She Has Studied Sikhs for a Very Long Time

An inspirational interview with Dr Mahmood who has contributed so much to the study of the injustice that has been and c...


MUST WATCH - Interview with Sikh Anthropologist, Cynthia Mahmood

Published on Oct 2, 2015

An inspirational interview with Dr Mahmood who has contributed so much to the study of the injustice that has been and continues to be done to Sikhs across the world.

Link to purchase Fighting for Faith and Nation

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"I had been in India during 1983-84 and I saw what was happening to the Sikhs so I was very interested at this opportunity (to study the Sikhs). I began interviewing Sikhs, at first I talked with those who came as refugees to America, to Canada, to the United Kingdom and I collected all their stories of their suffering and slowly I began collecting stories of resistance. I realized if I were to write a book about the Sikhs, it would have to both about resistance and of suffering. That's how my book 'Fighting For Faith And Nation' came to be written. 

What keeps me going on this (studying Sikhs for so many years)? Though that book is long past, I've written some other books.  I've written a little book about Sikh women, it's called 'The Guru's Gift' because I think gender equality is one of the gifts of Wahiguru. I have two other books which are collections of speeches and articles on human rights and on conflicts in India. One of them is called 'A Sea Of Orange' and one is called 'One More Voice'. So I have really four books and dozens of academic articles on this topic.

What keeps me going? I can't stand to see the persecution that is meted out to India's minorities. Not only the Sikhs, the Kashmiris, the Tribals, the Christians, so I can't stop doing this work because every time I meet Sikhs I hear more stories about this and something in me, I suppose it's my own family background maybe,  I can't leave it alone. I can't turn my back on it so I continue to work on this.

I think in the future I want to write more about Hindu nationalism and the Indian state and the frailties of Indian democracy.

(Cynthia was then asked if she had any experience with state violence.)

I'm sorry to say that, yes, I have had. I occurred when I was working on the rights of Tribals and I started speaking in India about the situation in the Punjab. I had been receiving warnings and threats that this was not a topic that should be pursued but I did pursue it. Perhaps ill-advisedly I did. One day I was walking back to the research institute, where I was studying, in the early evening, and a gang approached me and threw me down onto the ground and I was gang raped by six men. My legs were broken and I was knifed all over my body. It later turned out, we believe, that it was a gang of rogue police. They were not just thugs, they didn't just want my money or my passport. They spat on my money and my passport so I knew it was something political. They were insulting me in Punjabi the whole time and through the grace of God I escaped from that situation.

That left me even more determined. After I recovered from my wounds, I was even more determined. If this could happen to me, an international scholar with all the resources, what is some peasant girl from Punjab supposed to do in the face of the police and other abusive authorities? I don't always tell this story but I wanted to share it with you because it keeps me inspired all the time." 


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