A History of the Sikhs


Khushwant Singh's two-volume History of the Sikhs is widely regarded as the authoritative work on the subject. Based on meticulous, scholarly research of original documents in Gurmukhi, Persian and English, the two volumes (1469-1839 and 1839-1988) cover the social, religious and political background that led to the formation of the Sikh faith and, spanning 500 years of Sikh history, include the recent troubled events leading upto Operation Bluestar and its tragic aftermath.
The first of the two extracts below is the opening Chapter of Volume I, while the second extract is taken from the concluding chapter of Volume II.

Punjab has a geographical unity distinct from the neighbouring countries and the rest of India. It is shaped like a scalene triangle balanced on its sharpest angle. The shortest side is in the north and is composed of the massive Himalayas, which separate it from the Tibetan plateau. The western side is bounded by the river Indus from the point it enters the plains to another point 1,650 miles downstream, where it meets the confluence of the Punjab's rivers at a place appropriately named Panjnad, the five streams. Westwards of the Indus runs a chain of rugged mountains, the Hindu Kush and the Sulaiman, pierced by several passes like the Khyber and the Bolan which have served as inlets for the people of the countries which lie beyond, Afghanistan and Baluchistan. The eastern boundary of Punjab's triangle is not clearly marked, but from a point near Karnal where the Jumna plunges southeastwards a jagged line can be drawn up to Panjnad, which will demarcate the state from the rest of Hindustan and the Sindh desert.
Punjab, except for the salt range in its centre, is an extensive plain sloping gently down from the mountains in the north and the west towards the desert in the south. Across this monotonouslyflat land flow six large rivers: the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and the Sutlej. In the intra-fluvial tracts or doabs* between these rivers and in the western half of the tract between the Sutlej and the Jamuna live people who speak the Punjabi language and describe themselves as the people of Punjab. The homeland of the vast majority of the Sikhs is in the doabs between the Chenab and the Jamuna.
When the Aryans came to India there were seven rivers in Punjab, so they named it Sapta Sindhva, the land of the seven seas. The Persians took the name from the Aryans and called it the Hafta Hindva. Sometime later, after the seventh river, the Sarasvati, had dried up, people began to exclude the Indus from the count (since it marked only the western boundary of the province) and renamed it after the remaining five rivers as Pentopotamia or the panj-ab, the land of the five waters.**
The climate of Punjab ranges from bracing cold in the winter to scorching heat in the summer. Extremes of temperature and the two monsoons produce a variety of seasons and a constantly changing landscape.
The spring is traditionally ushered in on Basant Panchami, which falls early in the month of February. It is Punjab's blossom time, when, in the words of Guru Nanak, "all is seemly; the woodlands are in flower and loud with the humming of bumble
*The intra-fluvial tracts or mesopotamias are known in the Punjab as doabs—two waters. Except for the doabs between the Indus and the Jhelum and the Sultej and the Jumna, they are known by a combination of the names of the two rivers between which they lie. These names were coined in the time of Emperor Akbar, presumably by his minister, Todar Mal.
**Another name by which parts of the Punjab was known in ancient time was madra desha, the land of the madras. So named after Madri, the mother of the Pandavas.

bees." The countryside is an expanse of mustard yellow, broken by solid squares of green sugarcane with its fluffy pampas plumes. If the winter monsoon has been good, a crop of wheat, barley, gram, oil-seeds, and tobacco will cover the land with lush abundance. Peasants supplement the rain by canal water, or, where there are no canals, by Persian wheels turned by bullocks or camels. Around the wells grow vegetables: carrots, radishes, cabbages, and cauliflower. Branches of jujube trees sag under the weight of their berries. In springtime, the sounds that pervade the countryside are the creaking of Persian wheels, the call of partridges, and the monotonous kooh, kooh, of flour mills.**
The sugarcane is cut, its juice squeezed out, boiled in large cauldrons, and solidified into dark brown cakes. The canary yellow of the mustard is replaced by newly-sown cotton and the golden-brown of ripening wheat—and we know that spring has given way to summer.
Trees shed their leaves and after a short period of barrenness come into blossom. While the margosa is still strewing the earth with its brittle ochre leaves, the silk cotton, the coral and the flame of the forest burst into flowers of bright crimson, red, and orange. Even the thorny acacia, the commonest tree of Punjab, is covered with tiny pale pom-poms. Persian wheels and the partridges are silent: instead there is the screaming of the koels in the mango groves and the crying of barbets.
The wheat is cut and winnowed in the warm breeze. In the words of Guru Nanak: The sun scorches...the earth burns like an oven. The waters give up their vapoxirs, yet it burns and scorches relentlessly.' The temperature rises to a fever heat. The parched earth becomes an unending stretch of khaki with dust devils spiralling across the wastes. Even the stolid peepal and the tamarisk are shorn of their leaves and the only green that meets the eye are bushes of camel-thorn, prickly cactus, and the akcalotropis. The succession of hot days and shimmering mirages is occasionally broken by fierce
*The description of the seasons in this chapter are taken from Guru Nanak's Barah Mali (The Twelve Months), carried in full elsewhere in this book.
**The blasts are produced by an empty pitcher placed on the mouth of the exhaust pipe of the diesel engine.

