The INDIA Lobby and US Foreign Policy

Flag___India___US___1.jpgIn 2006, Professors John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) and Stephen Walt (Harvard) published a book titled The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy. In the book, Mearsheimer and Walt raise the following point that since 1967, America’s relationship with Israel has been the centerpiece of its Middle East foreign policy.

They then ask the question:

Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides. So if neither strategic nor moral arguments can account for Americas support for Israel, how are we to explain it?[link]

The answer:

The explanation is the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby. We use the Lobby as shorthand for the loose coalition of individuals and organisations who actively work to steer US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. This is not meant to suggest that the Lobby is a unified movement with a central leadership, or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues. Not all Jewish Americans are part of the Lobby, because Israel is not a salient issue for many of them. In a 2004 survey, for example, roughly 36 per cent of American Jews said they were either not very or not at all emotionally attached to Israel.[link]

While the Israeli Lobby remains one of the most powerful groups in Washington DC, there is a rising group in town the India Lobby. Sometimes I am shocked by the naivety of Sikh-Americans that have NO understanding of the power of the Indian lobby. They are generally completely ignorant of the vast prestige and increasing power of this group. (Then of course, there is the other extreme that believe agents lurk around every corner and never hesitate to call anyone that disagrees with them, a sarkari agent.)

In the past few weeks, the strength of this lobby and its powerful grip on the new Obama administration has been increasing revealed. Vijay Prasad has recently highlighted the powerful formation:

The Indian American Task Force will take their message to Congress and to the new administration, asking them to be much tougher on Pakistan. The impetus for this new combine and its lobbying is the Mumbai attacks of December 2008. But this is not just about justice for the victims of Mumbai. There is another dynamic involved, which is to walk the Jewish American road, to create an India Lobby that resembles the Israel Lobby.[link]

The primary group in the India Lobby is the US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), a group that was formed after 9/11 with the close support and encouragement of the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) and the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC).

The power of the India Lobby is extremely impressive. Congressman Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, has been the primary architect of the India Caucus. In less than a decade almost 25% of the entire House is now part of the India Caucus. Generous donations from Indian-American community leaders and Indian Government channels have helped grease the wheels of support. The Lobby proved its first test of effectiveness by defeating Dan Burtons annual bid to end US assistance to India. Dan Burton, who has always raised various Sikh issues in the Congress, stated that the India Lobby beat me into the ground. In 2002, Pallone was awarded by the Indian Government for his work and was presented the coveted Padma Bhushan, one of Indias highest civilian awards.

Still not convinced of the rising power of the India Lobby and its grip on the new Obama administration? Nothing could have been more evident than the formation of the new US envoy to South Asia. Foreign Policy magazine reports that

Richard Holbrooke, the veteran negotiator of the Dayton accords and sharp-elbowed foreign policy hand who has long advised Clinton, was officially named “special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan” in what was meant to be one of the signature foreign policy acts of Obama’s first week in office.

But the omission of India from his title, and from Clinton’s official remarks introducing the new diplomatic push in the region was no accident — not to mention a sharp departure from Obama’s own previously stated approach of engaging India, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan, in a regional dialogue. Multiple sources told The Cable that India vigorously — and successfully — lobbied the Obama transition team to make sure that neither India nor Kashmir was included in Holbrooke’s official brief.[link]

Although various groups have tried to justify reasons behind Obamas decision, still:

Whatever the case, the evidence that India was able to successfully lobby the Obama transition in the weeks before it took office to ensure Holbrooke’s mission left them and Kashmir out is testament to both the sensitivity of the issue to India as well as the prowess and sophistication of its Washington political and lobbying operation.

Once Holbrooke’s name was floated, the Indian lobbying campaign became even more intense. “The Indians do not like Holbrooke because he has been very good on Pakistan… and has a very good feel for the place” said one former U.S. official on condition of anonymity. “The Indians have this town down.“[link]

The budget and power of the rising India Lobby is tremendous. The report gives some notion of the India Lobbys resources:

Other sources said India’s hired lobbyists were deployed to shape the contours of the U.S. diplomatic mission. According to lobbying records filed with the Department of Justice, since 2005, the government of India has paid BGR about $2.5 millionIn addition, the Indian embassy in Washington has paid lobbying firm Patton Boggs $291,665 under a six-month contract that took effect Aug. 18, according to lobbying records.[link]

With such vast resources, on issues where the India Lobby (read: Indian Government) and Sikh issues diverge, expect an even further uphill battle. Whether you agree or disagree with the Khalistani projects, stalwarts such as Gurmit Aulakh, Ajrawat, and Amarjit Singh did a remarkable seva to have a Sikh voice heard, when there was nothing, in Washington DC during the 1980s and 90s. However it is time for bold thinking and a new project. It is in the interest of all Punjabis to keep Punjab nuclear-free and to make sure that humans rights abuses are noted and have consequences. I hope Sikhs play a role, but also invite like-minded Muslims, Hindus, Christians, etc. to create a Punjab-PAC to remain vigilant on such issues that effect the people of Punjab.

The new India Lobby seems to be close to the most right-wing of Indian politicians. They will continue to beat wardrums against Pakistan. This is not in the interest of the Punjab, as greater economic exchanges and religious tourism, is for the benefit of the people of Punjab. All interested parties would do well to begin contemplating the ramifications of the new and improved India Lobby and its seat at Obama’s table.


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110 Responses to “The INDIA Lobby and US Foreign Policy”

  1. jalebi buddy says:

    hey u guys are funny…let me take take some time and let u guys know that reincarnation is the key to life and that without this phenomena, our spirits will not undergo a complete cycle. If there is no cycle in life, then think of it as a common emitter linked with a emitter follower amplifier with no feedback at all. Clearly, this is a big problem. With this said, I would like to state that we live in a country where the president is black….and if the cycle continues….it will be a sikh one day. And if these issues are the foundation of our society once a sikh becomes president….our spirits will amalgamate with the demons from jamaica…and the whole PLAN will backfire…We must adress these issues in a logical and orderly manner. Once we can accomplish this… then only will we come to peace. Peace and Love is where the <3 is . This is the purpose of life…so be gay and merry… life is great…. so lets do this spiritual dance we call bhangra and give me a bruahhhhhhh….. shall the night fade away into the sun…and give us rivers to bathe in. We shall all be clean of our sins once again, and the demons will finally leave us alone!

  2. jalebi buddy says:

    hey u guys are funny…let me take take some time and let u guys know that reincarnation is the key to life and that without this phenomena, our spirits will not undergo a complete cycle. If there is no cycle in life, then think of it as a common emitter linked with a emitter follower amplifier with no feedback at all. Clearly, this is a big problem. With this said, I would like to state that we live in a country where the president is black….and if the cycle continues….it will be a sikh one day. And if these issues are the foundation of our society once a sikh becomes president….our spirits will amalgamate with the demons from jamaica…and the whole PLAN will backfire…We must adress these issues in a logical and orderly manner. Once we can accomplish this… then only will we come to peace. Peace and Love is where the <3 is . This is the purpose of life…so be gay and merry… life is great…. so lets do this spiritual dance we call bhangra and give me a bruahhhhhhh….. shall the night fade away into the sun…and give us rivers to bathe in. We shall all be clean of our sins once again, and the demons will finally leave us alone!

  3. Tajinder says:

    I am new to this post. I heard about it sometime back. Thought I would look into it.

    Reading through the threads I have to agree with Prabsharandeep that youth groups in the US are quite childish in their activities. I do not believe that youth in America have a disadvantage in America because they are at a 1.5 generation level, they still have a whole movement from the 80's to motivate them and new active immigration to help them. It is more that they are being deprived by poor leadership around them which has not given them the opportunity to excel to develop a strong political lobby or a youth organization which actually goes beyond a elementary or high school level education.

    From my understanding of Prabsharndeeps argument I see it as this:

    I have two nieces and two nephews all in the grades between 8th and 9th grade. Their respected schools did an election McCain vs. Obama who won? Obama of course. Did these children know about the policies? No. Did they know about Obamas experience? No the list of 'No' just goes on but he won in these children’s schools. Why? It is simply because its different "its the in thing", he's black, "he's cool". This is the Diaspora we want running our Civil Rights groups, Religious institutions, political lobbies etc. By the way all 4 can recite Jap Ji Sahib by heart just in case you were wondering where the Sikhism part comes in.

