Sikhism and Politics: The Demand for Sikh Homeland
Sirdar Kapur Singh (I.A.S)
In the June 1971 issue to The Sikh Review appeared an article by a writer who prefers to remain anonymous, under the caption, "Sikhism, its Outer and Inner Aspects".
The main thesis he would establish is that Sikhism goes ill with political activity, that its spirit is opposed to a striving for positions of political power a decision-making levels and that the Sikh ideal, as embodied in Guru Granth Sahib is hostile to any political power and status for the Sikhs as such.
This is his main thesis, but he has also taken liberties to cast doubts at the bonafides and sanity of those who have led the Sikh struggle during the last 34 years, for the establishment of some respectable political status for the Sikh people in a free India. He argues against the Punjabi Unilingul State by trying to show that in it the political power led to dispersion of the Sikh society into caste and clan and devolution of Punjabi as the official language.
That may well be the case though the argument that the malady is the desire for political power and not improper exercise thereof might be questioned. Further on, however, the writer permits himself to indulge in insinuatory and contemptuous attitude towards all such politicians who plead for a respectable constitutional status for the Sikh people in a free India. He says, as though the experience of the Punjabi Suba was not enough, now there is a demand for a ‘Sikh homeland’, within the Indian Union!"
Firstly, he puts the word ‘homeland’ within inverted comma and secondly, he puts the word ‘within the Indian Union’ in italics, and-thirdly he paces an exclamation mark at the end. What he intends to convey is clear and may be paraphrased as follows:
‘The word "Homeland" (devalued by him as ‘homeland’) is a crude if not exactly a meaningless political term. The demand for the Sikh Homeland ‘within the Union of India’ is silly and self-contradictory and conceived by politically immature and stupid politicians. The sign of exclamation at the end means that the Sikhs who demand the Sikh Homeland properly belong to some place where their physical movements are kept under the strict professional control and where they can receive proper medical attention to cure their minds of feebleness and derangement.’
It is not for the first time that a self-confident and self- assured Sikh has intruded into the printed page to condemn all desire and urge for a political status for the Sikhs, and against any demand for such constitutional status and territorial adjustments wherein the Sikhs interests can survive and develop without hindrance and hurdles that are implicit in the current political trends and the Constitution Act of India.
Not long ago a well-placed and highly educated Sikh, an affluent barrister-at-law, a citizen of the United Kingdom, cracked-down in the columns of the Sikh Courier, of U.K. on an English lady professor in the London University for having stated that the natural destiny of the Sikh people in India was to have some kind of autonomous status in the north of India. This Sikh barrister- at-law argued that the litany, raj karega Khalsa, which is believed to have been uttered by Guru Gobind Singh himself, and which has been and is repeated by Sikhs throughout the world, at the end of every congregational prayer ever since 1710 A.D. does not mean that the Sikh people must struggle for political autonomy for themselves in their Homeland, but that the litany itself simply means that at some point of history, the Sikh people shall acquire a sovereign status. This Sikh legal luminary then pointed out that this prophecy of the Guru had already been fulfilled as the Sikhs did acquire and enjoy a sovereign status during the first half of the 19th century in the north-west of India. He went on to argue that, now the dream for another spell of political autonomy for the Sikh was, in some way to show a form of mental imbecility such as might lead to disastrous consequences for Sikhism and the Sikh people, both.
The writer of these lines then pointed it out that the litany. 'Raj Karega Khalsa’, does not mean that the Sikh people shall enjoy an autonomous political status once upon a time and never again and that anybody who understands simple Punjabi syntax should be able to appreciate the point.
Some time ago, an esteemed gentleman, santokh singh has written and published a paper-back, Gursikhi ate Rajniti, of 16 pages in which he has extensively quoted from Guru Granth Sahib to establish his cherished thesis that is forbidden to Sikh and that the sole religious and social duty of a Sikh is to repeat the Name of God, to join his hands in supplication and submission before his neighbours and adversaries and to earn his livelihood as best as he can, within these limitations. On the title page of the paperback is drawn picture of two soft, well-manicured and white-sleeved male hands joined in supplication, in prayer to God as well as gesture of submission to his non-Sikh neighbours. This paper-back has been widely circulated through post to the addresses of all such Sikhs who are deemed as guilty of preaching that the Sikh people must be accorded a distinct autonomous status in a free India such as can guarantee the Sikhs, free development as citizens of India; there can be no mistake about either the enthusiasm and aims of Sardar Santokh Singh of Chandigarh or about the amplitude of his material resources which he seems to be eager to press into the service of what he believes to be the cause of true Sikhism.
There is another untiring Sikh writer of New Delhi, who has written extensively articles and books to establish that in the light of the doctrines of Psychoanalysis, political power and exercise thereof are fatal to the proper integration of human personality and that the teachings of the Sikh Guru are, when properly interpreted by Psychoanalysts, in accordance with the insights of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.
