Investigative, Historic, Education

Sikh activists make the case against Kaes in California schools and beyond

Congressman Dalip Saund self-identified as a Hindu
By Anju Kaur | August 30, 2015

Around 1499, when Guru Nanak was about to embark on his first odyssey to spread the Naam, he set a condition for Bhai Mardana, the rebab player, for walking with the Guru on his path: You are not to cut your hair.
 
This historical account is written in “Gyaan Ruthnaavaalee,” or “Jewel of Knowledge,” a biography of the first Guru by Bhai Mani Singh, a life-long companion of Guru Gobind Singh who also served as the tenth Guru’s scribe for the Guru Granth, the Sikh scripture.
 
In Sikhism, Guru is the “Joath,” meaning the “Light” within. Sikhs believe the same Joath passed through all ten Gurus and now resides in the Guru Granth. Sikhs consider the Gurus, their utterings and their Message from Waheguru as one. 
 
On Vaisakhi 1699, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Nanak, mandated the requirement for “Kaes,” meaning “unshorn hair,” for all Sikhs when he made it one of the “punj kakkars,” or “five Ks,” emblems of a Sikh’s physical identity. He also made “Amrit Sanchaar,” a baptism-like ceremony consecrating Sikh doctrines, a requirement for a Sikh’s spiritual identity.
 
A month later, Guru Gobind Singh sent a “hukamnaamaa,” or “written commandment,” to the Sikhs of Kabul to observe the kakkars and to follow the Guru’s code of conduct. Kaes is mentioned more often than any other identity, and it is distinctly referred to by the Guru as “asaadee mohur,” meaning “our identity-seal.” 
 
 
Left: A handwritten hukamnama from Guru Gobind Singh. Source: Punjab Digital Library. Right: Text of Kabul hukamnama from Guru Gobind Singh. Source:  "Sikh Rahat Maryada and Sikh Symbols" by Gobind Singh Manasukhani. Published in "Advanced Studies in Sikhism: Papers Contributed at Conference of Sikh Studies," Los Angeles, December 1988. Editors Jasbir Singh Mann and Harbans Singh Saron.
 
The Guru required of his followers all features of identity – appearance and conduct of the temporal path, known as “meeree,” and attachment to the spiritual path, known as “peeree.” 
 
Kaes has always been the most salient feature of a Sikh’s identity. In the United States, while the majority of Americans have not heard of Sikhism, those who have heard of it only know that Sikhs keep their hair unshorn and wear turbans. 
 
But even this basic knowledge of Sikhism may soon disappear if Sikh American activists, including organizations and individuals, are successful in dismantling the status of Kaes by promoting a nonconformist Kaes-less identity for Sikhs, which they have been informally asserting in civil matters for years but now intend to have formally taught to more than 6.2 million students in California’s more than 10,350 public schools. 
 
In India, the Kaes-less argument was defeated in a landmark court case, Gurleen Kaur v. Punjab, in 2009. The High Court of Punjab and Haryana, in Chandigarh, ruled that students who plucked, cut or shaved the hair on any part of their body did not qualify to apply for seats reserved for the Sikh minority-community student quota at the Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, in Amritsar. 
 
“I urge all readers to envision the importance of this case,” said Jasbir Singh Sethi of Houston, also a trustee of the Sikh Foundation in Palo Alto, California, in a commentary on the case.
 
“If the judgment had gone the opposite way, then Sikhs all over the world who are fighting legal battles for their right to keep unshorn hair and wear a turban - cases in USA, Canada, UK and many other countries around the world, over security regulations, job discrimination, hate crimes, and even kids in schools (France), etc. - all these fights would have been lost causes, in fell swoop!”
 
Yet, in California, activists representing Sikhs who are fighting these legal battles - the Sikh Coalition, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and other organizations and representatives - are maneuvering the state’s education department to present a nonessential view of Kaes in its K-12 curriculum. 
 
The Kaes-less campaign of Sikh American activists
 
“My definition of a Sikh is very wide,” said Onkar Singh Bindra of Northern California, who successfully spearheaded a campaign in 2008 to include Sikh content in the curriculum. He is still working on the curriculum, making specific recommendations on its Sikh content. 
 
“Cutting hair, please read… the Sikh definition in the “Rahit Maryaadaa” does not include long hair,” he said, referring to the Sikh “Code of Conduct.”
 
