22 janta ajjkal khuswant singh dian quotes noo chah ke laindi aa.......janta yaani jede sikhism nu hinduism mande han.......aa ik article aa......khushwant singh bare
The Changing Interpretation of Khushwant Singh
by Baldev Singh
This write-up is prompted for the following reasons:
First, in the India Tribune (Chicago) of September 20, 2002 Niaranjan Shah asserted that Sikhs are Hindus. To support his claim he quoted Khushwant Singh’s writings and the Indian Constitution, which claims that Sikhs are Hindus. However, the editor ignored my rebuttal to this absurd claim (Indian Media and Minorities, SikhSpectrum, November 2003). Hindu intellectuals and media take delight in deriding Sikhs and Sikhism.<SUP>1 The Sikhs rancor in the eyes of Hindu elite as they remind them of their humiliating past, from the time of the expedition of Mohammad Bin Qasim to Sindh in 710 to the departure of the British from India in 1947.
The Hindu elite have become masters of manipulation, deception and hypocrisy. To hide their pain and sense of shame, they console and entertain themselves by ridiculing Sikhs and other minorities. In contrast to the degrading and humiliating history of the Hindus, the history of Sikhs is a saga of sacrifices to uphold the principles of Nanakian philosophy of universal humanism.
Unlike the Hindu elite who used to prostrate before the mighty Mughals and sing paeans eeshvro va dilishvro va, (The emperor of Delhi is as great as God), 2 the Sikhs fought against both the tyranny of caste ideology and the oppression of Muslim rulers. With dogged determination and firm faith in the sovereignty3 bestowed upon them by the tenth Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh, they succeeded in defeating the combined forces of caste ideology and the mighty Mughals and established the Khalsa (Sikh) rule over a vast tract of Northwestern India.4
Second, in his interview with J. S. Tiwana, Khushwant Singh made some outrageous statements: "Sikh are kesadhari-Hindus. Their religious source is Hinduism. Sikhism is a tradition developed within Hinduism. Guru Granth Sahib reflects Vedantic philosophy and Japji is based on the Upanishads. Unity of God and casteless society etc. was also preached by other Vaisnava Bhagats."
"But in your earlier works you had stated that Sikhism is a blend of Hinduism and Sufism," countered Tiwana. "Yes, McLeod’s works did change my thinking.5 A scholar must keep his mind open," replied Singh.
However, when someone calls a Sikh a kesadhari-Hindu, he is ever ready to unseath his sword to avenge the insult.6 On the other hand the editor of an international Sikh publication, the Sikh Review – Saran Singh – devoted the entire Feburary 2003 issue to the writings of Khushwant Singh to project and promote him as a great Sikh scholar. Moreover, Saran Singh trampled over journalistic ethics by publishing the sanitized version of Tiwana’s interview by removing the outrageous statement "Sikh are kesadhari-Hindus."7 The man who calls Sikhs as kesadhari-Hindus is being promoted as a great Sikh scholar! This creates confusion in the minds of ordinary Sikhs!
Third, there are too many "me too writers / scholars" nowadays whose knowledge of Sikhism is limited to what they have learned on their grandparents knees, from their favorite Sant / Babas and Janmsakhis. And such writers / scholars also rely on Khushwant Singh’s writings on Sikhism. Under these circumstances it is urgent and desirable that Khushwnat Singh’s statements in his interview with Tiwana are tested on the touchstone of Aad Guru Granth Sahib, which is the only authentic source of the Sikh faith.
To understand Khushwant Singh’s current views about Sikhism, it is important to first know his background. He is probably the most well-known and popular journalist in India. So whatever he writes, whether right or wrong and fact or fiction is published. When he was the editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India, he startled a Hindi writer by asserting that his mother tongue is English. Little did the naïve Hindi writer realize that Khushwant Singh is the son of Sir Sobha Singh? He was educated in the English medium. He studied law in England and practiced law for few years in the Lahore Court. However, his heart was in some place else – in journalism. He has been working as a journalist since 1951.
In his earlier days Singh was a bold and straightforward guy who didn’t hesitate speaking the truth. It was Khushwant Singh who used to arrange Master Tara Singh’ press conferences with foreign journalists. However, in the 1960s he underwent a change and while trying to please politicians lost his sense of objectivity. During the Emergency imposed by Indra Gandhi (1975), he was not only her strongest supporter but also used to serenade her son Sanjay and his wife Menaka, whom he regarded as his orally adopted daughter (munh boli dhi). Later he wrote a book with juicy tales about the Gandhi family including Menaka. Outraged Menaka took him to the court to stop the publication of the book.
