By Principal Gurcharan Singh
While the Sikhs were making wonderful contributions to prop up the country’s defense, economy and integrity, unfortunately a new philosophy began to develop in certain responsible quarters by which Hindu Fundamentalism was sought to be revived at the cost of legitimate rights of the minorities like the Muslims and the Sikhs. It was, however, the Sikhs who became the main targets of this onslaught because of their preeminent role in the national life. It was under these circumstances that the Sikhs began to strive for safeguarding their identity against this new threat. There is also a silent move made in all good faith by some of the Hindu leaders including Bala Sahib Deoras, the Chief of the Rashtrya Swaym Sewak Sangh (R.S.S.) to own the Gurus. Though such a step should normally be welcome but it can be interpreted differently. As Major Short wrote about 40 years back, there is a rather thin line dividing the Urban Hindus and the Sikhs and the latter might tend to revert to the Hindu fold under present day stresses, if careful thought is not applied.
THE LAST PHASE 1984-87
It is too early yet to pass a judgment about the role of some of our leaders who played crucial role in the fateful years between 1984 and 1987. But one thing is certain that whereas the masses have maintained their old tradition of huge sacrifices and devotion, the Sikh leadership has been found wanting in more ways than one, they have failed to provide the kind of leadership which stalwarts of the late 19th and 20th century gave.
There have been rapid changes in the fortunes of the Sikhs during the traumatic years between 1984and early 1987. It was during these eventful years that the tragedies of the Blue Star Operation and massacre and carnage of Sikhs in Delhi and other places in India took place. The Akal Takht was demolished and several other places of Sikh pilgrimage were desecrated. What is worse the media started a willful campaign of dubbing the Sikhs as traitors and criminals. Various political parties in the country (with the exception of one or two) are virtually vying with each other in denigrating the Sikhs. They have tried to isolate us from the rest of the Nation for no fault of ours, because this suits some ‘of’ the vested interests. What is worse, our leadership has failed to show signs of self-respect and dignity. Our mutual bickering have taken away whatever little was left of our glorious past.
‘Another woeful aspect of our present day situation is that we are losing fast our moorings with our culture and history. Our educational institutions which had played glorious role in building up the Sikh Movement in the present century have lost all hold on the younger generation. Our schools and colleges have practically lost all sense of purpose and the kind of instruction that is being imparted in our Khalsa Colleges and Schools is completely devoid of Sikh ethos and tradition and is irrelevant to the needs of the present situation. Our Gurdwaras are also losing their hold’ on the minds of the masses. The S.G.P.C. has failed to provide the kind of leadership it was meant to give. Our missionaries have practically ceased to exist. The public conduct of our priestly Class including Sikh Ragis is anything but inspiring. The expanding network of Public Schools by the non-Sikhs in the State is another serious threat whose implications we have yet to fully comprehend. The intellectuals are practically taking no interest in what is happening around.
Another very important matter that has to be considered seriously is the peculiar condition of the Sikhs living outside Punjab, within India and those living abroad. While the Sikhs living in large numbers outside India are not faced with any immediate crisis, those living in India, outside Punjab are passing through a period of great stress and uncertainty.
The overall situation at present is that we are practically reverting to the same stage of political, social and cultural degeneration and downfall in which we were caught up in mid19th century. Our prestige is at the lowest ebb today. This has been brought about by our politicians who have misbehaved in the most shameful manner; it is they who have bartered away the honor and prestige of the Sikhs for their personal ascendancy on the flimsiest grounds. The loss of honor caused by them is so serious that it will perhaps be well-nigh impossible to regain the lost prestige without once again making the huge sacrifices that the Sikhs of the 18, 19th and the 20th centuries made. We have, on the ‘one hand, lost face with the Nation and on the other we have lost face with the Gurus. One thing is certain; we cannot recover the lost ground with the kind of leadership that we have at the present. The only hope in the otherwise impossible situation is the growing consciousness in the youth who a couple of years ago were only cynical observers to whatever was happening around them. They are the only ones who are showing some ray of hope in the prevailing darkness. But in spite of the discouraging factors mentioned above, there is still a well-founded feeling that the Sikhs have a great future. Like Buddhism, Sikhism might suffer serious setback in the country of its origin for similar reasons. But the kind of people that the Sikhs are producing in the: countries like USA, Canada and U.K., there are reasons to hope that a new, powerful Sikh Movement will rise in these countries in the near future which will ‘once again bring pristine greatness and glory to our great religion. But this could happen only if they remain true “Gurmukhs” a very delicate matter. There may be temptations for waywardness. Let us hope brethren living in some of these countries, who are really the cream of Sikh Society, having initiative, intellect, sobriety and skill will give lead in the night direction, which in tum might even inspire the Sikhs living in India.
In the end, I would like to pose two questions for the consideration of our intelligentsia:
Why, in the Couse of history, the Sikh leadership has generally been found) wanting in times of crisis while the common man has always risen to the occasion to make greatest sacrifices?
How to create greater sense of responsibility in the Sikh leader ship?
A dispassionate study of these Posers will go a long way in shaping the future of the Sikhs.
Article extracted from this publication >> January 1, 1988