With Guru Sahib’s Grace, Sangat throughout the world has this month commemorated and remembered the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms and the Shaheeds (martyrs) who fought for justice. I recently heard a saying by a non-Sikh who said, “It is more important how you remember, rather than what you remember.”
Hearing this quote, I started reflecting on how we remember our Shaheeds.
Is it enough that we remember our great Gurus and Shaheeds or do we need to reflect on how we are remembering them? Every year there are Akhand Paaths in memory of Shaheeds, there are Kirtan Darbars and there are talks. However, are we truly remembering our Shaheeds? Have we done justice to their memory by just announcing that “today we are remembering the Shaheeds”?
Let us remember what happened to the Sikhs in November 1984. The killers of the Sikhs cut the hair of Sikh men before they burnt them to death. Why did the raging blood thirsty killers cut the hair of the Sikhs when they were going to kill them anyway? It was an act of dishonouring the Sikhs before killing them.
We have to ask ourselves, are we today dishonouring our Sikhi by paying others to cut our Kesh, plucking our eyebrows and shaving our hair? The Sikh women were physically raped and the Sikh men were psychologically raped by dishonouring their God-given Kesh which is the covenant between a Sikh and God. If we wish to remember the Shaheeds, then may we remember the Shaheeds by vowing not to cut, pluck, dye or dishonour our beautiful Kesh which acts like a robe of love which links us to the Great Guru.
In November 1984 the killers of the Sikhs poured kerosene over the Sikhs and burnt them to death. We have to ask ourselves, are we today pouring alcohol inside ourselves and burning our Sikhi? If we wish to remember the Shaheeds, then may we remember the Shaheeds by vowing to not drink alcohol anymore and instead look after the body which was supposed to be a field for the seeds of Sikhi to flourish.
In November 1984 the killers of the Sikhs shamelessly desecrated Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee. We have to ask ourselves, are we today disrespecting Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee by not following the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji? If we wish to remember the Shaheeds, then may Guru Jee bless us with the desire and effort to strive to follow the Guru’s teachings and become light-houses of Sikhi through living Guru Jee’s message and Hukam.
Sikhs have experienced many holocausts and genocidal pogroms, but the Sikh spirit has never died. When 18th century Sikh women were arrested and endured torture in Mir Mannu’s Jail in Lahore, they chanted: “ਮਨੂੰ ਸਾਡੀ ਦਾਤਰੀ ਅਸੀਂ ਮਨੂੰ ਦੇ ਸੋਏ ||
ਜਿਉਂ ਜਿਉਂ ਮਨੂੰ ਵਢਦਾ ਅਸੀਂ ਦੂਣ ਸਵਾਏ ਹੋਏ || (We are the grass, and Mannu the sickle (grass-cutting blade); The more he cuts us, the more we grow.)”
How did the Sikhs grow? When the blood of the Sikhs spilt, the Sikh nation’s spirit, faith and determination grew. The best way to remember those who were killed by the killers of the Sikhs who wished to kill off the Sikh panth is to strive to become good Sikhs ourselves. Where the killers attempted to kill the Sikhs, we can show the world that Sikhi has not been killed but will flourish, starting from ourselves. May Guru Jee inspire us all to read Gurbani, do Simran, receive Khande-Di-Pahul and become tyar-bar-tyar Rehitvaan Gursikhs.