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«A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Social Sciences of the PUNJABI UNIVERSITY, PATIALA In Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of DOCTOR ...»

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A Thesis

Submitted to the Faculty of Social Sciences of the


In Fulfillment of the Requirements

for the Degree of




Supervised by Submitted by Dr. Gurmeet Singh Sidhu Jaswinder Singh




2011 Dedicated to My teacher and friend Prof. Jagdish Singh Certificate It is certified that Mr. Jaswinder Singh has worked under my supervision and guidance on his Ph.D. thesis entitled “Religious and Historical Paradigms of the Sikh Identity”. It is further certified that no part of this thesis has been submitted for any other degree/diploma to this or any other university/institution. I find it worthy of submission for Ph.D. degree.

Date____/___/2011 Dr. Gurmeet Singh Sidhu Reader, Guru Gobind Singh Dept. of Religious Studies, Punjabi University, Patiala Declaration I declare that this thesis “Religious and Historical Paradigms of the Sikh Identity” has been written by me and it has not previously formed the basis for the award of any degree/diploma by any other university/institution.

Date____/___/2011 Jaswinder Singh Countersigned By Date____/___/2011 Dr. Gurmeet Singh Sidhu (Abstract) Religious and Historical Paradigms of the Sikh Identity

1. Introduction Study of identity and its reflections are becoming important in social sciences especially in religious study. Due to the recent developments in different religious groups and communities the study of identity has come in academic focus. The main problem of this study is to understand the nature and development of Sikh identity and to find out the connections in its religious and historical paradigms.

2. Concepts

2.1. Identity According to the Oxford Dictionary, identity is the characteristics, feelings or beliefs that distinguish people from others: a sense of national / cultural / personal / group identity. As a sense of uniqueness, a feeling of continuity over time and a sense of ego completeness. And fourth characteristic demands identification with the ideals of some group that affirms the sense of self that is the final achievement of a healthy sense of identity. In this research work we purpose to identify the uniqueness of Sikh identity and its religious and historical paradigms.

2.2. Paradigm

The word ‘Paradigm’ is derived from Greek word ‘Paradeigma’ that means explanation of a pattern. In this research we are applying concept paradigm as a methodical framework to study the representive religious and historical patterns of the Sikh identity.

2.3. Religious Paradigm Religious paradigm of identity is a matter of religious identification or declaration. Those who believe or follow the specific doctrines of a particular faith are generally referred to as religious community. Every religious community has a specific identity that bonds their own faith. In this research we want to explore the distinguish feature of Sikh faith.

2.4. Historical Paradigm

Almost every identity links with the history of his group, caste, tribe, class, nation and community because that attaches with these in the object of conscious and unconscious mind. According to J.S.Grewal, ‘It is based on peculiar doctrines, institutions and social attitudes – including sense of commitment to matters temporal as well as spiritual. It necessary to take into account the approaches and the views for a comprehensive treatment of the subject. The historiographical perspectives have been presented to be examined in the light of understanding the subject’. The purpose of this research is also to understand the historical development of Sikh identity.

3. Objectives: The main objectives of this study are: –

1. To understand the nature and emergence of Sikh identity.

2. To understand the religious paradigms of the Sikh identity.

3. To understand the historical paradigms of the Sikh identity.

4. To understand the connections of religious and historical paradigms of the Sikh identity.



–  –  –

It is a matter of great privilege for me to acknowledge the encouragements, guidance and help which I received from eminent energies and sources throughout my research and study.

I express my solemn gratitude to my supervisor Dr. Gurmeet Singh Sidhu, who guided me to the topic. It is a great privilege to have worked under his methodological and scholarly guidance. Within this, I do thanks to the Head, all the faculty members, research mates and the students of my department for their encouragement to complete this dissertation.

I extend my sincerest gratitude to Prof. Jagdish Singh, who accepted me as student and friend from the first day of my university life. I would like to thanks to Dr. Gurbhagat Singh, Prof. Himat Singh and Dr. Meher Singh Gill for their valuable discussions on my work. Their constructive, profound and the depth of thoughts around the study table and the cup of tea illuminated the way to understand and to learn the language of universal research.

I present my great respect to my painstaking father S. Rajinder Singh and Mother Manjeet Kaur, whose blessings and love always remind me, objective of my real life. I am indebted to the affectionate love of my elder brother, Upkar Singh, his family and my younger brother, Satwant.

I am completely ineffectual and have not any word to express my emotions, feelings and regard towards my friends, who are creditworthy to complete my dissertation. My friends are countless like stars and trees but I would like to mention some quasars, such as Bhaji Paramvir Singh, Goru, Bakhshish, Kanika, Simran, Lakha, Nimma and Adarsh. Within this, I do very much thanks to the trees, birds, fauna and living energies of this university, who enriched my faith, blessed and injected into me the poetic flashes of life.

I express my respected feelings for the dedication and sincerity of Dr. Pritpal Singh for the genuine research. I would like to thank the United Sikhs for fulfilling my needs throughout the study. There is also effective contribution of ICHR, New Delhi, to award me scholarship for this research.

At last, it is obligatory to thanks of the libraries of various universities, institutions and their cooperative and helpful staff.

–  –  –


The issue of identity has acquired an unprecedented significance in the contemporary academic world. Its historical genesis can be traced in the holocaust in Germany and the two World Wars. Although the resonances of this concern are faintly conspicuous in ancient and modern world but post-modernity has to grapple vigorously with the some given to the conflict, violence and political recognition of crisis in the wake of post-colonial resurgence and globalized pluralistic co-existence mobility as a way of life.

