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Bhagat Singh Thind

bhagat singh thind, bhagat singh thind case
Bhagat Singh Thind October 3, 1892 – September 15, 1967 was an Indian-American Sikh writer, scientist, and lecturer on spirituality who was involved in an important legal battle over the rights of Indians to obtain US citizenship

Thind had enlisted in the US 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 Indian-Americans born abroad citizenship for not being a white person "in accordance with the understanding of the common man"1

However, Thind remained in the US, 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 Then, in 1936, Thind applied for and received US citizenship through the state of New York


  • 1 Background
  • 2 Becomes US citizen for the second time
  • 3 Case sent to higher court
  • 4 Thind's citizenship revoked again
  • 5 Third attempt
  • 6 Thind's contributions
  • 7 Death
  • 8 Writings
    • 81 Posthumously released
  • 9 See also
  • 10 References
  • 11 External links


Born on October 3, 1892, in the village of Taragarh Talawa of Amritsar district in the state of Punjab, India which now officially called Taragarh2 listed as number 68 in this record He belonged to Thind clan of Kamboj sikh3 Present day Thind family of India standing at Village Taragarh/Talawan in District Amritsar, where Dr Thind was born as shown in website by his son4 Bhagat Singh Thind came to the US 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"5

US citizenship conferred many rights and privileges but only "free white men" and "persons of African nativity or persons of African descent" could naturalize6 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, Kashmir and various other parts of the Indian subcontinent are also categorised as 'Caucasians' by anthropologists Thus, several Indians were granted US citizenship in different states Thind also applied for citizenship from the state of Washington in July 1918citation needed

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 faithcitation needed

Becomes US citizen for the second timeedit

Bhagat Singh Thind with his battalion at Camp Lewis, Washington on November 18, 1918

He received his citizenship certificate on December 9, 1918, wearing military uniform as he was still serving in the US army However, the Immigration and Naturalization Service did not agree with the district court granting the citizenship Thind's citizenship was revoked in four days, on December 13, 1918, on the grounds that he was not a "free white man"

Thind applied for citizenship again from the neighboring state, Oregon, on May 6, 1919 The same Immigration and Naturalization Service official who got Thind’s citizenship revoked first time, tried to convince the judge to refuse citizenship to Thind He even brought up the issue of Thind's involvement in the Gadar Party, members of which campaigned actively for the independence of India from the British Empire7 Judge Wolverton, believing Thind, observed that "He Thind stoutly denies that he was in any way connected with the alleged propaganda of the Gadar Press to violate the neutrality laws of this country, or that he was in sympathy with such a course He frankly admits, nevertheless, that he is an advocate of the principle of India for the Indians, and would like to see India rid of British rule, but not that he favors an armed revolution for the accomplishment of this purpose"citation needed The judge took all arguments and Thind’s military record into consideration and declined to agree with the INS Thus, Thind received US citizenship for the second time on November 18, 1920

Case sent to higher courtedit

The Immigration and Naturalization Service appealed against the judge’s decision to the next higher court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which sent the case to the US Supreme Court for ruling on the following two questions:

  1. "Is a high caste Hindu of full Indian blood, born at Amritsar, Punjab, India, a white person within the meaning of section 2169, Revised Statutes"
  2. "Does the act of February 5, 1917 39 Stat L 875, section 3 disqualify from naturalization as citizens those Hindus, now barred by that act, who had lawfully entered the United States prior to the passage of said act"

Section 2169, Revised Statutes, provides that the provisions of the Naturalization Act "shall apply to aliens, being free white persons, and to aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent"

In preparing briefs for the Ninth Circuit Court, Thind's attorney argued that the Immigration Act of 1917 barred new immigrants from India but did not deny citizenship to Indians who, like Thind, were legally admitted before the passage of the new law The purpose of the Immigration Act was "prospective, and not retroactive"

Thind's citizenship revoked againedit

Justice George Sutherland of the United States Supreme Court delivered the unanimous opinion of the court on February 19, 1923, in which he argued that since the "common man's" definition of "white" did not correspond to "Caucasian", which Indians were, they could not be naturalized Thus the Judge, giving his verdict, said, "a negative answer must be given to the first question, which disposes of the case and renders an answer to the second question unnecessary, and it will be so certified"8

Thind's citizenship was revoked and the INS issued a certificate in 1926 canceling his citizenship for a second time The Immigration and Naturalization Bureau also initiated proceedings to rescind United States citizenship granted to Indian-Americans Between 1923 and 1926, the citizenship of fifty Indians was revoked The Barred Zone Act of 1917 had already outlawed immigration of Indianscitation needed

Third attemptedit

Thind received his US 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 US 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

