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.
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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||
ਸਭਿ ਘਟ ਆਪੇ ਭੋਗਵੈ ਪਿਆਰਾ ਵਿਚਿ ਨਾਰੀ ਪੁਰਖ ਸਭੁ ਸੋਇ ॥
the Beloved enjoys Oneself in every heart. God is within all women and men.
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.
“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.
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.
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