During the Government sponsored murder and rape of Sikhs, and the looting and burning of their properties after the assassination of Indra Gandhi, Khushwant Singh saved himself by hiding in the Swedish Embassy, and he described the events as a pogrom. Khushwant Singh, who considers English as his mother tongue, later changed pogrom to "riot." In his columns he frequently extols the virtues of Mahatma Gandhi – peace and nonviolence. However, he had no compunction in travelling all over Punjab with KPS Gill – a sadistic killer -- exhorting police officials to kill "the bastards."
They stopped at the dera of Baba Thakar Singh of Dadami Taksal to seek his blessing. At a press conference he vigorously defended the extra-judicial killing of Sikhs by saying "police had no option but to take law into their own hands." Reacting to this abomination Col. Partap Singh remarked,
<DIR>"Khushwant Singh’s behavior is reminiscent of the 58 Jews holding senior jobs in the Nazi regime who gave approval to Hitler’s policy of extermination of Jews. The Jewish community remembers them as Judean rats." And he reminded Khushawant Singh that the UN General Assembly, in its resolution adopted in December 1989, had sought to stop this type of extra-judicial executions.8
</DIR>Khushwant Singh didn’t believe that Sardar Jaswant Singh Khalra was a human rights activist. However, after reading Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab his dormant conscience suddenly woke up and whispered, "These stories are spine-chilling, the Punjab police has to do some explaining."9
What Khushwant Singh is doing is not new or unusual, as there were always people like him throughout human history. For example, during the Muslim rule, the Hindu elite used to call them malesh (polluted ones) privately, but praised the Emperor of Delhi as God in public.2 Similarly, after the conquest of Punjab by the British, some depraved people, at the behest of the British, concocted an absurd and profane story about Guru Tegh Bahadur. When Emperor Aurangzeb asked the Guru, "Why are you looking toward the South", he replied, "I am looking for my European Sikhs, who are going to destroy your kingdom".10 Sir Baba Khem Singh Bedi, other toadies, and ignorant preachers used to narrate this story to ignorant and gullible Sikhs. These people including the clergy, controlled by the British, used to call revolutionary Sikhs -- Gadharites and Babar Akalis who were fighting against the British -- as non-Sikhs.11,12
In the interview with Tiwana, Khushwant Singh remarked, "Chandu Lal Trivedi did not issue any directive to Punjab district authorities against criminal tendencies of the Sikh people, it is a figment of Kapur Singh’s imagination." May be Chandu Lal did not issue such a directive, but what Khushwant Singh did not tell Tiwana, is that Chnadu Lal Trivedi, like industrialist Parakh and Mohammad Ali Jinah, was a family friend of Khushwant Singh’s father Sir Sobha Singh.
Let us now examine Khushwant Singh’s arguments that Sikhs are kesadhari- Hindus and Sikhism is an offshoot of vaisnava bhakti movement.
Hindu terminology in Aad Guru Granth Sahib (AGGS)
Singh cites McLeod’s observation13 that there is a preponderance of Hindu terminology versus Islamic terminology in AGGS. Of course it is true, but it does not in any way or manner prove that Sikhs are Hindus and Sikhism is rooted in Hinduism. The logical and obvious explanation for the preponderance of Hindu terminology in AGGS is that Guru Nanak grew up among Hindus and at that time when the Indian population was predominantly Hindu. It was with the Hindu audience that he had most of his religious discussions, debates and discourses. It was the Hindus to whom he preached most of the time, and it is natural that he used Hindu terminology to explain concepts.
However, the meaning of these words is not the same in Nanakian philosophy. Guru Nanak rejected the essentials of Hinduism and the moral authority of Hindu scriptures.14 He rejected the concepts of reincarnation, karma and transmigration, hell and heaven, and mokhsa (salvation).15 The names of Hindu gods like Ram, Krishan, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh in AGGS are used only for the "One and only – Supreme Being." There are rare personal references to Hindu gods who are depicted as mere mortals. For example:
<DIR>In exile, Ram bewailed when he was separated from Sita and Lachman. Even the Pandvas who lived in the company of their master (lord Krishna) were forced to do hard labor in destitution.
AGGS, M 1, p 953.
Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are afflicted with self-centeredness (haumain) as the rest of the world.
Only those are free from this affliction, who have recognized the need to be one with God through meditation on the Word.
AGGS, M 1, p 1153.
