Dharam Yudh to Bargadi: Panthic Morchay and the Role of Sikh Naujavan

In recent years, we have steadily seen the simmering discontent of the Sikh panth boil over onto the streets of Punjab many times—sparking the frenzied outcries of the Indian establishment regarding the “revival of extremism” and its corresponding security crackdowns. From mobilizations against the execution of Sikh political prisoners in 2012, demands for their permanent release in 2013, and the recent Sarbat Khalsa in 2015, we have seen the Sikh panth mobilize in the masses to scream their rejection of India’s insidious claims that “all is well” in Punjab today. The recent gathering of over 250,000 Sikhs at the Bargadi morcha this month is just the latest example of the panth proclaiming: “ਜੰਗ ਜਾਰੀ ਹੈ 'ਤੇ ਜੰਗ ਜਾਰੀ ਰਹੇਗੀ… (the battle/struggle is ongoing and will continue).”

Highways across Punjab were blocked for miles on October 7, as Sikhs mobilized in support of the ongoing Bargadi morcha.

Highways across Punjab were blocked for miles on October 7, as Sikhs mobilized in support of the ongoing Bargadi morcha.

As we have seen with each mobilization, there is always a corresponding security crackdown by the state, varying levels of interference by Indian intelligence agencies, and the maneuvering of some traditional “panthic leaders” to convert the pain of the panth into electoral gains for themselves. One way or another, these outbursts gradually come to an end, sometimes gaining some concessions from the state, sometimes being violently repressed, or otherwise fizzling out.

While some lament these ebbs and flows as signs of weakness and disarray, I celebrate these moments of panthic jazba (passion/spirit) where the Khalsa retakes control of the streets and reminds the sarkar that: ਕੁੰਡਲੀਆ ਸੱਪ ਬੀਰ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਅਜੇ ਨਹੀਂ ਮਰਿਆ (the coiled serpent [the Khalsa] is not yet dead).

These critical voices raise crucial issues that need to be addressed without a doubt, but we need to carefully consider the context that these mobilizations are occurring in and the staggering odds that they are confronting. The first phase of the Sikh sangarsh for Khalistan gradually came to a standstill in the mid-90s due to the sheer violence that the Indian state inflicted on Punjab—literally hunting amritdhari naujavan with bounties on their heads. Our jujharoo Sikh leadership was murdered or forced into exile and the populace of Punjab has been subject to the omnipresence of state violence in their lives ever since. Every potential Sikh activist who gathers the courage to serve the panth in any way is sure to feel the heat and weight of the entire state machinery on their backs as soon as they step outside the boundaries of Indian nationalism. Since April 2017 alone, over 73 Sikh naujavan have been detained and incarcerated in India due to their panthic activism. 

But these recent mobilizations not only proclaim to the world that we will not be defeated—they are also the training grounds and schools of a new generation of Sikh activists. We know the first phase of the sangarsh came to a relative standstill in the mid-90s and that we face a crisis of leadership today—we are rebuilding our collective capacity and institutions of struggle from scratch. It is only through this gruelling process that we will organically develop a new generation of panthic leadership. 

While the work required for us to successfully pass through this period as the victors of history is endless, there is one task in particular that will be pivotal to our future goals. 

In the past three years, we have seen the establishment of several bodies around the panthic world with broad mandates to govern and lead the panth. These “jathedars,” “councils,” “parliaments,” and “assemblies” operate under various names and claim different sources of legitimacy but they all mostly feature the same faces of the past twenty years and make new grand claims of a forthcoming panthic “revolution.” 

These are useful endeavours, often with genuine intentions. But looking at our recent history, it is crucial that we take their self-glorifying declarations with a grain of salt. We have seen these same tactics, the same faces and the same rhetoric again and again, with the same levels of success: almost none. They bottle up the righteous rage of the panth in their bureaucratic “representative bodies” at key moments and sabotage every organic possibility of resistance at the grassroots. Gradually, they devolve into various splinter factions, continue to spew empty revolutionary rhetoric, and unilaterally pass grand resolutions and statements in the panth’s name, usually without much follow up action or accountability. 

If we want to finally break this endless cycle, the first step in our path is for panthic naujavan around the world to refuse to be held hostage by the “old guard” any longer. We have to refuse attempts to channel the panth’s jazba and sacrifice into empty gestures which leave the status quo untouched. Instead, we have to commit to developing independent platforms that maintain their connections to the grassroots and place the pursuit of Sikh liberation as their first and foremost priority.

Shaheed Sant Jarnail Singh in Darbar Sahib surrounded by shastardhari Sikh naujavan.

Shaheed Sant Jarnail Singh in Darbar Sahib surrounded by shastardhari Sikh naujavan.

Panthic naujavan have always been the driving force of Sikh history in every era we celebrate, and today is no different. But rather than taking the mantle of this responsibility, naujavan have been disenfranchised all over the world and left looking for guidance and legitimacy from established organizations rather than the other way around. The tides of change we hope to see in panthic politics today will not come from the worn out leaders who have done and accomplished what they could in their time. Many of them now simply seek to turn their radical pasts into stepping stones for electoral careers or simply maintain their reputations. Unfortunately, many have become toothless tigers. 

This isn’t to say that the heirs of Baba Deep Singh have ceased to exist, or that naujavan should completely sideline their generation entirely. What this means is that while we are redrawing our panthic battle plans, naujavan must actively take responsibility and insert themselves into these processes—unless we’re content with nothing more than the formation of new political parties within the Indian electoral system. Naujavan must maintain panthic ekta (unity) while driving their own independent platforms to avoid being herded like sheep—merely raising their arms to ratify resolutions written and passed in backrooms by a select few. It is up to the naujavan to remind the panth and leadership of its roots and values, and hold the leadership accountable.

These ideas may seem sour to some but they are not without precedent. When we look at periods of Sikh sangarsh in the past, we have a number of naujavan leaders and jathebandian that continue to inspire us today—who drove the history of that entire period. The examples of Sant Jarnail Singh, Bhai Fauja Singh, Jathedar Talwinder Singh continue to light a spark in our hearts as they are the golden standard of panthic leadership. They are the examples we ought to look to for guidance today. 

Shaheed Bhai Fauja Singh doing parchar during his imprisonment in Gurdaspur Jail (1977).

Shaheed Bhai Fauja Singh doing parchar during his imprisonment in Gurdaspur Jail (1977).

They became these examples and forever enshrined in our hearts, because they didn’t look to anyone else for answers other than Guru Granth-Panth. They were living embodiments of what it meant to be panthic. They didn’t pass their responsibilities on to others or complain that others are not doing what needs to be done. They did Ardaas and did it themselves. They maintained panthic ekta and participated in panthic movements, while maintaining their independent existence and leading by example. 

And at no cost would they allow the established leadership to compromise on Sikh ideals or panthic goals for their own selfish interests or personal weaknesses. 

Sant Jarnail Singh’s relationship with the Akalis is the perfect example of this. Throughout the Dharam Yudh Morcha, he was firm on maintaining panthic ekta and participating fully in the morcha but at no point in time did his identity and existence fade into merging wholeheartedly with the Akalis. He knew that the panth had lost faith in the established leadership due to their inability to put their selfish electoral interests aside in favour of the panth’s needs. Time after time, they had manipulated the jazba of the panth by trying to convert them into electoral gains. Instead, he rejected this path; he held them accountable at every step and would not let them sell the panth short. He regularly called himself the panth’s chaunkidar (watchman) because he refused to be drawn into the lure of electoral politics himself and wouldn’t allow the Akali’s to compromise on the panth’s political objectives either. 

More than this though, he maintained an independent platform for panthic naujavan that established the standard of what panthic leadership looks like. He led by example and acknowledged Guru Granth-Panth as his only authority. He prioritized the Sikhi of the Sikh sangarsh and shifted the terrain of panthic politics from a meek performance of “grievances” and “demands” towards effecting a spiritual transformation in our political struggle for patshahi (sovereignty). Sikh political action would revolve solely around Granth-Panth as the source of justice and political power—not something to be granted to us by our oppressors. 

He turned the locus of our attention away from grovelling to external powers towards cultivating our own collective power as the Guru Khalsa Panth. 

This is the responsibility that naujavan bear today. While a host of political leaders are maneuvering to take credit for the massive turn out at Bargadi, it is clear that Sikhs are showing up in the thousands because of their panthic jazba and dard (pain/anguish)—just as they did in 2012, 2013, and 2015. These phenomena are way beyond the limited realms of electoral politics or the control of some self-appointed leaders. They are the uncontrollable manifestations of the Khalsa’s roh (rage/fury). 

If we want to break the cycle and develop a mass movement that is capable of challenging the power of the Indian state and establishing our own raj, it will only be through the nidharrk (bold/fearless) leadership of those naujavan whose sole commitment is to Guru Granth-Panth. The Khalsa panth has only ever accepted the reigns of its leadership in the hands of selfless Gurmukh roohan (souls) and it is the responsibility of today’s Sikh naujavan to make sure this legacy is reflected in today’s reality.

Prabjot Singh
Sikh Liberation Front

ਭਾਈ ਕੁਲਵੰਤ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ਬੱਬਰ

ਮ:੩॥
ਕਿਆਜਾਣਾਕਿਵਮਰਹਗੇਕੈਸਾਮਰਣਾਹੋਇ॥
ਜੇਕਰਿਸਾਹਿਬੁਮਨਹੁਨਵੀਸਰੈਤਾਸਹਿਲਾਮਰਣਾਹੋਇ॥
ਮਰਣੈਤੇਜਗਤੁਡਰੈਜੀਵਿਆਲੋੜੈਸਭੁਕੋਇ॥
ਗੁਰਪਰਸਾਦੀਜੀਵਤੁਮਰੈਹੁਕਮੈਬੂਝੈਸੋਇ॥
ਨਾਨਕਐਸੀਮਰਨੀਜੋਮਰੈਤਾਸਦਜੀਵਣੁਹੋਇ॥੨॥

ਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦੀ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਸਦਕਾ ਕੁਝ ਦਿਨ ਪਹਿਲਾਂ ਗੁਰਪੁਰ ਵਾਸੀ ਭਾਈ ਕੁਲਵੰਤ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ਬੱਬਰ ਦੇ ਅੰਤਮ ਯਾਤਰਾ ਵਿੱਚ ਸ਼ਾਮਲ ਹੋ ਕੇ ਇਸ ਮਹਾਨ ਯੋਧੇ ਦੇ ਸ਼ੰਘਰਸ਼ਮਈ ਜੀਵਨ ਨੂੰ ਸ਼ਰਧਾਂਜਲੀ ਦੇ ਫੁਲ ਭੇਟ ਕਰਨ ਦਾ ਮੌਕਾ ਨਸੀਬ ਹੋਇਆ। ਭਾਈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦੇ ਬਹੁਪੱਖੀ ਜੀਵਨ ਅਤੇ ਸੰਘਰਸ਼ ਲਈ ਦਿੱਤੀਆਂ ਅਨੇਕ ਸੇਵਾਵਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਜੇ ਵਿਸਥਾਰ ਨਾਲ ਕਲਮਬੰਧ ਕਰਨ ਦੀ ਕੋਸ਼ਿਸ਼ ਕਰਾਂਗੇ ਤਾਂ ਲਿਖਦਿਆਂ ਸਿਆਹੀ ਮੁੱਕ ਜਾਵੇਗੀ ਪਰ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੀ ਸਿਫਤ ਅਤੇ ਦੇਣ ਦੀ ਗੱਲ ਪੂਰੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੋਵੇਗੀ।ਪੁਰਾਤਨ ਬੱਬਰਾਂ ਦੀ ਝਲਕ ਭਾਈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦੇ ਜੀਵਨ ਤੋਂ ਸਾਫ ਮਿਲਦੀ ਸੀ: ਉਹੀ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਜਜ਼ਬਾ, ਕੁਰਬਾਨੀ ਲਈ ਚਾਅ, ਨਾਮ ਬਾਣੀ ਦਾ ਪ੍ਰਵਾਹ, ਅਤੇ ਰਹਿਣੀ ਬਹਿਣੀ ਵਿੱਚ ਪਰਪੱਕਤਾ।

ਪਰ ਭਾਈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦੇ ਜੀਵਨ ਦੇ ਕੁਝ ਖਾਸ ਪਹਿਲੂ ਅਜਿਹੇ ਹਨ ਜੋ ਪਿਛਲੇ ਕਈ ਦਿਨਾਂ ਤੋਂ ਮੇਰੇ ਮਨ ਵਿੱਚ ਵਾਰ ਵਾਰ ਘੁੰਮਦੇ ਰਹੇ ਅਤੇ ਜੋ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੇ ਇਸ ਦੁਨੀਆਂ ਤੋਂ ਕੂਚ ਕਰ ਜਾਣ ਦੇ ਸਦਮੇ ਨੂੰ ਇੱਕ ਉਤਸ਼ਾਹ ਵਿੱਚ ਤਬਦੀਲ ਕਰਦੇ ਹਨ। ਸਿਰਫ ਉਤਸ਼ਾਹ ਹੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਪਰ ਜੋ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੇ ਕੌਮੀ ਅਜ਼ਾਦੀ ਦਾ ਜੀਵਨ ਮਨੋਰਥ ਰਿਹਾ ਉਸ ਦੀ ਪੂਰਤੀ ਲਈ ਮਾਰਗ ਵੀ ਰੌਸ਼ਨ ਹੁੰਦਾ।ਇਹ ਦੁਨੀਆਵੀ ਜੀਵਨ ਯਾਤਰਾ ਭਾਵੇਂ ਸਮਾਪਤ ਹੋ ਚੁੱਕਾ ਪਰ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੀ ਜੀਵਨ ਘਾਲਣਾ ਵਿੱਚ ਨੌਜਵਾਨਾਂ ਲਈ ਬਹੁਤ ਕੁਝ ਸਮਾਇਆ ਹੋਇਆ ਹੈ। ਭਾਈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਨੇ ਸਾਡੇ ਸੀਨਿਆ ਵਿੱਚ ਅੰਗਿਆਰ ਨੂੰ ਸੇਕ ਹੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਬਲਕਿ ਉਸ ਮਚਦੀ ਭਾਂਬੜ ਨੂੰ ਆਪਣੇ ਜੀਵਨ ਵਿੱਚ ਅਮਲੀ ਰੂਪ ਦੇ ਕੇ ਮਿਸਾਲ ਵੀ ਪੈਦਾ ਕੀਤੀ।