How interesting it would be if some competent psychoanalyst undertakes to cross-examine a cross-section of these theorists of complete renunciation of political power by the Sikhs by relaxing them on a clinical couch, under proper hypnotic trance to find out what precise complexes are at the root of such literary effusions peculiar only to Sikh writers and intellectuals, the symptoms of which complexes hardly, if ever, exhibit themselves in the case of Hindus, one can understand, need not go into such speculative exercise as to whether it is more desirable to be one’s own master or to be a slave. They already have their grip firmly on the levers of political power in India while Muslims are too well-entrenched in their firm attitudes towards this question of political power. But the other groups and communities of India who are never known, in history, to have aspired for participation in political power, the Sudras, the untouchables, the so-called harijans, the Nagas, adivasis, the Kabir-panthis, the Dadu-panthis and a host of others never burst out into print to cry out that political power or participation therein was a sin or a poison and that it constitutes the greatest danger to their purity of existence if any of their class ever would aspire to it. But the Sikhs do it, again and again, and sturdily and persistently. This is a most intriguing and amazing phenomenon of current Indian scene which perhaps some competent psychoanalyst can explain. We, who have the misfortune to have known politics form inside know the answer but prefer not to spell it out. Let us, however, briefly examine three broad questions, which disturb these Sikh intellectuals again and again.
Is aspiration for political power and desire to participate in its exercise alien to Sikh doctrines, opposed to the spirit of the | evolutionary movement of Sikh people? Again, is it misconceived or unprofitable to ask for some kind of autonomous State for the Sikh people within a free India? Lastly, is the demand for Sikh Homeland within the Union of India stupid and impracticable politics? Let the last question be gone into first.
The demand for the Sikh Homeland is formally enshrined in the basic resolution passed at the all India Annual Akali Conference held at Ludhiana in the temporary town called, Ranjit Nagar, in December, 1966.
This demand has three ingredients : firstly, it says that a specified area in which would be included the present Punjab, the Ganganagar District of Rajasthan, the Sirsa area of Hissar District, Shahabad and Guhla areas of Karnal District, Kalka and Pinjore, the Ambala Sadr area, desh area of Nalagarh, and Dalhousie etc. Should be formed into a single unilingual Punjabi State.
Its second ingredient is that, this State should be accorded the same autonomous status which was given to the State of Jammu and Kashmir in Constitution Act of India as first put on the Statute Book in 1950.
Lastly, this demand requires that the Constitution Act of India should concede that this State shall be deemed as the Sikh Homeland and that in this State the Sikh interests shall be of special importance.
Now, there is nothing prima face ridiculous in this demand as some clever Sikh intellectuals, without studying the question properly, try to make out again and again. This area does constitute the Sikh Homeland along with certain other areas which have now gone to Pakistan. "Sikh Homeland" is not a word which has been coined by some armchair and mischievous Sikh politician, but it is an expression which occurs in the writings of Europeans, competent to speak on the affairs of India, and written more than a century ago. It was in the forties of the 19th century that Sir Needhem Cust wrote his Oriental and Linguistic Essays, a book which has been regarded with respect by those eager to understand Indian affairs and problems. In this book he says that from Jamuna to Jhelum and from Panipat to the foothills of Sivaliks is the area which constitutes the Sikh Homeland. And yet again and again, a special class of Sikh intellectuals, burst into the Press with jokes and contempt, aimed at those associated with the term, 'Sikh Homeland’:
What frenzy has of late possessed the brain,
Though few can write still fewer can refrain.
Again, there can be nothing ridiculous or stupid in demanding unilingual State of such areas of this Sikh Homeland which are still left in India i.e. Bharat, Unilingual States are an established feature of our Public Policy and a Sikh politician cannot be made butt of cheap jokes simply because he makes demand which is in complete conformity with the Public Policy of his country! To ask for an autonomous status for a state such as was willingly conceded to Jammu and Kashmir by the Constituent Assembly in 1950, surely cannot be construed either as act of treason or an act of peculiar Sikh stupidity. The only special characteristic of this demand for Sikh Homeland is the requirement that the Constitution of India should concede that in this area the Sikh interests shall be of special importance. If a mere mention of Sikh interest irritates and annoys some Sikh intellectuals, it should be spelt out clearly, because preservation of Sikh interests does not mean destruction of non-Sikh interests such as might violate the strict sense of justice of these high-minded people. This constitutional provision would be only directive of policy to be interpreted within the framework of our Constitution Act by the judicial courts of the country in relation to each and every measure that a democratically elected Legislative Assembly of the Sikh Homeland may pass or determine. It is merely to* be a guarantee against application or operation of any law, policy or measure that tends to or aims at hitting at the basic Sikh interest, that of freely existing, developing and maturing within the geographical and political context and framework of the Sikh Homeland. It will also legitimatize such laws, measures and policies that can be shown to be positively necessary to preserve Sikh entity. It is a political question as to whether such a safeguard and guarantee may be given to the Sikhs within the constitutional framework of India without impinging upon the legitimate rights of other citizens. It can be demonstrated through argument and dialogue that such a demand is necessary, legitimate and permissible. Surely, on this ground, then, no cheap jokes may be flung at those who uphold this demand for Sikh Homeland.