    So the problem with the Sikh youth groups today in America if these kids were to attend a session at the present age or later in life, they will be taught how to tie a turban, taught how to recite gurubani (no proper explanation, or people that are able to), given some historical facts, shown a documentary, introduced to someone successful in the community etc. but where is the intellectual thought developed? How will they become the strong intellectuals we need in the universities, in the civil rights groups, political lobbies etc.? Oh yeah not to put someone down but some of these Sikh civil rights groups have spent way to much time fighting over a 3" dull kirpan in a country where you can wear a 9" sharp knife legally and own an arsenal of guns.

  4. Tajinder says:

    I am new to this post. I heard about it sometime back. Thought I would look into it.

    Reading through the threads I have to agree with Prabsharandeep that youth groups in the US are quite childish in their activities. I do not believe that youth in America have a disadvantage in America because they are at a 1.5 generation level, they still have a whole movement from the 80’s to motivate them and new active immigration to help them. It is more that they are being deprived by poor leadership around them which has not given them the opportunity to excel to develop a strong political lobby or a youth organization which actually goes beyond a elementary or high school level education.

    From my understanding of Prabsharndeeps argument I see it as this:

    I have two nieces and two nephews all in the grades between 8th and 9th grade. Their respected schools did an election McCain vs. Obama who won? Obama of course. Did these children know about the policies? No. Did they know about Obamas experience? No the list of ‘No’ just goes on but he won in these childrens schools. Why? It is simply because its different “its the in thing”, he’s black, “he’s cool”. This is the Diaspora we want running our Civil Rights groups, Religious institutions, political lobbies etc. By the way all 4 can recite Jap Ji Sahib by heart just in case you were wondering where the Sikhism part comes in.

    So the problem with the Sikh youth groups today in America if these kids were to attend a session at the present age or later in life, they will be taught how to tie a turban, taught how to recite gurubani (no proper explanation, or people that are able to), given some historical facts, shown a documentary, introduced to someone successful in the community etc. but where is the intellectual thought developed? How will they become the strong intellectuals we need in the universities, in the civil rights groups, political lobbies etc.? Oh yeah not to put someone down but some of these Sikh civil rights groups have spent way to much time fighting over a 3″ dull kirpan in a country where you can wear a 9″ sharp knife legally and own an arsenal of guns.

  5. Heera says:

    What I don't get is what 'intellectual' thought means? Your nieces aren't thinking critically at their age. Is it the responsibility of a Sikh organization to develop it? Whats a good organization that does this sorta thing for other diasporas?

  6. Heera says:

    What I don’t get is what ‘intellectual’ thought means? Your nieces aren’t thinking critically at their age. Is it the responsibility of a Sikh organization to develop it? Whats a good organization that does this sorta thing for other diasporas?

  7. Tajinder says:

    Heera,

    Intellectual thinking person is a person who uses his or her intelligence and analytical thinking in daily life to make judgment before moving forward. Regarding the nieces and nephews I am very concerned that they are not able to think at a higher level at the ages they are, these are the prime ages to develop a strong intellectual characteristic because mom and dad are the hero’s to look up to and what teacher says is truth. Consumer marketing has had little effect at this point. It is the time to put down “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” pickup “War and Peace”, “All Quiet on the Western Front”, “Red badge of Courage”, “Things Fall Apart” etc. These children have their entire lives to be entertained, and a large number of different media’s to do it with, but now is the time to “soak the sponge called the brain” with meaningful knowledge. It is this meaningful knowledge that is missing in these youth groups.

    Heera: “Is it the responsibility of a Sikh organization to develop it?”

    It is the responsibility of the parents initially to set the foundation with in the child. Sikh organizations have the responsibility to understand the world they live in and understand Sikhism’s view of this world and then make the appropriate move to educate youth which come to them for further understanding, or for a sense of belonging. Sikh organizations should be able to tackle not accept what is in the surrounding social environment and ‘go with the flow’ and manipulate their own understanding or lack there of, of Sikh culture and philosophy to suite the needs of the youth, a youth which is coming to them from a state of confusion produced by mass media and corporate marketing. The organization is in itself a leader and its basic function best explained through Ralph Nader’s words, “The basic function of a leader is to produce more leaders not followers”. Or in Guru Gobind Singh’s popular saying, “…to teach the sparrows how to hunt the hawks.” The problem today is the youth come in as chicks and leave as sparrows only to be later in life hunted by hawks (which come in the form of the 5 vices). This is where Sikh youth groups fail. They fail to make an individual intellectual person who can tackle world issues and life’s issue from a Sikh point of view with a touch of Eastern thinking behind it.

    Heera: “Whats a good organization that does this sorta thing for other diasporas?”

    Look to the Middle East Muslims. Look to the Jews. Look to the Hindu Brahmin class. Somewhere someone has organized something which works for these people. Weather it has given them pride in what they are, a piece of land on earth to call their own or a indirect ruling status. Hell read the article above the Indian lobby is doing such a thing. They have clear objectives, and a strong understanding of how to obtain success.

    I just want to be clear I am not here to argue but I do believe that youth groups in America do not have the effect they can have and it is not so much a matter of generation as it is a matter of lack of strong leadership in the community through a well organized group which touches the intellectual side of the youth, and takes them away from the I am sorry childish activities currently present in youth groups.

  8. Tajinder says:

    Heera,
    Intellectual thinking person is a person who uses his or her intelligence and analytical thinking in daily life to make judgment before moving forward. Regarding the nieces and nephews I am very concerned that they are not able to think at a higher level at the ages they are, these are the prime ages to develop a strong intellectual characteristic because mom and dad are the heros to look up to and what teacher says is truth. Consumer marketing has had little effect at this point. It is the time to put down Harry Potter and Twilight pickup War and Peace, All Quiet on the Western Front, Red badge of Courage, Things Fall Apart etc. These children have their entire lives to be entertained, and a large number of different medias to do it with, but now is the time to soak the sponge called the brain with meaningful knowledge. It is this meaningful knowledge that is missing in these youth groups.

    Heera: Is it the responsibility of a Sikh organization to develop it?

    It is the responsibility of the parents initially to set the foundation with in the child. Sikh organizations have the responsibility to understand the world they live in and understand Sikhisms view of this world and then make the appropriate move to educate youth which come to them for further understanding, or for a sense of belonging. Sikh organizations should be able to tackle not accept what is in the surrounding social environment and go with the flow and manipulate their own understanding or lack there of, of Sikh culture and philosophy to suite the needs of the youth, a youth which is coming to them from a state of confusion produced by mass media and corporate marketing. The organization is in itself a leader and its basic function best explained through Ralph Naders words, The basic function of a leader is to produce more leaders not followers. Or in Guru Gobind Singhs popular saying, to teach the sparrows how to hunt the hawks. The problem today is the youth come in as chicks and leave as sparrows only to be later in life hunted by hawks (which come in the form of the 5 vices). This is where Sikh youth groups fail. They fail to make an individual intellectual person who can tackle world issues and lifes issue from a Sikh point of view with a touch of Eastern thinking behind it.

    Heera: Whats a good organization that does this sorta thing for other diasporas?

    Look to the Middle East Muslims. Look to the Jews. Look to the Hindu Brahmin class. Somewhere someone has organized something which works for these people. Weather it has given them pride in what they are, a piece of land on earth to call their own or a indirect ruling status. Hell read the article above the Indian lobby is doing such a thing. They have clear objectives, and a strong understanding of how to obtain success.

    I just want to be clear I am not here to argue but I do believe that youth groups in America do not have the effect they can have and it is not so much a matter of generation as it is a matter of lack of strong leadership in the community through a well organized group which touches the intellectual side of the youth, and takes them away from the I am sorry childish activities currently present in youth groups.

  9. Randeep Singh says:

    Heera: What I don’t get is what ‘intellectual’ thought means? Your nieces aren’t thinking critically at their age. Is it the responsibility of a Sikh organization to develop it? Whats a good organization that does this sorta thing for other diasporas?

    I think what Tajinder means is that the current youth scene lacks a serious environment for dialogoue, whether it be scholarly, artistic, or otherwise. Simply, the level of dialogue is not up to par. For instance, just consider Jakara. Instead of the same ole' disco-bhangra culture, we need creative projects that penetrate into the deeper issues involved in the Sikh situation. Except for a couple of camps held at Berkeley and Hofstra, the youth scene (for instance camps such as Jakara) have stood in the way creating the space and culture necessary for more meaningful approaches.

  10. Randeep Singh says:

    Heera: What I dont get is what intellectual thought means? Your nieces arent thinking critically at their age. Is it the responsibility of a Sikh organization to develop it? Whats a good organization that does this sorta thing for other diasporas?

