Ailment and Cure
It has become almost customary in the Sikh circles to quote and relate to the Eighteenth Century Sikhs as the hallmark of their exemplary behaviour, fortitude, piety and sacrifices. It was, indeed, the glorious period of enduring inhuman atrocities, their fortitude and resilience from the brink of extinction to become a power to reckon with. The Eighteenth Century Sikhs imbibed the high qualities directly from Guru Gobind Singh and the firm faith that was the basic ingredient of the Sikh character hewn by Guru Nanak. But the question is whether basking in that glory will yield results for the future?
It is the turbulent period of about two centuries of pulls and pressures that should have brought about apt leadership to wage the struggle and surmount the dangers which have not only increased despondency but presented new vistas of uncertainty for the Panth. After Maharaja Ranjit Singh, there has not been, unfortunately, any towering personality to provide multidimensional lead to the Sikhs. The underlings and minions, who are periodically thrown up, have had myopic vision limited to their personal aggrandisement and always planned within their own purview and singularly failed the community interests. Ever since the fatal year 1849, when the sovereignty of the Sikh nation was abolished by the British, with shameless connivance of the advisors of the Lahore Durbar, more worried about securing their personal privy purses, nothing outstanding has happened till to date. The vile Gulab Singh Dogra, the imposter so-called purbias, the British subterfuge experts did what somebody else would have done in that very situation. As it usually happens in all cases of defeatist mentality, there is whimpering and wailing of betrayal and duplicity as if all others were duty-bound to render service to the irreversibly lost Sikh cause, blaming all others for their own failure to take up cudgels to safeguard their hard-earned freedom. This paranoia has persisted all along, during the formative years of India’s Independence movement, when the Sikh representatives seemed satisfied by their mere presence at crucial conferences and meetings, without any workable agenda, except hoping to get ready made solutions from the crafty Congress and/or staunch Muslim League, while the Hindus and the Muslims delved deep into diplomacy to outsmart each other, and had alternate plans to fall back upon to divide the spoils of independence. A momentous opportunity to secure place in history for the Sikhs was lost for ever by lack of vision, eye on personal gains and misplacing faith on other contenders; and complaining thereafter of deception and betrayal.
The Sikhs as a nation have tremendous vitality, a strong feel of the occasion and spontaneity of the cause, but it has been demonstrated time and again that mere selfless sacrifice is not sufficient, without a well planned strategy. It happened in the senseless Anglo-Sikh Wars, in the Gurdwara Liberation movement when thousands courted arrest; hundreds were brutally killed or maimed without achieving real freedom from the vested interests, in the absence of astute and capable leadership.
The much hyped Gurdwara movement was a mass arousal of the whole community keen to reform the decadence into which Sikhism had been dumped by the clever maneuvering of the priestly class, but what was the Sikh leadership’s response? They complacently agreed to the politicisation of the Gurdwara management by adopting the corrupt procedure of the polling booth which is the bane of misconduct and sleaze of democracy and unfit for the once pristine glory of the institutions founded by our Great Gurus and sanctified by their blood and sacrifices of the Sikhs. Today, it is a sad commentary on the total eclipse, of the system gone awry like the masands of yore, chastised by Guru Gobind Singh himself. Do we need another cleansing of the system with the same zeal and fervour? Happily, the core of the community is healthy and strong and it eagerly awaits a hurricane movement to do away with the present malaise. A blizzard wave of purification is strongly desirable and pertinent. Gradually, the present Gurdwara management structure is waning in its response to the community needs; it is neither supporting the public requirements nor providing expert guidance to them to deal with complex and intricate problems for which deep, multi-dimensional study is a must. Even, guidance to utilise available benefits and demand more for the Sikhs, a significant and virile minority, is singularly missing, while other minorities, Muslims and Christians, even Buddhists are exploring all avenues to assist their weaker sections to take maximum benefits.
Our leaders in their simplicity either tried on the strategies fashioned for the benefit of an absolute Hindu majority or the schemes suited to the sizeable Muslim minority according to their circumstances, which was injudicious and it backfired. They never thought deep in terms of their own situation. Management experts advise that a small outfit is distinctly different in its problems to a large scale unit, with its distinct merits and disadvantages. Trying to bend one to the needs of the other is a sure recipe for disaster.
The present attitude of our intelligentsia is equally irresponsible in raising hue and crying foul over other communities’ taking advantage of the stupor into which our institutions have fallen. Pray, why should others not exploit at our cost since we have lowered our guard on ethical and moral values? What is needed is to raise our protective shield to safeguard our culture. It is not obligatory on others to unravel our ineptitude and not take advantage where we are vulnerable and defenceless. For instance, the Sikh institutions have no programme to outreach the problems of common Sikhs, on counseling about religious renaissance or on economic front. Repeated Musical durbars sans the core message of gurbani have become repetitious and more commercial, mere money spinners benefiting the musicians and the organisers. More serious issues are swept under the carpet, which should have been resolved long ago by mutual consent, but have been indefinitely kept in the boiling pot so that any number of explosions could occur to the sheer irretrievable loss to the entire Sikh community. The matters are highly sensitized and referring to these is nothing less than putting one’s arm into the snake pit but it has to be faced by the community. Whether it is the contentious matter of the birth date of Guru Nanak Devji, Ragmala, the Dasam Granth, the correct Nanakshahi Calender, or the fake dera-wise Reht maryada, others will happily fish in troubled waters till our elders do not sink their stubborn eccentricity to ruthlessly stamp out all rival views. The Sikh tenets suggest Gurmata and unanimity and not a decision foisted by the dubious process of majority voting on any and every religious issue. And the usual whimpering and protests about others inevitably taking advantage of our disunity will heap only ridicule on all of us. It is not as if others do not have their dissensions, but a system has to be evolved like the selection of the Pope in Roman Catholics, that does not allow the cardinals a breather till unanimity is achieved, more like our institution of Gurmata, a decision acceptable to all. Our pigmy Babas and religious leaders have discredited the lofty institute of the Gurmata and are incapable of decision-taking.
That was exactly the scene of a hopeless and rudderless people, when Guru Nanak appeared to define the vital difference between Will and Desire, of determination from wishful daydreaming, of taking cudgels to right a wrong rather than waiting endlessly for a messiah to appear to solve all our ills. The Gurus gave us the practical way to stand up to face up to difficult situations and not merely crying foul to all others.
The Eighteenth Century Sikhs were determined to turn scales in their favour by total faith in the Guru, gurbani, discipline, dedication to the panthic cause and the lofty principles enunciated by the Great Gurus, of halemi, tender thought and mild speech, action more than debate, a joint effort and plan of deed and overall triumph of the Panth. Along with the sovereignty of Punjab, we seem to have lost our fundamental values and never recovered our posture and poise
ਮਨਮੁਖ ਕਥਨੀ ਹੈ ਪਰੁ ਰਹਤ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥
ਨਾਵਹੁ ਭੂਲੇ ਥਾਉ ਨ ਕੋਈ ॥
– Guru Granth Sahib, p. 831
The egocentric talks but does not perform,
Devoid of naam, there is no refuge (for him).
Our intellectuals have overtaken the wily Brahmins in debating threadbare on any contentious issue. Our plight is that these endless discussions tend to outsmart each other, to justify the rigid, fixed attitudes on either side on their respective inhibitions. The need of the hour is to set up a conclave of unbiased scholars, who do not press to infuse their smart but misplaced preset notions. Emphasis must be on all factions strive to agree, once for all, to practical solutions. Thus we may thwart malevolent designs of others who are watching and waiting to strike the community, deeply engulfed in feeble disagreements.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2011, All