The impressive Vaisakhi parade at New York on Saturday last added a new dimension to the multicultural mosaic that forms an essential feature of the politic financial nerve center of the World. It brought into focus the fast emerging global character of the Sikh nation. The parade reflected the new resurgence that the Sikhs all over the world are beginning to experience. The Machiavellian attack on their holiest shrine, the Golden Temple has jolted them out of a complacent slumber and the resulting shock and anger have made them fiercely jealous of their distinct identity. Yesterday’s diffidence about their unusual religious symbols has been replaced by a deep sense of pride in them. The Sikh star is on the ascent and nothing can prevent it from becoming the cynosure of the entire world.

Nearly 10,000 Sikh men, women and children braved a heavy downpour and chilly winds while marching through the streets of Manhattan. Besides New York and New dersey states, they had come to participate in the parade from California, Toronto (Ontario), and Chicago, Washington, D.C., Boston and other cities of America. Dressed in their Sunday best, they presented a picture of discipline and perseverance. The beautiful replica of the Golden Temple registered well with the American onlookers as it made them realize the unassailable sway that it holds over the hearts of the Sikhs.

The parade served as a powerful rebuttal of the vicious Propaganda blitz that the Indian government has been carrying on to discredit the Sikhs at the international level. To the utter chagrin of the rulers in Delhi, it also demonstrated beyond doubt that Sikhs are capable of putting up a united front when the warrants. There is nothing more disturbing for them than the prospect of unity in the Sikh ranks and there is nothing that they would not do to sabotage the efforts to bring together various Sikh political segments.

The parade will surely prove useful in many other ways also. It would help Sikhs to come out of their narrow shells and play a meaningful role in the sociopolitical spheres of America over and above their significant contribution in the economic field. Till recently, the Sikhs in the Western hemisphere had primarily confined themselves to the materialistic pursuit of “getting and spending” money even though the general ignorance about their distinctive religious symbols among the Americans was a big handicap for them in securing work. The exposure of the Sikh way of life through such parades will go a long way in melting away irrational prejudices and accelerate the process of their social integration with the people of their adopted countries. The time is not far when the Sikhs will be as common a sight in the State and Federal legislatures and in the top echelons of the judiciary, administration and Armed Forces of America and Canada as they were in India before the communal fever overtook its dynastic rulers.

The sponsors of the parade have already decided to make it an annual feature. Already impressive parades are annually held at Yuba City (California), Vancouver (British Columbia) and Toronto (Ontario). Some city corporations and state legislatures in America have recognized Vaisakhi as the Sikh national day. It is hoped that governments in America and Canada would respect the Sikh sentiments by declaring Vaisakhi as a restricted, if not a national, holiday.

Article extracted from this publication >> April 29, 1988