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SMI Lecture: Sikh Army Identity in World War 1

Pres first slide

Alternative Stories from the trenches Commemorations of Indian soldiers in World War 1

Concurrences in postcolonial research– perspectives, methodologies, engagements Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden, 20-23 August 2015

A panel of experts give their presentations related to the Indian soldiers contribution to the great war. This included one by SMI’s Gurinder Singh Mann who looked at how a British Sikh identity was created in the army.Mann undertook a history lesson on when the British and the Sikhs met. Including the Anglo Sikh wars leading to annexation. The recruiting policy was considered by considering the various tracts that were written to encourage Sikhs to enlist.

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Guru Granth Sahib taken into the Mesopotamia campaign. 

This new identity was also forged by considering the Sikh symbols of old but modifying them to fit in with the new structures. A comparison was made with the Akali Nihangs and how some of their symbols were taken and used as part of the attire for the Sikh soldier. The sikh scriptures were also considered and how the British looked at what they thought was important as a result the Guru Granth Sahib was taken into the many campaigns. This led to a discussion of miniature scriptures and why they may have been created for some regiments.

The martial races theory and the Downward filtration theories were discussed and how these influenced Sikh recruitment.

This lecture formed part of the SMI project: British Sikh Army: Recruitment after the Anglo-Sikh Wars.

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