CAUSE of Sikhism will be well served by a National Sikh University, but a Sikh Studies Chair, is an excellent start. Let us support our National Sikh Newspaper World Sikh News to make a Sikh University possible.

MICHIGAN SIKHS ZINDABAD: For the first time some Gur Sikhs have got together and decided to beat a new path. They have undertaken “Sikhidaparchar”. What is new? They are going to use a new device. They are going to avail of a tool, a weapon which the Sikhs are somewhat unfamiliar with. They are going to use the tools of Western civilization to help the cause of Sikhism, and on a soil other than that of the Punjab. In fact the Sikhs of Michigan have already done it! Because of their zeal and perseverance the University of Michigan has agreed to institute programs on Sikhism. Besides, it will establish a SIKH STUDIES CHAIR as soon a the Sikhs can raise about a million dollars.

WHAT IS A SIKH STUDIES CHAIR? This will be a program like other academic programs in universities. It will teach courses on subjects important to Sikhism ~its theology, scriptures, language, traditions, its political environment. Sikhism will be studied and taught as one of the great religions of the World, and not in the prevalent Indian concept of Sikhism as an appendage or offshoot of Hinduism.

WHY SIKH STUDIES IN THE USA?: Growth of interest in Eastern philosophies, did not come about because some swamilmaharshi was highly moral and honest, good organizer/manager, or had a message which freed the wayward from the bondages of Christianity. But because the young converts had, studied, read books, earned credits on Oriental religions/ philosophies in their schools. Imagine a few young men who have taken courses on Sikhism; they are going to be better informed than an ordinary Punjabi Sikh. A Sikh Studies Program will popularize Sikhism. Sons and daughters of Americans will see for themselves that Sikhs are not as someone might brand them, but hardworking, respectable and law abiding citizens par excellence.

PAKISTAN WAS MADE POSSIBLE BY A UNIVERSITY: Is the establishment of a Sikh Studies Chair as much a worthy cause as say the formation of Khalistan, or release of Sikh young men form jails? Each cause. has its merits and priorities. However, some people are very serious when they point out that Pakistan was not made possible totally by the “divide and rule” or for that matter by RSS who incidently was the first to propose such an entity. Pakistan was made possible certainly to a great degree, by Sir Saiyad Ahmad Khan. The Aligarh University he helped found educated and trained Muslim ideologues, visionaries, and future leaders of Pakistan.

A GREAT NEWS: Start of Sikh Studies at the University of Michigan, at its face value, may not seem to be so important; after all many of universities in India have programs on Sikhism. Actually the news is great! It 1s great because of its timing and location! Firstly, a1. Institution unrelated to the Sikhs and unconnected with their fortunes has undertaken to pick up their cause. Secondly, the news is happening right where they can freely participate and help shape their own history. The news is fortuitous when we remember the events of the past two years, and the unwitting role we have been made to play in them!

IMMINENT MORTALITY: There comes a time in life when we become aware of our imminent mortality. We think of unaccomplished goals, things we shouldn’t have done, friends we should have avoided, advice we should have ignored. We ask ourselves: What did we achieve in life? How would people remember us? How do we ensure continuation of ideas, traditions, and folk stories? How are we going to pass on those fond memories which our forefathers entrusted us with? What did we do for posterity? We shudder at the mess we are going to leave for our children. They are not going to benefit from the wisdom we inherited from our culture and religion.

A RUDE AWAKENING: All of us, as an immigrant community, wasted lots of energy, resources and time building India this and that. We were part of many a mini India’s, we felt comfortable as part of Indian communities. In the process we got isolated from the majority host American communities. No one outside the Indian communities knew who and what Sikhs were for the natives everyone was either an Indian or a Hindu.

DISTANT EVENTS BECOME PERSONAL: And then occurred’ the Event an event, which like death, Sikhs thought could only happen to others. Sikhs were never prepared for it. A modern-day Durga discovered a “final Sikh solution”, decided to become immortal, and assaulted Harmandir Sahib. Every Hindu worth his salt revealed that Sikhs were no longer trustworthy. Sikhs liked to feel magnanimous and ignored lessons of history. They should have learnt from the Muslim example. To the Sikhs the “Hindu friend” recited the bhai, bhai mantra, but privately and in the press he was never tired of calling Sikhs as “extremists”. The loyalist Sikhs suddenly found themselves being shunned by everyone. Now that they secretly sympathize with the Sikh cause, they cannot openly talk about it no one trusts them anymore!

ENLIGHTENMENT OF SIKHS: The Sikhs finally saw the duplicity of “Hindu friends”: that not only were they regarded as “extremists” and “terrorists”, but they were “bad terrorists” for they asked for some autonomy! However, the Tamils were “good terrorists” who only wanted to slice Sri Lanka into two! This perfidy’ of “Hindu friends” do” seem to be an act of ingratitude towards their “bhais”; but actually it has done the Sikhs a supreme service. It has awakened the Sikhs as much as India awoke after a little spanking from the Chinese.