</DIR>On the other hand, though there are far less references to Islamic terminology, the meaning of Islamic terms is essential the same. For instance -- Allah, Khuda, Rab, Rahim, Karim and Parvaradgar (God’s name) -- hukam (Divine order), raza (Will) and qudrat (nature), ardas (prayer) -- nadir, karam, mehar, tars and bakhshih (Divine grace). Moreover, words like Sardar or Sirdar (leader), Nihang (Akali Singh), fateh (victory), shahadat (martyrdom) and shaheed (martyr) are of Islamic origin and used in the same sense. Additionally, Guru Gobind Singh used the word Khalsa in the Arabic sense for the entire Sikh community when he abolished the massand system. The word massand is a derivative of the Persian word masnad (seat of authority).
The Sikh Gurus rejected Hindu gods and goddesses and the moral authority of Hindu scriptures.
<DIR>I have searched many Shastars and Simrtis; their teachings do not show the way to God.
But the dwelling on God’s attributes is invaluable.
AGGS, M5, p 265.
Many a Brahma got tired of studying Vedas, but they could not estimate even an iota of God’s greatness.
Ten incarnations of Vishnu and the famous ascetic Shiv who got tired of smearing his body with ashes, could not fathom God’s extent.
AGGS, M 5, p 747
</DIR>Furthermore, Guru Nanak did not assign any specific name or gender to God. Sikhs continue to use "He" for God under the influence of other religions. God is most often described in adjectives emphasizing God’s ineffable nature. The Gurus accepted all names, people used for God. But God is the creator of the cosmos. God is beyond time and space, so what appropriate word or term could describe the Indescribable – the Ineffable One?
<DIR>O, The Primordial One, tongue describes You by the names people have given You, (but You are without any descriptive name). ‘Everlasting One’ is Your Primordial name.
AGGS, M 5, p 1083.
</DIR>Additionally, Guru Nanak rejected asceticism and celibacy. It is the householder who sustains human society, whereas an ascetic is a parasite. It is the householder who makes an honest living and practices charity that finds the path to God, not the ascetic who goes with a begging bowl to the householder for alms. "Never bow at the feet of the one who claims to be a great spiritual teacher, but goes begging for alms (AGGS, M, 1, p 1245). On the other hand, "One who works hard to make an honest living and practices charity finds the path to God (AGGS, M 1, p 1245).
The Sikh Gurus were champions of a householder’s life, and they emphasised and promoted it in their writings. The relationship between God and man is depicted in the imagery of family life. God is the husband and all human beings (men and women) are the spouse. God is also called father, mother, brother, friend and lover. Professor Puran Singh, the mystic poet – the spirit of a Sikh -- has summed up beautifully and succinctly the meaning of Hindu terminology present in AGGS.
<DIR>The words Brahman (Braham) and Para-Braham also come in Guru Granth, but as Cunningham says "by way of illustration only. Similarly, the names of all gods and goddesses of Brahminical Pantheon.16
It is to be regretted that Sikh and Hindu scholars are interpreting Guru Nanak in the futile terms of the color he used, the brush he took. They are analyzing the flesh of his words and dissecting the texts to find the Guru’s meaning to be the same as of the Vedas and Upanishads! Dead words are used to interpret the fire of the Master’s soul!16
</DIR>Upanishads and Japu (Japji)
A learned Hindu may find reference to Upanishads like a learned Muslim may find reference to Qur’an in Guru Nanak’s Japu. For example, commenting on the long bloody war between Muslim rulers and the Sikhs, poet Mohammed Iqbal observed, "Fault lies with the Muslim clergy who didn’t pay any attention to Guru Nanak’s works. Japu is essentially a commentary on Qur’an." Commenting on the victory of Khalsa forces over the Muslim rulers, Iqbal said, "The Khalsa snatched away the sword and Qur’an from the Muslims."17 People of other faith may make similar claims.
A colleague who shared the laboratory with me once asked, "Baldev, what is that mantra you often hum while working on your experiments? Does it really expedite your research work. Even I have learned a few words, my pronunciation may not sound good." "Stan, it is not a mantra, these are two verses from the composition of our fifth master, Guru Arjan Dev. They are about you and me and the whole humanity." "What do you mean." So, I explained him:
<DIR>Enmity to none and none is stranger, we get along with all.
AGGS, M 5, p 1299.
O my Beloved, all claim Your kinship, no one considers You as stranger.
AGGS, M 5, p 97.
</DIR>After a moment’s reflection, Stan exclaimed, "O, that’s the Bible!"
