By M.S.M. HE animosity that develop
THE animosity that developed between the two communities touched its peak in the demagogic orations of a village youth Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who possessed a tongue bristling with thorns (to borrow the phrase from Mahatama Gandhi who coined it for Vallabh Bhai Patel’s). His oratory was fiery and sweeping for a people who are temperamentally the hottest in the Indian stock. Each day that passed widened the cleavage. Jarnail Singh acquired the halo of a saint, the obeisance of a dictator and the adoration of a mass leader. His voice raised from the revered corridors of a temple set like “a gem in a silvery pond” — whose foundations were laid by Muslim saint, Mian Mir, in the seventeenth century — was heard and respected and dreaded far beyond the Indian shores.
Bhindranwale attracted the Sikhs of almost all grades of intelligence: the simple villagers because he himself came from a village; the raw youth for his oratory had the flare of idealism; the seasoned soldiers for he foresaw the crossing of swords. The temple, thus, turned into a sanctuary of Sikh revivalists, separatists, “freedom fighters” and idealists. Bhindranwala had completely changed a people. The sword that was fashioned to cut through the panth, by some quirk of fate had struck the wielding hand itself.
On June 4, 1984, the cup of Brahmanic patience was full and Mrs. Indira Gandhi sent in her troops to storm the most sacred Sikh shrine the Golden Temple, which is something more than a mere temple; it is Darbar Sahib, the revered seat of authority.
The attack was a brute military offensive to hunt down the followers of Bhindranwala. Many hundreds including women, children and infirm old people were slaughtered. Amritsar had another blood path after sixty five years. No eye witness was left to tell the tale of the doom. The Akal Takht (the eternal throne) was left in ruin at the dawn of day. But this operation: was successful only partly. The spirit of revolt has refused to die. What an irony: the people who produced Bhagat Singh had to produce a Bhindranwala.
That much for the Sikhs the Muslims have hardly fared better. They were the largest minority which made a massive contribution to the freedom struggle. They loved India as well as the world of Islam. Maulana Mohammad Ali said at the first Round Table Conference in London: “Where Islam and India are concerned, I am mad”. The Muslims thought the Indian crown was snatched from them by the British. And the whole of Islam was subjected to the gun boat diplomacy only to keep India in subjugation! Their anger against the British was, therefore, more virulent than the Hindus, who had deep commercial ties with them. It is no wonder the first substantial Opposition to Britain’s continued occupancy of India after the “mutiny” was led in 191920 by the Muslims, At this juncture, Mahatama Gandhi, like an astute strategist, found the wave of Muslim wrath comfortable enough to ride upon. The Muslim leadership that ‘was amusingly simple withdrew in his favor but when the rolling of the wave revealed its true objective i.e. the end of British presence in India as well as in other Muslim lands, the Mahatama artfully wrapped up the whole agitation even at the cost of Muslim disillusionment. The predominant Islamic complexion of the movement had frightened the Mahatama. The Muslims, therefore, became increasingly wary of his intentions and methodology, till things came to such a pass that the Sikhs that followed him had to repent and the Muslims who parted the two ways with him heaved a sigh of relief.
These two communities, the Muslims and the Sikhs, are now, more or less, exposed to the same kind of fate; namely, resinking into the Aryan ocean. If the Dabra Sahib was invaded militarily, the Muslims were obliged to fasten the massive gates of the Jamia Masjid of Delhi on Bid day. The ancient process of dealing with the memories tidier, more effective and more systematic than the sporadic street brawls is in operation.
But Buddism met a fate which contrasted traumatically with the willing journeys of the missionaries to distant lands or meeting the “needs of expanding society’ or the adventure some ones of the Hindu ruler who organized expeditions across the seas which “carried Brahminical system and Aryan culture with them”. It had to choose one of the two options: either to sink back into the ocean of Aryan faith and life or seek refuge elsewhere. In face of a war of extermination, it took obviously the second choice.
The fate of Buddhism is distant story. Soon after this protracted and fateful! Clash, Islam attained suzerainty over Indian life both as a faith and\as a new social order. Hinduism was plucky enough or had exhausted itself in its war with Buddhism to put any effective resistance to new faith and arms.
It went practically into hibernation, though armed resistance against the Muslims did not totally cease any moment. No Muslim ruler sat carefree on the throne. Yet, in the main, Hinduism went on borrowing from and lending to Islamic society some fascinating customs. Even this massive give and take failed to bring about total fusion of the two cultures, owing primarily to four basic differences.
