In This Review

The Sikhs
The Sikhs
By Patwant Singh
Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, 276 pp

Disturbed by rising anti-Sikh sentiment after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguard in 1984, Singh set out to enlighten readers about Sikhs by telling their history. The resulting book argues that Sikhism's opposition to caste divisions and defense of gender equality explain why both Hindus and Muslims have such intense hostility toward the brotherhood. At its outset in the fifteenth century, Sikhism was more compassionate and humane than other religions of the day. Nevertheless, the perpetual need to defend its adherents against foes on all sides turned the Sikhs into a martial community with a warrior culture. Singh also recounts the rise of the Sikh empire in the Punjab in the early nineteenth century and the two subsequent wars against the British. His final plea is for the rest of India to appreciate the Sikhs and welcome their outstanding qualities in the building of a stronger India.