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US scholar: 1984 Riots Crystallized Sikhs from Punjabi or Indian Diaspora

February 8th, 2014  |  Published in People & Events  |  1 Comment

By Amaninder Pal Sharma

US scholar: 1984 Riots Crystallized Sikhs from Punjabi or Indian Diasporaimage from www.independent.co.uk

PATIALA: US-based scholar has stated that Sikh diaspora began identifying themselves more with their community rather than region and country after the 1984 riots in India that resulted in killing of thousands of Sikhs following the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination.

Prof Verne A. Dusenbery, who is working on Sikh diaspora since 1970s, said on the sidelines of a conference in Punjabi University, Patiala that such was the impact of "suffering and dishonour" due to incidents of 1984 on Sikhs residing abroad that it transformed widely-spread Punjabi expatriates into Punjabi Sikhs.

Dusenbery, Professor of Anthropology, Hamline University, USA, who is studying dynamics of Sikh diaspora, said, "Sikhs around the world come together because of the trauma of 1984. Before 1984, Sikhs residing in foreign countries did prefer to identify themselves as part of Punjabi, Indian or South Asian diaspora. But the traumatic events of 1984 helped crystallization of the notion of Sikh diaspora among them. Sikhs residing abroad had begun identifying themselves first as Sikhs and then as Punjabis, Indians or South Asians."

The professor said, "The 1984 incidents has gelled the notion that they have something in common as Sikhs and brought them together around their feelings, appearance, suffering and dishonour. Before 1984 people (Sikhs) identified themselves in various ways. However, the crisis after 1984 had made them to assert as Sikhs," Prof Dusenbery told TOI in reference to Operation Bluestar and killings of Sikhs in Delhi.

He was here to attend the three-day 2nd Punjabi Diaspora Conference organized by the Punjabi University’s department of Punjabi. Dusenbery, whose doctoral dissertation is on "Relationship between Punjabi Sikhs and Gore (English) Sikhs," has written two books on Sikhs ‘Sikhs at Large: Religion, Culture and Politics in Global Perspective’ and ‘Sikh Diaspora Philanthropy in Punjab: Global Giving for Local Good.’

He, however, said that the current moot point was to study that whether 30 years after the 1984 incidents the notion of Punjabi diaspora was again overshadowing the feeling of Sikh diaspora. "Now 30 years later, the question is that is it still the way in which people are identifying themselves or they are now beginning to identify with the Punjabi Diaspora? Whether they feel that spirit of Punjabi language, common literature and films unite them," he said.

Courtesy of www.indiatimes.com

 

This article has been updated based on the specific corrections pointed out by Prof. Dusenbery.

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Responses

  1. Van Dusenbery says:

    February 25th, 2014at 10:51 am(#)

    The Times of India correspondent basically got the gist of my argument that 1984 was important in the construction of Sikh diasporic consciousness. But there were a few mistakes in his piece. My name: Verne A. Dusenbery. My institution: Hamline University. My academic discipline: Anthropology. The title on my co-edited book (with Darshan S. Tatla): ‘Sikh Diaspora Philanthropy in Punjab: Global Giving for Local Good.” And he misspelled “diaspora”!

    My comments in the Punjabi Diaspora conference at Punjabi University, Patiala, were about seeing diaspora as a claim of transnational community/common interest, and to ask us to consider: when, where, why, how, by whom, for whom any such claim is being made.