Stating the Obvious

With After the comments about the DSS, I thought this article by Pritam Singh, a professor in the business school at Oxford Brookes University (not to be confused with the Oxford, you are probably thinking about), might shed some light. may be interesting. Instead I found it rather obvious. The article is titled The political economy of the cycles of violence and non-violence in the Sikh struggle for identity and political power: implications for Indian federalism and was published in Third World Quarterly 28.3 (2007).

I reproduce verbatim his abstract:

sant.jpgABSTRACT: This paper presents a critique of the essentialist notions of any community as a pacifist or militant community by examining the long history of the cycles of violence and non-violence in the evolution of the Sikh community in the Indian subcontinent. The theoretical premise of the paper is that communities resort to violence and non-violence is determined by their strategic perspectives to achieve their politico-economic goals and not from any doctrinal adherence to violence or non-violence. The paper attempts a panoramic view of over 500 years of Sikh history (1469 2006) and offers a reinterpretation of that history by locating cycles of violence and non-violence in their historical context. It then provides a politico-economic perspective on violence and nonviolence in their struggle for identity and political power. It focuses more on an analysis of the recent political conflict between Sikh militants and the Indian state, and concludes by drawing out the policy implications of that analysis for the politics of the modern Indian state regarding the Sikhs of Punjab. It identifies federal arrangements and human rights as issues of key importance in the political economy of this relationship.

His purpose is clear. He sets forth that he does not see Sikhs are neither essentially pacifists or violent, but through his politico-economic approach over a longer period of time, he sees that Sikhs react to different situations differently.

Pritam Singh goes through the Guru-period parroting most accounts that Guru Hargobind broke the pacifist tradition despite the writings of contemporaries such as Bhai Gurdas Ji who argued the opposite. It is the section dealing with the rise of spirit of the Khalsa with the vanguard by Baba Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Bhai Amrik Singh that is most illuminative about the current DSS problem. Earlier discussions by Langar-ites have discussed highlighted the DSSs appeal and it is to these points that Pritam Singh recalls Baba Jarnail Singhs addressing during his rise:

The first was a moral, humanist and egalitarian phase, when he focused on preaching against vulgar consumerism and casteism.

These are the same issues, especially casteism that has led many Sikhs into the arms of the crooked DSS.

Pritam Singh’s conclusion seems rather obvious. There is no distinct Sikh trait that makes us prone to violence, but rather if a state (be it Mughal, British, or Indian) acts with oppression, the Khalsa will stand up and engage in that discourse; if a state acts in good faith, Sikhs will use non-violent means to gain its needs. It is precisely making an active effort and creating institutions that promoting humanism and egalitarianism that will end casteism and sexism. This is our path to becoming a stronger Qaum. This call, as suggested by Baba Jarnail Singh (on a sidenote, isn’t that a great picture?), is to go beyond only individual efforts, but to work, create, and make institutional changes.


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14 Responses to “Stating the Obvious”

  1. Reema says:

    Jodha,

    Great post.

    It would only make sense if Dr. Pritam were responding to earlier imperialistic theories that referred to Sikhs as a martial race but since those ideas ('martial race') are now defunct, his "critique of the essentialist notions" of the Sikh community seems odd.

    (And that picture is fabulous. Where'd you get it?)

  2. Reema says:

    Jodha,

    Great post.

    It would only make sense if Dr. Pritam were responding to earlier imperialistic theories that referred to Sikhs as a martial race but since those ideas (‘martial race’) are now defunct, his “critique of the essentialist notions” of the Sikh community seems odd.

    (And that picture is fabulous. Where’d you get it?)

  3. Jodha says:

    Reema,

    Thanks. He argues against Uberoi (1920s) and Juergensmeyer (1980s), who wrote about those periods and make an argument about Sikhs' reactions. I don't know why you would have to write the paper that he did, but he did.

    Regarding the picture, it has been well-circulated for years. There are a number of great pictures of the Jarnail of Shaheeds at

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bhindranwale/sets/

  4. Jodha says:

    Reema,

    Thanks. He argues against Uberoi (1920s) and Juergensmeyer (1980s), who wrote about those periods and make an argument about Sikhs’ reactions. I don’t know why you would have to write the paper that he did, but he did.

