Did Kahan Singh Nabha Start Creating Division?

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

Many people blame Kahan Singh Nabha’s book ‘Hum Hindu Nahin’ (We are not Hindus) for starting the conflict during the British era in Punjab and also accuse the British to provoke Kahan Singh Nabha and other Sikh writers to write such books. The then British govt in India and Singh Sabha movement are also criticized by many writers.

Sita Ram Goel writes: –

Thus the seed sown by the British began to bear fruit. In 1898, Kahan Singh, the Chief Minister of Nabha and a pacca loyal- ist wrote a pamplet: Hum Hindu Nahin Hain (We are not Hindus). This note, first struck by the British and then picked up by the collaboratonists, has not lacked a place in subsequent Sikh writings and politics, leading eventually in our own time to an intransigent politics and terroristic activities.

Here, it will be interesting to read these comments by Sita Ram Goel:

The British also worked on a more political level. Singh Sabhas were started, manned mostly by ex-soldiers. These worked under Khalsa Diwans established at Lahore and Amritsar. Later on, in 1902, the two Diwans were amalgamated into one body–the Chief Khalsa Diwan, providing political leadership to the Sikhs. They all wore the badge of loyalty to the British. As early as 1872, the loyal Sikhs supported the cruel suppression of the Namdhari Sikhs who had started a Swadeshi movement. They were described as a “wicked and misguided sect.” The same forces described the Ghadarites in 1914 as “rebels” who should be dealt with mercilessly.

These organisations also spearheaded the movement for the de-Hinduization of the Sikhs and preached that the Sikhs were distinct from the Hindus. Anticipating the Muslims, they repre- sented to the British Government as far back as 1888 that they be recognized as a separate community. They expelled the Brahmins from the Har Mandir, where the latter had worked as priests. They also threw out the idols of “Hindu” Gods from this temple which were installed there. We do not know what these Gods were and how “Hindu” they were, but most of them are adoringly mentioned in the poems of Guru Nanak. At any rate, more often than not, iconoclasm has hardly much spiritual content; on the other hand, it is a misanthropic idea and is meant to show one’s ha- tred for one’s neighbour. In this particular case, it was also meant to impress the British with one’s loyalty. Hitherto, the Brahmins had presided over different Sikh ceremonies which were the same as those of the Hindus. There was now a tendency to have separate rituals. In 1909, the Ananda Marriage Act was passed.

I believe that such ‘analyses’ do not present the true picture of what happened during the British era.

Before I explain myself, please read these lines carefully:

The aim of Nanak was, no doubt, good; but he did not possess any learning and was merely acquainted with the dialect of the (Punjabi) villagers among whom he was born. He was quite ignorant of the Vedas and the Shastras and of Sanskrit, otherwise why should he have written Nirbhau instead of Nirbhaya.

Another proof of his ignorance of the Sanskrit language is his composition called Sanskrit hymns (Satotras). He wanted to show that he had some pretentions to the knowledge of Sanskrit. But how could one know Sanskrit without learning it. Is is possible that he might have passed for a Sanskrit scholar before those ignorant villagers who had never heard a man speak Sanskrit. He could never have done unless he was anxious to gain public applause, fame and glory. He must have sought after fame or he would have preached in the language he know and told the people that he had not read Sanskrit.

Read more:

Had Nanak held up the Vedas alone as the supreme authority, he would not have succeeded in founding his sect, nor would he have been recognized a Guru (Master). As he was quite ignorant of Sanskrit, he would not have been able to teach others and thereby make them his disciples.

The lines quoted above (in bold letters) unquestionably hurt religious feelings of any follower of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. While blaming Sardar Bahadur Kahan Singh Nabha, Singh Sabha Movement or Chief Khalsa Diwan, such writers NEVER mention the book I have quoted above (in bold letters) . It is natural that for an average Sikh reader, their act of hiding an important point is enough to doubt credibility of such ‘experts’ on Hindu-Sikh relations.

In addition, when any self-styled expert on Hindu-Sikh relations start criticizing the entire Singh Sabha movement, an ordinary Sikh reader takes it as another attack on Sikh institutions and Sikh scholars. Also, by not mentioning anti-Sikh writings of a few Hindu writers of that era, such ‘experts’ become suspicious in the eyes of genuine readers.

The lines which I have quoted above (in bold letters) were written by Swami Dyanand Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj in his book ‘Satyarth Prakash’. (Please refer to 11th chapter of ‘Satyarth Prakash’).