Emerson had read Hindu religious and philosophy books including the Bhagavad Gita, and his writings reflected the influence of Indian philosophy In 1836, Emerson expressed "mystical unity of nature" in his essay, "Nature" In 1868, Walt Whitman wrote the poem "Passage to India" Henry David Thoreau had considerable acquaintance with Indian philosophical works He wrote an essay on "Resistance to Civil Government, or Civil Disobedience" in 1849 advocating non-violent resistance against unethical government laws Many years later, in 1906, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi adopted a similar methodology: satyagraha, or non-violent protest, to defy the law to gain Indian rights in South Africa Gandhi quoted Thoreau many times in his newspaper, Indian Opinion

Thind's contributionsedit

Major Contributions of Dr Bhagat Singh Thind :

  • Fought for US citizenship, see United States v Bhagat Singh Thind
  • First turbaned soldier in US Army, see Military history of Sikh Americans
  • Indian Independence Activist in the Ghadar Movement; General Secretary of Ghadar Party from 1916-19179
  • Sikh spiritual writer and philosopher

Thind, during his early life, was influenced by the spiritual teachings of his father whose "living example left an indelible blueprint in him" During his formative years in India, he read the literary writings of American authors Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau and they too had deeply impressed him After graduating from Khalsa College, he left for Manila, where he stayed for a year He resumed his journey and reached Seattle, Washington, on July 4, 1913

Thind had gained some understanding of the American mind by interacting with students and teachers at the university and with common people by working in lumber mills of Oregon and Washington during summer vacations to support himself while at UC Berkeley Thus, his teaching included the philosophy of many religions and in particular that contained in Sikh scriptures During his lectures, discourses and classes to Christian audience, he frequently quoted the Vedas, Guru Nanak, Kabir, etc He also made references to the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau to which his American audience could easily relate to He gave a new "vista of awareness" to his students throughout the United States and was able to initiate "thousands of disciples" into his expanded view of reality – "the Inner Life, and the discovery of the power of the Holy Nãm"

Thind, who had earned a PhD, became a writer and was respected as a spiritual guide He published many pamphlets and books The list of his books includes Radiant Road to Reality, Science of Union with God, The Pearl of Greatest Price, House of Happiness, Jesus, The Christ: In the Light of Spiritual Science Vol I, II, III, The Enlightened Life, Tested Universal Science of Individual Meditation in Sikh Religion, Divine Wisdom in three volumes10


Thind was working on some books when he died on September 15, 1967 He was outlived by his wife, Vivian, who he had married in March 1940 and his daughter Tara and his son David His son created a website11 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


  • Radiant Road to Reality
  • Science of Union with God
  • The Pearl of Greatest Price
  • House of Happiness
  • Jesus, The Christ: In the Light of Spiritual Science Vol I, II, III
  • The Enlightened Life
  • Tested Universal Science of Individual Meditation in Sikh Religion
  • Divine Wisdom Vol I, II, III

Posthumously releasededit

  • Troubled Mind in a Torturing World and their Conquest
  • Winners and Whiners in this Whirling World

See alsoedit

  • Biography portal
  • Military history of Sikh Americans


  1. ^ "United States v Bhagat Singh Thind, 261 US 204 1923" Justia 
  2. ^ http://pbplanninggovin/districts/Jandialapdf
  3. ^ http://wwwbhagatsinghthindcom/thind_family_indiaphp
  4. ^ http://wwwbhagatsinghthindcom/popup_familyindia24html
  5. ^ Rashmi Sharma Singh: Petition for citizenship filed on September 27, 1935, State of New York
  6. ^ The Multiracial Activist – wwwmultiracialcom – Perez v Sharp 32 Cal 2d 711, 198 P 2d 17
  7. ^ Coulson, Doug 2015 "British Imperialism, the Indian Independence Movement, and the Racial Eligibility Provisions of the Naturalization Act: United States v Thind Revisited" Georgetown Journal of Law & Modern Critical Race Perspectives 7: 1–42 SSRN 2610266   |access-date= requires |url= help
  8. ^ "COURT RULES HINDU NOT A 'WHITE PERSON'; Bars High Caste Native of India From Naturalization as an American Citizen" The New York Times 20 February 1923 
  9. ^ http://wwwbhagatsinghthindcom/gadarhtml
  10. ^ Dr Bhagat Singh Thind website
  11. ^ Dr Bhagat Singh Thind|Science of the Saviours

External linksedit

  • Bhagat Singh Thind materials in the South Asian American Digital Archive SAADA
  • https://wwwpbsorg/rootsinthesand/i_bhagat1html
  • http://wwwbhagatsinghthindcom/lifeofdrthindhtml
  • http://wwwgoldentempleamritsarorg/

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