No wonder why non- Sikhs like George Bernard Shaw, novelist Pearl S. Buck, poet Mohammed Iqbal, historian Arnod Toynbee, Reverend H. L. Bradshaw and Swami Ram Tirath Danda Sanyasi recognized the teachings of Guru Nanak as a philosophy of universal humanism and Aad Guru Granth Sahib as the common heritage of mankind.
Besides, like all other Hindu scriptures, Upanishads also supports the validity of the caste system whereas AGGS repudiates the caste system categorically. According to Subal Upanishad, Brahman came from the mouth of Brahma, the Kashatrya from the shoulders, the Vaishya from the thighs, and Shudra from the feet.18
How did Khushwant Singh become an expert on Sikhism?
From the Gurbani verses often quoted in Khushwant Singh’s columns, it is quite evident that he has not studied AGGS seriously. His interpretation is usually literal and invariably wrong. He was a member of a team consisting of Dr. Gopal Singh, Dr. Trilochan Singh, Bawa Harkishan Singh and Kapur Singh, which translated selected portions of AGGS for UNESCO. I think Khushwant Singh was invited for his mastery of the English language, not for his knowledge and understanding of AGGS.
He is well known for his two volumes of History of Sikhs, though he has also authored several other books on Sikhism. Khushwant Singh’s thinking about Sikhism has almost undergone 180 degree change from his earliest writing to the more recent ones.32 In 1963, he recorded in his History of Sikhs that Nanak not only founded a new religion and started a new pattern of living, he also set in motion an agrarian movement whose impact was felt all over the country.33
In 1984, he wrote in the Punjab Story, "Being himself a Hindu was at the same time concerned with reforming Hinduism. But as the years went by and his message caught on among the masses, he decided to give his teachings permanency through a sect of his own sect."34
In 1991, in the Illustrated Weekly he stated: "Sikhism is an offshoot of Hinduism and is only distinguished from it by is external symbols of the Khalsa. The theology is entirely Hindu. Almost nine tenths of Guru Granth Sahib, composed largely by Guru Arjan is in fact Vedanta, and the essence of all you read in the Upanishads and the Gita."35 Similarly, in an entry in the Encyclopaedia Britanica (15th ed. Vol. 27) authored by him he observed, "Sikhism was historical development of the Hindu Vaisnava bhaktii movement – a devotional movement among the followers of god Vishnu – that began in the Tamil Country and was introduced to the North by Ramanuja."
I will leave up to historians to judge Khushwant Singh’s credentials as a historian and the quality of his works as source of Sikh history and Sikhism! However, I have no hesitation in stating that his History of Sikhs fails to give a clear picture of Sikh philosophy, its purpose and its accomplishments. On the other hand after reading his works, a serious student of Sikhism realizes the superfluous nature of Khushwant Singh’s understanding of Sikhism and his unprofessional and ugly attempt to distort Sikhism to advance his personal agenda.
A rejoinder to one of Khushwant Singh’s article is reproduced hereunder so that the readers can draw their own conclusions about his credentials as a Sikh scholar. In 1979, Khushwant Singh wrote the article Sikhs Elect their Mini-Lok Sabha in his fortnightly, New Delhi of April 16. This 3-4-page article contained many erroneous statements, misquoted adages, derogatory language and misinterpretations, but by chance it came to the notice of Professor Hazara Singh, Head, Department of Journalism, Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana.
Professor Hazara Singh sent a point-by-point rebuttal to Khushwant Singh. Khushwant Singh acknowledged his mistakes, however, refused to publish the rebuttal on the pretext that his was a casual write-up. Fortunately, Professor Hazarar Singh published both Khushwant Singh’ article and his rejoinder in the October issue of the Sikh Review of 1979. For the sake of brevity only the rejoinder is reproduced below.
i) The five Takhats are Akal Takhat Amritsar; Patna; Kesh Garh, Anadpur; Damdama, Talwandi Sabo and Hazur Sahib (Nanded) according to their historical order. Fatehgarh is not one of them.
ii) The State Legislature which passed the The Sikh Gurdwara Act (No. VIII, 1925) was called Punjab Legislative Council and not Punjab Legislative Assembly.
iii) The demarcation of Punjab on linguistic basis was announced in 1965, after the Indo-Pakistan conflict and not in 1964. The re-demarcated Punjab, wrongly quoted by many as Punjabi Suba (state), was not exclusively achieved as result of the agitation launched by Akali Dal.
After the repulsion of the attack by the Indian Army and threat posed by Pakistan Armored Corps to cut across the Khem Karan border in September 1965, there had been a thinking in New Delhi to have Indian forces retreated up to Beas and fight back Pakistan from that strategic position.
