Who is the Controversial WH Hew McLeod and What is the Controversy Over Academic Chairs?

This article is from The Sikh Bulletin December 2005 Volume 7 Number 12

From Chakravyuh, Web of Indian Secularism

Since complete annihilation of Sikh culture has been the aim right from the beginning, Sikh history has been constantly distorted. Sikh literature and sacred writings have been periodically vandalized with the climax coming in the wake of the 1984 attack on Sri Darbar Sahib when even libraries were set on fire. The alternate practice has been to discredit settled Sikh tradition, to prop up rival apocrypha Granths (religious texts) and to raise doubts about the authenticity o Sri Guru Granth Sahib (the only Sikh canon). These processes have been witnessed with increasing intensity ever since the first day of Indian de-colonisation and have often been taken note of by
the Media
One such attempt was made through the agency of Piar SingI of Guru Nanak University (funded completely by the state) and some foreign scholars. They suddenly discovered, out of the blue as it were a new recension of Guru Granth and made far-reaching conclusions. This was done to sow doubts about its originality. What was strange about this sordid affair was that no attempt was made to know the history or circumstances attending on the discovery of the manuscript under discussion. It was purchased from a bookseller, designated MS 1245 by the Guru Nanak University library and suddenly proclaimed the very original recension simultaneously here and abroad. The attempt can be compared to some nihilist guerrilla strike on a centuries old firm citadel of tradition. Sardar Daljeet Singh went to Amritsar and had a discussion with the bookseller Sardar Harbhajan Singl-Chawla. From this it was clear that this particular recension had no history worth mentioning. Harbhajan Singh later appeared at the Akal Takhat on May 5, 1993, and made a clean breast of it. The document being presented here is his statement at the Akal Takhat. Rendered into English, it would be somewhat as follows:
‘I, Harbhajan Singh Chawla (of the) firm Harbhajan Singh Harcharan Singh Chawla of Bagh Jallianwala, deal in manuscripts, paintings, and handicrafts. Today on Wednesday dated 5.5.1993, 1 am presenting the written statement to Singh Sahib Bhai Manjit Singh Jathedar of Akal Takhat at the Akal Takhat as below:
‘The manuscript marked as MS 1245, now present in the library of the Guru Nanak Dev University was purchased from me. This is how this MS 1245 reached me:
‘During my business tour of Rajasthan in the years 1979-80,1 obtained it from a petty scrap dealer doing the round, on bicycle, of the city of Raisinghnagar of district Ganganagar. On enquiry, I came to know that he had bought it from some house in a village as scrap. It was lying with me for about three to four years. During this period I showed it to a Bhai Kamail Singh who has interest an in manuscripts and works as a scripture reader at Sri Darbar Sahib and asked him to give his views about it. ‘It was his opinion, about this manuscript, which I wrote in a note describing it. The librarian of Guru Nanak Dev University bought this manuscript from me for the university library. I received its sale price. The note about the resencion written by me is not based on my research about it. Whatever Bhai Kamail Singh told me, is what I wrote in my note’.
sd./ Humble servant, Harbhajan Singh Chawla , 5.5.93, Place – Sri Akal Takhat Sahib, Shop – Harbhajan Singh Harcharan Singh, Bazar Jallianwala, Amritsar.
Now that the reader knows about the origin of the note appended to the manuscript by the antique dealer, s/he will be shocked to find out that the three or four points made therein, tallied absolutely with the research diligently conducted by Doctors Piar Singh and Pashaura Singh. It was on the basis of such research that textual study of the Sikh scripture was seriously suggested and the original — which is in existence, has a continuous history of custody and has been examined by hundreds of scholars for nearly four centuries — was challenged. When this was pointed out, many eminent scholars cried persecution, pleaded academic freedom, questioned the ability of us ignorant easterners to understand the intricacies of western scholarship and conjured up images of medieval inquisition and witch hunting on Spanish and French models. The only ‘punishment’ meted out to the offending scholars for the well-established crime of blasphemy, was to do voluntary social service at a shrine of their choice and for a period of few weeks. It must be remembered that even such punishment can be traditionally inflicted if the offender freely consents to undergo it. In the present case the consent was obtained. The greatly offended Western scholar can contrast this with the treatment meted out to Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury or to Joan of Arc and a hundred thousand others.

Who was the The Controversial WH McLeod and the Controversy Over Academic Chairs?
Who was the controversial WH Hew McLeod? Was he a historian? An Academic? A scholar? Was he not a theologian? Is that possible?

Let’s see what he had to say:

But are we to believe it?


Will Western Academics “Discover Sikhism” Do Sikhs need to be “Discovered” by the West?


We can also listen to different academics:

Who were the controversial WH Hew McLeod’s followers?


Someone’s Views on Dr. Pashaura, a follower of the controversial WH McLeod

What else should we know?

The Guru and Gurbani is the most important when doing this sort of research.

Western academics HAVE responded to the controversy of WH Hew McLeod:


It is important to read the responses within academia.

How much does it take to establish a chair at a University? What is the role of the university, the academic, the donor, the community, the taxpayers, etc.?

These are all questions that require transparency.

Many ask for education of Sikhs. Many times these are valid issues and ideas. We would definately have to do more research on these.


Are Controversial Sikh Studies Chairs Serving Our Interest?

Some Contest Controversial Chair

These are issues that require much attention.




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