“Not all identifying Sikhs keep their hair,” said Harjit Kaur, community development manager for the Sikh Coalition, who also is recommending Sikh content for the curriculum. 
 
The Rahit Maryaadaa is “the utterings of Sikhs,” said Jaideep Singh, independent scholar, and co-founder and current representative of SALDEF, who also is recommending Sikh content for the curriculum.
 
The Rahit Maryaadaa was crafted and adopted in 1945 by the “Khalsa Panth,” meaning “Sikh community,” said Sarabjinder Singh, professor of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Studies at Punjabi University, in Patiala, in his article: “Sikh Rahit Maryada.” 
 
It reflects the Guru’s code of conduct found in historical documents, including hukamnaamaas, historic “rehitnaamaas,” meaning “written principles,” and historic “janamsaakhees,” meaning “biographies,” with guidance from the Guru Granth, he also said in his presentation at the May 2013 conference at Santa Clara University, in California, organized by Professor Sukhmander Singh: “One Granth, One Panth, and the Sikh Rahit Maryada.” 
 
“People only read what they want to read,” said Kuldeep Singh of Ohio, one of the first Sikhs to organize Khalsa youth camps in the United States, in 1973.  “That document was prepared after 14 years of hard work.”
 
Most Sikhs agree that the Rahit Maryaadaa should be updated, but largely to clarify rather than undermine Sikh principles. 
 
“A committee of qualified… Sikhs, who took the help of all Sikh organizations, involved each one of them, then came up with a good document,” Kuldeep Singh added. It should be revisited by a similar group of people, he said.
 
Kaes is not specifically mentioned in the Rahit Maryaadaa’s definition of a Sikh, but it is inferred: “Any human being who faithfully believes in… the utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus.” But dishonoring the Kaes is listed as the first of four prohibited practices.
 
Sikhs pray at least twice a day, in Ardas, to be blessed with Kaes and Rahit. 
 
“Having dealt with the historical background of the Sikh religion, legislative enactments involving the Sikh religion, the Sikh Rahit Maryaadaa, the Sikh Ardas, and views expressed by scholars of Sikhism, we are satisfied that they all lead to one unambiguous answer, namely, that maintaining hair unshorn is an essential component of the Sikh religion,” the Punjab-Haryana court concluded. 
 
“In fact, maintaining hair unshorn can be treated to be a part of the religious consciousness of the Sikh faith,” the decision says.
 
 
 
 
In their characterization of a Kaes-less identity, Sikh organizations and representatives are promoting a dual Panth. They have redefined the Khalsa as a person who observes all the kakkars, is “initiated” by Amrit Sanchaar, and follows the Rahit Maryaadaa. And they have redefined a Sikh as anyone who simply “self-identifies” as a Sikh, they all told Sikh Free Press.
 
“We are not prescribing to any one Sikhi, that this is what you need to be a Sikh,” said Harjit Kaur of the Sikh Coalition, angrily.
 
The Sikh Coalition is the most popular Sikh advocacy group in the U.S. Its representatives are mostly Sikhs, but also include Kaes-less interns and members of the staff and board, who cut their Kaes and don't wear dastaars but self-identify as Sikh, the coalition told Sikh Free Press in interviews by email. 
 
In late May, the Sikh Coalition released its own definition of a Sikh in a five-and-a-half minute video, “Who are the Sikhs?” According to a coalition news release, it is being used as an instructional resource in 32 school districts in California’s Fresno County, which has more than 200,000 students. 
 
The video is a mixed message of conflicting ideologies that simultaneously maintain all Sikhs are required to keep Kaes but also exempt those who do not.
 
“In Sikhism, men and women are not supposed to cut their hair,” the Sikh Coalition says in the video. “Kaes represents spirituality and is part of a Sikh’s external identity… While many people around the world may wear turbans for cultural reasons, there is a religious obligation for Sikhs. In many ways it is a uniform...” 
 
The Sikh Coalition then excuses those who cut their Kaes by asserting that the kakkars are only meant for “initiated” Sikhs, implying its version of the Khalsa. 
 
“All initiated Sikhs must have these five Ks,” the Sikh Coalition also says. “However, many Sikhs who are not initiated keep some of these articles of faith as well…  Sikh means “a student,” someone who is learning and on a journey. So remember, not all Sikhs will have all of these as part of their external identity.”
 
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, which is in charge of nine historic and five other gurdwaras in Delhi, objected to the Kaes-less identity standards promoted by the Sikh Coalition and other Sikh American groups and representatives.
 