The Sikh officers pointed out that the surrender of Darbar Sahib, Amritsar to Pakistan would demoralize the Sikh soldiers and might result in a greater debacle at other fronts. It was Sikh peasantry of Amritsar, which helped maintain the supply line of disorganized Indian Defense Forces. It was reported to New Delhi that the Sikh women were playing a vital role in the struggle for survival by cooking meals for the army; VIPs from Delhi came incognito to verify that and went away convinced that the Sikhs would get what they had been agitating for. Khushwant Singh was at Los Angles then contemplating the draft of a communication, which he posted to President Ayub Khan from Hong Kong. The contempt with which his epistle was treated deserves to be extended to this contribution also.
iv) Khushwant Singh may like to ascertain whether Bakhshi Gopi Chand, father of Master Tara Singh was a Brahmin or a Khatri.
v) It was not Guru Ram Das, Nanak IV, who acquired the site of the present city of Amritsar. "In the time of Guru Amar Das, a site, about twenty-five miles from Goindwal was purchased. Bhai Jetha (who later was consecrated as Guru Ram Das) was sent there by the Guru. He built himself a small hut and started digging the tank. This is how the modern city of Amritsar began." (Harbans Singh and Lal Mani Joshi, An Introduction to Indian Religions, Punjabi University, Patiala, May 1973, P 220.)
vi) It is incorrect that after the annexation of the Sikh kingdom (Punjab) by the British in 1849, the English rulers won over the Sikh soldiery by taking them in the company’s forces and further rewarded them for their support during the Mutiny of 1857 by granting large tracts of land and privileges in the services.
"The Sikh assistance to the British has been misunderstood. In fact by and large the people in Punjab viewed the British Government with distrust and resentment. Disarming the entire Punjabi population had left them bereft of the means of self-defense. Many of the Sikh dignitaries who had taken part in fighting against the British were languishing in prison; many others were living under humiliating conditions. The lands of Jagirdars had been considerably cut down. The Khalsa Army having been disbanded, a large number of the erstwhile soldiers had been driven to the plough." (Fauja Singh, Who is Who – Punjab Freedom Fighters, Vol. I, Punjabi University Patiala, February 1972, p xii.)
The grant of large tracts of land to the Sikhs in the canal areas is a mere fancy. Solitary cases do not make a rule, but the land could be allotted to the peasantry only, which happened to be Sikh predominantly. An educationally backward peasantry could not be extended any privileges in the services, though that favor might have been bestowed on the offsprings of Nawabs, Rai Bahadurs and Sardards. No government takes into its services the soldiers of the once enemy ranks. Neither East India Company absorbed the Sikh soldiery, nor the National Government headed by Jawahar Lala Nehru reinstated the INA personnel, however patriotic they had been.
The discussion on Khushwant Singh’s views about Sikhism in this article unequivocally demonstrates that his utterances or writings are nothing more than a shear false propaganda of a tabloid journalist to advance his own agenda. Khuswant Singh is no different than his father. While hundreds of Sikhs kissed the gallows, hundreds were exiled to the isles of black waters and hundreds courted martyrdom in the Gurdwara Liberation Movement, Gadhar movement and Jallianwala Bagh to liberate India from the British yoke, Khuswant’s father, Sobha Singh became Sir Sobha Singh enriching himself and his progeny. Khuswant Singh is no different from Hindus who used to regard Mulim rulers as incarnation of God.
Re: khushwant singh
This is not by Khushwant Singh.
Guru Arjun Dev, Raag Maaroo, Page 1082
The Lover of greatness, who dwells in heaven.
By the Pleasure of His Will, He took incarnation
as the great fish and the tortoise.
The Lord of beauteous hair, the Worker of miraculous deeds,
whatever He wishes, comes to pass. ||8||
He is beyond need of any sustenance, free of hate and all-pervading.
He has staged His play; He is called the four-armed Lord.
He assumed the beautiful form of the blue-skinned Krishna;
hearing His flute, all are fascinated and enticed. ||9||
He is adorned with garlands of flowers, with lotus eyes.
His ear-rings, crown and flute are so beautiful.
He carries the conch, the chakra and the war club; He is the Great Charioteer,
who stays with His Saints. ||10||
The Lord of yellow robes, the Master of the three worlds.
The Lord of the Universe, the Lord of the world;
with my mouth, I chant His Name.
Guru Arjun Dev, Raag Maaroo, Page 1082