Singh, G.B. 1954-
Singh, G.B. 1954-
Born September 5, 1954, in India. Education: Attended the University of Oklahoma. Religion: Sikhism.
U.S. Army, Medical Department, periodontist. Military service: Career military; colonel, U.S. Army Medical Department.
Gandhi: Behind the Mask of Divinity, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2004.
Born September 5, 1954, in India, G.B. Singh eventually moved to the United States where he attended the University of Oklahoma. Educated as a periodontist, Singh joined the United States Army Medical Department, launching his career in the military. He gradually rose through the ranks, attaining the position of colonel, unusual in that he is one of few Sikh-American's to ever achieve such a high rank within a branch of the United States armed forces. Sikh-Americans who wear turbans must receive special dispensation if they are to be allowed to hold higher military ranks, and none of them are allowed to be part of units that go into combat. Singh wears his turban proudly along with his military uniform, a trait that has caused considerable talk in this post-9/11 world. While performing his duties, Singh has been stationed all across the country, and has also been stationed in Korea twice. Beyond his work for the Army, Singh is also a student of Indian politics, studying that nation's political history and religion, particularly Hinduism, and the life and works of Gandhi. He credits his time in the Army with both increasing his desire to study and learn about various cultures and with giving him the opportunity to do so. He first learned of Hinduism as a young man growing up in India, but studying political science at the University of Oklahoma forced him to look at the religion and adjacent culture from a different perspective. His future study continued to broaden his mind regarding religion in general and the different facets of Hinduism and its practitioners in particular. This interest tied in with his curiosity regarding Gandhi, which developed fully after he saw the 1983 Academy Award-winning film on his life, but had originated in his youth in India when Gandhi was considered a national hero. Then in the mid-1980s, political strife in India against the Sikhs made Singh question the policies that Gandhi had set into motion. Singh set out to perform more in-depth research into Gandhi and his beliefs, and how those ideas affected Sikhs and Hindus. The result is his book, Gandhi: Behind the Mask of Divinity, which was published in 2004.
Singh's goal in writing Gandhi was to reveal the truth behind the endless stories of the man steeped in piety and who was such a proponent of peace. He researched Gandhi's life, looking back to his education, his time spent in other countries, and attempted to learn his true behavior during these periods. What he discovered was that much of what is commonly known about Gandhi is the product of a well-orchestrated plan designed to project a particular image. In reality, many of the stories told about Gandhi and his achievements were false, or at least highly exaggerated. Over the course of his research, Singh revealed a far more human side of Gandhi. In his book, he gives evidence that not all of Gandhi's beliefs would have meshed with the more commonly held theories of today's human interest groups. In an interview for the Sikh Spectrum Web site, Singh explained: "During my research of Gandhi, I recognized that there is a huge Gandhi propaganda machine and this machine has filled our libraries with Gandhi stories that we have come to accept them as true. Once I recognized that these ‘histories’ are essentially false, I began to look for authentic sources of information." Singh reports that there were indications that Gandhi was pro-apartheid, and that he was prejudiced against blacks. Regarding Sikhs in particular, Singh commented: "Gandhi … exercised a tremendous influence on the first-half of the 20th century Sikhs and in the process hijacked them. The Sikhs in the second half of the 20th century couldn't come to grips as to what hit them and still behave as if living in Gandhi's shadows."
Several reviewers found Singh's arguments to be interesting but overall unfounded. Much of the so-called evidence that he presents actually serves to reinforce the positive reputation Gandhi has enjoyed for decades as a humanist and activist on behalf of the rights of mankind. Thomas W. Clark, in a review for the Humanist, agreed that "the rhetorical uses of Gandhi's celebrity can obscure complex truths about the person and about his philosophy and its limitations. Being realists about Gandhi, we can build on that portion of his legacy that withstands debunking while retaining the mythic ideal of his boundless concern as a model to emulate in our pursuit of social justice." However, agreeing that Gandhi himself was a far more human figure than he is sometimes portrayed is not the same as agreeing that he was in actuality a racist who was merely out for his own political gain. Manfred B. Steger, in a review for the Historian, remarked: "This reviewer could not find hard evidence for the sinister manipulations of the ‘Hindu propaganda machine.’"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, February, 2005, R.J. Terchek, review of Gandhi: Behind the Mask of Divinity, p. 1077.
Historian, winter, 2005, Manfred B. Steger, review of Gandhi, p. 781.
Humanist, July 1, 2006, Thomas W. Clark, "Gandhi in Question," p. 45.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2004, review of Gandhi, p. 47.
Prometheus Books Web site,http://www.prometheusbooks.com/ (March 25, 2008), author profile.
Sikh Spectrum,http://www.sikhspectrum.com/ (March 25, 2008), Manbir Singh Chowdhary, "Interview with Colonel G.B. Singh."
Sikh Times Online,http://www.sikhtimes.com/ (September 1, 2002), G.B. Singh, "Will the Real Gandhi Please Stand Up?"