Dr. Awatar Singh Sekhon
Mankind will always be proud of its institutions and heritage. The world’s major faiths, such as the Christianity, Islam and Jewish take great pride in their religious centers in the Vatican, Mecca and Jerusalem, respectively. Likewise, the Sikhs living throughout the world are proud of their religious, political, social and cultural (all these are integral and inseparable part of the Sikh way of life) centers, namely the Darbar Sahib (the Golden Temple complex), Sri Akal Takht Sahib (the seat of polity), Sri Guru Granth Sahib (the Holy scripture the light of inspiration to lead honest life), the Houses of worship (gurdwaras and their free community kitchens or the Langar, which feed thousands of Hungary mouths and provide shelters to needy people regardless of race, religion, creed, sex, etc.). All these institutions are operated by the offerings of poor, middle and high earnings people alike. These institutions provide an enormous source of strength and induct a new life in the Sikh community at large, and also serve as a source of spiritual and sociopolitical guidance to the community. The gurdwaras or Houses of God have been known as the Hub of social and political lives of the Sikhs (Gill P.S. 1975. Sikh Heritage, p. 240. New Academic Publishing Co., Jalandhar Punjab).
Because of their sociopolitical roles, the Sikh centers of worship have been the target of desecration ever since the Mughal period in Punjab, during British rule in India, and more recently in the present time of the Russian backed regime of the Republic of India (1947to date). In the Mughal period, the agents of the empire briefly converted the Golden Temple into a place of entertainment, but the Sikhs liberated their central place of worship and restored its Status as holiest of the holy shrines of their faith. The rulers of the British Indian Empire soon realized their mistake of supporting Mahants and restored Gurdwaras back to the Sikhs with respect. Commenting and congratulating on the liberation of the Sikhs’ Houses of God, the so called father of the Republic of India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic in 1948, said that ‘this liberation of gurdwaras by the Sikhs from British authorities denotes that the preliminary freedom of India has been won (Gurmat Prakash 1988, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Amritsar). Most recent events of 1980’s, June 1984 and later related to the Blue star and Black thunder Operations, in which the Indian government deployed heavy artillery, armoured, infantry divisions air and paramilitary forces, heavy transport planes and helicopters equipped with most sophisticated Russian hardware, paramilitary units, law enforcement agencies, provincial or state police, intelligence agencies including the Research and Analysis Wing (accountable to the Prime Minister only), aided by Russian advisors and Russian trained military and civil staff, waged an open war, suspending all means of communication and transport, on Sri Akal Takht Sahib, the Golden Temple complex and 38 other gurdwaras (Houses of God) in Punjab.
All these operations took a toll of more than 80,000 innocent children, youths and adults alike (The Tribune, 4th May, 1988. Punjab a Live issue in Congress; Dharam S.S. 1986, Internal and External Threats to Sikhism. Gurmat Publishers, Arlington Heights, III), in the name of flushing out a handful of alleged anti-nationals. Following the Blue star Operation in June 1984; the Indian Army deliberately burned 2,500 copies of the Holy Granth Sahib, the Sikh Reference Library, and the Sikh Museum of History, Guru Ramdas Langar (free community kitchen) Hall and its supplies, raped women and killed youths at point blank range.
Post 1984 events witnessed that the forces of the Republic of India did not spare other minority communities, e.g., Christians, Muslims, Schedule castes, etc., from persecution and rampage. This needs no elaboration as almost every segment of the Canadian and international news media carried this news.
So what is the Government of (Hindu) India up to? Analysis of the political situation of India reveals that the repeated attacks on the sacred Sikh institutions, whether religious, educational, cultural or sociopolitical, point out to one direction only; that the highly visible minority of the Sikhs have no place in the Indian (Hindu) republic. The ulterior motives of the Russian backed regime of India indicate further that the present administration is out to destroy Sikh institutions with the ultimate aim of destroying the Sikhs’ precious heritage, This situation is no way different than what the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, had put before the bigots of high class Indians, the Kashmiri Brahmins, a message that either embrace Islam or else be prepared for persecution and execution, Furthermore, this situation is in accordance with an earlier analysis that “kill the language, kill the culture and kill the literature”, and ultimately one succeeds in destroying a community (Gill 1975). It seems Gill’s prophecy is proving right day by day.
Whether the Hindu regime of India succeeds in its motives of eradicating the Sikhs from Punjab, it remains to be seen. In the meantime, it all depends how (i) the leadership of Sikhs takes lesson from the history and past mistakes of mid 1940s and later, (ii) whether those who call themselves politicians, like late S. Gurmukh Singh Musafir, historians and moderates (a term coined by the Government of India to divide the Sikhs as much as possible), like Mr. Khushwant Singh and Mr. Jagjit Singh Arora (a retired’ army. general who supported the Black thunder operation of May 1988), understand the magnitude of the problem in depth and (iii) what tum global politics take as all human beings are interdependent.
Without institutions, especially the sacred ones, no community can advance and survive and the Sikhs are no exception to this rule.