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"When the Leaders are Blind"


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This page was last updated on November 1 2001.





Featured Article

The tercentenary of the creation of Khalsa has given us a lot to think and ponder about. It is God's blessing that we are here to celebrate the event.

Sikhs have shown their traditional love and devotion to the Guru and God. Like a villain in any good drama or any good time, the lust of power of the two Akali Titans and their personal egos have done everything to mar this otherwise serene, holy occasion full of love and dedication. To add to the discomfort of the devotees, there were two parallel Panthic stages. Ironically, both celebrating, according to their respective organisers, the historical event when the tenth master, Guru Gobind Singh, united different castes and creeds into one—Khalsa But the forces behind the two stages were dividing the Khalsa itself. Rather than celebrating the creation of Khalsa, it was a competitive show of strength, one backed by the government and the other using Sri Akal Takht Sahib.

In June, 1997, I had written a few lines expressing my fears that every time there is a 'Sikh' government, Sikhs and Sikhism have been the losers. Sikhism as envisaged by the ten Gurus could be seen in its best form during the rule of Aurangzeb and / or Farukhisyar Very often the slogan "the Panth is in danger" has been raised by our leaders whenever they own leadership is in danger Now, I appeal to the Panth that the Panth is in danger, this time from the Panthic Ieaders themselves.

The very concept of Sikh leadership has radically changed from Panth based Gurmatta to the individual and feudal concept. From principle it has gone to personality. Workers are loyal to their leaders, not to their party or Panth. This shift in attitude has so affected the system that it has not spared even the Takhts. Sikhs today are more interested and worried about a particular jathedar than about the Takht. It is alarming and disturbing to see jathedar sahibs of Takhts, where we bow our heads with respect and awe, running after leaders to protect their of fices. By dabbling in petty and personalised politics, our jathedars have not only lowered themselves in the eyes of the public in general and Sikhs in particular, but have also denigrated the seats of authority they are holding and are duty bound to protect—if need he with their lives. The present conduct of the jathedars has reduced the jurisdiction of the Takhts to Akali Sikhs only. There are a multitude of Sikhs, and mind you, better ones, who do not ascribe to the Akali political thinking. That does not mean that they are not Sikhs or are beyond the purview of the Takhts, and that they, therefore, can be ignored.

One example would suffice. Without going into the merits of the case, Sardar Parkash Singh Badal was summoned by Bhai Ranjit Singh, jathedar of Sri Akal Takht Sahib (whatever the reason). Now that he has been replaced, it is wrong to ask Sardar Parkash Singh Badal to appear before Bhai Ranjit Singh. But it is equally wrong for Sardar Parkash Singh Badal not to appear before Sri Akal Takht. These events have lowered the prestige of Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Court summons do not stand withdrawn or become infructuous at the transfer or replacement of a judge. Sri Akal Takht Sahib is being used like a shield (kawch) from behind which to fire salvos, and any return fire is projected as an attack on the holy Takht.

Sardar Narain Singh had been manager of Sri Nankana Sahib Gurdwara. In that capacity he had been associated with the founding of the Khalsa College at Bombay and also the interconnected bid by Dr. Ambedkar to convert to Sikhism. Once he spoke at length about the episode amongst a few friends. I was permitted to take notes. These came in handy when I was invited by an organization at Ludhiana to speak on Dr.Ambedkar. The talk was appreciated. So for the benefit of the general reader I converted it into an article which was carried by the Punjabi Tribune of May 6, 1990. During the period I was working with a political setup in which Sardar Atma Singh was an important leader.

The Akali Dal has a long glorious history of struggle far Sikh principles and rights both in the political and the religious sphere. Let us analyse where we stand today. Politically, Sikh interests have not been protected by this government. Rather, these have been ignored. Even the non-communal demands of Punjab's right over its water resources, inclusion of lelt-out Punjahi speaking areas into Punjab, and the demand for Chandigarh (though asinine) have been shelved. The promised commission to enquire into the atrocities committed on Sikhs during Congress rule and to fix the responsibility of introducing terrorism in Punjab has been forgotten. There is no denial or acceptance of the report submitted to the United Nations in 1995 that 183000 Sikhs have been killed during the period from 1984 to 1994. Both Akali leaders profess committed opposition to Congress, but there is no other party which stands to gain more from their feud.

In religion, Brahminism is back. Idol worship can be seen everywhere. Even pictures of one who calls himself a destroyer of idols are there to be seen in SPGC offices and Sikh institutions. Guru Gobind Singh whom we revere as messenger of God Himself has been brought down to the status of mere 'Mahanbali' Gobind Singh. He has been,equated with other moral fallible heroes like Maharana Partap and Shivaji.

The Akali Dals' fight to liberate gurdwaras from the stranglehold of mahants, bringing them into the corporate control of the Panth, has been brought to naught by patronizing deras to seek their help both in men and money to fight each other. The introduction of deraelom within the Sikh community will in the long run undermine the position of Sri Akal Takht. They observe their own maryada, thus dividing the Panth. Amrit was made a stick to beat Justice Kuldip Singh (Retd) when he was nominated President of the World Sikh Council . A nomination by jathedar of Sri Akal Takht Sahih and seconded, was naively challenged by the President of the SGPC (I happened to be the Stage Secretary at the function).

Religion has become dera-dominated and the Akali Dal caste-ridden, and both are against Sikh tenets. The way the most sacred amrit has been used to run the opponent down and also taking amrit 'under duress' with a vested interest of saving kursi are both deplorable. Amrit to a hard-core Bajrang Dal activist who justified the attack on Christian nuns and churches was given by a sant. Political use of amrit is no credit to the community.

Guru Nanak has clearly warned: "what has happened to your neighbour, realise that would happen to you too." But the duo has not learnt any lesson or taken steps to protect our community after seeing what has been done to mosques and churches. Both these leaders are jointly responsible for the present melee. One has helped the installation of the other. By threatening to expose each other, they are acting like conspirators, partners turning approver against each other. The unparalleled grand turnout of devotees at Anandpur Sahib was not because of these leaders. It was rather in spite of them. Sikhs' faith in the Guru is the saving factor or anchor.

Guru Nanak has clearly warned: "what has happened to your neighbour, realise that would happen to you too." But the duo has not learnt any lesson or taken steps to protect our community after seeing what has been done to mosques and churches.

Both these leaders are jointly responsible for the present melee. One has helped the installation of the other. By threatening to expose each other, they are acting like conspirators, partners turning approver against each other. The unparalleled grand turnout of devotees at Anandpur Sahib was not because of these leaders. It was rather in spite of them. Sikhs' faith in the Guru is the saving factor or anchor.

Let the Panth as a whole decide. Earlier also I have seen from inside that efforts, though in the name of Akali unity, were in fact an understanding required to be reached between the two, which has not lasted even one government span. There neither was any issue involved then, nor is there now. If real unity among the Akali Dals is to be sought and brought about, then it is between two thoughts, one represented by Sardar Simranjit Singh Mann and the second by the rest of them. I had suggested that a genuine delegate session should consider and decide on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution and Amritsar Elan Nama, and give direction. It is time now for the Panth to act in loyalty to the Guru and not to individuals—there is no doubt that the Panth is now in danger.

Now that political scenario in India is going through a manthan, who will look after the interests of the Sikh community ?

Written by

From the book "Abstracts of Sikh Studies" Published by Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh



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