storms which spread layers of dust and sand over everything. All through the torpid afternoons comes the call of the brain fever bird in a rising crescendo, peeooh pceooh. On moonlit nights one can see the wavering arrow-head formations of geese honking their way northwards to the snowy Himalayas.
The blazing inferno lasts from the end of April to the end of "June. Then come the rains.
The monsoon makes a spectacular entry. It is heralded by the monsoon bird* which fills the dusty plains with its plaintive cries. The colourless grey sky suddenly fills with dense masses of black clouds. There are flashes of lightning and the earth shakes with the rumble of thunder. The first big drops of rain are swallowed by the dust and a heavenly fragrance rises from the earth. Then it comes in torrents, sheet upon sheet, and continues for several hours. Thereafter the skies are frequently overcast; clouds and sunshine contend for dominion; rainbows span the rainwashed landscape; and the setting sun fires the bulbous clouds in hues of red and purple. Two months of incessant downpour turn the land into a vast swamp. Rivers fill up and become a mass of swirling, muddy waters. Punjabis, who have to live through many months of intense heat every year, love the monsoon. It is the time for lovers' trysts and the reunion of families. Life begins afresh. There are new leaves on many trees and grass covers the barren ground. Mangoes ripen. The clamour of the koels and the brain fever bird is drowned in the song and laughter of girls on swings in the mango groves.
By the time the monsoon is over, it is cool again. The dust has settled and the countryside is green once more. If the summer monsoon has been good—neither too spare to create a drought nor too heavy to cause floods—all is well. A new crop of rice, millet, maize, indigo, and pulses of many kinds is sown. The peasants wind brightly-coloured and starched turbans round their heads, put on waistcoats covered with mother-of-pearl buttons, tie bells round their ankles, and dance the Bhangra to the beat of
*The pied-crested cuckoo (clamor jacobinus) takes advantage of the monsoon winds and flies from the East African Coast ahead of the clouds. It usually reaches the coast of India a day or two before the monsoon breaks; hence the name, monsoon bird.

the drum. From October to the festival of the lamps (Diwali) in November there is a succession of fairs and festivals.
There is little rest for the peasant. Cotton is to be picked and the land ploughed again for sowing wheat and gram. Persian wheels begin to turn. The kooh, kooh of the flour mills is heard in every village. Partridges call in the wheat fields. And at night one hears the honking of geese on their way back to Punjab.
Once more it is wintertime. The starlit nights are cold and frosty, the days full of blue skies and sparkling sunshine. The mustard is in flower, the woodlands are loud with the humming of the bumble bees, and all is seemly once again.
Punjab is essentially a rural state made up of innumerable mud and brick villages built on the ruins of older villages. At one time most of them were fortified. Even today one comes across remains of baronial castles and ancient battlements that rise out of the rubble or the village dung heap. Until the fifteenth century Punjab had only two important cities, Lahore, which was the seat of most governments, and Multan in the south, which had a busy market dealing with commerce coming up the rivers from Sindh and caravans from Baluchistan and Persia. There were also several towns like Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Wazirabad, Gujarat, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Saidpur now called Eminabad, Pak Pattan, Kasur, Sialkot, Ludhiana, and Sirhind, whose various fortunes rose and fell with those of their feudal overlords (or, as in the case of Pak Pattan, with the popularity of the religious order of which it was the centre.) Nothing remains of the extensive forests which once covered large parts of Punjab. Up to the sixteenth century there were jungles in the north where rhinoceros* (and probably elephants) were found. In central Punjab there was the notorious lakhi (the forest of a hundred thousand trees.) ** which gave Sikh
*In the Babar Nama the Mughal conqueror Babar who invaded India in A D 1526 writes of hunting rhinoceros in the Punjab. **In the Khuldsal-ut-Tawdrikh Sujanj Rai, who lived in the latter part of the seventeenth century, described the lakhi in the following words: 'Every year the floods overspread the land far and wide, and when the water subsides so many jungles spring up all over this country owing to the great moisture, that a pedestrian has great difficulty in travelling. How then can they ride?'

