TODAY, the talk of self-determination for the Sikhs no longer sounds discordant or irrelevant rather it seems to flow as a perfectly natural consequence of their forced alienation from the Indian mainstream. Ever since India gained independence they have been systematically pushed to a point where they see no alternative but to opt for a destiny outside Hindu domination even though they have had such close affinity with the Hindus. Something must have gone seriously wrong to make Sikhs believe that they could no longer share their aspirations with the Hindus. They have finally realized through such bitter experiences as the Operation Bluestar and November 1984 anti-Sikh riots that Hindu imperialism has become the accepted scheme of the so called Indian democracy. In fact they find no distinction between the Hindu rulers and the colonial imperialists. The entire Hindu order stands condemned in their eyes. They find Hindus incapable of appreciating the value and dignity of man as man and they consider Hindu fundamentalism as the chief cause of all the political deadlocks that face one in India. Brahmanism divided the Indian people into hundreds of untouchable groups, and Delhi tulers are now preparing the stage for bodily splitting the country. Nothing but complete extirpation of this wicked psychology can arrest the growing rot.

Before examining the more recent developments that have forced the Sikhs think in terms of breaking all ties with the people and the country that they loved so much and for which they made unpatrolled sacrifices, it would be worthwhile to briefly mention the Sikh ideology. Maybe the root of the problem lies in the conceptual contradictions between the two faiths. Sikh Gurus created an egalitarian society (Sikh Panth) outside the caste structure and made it a springboard for giving shape to a revolutionary movement. It was the only people’s movement of Indian origin which strove to control political power for humanistic ends and objectives.

Contrary to the old beliefs that the World was unreal or a place of suffering or that life was a bondage from which release had to be obtained through cutting oneself off from the world of activity by resorting to meditational or ascetic practices, the Sikh Gurus regard the World as real and meaningful, The Sikh thesis made a major M.S. SIDHU breakway from the traditional Indian thought, The world being real, the object is not to secure a release from life, but to strive for a moral and spiritual living. God centered activity and not salvation is the goal. In fact, salvation meant. release from self-centeredness, self ishness and individualism and not from the world, Mukti (salvation) was linked to the service of humanity. Guru Nanak declared not only the brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God, but also his clear and primary interest not exclusively in any metaphysical doctrine but essentially in man and his fate. He established the primacy of the householder’s life. The householder’s life became the basic forum of religious activity and the medium of spiritual training and expression. Guru also insisted on earning one’s bread by honest work.

The Sikh view of religion is diametrically opposed to the traditional one. It does not subscribe to such escapist course for spiritual liberation as divorce of the individual from the society. Nor does it visualize that true religion and ethics cannot operate unconcerned beside an unjust social or political order; nor that spiritual freedom can coexist with religious dogmatism and political slavery. For the Sikhs, to be religious means meeting all the problems and challenges thrown up by life and it requires operating at two. Levels. Firstly, it must ‘strive to change the value patterns of both the individual and the society. Secondly, it must change the inequitable social, religious and political set ups. The Sikh movement actively struggled against the antisocial and antihuman institutions like the caste distinction, inequality of status and sexes, and religious and political domination. The Gurus had revolutionary aims which called for the use of revolutionary means. They aimed at the complete emancipation of man. One can either resist or accept religious or political tyranny. According to Sikh view, resistance to tyranny is a religious duty. There is no historical evidence to show that “not to resist evil” can mysteriously overcome evil by its own intrinsic logic and compulsion. Guru Gobind Singh unambiguously stated that his mission was to eliminate tyranny and to establish the rule of righteousness and justice.