    I think what Tajinder means is that the current youth scene lacks a serious environment for dialogoue, whether it be scholarly, artistic, or otherwise. Simply, the level of dialogue is not up to par. For instance, just consider Jakara. Instead of the same ole’ disco-bhangra culture, we need creative projects that penetrate into the deeper issues involved in the Sikh situation. Except for a couple of camps held at Berkeley and Hofstra, the youth scene (for instance camps such as Jakara) have stood in the way creating the space and culture necessary for more meaningful approaches.

  11. Mewa Singh says:

    Randeep,

    I am a volunteer with the Jakara Movement. My guess is that you may not have attended a Jakara event or I doubt you would have come to such a conclusion. The objective of the annual conference, only one of our events, is not to 'penetrate into deeper issues,' although I believe that is a worthy cause. In fact the conference serves as an 'entry-point' for those you refer to as part of the 'bhangra' culture to begin to engage with their community. The aim of the conference is those that feel estranged from the community.

    In fact, I have attended some of the academic conferences (not camps) at Hofstra University. Those were great learning opportunities and I hope such programs continue. However, for many in our community, that is not an entry-level place to engage with the community.

    Not all youth engagements need to be aimed at the same thing. I am glad that Berkeley and Hostra are providing such opportunities. Maybe the Jakara Movement, we will aim to create such forums in the future. Right now, like I stated, we are merely trying to create an 'entry point.' All those that engage with the Jakara Movement are encouraged to continue exploring their faith. Provide us some event literature and we can even distribute it for you.

    Both Hofstra/Berkeley conferences and the Jakara Movement conference and events are filling needed gaps that exist in the community. I think it is more productive if we can appreciate each other's work and understand that they complement one another, rather than engaging in mud-slinging and stating that some groups are an 'impediment' to such spaces.

    Gur Fateh.

  12. Mewa Singh says:

    Randeep,

    I am a volunteer with the Jakara Movement. My guess is that you may not have attended a Jakara event or I doubt you would have come to such a conclusion. The objective of the annual conference, only one of our events, is not to ‘penetrate into deeper issues,’ although I believe that is a worthy cause. In fact the conference serves as an ‘entry-point’ for those you refer to as part of the ‘bhangra’ culture to begin to engage with their community. The aim of the conference is those that feel estranged from the community.

    In fact, I have attended some of the academic conferences (not camps) at Hofstra University. Those were great learning opportunities and I hope such programs continue. However, for many in our community, that is not an entry-level place to engage with the community.

    Not all youth engagements need to be aimed at the same thing. I am glad that Berkeley and Hostra are providing such opportunities. Maybe the Jakara Movement, we will aim to create such forums in the future. Right now, like I stated, we are merely trying to create an ‘entry point.’ All those that engage with the Jakara Movement are encouraged to continue exploring their faith. Provide us some event literature and we can even distribute it for you.

    Both Hofstra/Berkeley conferences and the Jakara Movement conference and events are filling needed gaps that exist in the community. I think it is more productive if we can appreciate each other’s work and understand that they complement one another, rather than engaging in mud-slinging and stating that some groups are an ‘impediment’ to such spaces.

    Gur Fateh.

  13. gurpreet says:

    Doab, Heera, and Jodha:

    The fact that this type of engagement is taking place, whether it is pro or against organizations like Jakara is good. Our differences need to be discussed and our amalgamated visions need to be shared. More about Jakara- If the objective is to simply provide a “starting point” for those who feel “estranged” from the community, with whatever it takes to do so, then we have cut ourselves short of any intellectual engagement- giving more time to vulgarities such as the “rangeen raat” which is the most anticipated part of Jakara, day 3. I have had the pleasure of being both a Jakara attendee and a Jakara moderator, and as each, have experienced a serious lack of a genuine agenda- one that is true to the umbrella of “jakara”. Majority of the time is spent on lazerquest-day 1, bowling and picnic- day 2, and rangeen raat-day 3. The real content does start till around 10:30, which is shortly interrupted by a lunch break. The content, it seems, is tirelessly weaved into the extracurricular activities, rather than the activities taking a secondary importance. Somehow, each year, without a doubt, lazer quest, bowling, and rangeen raat end up as unchanged, top priority. Although this entry has a fastidious front, believe me when I say this, I am not anti-Jakara. If we can together perfect a platform we already have, then why such an astringent protest? There are certainly positives- Shabad Kirtan in the mornings and evening, but rather than stopping there, perhaps they should “start” there.

    Jodha, I hope this was specific enough for you, but know that our visions need to be a lot broader than this. If one spends too much time dissecting, which is what I have had to do in my efforts to be as specific as possible, then we are wasting precious academic time. Our focus should be beyond specific activities- it should be on the principles and philosophy behind these projects.

    Mewa, your points are valid, but we have a serious responsibility and taking organizations like Jakara as a “starting point” would be anything but responsible. Philosophy is not an anti-social activity; it is actual work and needs to be done. As you said, there is certainly material that you can be provided with, but the issue then is of interpretation. If the agenda and objectives are set off from the beginning, no material can counter-provide for the philosophical vision that is needed behind this.

    It is about our presuppositions and goals, and if our objective is to simply “start” somewhere, then when we do we actually move forward? Everything is a manifestation of the vision and at this point, we need to have higher goals and answer the real questions rather than justifying that which is not.

  14. gurpreet says:

    Doab, Heera, and Jodha:
    The fact that this type of engagement is taking place, whether it is pro or against organizations like Jakara is good. Our differences need to be discussed and our amalgamated visions need to be shared. More about Jakara- If the objective is to simply provide a starting point for those who feel estranged from the community, with whatever it takes to do so, then we have cut ourselves short of any intellectual engagement- giving more time to vulgarities such as the rangeen raat which is the most anticipated part of Jakara, day 3. I have had the pleasure of being both a Jakara attendee and a Jakara moderator, and as each, have experienced a serious lack of a genuine agenda- one that is true to the umbrella of jakara. Majority of the time is spent on lazerquest-day 1, bowling and picnic- day 2, and rangeen raat-day 3. The real content does start till around 10:30, which is shortly interrupted by a lunch break. The content, it seems, is tirelessly weaved into the extracurricular activities, rather than the activities taking a secondary importance. Somehow, each year, without a doubt, lazer quest, bowling, and rangeen raat end up as unchanged, top priority. Although this entry has a fastidious front, believe me when I say this, I am not anti-Jakara. If we can together perfect a platform we already have, then why such an astringent protest? There are certainly positives- Shabad Kirtan in the mornings and evening, but rather than stopping there, perhaps they should start there.

    Jodha, I hope this was specific enough for you, but know that our visions need to be a lot broader than this. If one spends too much time dissecting, which is what I have had to do in my efforts to be as specific as possible, then we are wasting precious academic time. Our focus should be beyond specific activities- it should be on the principles and philosophy behind these projects.

    Mewa, your points are valid, but we have a serious responsibility and taking organizations like Jakara as a starting point would be anything but responsible. Philosophy is not an anti-social activity; it is actual work and needs to be done. As you said, there is certainly material that you can be provided with, but the issue then is of interpretation. If the agenda and objectives are set off from the beginning, no material can counter-provide for the philosophical vision that is needed behind this.

    It is about our presuppositions and goals, and if our objective is to simply start somewhere, then when we do we actually move forward? Everything is a manifestation of the vision and at this point, we need to have higher goals and answer the real questions rather than justifying that which is not.

  15. Mewa Singh says:

    Dear Randeep Singh,

    Some food for thought – there is no single Sikh experience that has been formulated in America. There are Sikh experiences.

    The Jakara Movement consists of a coalition of a number of different individuals with different ideaologies. That is our strength. However we stand together, united, with a project. We do indeed understand our project and its forces. I never said that the Jakara Movement does not seriously engage with a Sikh vision. I emphatically believe we do. If we did not, we would not have seen our outgrowth and our investment in our human capital be so fruitful. I merely said that this is not the aim of the Jakara summer conference in Fresno.

    While trying to engage in well-known post-modernist critiques is interesting, despite your claims of us being "vacuous", we have been highly successful and will continue to be successful. For some individuals we have bridged the disconnect they feel with the community. You can judge the success of your alternative with the majority of your peers at Berkeley.

    I am not an angry individual; I hope you aren't either. I would love to engage in this conversation with you further. However, due to time constraints and other priorities, I will not be able to do so via the internet. Our contact information is on our website. Feel free to get in touch with us that way. Hope to hear from you.

  16. Mewa Singh says:

    Gurpreet,

    Thank you for this engagement.

