The month of June reminds us that Sikh resistance against Indian oppression is not only alive and kicking but also entering a new paradigm. Few days back Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Ajay Bisaria was confronted by Sikh activists at Punja Sahib Hasan Abdal. Sikh community feels that Indian government and her agencies were involved in production of a controversial film, which amounted to desecration of Sikh culture and religion. Unfortunately, charged Sikh pilgrims from India who were visiting Gurdwara Panja Sahib also refused to meet Indian diplomats.
In April 2015, Sikh community in UK was displeased at release of a film Nanak Shah Faqir, as it personified the revered Sikh Guru, Baba Guru Nanak Sahib, something disallowed in Sikh religion. Indian government who claims to follow secular principles has failed its diverse communities at various occasions and Sikhs are no exception. Whether it is the physical attack on Akal Takht and massacre of Sikhs in droves in the eighties, the sponsorship of dubious characters like Ram Rahim Singh or the question of separate Sikh identity in the Indian constitution, Sikh community has been gradually pushed to the wall.
Sikh diaspora across the world and especially those living in Europe and North America has found a new spirit to contest Indian hegemonic attitudes and browbeating of the proud Sikh community. The Hasan Abdal episode has highlighted that Sikhs would not allow Indian government to bluff the world by posing as a secular republic. Many Gurdwaras across the west have put serious restrictions on Indian diplomats to visit or offer supplications as they believe that Indian façade of secularism has outlived its shelf life and India cannot bluff the international community .
As the Sikh community has themselves clarified, the objection to the entry of Indian High Commissioner Mr Ajay Bisaria was affected by the Sikh activists due to the resentment of Sikh community on the issue of the infamous movie, Nanak Shah Fakir. Sikh community within and outside India is not ready to allow desecration of their holy lands and gurus, just because Hindutva mindset wants to degrade the Sikh identity. Unfortunately, Indian media and the government was quick in blaming Pakistani government for the embarrassment caused to the Indian high commissioner.
It may be highlighted that Indian Supreme court has cleared the movie Nanak Shah Fakir for release across India in April this year and had criticized the apex Sikh body Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee for putting restrictions on the release of the movie based on the life and teachings of the first Sikh Guru. As reported in the press, the pilgrims were of the view that Sikhs from all over the world were enraged over the Indian Supreme Court’s verdict allowing the controversial film’s release. The film was released on April 13 when Sikhs were celebrating their religious festival Baisakhi.
Sikh community strongly feels that there has been sustained and graduated effort to kill their identity and culture through a majoritarianism philosophy of the Hindutva flag bearers since Independence of India in 1947. Even the constitution was subverted to make sure that Sikhs gradually lose their identity and culture.
Khalistan is one of the outstanding issues the Sikh community of the subcontinent regards as a legitimate struggle. From grandeur of Sikh rule in the subcontinent to bitter memories of Operation Blue Star and desecration of Akal Takht in 1984 (which resulted into a mutiny in Indian Military) Khalistan has remained a dream for the Sikhs of India as well as their strong Diaspora around the entire globe.
The month of June also reminds us of the Bhindranwale spirit. Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale spent his life time in support of Anandpur Sahib Resolution. He called for a return to what is considered to be the “pure” roots of Sikhism. He advocated against the consumption of liquor, drugs and laxness in religious practices, such as the cutting of Kesh by Sikh youth. He strongly condemned the Indian constitution’s Article 25 declaring minorities such as Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists as part of Hinduism.
By August 1982, Bhindranwale and the Akali Dal were in a position to launch Dharam Yudh Morcha (battle for righteousness), with its stated aims being the fulfillment of a list of demands based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. Thousands of people joined the movement in the hopes of acquiring a larger share of irrigation water and the return of Chandigarh to Punjab. Bhindranwale was castigated for strongly opposing Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for alleged policies against Punjab during Dharam Yudh Morcha, or the “battle for righteousness”. Intoxicated by brute power, Indira Gandhi committed a blunder when, in 1984, she ordered the attack on Golden Temple, Sikh’s most sacred shrine in Amritsar on the martyrdom day of Sikh’s 5th Guru, Guru Arjan Dev ji when the complex was full with innocent pilgrims. Since his death, Bhindranwale has remained a controversial figure in Indian history. While the Sikhs’ highest temporal authority Akal Takht describes him a great martyr of the Sikh Nation, who made supreme sacrifice for the sake of faith, the Indian government views him as an extremist.
The Sikh community in India and its diaspora cross the globe is left with two stark choices; either get subverted by Hindutwa majoritarianism and lose the Sikh identity for good, or resurrect the Sikh culture in its traditional glory and spirit, so that the next generation of the community can live with pride and honor; no wonder the Sikh diaspora across the globe is struggling for Khalistan 2020 referendum.
The writer is a freelance journalist.