“No. No. There is no difference between Khalsa and Sikh,” said Harmeet Singh, joint secretary of the DSGMC. “Khalsa is how Sikhs are referred to. Khalsa is the identity (roop) that the Guru created, and Khalsa is the Sikh. 
 
“Those who do not want to live by the Rahit, they call themselves Sikh for their own convenience,” Harmeet Singh told Sikh Free Press by phone from Delhi. “But the Panth (community) that Guru Gobind Singh established is the Khalsa Panth (Sikh community). 
 
“Those who promote these ideas do not take Kaes seriously,” he added.
 
 
 
 
“From statements ascribed to Guru Gobind Singh…, it is evident that the Guru was trying to make the separate existence of the Sikh community, and its faith, more distinct than before,” said Professor Pritam Singh, former head of the Guru Nanak Studies department at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, in a 1985 lecture: “Consciousness of Sikh Identity.” 
 
“His purpose was to highlight the independent nature of Sikhism in the context of other contemporary religions,” Pritam Singh said. “By doing this, he wanted to insure the desired quality of the individual and collective conduct of his “Khalsa,” the new name for his Sikhs.” This lecture was presented as evidence in the Punjab-Haryana case.
 
The Sikh Coalition’s principal work is providing legal support to Sikhs facing discrimination regarding their articles of faith - predominantly Kaes - in schools, at workplaces, at airports, and in the military.
 
“My personal uniform as a Guru’s Sikh includes my Kaes and dastaar,” said Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, one of three Sikh soldiers in the U.S. Army, in an interview with Sikh Free Press. 
 
 
Photo source: Sikh News Network archives.
 
Claiming Saund in the curriculum
 
Dalip Singh Saund was the first Asian American to be elected to the U.S. Congress. 
 
Onkar Singh initially suggested to the curriculum commission that students learn Saund was a Sikh immigrant from Punjab. But Saund did not keep his Kaes.
 
Kavneet Singh of the American Sikh Council also suggested in his letter to the executive director of the curriculum commission that Saund be known as a Sikh: “From the early days of the Sikh settlers in California, they have been a fabric and key contributors to the State’s cultural and diverse identity. One such notable citizen was Mr. Dalip Singh Saund, the first congressman of Sikh origin (who) was from Punjab.” 
 
Formerly known as the World Sikh Council – America Region, the new board changed its constitution and its name to American Sikh Council earlier this year. The board is bitterly divided with long-time members accusing new members of using questionable tactics to loosen its requirements to abide by the Rahit Maryaadaa.
 
The council did not return requests for input on Saund.
 
The Sikh Coalition and SALDEF also recommended that Saund be known as a Sikh in the curriculum.
 
Hindu American activists disagreed. They also are providing input to the curriculum commission.
 
In references to Saund, while the Washington-based Hindu American Foundation inaccurately suggested that Saund be known as an immigrant from India rather than Punjab, it accurately objected to calling Saund an immigrant of Sikh origin. 
 
“In most historical accounts, Dalip Singh Saund is referred to and self-identifies as an immigrant of Indian origin,” said Murali Bajaji and Suhag Shukla of HAF, in a letter to the curriculum commission. “Many of his own writings demonstrate this fact…” 
 
Saund wrote two books, “My Mother India,” 1930, and “Congressman from India,” 1957. These books tell the tale of a privileged boy who dreamed of a free India and grew up to become an American leader. They also show that he cherished Hinduism, and that he probably would not have wanted to go down in history books as a Sikh.
 
But Sikh activists insist on linking him to anything Sikh to rationalize that he was a Sikh so he can be known as a Sikh in the curriculum. They all made the same arguments for claiming Saund.
 

1.  “He was born into a Sikh family,” said the founder of a national Sikh advocacy group who did not want to be identified. He lamented that one of his own family members cuts his Kaes, but he considers him “still a Sikh” because he was born to Sikh parents.

2.  “A person who self-identifies as a Sikh is a Sikh,” Jaideep Singh of SALDEF told Sikh Free Press. 

“Changing Dalip Singh Saund’s identification from “a Sikh” to “an Indian” immigrant does violence to the historical record left by the first Asian American member of Congress,” he also said in his letter to the commission.

SALDEF is the oldest Sikh advocacy group in the U.S. Like the Sikh Coalition, SALDEF representatives are mostly Sikhs, but also include Kaes-less interns and staff and board members, who cut their Kaes and don't wear dastaars but self-identify as Sikh. SALDEF did not dispute this statement.
 