outlaws refuge from their oppressors. There were equally dense forests in the Jalandhar Doab and one long belt of woodland stretching from Ludhiana to Karnal. Up to the middle of the nineteenth century these forests teemed with wild life: lions, tigers, leopards, panthers, bears, wolves, hyenas, wild boars, nilgai, and many varieties of deer. The flora and fauna survived the incursions of foreign armies but succumbed to the indiscriminate felling of trees and slaughter of game in the nineteenth and the present century. The desert with its camels and goats—the only animals which can thrive on cacti and thorny scrub—are a phenomenon of recent times.
Indologists are not agreed on the age of Indian civilization except that it is among the oldest in the world and that its cradle was in Punjab.
Near Rawalpindi, spears and hatchets made of quartzite have been found which date human habitation in the region to between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago.* Agricultural implements made of copper and bronze have been found in mounds of both sides of the river Indus which prove the existence of fairly organized rural communities between 2500 to 2000 BC. Nothing more is known about these communities, nor would it be right to describe them as civilizations. We are, however, on surer ground when we come to the archaeological remains of Mohenjodaro in Sindh and Harappa in southern Punjab, both of which were unearthed in the 1920s. From the sculpture, pottery, jewellery, fabrics, and other relics (particularly seals bearing extremely beautiful figures of bulls, rhinoceros, and other animals) found among the ruins of baked-brick buildings in these cities (and subsequently in many other places) it can be presumed that the people of the Indus Valley had attained a high degree of civilization. They lived in multi-storeyed houses with marble baths; their craftsmen made goods which were sold as far away as Mesopotamia; and they had evolved some form of religion around the worship of a mother-goddess and her male consort. *See, S.M. Ikram and Percival Spear, eds., The Cultural Heritage of Pakistan, pp. 20-24, Sir R.E. Mortimer Wheeler, The Indus Civilization.

Neither the hieroglyphics nor the relics found in these cities have yet revealed all their secrets; archaeologists and historians are still disputing the identity of the people who made them. The generally accepted view is that these cities flourished between 2500 and 1500 B C and that they were destroyed by a people known as the Aryans who began to infiltrate in to Sindh and Punjab about fifteen centuries before the birth of Christ.*
The Aryans, who were tall and fair, drove out the darker-skinned inhabitants and occupied most of Northern Hindustan. The newcomers were a pastoral people with a religion and a language of their own. Both of these were further developed in the land of their domicile. It was in Punjab that Vedic Hinduism was evolved, and many of the great works of Sanskrit literature written.
The Aryans were followed by other races. The Persians under Darius (521-485 BC) conquered Northern Punjab, and for a hundred years his successors ruled over Peshawar, Taxila, and Rawalpindi. In 326 BC Greek armies under Alexander the Great crossed the Indus and swept on as far as the Beas. Although the Greeks left behind by Alexander were deprived of power by the Indian Mauryas a few years after his death, they left a permanent impress on the face of Punjab. In Peshawar, Taxila, and perhaps in some other towns as well, Greek artists produced some of the greatest works of sculpture found anywhere in the world.
Mauryan power was extinguished by Bactrian invaders. Menander is believed to have gone across central Punjab and beyond the Beas. The Bactrians were followed by many Scythian tribes. When the dust raised by the invading armies had settled, the Indian Guptas spread their benevolent rule over the country. For some centuries they were able to block the gaps in the mountains and keep put other invaders. By 500 AD, the pressure from Central Asia became too great and once more the sluice gates were forced open to let in the Mongoloid Huns. The Huns were subdued and expelled by Vardhana. His son Harsha was the last great Indian ruler of Punjab. After Harsha's death in 647 AD, Vardhana's empire disintegrated and races living across the Sulaiman and Hindu Kush-