There is nothing in this demand for Sikh Homeland which is unconstitutional, which is ill-conceived, which is unpatriotic or which is symptomatic of political illiteracy or mental under-development, the type of institutions which are constantly being flung not only by those who are hostile to the Sikh people as such, but more so by those who consider themselves as self-appointed, special custodians of purity of the Sikh doctrine.
Is Sikhism a Church of worship or a Church of social policy also? This is the fundamental question. Our Sikh intellectuals insist on arguing that Sikhism is merely a Church of worship and that the social policy and hence participation in political activities and power is none of its concern.
Now, those who have studied not only the evolution of Sikh history carefully but also the documentary material that has been unearthed during the last 20 or 30 years are fully aware that movements of schism, by the followers of Dhirmal, Ram Rai of Harbhagat, the Niranjania of Jandiala, which movements, the Sikh Gurus in their lifetime and Sikh people subsequently have tried to suppress and extirpate root and branch, through all legitimate means available, were movements which were inspired by the doctrine that either Sikhism should remain unconcerned altogether with social policy and political activity or it should fall in line with the ruling Muslims so as to become their camp-followers. The Substitute scripture which the Dhirmalias compiled, more voluminous than the Guru Granth, contains a distinct chapter on’ Var Piran Paikambran ki, accepting the Semitic line of Prophets and saints of Islam as legitimate and authoritative and about Niranjanias, the author of Tarikh-i- Hussainshai (1789 A.D.) tells us that ‘these Sikh strictly follow basic injunction of Islam and are aspirants for entry into Muslim Society.’ Ram Rai, as we know, was not even averse to suitable alterations in the text of the Guru Granth itself to suit the imperial policies of a theocratic Muslim State. Against these trends the Sikh Gurus and the Sikh people in their historical development have waged relentless struggle and bloody battles and it is precisely this doctrine and these trends which a class of Sikh intellectuals now persist, should be introduced into the policy of the Sikhs.
Raj Karega Khalsa is not an Apocrypha or a ‘fabrication’ "kacci bani ‘as Sardar Santokh Singh of Chandigarh tells us but it is there in the earliest Sikh records, the Janam Sakhi of Guru Nanak by Bhai Bala, in its appendix called, Karninama. In this Appendix these words are spoken by Guru Nanak himself, the same Guru Nanak, who in the Guru Granth proclaims that ‘the God he worshipped was a God who was a destroyer of .earthly tyrants", asur samgharan ram hamara. This Raj Karega Khalsa is then reiterated in the Rahitnama of Bhai Nand Lal, almost contemporaneous with Guru Gobind Singh, and it is confirmed in the Suraj Prakash (1840 A.D.) of Bhai Santokh Singh and Prachin Panth Parkash (1830 A.D.) of Rattan Singh Bhangu. Ever since the demise of Guru Gobind Singh, for almost ninety years, the Sikhs struggled and passed through the valley of Death to emerge into a sovereign nation, implicitly believing that these are the very words from the mouth of the Guru and till 1948 this litany has been faithfully repeated morning and evening, by faithful Sikhs of Guru Gobind Singh during all kinds of ups and downs in their political fortunes.
It was in 1949, at the bidding of late Sardar Patel, that the Nagoke Congressi Sikhs when they captured the control of the Sikh historical shrines in the Punjab, issued a ukase discontinuing chanting of this litany in the gurdwaras under official control, but this interregnum was very short-lived. This litany continues to be chanted in all free Sikh Congregations throughout the world notwithstanding the intellectual onslaught, mounted in recent years, against it, for whatever reasons or motives. It was Guru Amar Dass who established 22 dioceses of the Sikh Church, and Bhai Santokh Singh in his Suraj Parkash tells us that the twenty two dioceses were established to create exact parallelism between the Sikh Church and the 22 provinces of the Mughal Empire. In the Bhagar Ratnavali, Bhai Mani Singh, A contemporary and close disciple of Guru Gobind Singh, in his exegesis of the eleventh Ode of Bhai Gurdas tells us as follows;
"Brothers Jaita, Sigara and Ganga Sehgal were brave and fearless soldiers and they presented themselves before Guru Arjan. Guru Arjan bade them to join the entourage of his son, Hargobind, who was to be the successor Guru and who, Guru Arjan said, had been assigned the task by God Almighty, to protect the Sikh Congregation through the employment and power of arms and armaments. Hard times were ahead. The new Guru will make conquests that will lead to eventual political sovereignty of the Sikhs, through the sword and will establish the Sikh hegemony of the spiritual world through the power of the divine Word."
When in 1710 the political sovereignty of the Sikh nation was first proclaimed by Banda Singh Bahadur the official State-seal bore the following legend in strict compliance with this exegesis in the Bhagat Ratnavali:
Sikhe zad bar har du alam tegh-i-Nanak Sahib ast, which means the 'Sikh people stake their claim to the political and spiritual sovereignty, both, such being the original doctrine of Nanak’.
