A Personal Tribute to a man whose writings charted the course of my life and learning.
I write this Open Letter to a man who was neglected and ignored during his lifetime, a man whose parallel the Sikh nation has not produced and a man who ensured that no one would take him for granted, come what may.
The excellence of Sikhism was learned by me through the writings of Sirdar Kapur Singh Ji. I have ventured to put up a website which will essentially be a repository of his works, so that the Young Khalsa –so dear to the towering personality, can enrich their lives in a similar manner as I did.
I have consciously and deliberately chosen the extension .org, for he was a living institution and more. His scintillating personality influenced many young men and the struggle for Sikh Homeland was inspired by his speeches and his autobiography –Sachi Sakhi.
Most Respected Sirdar Kapur Singh Ji
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
As you dwell at the Lotus feet of Waheguru, I take the liberty of writing this letter to you to acknowledge the impact you have had on my life and learning.
During my trip to Chandigarh in 1978, through the good offices of All India Sikh Students Federation stalwart Bhan Singh, I was able to have a meeting with you. As I sat on the rickshaw to reach your house, Bhan Singh told me, “When you go to meet an elderly member of one’s family, you must take something along, take some fruit.” As I was told that sometimes you get annoyed at misdemeanour, I still remember taking some fruit and quietly placing it on a side table.
I invited you to come to Bombay to deliver a lecture to Sikh youth there and you readily agreed. It is sad that due to sudden change in examination schedules and the stupidity of the Sikh leadership in Bombay, your trip could not materialize.
I also remember that I ventured to seek your permission to change the title of your speech delivered in 1974 in Canada from Stupid Sikhs to Sikhs and Sikhism and you agreed.
As I fondly recall these moments spent with you, I regret being unable to publish the original draft of “They Massacre Sikhs” – the White Paper, which you had penned for publication by the SGPC and which the SGPC fudged under government pressure. Captain Bhag Singh of the Sikh Review took the lead and published it before I could do. I deeply regret that the original sent by you in your hand to me could not be preserved as I had to face the wrath of the state in the late eighties.
As a tiny section of the Sikh community celebrates your 100thBirth anniversary, I cannot help but note that like in your life time, even now the firmly entrenched Akalis, who dominate the political spectrum ofPunjab, continue to ignore you and your work. As none of them made any serious attempt to study your life and your vast reservoir of knowledge and work, they still fear you. In fact, they fear everyone, who is a man or woman of letters. Like the typical Indian political class, they too are a class whose sole aim, at all times, and through all means is to keep the general populace nincompoops, so that they can perpetuate their rule. When they set up new universities and other institutions, they do not ponder to think of naming them in your memory.
Like in your times, the Sikhs continue to be in a bad shape. The scenario, the status and landscape of the Sikh polity has not changed much. All the fears that you expressed and which impacted my life, still linger.
I have read, Stupid Sikhs, perhaps more than 200 times. Every time I read it, I salute you. I have read the Theo-political Status of the Golden Temple also many a time. Every time I ponder over it, I admire with awe the depth of your knowledge and wisdom gained through a mastery of thirteen languages, Semitic literature and Western literature and political thought.
Who killed Guru Tegh Bahadur? and Sikhism and Politics are treatises that are classic examples of how to rebut ill-placed logic from within the community and from those who do not see eye to eye with the Sikhs. The booklet Some documents on the demand for Sikh homeland enabled me to have a clear understanding of the definition and need of a suis generis sovereign area.
I had to sit with a dictionary and a thesaurus to understand the contents of Parasharprasna. Each page enlivened my life and my understanding of the Sikh political thought. Your parliamentary speeches afforded me the opportunity to learn how to debate.
When destiny brought me from Bombay to Punjab, I once again read the tracts, the booklets and books written by you. I remember the thrill when I was told that the GuruNanak Dev University had published the edited version of Prasharprasna. I traveled to Amritsar to get a copy and as they offered a fifty percent discount, I bought two copies –one to be given to a friend who wanted to know about you and about Sikhism too.
Captured into the vortex of politics, I was able to deliver my writings as a contribution to the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) during my tenure as general secretary of the party for nearly two decades. All documents that the party submitted over the years bear the stamp of your work as everytime I was asked to write something, I would read your works. I drew largely on your work, sometimes through copious quotations and sometime through a summary in my own words of the religio-political concept of Sikhism and politics so ably delivered by you.
My journey of life contains the wisdom of your work, the spirit of engagement inspired by the revolutionary poems of Gajinder Singh, the religious indoctrination of Principal Satbir Singh, Prof. Dalip Singh and Kewal Singh – who guided me like a child, the piety of Prof. Puran Singh through his works and the historical sense of Simranjit Singh Mann who provided me the canvass to express my thoughts. Each of you was convinced that everything that a Sikh does in his personal, social or political life should have the bottom line -“in the best the interests of the Sikh nation.”
Every time I would sit to write something, these words read in your writings would ring in my years, “the aim of the Hindu leader is to ensure that a Sikh’s highest ambition is to become the chauffeur of his imported car”, “All young Sikhs must learn English if they have to keep pace with the current political idiom of the world”, “the best contribution that the Akali leaders can deliver unto the Sikhs is to vanish from the scene”, Sikh young men and women should learn Arabic and Persian to keep a tab on Semitic thought development and “whatever you do in life, do it thoroughly”.
My friend Ravi Nair says that Indians lack the basic sense of eye for detail. I can safely say that your writings, your references to Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and Pali records, not only left me dumbfounded but also ensured that I do not give Ravi Nair an excuse to say the same to me.
I still cannot fathom that you knew from beginning to end, the entire Buddhist Granth of Dhampad by heart. Your ability to do so has not been matched by monks and other Buddhist religious leaders.
Bhai Sahib, celebrations are joyous occasions and I would like them to remain so. Your legacy cannot remain the domain of a few. The legacy of your work has to spill over from books and booklets to the consciousness of the Young Khalsa, so that he too gets inspired in the same and even more determined way that I was.
Your expositions of the Sikh theo-political thought has had no parallel so far and for everyone keen to keep the Sikh national flag flying high, your works should be compulsory reading. I think that a two year course in Kapur Singh Studies must be a pre-requisite for any new entrant to Sikh politics.
I have no hesitation in placing you on the same pedestal as Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale as I see both of you as Sikh heroes, who did not compromise and were true to word and deed.
I hope that the website, www.sirdarkapursingh.org
As I go through this trip down memory lane, I think that you were the Socrates of Sikhism. Like Socrates, you too were forced to drink the poison through negligence and disregard at the hands of the Akalis, but like him, you too chose to be frank, fearless and forceful and remained steadfast and uncompromising.
Today too, the backbone of our Sikh leaders is missing. We desperately need another Kapur Singh. I would say that for a nation always in search of new heroes, it would be better to rediscover you.
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.
Jagmohan Singh is the editor of World Sikh News. He has had a long stint in the religio-political domain of the Sikhs. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
4 March 2009