Over half a million Sikhs gathered at historic Baba Naudh Singh Gurduara today. Who knows how many more Sikhs watched and followed the proceedings via TV, live streaming and social media. Something that many of us thought would never occur in our lives just actually happened. 13 Resolutions passed (for the full text please see: Official Resolutions from Sarbat Khalsa 2015). So where do we go from here. Well first, let’s look at Sarbat Khalsa 2015.
- This Sarbat Khalsa’s legitimacy was being called into question long before it began; that has only intensified now. Was this a perfect Sarbat Khalsa? No, far from it but we must keep in mind too that hundreds of thousands of Kaurs and Singhs came to Chabba Pind despite government persecution and harassment. A half million Sikhs travelled from across South Asia and beyond to come to Baba Naudh Singh Gurduara which is remarkable considering our circumstances and the timeline we were working with. One day, a true, representative Sarbat Khalsa with representation of all Panthik regional groups and organizations will occur but this was an incredibly inspiring start. This may not have been perfect or ideal, but it was a true gathering of the Sikh Nation.
- The Resolutions are (generally) great. If we ignore the first resolution (which I know is the most important in the short term), the resolutions were well thought out, expressed in accordance with the spirit of Gurmat and are not completely impossible to implement. Am I happy with them all? No. Is anyone? No. That’s the whole point of consensus based democracy. Nobody in the Panth can ever be completely happy. There’s always going to be issues some of us would have wanted discussed. Things that we feel went too far or not far enough. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing. This is how Sarbat Khalsas are supposed to work.
- Looking at the resolutions in more detail, it is strange to be calling KP Gill and General Brar to the Akal Takht. I don’t think many of us even think of them as Sikhs. And yet, this is what should have happened. They never were called to account for their crimes! If they don’t appear at Akal Takht Sahib by the end of the month, which they of course will not, then they can be formally kicked out of the Panth. That’s a good sign that we’re following our own Panthik procedures. Of course ideally, they would have boarded the train with Indira, Vaidya and Beant a long time ago, but this is a good (if shamefully late) start.
- A World Sikh Parliament, a reformed SGPC and a Sarbat Khalsa next Vaisakhi are all great resolutions (2, 5 and 8) and just the kind of thing a Sarbat Khalsa should do. Will they be easy to do? No. But who would have thought that today was possible a year ago? After 30 years of heartbreak I’m just as cynical as the rest of you. But let’s have faith in ourselves as a Nation. We can make this happen.
- Resolutions 7 and 13, standing with not only Sikh prisoners but all political prisoners and disenfranchised people the world over was a great sentiment. We’ve never achieved anything as a Panth without fighting for the rights of others. That’s the true path to Victory (Degh Tegh!). And none of this would have happened without Bapu Surat Singh and his unbelievable commitment to the issue of Sikh prisoners. This needed to be said.
- It’s been stupefying to see the Panth fight over Maryada and Bani issues over the last few decades while we’ve been slaughtered and our foundations eroded. All of us need to keep Resolution 9 in our minds. No more argument over Dasam Granth, Ragmala, laridar or pad-ched, meat or no meat, etc. Do what you want in your homes and jathebandis. Follow Panthik maryada when in Sangat. Let’s stop being such easy prey for those that would see us destroyed. Our house is burning and we’re fighting over where the furniture should go!
- I have to say, when resolution 10 was read out, I literally cheered, (which woke up my daughter and dog! That time difference was killer for us on the East Coast). The Darbar Sahib Complex was treated as a de facto sovereign state by the British and the Indian state until 1984. In fact, when the Punjab state sent police into the complex in 1955, the chief minister was forced to apologize and promise that the sovereignty of the Complex would never be threatened again. Generations of Sikh political protesters and leaders, from the 1920’s to the 1980’s, stayed in Darbar Sahib and it was understood they could not be touched. This is our sovereign land. If Monaco, Andorra and of course Vatican City, which best resembles what we’re looking for, are viable countries, then a sovereign Darbar Sahib Complex is not out of the realm of possibility. This will be extremely difficult to push through, but it needs to be our goal and we need to get it done. (See our previous article: OP/ED: The State of Sachkhand)
- They snuck it in. Resolution 12. Sarbat Khalsa 1986. We all know what this means. It’s obvious this isn’t a priority on the ground right now. But the fact that we didn’t shy away from what the Panth decided 29 years ago is important. What does this mean, especially since the ‘K’ word was barely uttered today, I don’t know. And to be honest, that’s not where we start our movement. We start it from the ground up, like the protesters on the bridge. Like Bapu Surat Singh ji. But we don’t forget that a half million Sikhs also stood up a generation ago and proclaimed sovereignty.
The Not so great.