*A.L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India, p. 28.
""Examples of the Gandhara School can be seen in museums at Peshawar,
Taxila, Lahore, Delhi, Mathura, and many other cities.

mountains began to pour into Hindustan. The new conquerors who came belonged to diverse tribes but had one faith: they were Muslims.
In 1001 AD came Mahmud of Ghazni. Thereafter the Afghans came like the waves of an incoming tide, each column advancing further inland into Hindustan. The Ghaznis were followed by other Afghan tribes: the Ghoris, Tughlaks, Sure, and Lodhis.
Between the succession of Afghan invasions came the terrible visitation in 1398 of the Mongol, Taimur, an invasion from which northern India did not recover for many decades. A hundred years later Babur, who was one of Taimur's descendants, started dreaming of an empire in India. His opportunity came with the decline of the Lodhi dynasty. After a few unsuccessful attempts, he finally defeated and slew the reigning Afghan, Ibrahim Lodhi, on the field of Panipat in 1526, and set up the most powerful and long.-lived dynasty in the history of India.
The ethnic pattern of Punjab has changed with every new conquest. At the time of the birth of Nanak (1469 A D) it was somewhat as follows:
In the north west stretching along both sides of the Indus were Pathans and Baluchis—the former on the upper and the latter on the lower reaches of the river. These people, like their neighbours (Gakkhars, Awans, Janjuas, and others who settled between the Indus and the Jhelum) were divided into innumerable warring tribes, jealously preserving their traditions and way of life but united in their fierce loyalty to the Islamic faith. On the northern fringe of the country in a narrow belt running along the foothills of the Himalayas were the domains of Hindu princes who had fled the plains in front of the Muslim onslaughts. In this sub-montane region intersected by mountain streams and deep
*These three flowering bushes are found all over India. The adhatoda vasicka is used to make medicinal syrup; the ipomea is grown to reinforce canal banks. Since it blossoms most times of the year it is known in Punjabi as sadd shudgan (ever-in-marital-bliss.)

ravines, made impassable by entangled bushes of lantana, vasicka, and ipomea they built chains of forts which defended them from further inroads of Muslim invaders. Here they burnt incense to their gods and preserved their egalitarian society in which the Brahmin and Kshatriya exploited the lesser castes. In the rest of Punjab, consisting of the vast champaign stretching to the Jamuna and beyond, the countryside was inhabited by Jats and Rajput agricultural tribes, the cities by the trading Banias, Mahajans, Suds, and Aroras. In all cities,-towns and villages there were the dark and somewhat negroid descendants of the aboriginals who were considered beyond the pale of the caste system, forced to do the dirtiest work and then condemned as untouchables. In addition to all these were nomadic tribes of gypsies wandering across the plains in their donkey caravans, with their hunting dogs and herds of sheep and goats.
The Punjab, being the main gateway into India, was fated to be the perpetual field of battle and the first home of all the conquerors. Few invaders, if any, brought wives with them, and most of those who settled in their conquered domains acquired local women. Thus the blood of many conquering races came to mingle, and many alien languages—Arabic, Persian, Pushto, and Turkish—came to be spoken in the land. Thus, too, was the animism of the aboriginal subjected to the Vedantic, Jain, and Buddhist religions of the Aryans, and to the Islamic faith of the Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Persians, and Afghans. Out of this mixture of blood and speech were born the Punjabi people and their language. There also grew a sense of expectancy that out of the many faiths of their ancestors would be born a new faith for the people of Punjab.
By the end of the fifteenth century, the different races who had come together in Punjab had lost the nostalgic memories of the lands of their birth and begun to develop an attachment to the land of their adoption. The chief factor in the growth of Punjabi consciousness was the evolution of one common tongue from a babel of languages. Although the Punjabis were sharply dividedinto Muslims and Hindus, attempts had been made to bring about a rapprochment between the two faiths and a certain desire to live and let live had grown among the people. It was left to Guru Nanak and his nine successors to harness the spirit of tolerance and give it a positive content in the shape of Punjabi nationalism.
It is significant that the spirit of Punjabi nationalism first manifested itself in Majha, the heart of Punjab, and among a people who were deeply rooted in the soil. Although the founders and many of the leaders of the movement were not agriculturists, its backbone was the Jat peasantry of the central plains.
There are as many conjectures about the etymology of the word Jat* as there are of the origin of the race. It is now generally accepted that the Jats who made the northern plains of India their home were of Aryan stock. They brought with them certain institutions, the most important being the panchayat, an elected body of five elders, to which they pledged their allegiance.** Every Jat village was a small republic made up of people of kindred blood who were as conscious of absolute equality between themselves as they were of their livelihood as weavers, potters, cobblers, or scavengers. The relationship of a Jat village with the state was that of a semi-autonomous unit paying a fixed sum of revenue. Few governments tried to assert more authority, and those which did soon discovered that sending out armed militia against fortified villages was not very profitable. The Jats' spirit of freedom and equality refused to submit to Brahmanical Hinduism and in its turn drew the censure of the privileged Brahmins of the Gangetic plains who pronounced that "no Aryan should stay in the Punjab for even two days" because the Punjabis refused to obey the priests.*" The upper caste Hindus' denigration of the Jat did not in the least lower the Jat in his own eyes noi elevate the Brahmin or the Kshatriya in the Jat's estimation. On the contrary, he assumed a somewhat condescending attitude towards the Brahmin, whom he considered little better than a soothsayer or a beggar, or the Kshatriya, who disdained earning
*Cunningham followed Todd and other European scholars in believing that Jats were of Scythian stock.
**Panch men parmesvar. There is God in the five elected men.
***See Mahabharata, VIIl, verses 2063-2068 (Kama Purvu.)

