«AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION O thou that buttest the high mountain, seeking to dislodge it with thy horns, take pity, not on the mountain but on thy head ...»
I thought Hew McLeod will take up detailed study of Sikhism and his Christian conscience will persuade him to present at least some basic truths of Sikhism. But that was not to be. A reading of “Evolution of Sikh Community” (1975) reminded me of a white and physically attractive Bull who entered a China shop of rare curios and broke as many precious glassware, as his first momentous attack could.” Considering it a great and impressive feat the Bull came out, started wagging his tail and became the leader of a whole group of White Bulls.
Sometime all alone, sometimes with a team of White Bulls, Hew McLeod entered this China shop of Sikh Studies again with the express motive of reducing all the precious possessions of this China shop of “Sikh Religious and Historical Studies” to rubble and rubbish in his four thin books having the same themes, the same chapters and repetition of mali-cious attacks on Sikh religion and history on the basis of misstatements, distortion of facts and calculated misinter-pretations of Sikh history and religion.
As usual Hew McLeod does not document any of his facts. He does not give any date. He does not take a sepcific period to discuss its historical impact. He does not give specifically the contribution of the Sikh Gurus made in every century. He describes the eighteenth century as if nothing of social, cultural or potitical importance hap-pened in this period.
He takes isolated incidents of the eighteenth century and tries to fit them in janam Sakhis hagiographic accounts of Guru Nanak’s life and travels. He does not say a word about the rise and fall of Ranjit Singh which covers a period of half a century.
Scholars like Gokal Chand Narang, Dr N.K Sinha, Dr Indu Bhushan Bannerjee, and the doyan of Sikh history, Dr Hari Ram Gupta, Dr A.C. Banerjee have given fairly correct assessment of Evolution of Sikh history in various periods. As Hew McLeod has concentrated all his energies on the Guru period and the Eighteenth century, 255 we will show how he ignored authentic works and original sources and spins endless cobweb of false constructions.
GURU-PERIOD Guru Nanak’s Life and Work were historically a little different from most of the Gurus. From the day he received the Call to the day he settled at Kartarpur, a period of nearly twenty years, he was away from Punjab. Knowing full well that no prophet or saint had access to various holy places till he wore the dress of a wandering mendicant (Hindu or Buddhist monk or Muslim dervish) he wandered all over the world lighting the lamp of his faith in the hearts of genuine seekers of Truth belonging to various faiths. From Baghdad to Dacca and Sylhet, and from Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachalam to a number of places in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), the very place where he set foot, has become sacred for the people of these regions.
Emperors, kings, yogis, dervishes, Lamas and encounters with the people of the various kingdoms within and out-side India was an experience unique to the Founder of Sikh religion. He had come to sow the seeds of his faith in all the major religious cen tres of the world, and in his own way, he did so. Some of his successors confined their activities to Punjab. Some were destined to go to some states but no other Guru could go outside India. They took the task of making the roots firm in the country, institutionalizing Sikhism, and making the seeds sown in Punjab into an everlasting tree of Wisdom. Guru Nanak’s successors disciplined their followers to face the challenges of changing rulers and changing times. They taught them to beat back the cyclonic storms of ruthless invaders, to break the chains which tyrants and oppressors put around their feet. Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh, taught them to stand up and fight against numerically strong and military powerful governments. They have fought, faltered and suffered when they had bad leadership. But bitter experiences have always made them morally stronger, and the inspiration of the Word of the Gurus 256 has made them spiritually unconquerable. Ultimately they have always achieved their goal.
Even though all the successors of Guru Hargobind had a well-equipped army, Guru Hari Rai, Guru Hari Krishan and Guru Tegh Bahadur led a peaceful life because the Delhi rulers did not attack them. Guru Hari Rai, however helped Dara Shikoh to cross the ferry of Goindwal and reach Lahore safely.
They accepted the challenge of aggression aimed at eliminating them by armed resistance. As we have shown earlier, this danger of being physically eliminated came first from the Hindu Rajas of Shivalik and not from the Mughals.
EIGHTEENTH CENTURY CHALLENGES AND ACHIEVEMENTSEighteenth century Sikh history can be clearly divided into three periods: (1) Banda period whose experiment with a total revolution had its brilliant success and administrative failure and collapse. (2) The period from 1716-1760 when the leading contemporaries of Guru Gobind Singh were living and guiding the Sikh Panth. (3) The third period, when they conquered the whole of Punjab and even invaded Delhi twice.
BANDA BAHADUR PERIOD“The moral canker in Mughal Empire”, says the author of 7 arikh-i-Shahadit-Farrukhsyiar, “was too deep-rooted to be killed by such outward show of piety and obedience to lifeless conventions. A Nemesis worked itself out inexhorably on the destiny of the Empire from the character of the Emperor and leading Ministers”. Banda left Nanded just one month before Guru Gobind Singh’s departure from this world with only twenty-five Sikhs as companions, picked by the Master as the most dedicated and disciplined Sikhs. Within a year of his arrival he conquered the whole of Punjab. Around Rajasthan, Delhi and in Punjab he inspired the lowliest of the low artisans, peasants, cobblers, shepherds to revolt against the local zamindars, feudal Chiefs and the Subedars of Mughal 257 govemment and reduced the most cruel men to dust.the terror which he struck through the nervous system of Mughal empire whose cruelty and oppression had become in tolerable, can be seen on every page of the history of this period. Marx was not right in the solution of economic ills he found, but he was correct in his observation on a historical phenomenon when he said, “A nation fighting for its liberty might not try to adhere rigidly to the accepted rules of warfare. Mass uprisings, revolutionary methods, guerilla bands can hope to maintain itself against an adversary, superior in number and equipment, By their use, a weaker force can overcome its stronger and better organized opponents.”
