ਬਾਬਾਣੀਆ ਕਹਾਣੀਆ ਪੁਤ ਸਪੁਤ ਕਰੇਨਿ
Enduring Impact of Sikh legacy
At least a few, if not all nations and religio-cultural communities abide by their respective religio-cultural legacy and heritage and manifest it at the crucial moments of their existential history. Despite all the physical, economic and socio-cultural changes in their life styles from their primitive origin to their comparatively improved more sophisticated life styles with the passage of time, they retain the fundamental ethos and ingrained values of their original religious and cultural past even in these changes, through these traits may keep lying dormant. They get amply demonstrated and rejuvenate the well-springs of enduring resistance during moments of conflict. The greater the oppression, the greater is their resistance. The longer is the suppression, the longer their endurance. In this war of both nerves and physical resistance and resultant loss of some limb and life what endures and wins the battle at last is the combatant who keeps offering resistance with patience, perseverance and peaceful non-violent opposition against all oppressiveness and brutality of the arrogant and powerful adversary. This kind of tug of war and battle between the politically powerful, arrogant and arbitrarily imposing its will-kind-of-present government of India and the peacefully enduring farming community on the borders of capital of India came to be witnessed during the recently concluded farmers’ agitation. This painful saga of pain and endurance, taking a heavy toll of more than seven hundred lives, lasted longer than a year. What made this historical event successful in favour of the farmers was not only the initiative but the continued leadership provided by the Sikh farmer leaders of Punjab. It was their initiative, enterprise and mature leadership which snowballed into a countrywide protest and agitation. This bold initiative and the leadership emerged out of their Sikh legacy and heritage. They not only themselves remained steadfast, united and non-violent but also motivated their farmer colleagues-in-arms from other states as well to carry on their agitation in a peaceful manner. It would be beneficial to trace the roots of this legacy and take notice of the revival of this rich legacy after a gap of almost one century.
This farmer’s agitation revived the memories of similar display of steadfast, peaceful resistance, perseverance and sacrifice offered by the Sikhs against the brutal violence and relentless oppression unleashed upon them during the four sagas of Saka Nankana Sahib, Guru Ka Bagh Morcha, Panja Sahib Hasan Abdal and Jaito Morcha. During these Sikh protests, the then protesting Sikhs had offered unprecedented peaceful resistance against the unprecedented brutality and violence and incarceration perpetrated upon them by the British supported Gurdwara Mahants and the British controlled Indian Police. The flash firing, killing and burning alive of peaceful Sikh protestors at Nankana Sahib, the merciless beating of endless batches of completely non-violent Sikh volunteers marching in small batches towards Guru Ka Bagh Shrine for months together, silent sacrifice at the railway track at Hasan Abadal had not only humbled the powers to be but also resulted in Sikh victory and liberation of their sacred Shrines. The agitation at Guru Ka Bagh had many parallals / similarities with the recently concluded farmers agitation where Sikh volunteers from all section of Sikh society including ex-servicemen, retired civil servants and Sikh volunteers from foreign countries including American Sikh medicos participated and joined their compatriots from Punjab. Logistic support of providing free food, clothing, shelters, medicine and medical aid and generous financial support by Sikh Gurdwaras, prominent Sikh organizations like the Khalsa Aid then and now was common to both the agitations. It was a repetition and replication of the Sikh legacy from the Past. Its roots go even deeper into the past when three Sikh Gurus, Guru Nanak, Guru Arjan Dev and Guru Tegh Bahadur had offered peaceful resistence against the raging Moghul oppression. It was also replicated during the several farmers’ agitations like Pagri Sambal Jatta and in Paraja Mandal agitation period. Throughout all these agitations, the ruling authorities, the heredity Mahants, the British Colonial masters and the feudal chiefs of native States inflicted indescribable atrocities, repression and sedition charges on the peacefully agitating Sikhs and farming peasants, tenants and farm labourers. But so strong and formidable was the foundation of their legacy that it did not crumble despite long and unbearable acts of brutality. The end result has been that neither any Sikh protest nor any farmers agitation had failed till to-day. The Promethian resistance put forth by the veteran Sikh stalwarts and humble farmers humbled the most arrogant wielders of power.
