Op/Ed: Sikhs start returning Indian awards again like they did in ’84 when army attacked Harmandar Sahib

NEW DELHI, INDIA – DECEMBER 1: Farmers sitting at Singhu Border to protest centre’s farm reform laws on December 1, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (Getty Images)

Prominent Sikh personalities who played remarkable roles in various fields, are returning the awards and titles one by one, that they got from Government of India, to lodge their protest against three contentious farm laws promulgated by the government. Similar situation prevailed when Indian army attacked supreme Sikh shrine Sri Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple) in June 1984 and several prominent Sikhs returned their awards in protest.

Starting from five times Chief Minister of Punjab Parkash Badal who returned second highest civilian award of India ‘Padma Vibhushan’, more than a dozen Sikhs have returned their awards so far over the farm laws and more are expected to so in coming days as the stir against the Government of India is gaining momentum with every passing day.

Those who have returned their awards on this issue, are related to political, social, religious, sports, literature and art and culture. Mean, almost all the sections are ensuring their participation in the agitation continuing on the outskirts of Delhi, national capital of India.  

After Badal, Akali stalwart and Shiromani Akali Dal (Democratic) president Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa returned ‘Padma Bhushan’, the third highest civilian award of the country, in the political field.

In the field of literature, art and culture, the winners of Bhartiya Sahitya Akademi Award in Punjabi including  noted Punjabi poet Dr Mohanjit, eminent thinker Dr Jaswinder Singh and Punjabi playwright and editor of Punjabi Tribune Swarajbir have returned their awards to show support for farmers, said Central Punjabi Writers’ Association on Friday.

“It may be recalled that earlier a large number of Punjabi writers had protested against the attitude of such a tyrannical government on the question of freedom of expression by withdrawing the Academy Award. Today again when the Government of India, instead of accepting the legitimate demands of the farmers, is rolling them on the streets in the harsh winter, Punjabi writers are protesting at the national level by returning the honour,” CPWA said in an official letter.

Meanwhile, Harmanjeet Singh, winner of Yuva Sahitya Akademi Award (Punjabi) 2017, also joined the queue of those who have returned their awards. He won the award for his book ‘Rani Tatt’. “I want to convey via this email that I want to return my award due to the injustice served to the farmers of my state Punjab by the centre government. I am taking this action as a symbol of protest against the unruly behavior of Indian government”, reads the email he sent to secretary of Sahitya Akademi.

“Those who speak ill of our mothers, those who are bent upon breaking the spine of our fathers, grand-fathers and our generation, those who conspire to uproot the foundation of Punjab, we don’t need their accolades to prove ourselves….”, it reads further.

Sikh religious leader Baba Sewa Singh who got fourth highest civilian award ‘Padma Shri’ award, said in a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, “I am returning the Padma Shri to express my anguish over farmers being forced to launch a struggle. When farmers of the country are fighting a battle for survival, the government’s attitude is worrisome. These awards are conferred for the wellbeing of society. When people are being made to spend day and night on the roads in the severe chill and the nation is ignoring them, holding such a national honour makes no sense.”

Among the sports-persons, Padma Shri and Arjuna awardee wrestler Kartar Singh, Arjuna awardee basketball player Sajjan Singh Cheema and Arjuna awardee hockey player Rajbir Kaur gave their awards back. They slammed the Centre and Haryana government for using water cannons and teargas against the protesting farmers to stop them from going to Delhi. Arjuna Awardee international Kabaddi player Hardeep Singh Bhullar also followed them.

Punjabi singer Harbhajan Mann refused to accept the ‘Shiromani Gayak’ award.

When the army attack demolished Akal Takht Sahib, the highest Sikh temporal seat, every Sikh got hurt deeply. The prominent amongst those returned their awards were noted journalist late Khushwant Singh, another noted Punjabi journalist late Dr. Sadhu Singh Hamdard and great social worker late Bhagat Puran Singh.

Late Khushwant Singh who remained editor-in-chief of almost all leading English dailies of India, returned his Padma Bhushan award, while Hamdard who was editor-in-Chief of Ajit group of newspapers, returned Padma Sri. Bhagat Puran Singh, who established a great institution called ‘Pingalwara’ in Amritsar to accommodate and look after physically challenged and mentally ill persons.

“I am compelled to observe that the army has displayed bankruptcy of character and has acted with hearts full of enmity and in a manner indicating that it wanted to wipe out the Sikhs. Young-men from villages have been troubled much after the army action. Apart from the truth depicted above, I have received information about such shameful incidents, to mention which is to violate the cultural norms. After hearing of and seeing such happenings, I reject and return to you the award of Padma Shri conferred upon me”, concludes Bhagat Puran Singh in his letter originally written in Punjabi to the then President of India to express his pain.

Notably, Indian ambassador in Norway  and IFS officer Harinder Singh Khalsa and IPS officer Simranjit Singh Mann had resigned from the key posts in protest against the ‘operation bluestar’, a code name given by the government to this army attack.

Now again, the Sikhs are reacting in a similar way to the farm laws which will prove to be fatal for Punjab and its people, as per the experts. 



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here