Global Sikh Studies

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Dr Gurdharshan Singh Dhillon recalls Sardar Daljeet Singh as ‘one who gave himself wholeheartedly not only to the study of Sikhism but also to the comparative study of religions. Record of his achievements is astonishing. His well-known books, Sikhism: A Comparative Study of Its Bir, Theology and Mysticism and Essays on the Kartarpuri Bir are the products and result of his long hard and unflagging labor. These have become classics of their kind. Another pioneering work, Essentials of Sikhism, published a few months before his death breaks new ground in clarifying the doctrinal position of Sikhism vis-à-vis other religions. It reveals Sikhism as a sovereign independent dispensation. He brought to bear on the subject an unbiased mind, a fastidious fondness for accuracy as well as consummate erudition. He believed that the message of the Gurus had an eternal relevance, especially in the turbulent times through which mankind is passing today. Sardar Daljeet Singh brought clear perspectives on several pertinent themes like the Sikh world-view, God in Sikhism, the miri-piri concept and the unity and integrity of the Sikh doctrine from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh. He challenged the western scholars who, advertently or inadvertently, tried to misrepresent and denigrate Sikhism through their writings. He also reflected great concern with the current Punjab crisis. His masterly analysis of the water problem served to enhance understanding of the roots of the crisis. It is a tribute to his sense of veracity that he has not been faulted, challenged or contradicted on this subject till today. He exposed the subtle machinations of the framers of the Punjab Reorganization Act (1966), which virtually reduced Punjab to a crippled sub-state and drove it from one disaster to another. This Act was patently violated the Indian Constitution, as under sections 78-80 of this Act, the powers of control, administration, maintenance, distribution and development of the waters and hydro power of Punjab rivers were vested in the Central Government. The Act opened a Pandora's box and proved highly detrimental to the economic and political interests and future of the state and its people. This shook Sardar Daljeet Singh's faith in the bonafides of the Indian Government. Indian polity, he believed had failed the Sikhs. The tragedy and trauma of Punjab made him sad. But with a mind, saturated with the wisdom, inspiration and optimism of the Gurus, he never lost faith in the divine justice which, he believed, was bound to prevail in the end. In fact, it is this faith which sustains all those who bear the trauma and share the agony of Punjab '.

Sardar Jagiit Singh , brother in law of Sardar Daljeet Singh, recalls how sometimes some chance happenings lead to historical consequen­ces. This is exactly how Sardar Daljeet Singh came to make his invaluable contribution to the Sikh studies. Although he had been taking keen interest in both Indian and Western philosophy for a long time, he had then no idea that he would be called upon to meet a challenge to Sikh theology from some western scholars. It happened this way. Sardar Daljeet Singh owned some land in the Terai area of U.P., from where he had come to Delhi on some business. When returning back to his farm, he picked up casually at the bus stand a newspaper published at Delhi to while away his time during the bus journey. It is surprising that this paper contained a review, by the well-known journalist S. Khushwant Singh, of Dr McLeod's controversial book ‘Evolution of the Sikh Community.' This book, as is widely known by now, challenges some of the basics of Sikh theology and history, and S. Khushwant Singh supported Dr McLeod's thesis, rather in a manner that provoked Sikh sentiment. Sardar Daljeet Singh was very much perturbed on reading the review, and so were all other Sikh gentlemen when it was brought to their notice. It was then decided at Chandigarh to approach some noted Sikh scholars and request them to take up the academic challenge to the Sikh theological identity posed by the book. The late Justice Gurdev Singh, Major General Gurbaksh Singh, Sardar Daljeet Singh and myself did approach personally some known scholars of Sikhisrn. After waiting for some time, when nothing tangible seemed likely to come out of these contacts with scholars, Sardar Daljeet Singh made up his mind to take upon himself the onerous task of elucidating some knotty issues of Sikh religion and ideology, and prevailed upon me, too, to put down in writing my view-point concerning the history of the Sikh movement. I continue to speculate to this day that, had Sardar Daljeet Singh not picked up casually that particular newspaper which contained the provocative review, it is quite on the cards that the book might not have come to his notice at all at his remote village or might have come so at some delayed period; and, consequently, the chain-reactions to the book among the Sikhs that started at his initiative might have met a similar fate. Was it chance or destiny? Whatever it was, it is evident that Sardar Daljeet Singh, with the rare combination in him of deep commitment to the Sikh cause, his outstanding intellect and his inherent capacity for hard work, was the man who was destined to play as historical a role in stemming the onslaught of anti-Sikh forces, which are bent upon eroding the identity of Sikh religion, as was played by the pioneers of the Singh Sabha movement, Gyani Dit Singh and Bhai Jawahar Singh.

Sardar Hardyal Singh , Sardar Daljeet Singh's elder brother, reminiscences: ‘Every evening he would read out marked passages from the Vedas, which he thought were of particular relevance to the present day and its problems. During the next few years he covered the study of various other Western and Indian religions. He was particularly impressed by Moses, Judaism and Hazrat Mohammad's Islam. In his later writings, he labeled these two religions along with Sikhism as 'Activist' religions. Christianity and the chief Indian religions such as Jainism, Buddhism, Vaishnavism, etc., were classified as 'Pacifist' religions. A large part of his post retirement studies and writings were interconnected with this classification and the weaknesses and strengths that flow from these viewpoints. After the formation of the Institute of Sikh Studies , of which S. Daljeet Singh was a leading light, his residence took on the atmosphere of a Coffee House. They came in ones, they came in twos and threes and often in large numbers for meetings. They were writers, scholars, thinkers, professors, students and sometimes public men from various walks of life. It was a pleasure to watch Daljeet Singh develop a view-point with unparalleled patience and precision. His earlier study of world religions and word-by-word knowledge of Guru Granth Sahib would add luster and authority to his already effective arguments. He worked nearly eighteen hours a day, writing, discussing and studying. Single-handedly he took on the responsibility of disabusing the prevalent incorrect impressions of Sikh religion and its ethics amongst international schools and religions. For this purpose, he also organized a number of Seminars in Western Universities. Here was a man who sought no honors, no publicity, no reward or position. If ever there was a man who performed selfless service, here was one in flesh and blood.

Dr Karnail Singh observes “Sardar Daljeet Singh's name will live in the traditions of universities and the academic world. It will live in the annals of International Conferences during the past decade. It will live in the legends of controversies that surrounded the religious and social parameters of Sikh faith”.

Colonel (retd) P. S. Randhawa, [his nephew], recalls it was entirely due to Sardar Daljeet Singh encouragement that on retirement he put to use his engineering knowledge and experience to spread this message of both the IOSS and the SGPC to the global sangat as an internet salahakar through the new electronic cyberspace media.