Chandigarh: Noted writer and journalist Khushwant Singh said the Sikh leadership should discuss and ponder over the fact that many of them had discarded symbols of Sikh identity such as turban, long hair and beard.
His address was read out by his son Rahul Singh at the seminar, “Khushwant Singh: The Writer, Historian and Jour nalist,” organised by Panjab University (PU) department of English and cultural studies in recognition of the living legend, who turned 99 on February 2.
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.
Khushwant 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.
“Cellphones, 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 the university 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 champi oned 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 incidents of his run-ins with top leaders and various organisations.