The Poet Kankan, who was a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh, tells us that a falcon of emperor Shah Jehan fell into the hands of some Sikh hunters of Guru Hargobind (1595-1664 A.D.), but they refused to surrender it to the minions of the Emperor and made the following utterances:
"You keep on threatening us to return immediately the falcon of the Emperor. We refuse to do so and we would have you know, that what to speak of this falcon, our ultimate objective is to snatch the regal crown from over the head of your Emperor who usurps the sovereignty of the people, tusin baj hi baj pukarde ho asin taj tuhadara chahunde han.
It was Guru Tegh Bahadur, the father of Guru Gobind Singh, who issued the famour kukumnama for all-out rebellion against the Mughal imperial tyranny calling upon the Sikhs, ‘not to salute a Mughal government official and never to invite him to sit on the head-side of a cot’.
In obedience to this hukamnama of Guru Tegh Bahadur, hundreds of Sikhs in the decades to come, laid down their lives willingly by refusing to salute the men in governmental authority and by declining to make gestures of submission to the rulers. These are the martyrs whom we remember and revere in our everyday prayers since the last 200 years. Guru Gobind Singh enjoined upon the Sikhs to insist in wearing unlicensed arms, the kirpan which is the right and symbol of a free sovereign man and in the Prachin Panth Prakash, St is said of Sikh that:
"He does not own allegiance to any earthly lord. He is either a sovereign man or a rebel."
Is this an evidence of a Sikh doctrine which lays down that aspiration for political power and political activity as such is alien to Sikhism and hostile to the true spirit of the Sikh people? Do some of our new intellectuals want us to apostatize to join some new sect of pseudo-Sikhism based on some new doctrine of religion which was neither preached by the Sikh Gurus nor practiced by the Sikh people during the last three centuries and more? If that is their intention let them come out openly with it instead of indulging in tendentious propaganda. It is highly improper, if not mean also to try to deviate Sikhs from a position and interpretation of their religion which has received the universal assent of the Sikh Gurus, the Sikh theologians and the Sikh people during the past centuries of Sikh history.
Now, let us come to the point as to whether it is advisable for the Sikhs to demand the type of protection and status embodied in the demand for Sikh Homeland. The argument is frequently advanced that the spirit of the Sikh people urges them on to expand while the demand for Sikh Homeland seeks to shrivel and confine them into a small area in the north of India. This is wholly misconceived. The demand for Sikh Homeland neither envisages that all the Sikhs of the world should pack up their bags and baggage to come back to settle in the Sikh Homeland nor does it follow that the establishment of the Sikh Homeland will oblige them to do so. The Sikh Homeland shall be an integral part of India and those who have their homes and hearths in the Sikh Homeland shall be as good citizens of India as those residents in other parts of India, entitled to the same rights, privileges and protection to which any non-Sikh citizen of India is entitled. The establishment of Sikh Homeland will not entail or place any restriction on the urge of Sikhs to move about or reside in any part of the world, just as they may do now. Those who conjure up such objections or fears in the minds of the Sikhs are either ignorant or something worse.
It is urged sometimes by opponents of Sikh politics that the demand for Sikh Homeland is hostile to the public policy of national integration and that for this reason the demand should be eschewed in the larger national interests. This objection is also wholly misconceived if not mischievous also. Firstly, this national integration, the other face of which is the Jana Sangha Slogan, ‘Indianization of every Indian citizen’, in essence is not what it seems on the surface and it is the job of politicians to find this truth out and to formulate programmes accordingly. National integration has in implicit message of Hindu primacy conveyed to the minorities in variety of ways among which the most prominent are, linguistic, historiographic and religious. Linguistically, the minorities are required to accept Sanskrit based Hindi and Devnagri alphabet as the National characteristics of a true progressive Indian outlook. On the place of history it demands denigration of historical importance of minorities, based on an emphasis on the central role of Hindus in Indian history. In religion, it demands a favourable treatment, at official level, of the operative ideas and ceremonies of Hinduism. The ultimate intent of national integration, as it is implemented today is the Hinduisation of all minority religious, cultural and ethnical groups in India.
Such an integration is ultimately intended to suck back the Sikhs into the omnivorous belly of the Hindu society from which there is no return and if this trend succeeds in its ultimate aims, Sikhism as a distinct religion will become a thing of the past and Sikh society and the Khalsa shall disintegrate finally. This Hindu polity of universal absorption has hoary sanctions, and in the Arthasastra of Kautilya or Chanakya, to commemorate whom the Diplomatic Enclave of New Delhi is called, Chanakyapuri, it is called, matsyanyaya the ‘Fish-Justice’, the moral right of the bigger fish to eat up the smaller one, and the duty of the smaller fish to submit willingly to be gobbled up. This doctrine would fix the Sikh destiny as manure sacrifice and transition.
This would be not only a tragedy for the mankind as a whole, for Sikhism and Sikh society have been accepted as a valuable element of contribution to the world culture, but this would be a tragedy for India and the Hindu Society also, a point the present-day myopic politicians of India fail to see.
