Sikhism was established to defend Hinduism; Khalistanis, Pak stooges, do not represent community
n June 3, I went on a day-long trip to Karnal in Haryana by road. From congested markets to the highways, there were Sikh boys and men at several places all along, serving langar, the insignia free food served by the community members to all. This happens on a daily basis in gurudwaras, and outside, on special occasions. Standing under the searing sun all day, the volunteers were a picture of patience and composure.
The occasion was the 416th martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth guru in the lineage of Guru Nanak. A cooling drink, made out of rose syrup, milk, sugar and water, served on this day distinguishes the martyrdom day’s langar. The followers bring relief to others while enduring extreme heat themselves; it is their way of connecting with the endurance demonstrated by the guru. The guru was subjected to severe torture for five days in the hottest month of the year by the rulers under the Mughal king, Jahangir. Jahangir, according to his autobiography, felt offended by Guru Arjan Dev’s spiritual following and wanted him to embrace Islam. The main conspirator against the guru was a local Hindu, Chandu Shah of Lahore, who had a personal grudge against him. Shah instigated the governor of Lahore that the Adi Granth (with later additions, it became the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth), compiled by the fifth guru, had blasphemous references to both Hinduism and Islam. The guru was asked to remove them and pay a fine of two lakh rupees or endure jail and tortures. The guru chose the latter.
Guru Arjan Dev was made to sit on a hot plate; hot sand was poured over his body to force him into submission. Throughout the days of torture, he remained immersed in simran (chanting the divine name) and when his associate, sufi-saint Mian Mir, endowed with rare spiritual ability, offered to put an end to the executors and his suffering, the guru prohibited it. The guru himself had the powers, but by enduring the tortures with equanimity, he wanted his followers to know the power of the divine and the strength that is bestowed upon the faithful. On the fifth day, he himself suggested that he would like to bathe in the river (Ravi) on the banks of which he was being tortured. The executors readily complied, thinking that his blistering body would suffer more torments when dipped in water. The guru, however, miraculously disappeared in the river, stumping the tormentors.
The Sikh spirit of service remains unchanged over time. I find this aspect of Sikhism highly touching and inspiring. The remarkable part of it is that no Sikh needs to be told to do it. It is a reflex with most of them
Both the endurance and disappearance of the body were willful acts–in tune with the lives of yogis, who carry out these acts depending upon what the divine command to them is. All of them have a mandated role, and they are endowed with powers to suit the role. I write this with certainty as a student of the spiritual history of India and that of spiritual sciences. Although these sciences are beyond the understanding of the average mind, no genuine intellectual has any reason to reject or rubbish them. True intellectual curiosity helps you explore new horizons where you see, hear and experience things that lie beyond the basic five senses. Even if you are unable to experience what lies beyond the senses, you would not be skeptical about it. The faithful, as a rule, experience such powers–like the Sikhs who stand under the burning sun on Guru Arjan Dev’s martyrdom day without a crease on their foreheads. Who would believe that some even report feeling cool during the exercise, such is the power of faith.
The Sikh spirit of service, I have noticed, remains unchanged over time. I have been a witness to it all my life, first in Punjab and the last 40 years in Delhi. I find this aspect of Sikhism highly touching and inspiring. The remarkable part of it is that no Sikh needs to be told to do it. It is a reflex with most of them. It is almost as if the material and physical resources required for the day-long service for an unlimited number of people get conjured up from somewhere. At the end of the day, there is still great enthusiasm among the volunteers and surplus food. “Guru ka langar”– as they call it, is just a part of the service that is synonymous with Sikhi.
I was still celebrating the sights I had seen on June 3 when I saw a newscast the following day, which, to say the least, was a disturbing contrast. June 4 was the 39th anniversary of Operation Bluestar, the Indian Army operation under late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi against extremist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala. He had been fighting a terrorist war for Khalistan or a separate Sikh state, and was killed during the army operation in June 1984. His followers, who have been gathering strength over the last decade, held a demonstration outside the Golden Temple in Punjab’s Amritsar city, shouting pro-Khalistan slogans, holding Bhindranwala’s pictures and brandishing swords and guns. The dramatic shift in the sights, from one day to the other, sums up the story of who genuine Sikhs are and what is being done to deface Sikhism by its enemies that are the Khalistanis.
Standing up for righteous causes and fighting for them is a matter of duty, not something to flaunt or belittle and deride others about
On the face of it, they are a fringe group, but let nobody in the establishment make the mistake of underestimating their potential for trouble. Like Bhindranwala, they are greedy for power and fully backed by Pakistan, believe in shedding blood–not their own, I must underline–and, just like him, they are working on creating a fear psychosis among the Sikhs about the threat to their identity as also notions about Sikhs being a “martial and superior community.” While it is true that valour, and the spirit of sacrifice and service are sought to be inculcated into Sikh children from a young age in keeping with the teachings of the gurus, it would be wrong to claim superiority over others. The huge presence of Sikhs in the Indian defence services, both during the British rule and the first five decades after independence from British rule, was a reflection of the Sikh religious values, but bragging is strictly prohibited in Sikhism. Standing up for righteous causes and fighting for them is a matter of duty, not something to flaunt or belittle and deride others about.