    I completely understand what you are saying about 'cutting ourselves short', but I think the real problem is the complete dirth of Sikh institutions to complete this process of Sikhi development that is sought. The Jakara Movement's annual conference is a 'kindergarten' entry. I don't think that we should expect it to be "5th grade." We need more conferences, more camps, and more institutions to bring this about. The problem in California is that the Jakara Movement's annual conference has been the only consistent engagement with the Sikh youth masses in this format. However, over the years we are beginning to see further outgrowth from this – last year's Saanjh retreat was largely hosted by members of Jakara, the same is true of the Remember 1984 projects in 2004 and 2009, and even creating camps throughout the state (especially in those communities that have never experienced such things). The growth is slow, but it is steady. Maybe with more synergy between the Jakara Movement and other efforts – such as Berkeley/Hofstra conferences, we can make this effort occur even faster.

    You are right that the conference usually begins at 10:30 and goes until 6pm with a 1 hour lunch. So there is over 6 hours of content each day. It can be intense and we have found that it difficult finding that delicate balance of an appropriate amount of content, where people can still imbibe it. Different people believe we err on one side or the other. There is no consensus in the criticism, so we think we are near a balance, although may not have achieved it yet.

    With regards to people's anticipation of nightly events, I think that is also a reflection of the diversity of the people that come to the conference. Some attendees may prioritize it (these are college students afterall) and others do not. You will find at Jakara a cross-section of the Sikh community that does not attend other conferences/camps/or even Gurdwara. In my opinion that is Jakara's greatest strength, but also sows the seeds for much criticism. I actually take pride in the fact that many of the males that attend are not keshadhari (unlike every other conference/camp in North America), but this is always used as a criticism. We also aim to engage in those conversations that, to the best of my knowledge, do not occur in North America – issues of 1984 and violence within the Sikh community, sexual abuse, caste, etc.

    With regards to the emphasis by organizers on the evening functions, I can assure you this is not the case. The "content developers" always have final say and this has always been the case. As a facilitator, I am sure you remember the long hours spent at facilitator-training sessions. We aim to arm our facilitators as much as possible and the same goes for the conference's purpose. If you do have specific questions or suggestions, please feel free to email the organizers and hopefully we can better address those issues this year.

    I don't believe that in my earlier reply, I was protesting people's suggestions, but I only took issue with Randeep's characterization of the Jakara Movement being an 'impediment' or 'hinderance.' I am completely open and appreciative of those that seek to improve the existing conference. I continue to solicit an email to the conference organizers.

    With regards to the Shabad Kirtan suggestion, please do email the conference organizers and hopefully you can provide us with a fresh perspective in how you would go about this. I can assure you, it will be considered.

    Contrary to belief, those involved with the Jakara Movement do have a philosophy and a vision. It has been gained largely through an inductive process, not merely deductive. The conference is meant at a "starting point." Many people still assume that Jakara is only the conference, but this is no longer true, nor has it been true for years.

    We have progressed, but we still have far to go. We hope to better work with others and we hope for more people's involvement and constructive criticism. We will continue to grow, continue to improve, and continue to expand.

  17. Mewa Singh says:

    Gurpreet,

    Thank you for this engagement.

    I completely understand what you are saying about ‘cutting ourselves short’, but I think the real problem is the complete dirth of Sikh institutions to complete this process of Sikhi development that is sought. The Jakara Movement’s annual conference is a ‘kindergarten’ entry. I don’t think that we should expect it to be “5th grade.” We need more conferences, more camps, and more institutions to bring this about. The problem in California is that the Jakara Movement’s annual conference has been the only consistent engagement with the Sikh youth masses in this format. However, over the years we are beginning to see further outgrowth from this – last year’s Saanjh retreat was largely hosted by members of Jakara, the same is true of the Remember 1984 projects in 2004 and 2009, and even creating camps throughout the state (especially in those communities that have never experienced such things). The growth is slow, but it is steady. Maybe with more synergy between the Jakara Movement and other efforts – such as Berkeley/Hofstra conferences, we can make this effort occur even faster.

    You are right that the conference usually begins at 10:30 and goes until 6pm with a 1 hour lunch. So there is over 6 hours of content each day. It can be intense and we have found that it difficult finding that delicate balance of an appropriate amount of content, where people can still imbibe it. Different people believe we err on one side or the other. There is no consensus in the criticism, so we think we are near a balance, although may not have achieved it yet.

    With regards to people’s anticipation of nightly events, I think that is also a reflection of the diversity of the people that come to the conference. Some attendees may prioritize it (these are college students afterall) and others do not. You will find at Jakara a cross-section of the Sikh community that does not attend other conferences/camps/or even Gurdwara. In my opinion that is Jakara’s greatest strength, but also sows the seeds for much criticism. I actually take pride in the fact that many of the males that attend are not keshadhari (unlike every other conference/camp in North America), but this is always used as a criticism. We also aim to engage in those conversations that, to the best of my knowledge, do not occur in North America – issues of 1984 and violence within the Sikh community, sexual abuse, caste, etc.

    With regards to the emphasis by organizers on the evening functions, I can assure you this is not the case. The “content developers” always have final say and this has always been the case. As a facilitator, I am sure you remember the long hours spent at facilitator-training sessions. We aim to arm our facilitators as much as possible and the same goes for the conference’s purpose. If you do have specific questions or suggestions, please feel free to email the organizers and hopefully we can better address those issues this year.

    I don’t believe that in my earlier reply, I was protesting people’s suggestions, but I only took issue with Randeep’s characterization of the Jakara Movement being an ‘impediment’ or ‘hinderance.’ I am completely open and appreciative of those that seek to improve the existing conference. I continue to solicit an email to the conference organizers.

    With regards to the Shabad Kirtan suggestion, please do email the conference organizers and hopefully you can provide us with a fresh perspective in how you would go about this. I can assure you, it will be considered.

    Contrary to belief, those involved with the Jakara Movement do have a philosophy and a vision. It has been gained largely through an inductive process, not merely deductive. The conference is meant at a “starting point.” Many people still assume that Jakara is only the conference, but this is no longer true, nor has it been true for years.

    We have progressed, but we still have far to go. We hope to better work with others and we hope for more people’s involvement and constructive criticism. We will continue to grow, continue to improve, and continue to expand.

  18. Randeep Singh says:

    Dear Mewa Singh,

    Mewa Singh: I think it is more productive if we can appreciate each other’s work and understand that they complement one another, rather than engaging in mud-slinging and stating that some groups are an ‘impediment’ to such spaces.

    But the very matter at stake is how Jakara, and similar camps/conferences, are to be appreciated whatsoever. You're right that there's no question as to whether Jakara aims to seriously engage with the Sikh vision. It doesn't. So, we're both in agreement here. What's in question is the role of such camps in respect to the more serious dialogue that is taking place.

    For instance, it is telling that you say, "…rather than engaging in mud-slinging and stating that some groups are an ‘impediment’ to such spaces." The dialogue we need to have should hinge on the very character of the Sikh experience as it has formulated itself in America. Simply being offended and accusing one another of mudslinging is exactly the wrong attitude to have in discussing the truth about the utility and nature of Sikh projects.

    Allow me to illustrate my point. You say,

    Mewa Singh: In fact the conference serves as an ‘entry-point’ for those you refer to as part of the ‘bhangra’ culture to begin to engage with their community.

    Until Jakara organizers and producers realize the forces behind defining and determining the contours and content of their whole project, and here I am speaking philosophically, Jakara will inevitably undermine its very objective of engaging them with their community. After all, what's functional in this entire project is a certain well defined and dialectically functional conception of 'identity' that spans all the way back to, at least, Descartes who laid the foundation of modernism and the subsequent scientific revolution that further delimited personhood's being to a private mental life. Jakara, and camps like it, whether purposefully or not, perpetuate this movement and thereby confine their entire project within the confines of a metaphysically vacuous conception of self-hood, and community (of which is to be engaged). In turn, this further separates and exasperates the disconnect Sikh youth feel with their path and community.

  19. Randeep Singh says:

    Dear Mewa Singh,

    Mewa Singh: I think it is more productive if we can appreciate each others work and understand that they complement one another, rather than engaging in mud-slinging and stating that some groups are an impediment to such spaces.

    But the very matter at stake is how Jakara, and similar camps/conferences, are to be appreciated whatsoever. You’re right that there’s no question as to whether Jakara aims to seriously engage with the Sikh vision. It doesn’t. So, we’re both in agreement here. What’s in question is the role of such camps in respect to the more serious dialogue that is taking place.