ਇਹੋ ਜਿਹੀਆਂ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਰੂਹਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਤੋਂ ਅਲਵਿਦਾ ਕਹਿਣਾ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਾਂ ਲਈ ਹਮੇਸ਼ਾਂ ਵਧਾਈ ਵਾਲੀ ਗੱਲ ਰਹੀ ਹੈ।ਫਖਰ ਹੁੰਦਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਇਹੋ ਜਿਹੀ ਰੂਹ ਦੇ ਪਰਛਾਵੇਂ ਹੇਠ ਕੁਝ ਪਲ ਬਿਤਾਉਣ ਦਾ ਸੁਭਾਗ ਮਿਲਿਆ। ਜਿੱਥੇ ਇੱਕ ਵੀਰ ਲਈ ਖੁਸ਼ੀ ਹੁੰਦੀ ਹੈ ਉਥੇ ਸਿੱਖਿਆ ਅਤੇ ਉਤਸ਼ਾਹ ਵੀ ਮਿਲਦਾ ਕਿ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਵਾਂਗ ਇਸ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਨੂੰ ਮਾਣ ਨਾਲ ਛੱਡ ਦਈਏ। ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਦੇ ਚਲਾਣੇ 'ਤੇ ਕੋਈ ਅਫਸੋਸ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੁੰਦਾ ਸਗੋਂ ਸਕੂਨ ਮਿਲਦਾ ਕਿ ਸਾਡਾ ਵੀਰ ਗੁਰੂ ਚਰਨਾ ਵਿੱਚ ਬਿਰਾਜ ਗਿਆ। ਆਪਣੇ ਕੌਮੀ ਫਰਜ਼ ਨਿਭਾਏ ਅਤੇ ਗੁਰਪੁਰੀ ਸਿਧਾਰ ਗਿਆ।ਆਪਣੇ ਜੀਵਾਨ ਦੌਰਾਨ ਬੇਅੰਤ ਕੁਰਬਾਨੀਆਂ ਅਤੇ ਸੇਵਾ ਰਾਹੀਂ ਕੌਮੀ ਅਜ਼ਾਦੀ ਦੀ ਸ਼ਮ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਜਗਦੀ ਰੱਖਿਆ ਅਤੇ ਇੱਕ ਚਲਦੀ ਨਦੀ ਵਾਂਗ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੀ ਰੂਹ ਆਪਣੀ ਮੂਲ ਸ੍ਰੋਤ ਵਿੱਚ ਜਾ ਰਲੀ ਹੈ। "ਐਸੀਮਰਨੀਜੋਮਰੈ" ਵਾਲੀ ਗੱਲ ਨੂੰ ਅਜਿਹੇ ਵੀਰ ਪਰਤੱਖ ਜਿਉਂਦੇ ਹਨ ਅਤੇ ਇਸ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਰ ਸਾਨੂੰ ਆਵਦੇ ਜੀਵਨ ਬਾਰੇ ਅਤੇ ਸੁਆਸਾਂ ਦੀ ਬਚੀ ਪੂੰਜੀ ਬਾਰੇ ਸੁਚੇਤ ਕਰਦੇ ਹਨ।  

Shaheed Bhai Talwinder Singh Babbar and Bhai Kalwant Singh Babbar.jpg

ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੇ ਅਖੀਰਲੇ ਸਮ੍ਹੇ ਬਾਰੇ ਸੁਣ ਕੇ ਯਾਦ ਆਉਂਦਾ ਕਿ ਸਾਡਾ ਸਮੁੱਚਾ ਜੀਵਨ ਮੌਤ ਦੀ ਹੀ ਤਿਆਰੀ ਕਰਨ ਲਈ ਇੱਕ ਪੰਧ ਹੈ। ਜਿਸ ਚੜਦੀਕਲਾ ਅਤੇ aੱੱਚੀ ਸੁਰਤ ਨਾਲ ਭਾਈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਨੇ ਦੁਨੀਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਵਿਦਾਇਗੀ ਦਿੱਤੀ ਇਹ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੇ ਸਮੁੱਚੀ ਜੀਵਨ ਦੀ ਇੱਕ ਝਾਤੀ ਸੀ। ਜਿਹੜੇ ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਨਾਮ ਦੇ ਰੰਗ ਵਿੱਚ ਰੰਗੇ ਅਲਵਿਦਾ ਕਹਿੰਦੇ ਹਨ - ਇਹ ਅਚਾਨਕ ਕਰਿਸ਼ਮਾ ਨਹੀਂ ਸਗੋਂ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੇ ਜੀਵਨ ਦੌਰਾਨ ਘਾਲੀ ਹੋਈ ਘਾਲਣਾ ਦੇ ਹੀ ਫਲ ਹੁੰਦੇ ਹਨ। ਗੁਰੂ ਨੂੰ ਸੀਸ ਅਰਪਣ ਕਰਕੇ ਇੱਕ-ਇੱਕ ਕਦਮ, ਇੱਕ-ਇੱਕ ਸਾਹ, ਅਤੇ ਇੱਕ-ਇੱਕ ਕੀਤਾ ਕਰਮ ਆਪਣੀ ਮੌਤ ਵਲ ਘਟਦੇ ਫਾਸਲੇ ਨੂੰ ਭਾਈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਵਰਗੇ ਗੁਰੂ ਨੂੰ ਹੀ ਸਭ ਕੁਝ ਲੇਖੇ ਲਾ ਕੇ ਮਰਜੀਵੜੇ ਬਣ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਹਨ। 

ਇਹ ਇੱਕ ਸਚਿਆਈ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਅੱਜ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਦੇ ਕੋਨੇ ਕੋਨੇ 'ਤੇ ਅਜਿਹੇ ਵੀਰ ਭੈਣ ਮੌਜੂਦ ਹਨ ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੇ ਚਲ ਰਹੇ ਅਜ਼ਾਦੀ ਦੇ ਸੰਘਰਸ਼ ਵਿੱਚ ਵਧ ਚੜ ਕੇ ਯੋਗਦਾਨ ਪਾਉਣ ਲਈ ਆਪਣੀ ਜਵਾਨੀ ਕੌਮ ਦੇ ਲੇਖੇ ਲਾਈ ਅਤੇ ਪਿੰਡੇ 'ਤੇ ਸੰਘਰਸ਼ ਹੰਢਾਇਆ। ਇਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੀਆਂ ਅੱਖਾਂ ਵਿੱਚ, ਬੁੱਢੇ ਹੱਡੀਆਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਅਤੇ ਦਿਲਾਂ ੳੱਤੇ ਕੌਮੀ ਸੰਘਰਸ਼ ਦਾ ਇਤਿਹਾਸ ਗੂੜ੍ਹੇ ਅੱਖਰਾਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਉੱਕਰਿਆ ਗਿਆ। 

ਅਜਿਹੇ ਅਣਗਿਣਤ ਵੀਰ ਸਾਡੇ ਸਫਾਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਅਜੇ ਵਿਚਰਦੇ ਹਨ ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੀਆਂ ਅੱਖਾਂ ਸਾਹਮਣੇ ਸਰਕਾਰੀ ਕਤਲੋਗਾਰਤ 'ਤੇ ਕੌਮੀ ਬੇਪਤੀ ਦੇ ਦਰਦਨਾਕ ਮੰਜਰ ਅੱਜ ਤੱਕ ਘੁੰਮਦੇ ਹਨ। ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦਿਆਂ ਕੰਨਾਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਆਪਣੇ ਸ਼ਹੀਦ ਹੋਏ ਸਾਥੀਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਕੀਤੇ ਵਾਹਦੇ ਅੱਜ ਤੱਕ ਗੂੰਜਦੇ ਹਨ। ਅਤੇ ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੇ ਅੱਜ ਤੱਕ ਆਪਣੇ ਸੀਨਿਆਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਤਪਦੀ ਭੱਠੀ ਵਾਂਗ ਕੌਮੀ ਅਜ਼ਾਦੀ ਲਈ ਜੂਝ ਮਰਨ ਦਾ ਜਜ਼ਬਾ ਜਗਾਈ ਰੱਖਿਆ।

ਇਹਨਾਂ ਮਰਜੀਵੜਿਆਂ ਵਿੱਚੋਂ ਭਾਈ ਕੁਲਵੰਤ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ਬੱਬਰ ਇੱਕ ਸਨ।

ਸਾਡੇ ਜਿੰਦਗੀ ਦੌਰਾਨ ਕਈ ਮੌਕੇ ਆਉਂਦੇ ਹਨ ਜਦੋ ਅਸੀਂ ਨਿੱਜੀ ਅਤੇ ਪਰਿਵਾਰਕ ਹਿੱਤਾਂ ਤੋਂ ਉਪਰ ਉਠ ਕੇ ਪੰਥ ਨੂੰ ਪਹਿਲ ਦੇ ਕੇ ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰਨ ਦਾ ਫੈਸਲਾ ਲੈ ਸਕਦੇ ਹਾਂ। ਪਰ ਅਜਿਹੇ ਮੌਕਿਆਂ 'ਤੇ ਮੇਰੇ ਵਰਗੇ ਖੁਦਗਰਜ਼ ਪੈਰ ਪੈਰ 'ਤੇ ਨਿੱਜ ਨੂੰ ਮੁੱਖ ਰਖਦੇ ਹੋਏ ਕੁਝ ਮਜ਼ਬੂਰੀਆਂ ਜਾਂ ਸਮ੍ਹੇ ਦੀਆਂ ਹਲਾਤਾਂ ਦਾ ਬਹਾਨਾ ਲਾ ਕੇ ਪਰਿਵਾਰਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਵਿੱਚ ਮਸ਼ਰੂਫ ਰਹਿ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਹਨ।  

ਪਰ ਭਾਈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਵਰਗੇ ਪਹਾੜ ਜਿੱਡ੍ਹੇ ਜਿਗਰੇ ਵਾਲੇ ਧੰਨ ਹਨ ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੀ ਰੂਹ ਵਿੱਚ ਕੁਰਬਾਨੀ ਦਾ ਜਜ਼ਬਾ ਵਸ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਹਰ ਮੌੜ 'ਤੇ ਫੈਸਲਾ ਲੈਣ ਲੱਗਿਆਂ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੀ ਆਤਮਾ "ਪੰਥ ਵਸੈ ਮੈ ਉਝੜਾਂ" ਪੁਕਾਰਦੀ ਹੈ। ਕੌਮੀ ਦਰਦ ਨਾਲ ਧੁਰ ਅੰਦਰੋਂ ਭਿੱਜੇ ਇਹੋ ਜਿਹੇ ਵੀਰ ਆਪਣੀ ਸਮੁੱਚੀ ਹੋਂਦ ਨੂੰ ਇਸ ਦਰਦ ਵਿੱਚ ਸਮਾ ਲੈਂਦੇ ਹਨ ਅਤੇ ਹਰ ਇੱਕ ਮੌਕੇ 'ਤੇ ਹਮੇਸ਼ਾਂ ਪੰਥ ਨੂੰ ਹੀ ਪਹਿਲ ਦਿੰਦੇ ਹਨ। 

ਇਸ ਦਰਦ ਨਾਲ ਭਿੱਜੀ ਹੋਂਦ ਵਿੱਚੋਂ ਹੀ ਕੌਮੀ ਤਕਦੀਰ ਖੁਲਦੀ ਹੈ। ਜੇ ਆਪਾਂ ਸੰਘਰਸ਼ ਵਿੱਚ ਆਈ ਖੜੋਤ ਨੂੰ ਵਾਕਈ ਤੋੜਨ ਲਈ ਸੰਜੀਦੇ ਹਾਂ ਤਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਵਾਂਗ ਇਸ ਦਰਦ ਨੂੰ ਦਿਲੋਂ ਮਹਿਸੂਸ ਕਰਕੇ ਆਪਣਾ ਵਜੂਦ ਅੰਦਰ ਸਮਾਉਣਾ ਪਵੇਗਾ। ਤਾਂ ਹੀ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਦੀ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਨਾਲ ਸਾਥੋਂ ਵਿੱਛੜੇ ਵੀਰਾਂ ਦੇ ਹਾਣੀ ਬਣ ਸਕਾਂਗੇ 'ਤੇ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦਿਆਂ ਮੋਢਿਆਂ ਦੀਆਂ ਜ਼ਿੰਮੇਵਾਰੀਆਂ ਦਾ ਭਾਰ ਚੁੱਕ ਸਕਾਂਗੇ। 

ਭਾਈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਨੂੰ ਅਸਲ ਸ਼ਰਧਾਜਲੀ ਇਹੀ ਹੋਵੇਗੀ ਕਿ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੀ ਪੀੜ ਨੂੰ ਆਵਦਾ ਮਹਿਸੂਸ ਕਰੀਏ 'ਤੇ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੇ ਅਧੂਰੇ ਸੁਪਨੇ ਨੂੰ ਸਾਕਾਰ ਕਰਨ ਦੇ ਲਈ ਸੁਹਿਰਦਤਾ ਨਾਲ ਸੰਘਰਸ਼ ਅੱਗੇ ਤੋਰਨ ਲਈ ਯਤਨਸ਼ੀਲ ਹੋਈਏ।

ਇਸ ਯੋਧੇ ਨੂੰ ਪ੍ਰਣਾਮ… ਜਿਸ ਨੇ ਸੰਘਰਸ਼ ਦੇ ਬਿਖੜੇ ਪੈਂਡੇ 'ਤੇ ਆਪ ਤੁਰਕੇ ਸਾਡਾ ਰਾਹ ਪੱਧਰਾ ਕਰਦਿਆਂ ਜੀਵਨ ਪੰਥ ਦੇ ਲੇਖੇ ਲਾ ਦਿੱਤਾ। ਅਤੇ ਇਹੀ ਅਰਦਾਸ ਕਰਦੇ ਹਾਂ ਕਿ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੀ ਚਰਨ ਧੂੜ ਸਾਡੇ ਵਰਗਿਆਂ ਦੇ ਮੱਥਿਆਂ ਦੀ ਵੀ ਤਕਦੀਰ ਬਦਲੇ ਤਾਂ ਕਿ ਸਾਡੇ ਹਿੱਸੇ ਵੀ ਕੌਮ ਦੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਲਿੱਖੀ ਜਾਵੇ… ਅਤੇ ਸਾਡੇ ਮੋਢਿਆਂ 'ਤੇ ਉਹਨੇ ਦੇ ਅਧੂਰੇ ਸੁਪਨਿਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਪੂਰਾ ਕਰਨ ਦੀ ਜ਼ਿੰਮੇਵਾਰੀ ਨੂੰ ਆਖਰੀ ਸੁਆਸਾਂ ਤੱਕ ਨਿਭਾਉਣ ਦਾ ਬਲ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਬਖਸ਼ਿਸ਼ ਕਰਨ…

ਪ੍ਰਭਜੋਤ ਸਿੰਘ (ਸਿੱਖ ਲਿਬਰੇਸ਼ਨ ਫਰੰਟ)

Represent Sikhi...not just Sikhs.

ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਗਾਖੜੀ ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇ ॥: 
It is very difficult to serve the Satguru; to do so one must surrender their head (physically through shaheedee and/or spiritually through the eradication of haumai)

The last few months have been hard for many amongst the Sikh community, I am not one of them though. For 20 years I have witnessed the Indian government use propaganda through its channels within the Indian media to periodically raise an issue of Sikh extremism in an attempt to thwart Sikh political activism from the diaspora Sikh community. This response from the Canadian media when it comes to Sikhs in Canada speaking about human rights, political change (domestic or international), and Khalistan is the standard approach of “lazy journalism” that many self-declared experts on Sikh issues and Khalistan portray. This is nothing new and nothing shocking. For some of us, it has always been the norm. The idea that this country is ours has been foreign to me for a very long time and therefore the expectation that white media, with all its privilege, would want to understand me and represent the truth of what I say is also foreign to me. 

When I explain this line of thought to other Sikhs I get a response of “then what are you?” as if I need a nationality to identify myself. I am a human being and a Sikh of the Guru Granth and Guru Panth. That is my identity and when it comes to my nationality, what I am is homeless. My home is Khalistan/Punjab and it has been occupied by foreigners from the time of the British in 1849 to the reins of power being handed to the Brahmin and India in 1947. Decades of colonial rule have turned into centuries, and the only thing that changed for us was the color of the hand holding the chains we are enslaved by. Punjab/Khalistan is my home because my Guru created a vision for what it was to become and that revolution started for us when he asked for one of us to come forward, head in hand, and has continued through every Sikh generation since. To serve the Guru is to serve and reflect on Naam/Shabad and in doing so, to truly live the sach (truth) we ought to speak:

ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਜਿਨੀ ਨ ਸੇਵਿਓ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਕੀਤੋ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ 
ਅੰਤਰਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਆਇਓ ਮਿਰਤਕੁ ਹੈ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ॥: 
Those who have not served the “Satguru” no Divine Wisdom has dawned in their Heart; 
they may appear as alive but they are dead in the world (spiritually dead-ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ)

If Punjab/Khalistan is my home then why am I or others like me here you might ask? Well, where should we go? I live on the unceded traditional territories of the Katzie, Kwantlen and Matsqui First Nations and am still learning and coming to terms with my settler history here. Should I go back to the occupied and oppressed territories where my brothers and sisters remain in silence caused by the psycho-trauma of genocidal campaigns inflicted upon them by the Indian government? Should I go back to the villages where Jaswant Singh Khalra found thousands of young boys disappeared and extra-judicially murdered so perhaps one day I could be added to that list just like he was? Or should I go to the capital of Delhi and await another genocide of my people like in November 1984 when thousands were burned alive in the streets with no justice being provided after almost 35 years? I have every right to be here and I have every right to raise my voice for the people of Khalistan/Punjab. We are colonizers, occupiers, and settlers here on this land and I can agree that my existence here is somewhat of a hypocrisy in itself, but until I have somewhere to return to, I fully intend to build solidarity with the traditional rulers of these unceded territories and use this space for the betterment of people here and elsewhere. I have a passport, social insurance number, etc. for as long as I need it to survive. I have no ill-will towards Canada as the land and society has provided me with a platform to engage the Indian government’s violent and genocidal agenda; although I fully understand the need to do better in the treatment and acknowledgement of First Nations and their legitimate claims to their territories. Personally, I would love to see every single human being succeed in life and be safe from discrimination, exploitation and oppression and that is why my advocacy for Khalistan is completely legitimate from this land. It doesn’t matter if you came here in the 1600s or came here last week, you still came here from somewhere and nobody has true “ownership” of the land here aside from those whose unceded territory it is. Therefore, the trauma and wounds some of us carry from the sufferings of the multiple identities (racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, etc.) we see ourselves through will always be with us.

“Canada in the twenty-first century exists as a country enriched by immense human and natural resources. It is a nation filled with majestic beauty beyond compare, populated by talented individuals attracted from all corners of the globe in recent years and generations past in search of better lives for themselves and their families- all of this occurring with little regard to its illegitimate and immoral beginnings.”
- Bradford W. Morse, "Reconciliation Possible? Reparations Essential," ed. Mike DeGagne, Marlene Brant-Castellano and Linda Archibald (Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2008), 235.

Currently, some Sikhs who are responding inadequately to media coverage in Canada are doing so from an ideologically and politically confused position of weakness. There are two things happening simultaneously; the first is this position of being “shocked” that this is happening to them in what they consider their “home” and the second that they are trying to respond in a manner to fit into this “home” by misrepresenting Sikhi to satisfy needs that stem from their own personal position of weakness. Putting the interests of individual Sikhs over Sikhi itself has been problematic in the past for Sikhs and a well-known example is the case of Ram Rai. Ram Rai misrepresented Sikhi (changed a shabad) out of fear to the state/political power (Aurangzeb and the Mughal Empire) in order to avoid harm. By doing so Ram Rai was accepted by the Mughal Empire and then rewarded with a Dera near Dehradun; a similar need for acceptance and possibly “rewards” is manifesting itself currently as well. Ram Rai was excommunicated by Guru Har Rai Sahib from the Sikh Panth for this misrepresentation and where some may not consider the misrepresentation of Sikhi occurring right now through media engagement at the same level, there is no denying that the misrepresentation itself is occurring. If the only issue for us in this misrepresentation is the degree of Ram Rai (full or partial) we want to become, then I will say without a doubt, we have failed as Guru de Sikh.

The context of sangarsh and patshahi is missing from all media coverage and as stated already, it is to be expected. The unfortunate thing is that this same context is missing from virtually all Sikh responses within Canada as well. There is a desperate need to represent Sikhs amongst the Sikh sangat in Canada and everyone wants to #AskCanadianSikhs while unfortunately, Sikhi is being misrepresented due to the fear and weakness of those being “asked.” Even this is going to be hard for many apologetic types to digest, but how can you condemn all forms of violence as a Sikh? Using terms like struggle, defense, resistance and revolution are completely fine, yet these terms all depend on the mode and means adopted in order to carry them out. They can all be carried out with non-violence like Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur and when necessary, they can all be carried out with the use of arms and violence like Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh. 

As a Sikh, you cannot and should not run from this. To condemn this is to condemn your Guru. The Guru gave clear instruction as to when and where there was justification for their Sikhs to take up arms and the moral and ethical code a Sikh must abide by in doing so:

ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਨਾਮ ਜਪ ਕਰੈ ॥ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਮਲੇਛ ਪਰ ਚੜ੍ਹ੍ਹ੍ਹੈ ॥ (੫੧)
Khalsa is the one who remembers the divine name; Khalsa is the one who charges at the invaders.(51)

ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਨਾਮ ਸਿਉੁਂ ਜੋੜੇ ॥ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਬੰ ਧਨ ਕੋ ਤੋੜੇ ॥ (੫੨)
Khalsa is the one who is permeated with the celestial entity; Khalsa is the one who destroys bondage.(52)

ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਜੋ ਚੜ੍ਹ੍ਹ੍ਹੇ ਤੁਰੰਗ ॥ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਜੋ ਕਰੇ ਨਿਤ ਜੰਗ ॥ (੫੩)
Khalsa is the one who charges (into a righteous war); Khalsa is the one who is ever ready for righteous war.(53)

ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਸ਼ਸਤਰ ਕੋ ਧਾਰੈ ॥ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਦੁਸੰਟ ਕੋ ਮਾਰੈ ॥ (੫੪)
Khalsa is the one who adorns the arms; Khalsa is the one who exterminates the vicious.(54)

-Bhai Nand Lal, Tankhanama (conversations with Guru Gobind Singh)

Representing Sikhi in its mool form is the issue, not representing Sikhs and yes, there is a difference. A Sikh like me carries many weaknesses and in moments of uncertainty and potentially fear, I may want the problem to just go away and be accepted. If that means changing the mool (origin) of who I am and what I am supposed to represent then I may go along with it. But Sikhi is from the Guru and represented and manifested within Gurbani, Gur-itihas, and Gurmat. It is clear that the approach a Sikh must take in the most difficult moments must be gauged through Sikhi based on the examples of those who have represented it through action in our itihas. Almost every media piece written with some “context” as to the Indian government’s bloody campaigns against minority communities came at a price, but they were widely shared by panthic Sikhs nonetheless. So desperate were some of us for any half-decent representation that we let the very best of us, like Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, be sacrificed in the process. Sandy Garossino wrote a piece titled “The Truth Behind the Story Engulfing Canada’s Sikh Politicians” and even though it had the following in it, far too many Sikhs treated it as some kind of victory:

“India in the early eighties saw the emergence of a ruthless and charismatic Sikh nationalist, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Then-prime minister Indira Gandhi had once cultivated the religious zealot for her own political purposes. Now Bhindranwale directly challenged her authority by violently seizing and occupying Sikhism's holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar… 
The Golden Temple assault electrified the entire Sikh faith. By slaughtering innocents along with Bhindranwale, Gandhi legitimized his cause and gave a face to Sikh religious persecution...
Bhindranwale's transformation from ruthless thug to religious icon and the face of Sikh religious persecution was complete.”

The highly derogatory language used against Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in this piece and many others is being forgiven or even purposely cast aside in order to use the remainder of the story to protect “Sikh politicians” like Jagmeet Singh in Canada. This is an unacceptable position for Sikhs to take from purely a Sikhi-sidhant perspective. 

The issue that Jagmeet Singh faces is highly problematic in and of itself. Jagmeet Singh is being forced to explain himself for attending events where Sikh sovereignty is on full display, much like Prime Ministers, Premiers, MPs, MLA’s and Mayors of various municipalities and political parties and leanings across Canada have as well. The stark difference in media coverage however, illustrates the difference in how he is talked about compared to his White counterparts. The issue seems less about the venue or context and more about the legitimacy of the person himself, speaking frankly, a young brown man with a full beard and round turban who represents a very visible minority in this country. If Jagmeet Singh spoke about the events of 1984 and mass human rights violations the Sikh people suffered at the hands of the Indian government, then so have elected officials of multiple political parties and the former leader of the NDP Jack Layton. If Jagmeet Singh as a MPP spoke about Sikh genocide and put a motion forward in the Ontario legislature, then so did Sukh Dhaliwal a Liberal MP under Michael Ignatieff’s leadership and he did it in parliament in Ottawa. Further, it was Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberals that stood for and pushed through the declaration of genocide in the Ontario legislature and not Jagmeet Singh and the Ontario NDP (who did raise it the year before, but didn’t have enough seats to see the motion through). 

For someone like me, who has been involved in Sikhi parchar (with advocacy for Khalistan being a segment of that parchar) for almost 2 decades, I have no issue in stating that Jagmeet Singh is a Canadian political leader; Jagmeet Singh is NOT a Sikh leader. Jagmeet Singh agreeing or disagreeing with Sikh political causes doesn’t make them any more or less relevant and nor has he ever been given any authority to speak on behalf of the Sikh Panth. For any sangarsheel Sikh, Bhai Jagtar Singh Hawara is the Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht Sahib and it is his leadership that we seek since his history, perspective and outlook continue to be centered around the patshahi the Guru bestowed upon us. Jathedar Jagtar Singh Hawara is in a leadership role because even while wrapped in chains he continues to represent the soch that Guru sahib gave us in the form of Sikhi. Jathedar Hawara doesn’t and nor should he ever, represent the fears and weaknesses of Sikhs who become unhinged because they no longer know how to justify their mool and existence in the diaspora. Jathedar Jagtar Singh Hawara re-ignites in panthic Sikhs a never-ending and never-wavering inspiration to put the strength of Sikhi before the maya-infested weakness of Sikhs:

ਡਗਮਗ ਛਾਡਿ ਰੇ ਮਨ ਬਉਰਾ ॥
Stop your wavering, O crazy people!