The separatists apparently have no knowledge that all the ten gurus, including Guru Gobind Singh, who established the Sikh religion, were devoted to Ram, Krishna, Mohan, Mukund, Parvati, Shiva and “Bishamber”, the so-called Hindu deities
Regarding the extremist propaganda about Sikh identity, it is just that. There was no threat to the Sikh identity ever except the one created by power-hungry social and religious leaders of the community, right from the run up to the formation of the state in 1966. In the language census before the linguistic carving out of the present day Punjab, a section of Hindus wrongly chose Hindi rather than Punjabi as their mother tongue, but that is no reason to brand all Punjabi Hindus as communal, something the fundamentalist Sikh leaders have been propagating and politically exploiting. What these leaders preach and practice is exclusivity, ‘separateness’, and a superior status for Sikhs. They do not understand even the fundamental lessons of Sikhism, which is about inclusiveness and oneness. The separatists apparently have no knowledge that all the ten gurus, including Guru Gobind Singh, who established the Sikh religion, were devoted to Ram, Krishna, Mohan, Mukund, Parvati, Shiva and “Bishamber”, the so-called Hindu deities. The extremists waste no time before issuing negative statements and delinking Sikhism from them, ignorant about how the compositions of all the gurus, from Guru Nanak to those of Guru Gobind Singh, make reverential and celebratory references to these deities. Even with my limited knowledge of gurbani, I can readily quote scores of lines as evidence.
Anyone who has any doubts about the oneness of Hinduism and Sikhism need only refer to the names of the gurus–Guru Angad, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Har Gobind, Guru Har Krishen and Guru Gobind–to know how the politically wicked and ambitious Khalistanis try to confuse and mislead the Sikhs and the rest of India. Their propaganda war being waged on the social media about such issues is full of divisive and dangerous lies, and needs to be countered. Sometimes, I wonder if the Punjab and the central governments are in a state of stupor about this aspect of the Khalistanis’ nefarious designs.
Not only should the governments be alert against such posts—actually, they are plots against Sikhs and India–and crack down on them, the publicity wings of the governments should be putting out posts that highlight the unity and commonality of Hinduism and Sikhism. This would help counter the fear psychosis and a false identity crisis sought to be created among the Sikhs by the separatists. Legal action should be taken against the Sikh political and religious leaders who are trying to create a false scare or to radicalise the Sikh community.
The Akal Takht Jathedar, in recent weeks, has twice called upon the community to arm itself with legal and modern weapons. Such statements are a dangerous reminder of the decade of terrorism, beginning with Bhindranwala in 1982. Most likely, it is the jathedar who is feeling personally and politically threatened by the Khalistanis, who, in the last few years, twice tried to upstage the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC) appointee that is a jathedar. However, he must not be allowed to impose his egocentric political agenda on the Sikh community. It takes a dangerously ignorant man not to see what the arming of the Sikh youth by Bhindranwala did to the community as a whole, not just in the state, but throughout India and the world. A community synonymous with bravery and righteousness got branded as terrorists. The carnage of Sikhs in the wake of Mrs Indira Gandhi’s assassination by two Sikh security guards added another tragic chapter to Sikh history. The state-sponsored mass murders under the Rajiv Gandhi-led Indian National Congress (INC) government and the absence of justice till date have left the entire Sikh community fearful and scarred. The Khalistanis seek to exploit this to expand their base. It is this that the government must work to defeat.
From the north to the south of the country, I have not come across a single person of the hardline Hindu outfit, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), who has anything but reverence for the gurus, and Modi is a former pracharak of the Sangh. Given the sacrifices of the gurus and their followers in defence of Hindusim, the reverence is natural
PM’s Healing Gestures
In recent years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, personally, and his government have made several politically sagacious and healing gestures towards the community, which have gone down very well with the ordinary Sikhs. The latest was the grand event at Delhi’s Red Fort (in April) to mark the 400th birth anniversary of Guru Teg Bahadar. It was noticed by the audience that the prime minister, in his speech, referred to him as “our guru”. In fact, Modi has been careful to emphasise that the gurus in the Sikh lineage are among the most precious assets in the spiritual wealth of India. I do not share the skeptics’ view that these are just politically correct and clever words. From the north to the south of the country, I have not come across a single person of the hardline Hindu outfit, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), who has anything but reverence for the gurus, and Modi is a former pracharak of the Sangh. Given the sacrifices of the gurus and their followers in defence of Hindusim, the reverence is natural. In fact, the Sangh men quote so many anecdotes from Sikh spiritual history that even the present generation of ordinary Sikhs does not know.
Modi’s speeches about the gurus, and his proud and happy donning of the turban on special Sikh occasions, carry a subtle but powerful political message for the community that has been in trauma over the last four decades. The core of Sikhism being about oneness, the common Sikhs crave a sense of belonging, something that was seriously broken in the wake of terrorism in Punjab (and the general spite it generated against the community) and by the carnage of Sikhs in 1984. The celebration of Sikh values by the prime minister time and again heals the wounds and boosts the community’s sense of belonging. The ordinary Sikhs have nothing in common with the Khalistanis except physical symbols like the beard and turban. The politically corrupt and ambitious Sikh leaders, who have sought to confine the gurus to Sikh religion, and who are working hard to break the Sikhs from Hindus and India, are further injuring the community.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement to the Sikhs during the farmers’ agitation on the borders of Delhi–why want Khalistan when all of India is yours–(paraphrasing) was not just politically smart, but factual. The Sikhs belong to India and India belongs to them–the religion was established to defend Hinduism. Supreme sacrifices were made by the gurus and countless Sikhs towards that. The legacy of the gurus must be protected and carried forward. The government must do all in its powers to defeat those who are trying to mislead the community.
(The author is senior journalist, based in Delhi)