3.  “He did not have hair reflects on the circumstances of that time,” said Jasbir Singh of the Sikh Foundation.
 
4.  “He was part of the Stockton gurdwara,” said Harjit Kaur of the Sikh Coalition. 
 
 

Left: Snapshot from the Sikh Coalition's video "Who are the Sikhs?" It claims, "The first Asian American elected to Congress was a Sikh named Dalip Singh Saund from the 29th California district."  Right: Snapshot of SALDEF's website. It claims Congressman Saund was a Sikh.

“Sikhs (activists) claim him as a Sikh but I don’t agree,” Kuldeep Singh said. “He did not keep his hair and he never practiced Sikhism. They should find the distinction. Saund was a political figure, not a religious person. 

“Sikhs can never be represented by a person who is not at least saabath surath (maintains the physical identity),” he added. 

1.  Saund was born into a Hindu-Sikh family

Sikh activists’ claim that Saund was a Sikh because he was born into a Sikh family is the same argument that Hindu supremacists make when claiming Guru Nanak was a Hindu because he was born into a Hindu family. 
 
Sikhism does not follow lineage. The Gurus considered their children Sikh because of their convictions, not because they were born to them. A few, however, chose different paths, but they were still loved by their families and respected by the Sikhs, who still refer to them as “Baba,” meaning “respected elder.” 
 
According to “Heterodoxy in the Sikh Tradition,” a 1999 publication by Sulakhan Singh, Guru Nanak’s son, Baba Sri Chand, created his own path called Udasi, an ascetic Hindu sect. Guru Amar Das’s son, Baba Mohan, followed the path of ascetic Hindus. And Guru Hargobind’s son, Baba Gur Ditta, took over as leader of the Udasi. 
 
Guru Nanak also followed a different path from his father. He rejected Hinduism by refusing to wear the “janeau,” or “sacred thread” of the Brahmans. Similarly, Saund rejected Sikhism by cutting his Kaes. 
 
Saund was actually born into an affluent Hindu-Sikh family in Chhajalwadi, Punjab, in 1899. He spoke fondly of his Hindu mother in both of his books but barely mentioned his Sikh father. He had died when he was 10. Saund’s mother raised him as a Hindu. 
 
“Every night at bedtime my mother had a new story to tell the children, a story, which she herself had heard at bedtime when she was young,” Saund said in “My Mother India." “These stories were drawn from the great Hindu epics, and there was always a useful maxim connected with them.”
 
Saund may have looked like a Sikh when he was in Punjab, but his chosen path was Hinduism. He cut his Kaes after he left home.
 
“I had given up wearing a turban shortly after I came to the United States,” he said in “Congressman from India." “I don't care what a man has on top of his head. All I'm interested in is what he's got inside of it.” 
 
 
 
 
2.  Saund self-identified as a Hindu

Saund defended the caste system

According to the Bhagvat Gita, God divided humanity by natural social qualities. The result was a four-tier caste system, called “chatur varnaa,” meaning “four color-race.” The rules for each varnaa are written in the Manusmriti, a Hindu code of conduct written by Manu, around 100 CE.  
 
Saund praised Manu as "the great law-giver of India," in his book "My Mother India."
 
Varnaa was a tool for the Aryan forefathers to “assimilate” the non-Aryans into the social system and still “preserve the purity of their superior race and culture,” he said.
 
The lighter-colored Aryans were given the top three social orders: Brahmans were the priestly class, Kshatriyaas were the warrior class, and Vaishyaas were the merchant class, respectively. The darker-colored non-Aryans were given the lowest of the social order, the untouchable labor class, known as Shudraas.
 
The Shudraas were not allowed to mingle or worship with the other varnaa. But that wasn't so bad in the beginning, Saund said. Persons in a lower varnaa could move to an upper varnn if they demonstrated merit. But varnaa degenerated into a rigid social order with the Vaishyas and Shudras unnaturally subdivided further by occupation, and all varnn and subdivisions bound by heredity, or "jathee," the caste system of today, Saund said.
 
 
Like many immigrants from Punjab, Saund initially stayed in the free housing owned by the Stockton gurdwara. When the American historian, Katherine Mayo, published her highly critical book, “Mother India,” in 1927, the gurdwara management asked him to write a response, likely because of his British Indian education, his command of the English language, and his knowledge of American history and culture.
 