Islam believed in the unity of God. Hinduism was polytheist, despite Arya Smajists’ vehement assertion and Radhakrishnan’s subtle expositions; Islam was not caste ridden; Hinduism was so, whatever Manuji’s postulations and modern explanation of the pristine interchangeability of castes; Islam believes in a line of prophets who lived in history, the last Messenger having lived his 63 years in full glare of history, Hinduism’s originators particularly the compilers of the basic scriptures the Vedas are wrapped in the haze: of deep antiquity; whatever the amount of pride for Nirad Chaudhry to say that Hinduism is a museum of faiths a beautiful phrase, indeed — Hinduism is factually a blend of various myths.
In the meantime, Sikhism took birth in the Punjab. This faith originated in the beginning of the 16th century by a peace loving mendicant was completed by a warrior Guru in the 18th century. The intervening two centuries were a period of slow and steady ripening of the faith till it emerged both as a military challenge to the Mughals and as a new sect that drew its adherents from the Hindu samaj. It was a challenge to Hindu faith. But, since many common features like abhorrence to beef eating (which incidentally is not prohibited in Sikh scriptures), intermarriage dining remained untouched, Sikhism did not prove a thorn in Hinduism’s flesh. The Sikhs were tolerated and since their acts of depredation were a source of annoyance to the ruling Muslim authority, they were even praised and supported.
Anyhow, despite some blurred areas a noman’s land between the two faiths Sikhism ‘Was structured differently. It came: Closer to Islam with the same four salient features. Unity of God, no Castes, belief in a line of divine guides who lived among the’ people as human beings, a Book that serves as a perennial source of guidance, So, no mythological mists cloud the message or the example. There is another common feature: belief in transcendental influence of martyrdom which imparts a deeper meaning to life making it worth living as well as worth sacrificing. Their militancy found expression in two slogans: Raj Karega Khalsa Aaki Rahe Na Ko: The Khalsa is destined to rule. None will dare denyk its authority, and in salutation in which victory of the Supreme Lord is invoked (Wah Guruji Ka Khalsa, Sri Wah
aero plane belonging to Air India, and Arsine Henry and Gerard Thericault, both of the Confederation of the National Trade Unions, also of Montreal, who have been sentenced to 3 year term for participating in bombings at Ste Foy and Chicoutimi, and 2— year term for conspiracy to bomb and for possessing a firearm, respectively. In both cases, the informer of the RCMP/CSIS gave evidence. In the case of the two Montreal Sikhs, however, the informer. Was not produced.
The differences in the treatment of the two parties are such that it is impossible for the bias against the Sikhs to be denied. Their offence is hypothetical and alleged to be a conspiracy to be effected in a foreign country in the future. All the same, the Canadian taxpayer will have to foot the bill for their prison upkeep for decades to come,
Guruji Ki fateh). Even the name of the Panth (Khalsa) is derived from an Arabic word which occurs in a number of Quaranic verses. These beliefs are so clear cut that at no stage one feels vague about them.
So the two faiths: one of a non-Indian origin and the other of Indian genus but with a deep non Aryan stamp, have come to face a challenge. Sikhism was thought to be an obliging duck that could be easily tempted into the snare. But so far it has maintained its separate entity owing perhaps to its exclusive features enumerated above, though history affords some painful instances of its being used as an instrument of Hinduism. At times, the Sikh panth was praised as the sword arm of Hinduism. The subtlety of the coinage was, of course, captivating for the majority of the Sikh leaders who relished being the sword arms — of whom they, characteristically, cared little to think.
The quotation from Nehru, written with a gleeful pen reveals how tremendously keen had been the Aryan’s appetite for the people of non-Aryan faith. The method may look queer, even brutish, but nowhere has Hinduism shown an inclination to forsake it for a less voracious feeding of itself, Under Muslim domination it may have suspended its doctrine in face of a more vigorous faith; under British protection, it surfaced in the shape of Shuddhi and Sangathan movements. After Independence, all effective restrictions having gone, the old methodology is being revived with a vengeance (Remember Indira Gandhi’s declaration on Dhaka’s fall in Dec. 1971 “One cannot help recalling to mind today the sorrows of the past one thousand years”).
In fact, what was accomplished then (through sheer violence — in case of Buddhism and was preserved through social boycott in case of Islam) is now being recaptured through a mix of old ruthlessness and modern democracy. The old process has been picked up from the point at which it went into abeyance in the eighth century.
Shankar Acharya’s higher philosophy provided a cloak during those fateful centuries when Buddhism had to seek refuge in lands other than the land of its birth. Democracy is providing one today. No instrument as innocent as democracy has ever rendered a service as vile as the one into which it has been pressed in India, both as an instrument of rendering ‘Opposing voices “passive” and as afacade appealing to the bewitched eyes of the West.