From Stockton to Oak Creek and back to Stockton – Sept 22, 2012

printingpress.jpegThe history of the Sikhs in the United States is known well in specific circles. Bhagat Singh Thinds famous failed case for legal recognition by the US Supreme Court, iconic images of Stockton Gurdwara, traces of the Punjabi-Mexican experience, memories of the Ghadari Babas are generally remembered in this context. However, this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

A fascinating tale that is rarely discussed is that of Pahkar Singh. In our new post 9/11 fad to ad nauseam repeat that we are a peaceful religion, we tend to dismiss those heroic Sikhs that also faced racial discrimination in their own way. In the case of Pahkar Singh, the young Punjabi Sikh farmer living in the Imperial Valley (East of San Diego) in 1925. After being robbed of his crops and cheated by whites that took advantages of the racist laws in the land, Pahkar Singh picked up his gun and gandasa and killed two of them. He only stopped from killing a third, when the mans 8 month pregnant wife, literally stood in the face of the barrel to protect her husband. At that point, Pahkar Singh turned himself in. At his defense, along with other Punjabi farmers, many even white small farmers came to sympathize with Pahkar Singh. He spent 15 years in San Quentin before he was released. It is these lesser known instances of the Sikh-American experience that I find so much more interesting.

In this vein, a number of Sikh organizations led by Stockton Gurdwara and the Sikh Information Centre have come together to host a series of events in celebration of the Sikh-American Centennial. Beginning on SEPTEMBER 22, , there are a series of events to commemorate, remember, and reflect on the Sikh-American focus. YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS IT! With the recent events at Oak Creek Gurdwara, this may be a more prescient time than ever.

Beginning next weekend (Sept 22, 2012) on the campus of University of the Pacific (UOP), there will be a conference entitled 100 Years of Sikhs in the USA (A Western Perspective). Dr. Bruce La Brack, a pioneer on Sikh-American studies, will lead a number of scholars in an opportunity to reflect on this history. Other scholars include, Dr. Hugh Johnston, author of The Four Quarters of the Night: the Life Story of an Emigrant Sikh (1995), Dr. Harold Gould, author of Sikhs, Swamis, Students and Spies: The India Lobby in the United States, 1900-1946 (2006), and many more distinguished speakers. See the list of scholars and conference agenda here.

Other events include the opening of the Sikh History Museum. The blurb from the site reads:

The premier artifact is the hand-cranked printing press used by the revolutionary Gadar Party leaders (who also founded Stockton Gurdwara) to printThe Gadar, the first Punjabi-language newspaper in the USA. Published from 1913 to 1948, this paper was instrumental in achieving Indias independence from the British Empire. A wide variety of other artifacts, displays and stories of Sikh-American history will be announced in days to come.

Along with the English-language conference, there will be a Punjabi-language conference, titled 100 Years of Sikhs in the USA (An Eastern Perspective)” and will be led by scholars such as Dr. Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, Dr. Jasbir Mann, Dr. Gurmail Sidhu, and many others.

Finally, the series of events will come to a close on October 13-14, with a Grand Finale Celebration at the Stockton Gurdwara.

Ill be in attendance and hope many others in the California Sangat and beyond come as well. Check out the website for dates, places, times, and other information.

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5 Responses to “From Stockton to Oak Creek and back to Stockton – Sept 22, 2012”

  1. rkay says:

    relevant: i think it's also worth noting that before pakhar singh picked up arms, he tried going to about three different police stations to report the injustice he was being dealt. his cries were only answered with ridicule. one can only imagine the amount of frustration he must have been carrying before resorting to bludgeoning two men to death.

  2. jodha says:

    @rkay – thanks for bringing up those details. I could've written more – my summary may have been a bit too brief.

  3. Blighty Singh says:

    Man I knew nothing of Pakhar Singh before reading about him here. I'd love to know more. I think everybody should know about him. The story has all the amkings of a great indie movie. Period drama…..race….honour. Everything. Surely there's at least one screenwriter among us here who could write a good movie screenplay about him ?

  4. pashaura says:

    Apart from fascinating individual stories fighting for justice and bravery, there is a unique tale of collective wisdom, which turned those challenges in to opportunities. Rising above the caste, creed, geographic location and religion, they formed the “Ghadar Party”. With a single Secular purpose –need of the hour – FREEDOM, It is a tale of ordinary workers turned Ghadrites with extraordinary courage. To make a point they rode to the valley of death to free their motherland. Marginalized by the sons, their story is being brought to focus by their grand and great grandsons. In almost all towns big and small in North America, the third and fourth generation after 100 years, is set to commemorate their first centenary in a befitting way next year in 2013. Organized by the Sikh-American Research Center of the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society and Stockton Gurdwara Centennial Committee, this conference as a prelude to the centenary celebration is timely and appropriate. Both ought to be congratulated for organizing and hosting this conference. I want to learn more about it. I will attend. Thanks Jodha for the post!
    For my Kavita di Kahani dedicated to the Ghadrites, please check it out at :
    As always please leave a comment and your thoughts on my facebook !

  5. Jacquline says:

    I have watched �boston legal� ever since in my college days, i love to watch courtroom drama;;