SUPER STATESMEN IN SIKH HISTORY
Jasbir Singh Sethi
In the field of conflict resolution worldwide, we hear great accomplishments of great statesmen, like Henry Kissinger, Camp David Accords and now the US-Iran Nuclear deal. There are great achievements of statesmanship that have saved world from many serious conflagrations and extreme tensions. They have very special skills to bring the parties in conflict to the table and by understanding their opposing views, try to work out some common ground to bring them to agree to common goals. This process needs exceptional skills and of course, some recognized authority of the negotiator and his political and national standing.
In Sikh History we have a grand galaxy of Heroes of exceptional self sacrifice or warrior skills and martyrs. Modern world is based on communication in all spheres of life, be it business, social, or political. Thus mastery of communication skills is a much admired quality in today's world. This prompted me to explore if Sikh History had some examples of exceptional communication skills.
Guru Hargobind Sahib's arrest in Gwalior Fort and then release along with 52 other princes and kings is a shining example of exceptional communication skills.
A casual study of Mughal period confirms that in the Mughal Criminal Justice there is no middle path or softer angle to punishment. The tyraneous and callous nature of Mughal rule is very vividly described by Guru Nanak Dev Ji in Babar Vani.
It is clear that Mughal Criminal Justice had the only death penalty for any person who was even perceived to be a threat to the kingdom. This punishment was inflicted even on siblings. The only other punishment on record is life sentence. Gwalior Fort was for such prisoners. The fort already had 52 such Hindu pahari rajas under life sentence. Some historians say that Guru Hargobind Ji was also sent to the fort most likely for twelve year term, equivalent of life sentence.
Now starts the role of super Sikh Statesman to reverse the whole situation. Mughal Emperor prided himself on Justice. He had a bell installed outside his residence that any person who feels that he did not get justice could ring the bell and his complaint would be heard and justice dispensed. This trait of listening to the complaints of common citizens was also a kingpin in the statesmanship strategy worked by Sikhs. Baba Budha Ji and Bhai Gurdas Ji arranged for the Sikh activism. Groups of Sikhs always assembled outside the fort for Chowki Bharna, kind of keeping vigil with torches. It was an example of peaceful protest. This activism earned the sympathy of lots of non-Sikhs, conveying to Emperor Jahangir of the disagreement of his people with his decision of arresting the Guru. This popular movement was building up pressure on the conscience of the Emperor Jahangir and reminds us how pressure can be built with social activism for a cause that has the potential of getting moral support of others too.
More active negotiations were carried out by Wazir Khan and Mian Mir and with their active participation Jahangir could be persuaded to set Guru Hargobind ji free.
When Wazir Khan reached Gwalior with orders from Jahangir, Guru Ji demanded that all other 52 Hindu Rajas are who are innocent and deserve to be set free should be also freed. Wazir Khan came back to Agra to start negotiations once again. He could persuade Jahangir to release all those 52 too. He finally obtained freedom orders for them too and again came to Gwalior. The idea of a special Gown with 52 folds was conceived by Hari Das, the fort incharge, who had also become Guru Ji's Disciple. Getting Freedom orders from Jahangir was a great act of statesmanship, but then orders of freedom of 52 other Hindu Rajas also was a stroke of genius and that makes them super statesmen. It goes on to prove that the Sikhs always cultivated friendship of great souls. It is important that the Sikhs continue to keep the doors open for dialogue and maintain cordial relations even with the persons who have divergent views. The role of the people with goodwill and positive attitude is very essential in statesmanship.
I must mention one very recent example of statesmanship. India needs technical assisstance for its nuclear industry. USA is the recognized leader in nuclear technology, but USA has adopted NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) as keystone to its policy of nuclear help to any nation. India through its Prime Minister Sh. Atal Behari Bajpai tried to get help from USA, but the US President Bill Clinton could not be persuaded to sign the proposed nuclear treaty, even though Democratic Party has lots of political assets with India. Then came Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh who could persuade Republican President Bush to sign the same treaty without India being a signatory to NPT. It is a marvelous achievement by Dr. Singh. Not only that it set rolling a new attitude in US Policy to see both sides of the nuclear treaty: the military as well as for peaceful purpose, and hammer treaties separately. This has led US President Barrack Obama to come up with a nuclear treaty with Iran and thus has given a new strategy to world leaders in solving complex world problems.
May we Sikhs can learn from our rich heritage a few lessons such as social activism in creating goodwill among non-sikhs too and open doors to more avenues.
1. Satbir Singh, Sada Itihas, Part 1,
2. Satbir Singh, Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib ji de Samae de Sikh,
(1) Wazir Khan,s full name was Hakim Aleem u Din Ansari but his pet name was Wazir KhanHe was from Chenout and had mastry in Arabic and Medicines. Sikh history acknowledges him as aclose associate with Guru Ji.On his deathGuruji hadsent aspecial robe of honor to Agra.
(2) Mian Mir ji is well known in Sikh History. He was also the spiritual guide of NOORJAHAN, who married Emperor Jahangir in 1611. She was very favorite of herhusband and held great influence over him. Bansiwalanama has recorded "Noorjahan Begum told her husband" Noorjahan Begum told her husband The holy man is like God, weshould not be arresting him. CurseofaHoly man is not easy to get rid of."Noorjahan influenced Jahangir from extremism and more tolerant path
(3) Mian Mir ji considered Guru Hargobind Ji asmanifestation of God Himself and had great regards for Him.