Sikhs of India denied fundamental freedoms
I WRITE THIS letter in response to the article by Mr. John R. Walker of Southam News entitled, in India, a Surprising Resiliency of Democracy, which was published in the Windsor Star of October 3, 1985.
The article essentially deals with the Sikh affairs in Punjab. The cardinal rule of a good writer is: Know Thy Subject. It appears that Mr. Walker has embarked on becoming an expert on Sikh affairs though the extent of his grasp of the Sikh affairs and the Sikh psyche, as indicated in the wmiting, leaves much to be desired.
Mr. Walker is beating the drums of glory of “democracy” in India, and calling the Sikhs, who raise their voice against injustice and oppression in Punjab, “terrorists” or “extremists.” It should be pointed out that the founding fathers if the United States were also called “terrorists” or “extremists” by the then British government.
Mr. Walker has the audacity to call Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale an “unholy holy man.” This is the height of professional illiteracy of Mr. Walker as a writer of Sikh affairs.
In the Sikhs’ religious literature it is written that whenever mankind has been beset with ruthless tyranny, a messenger of God has appeared on the scene and made the supreme sacrifice to reverse the wheels of bigotry. The Sikhs believe that Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was such a messenger.
In the eyes of millions of Sikhs, Sant Bhindranwale was a savior who has been martyred. He is invariably called a saint solider; defender of the faith, poor and innocent, and fighter against injustice and tyranny.
In the current Sikh history, the Sikhs call Sant Bhindranwale a great martyr (Shaheede Azam), who died, as he said he would, in defending the sanctity of Darbar Sahib (the Golden Temple) in Amritsar. The Darbar Sahib is as much cherished in the Sikh world as is Vatican in the Christian, Roman Catholic, world.
The Sikhs esteem martyrdom (Shaheed) as an honor bestowed upon those only who are blessed by Almighty to defend the faith or sanctity of the House of God Darbar Sahib. The martyrdom is meant only for great souls.
I respectfully ask Mr. Walker: What kind of “surprising resiliency of democracy” is it in India, which has the following salient features: 1. Sikh men and women in thousands are still decaying in the jails of India without any prospect of a trial.
- Any Sikh in India is subject to arbitrary arrest without a warrant and may be locked up behind the bars for two years without any trial. 3. In the so-called “special courts” of India, an accused Sikh is guilty until proven innocent. The proceedings in the special courts are not open to the public. 4. Since the occupation of Punjab, June 1984, the army and police of India have taken away thousands of Sikhs between the age of 15 and 35, and the parents or relatives of the young Sikhs have not been given any information whether they are dead or alive by the government of India. 5. In Punjab, a Sikh painter, poet, preacher or singer cannot paint, write, preach or sing what his conscience dictates because it may be interpreted as proBhindranwale by the Government of India and consequently he may wind up in a jail.
Are these features of a free and democratic society? Hardly.
Where are the fundamental freedoms freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression in Punjab? The Canadians take these freedoms for granted because they are guaranteed in the Canadair Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
AUTAR SINGH SIDHU Windsor
Article extracted from this publication >> November 8, 1985