    For instance, it is telling that you say, “…rather than engaging in mud-slinging and stating that some groups are an impediment to such spaces.” The dialogue we need to have should hinge on the very character of the Sikh experience as it has formulated itself in America. Simply being offended and accusing one another of mudslinging is exactly the wrong attitude to have in discussing the truth about the utility and nature of Sikh projects.

    Allow me to illustrate my point. You say,

    Mewa Singh: In fact the conference serves as an entry-point for those you refer to as part of the bhangra culture to begin to engage with their community.

    Until Jakara organizers and producers realize the forces behind defining and determining the contours and content of their whole project, and here I am speaking philosophically, Jakara will inevitably undermine its very objective of engaging them with their community. After all, what’s functional in this entire project is a certain well defined and dialectically functional conception of ‘identity’ that spans all the way back to, at least, Descartes who laid the foundation of modernism and the subsequent scientific revolution that further delimited personhood’s being to a private mental life. Jakara, and camps like it, whether purposefully or not, perpetuate this movement and thereby confine their entire project within the confines of a metaphysically vacuous conception of self-hood, and community (of which is to be engaged). In turn, this further separates and exasperates the disconnect Sikh youth feel with their path and community.

  20. Mewa Singh says:

    Dear Randeep Singh,

    Some food for thought – there is no single Sikh experience that has been formulated in America. There are Sikh experiences.

    The Jakara Movement consists of a coalition of a number of different individuals with different ideaologies. That is our strength. However we stand together, united, with a project. We do indeed understand our project and its forces. I never said that the Jakara Movement does not seriously engage with a Sikh vision. I emphatically believe we do. If we did not, we would not have seen our outgrowth and our investment in our human capital be so fruitful. I merely said that this is not the aim of the Jakara summer conference in Fresno.

    While trying to engage in well-known post-modernist critiques is interesting, despite your claims of us being "vacuous", we have been highly successful and will continue to be successful. For some individuals we have bridged the disconnect they feel with the community. You can judge the success of your alternative with the majority of your peers at Berkeley.

    I am not an angry individual; I hope you aren't either. I would love to engage in this conversation with you further. However, due to time constraints and other priorities, I will not be able to do so via the internet. Our contact information is on our website. Feel free to get in touch with us that way. Hope to hear from you.

  21. Mewa Singh:

    I think we are missing the point here.

    The idea that there is a section in the society, which needs to be reformed by another one that is doing fine, complicates the situation even more. This is what they actually call nihilism.

    I want to confess really loud that this is my problem. I am the one who is going through crisis. Forget me, it is more about our age. With a different conception of time, it might not be about any age, but about human beings during any age.

    In other words, the crisis is about modes of relationality. It is about music, poetry, art etc. both within and without. The lost song that all of us are looking for.

    However, in my understanding, tracing the roots of some immediate conflicts, sharing the tales of being dislocated, singing the songs of exile, might be helpful in our journeys.

    Let us not speak like reformers. Reformers are escapists who avoid the fight and judge the warriors as not wise enough to deal with life. Reformers are mythmakers, who, in their efforts to revive the original, further appropriate what they define as crisis.

    Being creative is a good option for that is all I should be suggesting, however, we all know:

    Sitaron ke aage jahaan aur bhee hain

    Abhee ishaq ke imtihaan aur bhee hain

  22. Mewa Singh:

    I think we are missing the point here.

    The idea that there is a section in the society, which needs to be reformed by another one that is doing fine, complicates the situation even more. This is what they actually call nihilism.

    I want to confess really loud that this is my problem. I am the one who is going through crisis. Forget me, it is more about our age. With a different conception of time, it might not be about any age, but about human beings during any age.

    In other words, the crisis is about modes of relationality. It is about music, poetry, art etc. both within and without. The lost song that all of us are looking for.

    However, in my understanding, tracing the roots of some immediate conflicts, sharing the tales of being dislocated, singing the songs of exile, might be helpful in our journeys.

    Let us not speak like reformers. Reformers are escapists who avoid the fight and judge the warriors as not wise enough to deal with life. Reformers are mythmakers, who, in their efforts to revive the original, further appropriate what they define as crisis.

    Being creative is a good option for that is all I should be suggesting, however, we all know:

    Sitaron ke aage jahaan aur bhee hain
    Abhee ishaq ke imtihaan aur bhee hain

  23. Jodha says:

    Prabhsharandeep:

    I know your question was aimed at Mewa, but I wanted to make a quick comment.

    The idea that there is a section in the society, which needs to be reformed by another one that is doing fine, complicates the situation even more. This is what they actually call nihilism.

    I think that is the point. No section in the Sikh community is doing fine, unless we are all doing fine. We are in this together and that is why we will struggle together. We are not looking for reformers or even warriors, but rather we are trying to inspire ourselves to be Gurmukhs (Guru-facing revolutionaries).

    Regardless, thank you for this exchange. You have provided me with a few points of reflection. I can definitely appreciate your call to creativity. That is something that can all strive for and hopefully invigorates us on our collective path.

    Fateh

  24. Jodha says:

    Prabhsharandeep:

    I know your question was aimed at Mewa, but I wanted to make a quick comment.

    The idea that there is a section in the society, which needs to be reformed by another one that is doing fine, complicates the situation even more. This is what they actually call nihilism.

    I think that is the point. No section in the Sikh community is doing fine, unless we are all doing fine. We are in this together and that is why we will struggle together. We are not looking for reformers or even warriors, but rather we are trying to inspire ourselves to be Gurmukhs (Guru-facing revolutionaries).

    Regardless, thank you for this exchange. You have provided me with a few points of reflection. I can definitely appreciate your call to creativity. That is something that can all strive for and hopefully invigorates us on our collective path.

    Fateh

  25. Jodha:

    Thanks for your response. The conversation seems to be going in the right direction.

    Let me explain more what I am trying to say.

    I grew up in Punjab, and was 28 when I came here. The society over there has a different flow. Individuality is strongly undermined and a person, the kids in particular, is told to follow the flow that the entire society has instead of his personal preferences. This, for me, worked as a great blessing. I am not trying to defend everything in Punjab, just trying to use the difference to explain things, which, to me, seems very significant.

    When I came here, I saw the kids with an impression of grown up individuals, which is quite intimidating, they know it is, and they do not really dislike it. They are quiet, more sensible, and have better intellectual potential, but they are stressed out. They are angry, violent, and very independent. They seem to know everything, and always think in absolute terms. They have well defined boundaries, which can never be questioned. They are isolated on multiple levels. The society they live in has isolated them on the one hand, on the other, at least some of them; try to stay away, in an independent space, of their families and the community, in particular. I do not blame them for this is not what they chose; this is what they had to go through.

    Now, with this understanding, what I propose is a space to have conversation(s). The question is where to begin, or how to talk. Who would provide with the language, idiom, and most importantly, the space to have conversations, independently, of ourselves, and of the metanarratives functional behind every activity in the present day world. Since I am confused and lost more than anybody else, I have no right to come with a model, which, I think, is not even possible to have in any case. But I do have the right to question what is going on right now. I have every right to challenge whatever is proposed in absolute terms.

    My question, for all of you, and for myself, is where to be and how to be. I know the answer, which is, there is no need to run, it is all within. The problem is that it is never that simple, as it might seem. When I bring up this question, if I ask for the permission to simplify it, or put it in a context, which has no justification whatsoever, I want to know where to be between Apollo and Dionysius. This is a question about the nature of Punjabi music, bhangra, modes of conversation, and, in the more general sense, of relationality.

    I am trying to propose that nothing is really absolute, neither the kids, nor the discourses that have shaped them, or the society they live in. Colonialism was an accident, and whatever is there as a result of that, needs to be deconstructed.

    I’ll talk more about it and, yes, Jodha was right, I need to be specific.

  26. Jodha:

    Thanks for your response. The conversation seems to be going in the right direction.

    Let me explain more what I am trying to say.

    I grew up in Punjab, and was 28 when I came here. The society over there has a different flow. Individuality is strongly undermined and a person, the kids in particular, is told to follow the flow that the entire society has instead of his personal preferences. This, for me, worked as a great blessing. I am not trying to defend everything in Punjab, just trying to use the difference to explain things, which, to me, seems very significant.

    When I came here, I saw the kids with an impression of grown up individuals, which is quite intimidating, they know it is, and they do not really dislike it. They are quiet, more sensible, and have better intellectual potential, but they are stressed out. They are angry, violent, and very independent. They seem to know everything, and always think in absolute terms. They have well defined boundaries, which can never be questioned. They are isolated on multiple levels. The society they live in has isolated them on the one hand, on the other, at least some of them; try to stay away, in an independent space, of their families and the community, in particular. I do not blame them for this is not what they chose; this is what they had to go through.

