Noted writer and journalist Khushwant Singh said Sikh leadership should discuss and ponder over the fact that majority of them had discarded symbols of Sikh identity such as turban, long hair and beard.
Singh was speaking at the seminar, “Khushwant Singh: The Writer, Historian and Journalist,” organised by Panjab University (PU) department of English and cultural studies to felicitate and celebrate his centenary birth year on February 2.
In his address, read by his son Rahul Singh, Khushwant said he was an agnostic, but strongly believed in the sense of Sikh identity and of Sikhs retaining their symbols.
“Without that, I am convinced, the Sikh religion will eventually die out and perhaps merge with Hinduism,” he added.
He also said that growth of intolerance and fundamentalism of all religions disturbed him and called upon the people and the youth to combat the menace as the society was to develop and grow as a progressive, peaceful and secular society.
Earlier, PU had conferred the degree of doctor of literature (honoris causa) to Khushwant Singh for his tremendous contribution to literature and journalism in 2011.
Singh added that he had hopes in the new young generation, who were better educated and more aware of what was going on in the world. “Cell phones, Twitter, Facebook — of which I know nothing — and which come under the umbrella of social media, are, I believe, helping in this process,” he added.
He thanked PU for felicitating him and said there were many more eminent writers who deserved the honour more than him and he was merely a scribbler whose scribbles were liked and enjoyed some people.
He described education and welfare of the girl child as the two most concerned areas for him. He also took on godmen and astrologers and said that they, along with faith healers, and the like, were constantly making a fool out of people.
He was not a good student: Son
Speaking on the occasion, Rahul Singh said Khushwant Singh was not a very good student and got third division in studies. He also termed him politically naive and foolish, who spoke from the heart. “He became close to Indira Gandhi but championed the cause of Maneka Gandhi after the death of Sanjay Gandhi. Later, he fell out with the same Maneka,” he said.
Singh added that Khushwant Singh was a master in entertaining and provoking people. He mentioned that Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) once wrote to him to not write jokes on Sikhs but he wrote back to them stating, “Go to hell!”
He also cited various incidents of his run-ins with top leaders and various organisations.