At the back of Sikh society, behind their energy, their history making potency, and their productive capacity, there is something as powerful as it is insubstantial; it’s a set of ideas, attitudes and conviction and the confidence that these ideas are viable. The Sikhs, if they are driven to the conclusion by the machinations of the present-day rulers of India and by the political stupidity of a class of a Sikh intellectuals, that their collectivity and the ideas and beliefs that have sustained it are no longer viable and relevant to the present situation they will erupt before fading away, they will not become a part and parcel of the Hindu society as some short-sighted Hindu politicians seem to believe. They will become accretions to anti-social gangs of smugglers, women-lifters, highway men, Naxalites and terrorists as those who have studied the pulsation of Sikh Society in recent time know full well, then the deposit of Sikhism and the Sikh way of life, the panoply of history-making power will be as nothing and the darkness will gather and the north of India shall fall a prey to dark anti-social forces the ultimate impact of which on the history of India and this region of the world, nobody can foretell. The future develops mysteriously, secretly and unfolds itself silently without fore-caution and there will appear no warning headlines in the morning editions of favourite newspapers of these obstreperous
Sikh intellectuals and over-clever rulers of India before such a catastrophe befalls them.
In Guatemala and southern Mexico, one don observes “the Indians who are, without doubt, the lineal descendants of those who created the Mayan civilization. Today, they are a humble people not asking much of themselves or of the world and not getting much. They have been reduced to a state of peonage and with this they are content. A light has gone out.” In Malaysia of today there are Sikh citizens who are descendants of those who submitted to the cruel an excruciating removal of their scalps by the executioner rather can part with their sacred keshas, yet these are the Malaysian young Sikh men who would, at a inch embrace Islam so as to marry a young Muslim co-ed, since the Constitution of their country does not permit the marriage of a Mulim girl with a non-Muslim citizen, In the streets of Southampton of the United Kingdom you observe the clean-shaven and cigarette-smoking descendants of those Sikhs who once challenged the might of the growing British imperial power on the banks of Sultej and had almost defeated it if only they had not been betrayed by their traitor generals and traitor civil government. The British Empire, the Industrial Revolution of Europe and also the history of world in the 19th and 20th centuries were at crossroads and these Sikhs had the powers of control. Now, their modern descendants of the considerable Sikh colony in the United Kingdom, who have shaved themselves and converted themselves into jolly good fellows in the beer pubs of that great country, might be full of energy that enables them to earn good money and they might have acquired a good material standard of life, good food, smart clothes and habits of generous hospitality and they might build magnificent Sikh temples wherein offerings of thousands of pounds a day are made and in which gurdwaras Queens' peace is frequently disturbed on issues of election of presidents and secretaries of these Sikh temples, but these modem "Sikhs" who have dropped out, so to speak, have lost, forever, the history making potency that their forefathers possessed and no matter how affluent and influential they became as a group in the United Kingdom, they shall never be able to make any significant contribution to the high and composite culture of British race. They are doomed to remain ‘blackies’ and 'niggers’, 'south Asians’ and ‘Hindus’ and they shall never be Sikhs, as conceived by Guru Nanak and as fashioned by Guru Gobind Singh unless they unreservedly and penitently return to the original Institutes of Khalsa.
The cohesiveness of a society, the determination of a large number of people to live together, to work together, to aspire together, is a fairly mysterious thing and we yet do not know that makes it happen.
If the Khalsa is made to pull apart, as the neo-Hindu politicians through purposeful machinations and the naive Sikh intellectuals through cussedness and lack of deeper understanding of things seem bent upon doing will anyone know how to go about repairing it? Gurus do not descend on the earth every decade. Who can say what the disintegration of the Khalsa will cost the Hindu society and India in the long run!
The demand for Sikh Homeland is a way out of the conditions of rootlessness and individual irresponsibility into which Sikhs are being reduced through atomization of the Khalsa and secularization in a free India. Unless they are extricated from this morass through politically arrangements that can enable them to salvage their collective identity them might become a danger to others in desperate efforts to find meaning and purpose for themselves, through whatever comes to hand, communism, nihilism, bizarre religions or far-out protest movements. Those who are in intimate touch with the social fermentation in the Indian Punjab of today know too well that this is what is already happening. One has simply to examine the lists of cardholders of the communist party, the bio-data of liquidated Naxalite young men, the leading lights of protest movements and strikes and hartals in every sphere of social, political and governmental life of the state, and also the number of those who daily swell the pseudo-religious churches of nirankaris, radhaswamis and self-style saints to realize that the hazards are real. Those who shut their eyes to his danger do so either through irrational animosity towards Sikhism and the Sikh people or through crass ignorance. This explains the entire gamut of opposition and objections to the demand for Sikh Homeland. The good souls who argue that because in the Sikh scripture it is stated at numerous places, that a man of religion hancers neither after worldly power nor after personal redemption, raj na chahun mukt na chahun, and so on do not understand that these are not injunctions or commandments of Sikhism nor statements of doctrine, but merely clues to techniques for mood-inducement, the roots of which techniques go to the ancient yoga texts. To interpret a sacred scripture is not a job which every man who happens to be a graduate from a University, a brave general or a successful lawyer can properly undertake. There are different levels of meanings of a scripture and only those who have spent a life-time on the subject with a proper background and training, are competent to interpret them. Dante in his Convivio lists four levels of meanings in accordance with which scriptures ought to be understood and expounded and the modern philosophers of semantics endorse it, in substance. Literal and dictionary meanings constitute the lowest of these levels. Amongst Sikhs, however, an impression seems to be prevalent that not only every man may interpret the Guru Granth and the inner meanings and the true doctrines of Sikhism but that every ones interpretation must be deemed as valid as that of any other. This would seem to be the Sikh variation of 'equality, liberty, fraternity’. This type of immaturity neither exists nor is tolerated in any other religious community of the world and it has never been so permitted in the past by any mature culture group.