The recently won and concluded farmers’ agitation displayed similar resistance and opposition against the most powerful and autocratic government. It was the joint Sikh leadership of more than thirty farmers’ unions which saw through the anti-farmer and pro-corporate intentions of the ruling BJP government which initially brought out the three contentious farm laws hastily through repeated ordinances and then got these bills passed hurriedly in the two houses of parliament without any discussion and debate and bypassing all the settled parliamentary norms of subjecting important bills to be scrutinized by the parliamentary select committee. After protesting against these laws peacefully by blocking rails, roads, toll plazas and district headquarters for months, the Sikh farmers, along with their families and children, marched towards the seat of power Delhi while being mentally prepared for a long haul and fight to the finish. Braving road blocks, bursts of water gets from water cannons, and police beatings, they moved forward with steadfast determination and united resistance.
It was their courage of conviction, initiative and mature leadership which motivated the farmers from neighboring Haryana, Uttar Pardesh, Uttrakhand, Rajasthan and Madhya Pardesh and little later, from distant Maharashtra, Telengana and even Bengal. Being true to the Sikh legacy of taking joint decisions, arriving at consensus and awarding punishment to those who violated the collective decisions, they seemed to be replicating the old Sikh ideals of Gurmatta, Sarbat Khalsa and Tankhah. What worked for the Sikh warriors in the eighteenth century also worked for the entire community of agitating farmers now. It was united endeavour based on the unanimity of opinion and cause which could neither be punctured nor diluted by the physical suffering caused by the vagaries of harsh winter, scorching heat of summer and furious rains nor even the most humiliating insinuations by the authorities branding the Sikh farmer leadership of being terrorists, separatists, Khalistanis and anti-nationals funded by anti-India foreign powers. But no charges struck and the farmers agitation continued unabated. On the other hand, this resulted in an unprecedented unity among all the farmers presenting a unique spectacle of national integration and unity. The Sikh tradition of eating together sitting cross-legged, sinking all differences of caste, creed, status and religious divisions spread to all regions. It was a unique spectacle of Muslim farmers serving food to their Hindu Jat and Sikh farmers at Muzzafarpur where communal riots of worst kind had occurred in the recent past. The Sikh ideals of earning and sharing with the needy were imbibed across the entire farming community. Farmers from Haryana, initially reluctant to participate, jumped into the movement whole heatedly. They were convinced of the determined dedication of the Punjab farmers to the farmers’ cause and the genuineness of their demand after this psychic transformation of the Haryana farmers. Haryana became the epicenter of this historical farmers’ agitation and people of Haryana the most generous hosts. Not even once the mature farmers’ leadership fell into the trap laid down by the Government and its police and intelligence agencies when a section of farmers marching on their tractors on January 26, 2021 at Delhi along the pre-sanctioned routes were misled towards Red Fort and telecast alive to show them participating in the anti-National act of hoisting a Khalistani flag there by a hired mercinery. But even this malicious charge did not stick and farmers came out unscathed to pursue their struggle with greater zeal and commitment. It was as a result of this mature leadership of the farmers, in general, and Sikh farmers leaders, in particular, that the most powerful arrogant, autocratic government which had struck at the farmers with a bang ended with a whimper. The seemingly invincible topmost Chief political executive had to apologise, and withdraw the contentious farm laws as abruptly as they were imposed.
