The Origin of the Kirpan: A Tool of Oppression in Muslim History?

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History of the Kirpan:— The origins of the word "kirpan" are from ancient Sanskrit, taken from the word "krpana", which means "sword".[1] Sikhs are required to wear it, and it must be made of metal.[2] According to Western Sikhs, the kirpan is a dagger that is symbolic of "resistance to evil" and the Sikhs readiness to fight in "self-defense". Palliative and terminal care in hospitals place great emphasis on how important it is to the Sikhs.[3] One such guide emphasises that Sikhs wear the kirpan everywhere, including in the toilet, the shower, and at night.[3] The Sikh faith itself has two philosphies regarding violence and the kirpan, one of which is non-violence ("ahimsa") and the other a violent idealogy ("himsa").[4] It was Gobind Singh (1666—1708),[5] the last guru of the Sikh faith, who introduced this latter idealogy in 1699,[4] having "ritualised" it,[6] which the Sikhs allege was done in order to protect themselves.[6] Sikh tradition however is contradictory, claiming that Aurangzeb (1658—1707),[7] who was emperor of the Mughal Empire, both wanted to convert Sikhs to Islam but also wasn't a proper Muslim.[n. 1] Gobind rebelled in the Punjab during his reign, causing a mass militancy movement and chaos, for which he was later executed for by assassination. Although Sikh militancy can be traced back to the 6th guru, the chief radicalizer was Gobind Singh himself.[8] He was assassinated by Jamshed Khan in 1708, who selflessly risked his life in the line of duty in order to sue for peace.[9] Singh's location had been betrayed by his wife.[10] Singh had also previously stated that weapons should be worshipped because they "represent" God.[11]

Aurangzeb (d. 1707).
Jagraj Singh avoided questions on the kirpan, gun violence and alcohol addiction amongst Sikhs.

"It's not a Weapon":— The kirpan is considered a weapon, even by Sikhs themselves,[n. 2] and it was actively used during the indian partition to murder non-Sikhs, including many innocent children; as was witnessed by foreigners.[n. 3] Even before the partition, Sikhs groups were instigating genocidal massacres against Muslims as early as the 1940s, and later in the 1980s with Hindus.[12] These later massacres, termed the "Sikh insurgency", lead to the deaths of at least 25,000 Sikhs in India.[13] During 1947 partition, at least 6 million Muslims left for Pakistan and 9 million Hindus and Sikhs to India,[14] where up to 3 million Muslims and Hindus were killed during this migration.[15] Still, other sources claim 200,000 to 2 million are estimated to have died, and 75,000 women were raped.[n. 4] At least 1.26 million Muslims are known to have gone missing during this time, and 840,000 Sikhs and Hindus (which all include those who were killed).[16] The amount of migration was huge, as at the time, India had had a population of 100 million Muslims and 300 million Hindus.[12] In modern times carrying knives has fuelled intense debate given that only Sikhs are allowed to carry it, whether in courthouses or schools, and in the public, despite the fact that non-Sikhs oppose giving special-weapons rights to certain groups. Jagraj—"Basics of Sikhi"—Singh attempted to justify it's use to non-Sikhs, but ended up indirectly insulting non-Sikhs and contradicting himself, whilst avoiding legitimate concerns.[n. 5]

Kirpan-related Deaths:— The last religious leader of the Sikhs, the militant[17][18][19] Gobind Singh, who introduced the kirpan as one of the "five kakars" that a Sikh must always carry,[20] was stabbed to death even though he always carried his kirpan.[21] Even during the partition of British India, kirpans were often a source of death for Sikhs, as they could be yanked from them very easily.[22] One of the most violent episodes involving the kirpan was during August 15th, 1947; where "...[d]uring the afternoon a Sikh mob paraded a number of Muslim women naked through the streets of Amritsar, raped them and hacked some of them to pieces with kirpans and burned the others alive".[23] In modern times, there have been numerous kirpan stabbings and murders recorded in the UK (where in 1994, a Sikh child was taken out of school for five months by his parents who refused to send him to school without the weapon; but the council eventually capitulated, leading the teachers union, that represented 140,000 members, outraged[24]),[25][26][27][n. 6] United States,[28] Canada (where an overwhelming 91% of Canadians support banning the knife from schools, when it currently isn't for Sikhs but is for non-Sikhs)[29]),[30][31] India (where several police officers were murdered in one instance alone[32]),[33][34][n. 7] and even at the Sikh holy site in Amritsar.[35] Sikh School-children have even been known to have used the kirpan to both threaten, stab and murder people.[36] In 2004 a Muslim high school student was stabbed in the neck by a group of Sikh teenagers for attending a Sikh festival in England.[37]

A women who was attacked with a Kirpan in Amritsar (2014).

