Social Scientist. v 24, no. 275-77 (April-June 1996) p. 41.


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AMRIT KAUR BASRA

The Punjab Press and the Golden Temple Controversy (1905): An Issue of Sikh Identity

The socio-religious "regeneration" in the second half of nineteenth century Punjab had resulted in the emergence of numerous literary, scientific, caste and socio-religious organisations.1 The most influential among these were the Singh Sabha, the Arya Samaj and the Anjuman-i-Islamia.2 These had vast organisational networks scattered over numerous towns in the Punjab. The focal point of their activities was to serve the socio-economic interests of their communities. At the same time, these organisations were involved in defining and asserting the doctrinal basis of their religions. Whereas the resultant proselytizing activities opened debates, preaching generated both intra and inter-communal tension. The development of print culture further accelerated this trend. In fact, the press was the most effective medium that was deployed by these organisations to assert their respective identities and monitor the activities of each other.

This paper explores the nature of one such controversy which arose in 1905 when the Manager of the Golden Temple removed the idols from the shrine. The brief discussion of this incident by Harjot S. Oberoi and Kenneth William Jones3 indicate that both have not used all the available source material and have not highlighted the use of print culture by contemporary Punjabis to discuss an intricate issue which revolved around Sikh identity. This paper attempts to bridge this gap, focusing oh the^aature of reforming activities among the Sikhs.

The drive to forge a community identity among the Sikhs was discernible with the onset of British rule. It entailed a process wherein numerous Sikh reformers came together to specify the 'central basis of Sikh religion. While the Kuka or Namdhari sects4 had limited influence among the Sikhs, it was the Singh Sabha movement which hastened this pace. Numerous tracts were written to popularise the writings of the Sikh Gurus and efforts were made to remove those prac-

Department of History, Delhi College of Arts & Commerce, Delhi University.

Social Scientist, Vol. 24, Nos. 4-6, April-June 1996



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