an honest living and was proud of being a mercenary. The Jat was born the worker and the warrior. He tilled his land with his sword girded round his waist. He fought more battles for the defence of his homestead than the Kshatriya, for unlike the martial Kshatriya the Jat seldom fled from his village when the invaders came. And if the Jat was maltreated or if his women were molested by the conqueror on his way to Hindustan, he settled his score by looting the invaders' caravans on their return journey and freeing the wom«n he was taking back. The Punjabi Jat developed an attitude of indifference to worldly possessions and an instinct for gambling with his life against odds. At the same time he became conscious of his role in the defence of Hindustan. His brand of patriotism was at once hostile towards the foreigner and benign, even contemptuous, towards his own countrymen whose fate depended so much on his courage and fortitude.
The five centuries of the history of the Sikhs may be divided into two: the first 300 years are roughly divisible into three periods of one hundred years each; the second one-third into four periods of fifty years each. Guru Nanak proclaimed his mission around the year 1500 AD. A little over a hundred years later (in 1604) Guru Arjun completed the compilation of the sacred scripture, the Adi Granth, and gave the Sikhs a holy city of their own, Amritsar. These hundred years saw the evolution of Sikh religious philosophy. In the hundred years that followed, the Sikhs gradually turned from a quietist sect of Nanak Panthis (those who followed the path of Nanak) to a group animated by visions of power. The seal of approval was given by the establishment of the militant fraternity of the Khalsa by the last of the Sikh Gurus, Gobind Singh, in 1699. The century that followed witnessed Sikh ascendancy as a political power, with Banda Bairagi striking a near-fatal blow to Mughal rule in the Punjab, followed by marauding bands of the Dal Khalsa spreading their arms from Attack to the Ganges. Its conquests were consolidated by Ranjit Singh when he captured Lahore in 1799 and proclaimed himself Maharaja of the Punjab.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh's forty years (1799—1839) remain the golden age of Sikh political achievement. With his death began the disintegration of the Sikhs as a political and social force. The two Anglo—Sikh wars ended in the defeat of Sikh armies and the annexation of their kingdom in 1849. Their social decline, though little noticed in the earlier stages, began at the same time. The kesadhanri Khalsa were threatened with extinction as large numbers began to abandon the external forms (unshorn hair and beards) and became sahajdhari Sikhs. The Khalsa tradition was artificially kept alive by the British according kesadhari Sikhs economic and political privileges like preferential recruitment in the army and the civil services, and later, separate electorates and the reservation of seats in the legislatures. This induced the kesadhari Khalsa to distance themselves from the sahajdharis as well as from Hindus who believed in Sikhism. There was a parallel decline in the quality of Sikh political organizations, their leadership and their methods of approach. In the late nineteenth century, up to the end of the First World War, it was the Chief Khalsa Diwan led by aristocrats like Sir Sunder Singh Majithia, Harbans Singh Majithia, Harbans Singh of Attari, and, on the outer periphery, men like Raja Sir Daljit Singh and Sir Jogindra Singh—all well educated, loyal to the British and believing in representations and constitutional methods. After the war, the Chief Khalsa Diwan retreated into the background and was replaced by the Akali Dal. The Akali Dal discovered that confrontation with the administration through non-violent non-cooperation and passive resistance was more productive of results than representations to the rulers or resolutions in legislatures. A new breed of leaders consisting largely of village jathedars came to the fore. However, in these early years of agitation, they accepted as their leaders educated men dedicated to their cause: such men were Baba Kharak Singh, Mehtab Singh and Master Tara Singh. They also left the task of political and constitutional negotiations to men of knowledge and experience like Ujjal Singh, Buta Singh and Sampuran Singh, who represented the community at the Round Table Conferences. Nearer the time of the transfer of power, there were shrewd politicians like Gyani Kartar Singh to negotiate on behalf of the Sikhs. At the same time, they benefited from the more-than-willing guidance tendered to them by leaders of the

