Amrit Kaur

After the June invasion, after the massacre, after the desecration of our Gurdwaras, the Army began the second phase of its operation the ‘“‘mop up” phase. Cordoning off village after village, the Army forcibly took our men, leaving behind wives, mothers, daughters and sisters.

But once was not enough. November brought terror unleashed with an unthinkable, unimaginable brutality. Men and boys, hunted down, burned alive, slaughtered without mercy. And again widows, mothers and daughters women, left behind.

This government, this Hindu majority thinks that killing off Sikh men, it can destroy the Sikh people. They are forgetting history. For centuries Sikh women and men have fought and worked side by side. Spurred on by the promise of equality that Sikhism holds out to them, Sikh women continue to sacrifice their lives and their loved ones in defense of Sikhism. But the promise of equality goes unfulfilled!

Five hundred years ago, Guru Nanak planted the seeds for a new nation a progressive nation averse to caste, religion, race and gender distinctions. The Brahmanical hierarchy, based and dependent upon the oppression of women and the lower castes, however- would not easily give up its power. It attacked the budding Sikh nation, attempting time and again to physically eliminate the Sikh people. But persecution only made Sikhs stronger.

 Realizing that Genocide was insufficient, the Brahmans are determined to erode the very principles of Sikhism those visionary, revolutionary principles of equality. And so today we find ourselves segregated in “Jat” and ‘“non-Jat’’ categories. Yes Khalsaji, the Gurus made us all Sardars, lifted us up to a higher, more just plane. But this Brahman dominated, medieval Hindu society injected its filth into our midst, dragging us down.

In Hinduism, woman is an outcaste, she is unclean, she lives solely for her husband — when he dies, so must she. In Islam, man is human and woman is only a fraction of man. As a court witness, a woman’s testimony equals only half that of a man’s. Man can have four spouses, woman is limited to one. Christianity considers God male, and lays the blame for all evil in the world upon the ‘“‘first’’ woman Eve.

The Sikh Gurus rejected the fantastical, absurd notions that other religions had of woman, rejected the oppressive status delegated to woman, and declared her equal to man. Gender is secondary first and foremost both women and men are human. Never before in world history had so bold and radical, yet so simplistic a principle been set forth by a religion that all people are equal before God, regardless of their sex.

Political, social and economic independence and equality. This is what Sikhism promises woman. This is the potential. But again, that Brahmanical hierarchy thwarted the Sikh dream of justice and equality, burdening our blossoming nation with Hindu superstitions and prejudices. And so it came to be until not too long ago that “Sardars’” routinely had several wives and Sikh baby girls were murdered by their parents.

Sikhism promises equality to woman, it is just within her grasp, but for too long this promise has gone unfulfilled. Education, some cry out, is key to eliminating prejudice and discrimination against women. Through education men become more just and enlightened. Education is the answer! Or is it?

This summer, the Sikh Youth Organization, among its other responsibilities, assumed a monitoring role among Sikh organizations. A Sikh Youth chapter in California wanted a few of its members present at every Sikh meeting and asked the various Sikh groups permission to do so beforehand. The head of one group, a ‘‘prominent” highly educated male professional refused, exclaiming, ‘“‘If today I let in two members of the Sikh Youth, then tomorrow you’ll come around wanting me to let in two women!” Education, it seems, has done little to enlighten this man. Yet he calls himself a Sikh! A Sikh is one who believes in equality, in equal opportunity and in the dignity of all people!

Khalsaji, we face an uphill struggle, a fight against all odds to create a country in which we will be safe to practice Sikhism openly and joyously. We must decide’ now, what role Sikh women will play in our liberation. War. Outside India, will women be restricted to cooking, childcare, housework and in general providing ‘‘support’”’ to husbands, brothers, fathers and sons? Will women continue to be held entirely responsible for these mundane, yet very necessary, everyday tasks? Or will women be equally; concretely represented at all levels within the Sikh leadership, the Sikh organizations, and the Sikh think tanks? Will Sikh men finally accept their half of housekeeping and childrearing functions? Khalsaji, when the entire world is against us, can we afford to ignore the potential brain power of one half of our population? And in India, who is left but women? The Raj of the Khalsa is coming closer in 5, 10 perhaps 20 years. Our decision must be made now. What do we want a pseudo-Khalistan, or a Sikh homeland that fulfills the promise of Sikhism and creates a Society in which truly all people are equal? We must throw away; free ourselves from these caste heavy, sexism heavy chains the Brahmans tied around our necks. We cry out for justice and freedom, but no people are free until all its members have been set free. The oppression of women, however, cannot be combatted until we recognize that oppression exists and then identify the nature of that oppression.

Reach up my brothers; do not settle for simply being Sikhs. Reach up, strive to become Khalsa! Fulfill this promise of equality that Sikhism demand of us. Free your wives, mothers, sisters and daughters and in so doing, set your own minds and souls free!

Stand up my sisters! Refuse to be pushed back into the kitchen, the nursery. Demand to be heard, to take your place beside your men, not behind them. Liberty and justice are never given, they must be taken. We are close, so close. We can do it we must do it. Together we will fulfill that promise that was made to us five hundred years ago!!!.

Article extracted from this publication >> January 18, 1985