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Khalistan: One Sikh's View - Response to I.J. Singh

Bijla Singh

This article is written in response to “Khalistan: A Sikh’s View” authored by I.J. Singh and reposted on Sikhnet on March 13, 2018. In the beginning of the article, the author tries to assuage the reader into thinking that he fully understands the Sikh struggle and its historical background. Thereafter, he gets to the real point of his article which is to criticize the Sikh struggle for Khalistan with unsubstantiated claims and false assumptions showing complete ignorance about Sikh philosophy and history. Our response to his illogical statements (in red) against Khalistan is as follows:

Never in their history have Sikhs set about to conquer territory, subjugate people in the name of religion or establish Sikhism as a state religion.

I.J. Singh shows his ignorance about Sikh philosophy and history by falsely assuming that the Sikh struggle for sovereignty is nothing but conquering land or subjugating people. He not only ignores continuous discrimination against the Sikhs in India, and countless suffering Sikhs have endured including genocides which form the very basis for their demand for Khalistan but also maligns the Sikh struggle by labeling Sikhs as some sort of oppressors and invaders who are attempting to subjugate other communities. He deliberately ignores the fact that Khalistan is a place for Sikhs where they can live peacefully, and enjoy the glow of freedom and prosperity. Also, he fails to provide any proof to show that the primary goal of establishing Khalistan is all about territory occupation. Further, he purposefully overlooks the fact that currently Sikhs are the subjugated ones and Hindus are the oppressive rulers. Thus, his false statement borne out of his malicious intention has no basis. Given the Sikh history of past 500 years, reducing the Sikh struggle for Khalistan to simply conquering territory is sheer ignorance and accusing Sikhs of trying to subjugate people in the name of religion is irrational and unethical.

Sikh principles and Sikh polity advocate compassion, equality, harmony, peace, and justice for all. These principles are divinely revealed thereby making every Sikh duty-bound to abide by these rules. During the times of Guru Nanak Dev Ji to Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the Sikh Gurus ruled as sovereigns in their self-founded and established cities in which non-Sikhs were given full freedom to exercise their religion. Baba Banda Singh was the first Sikh to establish the Sikh State. He too, based on Sikh principles, gave equality to non-Sikhs and employed Muslims in his army. Sikh rule from 1765-1849 does not show a single case of discrimination or subjugation of others. Wherever the Sikh rule was established, it restored prosperity and justice to people of all religions. This proves that although territory was conquered (no rule can exist without it) by the Sikhs, it was not with the intent of subjugating or suppressing others but to establish a rule of equality and justice for all as enunciated in Sikh principles. Thus, the Sikh religion as the State religion is neither wrong nor immoral. Struggle for Khalistan has its roots in Sikh history not in hatred or subjugation.

The author fails to understand the major difference between fighting for freedom and subjugating others. Sikhs are fighting against the government that believes in inequality and takes suppressive measures against minorities. We ask the “devil’s advocate” the same question: what should Sikhs do according to Sikh principles when they are the subjugated ones politically, religiously, economically, and socially?

Ranjit Singh, for instance, was a ruler who happened to be a Sikh, and not particularly good one at that. In his later years, he was much better at being a ruler. He did not establish Sikhism as the state religion. His administration was secular. His Punjab remained a multi-religious country. It did not become a Sikh Punjab.

What I.J. Singh needs to explain is how Sikhism being a State religion will be backward, wrong, or simply a bad move? What part of the Sikh religion will bring harm to the State or its citizens? And how a manmade document (Constitution) is better than divinely revealed principles of Gurbani? Here I.J. Singh intentionally cites Ranjit Singh while ignoring the rule of the Sikh Gurus, Baba Banda Singh, and Sikh Misals. Nonetheless, his ill-intentions cannot be concealed. It is a known fact that Western concepts of Nation-State and secularism came to Punjab with the advent of the British rule. Consequently, Ranjit Singh could not have known of such concepts. He was also not well educated (in modern sense). Therefore, it is clear that Ranjit Singh drew his inspiration and experience from the Sikh religion, past Sikh rules, and his predecessors. His magnanimity can only be attributed to the Sikh influence on him not to Western secularism. He released coins in the name of the Gurus, considered himself as the humble servant of the Guru, and did not give any capital punishment; some traits which prove the Sikh influence on him. The following detailed article refutes I.J. Singh’s misunderstanding on this subject:

Modern Historiography fits Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Indian Nationalistic Perspective

Enforcing religion on others and forced conversions are against the tenets of the Sikh religion. This is why even when Sikh religion is the State religion, non-Sikhs can still enjoy full religious freedom.

