Sikhs protest controversial Professor’s appointment,
want probe into hiring
Indicted by Akal Takht, Pashaura Singh has been the target of ire of Sikhs
for many years
CALIFORNIA: Slogans of “Down, Down, Pashaura Singh” and “Turncoat Sikh Scholar” rented the air as a large number of Sikhs, most of them highly educated, joined an on-campus protest at UC Riverside before a meeting with Chancellor Timothy White, all aimed at protesting the scholar’s appointment to a Sikh studies chair.
Most of the community considers him a renegade and blasphemy-spouting scholar.
The group of Sikhs said the university should go in for a third party probe into how he came to be hired as a Sikh and Punjabi studies scholar.
Representatives of the group had a half-hour meeting with White but by all accounts the Chancellor seems to have conveyed that he has already reviewed Pashaura Singh’s appointment and there was no reason to effect any change or order any probe into his hiring.
Protesters, some of whom had come from Corona and Fontana, carried placards saying “UCR Sikh Chair an Academic Scam.”
The Chancellor also asked the group to put in writing the concerns of the larger Sikh community, something that the group welcomed. Dr. Baljeet Sahi, an Altadena veterinarian who led the protest, said the Sikh community representatives will soon write the letter.
Sahi, who represents the Sikhs for Preservation of Sikhism and Sikh Heritage. has been leading the movement that has been opposing Pashaura Singh’s appointment consistently since 2005.
The controversial scholar who was once indicted at the Akal Takht and who had confessed to his deliberate crimes of intellect was hired in 2005 from the University of Michigan.
He was however appointed to the chair only this summer.
Pashaura Singh’s writings question the authenticity of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and he accords importance to questionable manuscripts, one of which surfaced in 1987 and that he believes is a draft of the 1,430-page document compiled by Guru Arjan. Singh says the so-called 1245 manuscript, part of the rare book collection at Guru Nanak Dev University, includes sections that are blank and others that have been crossed out, showing evidence of having been edited.
Such an idea about the scriptures being edited or changed is blasphemous to most Sikhs and virtually negates the core belief that the revealed word of God is the revealed word.
Sahi holds the 1245 manuscript fraudulent and said it was obtained from a scrap dealer. Sikhs believe the so called Manuscript 1245 could have been scribbled by any of the Sikh Guru’s rivals.
There have been many protests against Pashaura Singh’s appointment to the endowed chair for which the Sikh Foundation raised $500,000. The chair is in memory of late Dr. Jasbir Singh Saini, a Phoenix cardiologist.
Sikhs had protested even in 2005 about his appointment. At one stage, even Saini’s widow, Saranjit Kaur Saini, had asked the former UCR Chancellor France Cordova urging her to choose another Sikh scholar.
Incidentally, Pashaura Singh courted controversy even with his 1991 doctoral thesis at the University of Toronto which was immediately condemned and later he was indicted in 1994 by the Akal Takht, the Sikhs’ highest temporal authority, for blasphemy.
24 September 2008
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