SikhRI and the Anand Marriage Act – A Critical Appraisal

The Anand MarriageAct has been discussed a few times on The Langar Hall. Years ago, I thought of the passage of the new act in Pakistan was one of the years greatest successes by the community. In this year of 2009, the Sikh Research Institute plans to observe the centennial of the Anand Marriage Act of 1909 in a big way.

Releasing a publication that can be viewed here and accompanied by the following the video with Harinder Singh, the PR campaign seeks to put limelight on the issue of Sikhs falling under the category of Hindu in the Indian Constitution. In fact it is emphatically stated in the publication.

Our hope in featuring this date in legislative history is to inspire Sikhs to demand acknowledgement as a distinct community, especially with regards to legal reforms.

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While I believe the attempt is praiseworthy, an uncritical celebration of the colonists bill is also nave and highly problematic.

The document acknowledges the situation under which the Act came about.

The Anand Marriage Act was passed under British occupation of South Asia.

Again, I was impressed by the work done to produce such a document including translations of the Lavan, reproduction of the pertinent sections from the Sikh Rehat Maryada, as well as the law itself. Still, it does sit uneasy when Sikhs (due to their present political situation) long for the days of imperialists-past.

In the video, Harinder Singh states that the passage of the act was a ‘soft way of asserting [our] sovereignty.’ However can the bestowal of recognition (not quite an ‘assertion’ and very different than the later Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925 ) by the actual sovereigns of the time (the British Raj) really be seen as an act of Sikh sovereignty? Should we really celebrate decisions by an oppressive, non-democratic, brutal regime that was the British Raj? Yes, we can use the precedence for future laws, but must we celebrate a centennial?

Too often I find Sikhs glowing proudly about their place as the British Empires cannon fodder of choice. Sikhs as collaborators in imperial armies (my own family included in WWI and WWII) were used to put down many other people that sought their own sovereignty and dignity against British colonialism. There might be structural reasons that colonialism puts into play that casts various groups against one another, but I refuse to believe that Sikhs should not be able to critically engage with their own past. When we celebrate the history of the Khalsa, we celebrate the history of sovereignty, freedom, and resistance. We can continue to fight for the recognition of our own community without having to glorify or whitewash British colonialism.


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49 Responses to “SikhRI and the Anand Marriage Act – A Critical Appraisal”

  1. ??? ????? says:

    Jodha used to say, "Despite the various attacks on the Singh Sabha movement for only promoting Khalsa hegemony and other spurious slanders by neo-Sanatans, post-colonialists (I am reminded of a professor that once told me that he would only become a post-colonialist, when colonialism ends) attempting to form neo-Brahman ‘intelligentsias’" from http://thelangarhall.com/sikhi/how-large-is-the-t

    Now you say, "can the bestowal of recognition (not quite an ‘assertion’ and very different than the later Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925 ) by the actual sovereigns of the time (the British Raj) really be seen as an act of Sikh sovereignty?" and, "There might be structural reasons that colonialism puts into play that casts various groups against one another, but I refuse to believe that Sikhs should not be able to critically engage with their own past."

    I'm glad you've turned the corner. But saying fashionable items makes not an enquiry. I think you need to acknowledge the scholars and organizations that are bringing these issues regarding colonialism, orientalism, imperialism, and the Sikh past and present experience into focus.

  2. ??? ????? says:

    Jodha used to say, "Despite the various attacks on the Singh Sabha movement for only promoting Khalsa hegemony and other spurious slanders by neo-Sanatans, post-colonialists (I am reminded of a professor that once told me that he would only become a post-colonialist, when colonialism ends) attempting to form neo-Brahman ‘intelligentsias’" from http://thelangarhall.com/sikhi/how-large-is-the-t

    Now you say, "can the bestowal of recognition (not quite an ‘assertion’ and very different than the later Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925 ) by the actual sovereigns of the time (the British Raj) really be seen as an act of Sikh sovereignty?" and, "There might be structural reasons that colonialism puts into play that casts various groups against one another, but I refuse to believe that Sikhs should not be able to critically engage with their own past."

    I'm glad you've turned the corner. But saying fashionable items makes not an enquiry. I think you need to acknowledge the scholars and organizations that are bringing these issues regarding colonialism, orientalism, imperialism, and the Sikh past and present experience into focus.

  3. Jugni says:

    How does acknowledging a historical context glorify colonialism? Rather, the publication forefronts the efficacy of the Singh Sabha Movement and cites this example from history to encourage similar efforts today.

  4. Jugni says:

    How does acknowledging a historical context glorify colonialism? Rather, the publication forefronts the efficacy of the Singh Sabha Movement and cites this example from history to encourage similar efforts today.

