Bhagat Singh Thind : biography
Bhagat Singh Thind (October 3, 1892 – September 15, 1967) was an Indian-American Sikh writer and lecturer on spirituality who was involved in an important legal battle over the rights of Indians to obtain U.S. citizenship.
Thind had enlisted in the U.S. Army a few months before the end of World War I. After the war he sought the right to become a naturalized citizen, following a legal ruling that Caucasians had access to such rights. In 1923, a crucial Supreme Court case United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind was decided in favor of the United States, retroactively denying all Indians citizenship for not being Caucasian in "the common man’s understanding of the term".
However, Thind remained in the U.S., completed his PhD, and delivered lectures in metaphysics. Basing his lessons on Sikh religious philosophy, he added to his teaching with references to the scriptures of several religions and the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau. He campaigned actively for the independence of India from the British Empire. Thind applied for and received U.S. citizenship through the state of New York within a few years of being turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Thind was working on some books when he died on September 15, 1967. He was survived by his wife, Vivian, whom he had married in March 1940, his daughter, Tara, and his son, David. His son established a website to propagate the philosophy for which his father spent his entire life in the US. He also posthumously published two of his father’s books, Troubled Mind in a Torturing World and their Conquest and Winners and Whiners in this Whirling World.
Thind’s citizenship was rescinded four days after it was granted. Eleven months later, he received his citizenship for the second time. However, the Immigration and Naturalization Service appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which sent Thind’s case to the Supreme Court for ruling. Thind fought his case in the Supreme Court but the court revoked his citizenship. Indians in the United States and Canada were commonly called "Hindoos" ("Hindus") irrespective of their faith. Thind’s nationality was also referred to as "Hindoo" or "Hindu" in all legal documents and the media although he was a Sikh by faith.
Born on October 3, 1892, in the village of Taragarh in the state of Punjab, India, Bhagat Singh Thind came to the U.S. in 1913 to pursue higher education in an American university. However, on July 22, 1918, he was recruited by the US Army to fight in World War I. A few months later, on November 8, 1918, Bhagat Singh, was promoted to the rank of an Acting Sergeant. He received an honorable discharge on December 16, 1918, with his character designated as "excellent".Rashmi Sharma Singh: Petition for citizenship filed on September 27, 1935, State of New York.
The U.S. citizenship conferred many rights and privileges but only "free white men" were eligible to apply. In the United States, many anthropologists used Caucasian as a general term for "white". Indian nationals of the high caste, especially from the Indian states of Punjab and Kashmir were labelled as Caucasoid by some. Thus, several Indians were granted U.S. citizenship in different states. Thind also applied for citizenship from the state of Washington in July 1918.
In 1935, the 74th congress passed a law allowing citizenship to U.S. veterans of World War I, even those from the barred zones. Thind received his U.S. citizenship through the state of New York in 1936, taking the oath for the third time to become an American citizen.
Thind had come to the U.S. for higher education and to "fulfill his destiny as a spiritual teacher." Long before his arrival in the US or of any other religious teacher or yogi from India, American intellectuals had shown keen interest in Indian religious philosophy. Hindu sacred books translated by the English missionaries had made their way to America and were the “favorite text” of many members of the Transcendentalists’ society which was started by some American thinkers and intellectuals who were dissatisfied with the Unitarian Church. The society flourished during the period of 1836–1860 in the Boston area and had some prominent and influential members including author and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), poet Walt Whitman (1819–1892), and writer Henry David Thoreau (1817–62).