“WESHOULDDOSOMETHINGFOLKS”: Various suggestions are heard: “Let us give statements to the press”. “Write to your Congressman”. “Let us publicize our story”. These are noble ideas, but has anyone tried them? Only a few such attempts have been made, and fewer have been written and published. kQuite a few have even backfired. Media with about what is “newsworthy” and what might interest its readers. Some readers know that their neighbor looks, talks and smells different, and eats lots of spicy curries. Some vaguely associate you with Kipling’s characters Ganga Din and Ramu. How many of you honestly believe that your neighbors or coworkers know what you are as a Sikh; and what is a Sikh? What are Sikh characteristics? Some may know that you have something in common with a group which is having lots of problems in India.

PREVENTIVE CURES NOT BANDAIDS: Only Sikhs can beat themselves. They cannot achieve much unless they believe in their identity, their strengths, their heritage, their identification with the great causes of Sikhism freedom of worship, equality of human beings, all loving God, ete.

They got to work, to educate and change the attitudes of their coreligionist, and communities around them, But attitudes and images don’t change in days. Short term solutions are necessary but long range plans are a must. Sikhs need vehicles to exchange ideas, have public debate on their issues and problems, interchange information on contemporary issues events, have access to news of Sikh interests.

HOW SHOULD SIKHS PROMOTE THEIR CAUSE: There is no magic formula, just because another group or nation has achieved some success, that the Sikhs should adopt the same means and that they will succeed. Sikhs have to have institutions, causes, and places they can identify with. A Gurdwara does provide a base, a nucleus, a means to spiritual and community sustenance, In addition, let us use our adopted society’s tools to have it learn about us. Among other things we need:

  1. A credible and national level newspaper.
  2. An institute of higher learning, such as a university to study and disseminate knowledge on Sikhism and
  3. Recognition as the adherents of a great religion, and dependable citizens and neighbors.

NATIONAL SIKH NEWSPAPER: We now have a fairly promising newspaper in World Sikh News. We must all support this commendable endeavor and strive to develop it into a truly Sikh National newspaper.

NATIONAL SIKH UNIVERSITY: A National Sikh University or a national university with programs on Sikhism religious and cultural matters, will, among other things, do the following:

  1. Analyze and interpret Sikh history and theology;
  2. Evolve and develop positions to suit contemporary issues;
  3. Educate the Sikh youth;
  4. Educate the non-Sikh American community;
  5. Provide readymade and knowledgeable spokespersons to interface with the national media and public institutions;
  6. Train future Sikh leadership;
  7. Provide a common ground for exchange of views:
  8. Provide, above all. An institution above and beyond the reach of hostile interests;

i, Study Sikhism using modern and scientific techniques;

  1. Provide an interface for higher visibility and respectability through a well-known institution;

l, provide a forum for exchange of scholarly ideas, and debate on controversial issues; and

  1. implement Guru Arjan’s teachings on “photo and bharam ka man bhaya pragash”.

CONDITIONS FOR A SIKH STUDIES CHAIR: Under the conditions of the agreement the university will, as soon as the Sikhs can raise funds above a certain number x, start offering courses on Sikhism and graduate assistantships. And if the funds are more than a certain amount, within five years, the University will establish a fulltime professorship “a Chair”, as it is called. The Chair will, more or less independently, determine the curriculum and content of the courses taught.

CHALLENGE FOR SIKH LEADERSHIP: For any Sikh cause the Sikhs must be organized and united; whether it is Kar Sewa or Gurukalangar. Otherwise, when there is no cause to fight, then, Sikhs fight among themselves. Why can’t the Sikh leadership channelize Sikh energies just like in peace times people dig ditches, build dams or plant trees. Similarly such worthy causes will bring the split communities together, and make them function as organized bodies. And of course Sikhs love to meet challenges and cross hurdles. Jet brings out their spirit.

“DANA PANI GURU DA TE TEHAL SEVA SIKHAN DI”: Sikhs of Michigan have reminded us that our great traditions are still alive and well. In the times of Gurus a “daswand” was considered a proper donation a truly great sacrifice for the poor Punjabi peasantry. Gur Sikhs of our times are far more fortunate. A daswand may be too much to spare; but a small “change” for some of them is as good as “lakh damra” for the cause. My mother often used to remind us, “Puttr, dasannawandi kamai’ch kade ghata nahin painda™. This cause calls for “tan man dhan nal sewa”. A million dollars, in five years, is not beyond the generosity of American Singhs!

Article extracted from this publication >>  May 15, 1987