Fauji Singhs

Last week, many in US Sikhdom celebrated the triumphs of Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan and Dr. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi. For why you may ask? See previous coverage.

The NY Times Printed this short brief:

Capt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan, in a turban and full beard, graduated Monday at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, the first Sikh in a generation allowed to complete Army basic training without sacrificing the articles of his faith. The Army made an exemption to a uniform policy that has effectively prevented Sikhs from enlisting since 1984. Im feeling very humbled, said Captain Rattan, 31, a dentist. Im a soldier. He had to get a waiver from the Army to be allowed to serve without sacrificing the unshorn hair mandated by his faith. An immigrant from India who arrived in New York as a teenager, Captain Rattan said it was important for him to serve a country that has given him so many opportunities. Captain Rattan and Dr. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, who will attend basic training this summer, are the first Sikhs to receive exemptions in more than 25 years. [link]

Sikhs should absolutely have the opportunity to enter the military if they so choose; I will leave my opinion on the imperial adventurism in Iraq and Afghanistan for another time. Still from talking to other Sikh friends in the military, I wonder about Sikh Coalition’s press release stating “First Sikh US Army Officer Successfully Completes Basic Training” does some disservice to others in the military. That non-keshadhari Sikhs have served in the US army in the past is well known, especially the case of Uday Singh. Although the Coalition deserves kudos for their success for creating an opening for keshadhari Sikhs to also serve, does it also play up on a class factor by celebrating only officers, rather than the many nameless ground troopers?


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27 Responses to “Fauji Singhs”

  1. Amit says:

    Its a triumph because sikhs with keshadhari were discriminated against. Lets be honest. Sikhs who decide to keep there keshadhari always have more obstacles to face and more discrimination to endure.

    With that being said we should still honor all of our sikh brothers/sisters in the military, regardless of them keeping kesahdhari.

  2. Amit says:

    Its a triumph because sikhs with keshadhari were discriminated against. Lets be honest. Sikhs who decide to keep there keshadhari always have more obstacles to face and more discrimination to endure.

    With that being said we should still honor all of our sikh brothers/sisters in the military, regardless of them keeping kesahdhari.

  3. Jodha says:

    @Amit – agreed on your first point; on the second, I don't think all really are celebrated (that is if we want to celebrate).

  4. Jodha says:

    @Amit – agreed on your first point; on the second, I don't think all really are celebrated (that is if we want to celebrate).

  5. Paramjit Singh says:

    These two boys are not the first keshdhari,they are first in 25 yrs to go thru basic training as such.There is Dr Sekhon full keshdhari who served in Iraq,and is a colonel in ranking.After his stint he ran for US congress in CA on democratic ticket but lost.However kudos to these two who have decided to serve their country in uniform voluntarily.As for dr.Sekhon after his stint in the Army less said about him the better it is.

  6. Harinder says:

    Congrats to both the boys for serving their Nation in the finest tradition.
    My salutation to the families who have given such SONS to USA

  7. Paramjit Singh says:

    These two boys are not the first keshdhari,they are first in 25 yrs to go thru basic training as such.There is Dr Sekhon full keshdhari who served in Iraq,and is a colonel in ranking.After his stint he ran for US congress in CA on democratic ticket but lost.However kudos to these two who have decided to serve their country in uniform voluntarily.As for dr.Sekhon after his stint in the Army less said about him the better it is.

  8. Harinder says:

    Congrats to both the boys for serving their Nation in the finest tradition.
    My salutation to the families who have given such SONS to USA

  9. HJS says:

    Jodha,
    Most of the Sikh organisations in the west are only interested in seeing Khalsa hegemony to prevail in Sikhdom.

  10. HJS says:

    Jodha,
    Most of the Sikh organisations in the west are only interested in seeing Khalsa hegemony to prevail in Sikhdom.

  11. brooklynwala says:

    now that the army is accommodating some sikhs to serve with their turbans and beards (note that the policy discriminating against sikhs remains in tact), how about a counter-military recruitment campaign amongst young sikhs? throughout this campaign for the sikh "right to serve", it's been disturbing to see members of our community comparing service in the US military (which MLK rightly declared to be "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" in 1967, and that certainly continues to be the truth in 2010) to the khalsa army. sikhs' "martial tradition" is a revolutionary tradition — one where our ancestors took up arms to fight tyranny and oppression in all its forms. while we celebrate the slow breaking down of discrimination against sikhs in the US military, let's be careful not to glorify the role these armed forces play in the world. indeed, as jodha pointed out, these are truly the arms of imperialism.

  12. brooklynwala says:

    now that the army is accommodating some sikhs to serve with their turbans and beards (note that the policy discriminating against sikhs remains in tact), how about a counter-military recruitment campaign amongst young sikhs? throughout this campaign for the sikh "right to serve", it's been disturbing to see members of our community comparing service in the US military (which MLK rightly declared to be "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" in 1967, and that certainly continues to be the truth in 2010) to the khalsa army. sikhs' "martial tradition" is a revolutionary tradition — one where our ancestors took up arms to fight tyranny and oppression in all its forms. while we celebrate the slow breaking down of discrimination against sikhs in the US military, let's be careful not to glorify the role these armed forces play in the world. indeed, as jodha pointed out, these are truly the arms of imperialism.

  13. Jodha says:

    @brooklynwala – agreed, but I think the reason that why you dealt with so many Sikhs trying to create a link between the struggles of the Khalsa and joining the military today is linked to our uncritical 'celebration' of our colonial past. While many Sikhs lament the current situation under the Government of India, to uncritically celebrate British Rule seems asinine to me.

    I earlier wrote something on a similar issue earlier:

    Too often I find Sikhs glowing proudly about their place as the British Empire’s “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.

    http://thelangarhall.com/sikhi/sikhri-and-the-ana

  14. Jodha says:

    @brooklynwala – agreed, but I think the reason that why you dealt with so many Sikhs trying to create a link between the struggles of the Khalsa and joining the military today is linked to our uncritical 'celebration' of our colonial past. While many Sikhs lament the current situation under the Government of India, to uncritically celebrate British Rule seems asinine to me.

    I earlier wrote something on a similar issue earlier:

    Too often I find Sikhs glowing proudly about their place as the British Empire’s “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.

    http://thelangarhall.com/sikhi/sikhri-and-the-ana

  15. brooklynwala says:

    absolutely jodha — clearly sikhs do have a history of serving in colonial/imperialist or otherwise oppressive (i.e. indian army) military forces. and this should not be thought of as part of our history of being armed revolutionaries — quite the contrary, a co-opting of it in fact. i agree that we must face this often disturbing history of ours and start separating "martial tradition" from "revolutionary tradition" and not conflate the two.

  16. brooklynwala says:

    absolutely jodha — clearly sikhs do have a history of serving in colonial/imperialist or otherwise oppressive (i.e. indian army) military forces. and this should not be thought of as part of our history of being armed revolutionaries — quite the contrary, a co-opting of it in fact. i agree that we must face this often disturbing history of ours and start separating "martial tradition" from "revolutionary tradition" and not conflate the two.

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  19. Good to know that Sikhs like Capt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan have worked hard for their rights and now have gained what they worked for. Sikhs should be given rights as any other person of the country and should not be discriminated just because they wear turban or have beards.

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