The recent denouncement at a shaheedi jor mela in Makhu Village, Punjab on 10th February 2014 of the inactivity of the so-called Jathedars of the Panth and announcement by Bhai Gurbax Singh Khalsa that he will recommence his ‘sangarsh (struggle), even if this meant he has to sacrifice his life’, demands that we think seriously about who actually represents the Sikhs today. As Bhai Sahib recommences his noble struggle to get political prisoners released in India, we must learn the lessons from this latest betrayal by the so-called ‘Jathedars’. As Bhai Sahib rightly states, ‘we bow to the authority of the Akal Takht bestowed to the Panth by Guru Hargobind Ji and not the political appointees’.
It is clearly the case that history is repeating itself with the difference that in the past it was the British who appointed Mahants to do their bidding; today it is the RSS/Akali Hindutva alliance. However, rather than engage in internecine war in which we will all be losers, we need to proceed with caution. More than anything else, we need to move forward in a thoughtful, principled, and inclusive manner. Following the storming of the Darbar Sahib Ji and the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984 it has taken us 30 years to realise that together we will be taken seriously—and divided, we will not.
In the UK in the past 3 weeks we have seen a remarkable coming together of Panthik Groups under the aegis of the Sikh Council UK (SCUK). What characterises this new and refreshing approach to doing politics is an open and democratic approach. The sewadars of the SCUK have been exemplary in the way they have kept the Sikh masses informed through a wide variety of means ranging from open meetings in Gurdwara’s to debate shows on the Sikh Channel and other media and press releases. This has resulted in much wider penetration of the Sikh case with much of the global mainstream media now expressing a concern for Sikh human rights.
Democratic and open governance rather than the kinds of back hand deals that have been the order of things in the past is only way forward and the SCUK is our best chance to cement alliances. At the same time Sikhs in the UK and other Western nations must also abandon a strange kind of inferiority complex when it comes to doing politics. This has not only rendered us passive when challenging our own politicians, but also rather bizarrely, the way we seem to cow tow to half educated and often corrupt so called ‘Sikh Leaders’ (politicians, sants and jathedars) from India!
Give or take a few highly principled individuals such as H.S Phulka and the journalist Jarnail Singh, most political parties, dera’s and institutions in the Punjab and India are mired in corruption, which has led to a massive deficit of morality. The Western politicians of course are no angels, but only in India could we see so many 1000’s of innocents perish at the hands of the State and 30 years later politicians with a straight face have the audacity to make noises that something must be done to get justice.
Where have they been for the past 30 year? Why has it taken them 30 years to realise that some injustice might have occurred? And of course the answer is simple, their motive is votes and it is no accident that with the Lokh Sabha elections around the corner, all political parties are seeking to court the Sikh vote, which could actually hold a balance of power in the next parliament.
The endemic problems in India, the seeds of which were sown by Indira Gandhi and the Congress Party in their desire to keep a stranglehold on political power has brutalised the entire political culture, where greed and not need or public service is the real motive for entering politics. Indeed, we should be leading the way and advising our brothers in India as to the way forward. Whilst education is an important lever for change, it is not enough. One needs courage and integrity and there is little of that on display in Indian politics. That said, in Bhai Gurbax Singh Khalsa one can see the same kind of honesty and integrity displayed by Bhai Jarnail Singh Bhindrawala. A commitment to speaking a truth, a commitment to justice, and dignity of all.
And above all a willingness to live and if needed die defending the victims of oppression.