Indian National Congress. This covered up for inexperiencec mediocrities like Baldev Singh, who accepted Pandit Nehru as his mentor.
It was after independence and the partition of Punjab that the quality of Sikh leadership was vulgarized and went into rapid decline. Able men like Swaran Singh, Pratap Singh Kairon and Giani Zail Singh went out and joined the Congress party. The educational and ethical standards of the emerging Akali leadership fell well below the level of their predecessors. Factionalism, switching parties to better prospects of getting mim'sterships or lucrative posts in state-controlled enterprises, became the chief motivating factors. Corruption became rampant in the gurdwaras. Misuse of gurdwara funds for political purposes and manipulating the enormous patronage of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC) over the appointments of head priests, granthis, ragis, sevadars, the personnel of thousands of educational institutions, hospitals and orphanages were used to consolidate personal political power. The prime example of the degradation in the quality of leadership of the SGPC was Gurcharan Singh Tohra, a leftist of very little education who succeeded in being re-elected president for sixteen successive terms and, at the same time, had two terms as a Member of Parliament, which he rarely attended. In secular politics, it saw the emergence of men like Badal, Balwant Singh and Amarinder Singh, whose sole commitment was to themselves. Gentlemen-politicians like Barnala were sidelined. In due course, the clergy, consisting of head priests,ragis and granthis felt that they had been left out in the cold for too long and staked their claim to control gurdwara funds and have their voice heard in community politics. Thus, the elected SGPC yielded power to priests nominated by it. It saw the elevation of the hymn-singer Darshan Singh Ragi* to the post of acting Head Priest of the Akal Takht and, for a very short period, guiding the destinies of the Panth. In their turn, the clerics had power wrenched out of their hands by lads of the All-India Sikh
*Darshan Singh (born in 1936) in the village of Suranwala (District 'SahiwaJ now in Pakistan) is an Arora Sikh. He has a Master's degree in music. He is the most highly paid ragi and preacher. He came into politics after "Operation Blue Star" and was twice detained in prison for his fiery sermons denouncing the government.

Students' Federation (AISSF) and nominees of the Damdami Taksal reared in the Bhindranwale school of terrorism. It is they who began to call the shots in more senses than one.
The Sikhs' self-image bears little resemblance to reality. The spirit of one-upmanship which had helped them in becoming the most prosperous and go-ahead community of India was replaced by empty bombast. Devotion or religion gave way to a display of religiosity. Religious life declined into meaningless ritual and Akhand Paths through hired granthis; worship of the Granth, as if it were an idol, replaced its study as an hymnal of religious philosophy; and kirtans by professional ragis demanding high fees like film playback singers proliferated. Ragis and granthis acquired vested interests in perpetuating these practices. Despite claims of outlawing the caste system, discrimination against lower-caste Sikhs is only a shade less than amongst Hindus. The message of goodwill towards all mankind enshrined in the Granth has been reduced to a litany to be chanted on ceremonial occasions; Guru Gobind Singh's exhortation to draw the sword only after all other means have failed to bring evil-doers to the right path is honoured more in the breach than in observance. Few people dare to condemn gangsters who haul out innocent, unarmed people from buses and kill them, lob grenades in crowded marketplaces and cinemas. The Hindu baiter, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, has become a martyred hero of lumpen sections of Sikh society. At times it appears that perhaps the Khalsa have run the course of history prescribed for them and that their Gurus in their inscrutable wisdom have given them leaders who will fulfil their deathwish.