But the original plan changed to one of writing a "handbook on India," he said. The result was his first book, “My Mother India.”
 
“It was only fitting that the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society, in its role as the interpreter of Hindu culture and civilization to America, should undertake its publication,” he wrote in the preface. This was the only place he mentioned the Stockton gurdwara in his writings.
 
Saund critiqued Western civilization, referred to India as a Hindu nation and identified himself as a Hindu in this book.
 
“…Being myself a Hindu, I do know that the soul of India is black,” he said, referring to the untouchables. 
 
While Saund expressed his distress at the treatment of untouchables, he also said the caste system was responsible for saving the non-Aryan “savage tribes belonging to inferior and aboriginal races” from genocide.
 
Saund justified bringing the untouchables into the fold of the original four-tier caste system known as “chatur varnaa,” meaning “four color-races.” The caste system of today, called “jaathee,” or “heredity-class,” is too rigid and has resulted in their ill treatment, he said.
 
“India needs a reorganization of its antiquated social system in order to fit properly into the modern world,” Saund said. "India may not have achieved complete success in this. But who else has? It was, at least, better than the best which the West has thought of so far."
 
In California, Hindu American activists are strongly lobbying the curriculum commission to make a disctinction between varnaa as a religious doctrine and jaathee as a cultural doctrine by incorrectly asserting that the jaathee caste system is part of Sikh practice.
 
Saund credited the Sikhs for their firm stand against untouchability. But he did not mention Sikhism’s condemnation of all divisions of humanity, including the entire Hindu caste system, varnaa and jaathee.
 
The highest-caste Brahmans are the keepers of the Hindu faith. They also received considerable praise from Saund. While he condemned their treatment of the untouchables, he also admired them for their intellect and honesty.
Sikhism rejects caste
 
ਤੁਧੁ ਰੂਪੁ ਨ ਰੇਖਿਆ ਜਾਤਿ ਤੂ ਵਰਨਾ ਬਾਹਰਾ ॥
thudhh roop n raekhiaa jaath thoo varanaa baaharaa ||
You  have no form or shape; You are beyond heredity-class or color-race.
SGGS a.1,096
 
ਖਤ੍ਰੀ ਬ੍ਰਾਹਮਣ ਸੂਦ ਵੈਸ ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ਚਹੁ ਵਰਨਾ ਕਉ ਸਾਝਾ ॥
khatree, brahman, sood, vais chahu varnaa dao saajhaa  ||
warriors, priests, farmers and menials – the four castes are equal with respect to divine teachings.
SGGS a.747
 
For those who choose a different path, such as Hinduism, the Guru gives the True meaning of being Hindu.
 
ਬ੍ਰਹਮਣੁ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨ ਇਸਨਾਨੀ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਪੂਜੇ ਪਾਤੀ ॥
brehaman breham giaan eisanaanee Har Gun poojae paathee ||
he alone is a Brahman who takes his cleansing bath in Gnosis, and whose leaf-offerings of worship are the glorious praises of God.
SGGS a.992
 
ਨਾਨਕ ਸਚੇ ਨਾਮ ਬਿਨੁ ਕਿਆ ਟਿਕਾ ਕਿਆ ਤਗੁ ॥੧॥
Naanak sachae naam bin kiaa ttikaa kiaa thag ||1||
Nanak: without the True Name, of what are the forehead marks or sacred threads of the Hindus? ||1||
SGGS a.467
 
ਸਭਿ ਘਟ ਆਪੇ ਭੋਗਵੈ ਪਿਆਰਾ ਵਿਚਿ ਨਾਰੀ ਪੁਰਖ ਸਭੁ  ਸੋਇ ॥
the Beloved enjoys Oneself in every heart. God is within all women and men.
SGGS a.605
 
ਜਲੈ ਨ ਪਾਈਐ ਰਾਮ ਸਨੇਹੀ ॥
by burning (sathee) the Beloved is not obtained.
ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿਨਿ ਪ੍ਰਿਉ ਪਰਮੇਸਰੁ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਨਿਆ ॥
says Nanak: she who looks upon the Supreme as her Spouse,
ਧੰਨੁ ਸਤੀ ਦਰਗਹ ਪਰਵਾਨਿਆ ॥੪॥੩੦॥੯੯॥
is the blessed sathee (chaste wife) who is acknowledged in God's court.
SGGS a.185
 
 
“The priestly class has wielded immense influence in India's political and social life at different periods of its history, but they have used their power mostly for the advancement of its culture and arts.” Saund said. “In the entire history of the Hindu nation, not a drop of blood has ever been shed in the name of religion."
 