  5. Jodha says:

    Poster 1 – You don't seem to understand my point or see disharmony, when there is none. I have no doubt that in 1909 for the Singh Sabha Movement, the Anand Marriage Act of 1909 was of great importance and was widely celebrated. I am sure that I too would have celebrated in 1909. My only problem is that Sikhs in 2009 need not uncritically celebrate the centennial of the Act. Now that you know I am not a post-modernist in all of its garb, I do not see any point to your last paragraph.

    Jugni – Point understood. I felt that the packet did not really adequately acknowledge historical context. I am all for encouraging similar efforts today!

  6. Jodha says:

    Poster 1 – You don't seem to understand my point or see disharmony, when there is none. I have no doubt that in 1909 for the Singh Sabha Movement, the Anand Marriage Act of 1909 was of great importance and was widely celebrated. I am sure that I too would have celebrated in 1909. My only problem is that Sikhs in 2009 need not uncritically celebrate the centennial of the Act. Now that you know I am not a post-modernist in all of its garb, I do not see any point to your last paragraph.

    Jugni – Point understood. I felt that the packet did not really adequately acknowledge historical context. I am all for encouraging similar efforts today!

  7. Jodha says:

    Ok commenter,

    Those in the know are aware that 'post-modernism' represents certain methodologies, but also has come to form its own dogmas in being opposed to what they often term the "Enlightenment project." It has its own formations in this particular academic tradition, but those that have carried these dogmas into other fields. They are also set within this academic tradition.

    With regard to the notion of the eradication of colonialism as a necessary pre-requisite to post-colonial thought, it was obviously a joke (geez, lighten up), but a poignant one nonetheless.

    Yes "post-modernism" means different things in different contexts. Great job! Just like there is baroque art, baroque music, baroque architecture, etc. These movements don't always mean the same thing, nor are they all even within the same time period.

    Sikhs can critically think and appreciate all parts of their past in their contexts. I need not become so enamored by jargon, nor should others. Beneath the veneer is little else. As far as contemporary movement engaging in post-colonial thought, all Sikh groups that draw their inspiration from Gurbani are pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial (since these are your measures of time, not mine!). The Truth is Timeless!

  8. Jodha says:

    Ok commenter,

    Those in the know are aware that 'post-modernism' represents certain methodologies, but also has come to form its own dogmas in being opposed to what they often term the "Enlightenment project." It has its own formations in this particular academic tradition, but those that have carried these dogmas into other fields. They are also set within this academic tradition.

    With regard to the notion of the eradication of colonialism as a necessary pre-requisite to post-colonial thought, it was obviously a joke (geez, lighten up), but a poignant one nonetheless.

    Yes "post-modernism" means different things in different contexts. Great job! Just like there is baroque art, baroque music, baroque architecture, etc. These movements don't always mean the same thing, nor are they all even within the same time period.

    Sikhs can critically think and appreciate all parts of their past in their contexts. I need not become so enamored by jargon, nor should others. Beneath the veneer is little else. As far as contemporary movement engaging in post-colonial thought, all Sikh groups that draw their inspiration from Gurbani are pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial (since these are your measures of time, not mine!). The Truth is Timeless!

  9. P.Singh says:

    I like to think, perhaps incorrectly, that I'm not super-dumb. And I don't mean normal dumb, like when Jason Kidd said “We're going to turn this team around 360 degrees”.

    I mean super dumb, like when Britney Spears said “I’ve never really wanted to go to Japan. Simply because I don’t like eating fish. And I know that’s very popular out there in Africa.”

    Reading the back-and-forth discussion makes me feel a tad super dumb.

    Now, I can't figure out whether I'm an orientalist, imperialist, post-colonialist, or a post-modernist. I'm pretty sure that's not the right context, but when I'm confused, I create my own context – it makes me happy.

    If someone had thrown the word "king" anywhere in the above posts, I could have latched on to that. I KNOW Singh is King – bumper stickers in Surrey say so.

    Dumb it down for the rest of us (or just me) y'all. Or maybe we can come back to the Anand Karaj Act, the history around it, and the motivation behind it :)

    Seriously, by the time I get back from eating my tempura roll in Uganda…

  10. P.Singh says:

    I like to think, perhaps incorrectly, that I'm not super-dumb. And I don't mean normal dumb, like when Jason Kidd said “We're going to turn this team around 360 degrees”.

    I mean super dumb, like when Britney Spears said “I’ve never really wanted to go to Japan. Simply because I don’t like eating fish. And I know that’s very popular out there in Africa.”

    Reading the back-and-forth discussion makes me feel a tad super dumb.

    Now, I can't figure out whether I'm an orientalist, imperialist, post-colonialist, or a post-modernist. I'm pretty sure that's not the right context, but when I'm confused, I create my own context – it makes me happy.

    If someone had thrown the word "king" anywhere in the above posts, I could have latched on to that. I KNOW Singh is King – bumper stickers in Surrey say so.

    Dumb it down for the rest of us (or just me) y'all. Or maybe we can come back to the Anand Karaj Act, the history around it, and the motivation behind it :)

    Seriously, by the time I get back from eating my tempura roll in Uganda…

  11. Rohan says:

    what the hell are you guys talking about??!? just enjoy the damn post.