The Use of the Kipran During the Indian Partition

Khushwant Singh noted the Sikh chanting of "death to Pakistan" triggered the May-June 1947 riots.[n. 8]

"Death to Pakistan!":— In May 1947, Sikh groups were increasingly arming themselves for an anti-Muslim genocide movement, where 125 kirpans were being given out a week, and mass conversions from Sikh over to the Nihang (militant[n. 9]) grew dramatically.[38] Khushwant Singh, an agnostic writer, known as a challenger of hypocrisy and a critic of the Indian establishment, was from a Sikh family himself, and was greatly influenced over the events of the partition massacres.[39] Of the Lahore riots, Singh pointed out that it was the Sikh leader, Master Tara Singh[n. 10] who "unsheathed his kirpan" and bellowed "death to Pakistan!",[40] a proclamation that was declared outside the Punjab Legislative Assembly, a Muslim county, which both frightened, panicked and angered Muslims across the city.[41] Singh wrote that it was like the "hurling" of "a lighted matchstick in a room full of inflammable gas", which ignited much of the violence across downtown.[41] By June 1947, "the Muslim goondas collapsed one hot afternoon", proceeded with "no sounds of gunfire or the yelling of slogans" with "only the black clouds of smoke billowing from the city"; the Sikhs and Hindus had finally been driven out.[41] Even before these events, many Sikh gangs had been ransacking trains full of civilians from Lahore to Rawalpindi. In one case two White English girls from the British army were attacked by three Sikhs, and by the end one of the girls was dead from multiple stab wounds, and the other was rescued by Muslims.[42]

Curiously, these Sikh groups had plotted to overtake the Punjab and enforce their religion on the Muslim majority or else kill and expel them in a pre-planned genocide. According to the "Sikh-Muslim Tarikh" (1958) by Abul Aman Amrirsari (issued by the "Idarah Saqafat-i Islamiyyah"; or the "Institute of Islamic Culture", a publishing house based in Lahore), the Sikhs had been planning it since 1940; at least 7 years before the partitioning of India.[7] Even in late 1945 (precisely December 1945) Master Tara Singh gave an interview to the Punjabi journal, the "Panj Dariya"; further declaring his anti-Muslim animus and giving support to the British invaders;[n. 11] "[w]hen in 1940, France was defeated by Germany, there was nervousness here; people thought that the British would be defeated. I also had this possibility before me...With this idea we used to discuss things amongst us. We organised the Jathas, and made arrangements by which Sikhs could gather quickly at some places. In our plans Lahore occupied a special place. We felt that there would not be much difficulty in taking possession of the city of Amritsar, and made arrangements so that Jathas of Sikhs could simultaneously attack Lahore from all four directions".[7] He even gathered both absconding murderers and rapists, sheltering them in Gurdwaras as "in case there was disorder in the country, these desperadoes may prove useful".[7] Ironically, Tara Singhs overtaking of the Punjab ended up in total failure; the Sikhs had been expelled, and with it, their dream of Khalistan.[n. 12]

Tara Singh made plans to instigate genocide on Punjabs Muslims in 1940.