    Regarding the picture, it has been well-circulated for years. There are a number of great pictures of the Jarnail of Shaheeds at

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bhindranwale/sets/

  5. Camille says:

    Jodha, thanks for covering this. I actually really like Prof. Singh's scholarship (he is a really kind person), and for those who are interested in a "critical studies" approach to this work, he is fantastic. It may seem "duh!" but a lot of these arguments cycle around the langar hall (the real life kind) all the time. I often hear folks take pride in the colonial description of "martial races" without questioning the factors that give rise to organized resistance in some moments and pacifism in others. I'm looking forward to reading the article in its entirety.

  6. Camille says:

    Jodha, thanks for covering this. I actually really like Prof. Singh’s scholarship (he is a really kind person), and for those who are interested in a “critical studies” approach to this work, he is fantastic. It may seem “duh!” but a lot of these arguments cycle around the langar hall (the real life kind) all the time. I often hear folks take pride in the colonial description of “martial races” without questioning the factors that give rise to organized resistance in some moments and pacifism in others. I’m looking forward to reading the article in its entirety.

  7. baingandabhartha says:

    I have always found the term ‘martial race’ to be an interesting idea. Sikhs are not a race. I dont know if we ever considered ourselveds a martial ppl before the brits classified us a such-maybe for a cynical reason-to use us a weapon nothing else-they stoked our egos to use us to oppress others colonial possessions and people-we were paid mercenaries nothing else.

    What drove the average Sikh’s behavior in the times of Guru Gobind Singh was likely quite different than the average faujdar in Mh. Ranjit Singh’s army. The notion of royalty and paid army service changed the face of Sikhism competely-in a bad way in my opinion.

  8. baingandabhartha says:

    I have always found the term 'martial race' to be an interesting idea. Sikhs are not a race. I dont know if we ever considered ourselveds a martial ppl before the brits classified us a such-maybe for a cynical reason-to use us a weapon nothing else-they stoked our egos to use us to oppress others colonial possessions and people-we were paid mercenaries nothing else.

    What drove the average Sikh's behavior in the times of Guru Gobind Singh was likely quite different than the average faujdar in Mh. Ranjit Singh's army. The notion of royalty and paid army service changed the face of Sikhism competely-in a bad way in my opinion.

  9. Kaur says:

    Thanks so much for this post, this information is great. I haven't had the chance to read this particular work you are referencing and am looking forward to it.

    Thanks Jodha!

  10. Kaur says:

    Thanks so much for this post, this information is great. I haven’t had the chance to read this particular work you are referencing and am looking forward to it.

    Thanks Jodha!

  11. Kaur says:

    This is our path to becoming a stronger Qaum. This call, as suggested by Baba Jarnail Singh is to go beyond only individual efforts, but to work, create, and make institutional changes.

    Institutional change. That is a strong statement; however it is impossible to enact institutional change within a generation that is classified as politically passive and disinterested. How do we start to respond to this call when many do not even know about what is actually happening in OUR community.

    We toss around identifying terms like "Punjabi" and "Sikh", etc however do we truly see ourselves as part of this community? If so, where is everyone? How and when can we start to go beyond the discussion of these issues and actually start developing solutions and plans of ACTION?

  12. Kaur says:

    This is our path to becoming a stronger Qaum. This call, as suggested by Baba Jarnail Singh is to go beyond only individual efforts, but to work, create, and make institutional changes.

    Institutional change. That is a strong statement; however it is impossible to enact institutional change within a generation that is classified as politically passive and disinterested. How do we start to respond to this call when many do not even know about what is actually happening in OUR community.

    We toss around identifying terms like “Punjabi” and “Sikh”, etc however do we truly see ourselves as part of this community? If so, where is everyone? How and when can we start to go beyond the discussion of these issues and actually start developing solutions and plans of ACTION?

  13. Singh says:

    Kaur,

    Good questions. What do you think?

  14. Singh says:

    Kaur,

    Good questions. What do you think?

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