ਅਬ ਤਉ ਜਰੇ ਮਰੇ ਸਿਧਿ ਪਾਈਐ ਲੀਨੋ ਹਾਥਿ ਸੰਧਉਰਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
Now that you have taken up the challenge of death, let yourself burn and die, and attain perfection.

Our position is clear, we wish to represent Sikhi to the best of our ability. Sikh Liberation Front (SLF) penned a piece a few weeks ago which best captures the state of the apologetic Sikh today who either knowingly or unknowingly are distancing themselves from their mool by representing and defending their personal weaknesses and defining it as “representing Sikhs.” 

“The apologists choose to project the Sikh jujharoo lehar (rebellion) as an anachronism of the past—an irrational (“extremist/terrorist”) outburst of violence that has no place in the liberal democratic “present” of their imaginations. They choose to latch on to a clear-cut division of time in order to banish Sikh existence and resistance into the realm of the “Other” in order to maintain their image as obedient, non-threatening citizens. .. The ignorance of these claims overlooks the legacy of genocide and the ongoing structures of repression which inhibit discourses of Sikh sovereignty from the political space in Punjab (52 Khalistani activists have been arrested in Punjab between April—December 2017 alone). Secondly, these claims ignore widespread political movements in recent years which centre around the movement for Khalistan. This includes massive mobilizations against the pending execution of Sikh political prisoners and for their immediate release—all of whom are in prison for waging an armed struggle against the Indian state in the pursuit of Khalistan. The symbolism and discourse underlying this movement clearly focused on the necessity of the armed struggle these prisoners were imprisoned for.”
-Prabjot Singh (SLF), “Confronting Race and Rejecting the Politics of Apology”

My appeal is to all those Sikh jathebandees, organizations, Gurdwara Sahibs, and any other individual or collective Sikhs that are currently speaking on this issue, ensure that we represent Sikhi in its mool form rather than giving in to fear or weakness in those difficult moments. As a Panth we have each other in the form of sangat and the Guru; if we are not able to perform this representation then we must look for and utilize those amongst our sangat that can. Our misrepresentation today will set unfortunate precedents for generations of Sikhs and how they interact with shastars, Gur-itihas and Khalsa Mahima. We cannot allow this to happen.

As stated in Panth Parkash by Rattan Singh Bhangu, when Bhai Taru Singh was arrested the Sikh sangat came together and did ardas and it was in the hopes that Sikhi would be represented until the last breath so that it would continue to exist in its mool roop as the Guru intended:

ਸਿੱਖੀ ਸਾਥ ਨਿਬਾਹੀ ਸਾਸ ॥
(May Bhai Taru Singh) Represent Sikhi until the last breath.

When news of Bhai Taru Singh’s shaheedee came to the sangat they once again performed ardas:

ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਪੈਜ ਖਾਲਸੇ ਰਾਖੀ ॥
ਰਹੈ ਜਗਤ ਮੈਂ ਜੁਗ ਜੁਗ ਸਾਖੀ ॥
Satguru has honored the Khalsa (through Bhai Taru Singh’s representation of Sikhi until his last breath); this example (representation of Sikhi) will remain until the end of time.

This is who we are and must become...in time Bhai Taru Singh and at least for now, the sangat that believed death was preferable to misrepresentation of Sikhi.

KHALISTAN ZINDABAD
Moninder Singh
Sikh Liberation Front (SLF)

Confronting Race and Rejecting the Politics of Apology

We were told that violence in itself is evil and that, whatever the case, it is unjustified morally. By what standard of morality can the violence used by a slave to break his chains be considered the same as the violence of a slave master?Violence aimed at the recovery of human dignity and at equality cannot be judged by the same yardstick as violence aimed at maintenance of discrimination and oppression.

    -Walter Rodney, Groundings with my Brothers 

Following the events of September 11, 2001, Sikhs across the Western world have been disproportionately marked as targets of violent hate crimes. As the US-led “War on Terror” inflicted the world with renewed imperialist intervention, racialized brown bodies would be increasingly marked as the legitimized targets of this war—particularly Sikh communities residing in North America and Europe. Throughout this period, various projects arose in response to this targeted violence. One of them, a t-shirt produced following the 2005 bombings in London, featured the racist message: “Don’t freak, I’m a Sikh.”

The message was clear in a world that had been divided into two camps by the famous American declaration: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Rather than challenging the Islamophobic racialization of brown bodies or the monopolization of violence by oppressive states, the creators of the t-shirt sought to submissively align Sikhs with Whiteness and the power of the West. By emulating the norms and practices of White bodies at the top of the racial hierarchy, many racialized individuals often hope that if they can perfect this mimicry, they may successfully escape further racial discrimination and violence. Sikh groups who seek to respond to Islamophobic violence by differentiating themselves from Muslims illustrate this perfectly.

racist t shirt.jpg

Thirteen years later, this strategy is once again reappearing in Sikh circles. This time, however, it revolves around the racist media coverage of Sikhs themselves, and the claims of Sikh apologists in response. 

Two claims are simultaneously put forth by these groups and individuals. Firstly, they “abhor violence” and claim that Sikh extremism is a phenomenon that only exists in the past. While implicitly accepting the branding of Sikh resistance as extremism, it is presented as an aberration that does not reflect “today’s” Sikh community. Rather than rejecting this racist characterization and seeking to place Sikh militancy in the context of genocide, they distance themselves from this reality altogether. 

The apologists choose to project the Sikh jujharoo lehar (rebellion) as an anachronism of the past—an irrational (“extremist/terrorist”) outburst of violence that has no place in the liberal democratic “present” of their imaginations. They choose to latch on to a clear-cut division of time in order to banish Sikh existence and resistance into the realm of the “Other” in order to maintain their image as obedient, non-threatening citizens. Whereas the initial strategy was to differentiate a Sikh identity from the Muslim “Other” targeted in the War on Terror, it now moulds itself to differentiating a non-violent and non-threatening identity from an “extremist/terrorist” Sikh identity. Their new slogan becomes, “Don’t freak, I’m a (“moderate/peaceful”) Sikh.”

These groups seemingly have no problem with the racist establishment demonizing and criminalizing militant Sikh resistance to genocide, as long as they aren’t labelled and targeted with the same racist brush.

Flowing from this, is the second claim that Khalistan is no longer a relevant political issue. When they are forced to reconcile with its undeniable presence, however, it is reframed within norms acceptable to Whiteness ie. as a pacified non-violent social media campaign. One of the aspiring politicians quoted in the most recent article, reveals his ignorance by suggesting that the Khalistan movement “was a movement in the past tense. It’s been in the past tense for a couple decades now.”

The ignorance of these claims overlooks the legacy of genocide and the ongoing structures of repression which inhibit discourses of Sikh sovereignty from the political space in Punjab (52 Khalistani activists have been arrested in Punjab between April—December 2017 alone). Secondly, these claims ignore widespread political movements in recent years which centre around the movement for Khalistan. This includes massive mobilizations against the pending execution of Sikh political prisoners and for their immediate release—all of whom are in prison for waging an armed struggle against the Indian state in the pursuit of Khalistan. The symbolism and discourse underlying this movement clearly focussed on the necessity of the armed struggle these prisoners were imprisoned for.

More recently, the reconvening of the Sarbat Khalsa in 2015, the collective assembly of the global Sikh panth, not only ratified the 1986 resolutions to wage a struggle for independence by any means necessary, it also appointed Bhai Jagtar Singh Hawara as the Jathedar of Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib (a revered guerrilla commander). In addition to these modes of civil disobedience, this period has also seen the resurgence of several Khalistani guerrilla organizations and a significant spike in guerrilla strikes across India. 

The ignorance and isolation of the apologists within their elitist silos, far removed from grassroots Panthic institutions and activism, speaks for itself.

Logically structured in exactly the same way as the the “don’t freak, I’m a Sikh” tees, these apologetic responses emanate from their lived reality of anxiety in a racist society and aspirations of an escape. By disavowing militant Sikh resistance as extremism, however, these responses accept and echo the attempt to relegate Sikh resistance as the barbaric “Other” while projecting an alternative sanitized image of a “Canadian Sikh.”

amritsar-khalistan.jpg

In the March 1925 edition of the Babbar Akali newspaper, anti-colonial Sikh revolutionaries made their positions clear in response to contemporary Sikh apologists disavowing the militant Babbar Akali movement in order to appease the British: 

We had reformed the enemies of the Panth and those who had deceived and harmed it. Our brothers were fighting a peaceful battle. We have fought battles as were fought by Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib and Guru Gobind Singh Ji. We have done nothing against the tenets of Sikhi.

The Indian state declared war against the Sikh panth in 1984 and launched a genocidal campaign which Sikhs resisted en masse—mobilizing a range of strategies from civil disobedience to armed insurgency. From the Babbar Akalis to Khalistani jujharoo jathebandis (warrior bands), Sikhs have valiantly fought to defend our sovereignty from occupying forces and continue to do so. Those who are blessed with martyrdom in this struggle will continue to be venerated as shaheeds. As much as the apologists aspire to literally White wash Sikh existence and history to escape the harsh realities of racism, they will not erase our kaumi (collective) existence to do it. 

Along with other oppressed peoples of the world, including Palestinians, Tamils, Kurds and countless others, the Sikh panth will not disavow our right to resistance, self-defence, or self-determination in order to win the affection of imperialist powers or White supremacy. Nor do we need the approval of foreign powers to authorize our armed struggle. This right was already bestowed upon us by Guru Gobind Singh Sahib when he blessed the Khalsa with patshahi (sovereignty) in both worlds. 

 

ਚੁਕਾਰਅਜ਼ਹਮਹਹੀਲਤੇਦਰਗੁਜ਼ਸ਼ਤ॥ ਹਲਾਲਅਸਤੁਬੁਰਦਨਬਸ਼ਮਸ਼ੇਰਦਸਤ॥੨੨॥

When all other methods fail, it is righteous to take the sword in hand. 

 

On one hand, long grandiose speeches are made that India is a peace-loving country. Those who feel forced to resort to armed struggle in order to defend their rights are encouraged to engage in non-violent struggle instead. On the other hand however, it has been proven time and time again that those engaging in non-violent resistance will be consistently ignored or repressed by the establishmentAre the government and mainstream media not endorsing the belief that the only way to send a message through to the deaf ears of the state is through armed struggle?

-Bhai Jagtar Singh Hawara, Jathedar Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib (2013)

 

Prabjot Singh - Sikh Liberation Front

Countering Fake News

At the National Sikh Youth Federation, we will not tolerate slander and fabricated allegations made against the Sikh Shaheeds, who's names have been written in golden lettering in Sikh Ithihaas. Such is the greatness of the Guru and his Sikh, that those who are opposed, are unable to challenge Sikhi and the struggle for Khalistan it inspires.

Weak-willed and substandard journalists, have taken cheap shots at those who occupy the highest echelons of our nation. They fail to grasp the lofty ideals of the Guru and the dedication of his Khalsa and make ill-informed and unfounded claims.

Terry Glavin, a Canadian journalist has made a living out of peddling low-level sensationalist journalism which reinforce racist stereotypes and attempt to silence the voice of activists of the Sikh Quam. He recently jumped on the internationally trending topic of Khalistan, to offer up some of his own freshly concocted allegations:

“Across the shimmering pool from the Akal Takht, in his sandbagged four-storey bunker, Babbar Khalsa’s senior commander, Sukhdev Singh, happily admitted to me that on Parmar’s direct orders he’d recently carried out more than 40 assassinations. The dead were insufficiently observant Sikhs, poets, Hindu-Sikh peace activists, left-wing intellectuals and innocent Hindu shopkeepers. The killing would go on until Khalistan was won, Sukhdev Singh told me.”

The Babbar Khalsa was founded following the Vasaikhi Massacre of 1978 in which 13 Sikhs were brutally killed by armed Nirankaris (a god-man cult) with the assistance of the Panjab Police. Following the failure of the Indian Judicial system to dispense any justice, acquitting all the Nirankari accused, Sant Bhindranwale declared that as per Sikh tradition those guilty of murdering unarmed Sikhs should be punished.

The Babbar Khalsa is a Jujharoo Jathebandi, which mandated by the Akaal Takhat Hukumnama at the time, was set up to target those Nirankaris who were responsible for attacks on the Sikh nation.  It is false to claim that in the early 80s it was fighting for Khalistan, the struggle for which started after June 1984:

"The leading extremist Sikh group at the time, which had owned responsibility for killing 35 Nirankaris since 1981, was the Babbar Khalsa. It too denied any hand in the bus killings or indeed in the killing of any Hindus, bank robberies or religiously provocative acts. 'Our targets are only those Nirankaris who were involved in the Baisakhi killings of 1978, and those police officers who are guilty of torturing and humiliating Sikh youth’.
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
7 October 1983

 “Last fortnight Sukhdev Singh, the leader of one of the less well-known Akali groups, the Babbar Khalsa, proudly stepped out of the shadows to claim credit for the killing of 35 Nirankaris. Sukhdev Singh was unrepentant about his group's bloody activities, saying, "We shall continue to deal the same way with the enemies of the Panth."
India Today
January 15, 1984

Shaheed Jathedar Bhai Sukhdev Singh Ji Babbar

Shaheed Jathedar Bhai Sukhdev Singh Ji Babbar

These statements, and the events as recorded at the time, completely disprove Glavin’s claim that the Babbar Khalsa was somehow bent on assassinating poets and innocent Hindu shopkeepers.

Political detractors of the time were quick to note that the Jujharoo Jathebandis would take full responsibility for their actual actions, and condemned actions that were carried out by Government sponsored groups to defame them:

“It is important to note that even the religious activists among the Sikhs who felt bold enough to claim responsibility for selected killings over this period, not only disclaimed these acts of communal murders of Hindus and desecration of Hindu temples, but also condemned them.”
Focus on Regional Issues, Volume 3
Institute of Regional Studies, 1984

 It is unclear therefore why the Babbar Khalsa would confide in Terry Glavin, of all people of their supposed 'real intentions'; to create Khalistan by massacring Hindus. It is noteworthy that those Terry claims to have interviewed have become Shaheed in the struggle for Khalistan, and cannot refute the fictitious claims that Terry chose to wait nearly 40 years to reveal.