Further Reading


  1. ^ The Sikhs make several contradictory opinions of Emperor Aurangzeb, one of which was that that he made promises on the Qu'ran and then broke them.
    1. Hardip Singh Syan (29 January 2013). Sikh Militancy in the Seventeenth Century: Religous Violence in Mughal and Early Modern India. I.B.Tauris. p. 220. ISBN 978-1-78076-250-0.
  2. ^
    Quote: "...The school board took the view that the presence of a kirpan, because it can be used as a weapon and is perceived by non-Sikhs as a weapon..."
    1. Ontario reports. 1991. p. 532.
    Quote: "...stabbing sword..."
    1. Deyssi Rodriguez-Torres (2010). Nairobi Today: The Paradox of a Fragmented City. African Books Collective. p. 233. ISBN 978-9987-08-093-9.
    Quote: "The mark of a Khalsa is one who holds a Kirpan in hand, by the wearing of which millions of sins are abolished" (According to the Sri Dasam Granth (Sikh holy book), Ang 42).
    1. Harjinder Singh; Akaal Publishers (2015). Sikh Code of Conduct. Akaal Publishers. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-9554587-4-3.
  3. ^ Quote: "...I saw that one of Uddam Singh's iron hands was holdlng on to the hair of a child, and the other was piercing the chest of the child with a blood drenched kirpan..."
    1. Ramesh Mathur; Mahendra Kulasrestha (1976). Writings on India's Partition. Simant Publications India. p. 170.
  4. ^
    • According to an excerpt from the following book;
    Quote: "Slaughter sometimes accompanied and sometimes prompted their movement; many others died from malnutrition and contagious diseases. Estimates of the dead vary from 200,000 (the contemporary British figure) to two million (a later Indian estimate) but that somewhere around a million people died is now widely accepted. As always there was widespread sexual savagery: about 75,000 women are thought to have been abducted and raped by men of religions different from their own (and indeed sometimes by men of their own religion)".
    1. Urvashi Butalia (January 2000). The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India. Duke University Press. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-8223-2494-2.
      1. Urvashi Butalia (2000). The Other Side of Silence Voices From the Partition of India. New York Times (Duke University Press). Retrieved March 31st, 2016. ISBN: 0-8223-2494-6.
  5. ^ Jagraj—Basics of Sikhi—Singh claimed a number of arguments, claims and interpretations on the kirpan when he answered questions from members of the public at Hyde Park, in the Speakers Corner. From "Jagraj—Basics of Sikhi—Singh (October 28th, 2015). You can't wear that knife! #5 Sikhs @ Speakers Corner Hyde Park London. Basics of Sikhi (Youtube Channel). Retrieved April 4th, 2016."
    1. [00:00—00.57] Singh claims that Sikhs are like police officers, rather than a religious organisation, and so should be allowed to carry the kirpan. He actually calls it a weapon, something which he later says is, definitely not a weapon, but sort of still is (see [13:45—14:10]).
    2. [00:57—01:53] He claims that Sikhs are "better than the police" because the police "get drunk", and do "all sorts of things". He also claims that as a modern example, another way Sikhs are better than the police is that at any Sikh temple people can get a free (vegetarian) meal.
      1. However, Sikhs only help approximately 6,000 people per year with free meals, and not the 1,000,000 as Singh claims.
        1. Nadeem Badshah (December 8th, 2013) Gurdwaras-turned-food banks: Sikh temples are catering for rise in Britain’s hungry. The Independent. Retrieved April 6th, 2016.
    3. [01:53—02:12] Singh uses the argument that a "a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun" - not being aware that a similar argument can be made for nuclear weapons; that "a good guy with a nuke, can stop a bad guy with a nuke".
    4. [02:12—02:29] Singh claims he showers with the kirpan and that it "never leaves his body, and that he "carries it" for the non-Sikh. This isn't actually the reason Sikhs carry the kirpan. They carry it only for themselves.
    5. [02:29—03:34] The pedestrian responds to his arguments that Singh keeps equating Sikhs with the army. The pedesterian repeatedely tries to point out that Sikhs are not an army but are a religious organization, but Singh ignores him.
    6. [03:34—04:12] Singh asks "how do make good people?" and talks about a cat being skinned. A pedestrian responds that violence is not the answer to which Singh responds "we don't believe in violence" which is blatentely falsee, as the kirpan is a symbol of violence, regardless of whether it is used for self-defense or offense.