Post-modernism attempts to de-centre and re-interpret the whole structures of thought. It may be called the revolutionary phase in the present discourse. Due to this, to define and to find the solution of the complexes and crisis of philosophy, identity becomes a major issue. About the post-modern framing of identity, Ali Rattansi observes that ‘this mode of analyzing identities in intrinsically connected to a decentring and de-essentializing of the subject and social. Decentring refers here in the first instance to the deflation of a rationalist/Cartesian pretension to unproblematic selfknowledge. It also involves a critique of the conception of a linear connection of subjects to the external world, in which reality is made transparent form a uniquely privileged vantage point through the application of rationality and empirical disciplines.

De-essentialism is an intimately related manoeuvre, cutting the ground away from conceptions of subjects and social forms as reducible to a timeless, unchanging,

–  –  –

example, or in the case of the social, the logic of the market or mode of production.

Altering is important here because subjects and the social, and thus both individual and collective identities, are seen not as essentially given, but as constantly under construction and transformation, a process in which differentiation from Others is a powerful constitutive force’.1 The conceptualization of decentring, de-essentializing and altering is very important to frame the identity in the present thought. The perspective of other is becoming important to understand the phenomena of identity. The issue of Sikh identity is becoming significant in Sikh studies. It has taken a serious turn after the attack on Sri Harmandir Sahib and Sri Akal Takhat in June 1984. Sri Harmandir Sahib and Sri Akal Takhat are highly respected and sacred places for the Sikhs. Kirpal Dhillon writes that ‘operation Blue Star finally concluded on 6 June with the death of Sant Bhindranwale, Shabeg Singh and a few others in assault on the Akal Takht, where they had been living for several months. In the process, the building of the Akal Takht, the most sacred of the five Sikh thakat or centers of temporal power, was razed to the ground and its many holy relics destroyed. The sanctum sanctorum and the Harmandir too received numerous bullet marks’.2 This attack was operated by Indian army. In this attack, hundreds of innocent people were killed by the army. Immediately, ‘between 1986-7 Operation Woodrose 1 Ali Rattansi, “Western Racisms, Ethnicities and Identities in a Postmodern Frame”, in Racism, Modernity and Identity: On the Western Front, Ali Rattansi and Sallie Westwood (eds.), Polity Press, UK, 1999, p. 29.

2 Kirpal Dhillon, Identity and Survival: Sikh Militancy in India 1978-1993, Penguin Books, New Delhi, 2006, p. 193.

–  –  –

closer to the extremist point of view. In early 1988 the Woodrose method was given up for a less rigorous one. As an officer in uniform said in 1988: ‘we no longer harass people if they were forced to give food or shelter to terrorists. Instead we encourage them to talk to us and we try to win them over to our side. This change in our policy has helped us a lot. Now people are beginning to inform us about the whereabouts of these terrorists’.3 Due to these operations, the situation was very crucial for the Sikhs to survive.

One side the Indian state was presenting the Sikhs as terrorists and on the other side;

the Sikhs were facing the problems within their own community. It was the complex situation of the Sikhs to project their real image on the world canvass.

Again, after 9/11, the issue of identity became a serious challenge for the Sikhs.

Rita Verma writes that ‘the post 9/11 backlash was pivotal in this community as it created more barriers for the youth in their schools as they became victims of racist slurs, threats and physical assault that were treated with apathy from teachers and administers. Students stopped going to school, changed their physical appearances, displayed ‘patriotic’ American sentiment to promote an appearance of belonging, became depressed and were even suicidal as a result of the 9/11 backlash. The sense of persecution and of being labled ‘suspect’ in the eyes of the public was detrimental to the families and ensuing ‘fear’ for their safety in public spaces provoked many violent 3 Dipanker Gupta, The Context of Ethnicity: Sikh Identity in a Comparative Perspective, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2002, p. 81.

–  –  –

1984 to the mid-1990s’.4 Consequently, world conditions forwarded a challenge for the Sikhs to define their identity. There faced many internal and external issues, which influence the image of the Sikh identity. The confusions about Sikh identity arose in the academic circles as well as in the political, social and cultural sphere. Rajiv A. Kapur writes that ‘for centuries, Sikh identity was diffused between Sahajdhari and Kesdhari Sikhs and overlapped with the Hindu community. Kesdhari Sikhs formed a distinct brotherhood of the Khalsa, but not all Khalsa considered themselves as distinct from the Hindus. Khalsa numbers were fluid and even among Khalsa members numerous divisions between various sects and particular religious adherence existed………Among Khalsa Sikhs there was a movement away from individual sect distinctions and towards the development of one common and distinct Sikh identity’.5 In academics, the issue of Sikh identity has been studied by the western scholars e.g. Trumpp, W.H. McLeod, Doris R. Jakobsh mainly. W.H. McLeod takes this question more seriously. However, he examines the problem from the historical angle. Harjot Oberoi, N.G. Barrier, Doris Jackbosh and some others carried the same tradition. On the other hand, Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha Daljeet Singh, G.S. Dhillon, J.S. Ahluwalia, J.S.

Grewal and Gurbhagat Singh also try to treat this question in the Sikh perspective.

4 Rita Verma, “Trauma Cultural And Identity Politics in a Post-9/11 Era: Reflections By Sikh Youth”, Sikh Formations, Vol. 2, No. 1, June 2006, p. 89.

5 Rajiv A. Kapur, Sikh Separatism: The Politics of Faith, Allen & Unwin, London, 1986, p. 32.

–  –  –

The present study has four main objectives. These are;

1. To understand the nature of the Sikh identity.

2. To examine the religious paradigms of the Sikh identity.

3. To describe the historical paradigms of the Sikh identity.

4. To examine the mediations of the Sikh theory (the religious paradigms) and

–  –  –


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