"From his perch in the Akal Takht, “the throne of the timeless one,” the genocidal hatred of Hindus that Khalistani supreme leader Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale expressed during our interview was helpfully informative...  Khalistan was the ethnically cleansed theocracy that Bhinderanwale wanted to carve out of Punjab. It was nothing like the cause of a righteous Third World liberation movement that Canada’s Khalistanis were claiming it was."

It wasn’t only the Babbar Khalsa, Terry’s other alleged personal sources included Sant Bhindranwale (the most revered Sikh of the 21st century as declared by Akal Takhat). In the quote above from his recent article, Terry claims Sant Bhindranwale confided in him that rather than greater political autonomy and civil rights through agitations, for which over a hundred thousand Sikhs had courted arrest and over 100 died, Sant Ji's actual strategy for Khalistan was the ethnic cleansing of 10 million Hindus of Punjab.

Sant Bhindranwale repeatedly confirmed his stance in his speeches that he was not against Hindus in general but opposed to the Indian State that leveraged Brahmanism in a bid to galvanise a fanatical Hindu vote bank. He condemned any attacks on innocent Hindus, and no “ethinic cleansing” took place either while Sant Bhindranwale was alive or during the armed struggle for Khalistan.

Articles such as the one written by Terry are deeply problematic and show no understanding of Sikh thought or history. Fortunately for the Sikh Quam the media does not write our Itihas, rather Sikh Itihas is written by the Jivan and Kurbani of Gursikhs such as Shaheed Jatheder Bhai Sukhdev Singh Babbar and Shaheed Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale.

 

Shaheed Jathedar Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale

Shaheed Jathedar Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale

There’s No Smoke Without Fire

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's first official visit to India has been completely overshadowed by the topic of Khalistan. Political analysts globally have made much of the fact that, for the most of his trip, Trudeau was snubbed by senior members of the Indian Government.

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It was the absence of Indian Prime Minister Modi in Trudeau’s publicity pictures which has been most revealing. Modi, infamous for his awkward “bear hugging” of reluctant political leaders, is usually much more ‘touchy feely’ with his political counterparts, especially western ones.

The fall out derives from fears of the Indian Government that Canadian Members of Parliament, including ministers and Prime Minister Trudeau himself, are sympathetic to the struggle for Khalistan. First, Jagmeet Singh then Member of Provincial Parliament was denied an entry visa for India, punishment for his campaigning to have the massacres in Northern India in October/November 1984 be recognised as genocide.

The Indian Government then watched in dismay as 4 Sikhs were appointed as ministers of Justin Trudeaus Government in 2015, and worse still watching Jagmeet Singh become his party’s political leader (NDP Party) in 2017.

Chief Minister of Panjab Captain Amarinder Singh was quick to denounce the 5 (?) Sikh Canadian Ministers as being Khalistani sympathisers, and refused to meet Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan when he visited India in 2017. The allegations stem from the fact that Sajjan’s father was an executive member of the World Sikh Organisation, a Canadian based organisation which supported the creation of Khalistan.

It was only following Trudeau’s assertions that Canada supported a “united India”, was he finally met by a Chief Minister in India. Captain Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister for Panjab met both Trudeau and Harjit Singh Sajjan on Wednesday (21/2/2018), after days of speculation with the Canadian Prime Minister’s office, unable to confirm whether they would be meeting.

It is clear that Canadian trade with India, which was estimated at $6 billion in 2016, played heavily on Trudeaus mind, as he successfully appeased the Indians. There were high stakes for the maverick prime minister, in addition to the existing trade, two stalled trade agreements -- one on fair trade and one on foreign investments -- have been under negotiation since 2010, and hopes had been high that Trudeau's visit would help to push those talks forward.

Indian Diplomatic Efforts Against Khalistan Pre and Post 1984

India has utilised all means to prevent the succession of the Panjab region for the formation of Khalistan, in the war for independence which has spanned nearly 40 years. This has included underhanded dealings with foreign governments, especially those with whom lucrative trade deals could be used in exchange for human rights suppression.

In exchange for lucrative contracts selling arms to India, Margaret Thatcher’s Government was happy to send over SAS advisors to help plan the assault on Darbar Sahib in June 1984, and curtail the rights of Sikhs in Britain who were proponents of Khalistan. The Cabinet meeting minutes of 22 November 1984 make it very clear what was behind the UK’s behaviour:

‘The British High Commission in New Delhi had reported continuing threats in Indian governmental circles of a trade boycott in the event of behaviour by the Sikh community in the United Kingdom which the Indians might regard as provocative.  This posed a serious risk: export contracts worth £5 billion could be at stake.  The march by Sikhs in Central London, which had been due to take place on 18 November, had been banned (by the Home Secretary).’

Originally representations between India and western governments were private, diplomatic and cooperative in nature, now they are more adversarial, aggressive and public. This is a clear sign that the target audience for this behaviour is Sikhs; India will close ranks on us, eroding our privileged positions in the west, and target those who support our struggle for Khalistan.

If we look at the current situation, the Indian Government through its intelligence agencies would know that Justin Trudeau is not a Khalistani sympathiser, nor are the Sikh members of his cabinet. That being the case, what was the purpose of making such a huge deal? Trudeau’s whole visit, his first official visit as prime minister to India, has been completely dominated by the issue of Khalistan.

He and his Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan have had to repeatedly make their position clear that they do not support Khalistan. If India was aware of this already, why the charade? It was only on the 23rd February, towards the end of his visit that Modi did meet Trudeau. After making their stance clear on Khalistan, Trudeau was rewarded with the customary Modi bear hug.

It is argued that this was a power play by India, to show Sikhs that if it wants to it can bully western governments, who are vying for its trade.

This would come as a blow to those Sikhs who see Trudeau as an ally of Sikhs, and Sajjan’s appointment, a boost for the Sikh nation. India forced the Canadian Government to make its position clear, removing all ambiguity that Sajjan and others stand with Canada, and thus with India, and its integrity, and not with the Sikh nation and its struggle for Khalistan.

Real Eyes - Realise - Real Lies

While there has been immense global coverage of Trudeau’s visit to India and his treatment by Modi and his Government because of Khalistan, a major theme has largely gone unnoticed by both western, Indian and Sikh commentary. Western media, particularly Canadian, have concentrated on the timing of Trudeau’s visit and its relevance to the Canadian federal elections in 2019;

"Indo-Canadians — a constituency that helped the Liberals win a majority government in 2015 and could play a decisive role in next year's federal election... For the Liberals, the domestic political aspects of the trip are primarily defensive in nature. There are 25 ridings in Canada where at least one-fifth of the population reports being South Asian (that includes Pakistanis and Sri Lankans along with Indians). The Liberals won 24 of those ridings in the 2015 federal election”

How Trudeau's India trip lays the groundwork for the 2019 election
Éric Grenier, CBC News (22 Feb 2018)

The Indians meanwhile have been whipping themselves into a frenzy, publishing pictures of Trudeau wearing a Ramaal, questioning whether Khalistan will be formed in Canada first! While initially instigated by Indian politicians like Captain Amarinder Singh, and fuelled by Modi’s dismissiveness, the Indian press has gone into full hysteria.

Sikh response has been largely to tow the media line, and to hint that Sikhs were being demonised, with Khalistan discussed with polarising language, such as extremism and even terrorism. What has gone largely unnoticed is the glaring contradiction in the Indian Government narrative.

While all diplomatic and propaganda measures have been adopted and all levels of state machinery mobilised against the Khalistan movement, the Indian Government simultaneously maintains the “Khalistani Sikhs”, are a fringe element of an otherwise docile and obedient Sikh diaspora:

“Militancy started in Punjab out of political reasons and Pakistan, too, was a fringe element, which was willing to take some benefit out of the dissenters. Today’s Sikhs do not harbour any Khalistani sentiment and this is a reality. This movement has no future anymore.”
A.B. Mahapatra
Centre for Asian Strategic Studies-India (CASS-India)

This statement above highlights the hypocrisy of the Indian Government’s position, if the Khalistan movement is an aging and toothless tiger, why is there such high-level discourse between two superpowers? Why did India risk a high level diplomatic fall out with Canada, by refusing to meet senior Canadian Government officials, and labelling them as being “terrorist sympathisers”.

Sikhs are a minority within India, making up only 1.72% of the country's total population. The diaspora in Canada only amounts to 2.5% of that in Panjab, and yet the “Khalistani Sikh” is allegedly a tiny minority within them! A tiny minority, and yet the Khalistan issue trumped the whole visit, prioritised over all other national interests, including those of all other States in India.

Some Sikhs claim that this is all an attempt to slander the community as extremists. However, this is an overly simplistic view, while slander of the Sikh community has always been Indian narrative, other revelations show that the deeper reasonings are more complex. For example, the idea that this whole episode was to defame Sikhs is contradicted by the fact that Trudeau has been trying to arrange the state visit for two years, but India proved cold and uninterested.[1] Insiders state that India was unhappy at Trudeau’s initial unwillingness to disown or distance from the Khalistani supporters, who he is alleged to have given patronage to.

Modi took the opportunity at the G20 in Hamburg to raise India’s objections to Trudaus attendance at Sikh rallies where Khalistan national flags and posters of Sikh Shaheeds (Khalistan Martyrs) were openly displayed. When Trudeau defended himself on the basis of freedom of speech, Modi made it clear that he viewed “pro-Khalistan groups as a serious security threat”, and that the relationship between India and Canada could not proceed, with a halt on any further trade, until Canada changed its position.

Between the G20 in Hamburg and last month’s World Economic Forum in Davos, where the two leaders met again, the Trudeau cabinet had begun to show signs of reversing its position. More importantly, Trudeau himself dropped all talk of freedom of speech at the meeting, which paved the way for Trudeaus first visit to India. These high-level discussions and negotiations between Canada and India show that this is not a propaganda campaign, but genuine concerns India has about the potential threat, from a mobilised and active Sikh diaspora.

As part of the agreement between Modi and Trudeau, the Canadian PM had to meet Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. This would also be seen as forcing the Canadians to legitimise the State Ministership of Panjab, against the interests of Sikhs, who consider Panjab to be under occupation.

Captain Amarinder Singhs tweets following his meeting, and media reports[2] highlight the contradiction in State narrative, on the one hand the Khalistani’s represented “a fringe element, constituting a miniscule percentage”, but yet he raised the issue of Khalistan, because it was his “primary issue” of major importance. Singh, later tweeted that he was “really happy to receive categorical assurance” from Trudeau that he did not support Khalistan, and that those “words are a big relief to all of us here in India”.

If the Sikhs committed to Khalistan were truly an aging fringe section of the community it would make more sense for the Indian Government to ignore the Khalistanis’, and not give the struggle such prominence and attention. However, it is clear that while acknowledging that it would give it credibility, this was considered a necessary concession, out of desperation, to try and force Canada to stand against the Khalistanis'.

It is also interesting to note that Trudeau did not explicitly mention Khalistan himself in his actual statements, and was criticised by some Canadian journalists,[3] for refusing to explicitly denounce Khalistan. What he did say was that he was against religious extremism and radicalism, which does not apply to the Khalistan movement. Furthermore, Captains statements about their meeting have been now disputed by Trudeau who claims much of what Captain has told the press simply is a fabrication.

Whilst some Sikhs are concerned about the defamatory statements made by the Indian State and its media channels, who see Khalistani Sikhs as a serious threat, we should be inspired and emboldened to the potential we have as Sikhs of the Guru.

What Has Changed

As discussed, the Indian State has changed its approach with western governments, taking up aggressive almost threatening behaviour to coerce them into taking positions against Khalistan. This is radically different from the traditional secret world of closed meetings and deals between diplomats and intelligence agents.

One reason for this change in approach, is the development in the last 10 years that the Sikh diaspora has undergone. For the past 40 years, India has not had to worry about western politicians becoming sympathetic to the Sikh struggle for Khalistan. Sikhs were small in number, novice in politics, and it would not have been in the interest of western politicians, let alone governments to provide sincere support.

Whilst it can be argued that with further migration and more time spent in the diaspora, we lose connection with our homeland in Panjab, and grow new roots in our host countries, there are some by-product benefits. One of those is better engagement and lobbying with politics in our host countries, and the strongest example of this is the Sikh diaspora in Canada:

“The Canadian Sikh community nearly doubled in size between 2001 and 2011, and its members are concentrated in important electoral districts. All three major parties—the Conservatives, the Liberals and the NDP—actively try to win over Sikh voters, giving them significant influence. Parties make a point of fielding Sikh candidates, and provinces have been attentive to Sikh rights.” … “Out of 338 seats, 17 are occupied by Sikhs—forming a share that outstrips the corresponding percentage of Sikhs in Canada’s overall population. Within three generations, Canadian Sikhs have gone from disenfranchisement to disproportionate representation.”
Model Minority
The Caravan
February 2018

 

Not only is this problematic for the Indian State because Sikhs in Canada have greater influence over Canadian politicians, who may now have to be sympathetic to our causes, but what about when a Sikh becomes a prominent politician, and his causes are the same?

An example of this is Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP party in Canada. He along with other Sikh members of Provincial Parliament supported a motion which saw the Ontario Assembly become the first legislature in Canada to carry a motion that described the 1984 anti-Sikh violence as “genocide”.

This was a symbolic yet significant move, the gravity of which can be judged by the frantic, but ultimately, unsuccessful lobbying of the Indian Consul General in Toronto, and several prominent Indo-Canadian organisations, including the Canada-India Foundation, Panorama India and India Canada Chamber of Commerce, against the motion.