Martin Luther wrote indefatigably on vast variety of subjects and the Weimer Edition of his complete works runs to ninety volumes. Martin Luther is father and fountain head of the trends of religious thoughts that have given birth to modern industrialized, powerful Western Europe. He may be said to have summed up his life work and his final view on the subject of religion, in the famous Note found in his scattered papers after his death. This Note, scribbled in pencil on a stray piece of paper, runs as follows:
No one can understand Virgil’s Bucolics unless he has been a headmaster for five years; no one can understand the Letters of Cicero unless he has lived and moved in a great Commonwealth for 25 years. Let no one think he has tasted enough of the Holy Scriptures unless he has ruled the congregation with prophets like Elijah and Elisha, John the Baptist, Christ and the Apostles. We are beggars, that is true."
To interpret and to exegetise the Sikh scripture and to lay bore, the meaning and true contours of the values of Sikh society is not every man’s meat. Those who insist on creating confusion and obfuscation in the doctrines and principles of Sikhism and the postulates of Sikh society are doing the greatest possible harm not only to the Sikhs but also the world-community which is a legitimate heir to what Sikhism and the Sikh society has to offer by way of its peculiar contribution to the universal world- culture, which, is now in the process of emerging.
That the Khalsa is a State is the earliest clear idea that has emerged in Sikh epiphany and that has been accepted as the true Sikh postulate for the last three hundred years. This was much before Hegel stated that only those people can come under our notice which form a State. Hegel is correct, because his statement reflects the familiar distinction between History and pre-History: only those people which have succeeded in organizing their society in some degree cease to be primitive savages and enter into History. That sovereignty is a sui generis characteristic of the Khalsa, that may be suppressed by others or compromised by community’s individuals but which cannot be extinguished or proscribed is equally well established. Protest against injustice, rebellion against and resistance to despotism, including the right of tyrannicide is embodied in the basic constitution of the Khalsa. To ask the Sikhs now to degenerate into a herd of unquestioning camp-followers and submissive slaves is simply preposterous. No amount to spurious arguments or tendentious write-ups can change his basic position.
It is being argued that since the Sikhs have made a mess of arts and practices of Government in the Punjab recently it is conclusive argument against any aspiration by the Sikhs to acquire and exercise political power. It is significant that this argument is advanced by those who claim to be for the Sikhs, as well as by those who make no secret of their antipathy and political hostility towards the Sikhs. Who is the master-mind and who the tool in this game is anybody’s guess. Anyhow, this is a strange type of logic. Nobody is more painfully aware than the writer of these lines as to how the Sikhs have mismanaged their political affairs in recent years. But is this state of affairs peculiar to the Sikhs alone in India? Throughout the country there has been general decline in norms and standards of political and personal conduct. The third-rater, the bully and the thug are having it their own way and the decent and the scrupulous have been systematically elbowed out of the political arena of the country everywhere and at all levels. Processes of democracy have been subverted to serve the ends of self- aggrandizement and dishonesty and corruption is the order of the day. True, the Sikhs are somewhat crude and unsophisticated in perversion of the political game, but that also makes them less vicious and dangerous to the interest of the country and the nation. Though one could sympathize with the argument that the Sikhs who refused to bifurcate politics from religion ought to have known and done better. This is no argument to shunt the Sikhs out of the main-stream of the Indian history by asking them to eschew Political activity and aspiration for being at decision-making levels of the politics of their country. Such an argument can be advanced only by those who desire, above all things to see that the Sikh religion and the Sikh society are consigned to the limbo of the past. Surely, this cannot be the aim of any Sikh intellectual, if he is a Sikh at all whether he has made a mark in his worldly profession, is an adept in nam simrin or is a master of the esoteric science of psychoanalysis.