This farmers’ Sikh leadership holds lessons for the ruling political leadership as well as the religious Sikh leadership in control of the SGPC and its vast assets. It is the Sikh principle of service to the toiling masses which should govern politics and political leadership rather than other way round. The political leadership of Punjab must learn a lesson from the Sikh farmers’ leadership and save Punjab from the army of marauders let loose on Punjab, already depleted of natural sources Sikh leadership of farmers also deserves credit for uplifting the Sikh image of the Sikhs across the globe as a community dedicated to selfless service of humanity. As we are writing these lines, a significant section of the Sikh/ Punjabi farmers unions, including the leading light of this movement, have decided to take a plunge into coming legislative assembly elections with a determined aim of cleaning the augean stables of current Punjab Politics. Although the rarest among the rare has ever come out uncontaminated out of the cesspool of politics whenever they has ventured clean it, let us keep our fingers crossed for the time being. Let us hope and pray that these new entrants who have dared to enter into the most degraded area of human activity, will also bring to bear the highest traits of their individual and collective leadership upon this stinking areas of State governance and clean it of all the corruption and save their motherland from the loot and plunder of devouring sharks of land, sand and all other natural resources of the State.
ਐਸਾ ਕੰਮੁ ਮੂਲੇ ਨ ਕੀਚੈ ਜਿਤੁ ਅੰਤਿ ਪਛੋਤਾਈਐY
The year (2021) just gone by has been a year of profuse goodness and service to humanity as well as downright acts of human depravity for The Sikhs. During the raging corona pandemic where as majority of countrymen shuddered to assist others for fear of getting infected, Sikh volunteers could be seen taking the infected to the hospitals, converting their spacious congregational halls of Gurdwaras into isolation wards, distributing medicines, food free of cost to the patients and their attendants, providing scarce oxygen to the needy at homes and on the roadside outside their gurdwaras from the multiple improvised outlets created for the emergency and arraging transport and flights for those stranded with their deceased kith and kin, and cremating and burrying the unclaimed dead bodies at considerable risk of getting inflected themselves and their families. Similar acts of selfless service of running free community kitchens during the year-long farmers agitation at all the borders of Delhi further consolidated the Sikh image of a community of god-fearing, stable, cool headed, humble servants of society, capable of keeping their nerve and love of humanity even in extreme moments of human suffering.
But towards the end of this year, two incidents of sacrilege, desecration and vandalism took place which not only revived the bitter memories of the most heinous acts of sacrilege committed in 2015 but also smeared the fair name and image of Sikh society of being a community of compassionate justice loving, protecting the defenseless and making every conscious effort of avoiding to commit sin at any cost. The Sikh killing of two malcontents caught red handed by the Gurdwara task force at Darbar Sahib at Amritsar and the caretaker at a Gurdwara at Kapurthala and then leaving them before the already incensed mass of Sikh devotees to be lynched alive inside the holiest of Sikh shrines is no less a heinous an act of sacrilege and profanity than the two prior acts of desecration by the intruders. Never in the history and rich heritage of the Sikhs, have they killed the defenseless and the fleeing. Let us not forget our legacy of Bhai Kanaihya offering water and first aid even to the enemy soldiers and the fallen. Lynching of a defenseless person, howsoever depraved, and doing vigilants justice runs against the grain and essence of every of tenet of Sikh religion and every other Sikh sanskar which made us Sikhs of the Sikh Gurus. These two mindless acts of brutality under the omniscient gaze of our Guru whom we consider eternal and omnipresent is an unpardonable sin which no amount of argument and counter claims can expiate and condone. In one senseless stroke of lynching of two defenseless accused, all the Sikh investment made in selfless service of humanity and their distinctive image of being spontaneous do-gooders has been brought down and compromised. This most reprehensible incident seems to have divided the Sikh society vertically. While most of opportunist Sikh politicians and religious figures and common masses have endorsed this act of instant justice without batting an eyelid, those who are sensitive, civilized and enlightened feel highly upset, agonized and helpless to reconcile with this kind of primitive justice. Well-known columnist Tavleen Singh’s comments, “they shamed me and I did not recognize my religion. It should shame our political leaders that they fulminated against sacrilege but were too cowardly to admit that the real desecration was that two men were lynched in places of worship,” (Indian Express, 2021) is a candid admission and an echo of our collective guilt.
This kind of mental and psychic fragmentation among the numerically very small religious community bodes ill for the Sikh society and creates hurdles in their upward civilization journey.