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Steadiness of Dedication is Memorable Tribute to Dr Kharak Singh

Dr Bhai Harbans Lal*

The last five decades that I knew Dr Kharak Singh and often worked with him and his organizations saw the discouraging seesaw in the Panthic health. There were many signs of this troubling situation and it did challenge and awakened many otherwise quiescent well wishers of the Panth to jump into action. Young Kharak Singh was one of those Sikh youth who joined All India Sikh Students’ Federation to realize his desire of serving the Panth.

In the student days of Kharak Singh, the Panthic politics began to slip into the hands of those who would seek Panthic traditions to actually serve their personal agendas. Panth was carelessly used to provide effective sloganeering for politicians. Many of the Sikh leaders began to play into the hands of those who were not happy to see us thrive.

Further, those who were sincere to serve the cause espoused by our founders were so blinded by our uneducated clergy that most of them failed to see any difference between promotion of ethnicity for profit and the universal ideals of Sikhism. Sikhism was created to serve humanity and lead members of the human race into becoming civil societies of god-like people.

In spite of discouraging situation, the Infinite Wisdom of the Guru showed the way so that the Light though seemed dim at time continued to shine in the world around. It showed the way to those who opened their heart, and sprouted within all who sought it.

In the era of Dr Kharak Singh there surged the new Sikh youth. This new generation disregarded any proclamation from the self-styled claimants of the ownership of the Guru and leadership of the Panth. They recruited men and women from schools and colleges. More recently, they expanded their influence among the Sikh Diasporas. They are employing open platforms of electronic and cyber communication to enhance the rainbow of colors around the Guru’s light so that it may shine on every eye that is open. I call them invisible breed of Sikh clergy.

A new breed of invisible clergy is being born every day. The number of those accessing information on Sikhee runs into millions. New cyber congregations and discussion groups are springing up every day. In the future, they will interpret and reinterpret the message of the Guru Granth to all and without prejudice.

Dr Kharak Singh who has died at a ripe age of 86 was one such young man who developed love for serving the Panth at a young age. In addition he interested other intellectuals to join his rescue brigades to put off the fires.

Like all of us, young Kharak Singh joined All India Sikh Students Federation when in college and continued to be an activist throughout his youth and middle age. This he told me when he was a graduate student in Ohio. I left India in 1956 for higher education and did not get chance to work with him much in India during his time at the college and university. He told me that he was proud of working with Sikh youth still on the school benches. He saw their potential for providing new Sikh leadership. Our mutual love for each other began from those associations.

I recall having many fruitful dialogues on Sikh issues beginning right from the days of his USA visit as a student at Ohio State University; I was studying at the University of Chicago. I travelled to Ohio to see him and he came to Chicago to see me. We spent many nights keeping awake and deeply engrossed talking about our youth and our national future.

His concern with future of the Sikh youth and his enthusiasm to commit his time and energy for the promotion of Sikh projects was very apparent to all of his associates right from the beginning.

When in Chandigarh, Dr. Kharak Singh always invited my opinion whenever he was ready to undertake a project. He invited me to all of his seminars and gatherings. In addition I always visited him at his home whenever I could either visit Chandigarh for some program or could arrange a detour during my travel just to visit him. Our most recent dialogues were immediately before and during this formation of his recent organization, International Sikh Confederation. Often he invited his close colleagues to join our discussions.

A key issue for Kharak Singh was keeping the Sikh intelligentsia fomenting with the problems the Sikh Panth continually faced. The forces of atheism, fanaticism, and ignorance were always there to destroy the real Sikhism. Then there was leadership who innocently played in the hands of the enemy. Kharak Singh was a Sikh to the core of his heart and to promote modern thinking of Sikhism, combating beliefs and practices that were archaic, unscientific and historical fictions were central to his programs. It is for these reasons that Kharak Singh founded the Institute of Sikh Studies and later promoted his colleagues particularly Brig Gurdip Singh to form Sikh Core Groups in major cosmopolitan areas. I was visiting New Delhi when Brigdiar Sahib took me to the newly-formed Core Group there and talked me into organizing one in North America.
Last time I remember visiting Dr Kharak Singh at his residence in Chandigarh when I returned from a successful visit to the Sikh shrines in Pakistan. He was interested in knowing all about the International symposium that we held in Lahore to review Guru Nanak’s contribution to Interfaith harmony. I informed him and sought his help in the proposed Sikh Research and Information Center to be established in Lahore. He was very interested in learning all about the working of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.

Starting as an activist of the All India Sikh Students Federation in his youth, Dr Singh rose to the high pinnacle of Sikh scholarship and respect on account of many contributions he made to Sikh literature and his forceful voice on critical Sikh issues. The amount of Sikh literature that he produced or caused to be produced does not have many parallels in this century. His death has certainly created a void in the Sikh intellectual circles which will be difficult to fill in the near future.

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