By defining as genocide, the narrative shifts from the Indian State narrative of random violence between civilian groups, to the state sponsored massacre, as part of the wider genocidal campaign against Sikhs it was. The latter accurate description of the events in October/November 1984 across Northern States in India, naturally inspires Sikhs towards Khalistan.

It is clear that India recognised the significance of the motion, in justifying Jagmeet Singh’s travel ban to India; it stated that it viewed Jagmeet’s activism as “seeking to undermine” Indian political institutions and “foment contempt to the country”, and that individuals such as Jagmeet were only “misusing the pretext of human rights to pursue their insidious agenda of disrupting the social fabric of India.”

Technology, including the internet and social media has also been a huge factor, as it has transformed how we receive and disseminate information. Traditionally most of the information and leadership would have been received from the stages at Gurughars, and therefore the Indian State has always had a vested interest and infiltrated where possible, in order to control the narrative. While the Gurughar will always be central to the community, if Panthic voices are supressed or deviant narratives pushed instead today, there are a whole range of alternate avenues, including social media, that are being used to maintain Guru-centric narrative.

With this new method of communication, Sikh activism and leadership takes on more organic and unfettered forms, unrestricted by geographical boundaries, Sikh diaspora across continents can be mobilised with one tweet. An example of this is the #FreeJaggi campaign. The Indian State has been unable to control the rhetoric as it may have been able before, and largely the traditional leadership have been irrelevant to the campaign, which is free to take which ever route it wants.

This sporadic rather than linear movement, is hard to track and counter, and produces spectacular unpredictable results. For example, as the anti-India feeling spread across the diaspora with the #FreeJaggi campaign, the Ontario Gurdwara Committee (OGC), which represents 15 Gurdwaras in the province, imposed a ban on Indian officials, including elected representatives, from entering their Gurdwaras. Within days this the boycott movement had spread across other Canadian provinces of Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, and beyond its borders to America, the UK (225 Gurughars), and most recently, Melbourne in Australia.

The implications of these overlapping Panthic Morchay are not lost on the Indian State, Hindustan Times reported on the boycott phenomenon with their fears that

“As the movement escalates, there’s fear that it might lead to call for an independent Punjab among Sikhs abroad.”
Hindustan Times
Fears of a New Sikh Uprising Emerge
12 February 2018

It is clear that it is the Sikh diaspora that is causing alarm to the Indian State. The recent assassinations of Hindu fascist leaders, attributed to the Khalisan Liberation Force has been linked with the Sikh diaspora. Use of western weapons, the assassins use of western training methods, counter surveillance technology for logistics and communication, clearly show that Sikhs outside of Panjab, had been coordinating the audacious executions across the State.

The fact that diasporic sikh are dominating military actions in Panjab rubbishes usual claims of Pakistan involvement. India is less concerned with Pakistan involvement, nor can it maintain the pretence of the latters involvement, as was made clear when Prime Minister Modi travelled to Pakistan in 2015 to celebrate the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s birthday.[4]

Furthermore, the willingness of Sikhs in Panjab to train, pick up arms and contribute to the armed movement, is equally troubling for the Indian State, especially given recent revelations that one of the alleged assassins is claimed to have returned home from Italy to join the Khalistan Liberation Force.

In a time when emigration is rife in Panjab, the sight of young Sikhs giving up materialistic exploits in the west, and committing to the liberation of Panjab, will draw disturbing parallels in the minds of Indian intelligence agencies, to similar actions of Khalistan leaders like Jathedar Talwinder Singh Babbar.

The Indian State has been rocked by the resurgence of Panthic activism across the Sikh diaspora. We  must recognise the potential within the Qaum, that India so clearly fears. A mobilised Sikh diaspora, is limited by its objectives only. As India attempts to use bully boy tactics to isolate Sikhs from western governments, this should strengthen our resolve and remind us that liberation can not be achieved piggybacking off the sovereignty of another. Throughout Sikh history through raj and rebellion, thrones and gallows, confederacies and genocides, our only source of constant support has been the Guru.

Sri Akaal Ji Sahai

Khalistan Zindabad

 

 

[1] https://theprint.in/2018/02/20/trudeau-wanted-india-visit-two-years-ago-modi-was-cold/

[2] http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/canada-wont-support-separatist-movements-trudeau-tells-punjab-cm/article22816851.ece

[3] http://torontosun.com/opinion/columnists/fatah-all-trudeau-needed-to-do-was-denounce-the-khalistan-movement

[4] https://edition.cnn.com/2015/12/25/asia/india-pm-visits-pakistan/index.html

Challenge the Darkness: Sikh Activism and Indian Torture

Blog-02.jpg

The recent (illegal) arrest, detention and subsequent torture without charge of a Sikh activist and British citizen Jagtar Singh Johal,[1] referred to affectionately as Jaggi, needs to be viewed in the context of a larger struggle between the Sikh Qaum and India.

Sikhs are concerned with Jaggi’s welfare, with the threat of continued torture and the risk of an extrajudicial killing by the State. For nearly 4 decades, torture and extrajudicial killings have been the weapons of choice against Sikh activists by the Indian State, and disturbingly for Jaggi’s family and the wider Sikh Qaum, often welded together.

Since the partition of Panjab, the Sikh homeland, to create the two modern-day nation states India and Pakistan, the Sikh Qaum has been in a state of conflict with India for its existence and independence. In 1947, the tearing apart of Panjab caused 40% of the Sikh population to become homeless and almost 2.5% to be brutally massacred. Over 700 Gurudwaras, including 130 historical Gurudwaras such as Nankana Sahib and Panja Sahib, and over 70% of the fertile, irrigated and rich Punjabi land fell into Pakistan’s territory.

It was in this backdrop that the Sikh Qaum reeling from the loss of territory, both geographic and political, built from Guru Nanak to Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, began a desperate struggle for its existence. The promise of regaining the “glow of freedom[2] upon which Sikh lives were sacrificed to liberate “India” quickly diminished with the creation of India.[3] Panjab didn’t exist and according to the Constitution of India, neither did the Sikhs.[4]

“Without a determined and grim struggle, we shall get demoralised and will disintegrate, losing our identity and perish in the dust. It would be cowardly to accept this fate. If we struggle and fall, we die a brave and noble death and if we struggle and win, we live an honourable life. So, the choice is clear”.[5]

 Master Tara Singh
 Sikh Leader

The Sikhs refused to sign the Constitution, and the struggle, now against India, commenced. Whilst the Sikhs threw themselves into this struggle with the same fervour as in the past, nearly a century of British Colonial rule had left its impact on the Sikh ideology and its institutions. Where “diplomatic” and “democratic” measures were given precedence over more Khalsa oriented direct action. As a result, there was much sacrifice with no result, proving to be counter-productive to the overall Sikh cause.

For example, the Akali Dal agitation for a Punjabi Suba saw over 60,000 Sikhs peacefully courted arrest. The Reorganisation Act of 1966 in response dissected Panjab further into four pieces. The major portion of its territory was ceded to Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. A sizeable chunk of its territory, about 23%, was transferred to Himachal Pradesh, while the State of Haryana secured 35.8% of the territory of the pre-organised Punjab.

The struggle continued against this latest attack on the Sikh Qaum but was lethargic and lacklustre. The next ten years only bringing about the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, a document which encapsulated the vision of the Sikhs at that time, of their aspirations for the Khalsa Bol Bala (the voice and power of the Khalsa/pre-eminence of the Khalsa).

This changed drastically with the arrival of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the Panthic scene, the Jathedar of the Dam Dami Taksaal appointed in August 1977. Sant Bhindranwale galvanised or “woke up the sleeping” Sikh Qaum.[6]

In August 1982, he joined the Akali led Dharam Yudh Morcha and gained even more prominence. Speaking from the Akali stage to thousands day-to-day, his passionate speeches anchored in Gurbani and rich with glorious memories of great Sikhs, such as Banda Singh Bahadhur and Baba Deep Singh, resonated with Sikhs from all walks of life. His speeches were less about the Constitutional rights of Sikhs in India, and more about Sikh ideology; the relationship between the Sikh and the Guru, and concepts of Azaadi and Ghulami, Dharam and Panth.

It was in this context, and at this time with the rise of a desire of Sikh sovereignty that the Indian Government responded with State terror to suppress the organic movement for self-determination.

Extrajudicial killings and Torture of Sikh Activists

It was during the Dharam Yudh Morcha that the Indian State, through its security forces, began to target Sikh activists. Over 190 Sikhs were killed, primarily peaceful demonstrators, during the morcha at roadblocks etc. The state also carried out targeted extrajudicial killings. The first being Shaheed Bhai Kulwant Singh Nagoke, a leading member of the Sikh resistance.[7] While the security forces had beaten and mistreated other Sikh detainees during the DYM, in Kulwant Singh Nagoke’s case the levels of depravity were exceeded, amounting to the most gruesome torture:

“From 27th May to 9th June 1982, Kulwant Singh was so brutally tortured that his bones were broken at various places; his body was torn at the hip joint by pulling his legs in opposite direction; his intestines had been taken out and both eyes had been gouged out. His nails had been pulled out. His thigh had been ripped open and salt poured into it. On 9 June ‘82 Kulwant Singh died in custody of the Police.”[8]

This became a major milestone in the Sikh struggle. The sanctioning of this treatment by the Indian State, and the Sikh response to it intensified the struggle where the only acceptable outcome now was death or Azaadi (Khalistan). While this had been the mindset of the Sikh Jujharoos, the vanguard of the struggle throughout, it was the Battle of Amritsar in June 1984 that, as prophesied by Sant Bhindranwale, laid the foundation for Khalistan in the minds and hearts of the rest of the Qaum. These sentiments were later ratified by the Sarbat Khalsa in 1986, which officially declared the decision of the Qaum to secede from India and create Khalistan.

From a small band of armed fighters, the entire Sikh Qaum was now obligated to Joojh (struggle/fight) for Khalistan. In response, the State galvanised all of its armed machinery against the Sikh Qaum. From a small concentration of senior police officers tasked with targeting and executing key Sikh activists, the entire Indian Security forces from the Army to the Police and all in-between were made aware that the target was now much wider:

“Any knowledge of Amritdharis, who are dangerous people and pledged to commit murders, arson and acts of terrorism should immediately be brought the notice of authorities.  These people might appear harmless from outside but they are basically committed to terrorism.  In the interest of all of us, their identity and whereabouts must always be disclosed….They have to be subdued to achieve the final aim of restoring peace in the country”[9]

Indian Army, Baatcheet (Army circular), No. 153, 1984.
Circulated to the Army following the Battle of Amritsar

The attack on Sri Darbar Sahib, Codenamed Operation Bluestar by the Indian Army, was part of a wider plan to suppress the voice and spirit of the Sikh Qaum, who had for the first time in decades began to assert its desire to be completely autonomous. Other operations by the Indian State were similarly brutal and coincided with Bluestar, including Woodrose which attempted to round up and eliminate any other Azaadi Pasand (activist) Sikh:

“The pattern in each village appears to be the same. The army moves in during the early evening, cordons a village and announces over loudspeakers that everyone must come out. All males between the age group of 15 and 35 are trussed and blindfolded, then taken away. Thousands have disappeared in the Punjab since the Army operation began.”
The Christian Science Monitor, October 15, 1984.

During this period, of the struggle for Khalistan, torture was not as prevalent as extrajudicial killings, as the State hurriedly tried to eliminate the leaders and activists of the young revolution. Clearly, the State had not taken into account Sikh history, or maybe it thought that it was just that, history:

"Manu is our sickle; we the fodder for him to mow.

The more he reaps, the more we grow."[10]

(Manu asadi datri, asi Manu de soe Jeon jeon

Manu Wad-da, asi dune chaune hoe)


Over the next decade, the full might of the Indian State including its Executive, the Judiciary, and the Legislature were employed to bring down the heights reached by the Khalistan movement. As opposed to achieving this through military might, which India possesses, the strategies which ultimately proved successful were barbaric and inhumane. Legislation like the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act 1985 legitimised the genocidal campaign against all Sikhs giving the authorities:

“Wide powers to arrest and detain without trial under vague provisions facilitate arbitrary arrests, as well as torture and other grave violations.”
Amnesty International
1 November 1994, Index number: ASA 20/039/1994

The armed movement was a popular movement backed by the masses, the Jujharoo Sikhs (armed groups) were themselves a minority. The State however directly targeted the Sikh populace at large rather than undertake any reasonable effort to engage in combating the Jujharoo Sikhs, who had occupied and controlled large areas of Panjab.

The extrajudicial killings of Sikhs were rewarded by the State, paying out tens of thousands of cash bounties to police officers simply by presenting a dead body and alleging it was a militant.

“By 1994, cases of disappearances in the state given by Human Rights Organisations were around 50,000.”
Report in Asian Age, February 8, and Pioneer, February 4, 1995

“It was a terrible tale of sadistic torture, ruthless killings, fake encounters, calculated ill-treatment of women and children, and corruption and graft on a large scale.”
Citizens For Democracy; Report To The Nation: Oppression in Punjab (Bombay, 1985).

Human rights organisations argue that the figures of Sikhs that were “disappeared” (euphemism for extrajudicial killings) were grossly understated. The State did not conduct any investigations into itself obviously, activists that took up the challenge found themselves added to the statistic.[11]

What is clear is that the main victims of state brutality were the ordinary Sikhs. Why were they targeted to stop an armed movement? The State decimated a generation of Sikhs, because they supported the goal of Khalistan, and they revered their Sikh Jujharoos who were fighting for it. The State attacked the Sikh civilian population in order to drive fear into the hearts of Sikhs. While a large number were killed, those that survived lived with the unimaginable fear of witnessing people “disappear” simply for looking as if they might support Khalistan.

