The way Indian press and political parties have reacted to the excommunication of Surjit Singh Barnala by the Five High Priests sums up the character and complexion of a polity that is rooted in rabid fundamentalism. It establishes, beyond doubt that India is essentially a theocratic state donning a deceptive garb of secularism. It is a country where members of the majority community, irrespective of their political persuasions, wear on the sleeve their inherent intolerance of other religions and specialize in branding even the most democratic protest of a minority as a malicious fanning of communal fires. Simple facts are distorted and misrepresented, ominous construction is given to frank and straight forward talk and foreign hand is suspected in each and every act of the minorities.

A careful study of what the Five High Priests have actually done and what it is being made out to be, will demonstrate the extent of wickedness to which the majority community habitually stoops. The High Priests simply made an honest attempt to bring the various Akali factions under one banner. They merely tried to complete the process, the idea of which was originally mooted by Barnala himself who had tried unsuccessfully to accomplish it through the former Chief of the Akal Takht, Jathedar Kirpal Singh. Even though Jathedar Darshan Singh Khalsa repeatedly made it clear that the move was not directed to dislodge Barnala from Chief Minister Ship, the press and the political parties continue croaking like the monsoon frogs and crying wolf where there is none. How can Barnala’s resignation as party chief affect his position as Chief Minister? To remain Chief Minister, he needs the support of M.L.A.s and not the office of party President ship. In fact unity in the party would have ensured greater support to Barnala within the legislature Party

The truth is that unity in Akali ranks upsets the game of divide and rule. Unity at the party level could mean unity in the legislature and unity in the legislature would have rescued Barnala from his ignominious dependence upon the Congress (I) and put an end to his exploitation by the Central government. Such a development is highly unpalatable to Delhi and to the cacophonous communal herd called Indian media. Men like Sarvarkar and Giri Lal Jain are fanatics to the core and they make no bones about it. Howsoever perverted their views may be, they are at least honest in expressing what they believe in. But those who pretend and pose otherwise are no different. They all begin to speak the same language whenever a minority raises the issue ‘of its rights or objects to discrimination.

Reacting angrily to Jathedar Darshan Singh’s unity. efforts, even the so called independent India Today cannot refrain from twisting and distorting truth to project the Jathedar as a diabolic creation of antinational forces. The appointment of the Jathedar as Acting Akal Takht Chief by a duly elected body of the Sikhs and in accordance with the procedures laid down in the S.G.P.C. Bylaws is mischievously described as appointment by “gun toting extremists preaching secession”. The editor wants the world to forget that the Jathedar’s appointment has the same sanctity and legal validity as the appointment of India’s Chief Justice by the President. If an elected body like S.G.P.C. appears nothing more than a band of “gun toting extremists”, how can, then, Sikhs hope to breathe the air of freedom in India?

The danger to India’s unity and integrity does not lie in the excommunication of timeservers like Barnala or in the boycott call of Syed Shahabuddin but in the majority community’s inherent intolerance of other religions. Centuries of caste consciousness has so shaped Hindu psyche as to render it unfit for a secular outlook. Secularism is as alien to Hinduism as God is to communism and to cover up this congenital flaw, Hindu leaders, writers and journalists shift the blame on to the minority for breeding communalism.

The fault is not with the Jathedar or with Shahabuddin. Their actions flow as a logical corollary to nearly forty years of unmitigated injustice, discrimination and oppression. Operation Bluestar or massacre of innocent Sikhs in Nov. 84, or the forcible conversion of Babri Mosque have only served to lay bare the festering wound and pinpoint the deep-seated malady. The remedy does not lie in empty sermonizing or in furtive alibis but in recognizing and respecting the rights and religious identity of the minorities. Majority community will have to reconcile with the conceptual inseparableness of politics and religion in Sikh ethos if, at all, it is serious in being fair to the Sikhs. Hindu brand of secularism, that has its premises in the mythical supremacy of Hindus, is basically incompatible with Sikh “or: for that matter Muslim: or Christian ethos. Majority community must realize that though numbers are important in a democracy but numbers cannot be allowed to practice and perpetuate religious imperialism. The idea of a theocratic substrate germinates only in a larger theocratic environment and not in a truly secular and democratic climate. Wisdom lies in recognizing this reality.

Article extracted from this publication >>  March 20, 1987