Let’s look at it somewhat differently. I am a minority no matter where I live – in India or wherever. When I came here in 1960 there were two recognizable Sikhs in New York. In Oregon, where I went to school, I was the only one. Many of you can share that experience. Except in Punjab, even in India I remain a minuscule minority. A part of me says wouldn’t it be nice, wouldn’t it be right if there was a little bit of dirt, a little part of this earth which was mine, where I was the king! And that says – “Khalistan now.”

Here again I.J. Singh shows his ignorance about Sikh philosophy and history and makes a fool out of himself by clubbing Sikhism against Islam.

Any person who knows a little about Sikhism cannot be oblivious to the fact that Sikhism stands for human equality. Gurbani teaches that all humans are equal because they are created by God. Since source of all human existence is the same, all are born equal. One’s religion, gender, race, nationality etc. do not matter.

Can I.J. Singh prove from either Gurbani or Sikh history that non-Sikhs will be discriminated against under the Sikh rule? We challenge him to show us one solid proof from the last 500 years of Sikh history. If this is his argument against the Sikh rule which hasn’t come into existence yet then he should act on his beliefs and start criticizing every country in the world starting from India because no country exists without discrimination and racism. This is so because the Constitution or law of the land alone no matter how eloquently written cannot change anything unless people transform themselves by rising above superficial divisions and start to see all humans as their brothers. Gurbani is the only power in the world which enables humans to become God-oriented people and serve humanity selflessly. Human ego and influences of vices cannot be eliminated without Gurbani. Therefore, true equality and harmony can only be established by the Sikh rule.

Sikh rules of the past have shown by example that such equality and tolerance can exist. Different communities can live with each other with harmony and peace. It was no miracle that for the first time in a thousand years, Punjab enjoyed complete peace and security during the Sikh rule. Wave of foreign invaders was stopped once and for all. When Sikhs took over Punjab in 1765, they did not seek revenge against the Muslims (previous rulers) for their oppression against the Sikhs. Instead, Sikhs showed compassion and ruled with magnanimity. No one was discriminated, no religion was suppressed, and no one’s rights were reduced. Equal grants were given to Hindu and Muslim temples. In fact, people living under non-Sikh rule invited Sikhs to expel their rulers and establish the Sikh rule over their areas. What more proof can be given in light of the fact that so-called low caste people when joined Sikhism became rulers of the land. Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia is one such example who was considered the ruler of the entire Sikh nation. There is not a single example in history which can be used to show that the Sikh rule will suppress non-Sikhs. I.J. Singh is simply an ignorant fool whose only intent is to demonize the Sikh struggle.

While I.J. Singh is quick to cite the example of Pakistan and Israel, he forgets his own country, India, which is no different than any other country that seeks to suppress minorities and trample on their basic human rights. India from the very first day of its independence has actively pursued assimilating Sikhs into the Hindu fold. Indian Constitution labels Sikhs as Hindus. Sikhs have been attacked numerous times by the State police, Indian military, and the Hindu majority resulting in Sikh massacres in large numbers. Sikh identity is mocked in Indian media and movies. India’s economic, political, and religious measures against the Sikhs are no less intense. Why is I.J. Singh forgetting India’s ruling terrorist party BJP and its cohort RSS which has adopted fascism to eliminate all minorities in India. This shows that despite having a democratic Constitution, India is not a country where minorities can enjoy freedom of religion and speech.

It is noteworthy to mention that despite Sikhs being very small in number, their distinct identity has been recognized in Pakistan which has passed the Sikh Marriage Act. India, where Sikhs exist in large numbers and have contributed immensely, deliberately refuses to give Sikhs their due rights. So how is a non-religious country better? Two world wars and numerous holocausts can only be attributed to modern concept of Nation-State. Communism also has not done any different. Mass killing of Russians under Stalin comes to mind. So directly blaming religion is neither logical nor rational. Constitution alone does not matter. What matters is the sincerity and dedication of the rulers for betterment of its citizens.

Azad wrote his diaries — which were sealed for over 30 years after his death, then finally opened. In them, he put the blame for Pakistan squarely on Nehru. He claimed that Nehru and his Hindu dominated political party were most reluctant to share power with the Muslims and the Muslims were suspicious of the Hindus. The Result: partition of the country, and Pakistan became not only necessary but inevitable. Seems like history may be repeating itself in Punjab.

Hindu attitude towards the Sikhs has been no different. Hindus have refused not only to share power with the Sikhs but have gone further by taking away the due rights Sikhs deserve. Punjab, Sikh majority State, does not have any control over its water and electricity. Political measures have been set such that Sikhs cannot rule as sovereign people. They always remain at the mercy of the fascist Hindu majority.

The partition of the country in 1947 carried a horrendous price tag. Nations are formed when there is a shared culture, language, history and so on, not necessarily religion only.

On the contrary, India and Pakistan were formed due to religious differences. India for Hindus and Pakistan for Muslims. It depends on what keeps the people tied together i.e. religions, language, or culture. Hindus despite living in Punjab and speaking Punjabi for centuries never sided with the Sikhs. Religion serves as the basis of their partiality.

The Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews in Israel do not get along all that well even though both are Jews. Religion alone could not hold together Pakistan and Eastern Bengal, now Bangladesh. Someday, I am sure Bangladesh and Indian Bengal will want to come together as Greater Bengal, based not on religion but on culture, as can be seen in the reunification of Germany.

One particular situation at one place cannot be blindly applied elsewhere without considering other factors to ascertain that the situation is analogous. Differences have and will always exist among people be it religious or political. Political differences have broken up countries as well so demonizing religion alone is not wise. There is no proof that Sikhs due to religious differences will break up their country into pieces.

The demand for Khalistan has to be looked at in perspective. Before 1984 no responsible Sikh leader demanded Khalistan with one exception: Jagjit Singh Chauhan who is London based and has been agitating for Khalistan for over 20 years. I met him in the seventies and he was a voice in the wilderness; not many gurdwaras would give him the time of day. In 1984 he did not plant a flag and declare, “No more India – We are Khalistan – a separate sovereign country” although there was sufficient provocation, nor did any other Sikh leader.

How is this a “perspective”? Granted Sikhs did not strongly demand Khalistan before 1984 but only because they considered India as their own country for which they had sacrificed far more than all other communities combined. They had never imagined that Hindus will persecute them to such an extent. 1984 changed all that and dispelled the Sikh illusions and showed them the real face of the Hindus. They had realized that they are not equal citizens of India.

On a side note, Sikhs have always recited “Raj Karega Khalsa” (Khalsa Shall Rule) slogan which represents their aspiration to establish the Sikh rule.

When Pakistan was formed, Sikhs suffered – we lost a lot. The refugee problem was worse than in Europe during the Second World War. We also lost a part of our heritage. The birth place of Guru Nanak, the historical places in Lahore and Punja Sahib, to name a few. If Khalistan were to be carved today, we would lose a lot more of our inheritance.

Sikhs suffered because there were no adequate measures put in place to safely transfer the population. The partition of the country clearly shows that language and culture could not keep different communities together. They left because of religious differences. Sikhs did not gain any political power and for this very reason, they have not been able to secure the control of their holy places in Pakistan, Bengal, Afghanistan and other countries.

Khalistan will provide Sikhs with political power and political voice in the world. They will be on equal footing as other countries. They will be in better position economically and politically to take care of their holy places in foreign countries.

I.J. Singh assumes that creation of Khalistan will create the same situation of 1947 but even a fool knows that in 1947 there was transfer of power from the British to the Hindus and Muslims. Khalistan will not be created the same way. Further, Sikhs can negotiate with the Indian government to safely transfer people in and out of Khalistan and provide safety to those who wish to remain in their original countries. Those who do not want to leave will not be forced. USA and Mexico made such arrangements when Mexico acceded large part of its territory to USA.  So Sikhs living in India can also manage the affairs of the Gurdwaras in India.

What has India done for SIkhs living outside of India other than insulting them and tarnishing their image? And what has India done for Sikhs in India to secure the lost Gurdwaras?

The Gurus did not live and preach only in Punjab. They traveled all over in India from Assam and Bengal to the South.

And what does that prove? Creation of Khalistan will not restrict Sikhs from traveling the world. It will only provide them with safe home free from the oppressive Indian government.

The Sikhs are an outgoing, assertive, outward looking people. They would not be satisfied for long, hemmed in a mini-country with limited opportunities.

I.J. Singh falsely assumes that creation of Khalistan will somehow require Sikhs all over the world to move back home and force them to live there. It is foolish to assume that Sikhs won’t be able to live in other countries after Khalistan is created. Do Hindus not live outside India? Do Muslims not live in non-Muslim countries? Most importantly, will I.J. Singh move back to Khalistan?

Khalistan will be a Sikh homeland that secures Sikh rights. A home provides safety and security. It is not a jail that keeps one confined. So Khalistan will serve as a home country representing Sikhs all over the world. Sikhs will be represented as Sikhs whether they are residents of Khalistan or not.

Soon the borders would be strained. Pakistan is friendly now, but for how long? Remember only people and individuals have friendships, nations do not; they have self-interest to guide them. The words “Pakistan” and “Khalistan” literally mean the same – “land of the pure” in their respective languages. How neighborly will be two lands of the pure be, and for how long?

The same applies to India and Pakistan. If these two countries can continue to exist despite rivalry of 70 years then why not Khalistan and Pakistan? And who knows Pakistan will be hostile? It is a pure conjecture. It could be that Pakistan will be friendlier to Khalistan for the purpose of weakening India.

It does not matter what the words Pakistan and Khalistan mean. What matters is the ideology that serves as the basis of the rule. For Pakistan it is Islam and for Khalistan it will be Sikhism. The Sikh religion preaches equality and harmony among all humans. Sikhism does not teach to suppress non-Sikhs in any way.