  12. Rohan says:

    what the hell are you guys talking about??!? just enjoy the damn post.

  13. P.Singh says:

    You're right, I don't have any vested interest in the mentioned terms, and have never felt any real desire or need to examine these terms beyond my layman's understanding of them.

    I wrote my post, a little-tongue-in-cheek, hoping to lighten the mood a bit, get us off each other's throats, and back to the subject at hand; to my layman's eyes, it seems more a personal battle at the moment.

    Chalo (that is one fine Punjabi word – excellent for closing a post, when you don't know how else to end it).

  14. P.Singh says:

    You're right, I don't have any vested interest in the mentioned terms, and have never felt any real desire or need to examine these terms beyond my layman's understanding of them.

    I wrote my post, a little-tongue-in-cheek, hoping to lighten the mood a bit, get us off each other's throats, and back to the subject at hand; to my layman's eyes, it seems more a personal battle at the moment.

    Chalo (that is one fine Punjabi word – excellent for closing a post, when you don't know how else to end it).

  15. Jodha says:

    Commenter,

    You truly believe that the academy leads? You really do have a 19th century philosopher's view of the world. How quaint!

    You exaggerate Said's impact. Important absolutely, maybe even path-breaking (for Americans, who had yet to read Foucault), but utility today, even in academia – not much. If Sikh Studies was so sound and innovative, you would think that those in the field would be heavily quoted and vetted by other academics. For the most part they aren't (few exceptions do exist) and their work is largely seen as derivative.

    Yes commenter, you afterall know all (or at least are willing to bully and threaten people until they at least keep quiet). Sorry, not here.

  16. Jodha says:

    Commenter,

    You truly believe that the academy leads? You really do have a 19th century philosopher's view of the world. How quaint!

    You exaggerate Said's impact. Important absolutely, maybe even path-breaking (for Americans, who had yet to read Foucault), but utility today, even in academia – not much. If Sikh Studies was so sound and innovative, you would think that those in the field would be heavily quoted and vetted by other academics. For the most part they aren't (few exceptions do exist) and their work is largely seen as derivative.

    Yes commenter, you afterall know all (or at least are willing to bully and threaten people until they at least keep quiet). Sorry, not here.

  17. ??? ????? says:

    Jodha,

    It seems you've deleted my last post in which I responded to what you just wrote here (assumedly under the guise of me posting under an alternate name since I was on a different computer). You need to repost what I wrote under the name ????????????. I of course take responsibility for that post, and I'm sure you can do the IP tracking stuff to verify that. Restore that comment.

    It's become quite clear that I'm not going to be able to get anywhere with you on this subject, since you refuse to engage my actual arguments and points. But, rather, in a FOX NEWS fashion would rather appeal to popularity contests: "If Sikh Studies was so sound and innovative, you would think that those in the field would be heavily quoted and vetted by other academics." I don't think it's too far off to venture that you've not read these texts you talk about. At the VERY LEAST, please at least answer the question I've asked you AT LEAST 3 times already:

    You say: "For the most part they [Sikh scholars] aren't (few exceptions do exist) and their work is largely seen as derivative." Whose works do you refer to here as derivative, and which works are the exceptions? Please answer this question! I beg you pretty please!

  18. ??? ????? says:

    Jodha,

    It seems you've deleted my last post in which I responded to what you just wrote here (assumedly under the guise of me posting under an alternate name since I was on a different computer). You need to repost what I wrote under the name ????????????. I of course take responsibility for that post, and I'm sure you can do the IP tracking stuff to verify that. Restore that comment.

    It's become quite clear that I'm not going to be able to get anywhere with you on this subject, since you refuse to engage my actual arguments and points. But, rather, in a FOX NEWS fashion would rather appeal to popularity contests: "If Sikh Studies was so sound and innovative, you would think that those in the field would be heavily quoted and vetted by other academics." I don't think it's too far off to venture that you've not read these texts you talk about. At the VERY LEAST, please at least answer the question I've asked you AT LEAST 3 times already:

    You say: "For the most part they [Sikh scholars] aren't (few exceptions do exist) and their work is largely seen as derivative." Whose works do you refer to here as derivative, and which works are the exceptions? Please answer this question! I beg you pretty please!

  19. Barack-attul-Hussain says:

    Alas! if only all debates were as convenient as this! All one needs is to declare the truth -academic/critical study of Sikhi is worthless- and its done. No need for sources, coherence, or any sort an ethics of discussion.

  20. Barack-attul-Hussain-Obama says:

    Alas! if only all debates were as convenient as this! All one needs is to declare the truth -academic/critical study of Sikhi is worthless- and its done. No need for sources, coherence, or any sort an ethics of discussion.

  21. Cristi says:

    Great post, you have pointed out some great points , I also think this s a very excellent website.

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