr Harbans Singh, Dr Madanjit Kaur) available, which indicate that Guru Gobind Singh, on October 6,1708, sanctified Aad Guru Granth as the living spiritual Guru of the Sikhs. Now let us see how these critical scholars at western universities suppressed the above historical evidence:
1) In 1994, Dr Oberoi’s “Constuction of Religious Bounaaries” said “When in 1708, at the death of Guru Gobind Singh, there was no one to succeed him as Guru, the Panth turned into his collective successor. This was to be an abiding belief of Khalsa Sikhs, one that came in handy when waging battles for collective survival and political sovereignity over the course of the 18th century.”
2) In 1991 Dr Pashaura Singh’s unpublished thesis “Text and Meaning of the Adi Granth” on page 91 says “The Singh Sabha reformers sanctified this standard version and set aside all other versions used in earlier centuries.”
3) Dr Gurinder Mann’s “Studying the Sikhs” on page 147 says “The death of Guru Gobind Singh, in 1708, began a new chapter in the history of the Sikh community. With the limited sources at our disposal, it is hard to understand clearly how the community effectively filled the vacuum caused by the passing away of the Guru and the dissolution of this central Sikh institution. Why was the Guruship discontinued?
Why couldn’t the above western scholars find the historical evidence of such, crucial Sikh doctrine, which has been cited by famous Sikh scholar, like Dr Ganda Singh, Harbans Singh, and Madanjit Kaur.
Is this western rational empirical approach ethical? According to Collier’s Encyclopedia, “academic freedom is never unlimited and the general social law including that of libel applies equally to it. Under academic freedom, individuals have the right to protest against re-search which can produce psychological pain, suffering and misinterpretation of doctrines.” After the candidate gets his degree, PhD thesis btKomes a public property. Why is the PhD thesis (Making of the Sikh Scripture) being locked at Columbia University since 1993?
Why did Dr Lou Fenech, another McLeodian student who finished his PhD degree (Playing the Game of Love, Sikh Tradition of Martydom) on December 16, 1994, have his thesis restricted until January 31,1997? (see appendix) What is there to hide? Is this a good example of methodological atheism? Good academics always have the ingredients of responsibility, honesty, humility, and integrity. We regret, the Association of Asian Studies, which is the largest organization of Asian scholars in North America, issued an “open letter of concern” without clarifying in detail the issues raised by both sides. Sikh Studies in North America has been under seige of one group of scholarship whose motive seem to be more political than academic. Dr Tarlochan Singh in his book “Ernest Trumpp and W.H. MeLeod: As Scholars of Sikh History, Religion and Culture” quotes on page 254: “A reading of ‘Evolution of Sikh Community’ (1975) reminded me of a white and physically attractive Bull who entered a China shop of rare curios and broke as many precious glassware as his first momentous attack could. Considering it a great and impressive feat, the Bull came out, started wagging his tail and became the leader of a whole group of White Bulls. Sometime all alone, sometimes with a team of White Bulls, Hew McLeod entered his China shop of Sikh Studies again with the express motive of reducing all the precious possessions of this China shop of “Sikh Religious and Historical Studies” to rubble and rubbish in his four thin books having the same themes, the same chapters and repetitions of malicious attack on Sikh religion and history on the basis of misstatements, distortion of facts and calculated ministerpretations of Sikh history and religion.”
Asian scholars, after reviewing the “Construction of Religious Boundaries,” will also end up in the limited gaze of Sikh history provided by McLeod and Oberoi, because it is an attempt at vacuous theorization and destruction of the unique Sikh identity built by Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh (1469-1708). The full gaze of history for true scholars of Sikhism, who would like to find the ideal Sikh identity, should seek the Sikh scripture and early historical sources of 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. What kind of justice can the academic world expect anyway, from a scholar who is attempting to demolish the Sikh identity, and yet continues to occupy the chair funded by the community?
Any honest clarification is being dubbed as fundamentalism and religious orthodoxy. Separate independent Sikh identity and authenticity of the Sikh scripture is being attacked. Main stream Sikh thought is being marginalized by this politically oriented scholarships. The acccuation of intimidation is being thrown at every scholar or institution who tries to give his opinion on the issues. Wrong statements are being made about the fact that people who object to this unethical scholarship are not qualified historians or academic
scholars of Sikh studies. All issues have been discussed in detail at different academic conferences and proceedings of such seminars are available for scrutiny. The issues have been clearly defined and must be taken up for dispassionate academic discussion. We request Association of Asian studies UBC, UOT, Univ. of Michigan, and Columbia Univ. to set up an immediate independent committee to review the issues. We will be more than happy to provide all books and articles published expressing such unethical and libellous issues of Sikh studies. We want cooperation from all concerned, and feel that South Asia council can take a lead on this, and it is only then that academic freedom for the scholars and the rights of the Sikh community will not be in danger.
Dr Oberoi has charged Dr Dhillon in relation to his thesis “Character and Impact of Singh Sabha Movement”. Suprisingly, Oberoi has got all his published writings on Singh Sabha movement, containing extensive discussion and rebuttal of his arguments. Why hasn’t he used this published work? Details of the objections raised by Dr Oberoi can be found in Dr Dhillon’s review of “Construction of Religious Boundaries.” Oberoi’s entire effort seems to be con-centrated on eroding the religious base of the Sikh community. If, as perceived by Oberoi, the “religious boundaries” were not clearly demarcated between the Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims, then where was the need for Arya Samaj to launch its vituperous propaganda followed by proselytisation campaign known as Shudhi which polluted the com-munal atmosphere in Punjab, and sowed the seeds of communal animosity leading to language tension, ethnic clashes, bloodshed and the partition of 1947, and ultimately ending in Operation Bluestar and Delhi Riots in 1984.
Dr Oberoi has willfully indulged in an irreligious exercise knowing full well the sentiments and beliefs of the Sikhs. He has produced tremendous psychological pain and suffering to 16 million Sikhs for whom the Aad Sri Guru Granth is their living Guru. Many of his statements about the Guru and their works (including Amrit ceremony) are illogical and ill-conceived. The Sikh community ap-proached a group of senior scholars who reviewed the agreement between the Sikhs and UBC (July 1994, see appendix for report) They also reviewed the publications of Dr Oberoi since 1987. They were of the opinion that Dr Oberoi’s publications were incompatible with the objectives of the Sikh chair; an irrelevant exercise in historiography; and suppressed the crucial historical record, therefore groslly unfair and harmful to Sikh sensitivity. We request all Sikh institutions, SGPC and Akal Takhat to create a standing committee of unbiased scholars to review such irresponsible research which is destroying the independent Sikh identity and to take action according to the religious code.
The Sikh religion or its identity cannot be studied with such parameters as are applied to Judo-Christian studies, because the latter are based on the concept of phenomenology, as their religion and scriptures, which numbering over 60, make it a history grounded religion. S. Kapur Singh in his book “Sikhism: An Oecumenical Religion” says, “Dr. Otto who in his book ‘Idea of the Holy’ (1928)
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