New Login   

Norms of Identity

M. Rajivlochan

Edited by Himadri Banerjee
Tulika Books, New Delhi and Indian History Congress, 2002, pp. xxxiii 192, Rs. 375.00

By Sahdev Vohra
Indian Publisher, Delhi, 2000, pp. 150, Rs. 250.00


The end of the twentieth century saw the Sikhs come into their own. An extremely vociferous demand for a separate state in south Asia came up. A large number began to take a visibly active part in the politics of various countries like the UK, US and Canada, many of them even succeeded in being elected to their respective legislatures. While notching up all these secular successes the Sikhs also had been evolving a distinctive cultural and religious identity for themselves. The claim to being different from others that had been asserted sotto voce till now began to increase in loudness. But along with that came efforts to create systems of cultural homologation. Not just anyone or everyone could claim to be a Sikh any more because the norms for being a Sikh were more stringently defined and various bodies of Sikhs began to lay claim to being the formal determiners of Sikhism. Numerous efforts were made to send a signal to other people to the effect that “we are very touchy about our identity”. Even issues like whether Sikh women should wear a helmet while riding a scooter were elevated to the level of defending the faith. Variations from what was now stated to be the norm were frowned upon. Critical investigations into the past were discouraged. Ironically, in secular India, the power of the state, in the form of the Akali Dal and its innumerable variants, was used to reinforce many of the efforts at cultural homologation that were sponsored by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and its variants.   In short, one could not any more say, like Mark Juergensmeyer had said in the 1970s, that Sikhism was “the most neglected of India’s religious traditions”. Not only was it not neglected any more, it was also shouting from the rooftops demanding a place for itself. The growing interest in matters to do with the Sikhs attracted a considerable amount of popular attention. That is another thing that scholars studying Sikh history, society, culture and religion did little beyond setting up departments for that purpose. In such a situation the Indian History Congress decided to bring out the present volume of papers pertaining to Sikh history. These papers were read in different years at the History Congress. The authors are well-known historians and each has made some significant contribution to Sikh history.   The historians whose papers have been ...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.