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Fighting for Faith and Nation

Fighting for Faith and Nation: Dialogues with Sikh Militants

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Fighting for Faith and Nation
    Book Description:

    The ethnic and religious violence that characterized the late twentieth century calls for new ways of thinking and writing about politics. Listening to the voices of people who experience political violence-either as victims or as perpetrators-gives new insights into both the sources of violent conflict and the potential for its resolution. Drawing on her extensive interviews and conversations with Sikh militants, Cynthia Keppley Mahmood presents their accounts of the human rights abuses inflicted on them by the state of India as well as their explanations of the philosophical tradition of martyrdom and meaningful death in the Sikh faith. While demonstrating how divergent the world views of participants in a conflict can be, Fighting for Faith and Nation gives reason to hope that our essential common humanity may provide grounds for a pragmatic resolution of conflicts such as the one in Punjab which has claimed tens of thousands of lives in the past fifteen years.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0017-1
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-25)

    Last night I was awakened by a nightmare, the same recurring dream I have been suffering for the past year or so. I was in Cambodia, a Cambodia I know only through TV images of Vietnam War vintage. It was hot, humid; the air was heavy with tropical smells but vibrating with danger. I was climbing a long stone stairway in a kind of tower, looking down through crumbling windows at a busy marketplace below. People carrying baskets of fruit on their heads; bald-headed monks begging for alms. Suddenly, I heard shots, the rat-tat-tat of automatic weapons fire, and men...

    (pp. 26-49)

    In this chapter I look at the basic history and doctrines of the Sikh faith, as seen through the eyes of the orthodox. Their vision of Sikhism and their understanding of what it means to be a Sikh is somewhat at odds with the perspective of Western academia, which is at the moment a source of considerable controversy. This controversy, and what it can tell us about the value of “inside” and “outside” scholarship, is considered further in Chapter 10. Here, the aim is to get a feel for what the pious Sikh understands of his or her faith that...

    (pp. 50-72)

    Mark juergensmeyer suggests the term “religious nationalism” as a descriptor of the many politicized religious revival movements across the globe. Militant Islam is prominent, in its myriad forms from North Africa to the Middle East to Central Asia to the Pacific, but other movements include the Hindu revitalization now being expressed in India, the Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka, the right-wing Jewish militancy in Israel and the West, and more. Though not all the movements that entangle religion and politics aim at the creation of a state (e.g., the U.S. Christian variety), enough of them seek to either establish...

  8. 4 BLUE STAR
    (pp. 73-106)

    “The khalsa is like a finely tuned instrument,” it is said. “All it takes is someone to hold his finger on the right note.” In recent times, that someone was Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The episode he provoked, the Indian army attack on the Golden Temple in June 1984, forms the raison d’être for the continuing insurgency, populated largely though not wholly by Khalsa Sikhs. In this chapter, I examine the events directly leading up to that confrontation, the battle itself, and the immediate aftermath. Whether or not the current insurgency continues or peters out, this “holocaust” of 1984 is bound...

    (pp. 107-134)

    What led up to the point at which Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his companions went down in a hail of gunfire at the Akal Takht, spawning what became the militant movement for Khalistan? The history of the ten Gurus and the development of Sikhism during the Guru period provides the ideological base for Khalistani activism, but a series of events that took place from the death of the last Guru in 1708 until the rise of Bhindranwale in the 1970s pushed a section of the Sikh community to a position of readiness for militancy, to a point at which the...

    (pp. 135-166)

    Five months after Operation Blue Star, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was stepping into her garden at One Safdarjang Road, New Delhi, when she was shot by one of her Sikh bodyguards, Beant Singh. As she fell, another Sikh guard, Satwant Singh, pumped bullets from his Thompson automatic carbine into her body. The entire right side of her body was opened up by more than twenty bullets.

    Beant Singh and Satwant Singh apparently did not try to escape but simply raised their hands in the air. They were taken to a nearby guardhouse, where after some twenty minutes officers of the...

    (pp. 167-184)

    My parents were very much hurt by the attack on the Golden Temple. My father commented that he had four sons and that even if one of them should get sacrificed for the nation he would be proud that his family had contributed something. He said clearly that nobody guilty of any crime should be spared. But he also felt that at no cost should any innocent be killed.

    “I decided to become involved in the freedom movement, and my house became a place of shelter for the guerilla fighters. We gave them food, clothing, and so on. And I...

    (pp. 185-212)

    In an essay on the break-up of the Soviet Union called “Why Were We Surprised?” W. R. Connor proposes that the “realist” model of politics long dominant in the West was, in fact, highly unreal in that it neglected what he calls “the passions”—of ethnic and religious loyalties, affirmations of cultural identities, yearnings for a moral state.¹ The collapse of the Soviet Union was not the first time Western social science had failed to predict a major sociopolitical upheaval (the overthrow of the Shah of Iran comes to mind, for example), and only now is it dawning on theorists...

    (pp. 213-234)

    “Well, i didn't have any interest in politics prior to 1988. But when I went to college I saw some victims of the brutality of the state, and this shook my conscience. One girl, Harjinder Kaur Khalsa, had come from Australia to get married in Punjab, and on the way back she was arrested at the airport in Delhi and was martyred. Then there was a boy, Gurmukh Singh, who was the captain of the hockey team at my college. He was tortured so badly by police that he was admitted to the hospital and died on the fifth day...

    (pp. 235-261)

    The idea of ethnography as a kind of conversation is now common in anthropology, as common as the idea of ethnography as a kind of natural science once was. Some people misinterpret the presence of ethnographers in their texts as a form of narcissism and condemn what they see as the “navel-gazing” quality of current ethnographic narrative. Those critics will not be happy with this effort. But I see the reflexivity of contemporary ethnography as an honesty about the limitations of our vision that has too long been suppressed in the interests of creating a false aura of authority about...

    (pp. 262-276)

    I hadn’t entered into this project with any idea that I was doing “applied” anthropology—that is, anthropology with a practical outcome. Although in a vague way the reason I was interested in violent conflict was because I wanted to contribute to ending it, the reason I was interested in the question of justice because I wanted to contribute to achieving it, I, like most scholars, assumed that the way I would do these things was simply by writing about them. I criticized the inflated notions of “culture wars” that pervade humanities corridors in academia these days, but planned on...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 277-292)
    (pp. 293-296)
    (pp. 297-306)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 307-314)