    7. [04:12—04:30] Another pedestrian reinforces the points that regular Sikhs are not in the army, but Jagraj Singh again ignores this point.
    8. [04:30—05:30] Singh then asks the crowd why have the Sikhs been given the right to carry such a weapon in contrast to non-Sikhs? He answers himself by saying that Sikhs are a "trusted" group in contrast to non-Sikhs. He also says the government trusts Sikhs because "we are good people". His reasoning being that they give food and help people (however this is false, as Muslims are the highest contributors to charities when compared to all other religious groups - with atheists giving the least - and are therefore also good people).
      1. Muslims 'Give Most To Charity', Ahead Of Christians, Jews And Atheists, Poll Finds. July 21st, 2013. The Huffington Post (The Huffington Post UK). Retrieved April 6th, 2016.
      2. Ruth Gledhill (July 20th, 2013). Muslims ‘are Britain’s top charity givers’. The Times. Retrieved April 6th, 2016.
    9. [05:30—05:47] Singh then contradicts himself by saying he himself - a kirpan carrying Sikh - is "not a good person" (ironically this would mean that he shouldn't be allowed to carry the kirpan). He then addresses the crowd and accuses them of asking "silly" questions.
    10. [07:50—08:00] Singh argues that people can only judge a group based on their actions; that you can only judge "a tree by it's fruit" and over the "last 500 years" Sikhs have been "good people". This is plainly false. There have been terrible periods in Sikh history such as the massacre, rape and genocide of non-Sikhs by Sikhs and the unequal laws enacted by Sikh tyrants in the Punjab.
      1. For example if a Sikh murdered a Muslim, a fine of 16—20 rupees was to be charged on the Sikh, of which only 2 rupees (10%—12.5%) went to the family of the Muslim victim, and if Hindu four rupees (20%—25%) would be paid to the Hindu relatives, with the rest going to the Sikh state; in essence under Sikh laws Hindus were worth twice more than a Muslim). Also, under Sikh law, Punjabis (90% of whom were Muslim) were taxed 90% of their earnings (but even this was considered too little).
        1. Parmanand Parashar (1 January 2004). Kashmir The Paradise Of Asia. Sarup & Sons. pp. 6–7. ISBN 978-81-7625-518-9.
        2. Nyla Ali Khan (15 September 2010). Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-230-11352-7.
    11. [08:50—09:26] A non-Sikh mans an extremely good point that people who carry guns in the US do the same as Sikhs, keep weapons for self-defense "but look at it, it's a mess". Singh replies by going into a diatribe about what if "Russia attacked America". The non-Sikh pedesterian, for a third time emphasis that Sikhs are not an army, they are just civilians. Singh ignores the man, again. Another pedestrian says much the same, that "we're not talking about nations we're talking about civilians". Singh replies that he gave a "simple answer". What that answer was precisely was, is unknown.
    12. [09:26—10:04] Now, for a fifth time, a non-Sikh points out that Sikhs are not an army and are just civilians. Singh, probably not knowing what the word means, claims he's "not a civilian" because he's got a "discipline" (sometime in the video he also claimed he went to Oxford University). He ultimately avoids answering the question, and dodges it by taking another question.
    13. [11:35—12:22] A female non-Sikh asks what happens if a gangster claims to be a Sikh and carries the weapon. He claims that when the gangster turns into a Sikh, he cannot be a gangster anymore. This is another logical fallacy, since Sikh gangsters do exist, as do Sikh rapists, Sikh child groomers, Sikh murderers and so on.
    14. [12:20—12:53] After talking about how he could be arrested and charged for using the weapon, Singh talks about the fact that he would still use it even it were illegal. He also says he wears the kirpan because it's for the purpose of civilians calling Sikhs for help, because when civilians, he alludes, are in trouble the Sikhs are some kind of police force.
    15. [13:45—14:10] Another pedestrian points out a well known fact that Sikhs suffer from alcohol problems and alludes to the fact that it is dangerous for alcoholics to carry knives and other weapons. Singh then goes on to make the astonishing claim that "people who drink don't carry" the kirpan (however from previous, Sikhs always are mandated to carry the kirpan by their religion, even when they are in the shower). He now changes his mind by not calling it a weapon ("it's a symbol, it's a symbol, come on bro" see 14:05; and even claims that a bottle he is holding is "more of a weapon" than a dagger), but called it a weapon as much at the start of the video.