- Taking away Badal and Makkar’s awards was good. Not that many of us considered them valid in the first place, but it was a needed statement. But why didn’t they go after them more? This could be a smart political move. If you kick Badal out of the Panth and he completely ignores you, then what? The thinking must be that once the Takht is free, then these sellouts can be brought to proper account. It’s not great, and something harsher was appropriate considering what’s been occurring, but there are also larger political considerations here. Badal is an elected official after all, and represents more than just Sikhs. So that may have played into the language here.
- Jathedar Jagtar Singh Hawara. Sounds great, doesn’t it? The spontaneous reaction of a half million Sikhs to that matta was pretty incredible. So, why is this not a completely good thing? Well, first of all, Jagtar Singh is a smart choice and echoes a similar choice. Back in 1990 the Panth was split. There was the ‘Khalistani’ Jathedar and the Sarkari one. A compromise was reached by appointing Bhai Ranjit Singh. Ranjit Singh, like Jagtar Singh, had killed a great enemy of the Panth. He had sacrificed his youth and family for the Panth. Superficially, he was a great choice. Both Jagtar Singh, and Ranjit Singh before him, were not politicians looking for power. They were Panthik sevadars who had put it all on the line. But, we would be naive to not realize that choosing a Jathedar who is in jail is a very smart political move. It allows you to have your cake and eat it too. Just as Tohra could then appoint Manjit Singh as ‘acting Jathedar’ and effectively do what he wanted with the Akal Takht back in the 90’s we need to be VERY wary of why Jagtar Singh was chosen today. Is he Jathedar because of what he’s done for the Panth, or because he’s on death row and therefore won’t get in the way?
- The lack of Kaurs was heartbreaking. Not only were women barely visible in the Sangat, all the leaders on stage were men. This was embarrassing and shameful and fairly pathetic. We need to all, especially Sikh men, really think about how much work there is to be done to live up to Guru Nanak Sahib’s principles. It’s not just a matter of optics, imagine the incredible input Kaurs would have made to the Resolution discussions. We’re really not going to get far as a Nation if we’re stomping down half of our population. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that undoubtedly the most powerful speaker today was Bibi Pritam Kaur, the only woman who spoke from stage. As she said, “All women of the Khalsa Panth have the right to an equal voice in this process”.
- I understand that historically the Jathedars of the Misls or Jathebandis would meet and draft the Mattas while the Panth waited outside of Akal Takht Sahib. But having all the decisions being made far away while we watched five hours of political speeches seemed like a poor model of governance. Yes we need to work on how decisions are made, but at least we could have had more Kirtan, dhadi or Bani ucharan for the sangat. I doubt the Khalsa in the 1700’s had to hear people speaking for ‘ik mint’ while every single prominent leader who showed up was recognized and feted.
- Seeing the blank spaces on the printed up resolutions (posted by Bhai Harinder Singh SikhRI), and then witnessing how Bhai (Sant??) Baljit Singh Daduwal and Bhai Dhian Singh Mand being brought to the stage was… disconcerting. That was straight up politics. I’m not speaking against either of these Singhs, or Bhai Amrit Singh Ajnala for that matter, but why were they chosen? Why is Sardar Simranjit Singh Mann’s right hand man now the acting Jathedar of the Akal Takht? Simranjit Singh Mann who has been a shockingly ineffectual leader in the Panth for over two decades now. As others have pointed out, having Wassan Singh Zaffarwal, Mohkam Singh and Gurnam Singh Bandala as the ones reading out the Mattas was a plain terrible choice, not only in terms of optics, but because suspicions about the loyalty of these men have been open secrets for years now. Zaffarwal even rejected the 1986 Sarbat Khalsa (where he was a leader!) when he showed up back in Punjab in 2001. So why is he reading out the resolutions for another Sarbat Khalsa 29 years later?
This is undoubtedly not good. We can not close our eyes and pretend that this is OK. At the same time, we can not simply reject the will of the Khalsa Panth. Yes, in terms of political power, resolution 1 was the most important, but a bad result there does not mean that we reject the Gurmatta of the Sikh nation. We’ve been fooled a lot over the last several decades. We have been sold out so many times it could almost be comical if it didn’t mean such horrific consequences for our community.
So, we need to be aware. We need to be awake. We need to be careful. But we can not retreat into the cynicism we have all grown accustomed to in the last decades. We have all asked ourselves ‘what’s the point’ and resigned ourselves to Punjab being a ‘lost cause’. That is not the path of Chardi Kala. We must learn to tread that very fine line between optimism and blind faith. We can follow the example of Bapu Surat Singh; he is standing tall, he is resolute. He will not break and neither will we.
In the end, as several speakers said yesterday, we’re only at this point because of the sacrifice of our Guru. Guru Granth Sahib ji, Master of all Worlds, has sacrificed so many of Their own sarups to wake us up. Our first waking thought in the morning and our last thought at night should be, our Guru’s body has been burnt and torn for us, what can we do now? We can stand with the Sikh Nation. We are the Sikh Nation.