What counts in history is continuity and fecundity. The Sikhs must multiply and expand and they must remain at all costs, in the vanguard of political activity, or they must squeeze, deliquesce and be smashed and squashed up. There is no third alternative. There is a pathological human urge to crush those who are weak, particularly those who once were not so and thus renouncing or failure in the game of politics the Sikhs expose themselves to double jeopardy, not mere extinction but ignoble extinction. The Guru has bidden the Sikhs never to listen to such dark evil counsels. Guru Gobind Singh, himself, has told us that a man forbidden to wear unlicensed arms and reduced to a shorn slave in appearance, is verily like a sheep liable to be led to the slaughter house by whosoever may wish to do so, bina sastra kesam naru bhed jano, Gahe kan ta ko kite le sidhano, are the followers of this Guru Gobind Singh now to accept the advice and exhortations of those who tell us that political power vitiates human soul and it is forbidden to a Sikh to engage in political activity, who tell us that some Freud or Jung has said such a thing about anatomy of power-politics? Then Guru Gobind Singh warns us that: he, who would relinquish his firm grip on the hilt of the sword must prepare his fleshy neck to receive the sharp edge of a sword in the hands of another, Khadag hath jin tajio kahdag dhara saho. Are the followers of this Guru Gobind Singh to be enamoured by the siren calls of those who tell us, as our Chandigarh friend does in his paperback, that since, during the British days many Sikhs engaged themselves in nam-simrin while undergoing life-imprisonments in the dark dungeons of foreign rulers in distant parts of India and Andaman Islands, therefore, a state of slavery and subjugation must be deemed as highly conducive to the practice of true Sikh religion?
Let the Sikhs make no mistake about it that unless they wake up and delve deep into their own souls to rediscover the direction which the Guru gave them, they are facing the mortal danger of being pushed out of the main stream of History and eventual extinction. This ‘national integration’ this talk of ‘secularism’ in which politics is supposed to be freed and disassociated from religion, originate from those who have now usurped the political strings of the destiny of India. They have brazen-facedly adopted ail the tactics of Tammany Hall bosses to push out decent elements out of the political life by manufacturing wholesale bogus memberships in their own organizations and engineering bogus voting at public elections. Thus they have managed to maintain a fraudulent facade of democracy, reduced politics to a filthy game which nobody wishing to keep his hands clean play and have turned public life into an arena infested by hoodlums, hooligans and other undesirable elements. Their self-interest is their only concern. People have been made to live from day to day on false hopes created by empty slogans and empty promises. The little prosperity brought about by developmental progress has been misappropriated by crooked politicians, briberous bureaucracy, unscrupulous industrialists and black-marketing businessmen. They have brought about total eclipse of moral values in all spheres of life. This dishonest and unpatriotic group are living in vulgar indulgence and ostentation. These people can be no guides, for us, the Sikhs, and the only True Guide for us is the Guru who can help us here and redeem us hereafter. Bishop Berkeley is right in saying that, "he who hath not meditated upon God, the human mind and the summum bonum may make a thriving earthworm but a sorry statesman."
This calamity to India and to our nation must be staved off. This can be done, in theory, by a good, efficient and honest government manned by competent persons of unquestionable character in whom the people can repose their confidence. It is in this context that the Sikhs have to consider as to what their duty towards themselves, towards the Guru, towards the country and the nation is. Not by following the string leads to these politicians can the Sikhs do any good to themselves or to the country. Not by giving up political activity and aspirations to political power can they discharge the duty which the Guru and History have placed on their shoulders. This duty was well perceived by General Barker, the Commander-in Chief of the East India army, when on the 19th August, 1771 he wrote to Sirdar Jhanda Singh Bhangi that, "it is clear that as longs as the Khalisah is on the watch no one can march upon Hindustan." This danger of "arch upon Hindustan" has been there since the dawn of history and the lapse of two centuries since General Barker wrote to the Sikh Sirdar, this danger has assumed the form of a double threat, of military invasion as well as the more disastrous ideological invasion such as can destroy the very soul of India.
This makes the duty of the Sikhs much more complex and onerous. Their duty, therefore, is firstly, to came out and establish for themselves a congenial habitat and milieu wherein the guiding impulses and postulates of the Sikh society freely operate and fructify. Their second task is to so organize and equip themselves as to play the vital role of being a cultural and political bridge between the Aryan India and the Semitic Western Asia. India is by nature and historical circumstances now destined to become a great nation and great power on the material and cultural planes, both. Unless the Sikh play their part properly and well they shall be guilty of treason towards mankind. Above all they shall have betrayed the task entrusted to them by the Gurus that of creating, a just, forward-looking, equalitarian and plural society wherein the spiritual values of mutual tolerance, cooperation and understanding can prosper and thus to play a vital role such as truly behooves and befits them.
The demand for Sikh Homeland arises out of this context and it certainly is not something conceived by this individual politician or that and harped on by those who are supposed not to understand either the tenets of Sikh religion or the spirit of Sikh ethos.
