What course of action is open to the public when the rulers of the land make it a habit of disregarding their constitutional obligations, particularly in respect of eradicating social evils? It is a question that needs no debate. Undoubtedly, direct action is the only logical course that the public can legitimately adopt in such a situation. But the direct action against the use of liquor and tobacco in Punjab by the Sikh organizations has been criticized by some so-called social reformers on the ground that using force to get the liquor and tobacco shops closed is not right. They say, people should be persuaded to voluntarily give up these evils through moral pressure.

It is a strange logic which tantamount to saying that force should not be used against drug traffickers and smugglers, instead they should be persuaded to give up their lucrative business. To have a debate on whether drinking is an evil or not is understandable. But once it is recognized that drinking is an evil and is also harmful both for the health of the individual as well as the society, it has to be combated on a war footing. Directive principles of the Indian constitution acknowledge it as an evil and stipulate total prohibition. In gross violation of the directive principles, the Congress rulers have been promoting drinking by opening liquor vends in almost every village

Sikh religion does not permit drinking or smoking. Both are injurious to health. But when Sikhs demand that these evils should be banned, they are blamed for foisting their religious beliefs on others. Curiously, no protests were made when cow slaughter was banned through an act of Parliament simply because cow is sacred to the Hindus. Eating beef is neither evil nor injurious to health, yet it is banned and 100 million Muslims and fifteen million Christians are denied the use of their favorite food. Whereas foisting of Hindu religious beliefs on non-Hindus is acceptable and is applauded as a secular action, fighting universally recognized evils is condemned as a fundamentalist transgression of others’ rights. It is a typical logic of those who indulge in State terrorism but brand their victims as “terrorists”.

Sikhism believes in eradicating social evils and, if necessary, with force also. However, it does not sanction interference in the beliefs and values of others. Singh Sahib Darshan Singh has rightly endorsed the campaign against liquor, tobacco, dowry and pornographic folk singers. But as a custodian of the Sikh code of conduct, he cannot allow violation of Sikh principles. The Sikh organizations engaged in the task of eradicating social evils must follow Sikh discipline and must scrupulously avoid treading on paths that cut diagonally across the teachings of the Sikh Gurus.

The focus of the campaign must remain confined to social evils. Stretching it to meat shops, barber shops, or wearing of jeans etc. will ‘amount to trespass into territories that belong to others. There is no justification in forcing Muslims, Christians or Hindus not to eat meat or not to cut hair. It is something patently wrong. No true Sikh can approve, much less, indulge in such an un Sikh behavior. Sikh religion was born to challenge these Aurangzebian aberrations and not to practice them.

Article extracted from this publication >>  May 1, 1987