Satyarth Prakash was published first in 1875 in Varanasi. Its second and improved edition was published in 1882.

Kahan Singh Nabha’s Hum Hindu Nahin came into existence only in 1898. Thus, he published his book after 23 years of publication of first edition of Satyarth Prakash and 15 years after death of Dyanand Saraswati (Dyanand died in October, 1883 in Ajmer).

Before criticizing Kahan Singh Nabha and the entire Singh Sabha movement, should one not study what happened in Punjab between 1875 and 1898?

Many people do not know that when Dyanand Saraswati came to Punjab, he was helped in a friendly way by the Sikhs to establish Arya Samaj societies in Punjab. Many Sikhs joined Arya Samaj. Interestingly, Gyani Dit Singh and Jawaher Singh also were on one occasion members of Arya Samaj. Same Dit Singh is considered one of founder members of Singh Sabha movement.

When Sikhs came to know what Dyanand wrote about their Gurus and their faith, they were hurt. (Though, I have quoted a few lines of Satyarth Prakash in this article {in bold letters} , but a separate article is needed to give details of his views on Sikh Gurus and Sikh faith).

It was very natural that Sikhs considered it an attack on their faith and distinct identity, when Dyanand Saraswati while making comments on five ‘Kakars’ wrote these lines in his Satyarth Prakash:

Gobind Singh, through his wisdom, started the practice of wearing these five articles. They were very useful for the time in which he lived, but they are of no use at the present time.

Read this footnote of an article written by Col. Dr. Dalvinder Singh Grewal:

Nanak Shah fakir ne naya chalaya panth. Idhar udhar se jor ke likh mara ik granth Pahle chele kar liye, pichhe badla bhes. Sir aur safa bandh ke, rakh line sabh kes.
(Nanak Shah the kind of fakirs, founded a new community.
He collected an assortment of writings and put them in a volume.
He gathered a few disciples and then changed his garb.
He wound a turban round his head and grew his hair long)
Ganda Singh, A History of the Khalsa College, Khalsa College Amritsar, 1949, p.7 http://www.sikhreview.org/november2001/heritage.htm

This was the background of Hindu-Sikh conflict during the British era.
Gyani Dit Singh, once an Arya Samaji, visited Dyanand in 1877 in Lahore. In his booklet ‘Sadhu Daya Nand Naal Mera Sambad’, Dit Singh describes his discussion with Dyanand in these words:

“Q: Who is the Creator of this universe?
A: The Lord (Ishwar)
Q: Does the Lord create the universe from Himself or from something else?
A: How can the Lord create the universe from Himself? He is without form (Nirakaar). He creates the world from four atoms.
Q: Wherefrom does the Lord bring these atoms?
A: The Lord joins the atoms floating in the sky and creates the universe.
Q: How many atoms help making this universe and how does the Lord create the universe around them? Can you explain – sequentially and systematically?
A: The atoms of earth, water and air roam around freely in air that the Lord mixes them as per the requirement and creates the universe, e.g., he creates earth from earth atoms, water from water atoms, fire from fire atoms and air from air atoms.
Q: Were these four elements existing earlier than the Lord of were created by the Lord?
A: The Lord is non-existent that he could create the solid elements from His soul. The elements of these four atoms existed already which the Lord united to create the universe.
Q : From your statement the Lord appears to be like a mason who collects and joins bricks, sand, lime, and wood, etc., to make a house. He is not a creator of atoms but creator of a structure from these items? ….. He is like a women who cooks food from various items?”
Hearing these comments Swami Dayanand became angry. The dialogue continued but, at the end, he said angrily, “Go and say that I (Gyani Ditt Singh have won and Swamiji has lost.”

Col. Dr. Dalvinder Singh Grewal writes: –

This showed the shallowness of Swami Dayanand’s knowledge. Gyani Ditt Singh held three such discussions with Swami Daya Nand with the same results. The details of these discussions are available in his book Sadhu Daya Nand Naal Mera Sambad. Swami Dayanand stood exposed in all these discussions. This made a great impression of Gyaniji on the listeners and he became very popular and acceptable among Sikhs.

It was only in 1898 that Kahan Singh Nabha’s Hum Hindu Nahin was first published. Amidst constant attacks on Sikh faith and Sikh scriptures, the book ‘Hum Hindu Nahin’ was naturally liked by general Sikhs.
Thus, it is understandable that Hum Hindu Nahin did not start creating division among Hindus and Sikhs. Instead, it was merely a reaction to those who already had successfully caused tension.