    16. [14:10—14:41] Singh lastly equates a pen with the dagger, saying as proof he could use that as a weapon, as it has been used "in movies". He then answers a question on the turban, and finally claims that Sikhs are special and are like "kings", both the men and the women.
  6. ^ Even though the assailant was cleared of the charges of assaulting another Sikh, the kirpan could have resulted in the death of either assailant or the accuser.
    1. Elderly Sikh cleared of kirpan attack in UK. March 13th, 2014. Hindustan Times. Retrieved March 29th, 2016.
  7. ^ Quote: "... and in holding that Narain Singh " had exceeded the right of self-defence " and by causing the death of Bachan Singh by stabbing him with a kirpan, had committed an offence punishable under section 304, Part II, Indian Penal Code..."
    1. 'Bihar Law Journal Reports. Volume 11, Issues 1-25. 1963. p. 296.
  8. ^
    • On February 28th, 1947, the Sikhs had even openly declared their intentions for an all out war with the Punjab's Muslim population. Master Tara Singh, when interviewed with the New York Times, stated;
    Quote: "I do not see how we can avoid civil war. There can be not settlement if the Muslims want to rule the Punjab. We cannot trust the Muslims under any circumstances. The Sikhs had the ability to keep the Muslims out of Eastern Punjab but why should we stop there(?) We shall drive them out of the Punjab entirely. The Sikhs have started to reorganize their own private volunteer army in response to the Muslim League month-old..."
    1. S.M. Ikram (1992). Indian Muslims and Partition of India. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 425. ISBN 978-81-7156-374-6.
    • This was despite the Sikhs being a small minority in the Punjab, and despite the fact that the the state of Punjab had been a Muslim-majority state for centuries before the Sikhs. These words would come to haunt Tara Singh when his threats became too much in May 1947 when ended up in the expulsion of the Sikhs from Lahore.
    1. Khushwant Singh (1 February 2003). Truth, Love and a Little Malice: An Autobiography. Penguin Books India. p. 111-112. ISBN 978-0-14-302957-1.
  9. ^ The original Nihangs, who were soldiers that existed in the 18th and 19th centuries, had, by the 20th century gone extinct. The 20th century Nihangs were said to have borne no resemblence to the original Nihangs. Within Sikhism and Sikh cultures, they are distinct group who are known for using their own semantics, way of dress and approach towards religion.
    1. Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (27 March 2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. OUP Oxford. pp. 379–. ISBN 978-0-19-100411-7.
    They turned towards militancy during the partition.
    1. Associate Professor History Ayesha Jalal; Ayesha Jalal (4 January 2002). Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam Since 1850. Routledge. p. 526. ISBN 978-1-134-59938-7.
  10. ^ He was actually a recent convert to Sikhism.
    1. Careers Digest. 1968. p. 50.
    Tara Singh became president of the Akali Dal, holding the position from 1930 to 1962.
    1. Norman Dunbar Palmer (1971). The Indian Political System. Houghton Mifflin. p. 236. ISBN 978-0-395-11926-6.
  11. ^ This loyalty to the British invaders is notable, as since the 1857 joint Hindu-Muslim rebellion against the British, the Sikhs have actively worked against the interests of their homeland. Had the rebellion been successful, approximately 100 more years of British rule would have been obliterated. The reason why the Sikhs turned traitor was down to a rumour spread by the British that the Muslims had wanted to create another empire, which the Sikhs refused to ever let happen. The ploy worked and ended up suppressing the rebellion. It had even longer lasting consequences for the Sikhs; their demands for their own homeland would never be honoured, either by the British or the Hindus.
    1. Radhey Shyam Chaurasia (1 January 2002). History of Modern India: 1707 A.D. to Upto 2000 A.D. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 203. ISBN 978-81-269-0085-5.
    Sikh historians prefer not to remember this episode of history, and victimizing themselves, further claiming that the Sikhs totally avoided participating in the rebellion.
    1. The Sikh Review. Volume 31. Issues 355-360. Sikh Cultural Centre. 1983. p. 4.