Torture proved to be an effective tool for this purpose. While the Sikh Jujharoos are revered as martyrs, the ordinary citizen who was tortured lived with the scarring memory and the horrific lifelong injuries, as a permanent reminder for the others.

A Harvard Study into torture in Panjab during the Khalistan movement provides insights into the methods and objective of those who tortured:

“In virtually all cases, detainees were forced to disrobe and were then beaten with leather straps and/or wooden sticks. These acts were so common that most respondents did not even consider them acts of torture”

“…The most common form of torture, reported by (75%) of the respondents, was leg stretching. For this torture, detainees were forced to sit on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs. One police officer stood behind the detainee, pulling his or her head back by the hair, inserting his foot between the detainee's tied hands and low back while forcing his knee into the mid-back. Two other policemen, one on each side, stretched the legs as far apart as possible.

“Electric shocks were administered using wires that touched their earlobes, genitals, toes, and fingers.”

“According to one police officer, in his police station alone, between 4,000 and 5,000 acts of torture were committed each year from 1985 to 1990.”

The overwhelming majority of the victims of torture surveyed in this report were not suspected to be combatants in the Khalistan movement by the police. These victims included both men and women and the ages ranged from 17 to 82. The report concluded that the police arrested, detained without charges, systematically tortured and killed “thousands of Sikhs who were perceived to be sympathetic to the movement”.

The levels of violence and intended trauma this caused the individuals, their immediate families and their wider communities was to strike fear into the hearts of the Sikh Qaum as a whole.
The methods in which India has treated Sikh activists, especially those who advocate Khalistan, has not changed since the 1990s. In Jagtar Singh’s case, the same methods of barbaric torture have been inflicted upon him, from beatings and stretching limbs beyond their range of motion and electric shocks administered to his earlobes, nipples and genitals.[12] The report of the torture carried out in 2017 is almost identical to the case studies of torture from Human Rights reports from the 1980s/90s (as considered earlier).

It is not that the nuclear superpower which recently launched a space mission is unable to update its torture methods, but that by utilising the same historic methods of abuse, invokes painful memories and trauma for thousands of Sikhs worldwide:

“I’ve been hiding what’s happening to Jaggi from my mom in fear of triggering the trauma she’s been through. She just found out and burst into tears. She’s shaking and begging me to stop posting things online.
My heart goes out to all the people who have PTSD from the Sikh genocide and are going through a very tough time.”

The State’s abuse and rhetoric force Sikhs to internalise the trauma and the burden of guilt, that those “dark days” were the result of us challenging the darkness (State). The dynamics and cycle of fear are complex, while the Government “cracks down” viciously on Sikh activists to strike fear; it is the Government itself that is most afraid. Often against an individual or a small number of individuals that are deemed a threat, the Government exercises all of its powers to destroy them so severely that you would be mistaken to believe they pose a serious threat to one of the largest armies in the world.

In the case of Jagtar Singh, the whole establishment from the Executive to the Judiciary has been put into action against one man. Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh held a press conference after Jagtar Singh’s arrest, alleging that he was involved in a series of high profile crimes and that the crimes had been solved with Jagtar’s arrest. It is extraordinary that the Chief Minister of the State would get involved in an individual case, let alone prejudice the case from the start by reporting to the world that Jagtar was guilty before charges have been made.

Then there is the Judiciary, which, in the face of complaints of serious torture is extending (currently up to 30 days) police remand without charge, to enable the torture and mistreatment in police custody. This is in addition to the Police who illegally abducted him in the manner of a kidnapping (snatched off the streets of Panjab with a sack thrown over his head), and has been torturing Jagtar Singh to obtain a false confession. They have also been harassing his family and threatening them with a similar fate, which has led to many of Jagtar Singh’s family having to go into hiding.

Jagtar Singh was targeted for his political activism, he had published websites and magazines which were anti-State and pro-Sikh. The material which has been deemed so inflammatory documented the Sikh struggle for a separate state, and the human rights abuses committed against the Sikhs in this pursuit.

His case has parallels to that of Bhai Jaswant Singh Khalra. In 1995, the Punjab police abducted, tortured, and murdered human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra for his work in documenting human rights abuses committed against the Sikhs during the Sikh struggle for a separate state. Khalra uncovered evidence to prove that tens of thousands of Sikhs (non-combatant) had been extrajudicially murdered, and secretly cremated by the Punjab police.

Khalra was also labelled as being a member of the Khalistan movement and additionally an agent of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence[13] by the Indian State, as Jagtar Singh has also been accused. These allegations, especially the ISI connection is designed to dehumanise and discredit Jagtar Singh and essentially justify his persecution. In the case of Jaswant Singh Khalra, these allegations were used to legitimise the abduction, torture and extrajudicial killing of the late human rights activist.

Whilst it is only natural to feel fear following the brutal persecution of Jagtar Singh and relive past traumas, we must remember these sacrifices as a contribution for the Chardi Kala of the Sikh Qaum. 

The dark days are not when we are oppressed, but when we do not make a stand.

In his last speech, Jaswant Singh Khalras addressed the Sikh diaspora in Canada in a soul-stirring address, in which he exposed India’s human rights abuses to the world. Many requested Khalra to remain and claim political asylum as his life would be at risk in India. In response to his speech, he spoke of a Panjabi fable about the one lamp that challenged the darkness (oppression). The lamp, (that he, in fact, manifested himself), would challenge the darkness from setting, even if only around that lamp. He said that the lamp was then joined by other lamps until the darkness was overcome.

Jagtar Singh is one of the other lamps Khalra spoke about. The light that Jagtar Singh’s case has shed on Sikh human rights issues, by first becoming an example himself, and then through the global #FreeJaggiNow campaign is clear. There have been others before them, and there must be more now also, to continue this challenge, to the darkness.

 

Excerpts from Jaswant Singh Khalra’s last speech in Ontario (1995)


There is a fable that when the Sun was setting for the first time, and it was completing its journey, Light was decreasing. The light was decreasing, and the signs of Darkness were appearing.

It is said that lamentation was rife among the people – that the Sun will set, Darkness will spread, and no one will be able to see anything. “What will happen to us?” Everybody was worried, but the Sunset.

In order to show its strength, Darkness set its foot on the Earth. But far away, in some hut, one little Lamp lifted his head.

It proclaimed “I challenge the Darkness. If nothing else, then at least around myself. I will not let it settle. Around myself, I will establish Light.”

Watching that one Lamp, in other huts, other lamps arose. And the world was amazed that these lamps stopped Darkness from expanding so that people could see.

I believe that today, when Darkness is trying to overwhelm Truth with full strength, then if no one else, Ankhila (proud) Punjab, like a Lamp, is challenging this Darkness.

And I pray to the Guru, who identifies with Truth, to keep this light lit.

….

We ask the Guru for everything, but afraid, we don't ask the Guru for that one gift. The Guru has many gifts, but what is the greatest gift the Guru has?

That special gift -- which the Guru possesses -- is the gift of martyrdom.

Those who receive this gift -- they don't get to be Guru. But after the Guru, they are the most respected people of our Sikh nation.

I have hope. I am not a political leader who plays politics. I will definitely say this to you:

The Khalsa was inaugurated to protect the human rights of the world.

If you cannot protect your own human rights, you will not be able to give any sense of the Khalsa to the world.

 

I ask that you please don't learn how to just take from the Guru. Also learn how to fulfill the instructions given to you by the Guru.

That will encompass everything. You will obtain all joys.

With these remarks, please join in me the victorious greeting: Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Sri Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh (“The Khalsa belongs to the Waheguru, and all victory belongs to Waheguru”)

 

Dhan Guru, Dhan Guru Piyaarai
Parnaam Sada Shaheeda Nu
Khalistan Zindabad!

Baljit Singh
 

[1] Jagtar Singh Johal (Jaggi), a 31 year old British national was abducted of the streets of Panjab on 4th November 2017. At the time of writing Jagtar has been in detention for over 20 days without charge.

[2] "...the brave Sikhs of Punjab are entitled to special considerations. I see nothing wrong in an area set up in the North of India wherein, the Sikhs can also experience the glow of freedom." (Jawahar Lal Nehru, Lahore Bulletin, January 9, 1930)

[3] "...in future, the Congress shall accept no constitution which does not meet with the satisfaction of the Sikhs" (The Lahore session of the Congress Party. December 31, 1929)

[4] Sikhs are not recognised in the Constitution; Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, refers to Sikhs as being a part of the Hindu faith.

[5] Partap Singh; Biography of S. Hukam Singh (New Delhi, 1989), P52.

[6] Reference to the popular maxim; “Bhindranwale Sant Sipahi, Jihna Suthi Kaum Jugaee”, (Bhindranwale the Saint Soldier who awoken the Sleeping Sikh Qaum).

[7] See Game of Love page, Akaal Publishers p136

[8]  S.S. Dharam; The Only Option For Sikhs (Jaipur, 1984), P. 109

[9] Indian Army, Baatcheet (Army circular), No. 153, 1984

[10]  Legendary folk saying among the Sikhs during the time when Mir Mannu was the governor of Lahore during the period 1748-53 AD. Sikhs had organized themselves into the Dal Khalsa. Mannu responded with indiscriminate killings and persecution of Sikhs during his reign.

[11] The late Jaswant Singh Khalra is testament to this; a Sikh human rights activist who was himself killed by the Indian security forces for documenting their extra judicial killings of Sikhs. For more information on Jaswant Singh Khalra and his work: http://www.ensaaf.org/publications/reports/protectingthekillers/  

[12] Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur, Jagtar Singh’s lawyer has confirmed reports of torture are true; https://sikhsiyasat.net/2017/11/15/relative-lawyer-jagtar-singh-jaggi-uk-updates-arrest-detention-torture-video-update/

[13] Human Rights Watch, Protecting the Killers, A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India (paragraphs 40-45)

[1] Jagtar Singh Johal (Jaggi), a 31 year old British national was abducted of the streets of Panjab on 4th November 2017. At the time of writing Jagtar has been in detention for over 20 days without charge.

[2] "...the brave Sikhs of Punjab are entitled to special considerations. I see nothing wrong in an area set up in the North of India wherein, the Sikhs can also experience the glow of freedom." (Jawahar Lal Nehru, Lahore Bulletin, January 9, 1930)

[3] "...in future, the Congress shall accept no constitution which does not meet with the satisfaction of the Sikhs" (The Lahore session of the Congress Party. December 31, 1929)

[4] Sikhs are not recognised in the Constitution; Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, refers to Sikhs as being a part of the Hindu faith.

[5] Partap Singh; Biography of S. Hukam Singh (New Delhi, 1989), P52.

[6] Reference to the popular maxim; “Bhindranwale Sant Sipahi, Jihna Suthi Kaum Jugaee”, (Bhindranwale the Saint Soldier who awoken the Sleeping Sikh Qaum).

[7] See Game of Love page, Akaal Publishers p136

[8]  S.S. Dharam; The Only Option For Sikhs (Jaipur, 1984), P. 109

[9] Indian Army, Baatcheet (Army circular), No. 153, 1984

[10]  Legendary folk saying among the Sikhs during the time when Mir Mannu was the governor of Lahore during the period 1748-53 AD. Sikhs had organized themselves into the Dal Khalsa. Mannu responded with indiscriminate killings and persecution of Sikhs during his reign.

[12] The late Jaswant Singh Khalra is testament to this; a Sikh human rights activist who was himself killed by the Indian security forces for documenting their extra judicial killings of Sikhs. For more information on Jaswant Singh Khalra and his work: http://www.ensaaf.org/publications/reports/protectingthekillers/  

[13] Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur, Jagtar Singh’s lawyer has confirmed reports of torture are true; https://sikhsiyasat.net/2017/11/15/relative-lawyer-jagtar-singh-jaggi-uk-updates-arrest-detention-torture-video-update/

[14] Human Rights Watch, Protecting the Killers, A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India (paragraphs 40-45)

 

Walking in the trail-blazing footsteps of Guru Nanak Sahib

This week the Sikh world will celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, an enlightened and profound thinker who not only challenged injustice and falsehood, but initiated a revolutionary movement to emancipate the world. He resisted crooked politics and unjust social orders to pave a new reality which gave rise to Sikh psyche.

Having studied many languages including Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic from an early age, young Nanak quickly surpassed renowned scholars in wisdom and spiritual prowess. His use of Sanskrit and Arabic terminology, to express some of his theological views found in the Guru Granth Sahib, shows he had mastered the vernaculars of ancient scriptures and contemporary governance.

Circa 1499 Guru Nanak describes how, as an unemployed bard/musician[1] he was bestowed with the task of propagating divine truth and thus spent the next 25 years travelling across modern day regions of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, South West China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Wherever he travelled, in addition to spreading knowledge of the Creator, the Guru heavily criticized the political powers that ruled, and questioned the superstitious rituals of self-proclaimed religious leaders that had led people astray.

Guru Nanak's world vision was based on the notion that a leader must be guided by divine light for him/her to be of real service to the people. Such an authority should not be swayed by material pleasures but should create conditions in which love for the Almighty and spiritual values flourished.

On his trip to the South, Guru Nanak commended the Queen of Ceylon for her love of her subjects; "you gather your revenue and return it for the benefit of your subjects. The Chief who does not appropriate everything for oneself but gives to others in the name of the Almighty, is blessed".[2]  

Where the Guru praised those, who honoured their office and performed their duties conscientiously, he equally condemned those who indulged in corruption. When referring to the Pathan administration, he said "The King administers justice if his palm is greased".[3]  The assumption being that the whole paraphernalia of government is corrupt if officials at every level indulged in such acts.