Hindus wish to establish India as Hindustan (land of Hindus) yet I.J. Singh has not shown any courage to raise his pen against them. Why the hypocrisy?

If Khalistan is undesirable, has it become necessary and inevitable? Now that the demand for Khalistan has surfaced, how hard a demand is it? Is it written in stone? I am not sure, even though I realize that once the genie is out of the bottle, it is difficult, if not impossible, to push it back.

Sikh aspiration to rule arose when Guru Hargobind Ji refused to return the captured hawk of the Mughals. Sikhs have been reciting their slogan to rule since the 18th century. Although the word Khalistan is relatively new (pre-1947) but Sikh desire to have their sovereign rule is not new to them.

Despite all the injustice to the Sikhs, in 1985 Longowal and the Sikhs signed an accord with Indian government – to give peace another chance. Too bad that the Indian government of Rajiv Gandhi did what Indira Gandhi had done earlier; they did not fulfill their promises but delivered more repression.

And yet you are hypocritically writing against the fair demand of Sikhs for Khalistan. Have you no shame I.J. Singh? Rajiv-Longowal accord was craftily written by Hindus to legally steal Punjab’s resources and further cripple it economically. Longowal was an uneducated and politically disabled person who only wished to secure his political position in Punjab. For more information, you can read here: Rajiv-Longowal Accord.

Again in 1989 the Sikhs participated in the electoral process and in a landslide victory welcomed the new Prime Minister V.P. Singh into a peaceful, open Punjab – no security was necessary. By this act they clearly showed the world that they were not rejecting ties to India, only that the nature of the ties had to change.

There is partial truth and mostly lies in the statements. Sikhs participated in elections because Sikh militants extended support to some candidates who were in favor of Sikh sovereignty. Sikhs could care less about V.P. Singh and his slogans. It is worth mentioning that each of the 227 candidates were given five armed guards for security during elections. Victory of Simranjit Singh Maan and others showed that Sikhs favored their freedom over ties with India. Participation in elections was a step towards gaining political control to further the cause of Sikh struggle and stop government’s atrocities on Sikh masses. It does not prove that Sikhs wanted to keep ties with India.

Until only one year ago (1993) Simranjit Singh Mann was still looking for a solution within the Indian Constitutional framework. Too bad that the government delivered what it always did – more repression.

Proving our case in favor of Khalistan. There exists no hope for Sikhs in India.

I would like to see the nation-states free to pursue their own economic and cultural development and not be under the heels of remote bureaucrats in Delhi. Only then will they be able to preserve their rich heritage and contribute to the diversity and richness of the Indian subcontinent.

Concept of Nation-State is not only detrimental to human brotherhood but a big threat to minorities living under it. It places a geographical area as superior and above all else for its citizens. What it means is that actions are no longer determined by moral principles but by Nation’s interests and sometimes like is the case with India, the majority opinion is considered the right opinion no matter how unethical and immoral it may be.

Sikh religion on the other hand puts moral principles as the guiding light in building a nation and uniting the entire humanity in brotherhood and tolerance. We can debate I.J. Singh on this topic separately if he so wishes.

To my mind the Sikhs have clearly rejected the model of the present Indian governing system. Khalistan, though undesirable, has become increasingly necessary, primarily because of the shortsighted policies of the Indian government. Has it become inevitable?

Sikhs did not reject the Indian system. They never accepted it to begin with. They refused to sign the Indian Constitution and vehemently opposed it. Khalistan, a Sikh State, has never been undesirable to Sikhs but only to stooges, puppets, and agents of the Indian government who are too coward to see the reality and ignore the terrible plight of the Sikhs in India. Khalistan became inevitable when Sikhs first took up arms against the tyranny of the State during Guru Hargobind Ji’s times.

By now events have probably already overtaken what I have written here, but when I look at my views I have to echo Walt Whitman who said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large and I contain multitudes.”

You are neither large nor do you contain multitudes I.J. Singh. You are a fool and a coward who despite knowing the Sikh situation in India fails to understand it and feel the pain and sufferings Sikhs have endured in India.

The issue of Khalistan can, and should, be debated but it will eventually be decided not in New York, London or New Delhi, but in the streets and villages of Punjab. In the meantime, Sikhs everywhere support the legitimate aspirations of our people in the Punjab in whatever form they are expressed.

Khalistan is neither an issue nor a topic of debate. There has never been any confusion among Sikhs about their sovereign rule. So there is nothing to debate about Khalistan. The moment it is freed from India, the moment people like you will be running towards it for safety and representation.

One thinks of Thomas Jefferson who said: “I weep for my country when I reflect that God is just.”

You can weep for your country, India, and its doom which coming in the future. Khalsa Shall Rule.