Recently Punjab and its looneys bounced back in national media. Farmer suicides, later failure of cotton crop gathered news coverage. Connection were made with global discussion on climate change. The failure of cotton crop is yet another slap on the face of farmers and agrarian labour, many of the suffering farmers are Sikhs, Dalits and others. Still this was not very important for Sikh experts abroad to comment on.
For them tragedies matter only when it comes to matter of faith. In an article published on Round Table India, they chose to argue that “As clearly, it is not possible for Sikhs to live within the Indian state as legitimate citizens without compromising their dignity, their religion, their life, or their struggle to survive.” The authors pointed out historical references of victimization of Sikhs by Indian state, which were indeed interesting and relevant. But what they failed to question or reflect on was:
Like it is impossible for Sikhs to live in Indian state as they say- it is impossible for Dalits of Punjab to stay within the framework of officially endorsed Sikhism as it is dominated too much by Jatt Sikh narrative. The writers haven’t told us anything about how caste system within Sikhism forced many other communities like Ramdassiyas, Ravidasiyas to have separate Gurudwaras or Ravidas Mandirs both in India and abroad. There is a history to it which is as important as subjugation of Sikhs.
Lack of inclusionary spirit in mainstream Sikhism which is forcing many to move out of Sikhism and Dera Sachkhand Balan – propagators of Saint Ravidas’ teachings have declared that they should not be identified as Sikhs, many have moved towards Dera Sacha Sauda for similar reasons. While we may judge Ram Rahim Singh the way we want, but he did open the space for Dalits of Malwa towards the Dera. Radha Swami Dera is attracting a lot of followers for the same reason. Many are choosing Sufi Islam in Jalandhar and finding it better than mainstream Sikhism, whether it is Murad Shah in Nakodar or other Dargahs.
Coming from Jalandhar, seen with my own eyes and heard from my own ears of what the saviours of Panth think of Dalits. Their slangs for Ravidassiyas are still fresh in memories.
It is important that we should not get into this victim narrative and reflect on what went wrong. The atrocities done on Sikhs by Indian state are unjust, so are atrocities committed by Jatt Sikhs on the others. The arrest of Sarbat Khalsa leadership under sedition charges calls for condemnation. As by jailing these loonies, who were neither in three nor thirteen of Punjab politics, the corrupt Badal government has brought them back to fame.
It is easy for these panthic (theologians) academicians abroad to tell us what it means to be Sikhs in Punjab after doing field visits here and there.
Sarbat Khalsa in Punjab has proved my hypothesis correct: The number of Communist Parties in India is at par with number of Shiromani Akali Dals in Punjab and Muslim leagues in Pakistan. All these Shiromani Akali Dals even if they decide to come together to contest elections, they will not be able to win a single seat like left and Islamic parties.
And this whole Panthik drama has been sponsored by Sikhs from western countries who want to flaunt themselves to be more Sikh than even Baba Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. In Punjabi, we have saying for such people -ਨਵੇਂ ਨਵੇਂ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਨ ਹੋਏ ਹਨ- they have newly accepted the faith and will wear it on sleeves.
A murderer has been declared as Jathedaar of Akal Takht- the highest spiritual and political authority of Sikhism.The government has been informed of dire consequences for its failure to punish those who are responsible for discretion of Guru Granth Sahib. All of it is funded by the dollars from western countries. If anyone is happy, it is Simranjit Singh Mann who lost lustre in Punjab politics and was last found throwing mud in ecologically insensitive project- Satluj -Yamuna Canal.
The continuation of hyper masculine narrative is interesting – in Sarbat Khalsa not a single resolution was passed condemning Caste System in Sikhism. Sarbat Khalsa is as much as the product of history as it is the contemporary caste politics of Punjab.
Questions of Bapu Surat Singh, speaking against 1984 genocide and fake encounters, opposition to Badal clan’s hold on Sikh institutions and Punjab’s economy is more relevant than ever, protesting against tyranny is must. For that one doesn’t need to do this hyper masculine carnival.
Last but not least, dare to get into the debate of my identity to issue a rebuttal. Nanak to Gobind Singh- all Sikh Gurus and Bhagat Sahiban (medieval saints) and Sufi Pir (Masters) are collective heritage of Punjab. As many Sikh clergy men loudly say- Guru Granth Sahib is the light to entire humanity and teacher to all. Therefore, the matter concerned with Guru Granth Sahib is not contracted to Sikhs and Sikh clergy alone, it is on entire humanity to be considerate of it. That space needs to be created in the discourse. More than anything, this matter is concerned with my own homeland and identity and I too need to tell my side of the story.
I would like to end the note with a poem of my favorite poet in Punjabi- Sukhpal, which was published on this blog last year in June.
me and Nanak
I overheard unsettling words about him
I chose to be armed
But his honor needs no guard
All those who talk about him
I listen to them all
worshipers, scholars, followers and militants
But his own words remain unheard
He was nothing
Neither Muslim, Hindu nor Sikh
I want an identity, a religion
It is must for me
He prefers drowning in rivulets
and loves nomadic life
I chose to close the door
and held the booklet of his hymns
According to his word, I believe in the unity of God
But for me, mankind is not one
The unweary wanderer is saddened
all because of me
I’m trying to be his student (Sikh)
He is waiting for me to evolve as Nanak. –Sukhpal, Punjabi Poet
From the book ‘Rehann Kithaao Naahi/ ਰਹਣੁ ਕਿਥਾਊ ਨਾਹਿ’ -Punjab 1978-1993
My humble attempt to translate the poem of my favorite poet Sukhpal, who wrote this poem during the dark period of Punjab. Lets revisit Nanak, and listen to his words again on the eve of Operation Blue Star. Do share your thoughts on translation