Saund did not mention the Brahmans' role in wiping Buddhism from India, or other forms of violations that originated from “Bipran kee reet,” meaning “Brahman’s principles.”
 
“They have abused their authority at several periods, but on such occasions a great reformer like Buddha or Nanak always appeared among the Hindus and gave the corrupted priests fresh warning for their mistakes,” Saund said.
 
Saund referred to Nanak as a “reformer” in his writings. Never as “Guru.”
 
The California curriculum also refers to Guru Nanak as a “social reformer.” All Sikh activists agreed to this crude characterization of the Sikh prophet.
 
“Guru Nanak should be left in the framework as a social reformer,” said Rahuldeep Singh Gill, associate professor of religion at California Lutheran University, in his April 14, 2015, letter to the commission. 
 
Saund quoted heavily from Hindu texts. Never mentioned the Guru Granth.
 
“Such a civilization has built up the enormous literature of the Hindus embodied in the Vedas, Upnishads, the epic poems of Ramayna and Mahabharata, and the immortal works of Kalidasa, a literature comprising in itself an achievement of the human mind which may be considered sublime, and of which any civilization, ancient or modern, may feel justly proud.”
 
Saund also revered Hinduism for raising the status of women to “absolute equality” with men.
 
“…A woman left completely to herself with opportunity to develop freely her instincts and faculties may equal man in reason, wisdom, and uprightness, and may surpass him in delicacy and dignity,” he said.
 
Saund ignored its sanctioning of practices such as polygamy, child marriages and “sathee,” the immolation of widows on their husband’s funeral pyre. And the Brahmans’ role in enforcing these practices.
 
The Sikh Gurus were very critical of these and other Hindu practices. Sikhism rejected the tyrannical caste system, chastised its oppressive highest-caste Brahmans, and condemned its subjugation of women.
 
3.  Circumstances in America vs. British colonialism in Punjab
 
Saund became interested in public service at a young age. He had helped establish a middle school and two cooperative banks in his Punjab village. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1920, at age 20, as a student. He eventually earned a doctoral degree in mathematics from the University of California, at Berkeley, in 1924. But he made farming his profession and politics his hobby.
 
Saund did not face the harsh racism that Sikh immigrants faced while living and working as cheap laborers on lumber mills, railroads and farms. The British Raj’s tyrannical taxes and other land-grabbing practices had driven thousands of Sikhs out of Punjab in search of work. They first arrived in the U.S. in 1899.
 
American workers resented Asian immigrants for taking their jobs. Sikhs particularly became easy targets of racial attacks because of their long hair and turbans.
 
Sikh activists assert that many cut off their Kaes because of racism. But American racism of Sikhs paled in comparison to the treachery and brutality of British colonialism in Punjab. It was possible to succeed in America, Saund said.
 
“Here was a class of agricultural people who had found it hard to make a decent living in the "land of five rivers," the Punjab,” Saund said in “My Mother India." “The moment these farmers from the Punjab were settled in the favorable environment of California, they made a success of farming...” 
 
On Gandhi
 
“My misguided Hindu brethren of India should remember what the followers of Nanak, the Sikhs, have already done, and what the Arya Samajsits are doing now in the Punjab. They can do the same and much more!” Saund said of their ability to unify their followers, in “My Mother India.” “If they need a leader to guide them, they can find no one holier or wiser in the whole world today than Mahatma Gandhi, who will show them the light as soon as they are ready to see it.”
 
Saund had a passion for public speaking. When American organizations invited him to speak, he almost always spoke about his desire for an independent India and Gandhi. Saund glorified Gandhi’s concept of passive resistance, but he did not care for the Khalsa concept of raising the sword when passive resistance failed. 
 
“The coward submits to force through fear, while the passive resister submits to force under protest,” he said in “Congressman from India," referring Punjabis but inferring Sikhs.
 
Saund considered submission as the key to social and political change.
 
The “agricultural people” were the Sikhs. Saund referred to the early immigrants as Indian or Punjabi or Hindu, but never Sikh, even though he made the distinction between Hindu and Sikh in both books.
 
While most Sikh immigrants struggled with low income and harsh racism, Saund’s most difficult problems included not having enough money for down payment on farm equipment to harvest 200 acres of alfalfa on his leased farmland, according to the “Congressman from India.”
 