    Now, with this understanding, what I propose is a space to have conversation(s). The question is where to begin, or how to talk. Who would provide with the language, idiom, and most importantly, the space to have conversations, independently, of ourselves, and of the metanarratives functional behind every activity in the present day world. Since I am confused and lost more than anybody else, I have no right to come with a model, which, I think, is not even possible to have in any case. But I do have the right to question what is going on right now. I have every right to challenge whatever is proposed in absolute terms.

    My question, for all of you, and for myself, is where to be and how to be. I know the answer, which is, there is no need to run, it is all within. The problem is that it is never that simple, as it might seem. When I bring up this question, if I ask for the permission to simplify it, or put it in a context, which has no justification whatsoever, I want to know where to be between Apollo and Dionysius. This is a question about the nature of Punjabi music, bhangra, modes of conversation, and, in the more general sense, of relationality.

    I am trying to propose that nothing is really absolute, neither the kids, nor the discourses that have shaped them, or the society they live in. Colonialism was an accident, and whatever is there as a result of that, needs to be deconstructed.

    Ill talk more about it and, yes, Jodha was right, I need to be specific.

  27. Bal says:

    It seems to me that the world is not a problem to be solved. Nor is it a puzzle to crack open a secret code. THe world is not a place that someone can get an angle on – no sianpa aids. There are no secret passageways that the wise or elite know, no specific techniques that the religious know, no principle such as "reason" can ground our projects, no unmatched bravery that the "warriors" know. etc.

    It seems to me the world is a place of contestation – ceaseless problems that never resolve finally. The world is an undecidable – and here I am in complete agreement with Prabhsharandeep – it is not a place where absolutes can grow – for it is too closely tied to our imaginations.

    In other words "the world" is something that is in very important ways unsayable, unthinkable especially given its layers and immeasurability. The world is not separate from me – from identities. World and Self are complex unsayables – na ko hindu no ko mussalmaan… there is an unremitting interdependency at work, at play…

    It seems that we can THINK "solutions" (theoria, sophia) and then act. OR we could ACT "solutions" (praxis, phronesis) and our thinking evolves case be case. The knowledge that derives from thinking is different to the knowledge that derives from acting – no doubt. BUT, if both modes of being (and there are others) call them intellectual and pragmatic, intelligentsia and mass mobilization, elitist and popular, idealist and pragmatist, etc. are imbued by the same discourse of identity and world politics then it matters little whether we start "entry point" Jakara movements or pursue "academic conferences".

    We need to think AND act in radically different ways. First – why is this whole debate revolving around the assumptions that "Sikh" is something that we are all fighting to protect, grow, enrich?

    Better, how is Sikh being understood? My fear is that it is being utterly consumed by an identity politics that arises out of the discourses of multiculturalism – be they the melting pot or the mosaic – which have their genesis in anthropology and colonial discourses. What if identity is NOT ONE? I do not think we should follow others in protecting their "rights" and copy their nationalistic notions of sovereignty. What if I cannot be a Sikh without the other, the woman, the stranger, the monster? What if Sikh atrophies the "purer" it gets? What if Sikh is always a relation to the Other, to life, to diversity, to otherness? That essential heterogeniety brings up a profound kinship with all, a profound notion of sovereignty that defends diversity as that which promotes life itself. Life dies when anyone part of it suggests it can only exist when some other part has to be exterminated. We as Sikhs are a not a religion, nor a nation, nor a philosophy of ONE people, ONE language, ONE nation, ONE history (the discourse of the metaphysics of the one). OUR traditions are full of very healthy relations to others – that is our collective wisdom – we are ek-anek. Asankh. Our motto of the ONE is always inclusive of the other: Many is its other face. Yet because we have a very poor grasp of gurbani we immediately fall into more popular and powerful modern discourses of world, self, exclusive individual one-ness. To be a Sikh I have to promote the cause of the other, not only defend and think of my own.

    Maybe the whole project of trying to revive Sikhi is wrongfooted if only "sikhs" are involved. Perhaps the "project" (?) of Sikhi can only thrive by connecting with people from every and any shade of life. Perhaps operating under the banner of Sikh is in some ways a hindrance. I act with honesty, integrity, intimacy, honour, beauty and love, not because I am a Sikh (and need to tell everyone that is why I act thusly), but because my very humanity and animality demand it thus.

    We need to include the alien in our work. And we need to appeal to others not from the call of Sikh but from the call of what is required. Join others in projects. Our identity should not be primary. The more we try maintain it as a priority the more we are likely to displace it. We are not Sikhs – we are people in love. All people that can remember they are in love – treat identity as secondary and the action that love demand ALWAYS as primary. What else did our ten gurus demonstrate? and many others besides?

    The problem is, of course, LOVE as a primary mode of response to the world, to others, can not be mandated. This is the problem of religion: I cannot legislate you to love me. I can only act lovingly. That is why the world is ceaseless contestation: samsara.

    The Gurus did not write political ideologies, nor vast commentaries on their works, nor explain exactly what a Sikh is and what they should do. No absolute lists, no absolute laws, no absolute injunctions. Songs of Love. Songs of Praise. Songs of Wonder. Songs of Yearning. Songs of Time, Pain, Happiness, Loss.

    The point of this debate here I hope is not to reach a manifesto. Love is the only manifesto – and its laws cannot be written — in specifics – but love cannot exist beyond the specific act. The vision of the gurus was very demanding and so much higher than the squabbles of reason, and the passions of the warrior, and the intrigues of the King.

    There is no one identity to defend. Life needs defending. The Gurus can act to save others as easily as they would save their own. Fear none and inspire no fear — otherwise love all and inspire love.

    OF COURSE it is too easy to answer the question – what should we do with Love all – the Gurus were not the beatles. They acted creatively and variously to life's unfolding challenges. The answer is many. Many projects – but all should be under the name of an inspired relation to the other.

    b.

  28. Bal says:

    It seems to me that the world is not a problem to be solved. Nor is it a puzzle to crack open a secret code. THe world is not a place that someone can get an angle on – no sianpa aids. There are no secret passageways that the wise or elite know, no specific techniques that the religious know, no principle such as “reason” can ground our projects, no unmatched bravery that the “warriors” know. etc.

    It seems to me the world is a place of contestation – ceaseless problems that never resolve finally. The world is an undecidable – and here I am in complete agreement with Prabhsharandeep – it is not a place where absolutes can grow – for it is too closely tied to our imaginations.

    In other words “the world” is something that is in very important ways unsayable, unthinkable especially given its layers and immeasurability. The world is not separate from me – from identities. World and Self are complex unsayables – na ko hindu no ko mussalmaan… there is an unremitting interdependency at work, at play…

    It seems that we can THINK “solutions” (theoria, sophia) and then act. OR we could ACT “solutions” (praxis, phronesis) and our thinking evolves case be case. The knowledge that derives from thinking is different to the knowledge that derives from acting – no doubt. BUT, if both modes of being (and there are others) call them intellectual and pragmatic, intelligentsia and mass mobilization, elitist and popular, idealist and pragmatist, etc. are imbued by the same discourse of identity and world politics then it matters little whether we start “entry point” Jakara movements or pursue “academic conferences”.

    We need to think AND act in radically different ways. First – why is this whole debate revolving around the assumptions that “Sikh” is something that we are all fighting to protect, grow, enrich?
    Better, how is Sikh being understood? My fear is that it is being utterly consumed by an identity politics that arises out of the discourses of multiculturalism – be they the melting pot or the mosaic – which have their genesis in anthropology and colonial discourses. What if identity is NOT ONE? I do not think we should follow others in protecting their “rights” and copy their nationalistic notions of sovereignty. What if I cannot be a Sikh without the other, the woman, the stranger, the monster? What if Sikh atrophies the “purer” it gets? What if Sikh is always a relation to the Other, to life, to diversity, to otherness? That essential heterogeniety brings up a profound kinship with all, a profound notion of sovereignty that defends diversity as that which promotes life itself. Life dies when anyone part of it suggests it can only exist when some other part has to be exterminated. We as Sikhs are a not a religion, nor a nation, nor a philosophy of ONE people, ONE language, ONE nation, ONE history (the discourse of the metaphysics of the one). OUR traditions are full of very healthy relations to others – that is our collective wisdom – we are ek-anek. Asankh. Our motto of the ONE is always inclusive of the other: Many is its other face. Yet because we have a very poor grasp of gurbani we immediately fall into more popular and powerful modern discourses of world, self, exclusive individual one-ness. To be a Sikh I have to promote the cause of the other, not only defend and think of my own.

