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This paper analyzes the ways Sikh constructions of sacrifice were created and employed to engender social change in the early twentieth century. Through an examination of letters written by Sikh soldiers serving in the British Indian Army during World War I and contemporary documents from within their global religious, legislative, and economic context, I argue that Sikhs mobilized conceptions of self-sacrifice in two distinct directions, both aiming at procuring greater political recognition and representation. Sikhs living outside the Indian subcontinent encouraged their fellows to rise up and throw off their colonial oppressors by recalling mythic moments of the past and highlighting the plight of colonial subjects of the British Raj. Receiving less discussion are Punjabi Sikhs who fought in British forces during the Great War and who spoke of their potential sacrifice as divinely sanctioned in service to a benevolent state. Both sides utilized religious symbolism in the hope that Sikhs would again enjoy a level of self-rule that had been lost with the arrival of the British Empire.


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Soboslai, John. "Sikh self-sacrifice and religious representation during World War I." Religions 9, no. 2 (2018): 55.