THE AGE OF MARTYRS, SAINTS AND WARRIOR LEADERSAlmost all the leaders of the period 1716 to 1762 were great warrior-saints who were disciplined in the durbar of Guru Gobind Singh. Even in the religious field a number of contemporaries of Guru Gobind Singh were carrying on missionary work as Udasis, Sewa-Panthis and illumined Khalsa saints. Nearly all the great warrior saints like Bhai Tarn Singh, Tara Singh Van, Bhai Mani Singh to Baba Dip Singh died fighting. It appeared that the leadership was becoming extinct under the storm of persecu-tion. But a new leadership with youthful vigour and deter-mination was emerging.
THE PERIOD OF CONQUEST OF PUNJAB - 1760-1800 The Marathas had occupied Punjab in 1758 with the help of submissive Muslim feudal lords. In order to establish pure Hindu Raj, they kept the Sikhs at a distance. The Sikhs kept away knowing full well that the Marathas would not be able to face the Abdali invader when he comes to Punjab. That is exactly what happened. In the battle of Panipat during the next invasion, thirty thousand soldiers of Ahmad Shah Abdali gave a crushing and humiliating defeat to Marathas having five lakh horse-men. Instead of making a determined effort they ran away, 258 leaving Punjab and Delhi to be ruined and ravaged by the invader.
Jadunath Sarkar rightly says, “The Maratha failure to oppose the foreign invader in 1757, and even more with the Bhau’s vast resources in 1760-61, convinced the Indian world that Maratha leadership was a very weak reed to lean upon in any real danger. No North India potentate would risk sure annihilation by siding with Marathas in their days of difficulty, or even while the issue of their contest with the foreigner was trembling in the balance. Maratha protection was not worth purchasing by the least sacrifice, because the Marathas clearly demonstrated in the last four years that they could not protect their dependents anymore than they had been able to protect their own selves in 1761 A.D.”1 “The Sikhs, however”, adds the doyan of Sikh history, Dr Hari Ram Gupta, “did not fail in their national duty in which Marathas had so miserably acquitted themselves. Even in the face of heavy odds they did not allow the Abdali to pass through their country without striking a blow as the Maratha leters testify. They were the only organized power who could offer resistance to the alien invader. Therefore, if there was any Indian power which had a moral right to rule over the frontier province of the country it was the Sikhs.”2
THE THIRD PHASE IN EIGHTEENTH CENTURYSIKH HISTORY 1760-1800 Numerically the Sikhs were less than a million. They were pitted against Mghan invaders and their Governors in Lahore and Multan, on the East, the Mughals and Marathas on the West. Within the next twenty years they captured the whole of Punjab. Out of the 12 Misals, six proposed the names, one each of the outstanding saints and scholars who were not only wellversed in religioUS traditions but could sacrifice their life for their faith. Out of these six were appointed the jathedars of Akal Takht, Kesgarh and, the Head Granthi of the Harimander. These 259 six selected some more representatives which formed the supreme Council, the Grand Diet of the Sikh Commonwealth.
As N.K. Sinha puts it, “The Central Government of the Sikhs during the Misal period consisted of a tumultous Diet, the” Sarbat Khalsa” which met twice a year at Amritsar during the Baisakhi and the Diwali. They chose a leader by a Majority vote, but barely allowed him dignity of primus inter pares, during his temporary elevation. The confeder-acy was called Khalsa ji (or Khalsa Panth), and the grand army was called Dal Khalsa. In civil life there was complete social equality amongst the Sikhs. In the meetings of the Sarbat Khalsa everyone could freely express his opinion. The decisions were by majority votes. The resolutiQns passed in the presence of the Holy Granth were Gurmatta. The Grand Diet made decisions about the important ex-peditions to be undertaken and matters of general concern”. 3 While the Grand Diet had full control over their general religious and political policies, their advice to set up a democratic organization to control intermisal affairs were either ignored or not adhered to. With the death of great stalwarts like Nawab Kapur Singh, jassa Singh Ahluwalia and the Bhangi Misal leaders, the tendency towards feudal control of their fiefs increased. Monarchy was a wrong solution which ended in autocracy and utter moral corruption of the Ruler and his sly trusted ministers, the treacherous Dogras. Character is Fate.
The character of Ranjit Singh and the Dogras who handled his army, durbar affairs and his Ranis, not only brought the sudden collapse of Ranjit Singh’s empire, but also physically eliminated nearly all the members of Ranjit Singh’s family within two years.
Hew McLeod does not present a single fact or date or document of the Eighteenth century, a period in which we had thousands of contemporary Persian, Punjabi, Marathi documents. He draws the attention of his readers to janamsakhis, which deal exclusively with the Life of Guru 260 Nanak, and he asks them to read the copies of Janam Sakhis copied or prepared in eighteenth century. It is like asking Englishmen to read the life of Elizabeth I in eighteenth century Manuscript copies of Chaucer’s Canterbury tales and to study the life of Queen Victoria in bio-graphical literature of the twentieth century. These are the new research methods introduced by Hew McLeod for the critical and analytical study of Sikh history. 4 This is how he has been trying to mislead, deceive and bluff the western readers of his books.
The Misal confederation is sometimes considered a Feudal social structure on the pattern of Feudalism in Europe or the Hindu and Muslim States in India. There was considerable difference. N.K Sinha rightly brings out the difference. “We should not lose sight of the fact that feudalism of the Sikhs was very different not only from the feudalism of medieval Europe but also from the feu-dalism obtaining nearer at home in Rajputana. The misals were the confederacies of equals. A Sikh disdained to acknowledge any earthly superior.