    Maybe the whole project of trying to revive Sikhi is wrongfooted if only “sikhs” are involved. Perhaps the “project” (?) of Sikhi can only thrive by connecting with people from every and any shade of life. Perhaps operating under the banner of Sikh is in some ways a hindrance. I act with honesty, integrity, intimacy, honour, beauty and love, not because I am a Sikh (and need to tell everyone that is why I act thusly), but because my very humanity and animality demand it thus.

    We need to include the alien in our work. And we need to appeal to others not from the call of Sikh but from the call of what is required. Join others in projects. Our identity should not be primary. The more we try maintain it as a priority the more we are likely to displace it. We are not Sikhs – we are people in love. All people that can remember they are in love – treat identity as secondary and the action that love demand ALWAYS as primary. What else did our ten gurus demonstrate? and many others besides?

    The problem is, of course, LOVE as a primary mode of response to the world, to others, can not be mandated. This is the problem of religion: I cannot legislate you to love me. I can only act lovingly. That is why the world is ceaseless contestation: samsara.

    The Gurus did not write political ideologies, nor vast commentaries on their works, nor explain exactly what a Sikh is and what they should do. No absolute lists, no absolute laws, no absolute injunctions. Songs of Love. Songs of Praise. Songs of Wonder. Songs of Yearning. Songs of Time, Pain, Happiness, Loss.

    The point of this debate here I hope is not to reach a manifesto. Love is the only manifesto – and its laws cannot be written — in specifics – but love cannot exist beyond the specific act. The vision of the gurus was very demanding and so much higher than the squabbles of reason, and the passions of the warrior, and the intrigues of the King.

    There is no one identity to defend. Life needs defending. The Gurus can act to save others as easily as they would save their own. Fear none and inspire no fear — otherwise love all and inspire love.

    OF COURSE it is too easy to answer the question – what should we do with Love all – the Gurus were not the beatles. They acted creatively and variously to life’s unfolding challenges. The answer is many. Many projects – but all should be under the name of an inspired relation to the other.

    b.

  29. Bal says:

    I have a suspicion that the Gurus never really nor seriously entertained the question of what needs to be done. Ok Guru Tegh Bahadur and others to the contrary, but there was so much else at work something close to sublime indifference and fearlessness – that what is happening is all good. Jo tudh bhavai saii balee kaar. That free utterly open spirit is hard to grasp. and this is why those deeply in love come across to us as insane for it is clear that to them nothing much matters apart from that love…

    apologies if I've wandered far into the wilderness – but I think we need to wonder — wonder if there is a problem and if there is what is its nature.

    b.

  30. Bal says:

    I have a suspicion that the Gurus never really nor seriously entertained the question of what needs to be done. Ok Guru Tegh Bahadur and others to the contrary, but there was so much else at work something close to sublime indifference and fearlessness – that what is happening is all good. Jo tudh bhavai saii balee kaar. That free utterly open spirit is hard to grasp. and this is why those deeply in love come across to us as insane for it is clear that to them nothing much matters apart from that love…

    apologies if I’ve wandered far into the wilderness – but I think we need to wonder — wonder if there is a problem and if there is what is its nature.

    b.

  31. mitr says:

    Here is an interesting seminar/public discussion by the authors of the book on the same topic
    http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/488

  32. mitr says:

    Here is an interesting seminar/public discussion by the authors of the book on the same topic
    http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/488

  33. Harliv Singh says:

    Jodha,

    From your post, I think it is pretty clear that you are declaring that Jakara has nothing to do with the current state of affairs on the UC Berkeley campus.

    The problem is that I am aware of the identities of the individuals that started this petition to cancel the Introduction to Sikhi DeCal course. These individuals are very much active in Jakara activities on and off the Berkeley campus. Are you saying, then, that these individuals have nothing to do with Jakara?

    If you are, then I must applaud the audacity with which you have declared Randeep Singh's comments as being "irresponsible, immature and baseless." If you are declaring that Jakara has nothing to do with the "long lasting 'battle' between two 'clicks/groups' at Berkeley," then how can you allow these individuals to represent Jakara on the Berkeley campus (or anywhere for that matter)? There must be something seriously flawed with my understanding of Pavlovian association – would you care to fill me in on what you mean by the word "affiliated"?

  34. Randeep Singh says:

    Dear Mewa Singh,

    You previously said the following

    Mewa Singh: Both Hofstra/Berkeley conferences and the Jakara Movement conference and events are filling needed gaps that exist in the community. I think it is more productive if we can appreciate each other’s work and understand that they complement one another, rather than engaging in mud-slinging and stating that some groups are an ‘impediment’ to such spaces.

    However, a more principled examination of your claims shows them to be unfounded. And, though I previously refrained from delving into specifics, recent events have demanded I make it quite clear that your collaborators in Jakara have actively engaged in undermining any serious and scholarly project at UC Berkeley.

    First, it should be made apparent that bhai sahib Prabsharandeep Singh has served the community by teaching the Sikhi course over six years at UC Berkeley (mind you, this is without pay or recompensation)to connect students with Sikhi in the face of the Modernist program prevalent in Sikh studies (i.e. the works of Pashaura Singh, Gurinder Mann, etc). Central to the course is a critique of theoretical underpinnings of the comparative religions project which has blocked any engagement of Sikhs in themselves. This involves a strong grounding in the theory of religion, colonialist discourse, and literary studies, as well as of course philosophy. Needless to say, Jakara and similar organizations cannot begin to approach the seriousness of such a project.

    In the face of serious discussion occurring in some quadrants of the UC Berkeley's campus, Jakara event organizers at UC Berkeley have gone out of their way to petition the UC Berkeley Sikhi course to be canceled! As of yesterday, March 3, the head of the UC Berkeley Philosophy department (Jay Wallace) was approached by your fellow Jakara Organizer with the purpose of canceling this course.

    So, I would like to inquire why Jakara has deemed it so necessary to interfere with scholarly projects as such. If you really believe that Jakara and serious projects can coexist, then why do Jakara organizers at UC Berkeley undermine the scholarship of Sikhi at UC Berkeley? Mind you, the course has been uninvolved in any campus politics- the course has been taught with only scholarship in mind. Why is Jakara/Jakara organizers undermining this course? Simply, What is Jakara's agenda?

    This is a very low-level precedent set, and demands at least some sense of shame on your behalf. To preserve some sense of dignity at least, I suggest Jakara and its affiliates reform its strategy and seriously question its underlying motives.

    –Sincerely, Randeep

  35. Randeep Singh says:

    Dear Mewa Singh,

    You previously said the following

    Mewa Singh: Both Hofstra/Berkeley conferences and the Jakara Movement conference and events are filling needed gaps that exist in the community. I think it is more productive if we can appreciate each others work and understand that they complement one another, rather than engaging in mud-slinging and stating that some groups are an impediment to such spaces.

    However, a more principled examination of your claims shows them to be unfounded. And, though I previously refrained from delving into specifics, recent events have demanded I make it quite clear that your collaborators in Jakara have actively engaged in undermining any serious and scholarly project at UC Berkeley.

    First, it should be made apparent that bhai sahib Prabsharandeep Singh has served the community by teaching the Sikhi course over six years at UC Berkeley (mind you, this is without pay or recompensation)to connect students with Sikhi in the face of the Modernist program prevalent in Sikh studies (i.e. the works of Pashaura Singh, Gurinder Mann, etc). Central to the course is a critique of theoretical underpinnings of the comparative religions project which has blocked any engagement of Sikhs in themselves. This involves a strong grounding in the theory of religion, colonialist discourse, and literary studies, as well as of course philosophy. Needless to say, Jakara and similar organizations cannot begin to approach the seriousness of such a project.

    In the face of serious discussion occurring in some quadrants of the UC Berkeley’s campus, Jakara event organizers at UC Berkeley have gone out of their way to petition the UC Berkeley Sikhi course to be canceled! As of yesterday, March 3, the head of the UC Berkeley Philosophy department (Jay Wallace) was approached by your fellow Jakara Organizer with the purpose of canceling this course.

    So, I would like to inquire why Jakara has deemed it so necessary to interfere with scholarly projects as such. If you really believe that Jakara and serious projects can coexist, then why do Jakara organizers at UC Berkeley undermine the scholarship of Sikhi at UC Berkeley? Mind you, the course has been uninvolved in any campus politics- the course has been taught with only scholarship in mind. Why is Jakara/Jakara organizers undermining this course? Simply, What is Jakara’s agenda?