    However, the Sikhs special treatment is well documented in British history, they were often called a "martial race" (as were some Hindus and Muslims; a foreword, ironically, meaning nothing more than the British empire's canon-fodder for controlling their invaded territories) and, unlike non-Sikhs, were treated with even more favour after the rebellion for helping suppress it. They were given given high civil service positions and military ranks, not because they were good military men, but because they were loyal to the invaders and not their native homeland. Karen Armstrong, for instance, notes that the Sikhs were portrayed by the British in stereotypical ways, which caused tension with the non-Sikhs, being repeatedly portrayed as a "warlike" and "heroic" people; and by 1857, this had been cemented by the admission of the Sikhs into the British Imperial Army for their services towards the 1857 suppression.
    1. Karen Armstrong (25 September 2014). Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. Random House. p. 313. ISBN 978-1-4464-6771-8.
    2. Hugh J. M. Johnston (22 April 2014). The Voyage of the Komagata Maru: The Sikh Challenge to Canada's Colour Bar. UBC Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-7748-2549-8.
    3. Ziauddin Sardar (22 March 2012). Balti Britain: A Provocative Journey Through Asian Britain. Granta Publications. p. 205. ISBN 978-1-84708-684-6.
    Another reason for the Sikhs participating in the suppression of the rebellion may have been because the Sikhs regarded themselves as better than the Hindus in terms of being soldiers, whereas the Hindus regarded the Sikhs as barbarians.
    1. Douglas N. Anderson (31 March 1994). The British Troops in the Indian Mutiny 1857-59. Osprey Publishing. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-85532-369-8.
    In the end, the Muslims were blamed by the British for being the chief instigators of the rebellion, and this drives further proof of why the Sikhs decided against freeing India, deciding instead to prevent it and let the Hindus and Muslims die in the process.
    1. Karen Armstrong (25 September 2014). Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. Random House. p. 313-315. ISBN 978-1-4464-6771-8.
    Serving the enemy of their adopted countries has been a recurring tradition amongst the Sikhs in Asia, as something similar happened with the Sikhs in Malaysia, where they would brutally abuse the Chinese and Muslim populations, so much so that they would become the prime targets of guerilla forces.
    1. Boon Kheng Cheah (January 2003). Red Star Over Malaya: Resistance and Social Conflict During and After the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, 1941-1946. NUS Press. p. 49. ISBN 978-9971-69-274-2.
    For more information of the 1857 Revolt, consider the following supplements;
    1. Shamsul Islam (2008). Sikhs in 1857. Vani Prakashan. ISBN 978-81-8143-795-2.
  12. ^ Also by 1967 he'd even lead the breaking away of another two thirds of Indian Punjab, taking away even more of the so-called "Sikh" homeland. Tara Singh protested about the "Punjab Reorganisation Act" (1966) on September 23rd, 1966, claiming that the act was done in order to "enslave the Sikhs". As the representative of the Akali Dal, he lead protests against the act, despite it being of his own making (he had undergone a hunger strike in 1961, in order to campaign for the Punjabi Suba to be created but broke it without ever acomplishing the goal). It was not until 1966, did the Sikhs achieve the Punjabi Suba's creation, which by that time, Tara Singh had changed his mind. It was obviously too late as the Indian government had capitulated to the decades long demands of the Sikhs.
    1. J. C. Aggarwal; S. P. Agrawal (1992). Modern History of Punjab: A Look Back Into Ancient Peaceful Punjab Focusing Confrontation and Failures Leading to Present Punjab Problem, and a Peep Ahead: Relevant Select Documents. Concept Publishing Company. p. 88. ISBN 978-81-7022-431-0.
    2. J. C. Aggarwal; S. P. Agrawal (1992). Modern History of Punjab: A Look Back Into Ancient Peaceful Punjab Focusing Confrontation and Failures Leading to Present Punjab Problem, and a Peep Ahead: Relevant Select Documents. Concept Publishing Company. p. 72. ISBN 978-81-7022-431-0.
    As a result of the incompetent Tara Singh, Punjab was split into three separate states by 1966 (had this not been done, the Sikhs would still be a minority in the Eastern Punjab amongst the Hindu majority).
    1. John Elliott; Bernard Imhasly; Simon Denyer (2008). Foreign Correspondent: Fifty Years of Reporting South Asia. Penguin Books India. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-670-08204-9.


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