He recognized the fallacies propagated by government officials and religious leaders who were both well-rehearsed in manipulating and exploiting the people for personal gains. He likened them to tigers, and their officials to dogs that went out to awaken sleeping people and harass them. He spoke metaphorically of how public servants inflicted wounds with their nails and the officials licked up the blood that was spilled. At the same time, he forewarned that all beings would inevitably be judged and those that had violated the people's trust would be disgraced.[4] 

He was also outspoken about the discriminatory rituals that were commonplace across South Asia. One such ritual was the wearing of a piece of thread that was tied around one's neck, common amongst followers of Hinduism; the janeo. Hindus believed that without it, one would not be able to break out of the caste system and would forever remain in the lowest of castes. 

When young Nanak was presented with the janeo, he spoke out against such superstitious beliefs and rebutted their claim.[5]  He criticized the Hindu priest, "you buy the thread for a few shells, and seated in your enclosure, you put it on. Whispering instructions into others' ears, the Brahmin becomes a guru. But he dies, and the sacred thread falls, and the soul departs without it."[6]   

Similarly, Guru Nanak was critical of Muslim rituals[7] and refused to accept the misconceptions that had enraptured the masses. He continuously shook the foundations upon which these self-proclaimed leaders stood.

He likened the current Age to a knife in which the rulers are butchers; where righteousness has sprouted wings, and flown away.[8]  Highlighting the hypocrisy of what they preached and what they practiced, the Guru constantly scrutinized their actions. There is no ambiguity in what he wrote; "the sacred marks on their foreheads, and the saffron loin-cloths around their wastes; in their hands they hold knives - they are the butchers of the world".[9]   The Guru adopted a no holds barred approach when exposing the duplicity of the men that abused their positions of power and authority.

Another way in which Guru Nanak challenged social norms was the way in which he championed women's rights. He denounced the ritual of Sudak which was widespread amongst the followers of Hinduism. This was a superstitious belief that having given birth, a woman remained unclean for a specific amount of days, the exact number itself depended on the caste to which the women belonged. Guru Nanak a stern critic of the caste system, condemned this practice.[10]  

Guru Nanak recognized that at its very core the Brahmanical domination was traditionally very rigid, based solely on a hierarchical model where one's rights as an individual were limited to the caste in which one is born.  An unyielding restriction was placed on one's ability to break out of the caste system and further disparities were placed on womenfolk.

Guru Nanak exposed the errors prevalent within the Brahmanical system, in the same way he was outspoken and blunt with his view on the Mughal rulers and their discrimination against fellow humans. His mission remained centred on the idea of uplifting a people from the slums of spiritual blindness and worldly bigotry that had plundered humanity.

In this way the Guru remained vocal and continued to question the cowardice of so called leaders. One such incident occurred during the impending invasion by Mughal Emperor Babur. The Yogis had refused to defend their people, relying instead on recitation of mantras and assuring the people that their efforts to remain passive and chant mantras would blind the Mughal forces.

When the Mughal forces attacked, Guru Nanak states "Millions of religious leaders failed to halt the invader, when they heard of the Emperor's invasion. He burned the rest-houses and the ancient temples; he cut the princes limb from limb, and cast them into the dust. None of the Mughals were blinded and no one performed any miracle". [11]

The Yogis lacked the courage and bravery to oppose the brute of Babur's forces and chose to abandon their people. The Guru thus highlighted the importance of standing up against injustice and oppression, which when the time came, was the same philosophy adopted by successive Gurus and later the Sikh themselves.

He condemned empty rituals such as fasting and other forms of penance adopted to achieve enlightenment. The austerities of which the Yogis were so proud, were of no value to the Guru, like the counterfeit coin, which may appear genuine but is ultimately rejected as it does not contain the necessary properties. The Guru was astute when he held discussions, whether he was in the heat of Baghdad or the cold foothills of the Himalayas.

Having exposed the falsehood that was flowing throughout the world around him, Guru Nanak set up a base in Kartarpur from where he initiated the Sikh Panth.  The Guru removed superstition and hypocrisy that was so prevalent amongst the other religions of the world and established a kingdom of truth, built on the strongest of foundations. [12]

As Bhai Gurdas comments, he established the authority of his doctrines and started a new path devoid of any impurity.[13]  Roaring like a lion, the Guru recognized that humanity had been led astray mainly by the corruption and falsehood of the ruling elite but also in part due to the ritualistic idol worship that had entered the sanctity of spiritual centres.

The State naturally labelled Guru Nanak an outlaw for his views and actions which they considered outlandish and in direct opposition to their rule. For this charge he was imprisoned during the tenure of Mughal Emperor Babur. However, the Guru remained resolute in laying the ideological and physical foundations of the Sikh Nation which revolutionized some whilst alarming others. That has been the pattern throughout Sikh history and is the reason Sikhs have faced opposition and near extinction since inception.

The pursuit of Sikh sovereignty has been a fundamental aspect of establishing the Guru's principles. Whether it was the Khalsa Republic of the early 18th century; the subsequent Sikh Confederacy; the Sikh Raj of the 19th century or the current Sikh movement for Khalistan, the Sikhs have always understood the need to establish political autonomy to truly implement the ideology of the House of Guru Nanak.

As Sikhs across the world celebrate this week, lets also strive to walk in the trailblazing footsteps of our Guru who condemned false creeds, hollow scriptures, isms, pieties and all religious and political hypocrisies[14] to galvanize the Sikh movement and help reshape the world around us.

Footnotes

[1] Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, Raag Maajh, Ang 150
[2] J S Bains, Political Ideas of Guru Nanak, Indian Journal of Political Science, 1962; Quoted in the Sikh Review, November 1961 p44
[3] Guru Nanak. Guru Granth Sahib, Raag Asa, Ang 339
[4] Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, Raag Malaar, Ang 1288
[5] Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, Raag Asa, Ang 471
[6] Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, Raag Asa, Ang 471
[7] Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, Raag Maajh, Ang 140
[8] Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, Raaj Maajh, Ang 145
[9] Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, Raag Asa, Ang 472
[10] Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib, Raag Aasaa, Ang 472
[11] Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib,  Raag Aasaa, Ang 418
[12] Bhatt Satta & Balwant, Guru Granth Sahib, Raag Raamkalee, Ang 966
[13] Bhai Gurdas ji, Vaaran, Vaar 1
[14] Professor Puran Singh, Spirit of the Sikh, Chapter 1

 

SatGuru Bandhi Chhorr Hai

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SatGuru Bandhi Chhorr Hai - Guru, Who Speaks and Acts in Truth, is the Emancipator and Liberator.

ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਕਿਨਿ ਸਮਝਾਈਐ ਮਨੁ ਰਾਜਾ ਸੁਲਤਾਨ ॥ ੪ ॥
Who other than the Guru will explain that within the mind resides The Ruler, The Emperor. 

ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਤਤੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥
The great treasure of Love is obtained when the Gurmukh contemplates the essence of reality.

Bandhi Chhor Divas celebrates deeply held Sikh beliefs, our love for humanity (Pyaar), sovereignty (Raj), true social justice (Niaou), challenging and seeking to destroy all oppressive power dynamics and being awake to the realities that we live in (Dharam).

Dhan Sri Guru HarGobind Sahib Ji (the title given by Sikhs to their Guru, the Gurus were revered as spiritual teachers, as warriors, poets, emancipators, and as sovereign rulers) became the 6th Guru after his father, Dhan Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji become the first Sikh Shaheed (martyr). Becoming the Guru at the age of 11 Dhan Sri Guru HarGobind Sahib Ji built on the foundation laid by previous Gurus. Guru Ji kept 700 horses (many of which were originally purchased by Dhan Sri Guru Arjun Dev ji), 300 trained horsemen and 60 musketeers. Thus Guru Ji furthered the training of the Sikhs to become masters of their minds and bodies.

Dhan Sri Guru HarGobind Sahib Ji was imprisoned at the age of 14 in 1609 because he accepted the sovereignty of none other than ਅਕਾਲ (Akāl: That Creator that is beyond death and time). Guru Ji established the ਅਕਾਲ ਤਖਤ (Akāl Takht: the Throne/Fortress of Akāl) in 1606, and wore the Two Swords of ਮੀਰੀਪੀਰੀ (MiriPiri: Interwoven temporal/metaphysical/spiritual realities bound to perceptions/experiences of reality itself through the ਕਿਰਪਾਨ: Kirpān of the Khalsa), to make it known to the world forever, that the Sikhs are sovereign and will never be subjugated by any worldly power. This spirit of Sikh sovereignty underpins Sikh being. It was first taught to us by Dhan Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji who was born in 1469. Dhan Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was released from Gwalior Fort in 1611/12 depending on the accounts, with the Khalsa formally established in 1699. 

Sikh Itīhās (history, oral and written) is long, it is an inter-woven tapestry from which we continually draw from and are reminded of our values and philosophies, it contains our collective memories. For a Sikh therefore, one moment of Itīhās is not isolated from another. Everything we do as Sikhs, as human beings, in our personal and civic lives, is inspired by the Guru, this is expressed by Sikhs as a central self-defining concept in their native Gurmukhi as ਗੁਰਸਿੱਖੀਜੀਵਨ (GurSikhi Jīvan: life, existence, being, mode of living as a Sikh). Dhan Sri Guru HarGobind Sahib Ji's GurSikhi Jīvan, and the Jīvan of the Gurus, Shaheeds, and GurSikhs throughout time forms an interwoven tapestry that becomes Sikh Itīhās. Our beloved Gurus made great sacrifices as did their families and generations of Sikh Shaheeds so that our unique voice is heard, Sikh values continually strived for and we as a Quam (Sovereign Sikhs of a Sovereign Guru) remain existent. We are as much a part of that tapestry spending across time as the first Sikh.

The primary source for Sikh thought, vision and guidance remains the current Guru; Sacheh Pathshah Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj, and as Sovereign Sikhs in Sangat of the Sovereign Guru we are on our journey to actually live Sikhi, and strive to build our GurSikhi Jīvan with the ਕਿਰਪਾ (Kirpā: kindness, benefaction, grace, love) of the Guru.

Sikh philosophy teaches us that power should be transparent, decentralised, visible and step down from notions of authority to humbly, humanely, and directly engage with the people it claims to serve so that collectively we can serve the greatest value of humanity: Love. This is shown in the life of Dhan Sri Guru HarGobind Sahib Ji, and the Jīvan of the Gurus, Shaheeds and Sikhs that came before and after, and continues to be a driving aspiration for every Sikh organisation and charity today.

Dhan Sri Guru HarGobind Sahib Ji was imprisoned for refusing to accept the authority of the Mughal Empire and its then Emperor Jahangir. By the Gurus own sovereign judgement the Mughal Empire was deemed unfit to exercise authority over the minds and bodies of the people, and Dhan Sri Guru HarGobind Sahib Ji made sure to constantly remind the Mughal emperor that his authority was unfounded, insignificant, and irrelevant when compared to the authority of the source of true authority; Akāl.

Sikhs of the 6th Guru liberated cities from the Mughal emperor, renamed them after their Guru, captured the emperors prized falcon, raised battle standards of the sovereign Guru, and gathered armed and defiant at Akāl Takht. The Sikhs of the Guru fed and armed the poor and oppressed, started wars and instigated open rebellion, they completely rejected the authority of the oppressive regime of the day, this frame of mind has inspired generations of Sikhs to place absolute faith and trust in the values of their Guru alone, above all other values of priests, holy men, kings, emperors, colonisers or any other worldly rulers. Only the Guru showed respect and love to all, giving us Langar, teaching Sikhs that the supreme value of all is Love and we are only subordinate to the power that created Creation, Love, Death and Life: Akāl.

Today hundreds of Sikh political prisoners still languish in jails in the colonial project that is 'india' spending years awaiting trials, mistreated because they too reject the authority of an oppressive regime. These GurSikhs place absolute faith in the teachings of their Guru and submit to only one authority; Akāl. Like their Guru the GurSikhs that are in jail today strive for a world where the values of humanity and love can flourish. This is what Khalistan has meant and continues to mean to Sikhs, a dream for a present where Sikhs can begin to determine their own destiny with the guidance and authority of none other than Akāl and their beloved Guru. 

Today when you light the diva and set the fireworks off, light your spirit on fire too, break all worldly bonds and grab hold of the Gurus cloak. The True Sovereign. Dare yourself to believe so much in your Guru that you want a whole world where the values taught to Sikhs by their beloved Gurus can uplift, inspire, and empower the most disenfranchised, the “lowest of the low”, the sick, the poor, the hungry, this is what “Raj Karehga Khalsa” has always been about, and we strive for it through Khalistan.

ਖਰੇ ਖਰੋੲੇ ਬੈਠਤ ੳੂਠਤ ਮਾਰਿਗ ਪੰਿਥ ਿਧਅਾਵੈਗੋ ॥
ਸਿਤਗੁਰ ਬਚਨ ਬਚਨ ਹੈ ਸਿਤਗੁਰ ਪਾਧਰੁ ਮੁਕਿਤ ਜਨਾਵੈਗੋ ॥੫॥
Standing idle, sitting down, getting up, focus/meditate on the way of the Panth. 
The word that is given is that of Satguru and the word of Satguru is as Satguru, the way to emancipation is revealed.

ਸਾਸਿਨ ਸਾਿਸ ਸਾਿਸ ਬਲੁ ਪਾੲੀ ਹੈ ਿਨਹਸਾਸਿਨ ਨਾਮੁ ਿਧਅਾਵੈਗੋ ॥
ਗੁਰਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਹੳੁਮੈ ਬੂਝੈ ਤੌ ਗੁਰਮਿਤ ਨਾਿਮ ਸਮਾਵੈਗੋ ॥੬॥
Each breath gives strength, with the Gurus training, the aim is taken for the target of Naam. 
With the Gurus grace, ego is understood, it is silenced, and one is merged into Gurmat Naam. 

 

As emphasised above within a Sikh context Bandhi Chor Divas is not just a celebration of one moment, but rather a reminder of the values with which we must constantly live as Sikhs. An exploration of the Vār that will be recited at every Gurdwaras on the evening of Bandhi Chhorr Divas that I liked.