In his town of Westmorland, Saund’s involvement in local business organizations and the Democratic Party allowed him to network with influential people and successfully lobby for U.S. citizenship for all immigrants. He was greatly motivated by his desire to take part in American politics and to own his farmland.
 
“My social life may have been full and rewarding, but the political desire in me was sorely frustrated,” he said in “Congressman from India.” “This would not only afford us our cherished political rights, but would also nullify the effect of California's Alien Land Law, and thus eliminate one of the most oppressive handicaps to our workaday business life.” 
 
Saund formed the India Association of America, in Los Angeles, and enlisted nearly 2,000 Indian-born residents in the state of California to lead the fight for citizenship, he said. But he did not mention that most of these Indian-born residents were the Sikhs of Punjab.
 
The Luce-Celler Act for citizenship rights was passed in July 1946.
 
Bhagat Singh Thind was the first non-white to fight for citizenship. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1913, at age 20, and became a doctoral student of divinity at the University of California, at Berkeley. He also was the first turbaned soldier in the U.S. Army. His legal battle ended at the the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark 1923 case, United States vs. Bhagat Singh Thind (261 US 204). Thind was finally granted citizenship by the state of New York in 1936, following enactment of a federal statute to allow naturalization of foreign-born veterans. 
 
Correction: Unlike Saund, Thind kept a turban and beard. But, like Saund - he was not a Sikh - as originally reported in this story. According to bhagatsinghthind.com, his writings show he was a disciple of the Sant Mat yogic sect, which spawned the Radha Soami cult of Punjab. Thind also was an ordained minister of the Builders of Aquarius Church.
 
Saund did not mention Bhagat Singh’s pioneering efforts in his books, although he dedicated his first book to him and called him “beloved friend” in the preface. 
 
Saund’s lobbying success led to political success. He was elected judge of Westmorland in 1952, and then congressman from California’s 29th district in 1956.
 
Candidate D.S. Saund was unhappy that the Republican Party campaigned on his Indian-ness. 
 
“In newspaper ads I was not called D. S. Saund, but Dalip Singh in big letters and Saund in small letters,” he said in “Congressman from India.” “This sort of practice was widespread, but apparently it did not hurt my candidacy either in the primary or general election.”
 
4. Association with Stockton gurdwara lacking in Saund's books
No mention of California's Khalsa
 
Saund was a devout nationalist, but he never mentioned the revolutionist Gadhar Party of California founded by Jawala Singh, Wasakha Singh and Teja Singh, who also founded the Stockton gurdwara. Party members initially met at the gurdwara to organize a revolt against the British and incite the independence movement in India.
 
Teja Singh, the first Sikh to graduate from Harvard University, traveled from coast to coast in the U.S. and Canada and used Guru Nanak’s message to lobby for civil rights of Sikhs and all immigrants, and for independence of India. He was singled out by the British for promoting the ideology of “gadhar,” meaning “mutiny.” 
 
In 1908, The Vancouver Daily Province reported a warning from the British governor of Punjab: “England’s safety comes from the large number of races professing different creeds as well as the caste system… In dealing with Orientals you must act with a firm hand… I have read the seditious utterances of Professor Teja Singh who is said to be the leader of the local colony. The boldness of his utterances surprised me. If he returns to India and talks the same way, I think he would be speedily silenced.”
 
West Coast newspapers reported how thousands of Sikhs sailed back to India to fight for Independence, in 1914. Many were members of the Stockton gurdwara. 
 
Saund never acknowledged the immense sacrifices the Sikhs of California and Punjab made for Indian independence. Nor did he mention Partition, when independence came at the cost of dividing Punjab, the Sikh homeland. About one million people died in communal fighting between the Hindus of India and Muslims of Pakistan, with Sikh caught in the middle.
 
 
The first gurdwara in the U.S. was built in Stockton, California, in 1912 by Sikh immigrants from Punjab. Although most of its members were Sikhs, the few Muslims and Hindus who immigrated to Northern California also congregated there. It was the only venue for all Punjabis to congregate. All gurdwaras are open to people of all faiths.
 
According to the gurdwara’s records, Saund became its general secretary in 1948, shortly after the Panth’s adoption of the Rahit Maryaadaa in 1945. 
 