In the present age, when all political power has devolved upon the people, to try to renounce it would be the greatest act of folly on the part of the Sikhs in their collectivity. Those who would aspire to and legitimately acquire this political power at the decision-making levels shall become the elect and the chosen people and those who renounce or edge away from it shall become the defeated and the vanquished ones. Vae Vicitis is a Roman piece of wisdom which means, ‘woe to the vanquished’. Do some of our Sikh intellectuals wish the Sikhs to have the fate of the vanquished arid do to these intellectuals know what this fate is, and has been throughout the ages? The vanquished are the dust under the feet of the conqueror and the dirt on his shoes. The vanquished are the hewers of wood and the drawers of water. Is the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh, the revered Khalsa of the Etemai God, Sat Sri Akal purkh ji ka Khalsa ji Sahib, to be reduced to this condition? Have these Sikhs read as to what happened to the women, children, treasures of art and culture of the Russians subjected to German invasion during the last world war? Have they read the accounts and Diaries now published by some women who were caught up in Berlin when Russians occupied it in 1945? Do they know what happened to the Sikh women, the Sikh sacred heirlooms when the Punjab was invaded by the soldiery of U.P. in 1845? Every virgin and every woman on the road leading to Lahore was raped and degraded by this mercenary Uttar Pradesh soldiery, Purbias, as we called them and it was to avenge this, mainly, that the Sikhs joined hands with the British during the Mutiny of 1857. In the Indo-Pakistan conflict of 1965, it is known, that but for the obduracy of a certain Sikh general it had almost been decided to abandon the entire Punjab west of Ambala to the invading Pakistani tanks. Just a week or ten days of occupation of the Sikh Homeland by the soldiers of Marshal Ayub and not a single Sikh virgin or a single rupee or a single Sikh sacred spot would have retained its purity and dignity, and the Sikh world, its generals, barristers and psychoanalysts notwithstanding, would have been enveloped by darkness and decay for fifty years at least if not forever. Guru Nanak has warned that, 'when the foci of holiness, the spots of sanctity and the areas of pride of a people are violated, desecrated and degraded then the people sank down into despairing gloom and state of object surrender', thanist jag bhrast hoe dubta iv jag. Will the Sikhs not wake up and prepare themselves for such an eventuality which may befall them one fine morning when they wake up from under their greasy quilts after a long evening brooze? No amount of fine exegesis of the Sikh Scripture made by our intellectuals will come to the rescue of the Sikhs when such a fate overtakes them. No amount of jointed supplicatory hands or muttering the name of God will save them from total degradation and humiliation. But if they wake up in time, turn their faces towards the Guru, and salvage their political personality in constitutionally established Sikh Homeland within the Union of India there is every prospect of such a fate to the Sikhs and shame to India being averted.
Ananda Coomarswamy in his Essays in National Idealism (1921) wrote:
"We want our India for ourselves, because we believe each nation has its own part to play in the tale of human progress and nations which are not free to develop their individuality and character are also unable to make the contribution to the sum of human culture which the world has a right to expect of them."
This is the essence of the central argument for creation of the Sikh Homeland. That when political power came to the Sikhs in the 19th century and again, far a few years in an attenuated form, in the 20th century in the shape of Akali ministry led from the nose by theandric saint, it gave rise to gross abuses deleterious for the purity of Sikh doctrine and the dignity of the Sikh image is not an argument against political power, but is merely an acknowledgement of a basic human frailty. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" is a truth not originally discovered by Lord Acton. Kautilya, the high priest of political power in his Arthasastra, tells us that, 'power invariably tends to pervert human mind' balam hi cittam vakroti. Kautilya does not draw the inference that political activity and power must be renounced as per se evil; he expounds detailed rules how to acquire political power and then cling to it at all costs so that the ethical values and the Social order in which they inhere may be duly protected. The great Samkaracarya in his Opadesikpancika announces that ‘the fundamental disease of human body is the hunger’ ksuhdarogam, but he does not proceed to recommend fast-unto-death as the remedy he enjoins strict and scientific regulation of food, pratidinam bhikshosdham bhujyatam
Why must the Sikhs be such simpletons as to recommend for themselves renunciation of political power, against all canons of commonsense against all lessons, of History, against the historical experience of the Sikh community, against the traditions set by their ancestors and against the teachings of the Guru?
Sikhs must want to live as all living things do, they cannot be asked to agree to die.
Sikh society, the Khalsa, is an organic living society with a unique character, it asks to be accepted as equal because it is unique, as each individual is unique.
"Sir Lapel Griffin when he wrote the Life of Ranjit Singh in the year 1840 said of the political talent of the Sikhs that:
"To the Brahmins (Hindus) and the Mohammedans (Muslims) alone did the hereditary talent of Government (understanding of politics) belong ... Against the cultured intelligence of those races, what had the poor Sikh cultivator, stupid as his own buffaloes, to oppose? Not to him the triumphs of diplomacy and the conflict of quick intellects in the atmosphere of a court. He could do no more than plough straight and fight. In the intellectual competition with Brahmins and Mohammedans he was as a cart horse pitted against thorough breeds.”
In 1947, H.V. Hudson, the Constitutional Adviser to Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy of India was constrained to observe in his publication, The Great Divide, that, Time and again the Powers that were in the central Government of India complained of political incompetence of the Sikhs.
As if being a herd of incompetent stupid buffaloes in politics was not enough for us, we are now throwing up a class of pseudo-intellectuals who are engaged in preaching, day and night, that Sikhism is a church of worship that raj karega Khalsa is a fabricated anti-Sikh litany and the demand for Sikh Homeland is made by half-wits and self-seeking politicians.
May the Rider of the Blue Horse now Himself redeem the promise he has made of coming to the aid and rescue the Khalsa whenever grave danger threatens it.