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
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
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.