Sikh activists claim that Saund was a Sikh because he was a member and leader of the gurdwara. But many gurdwaras in the U.S., even today, do not follow the Rahit Maryaadaa’s guidelines for their management. This has been a source of conflict and lawsuits ever since. 
 
A more recent lawsuit involved the Gurdwara of Rochester, New York. The gurdwara’s trustees banned Kirpans at the gurdwara. It’s head trustee, Santokh Badesha, submitted affadavits to the New York Supreme Court of Monroe County that he was a Sikh. Badesha had cut his Kaes and did not wear a dastaar. He also testified that Kirpaans were dangerous weapons.
 
Akal Takath Jathedar Gurbachan Singh created a committee to look into the lawsuit, and sent a summons to Badesha to appear before the Akal Takhat. In his March 2011 letter, the jathedar said: “A person who cuts the holy hair cannot be called a Sikh.” 
 
Saund’s association with the Stockton gurdwara, other than acknowledging its support of his first book, is nonexistent in his writings.
 
But Saund did write about Mahatma Gandhi, a lot.
 
Just as Gandhi’s own writings reveal a disconnect between his ideals and his saint-like public persona, Saund’s own writings also show a disconnect between his views and the public persona Sikh activists are promoting. 
 
Perceived Political Profit
 
Today, Sikh activists are presenting Saund as the most notable Sikh in U.S. history. 
 
Another activist, founder of a large national Sikh organization, who did not want to be identified, told Sikh Free Press that the Kaes-less strategy is a necessary numbers game. By including Kaes-less persons, the Sikh community appears larger and can assert greater political power by influencing elections, legislation, rules and regulations. 
 
On May 8, the Sikh Coalition said it may have influenced the curriculum commission by presenting a petition with about 3,000 signatures asking it to accept suggestions made by Sikh activists. 
 
“They were moved by the number of signatures,” said Harjit Kaur of the Sikh Coalition.
 
But Sikh parents are not moved by political gains. Some expressed concern over the potential negative effect on Sikh students if Saund is presented as a Sikh in their classrooms and textbooks. 
 
“On the one point they (Sikh kids) are told to treasure Kaes and their identity, then we say a successful person without identity is honored as a Sikh. How do we justify that?” said Pushpinder Kaur of California, author of the 1999 book, “The Boy with Long Hair.” “School teachers will teach this. If Saund is presented as a successful Sikh, they will question why do they have to have Kaes.
 
“Everyone will see the contradiction,” she added. 
 
 
Tejinder Singh is “The Boy with Long Hair,” which also is a coloring book authored by his mother, Pushpinder Kaur. It is used as a supplemental teaching resource in California schools. Tejinder Singh grew up to graduate from Harvard University and become a successful lawyer. He is the first Sikh to argue cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
Educators have already noticed the contradiction in another Sikh video - Kaur Foundation’s “Cultural Safari,” which also is used as an instructional resource in California and in other states. Some teachers have asked Sikh parents why the bhangra dancers in the video do not have beards. 
 
“The “Cultural Safari” video is designed to engage the audience in learning more about the Sikhs - history, beliefs, and identity - and cultural festivals of Punjab,” said Mirin Kaur Phool, founder and president of the Kaur Foundation, in an emailed statement. 
 
The teachers, however, could not make the distinction between the Sikhs and the Punjabis.
 
Sikh content in the curriculum is expected to be finalized at the next meeting of the History Social-Science Subject Matter Committee of the Instructional Quality Commission of the California Department of Education, beginning Oct. 8, said Tom Adams, executive director of the commission.
 
 
Note: In light of this report, Onkar Singh Bindra, who is leading the Sikh effort in the curriculum, has withdrawn his original request to identify Saund as a Sikh. “The word "Sikh" used for Dalip Singh Saund should be replaced with "Punjabi," he told Sikh Free Press shortly before publication. "Saund was a trailblazer and achieved more than other  Asians under very difficult conditions. He richly deserves mention in the curriculum framework when talking about early immigrants." 
 
ਕੇੇੇਸ is unshorn hair. It is written in English as Kaes, Kes or Kesh.
 

Links and documents

My Mother India,” by Dalip Saund, 1930
Congressman from India,” by Dalip Saund, 1957
2009 Punjab-Haryana lawsuit: Gurleen Kaur v. Punjab
Sikh Coalition video, “Who are the Sikhs?
Jasbir Singh Sethi's commentary on Gurleen Kaur v. Punjab
California Depertment of Education: Survey of World Religions