    This is a very low-level precedent set, and demands at least some sense of shame on your behalf. To preserve some sense of dignity at least, I suggest Jakara and its affiliates reform its strategy and seriously question its underlying motives.

    –Sincerely, Randeep

  36. Jodha says:

    Randeep,

    You and I both know that this is a long lasting "battle" between two "clicks/groups" at Berkeley and You very well know that Jakara Movement has nothing to do with it but still you want to put the blame on an organization, which is really irresponsible, immature and baseless.

    The action was not Jakara-sanctioned or even Jakara-affiliated. People act on their own behalf. Please do not bring in an organization into your issues at Berkeley.

  37. Jodha says:

    Randeep,

    You and I both know that this is a long lasting “battle” between two “clicks/groups” at Berkeley and You very well know that Jakara Movement has nothing to do with it but still you want to put the blame on an organization, which is really irresponsible, immature and baseless.

    The action was not Jakara-sanctioned or even Jakara-affiliated. People act on their own behalf. Please do not bring in an organization into your issues at Berkeley.

  38. Harliv Singh says:

    Jodha,

    From your post, I think it is pretty clear that you are declaring that Jakara has nothing to do with the current state of affairs on the UC Berkeley campus.

    The problem is that I am aware of the identities of the individuals that started this petition to cancel the Introduction to Sikhi DeCal course. These individuals are very much active in Jakara activities on and off the Berkeley campus. Are you saying, then, that these individuals have nothing to do with Jakara?

    If you are, then I must applaud the audacity with which you have declared Randeep Singh’s comments as being “irresponsible, immature and baseless.” If you are declaring that Jakara has nothing to do with the “long lasting ‘battle’ between two ‘clicks/groups’ at Berkeley,” then how can you allow these individuals to represent Jakara on the Berkeley campus (or anywhere for that matter)? There must be something seriously flawed with my understanding of Pavlovian association – would you care to fill me in on what you mean by the word “affiliated”?

  39. Jodha says:

    Harliv Singh,

    No, I am stating unequivocally that the Jakara Movement, as an organization, IS NOT a party in the dispute. There was ABSOLUTELEY no decision-making that came from the organization.

    I am also saying that people function in their individual capacity. The Jakara Movement has affiliate members on almost all university campuses in California. This does not mean we are a party in all disputes that will arise on individual campuses.

    The Berkeley feud is personal, involving undergraduate members at Berkeley. It is an intra-Berkeley affair. All individual parties should assess their contribution to poisoning the environment at Berkeley. Unfortunately the situation is not new in Berkeley and has been ongoing for some time. We hope that all parties can come to an amicable rapprochement.

    Attempts to smear an organization are exactly "irresponsible, immature and baseless", especially when the groups involved are aware of the personal nature of the problem Direct your ire towards the individuals involved and deal with your intra-Berkeley dispute in Berkeley.

    If you have any questions about the Jakara Movement organization, then feel free to visit the Jakara Movement's webpage and reach them through the 'Contact Us' link.

    (For full disclosure to our readers, I am a volunteer with the Jakara Movement)

  40. Jodha says:

    Harliv Singh,

    No, I am stating unequivocally that the Jakara Movement, as an organization, IS NOT a party in the dispute. There was ABSOLUTELEY no decision-making that came from the organization.

    I am also saying that people function in their individual capacity. The Jakara Movement has affiliate members on almost all university campuses in California. This does not mean we are a party in all disputes that will arise on individual campuses.

    The Berkeley feud is personal, involving undergraduate members at Berkeley. It is an intra-Berkeley affair. All individual parties should assess their contribution to poisoning the environment at Berkeley. Unfortunately the situation is not new in Berkeley and has been ongoing for some time. We hope that all parties can come to an amicable rapprochement.

    Attempts to smear an organization are exactly “irresponsible, immature and baseless”, especially when the groups involved are aware of the personal nature of the problem Direct your ire towards the individuals involved and deal with your intra-Berkeley dispute in Berkeley.

    If you have any questions about the Jakara Movement organization, then feel free to visit the Jakara Movement’s webpage and reach them through the ‘Contact Us’ link.

    (For full disclosure to our readers, I am a volunteer with the Jakara Movement)

  41. Admin Singh says:

    [The topic has moved away from the India Lobby and seems to be involving some individual dispute. ALL ARE BEING PUT ON NOTICE. Our policy at The Langar Hall is to STAY ON TOPIC and NOT ALLOW posts to be hijacked. Comments NOT ON TOPIC will be moderated and deleted….Admin Singh]

  42. Admin Singh says:

    [The topic has moved away from the India Lobby and seems to be involving some individual dispute. ALL ARE BEING PUT ON NOTICE. Our policy at The Langar Hall is to STAY ON TOPIC and NOT ALLOW posts to be hijacked. Comments NOT ON TOPIC will be moderated and deleted….Admin Singh]

  43. Jaspreet says:

    I agree with Admin. If all readers the intellectuals just discusw the topic would make it an educational read. You all have put very nice analysis together.

    JS

  44. Jaspreet says:

    I agree with Admin. If all readers the intellectuals just discusw the topic would make it an educational read. You all have put very nice analysis together.

    JS

  45. Jodha:

    Thanks!

    I was expecting this earlier; however, I think you have been open to diverse views unlike most of the discussion forums, which I really appreciate.

    I think your participation in the discussion could be better, which is true in case of anything, including my comments.

    You and I know many things, some of which I have discussed with you earlier and some not, because I did not want to embarrass you. I have many reasons to respect you and do not doubt your intentions. When people work in the groups, they, most of the times, endorse everything, right or wrong, that the group does. I understand this because I have been one of these people for a few years.

    Since you have decided to delete any comments on the Berkeley issue, I'll not go over that issue, however, I have to say that I invested my best in this course, have been continuing this for more than six years, have been able to organize a group of young scholars who are doing amazing work in different areas related to the Sikh studies, therefore, find it very hurtful.

    Since you and I both know how it started and who have been the main players, that I tried to talked to and beg everyone, I thought was involved, to keep this project out of their political maneuvers, you need to think about it. You, out of all those people, need to think that I had chosen a corner and was working quietly without interfering in anybody’s business, and people disrupted my work just because they want to control everything, that everything should happen under their banner.

    I had planned to continue this project for a few more years, and will try to do so if these folks let me. You can think if you can play some role, since many of them are associated with you on one or another level, otherwise it is not good news for anybody.

    Waheguru ji ka Khalsa

    Waheguru ji ki Fatah

  46. Jodha:

    Thanks!

    I was expecting this earlier; however, I think you have been open to diverse views unlike most of the discussion forums, which I really appreciate.

    I think your participation in the discussion could be better, which is true in case of anything, including my comments.

    You and I know many things, some of which I have discussed with you earlier and some not, because I did not want to embarrass you. I have many reasons to respect you and do not doubt your intentions. When people work in the groups, they, most of the times, endorse everything, right or wrong, that the group does. I understand this because I have been one of these people for a few years.

    Since you have decided to delete any comments on the Berkeley issue, I’ll not go over that issue, however, I have to say that I invested my best in this course, have been continuing this for more than six years, have been able to organize a group of young scholars who are doing amazing work in different areas related to the Sikh studies, therefore, find it very hurtful.

    Since you and I both know how it started and who have been the main players, that I tried to talked to and beg everyone, I thought was involved, to keep this project out of their political maneuvers, you need to think about it. You, out of all those people, need to think that I had chosen a corner and was working quietly without interfering in anybodys business, and people disrupted my work just because they want to control everything, that everything should happen under their banner.

    I had planned to continue this project for a few more years, and will try to do so if these folks let me. You can think if you can play some role, since many of them are associated with you on one or another level, otherwise it is not good news for anybody.

    Waheguru ji ka Khalsa
    Waheguru ji ki Fatah

  47. Gurpreet says:

    Jodha,

    A simply clarification- there are other students from different campuses, (not just Berkeley) that share congruent opinions with the Berkeley folks, and it's important for you to understand this distinction, and celebrate this diversity and unity all the same. The sooner this is done, the faster we can get to an actual project. Thanks!

  48. Gurpreet says:

    Jodha,

    A simply clarification- there are other students from different campuses, (not just Berkeley) that share congruent opinions with the Berkeley folks, and it’s important for you to understand this distinction, and celebrate this diversity and unity all the same. The sooner this is done, the faster we can get to an actual project. Thanks!

  49. pritam singh says:

    joda there is need to compare your intellect with a philosopher who had understood only following—

    Three time is five equal to half of the thirty

  50. pritam singh says:

    joda there is need to compare your intellect with a philosopher who had understood only following
    Three time is five equal to half of the thirty

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