Cynthia Keppley Mahmood
This chapter, which deals with the Sikh tradition within the context of the shifting sands of India's religious history, also discusses the reverence for certain Sikh gurus as being linked with martyrdom and violence, and relates this history of religious violence to the militant drive for a Sikh homeland—Khalistan—in recent decades. Sikhism is among the youngest of the global religions. The struggle for Khalistan was a resistance movement against the perceived injustices of the Indian state and a political movement aimed at sovereign rule, but it also provided an existential means of being a Sikh, independently of secular instrumental political goals. A conflation of “militancy” with “violence” in the Sikh tradition has resulted in a widespread misunderstanding of Sikhi in the modern world, has added to the unfortunate “Sikhs as terrorists” propaganda, and has distorted the theological message of the tradition. Many Sikhs have turned to their Holy Book to try to figure out when the kirpan is to be appropriately returned to its sheath.