The Sikh Panth was, thus, not organized as just another sect to pursue the traditional Indian approach to religion. It was made the basis for changing the caste order for fighting political domination and for controlling political power for a plebian mission, The Sikh has to be a Saint and soldier in one. In 1947 Sikhs opted to align with India on the basis of solemn assurances that they would be equal partners in sharing the unfettered glow of freedom. Subsequent events, however, proved that the trust was misplaced: Instead of equality and freedom, Sikhs encountered increasing discrimination and intolerance. At each step Delhi rulers made it a point to remind them as to “who were the masters and who the slaves”. Even a pro government Sikh like Khushwant Singh could not help admitting that in India he “felt like a Jew in a Nazi Germany”. Perfectly constitutional demands of the Sikhs were contemptuously dismissed as parochial, separatist, and secessionist. Instead of dealing with their genuine grievances in a candid and forthright manner, the rulers in Delhi resorted to intimidation, misinformation and distortion through a controlled mass media. The ugly face of Hindu fundamentalism emerges in the perversion of historical truths that belittle or even negate the Sikh role in the independence movement. Writing in the Times of India of August 11, 1986, its Editor Giri Lal Jain states, “The Akalis, let us face it, were not an independent Sikh component of the larger freedom movement……(they) of course had their problems with the British but these related to their view of Sikh interests, these had nothing to do with India’s independence”. Contrast this hollow piece with the acknowledged truth stated by Gilbert Lobo. Writing in The Forum Gazette, he sifts truth from fiction, “Sikhs have relatively shed more blood for India than any other community. Out of 2,215 martyrs for freedom 1,557 or 75 percent were Sikhs. Out of 2,646 sent to Andamans for life sentence, 2,147 or 80 percent were Sikhs…… 10 Subhas Bose’s army of 20,000, 12,000 were Sikhs.” But in the same country Sikhs are told by Vinod! Mehta, Editor of The Sunday Observer, “The Hindu mood, and again I use the word with caution, is “vicious”. Whether it is the bus conductor or the office peon, or the retired army officer in Defense Colony or the industrialist in the Golf lands, there is no “goodwill” left for Sikh in Punjab….. Meanwhile Delhi Sardarjis are seenito be shifty, devious and in league with the “terrorists” (August 10, 1986). Even “India Today” Made a shocking suggestion in a recent issue, “In the illogical atmosphere of communal suspicion, some periodic demonstrative action by the Sikhs to reiterate their nationalism may be called for”.

How can Sikhs live with dignity in a country where they are called upon to periodically reiterate their nationalism? How can Sikhs or for that matter any other religious Minority feel secure in a land where 82.4% majority has organized more than sixteen volunteer forces to “protect the Hindu religion from the ‘infidels’, where the Massive majority is frenzied, fanatical, and militant to the point of considering India as an exclusive property of Hindus alone.

In such an uncongenial climate, if the Sikhs failed to assert their birthright for freedom and opted to compromise with their slavery in India, it will undoubtedly be a case of suicide and not of murder. All the circumstances, historical, cultural, religious, economic and geographical favor self-determination. Sikhs have been masters of their land, Punjab. What holds them from once again shaking off the shackles of slavery? They fought and overthrew mighty empires, why are they unable to protect themselves now? Most of the nations of the world had to pass through the ordeal. Of domination before they emerged into independent national status and Sikhs too are bound to have tryst with destiny and win freedom. It is only a matter of time. The writing on the wall is just not clear but continuously flashing.

India today is neither the kind of country that Aurangzeb had bequeathed to his son, nor a united one like the British tried to create. Pakistan’s birth within the land mass of Sub Continent could be the historical forerunner of how things are going to be. West Bengal, Punjab, Assam, Tamil Nadu, each inhabited by a different ethnic group and race, are all jealously conscious of their separate and superior civilizations. There is no “India” for them in their politics; it is simply Bengal, Punjab, Assam or Tamil Nadu.

Today, there is no place for the sceptics. Sikhs can’t be beguiled by talking about economic or political viability of their independent country. Today, freedom is the singular suit of Sikhs and nothing but freedom they seek. They can suffer want and privation but not slavery.

Article extracted from this publication >>  July 24, 1987