‘The Sikhs are the only race, that I know of, who sacrificed their own nationhood in order to free the non-Sikh population of India from more than one thousand years of humiliation, subjugation and occupation at the hands of not just one but two (Semitic) Empires. They did so having fought for and secured their own independence as a nation under Islam rule more than 200 years earlier.’ Avtar
For you to appreciate this hard-hitting essay I need to explore, examine, and briefly lay bare what is a Sikh.
It is a misnomer that being born into a practicing Sikh family makes you a Sikh. Certainly, children practice the rites and ritual of Sikhi. But that is learned behaviour. Even when mimicking their elders, and perhaps even aspiring to be a proper Sikh through such mimicry, children are not Sikh in the metaphysical sense.
A Sikh, as I have written countless times, is a strata above the realm of advanced Sants, Svamis, Sufis, and Saints. A sant is one who has absolute mastery over the psychic realm. A Sikh is responsible for the welfare of the sant realm.
At the times of, and attendant in seva to, the ten Sikh Gurus, (and due to the high originality of advanced innovation), a Sikh was an unbelievably calm pacifist, who, when required, would to lay to rest a repeat killer. The Sikhs of those times never had need to raise their voice. Their psychic bearing and presence was enough.
Bear in mind, in those times artificial voice projecting apparatuses such as the megaphone and later the mic and loudspeaker system, had not yet been developed. So, an orator of that period, regardless of faith, literally had to shout to get his message across. Shouting behaviour has not died, in India at least. People there seem to forget that they are using microphones, and can therefore speak gently. The screaming and shouting automatically raises one’s blood pressure, heightens one’s nervous system activity, and leads to a tensed physiology, which renders one primed for a physical confrontation. The person sounds and behaves assertively.
Another problem of the birth-Sikhs is that they are reared on stories of historical events that highlight bravery, courage, chivalry, and heroism. These are stories of fighting the odds and succeeding, more often than not. However, the Sikh parent imparting such stories is themselves not a Sikh in its full reality, but like their child a Sikh by birth only. And therein lies the problem of Sikhism.
A Sikh is one who, coming from any faith, is the master of, and has hands-on responsibility for, those who are an authority over the so-called spiritual world. That was what separated the Sikhs of the Gurus from the faithful of all other faiths.
Only the best of the best, the most humble of the humble, found a way to be in the seva of the Sikh Gurus. Some attributes of a Sikh:
* An analyser, scrutiniser, and improver…of whatever they may confront
* Addressing every female as ‘Ma’am’ and treating every female with dignity, chivalry, and lack of misogyny
* Studies war tactics and stealth strategy
* Master of hand-arms combat
* Outmanoeuvers opponents strategically
* Sikh men/women are regarded as tender, passionate, sensual lovers by most South Asians
* Remain faithful and loyal to one partner
* Their word is sacrosanct
Only with the above clarity will you be able understand today’s essay.
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale
According to web searches he was born Jarnail Singh Brar on 2nd June 1947, and he died on 6th June 1984 aged 37. Leader of Damdami Taksal, one of the five formal seats of Sikhism, he was an outspoken orator. He voiced the resentment of the ordinary Sikh about their betrayal by the Hindus: leading up to and even after India’s independence, the Hindus had promised a separate Sikh nation; they reneged on this promise.
His popularity stemmed from his insistence that the faithful remain vigilant, and abide by the high requirements of the elite Sikhs, the Khalsa. Like the majority of Sikhs, he saw the events of bygone times through rose-tinted glasses, rather than accepting that society has always been a multi-spectrum of misfits who dally with idealism and bemoan the failures of others.
The majority of Sikh ‘leaders’ increasingly fail to appreciate what it takes to become a Sikh, and that there are unbelievably high standards of advanced knowledge required to progress into the Khalsa realm. The same was true of Bhindranwale, except that in his case his heart was in the right place. Like other leaders, though, he was not advanced enough to recognise the what or the why that makes a Sikh and the Khalsa uniquely responsible and thus special.
An insight: The sublime is experienced by nearly all practicing Sikhs as a faith-right; however, collectively, it remains an unquantifiable realm. They are moved and ‘protected’ by this arena, but they are oblivious as to how best to describe its existence, or the experiences it yields.
He was precisely in the same boat as your average run-of-the-mill Sikh. Like them, he too sensed, but he could not explain the sensation.
He was a doer, a go-getter, one who could not sit still. He readily took a stance against anything or anyone whom he considered to have fallen from the excellence he thought all Sikhs should live by. Drugs, a hedonistic lifestyle, and irreverence for the image of the perceived Sikh status quo rankled him. His generation blamed all society’s ills on the wealth that Panjab enjoyed as the green, agricultural energy-field of India. Panjab literally fed, and to this day feeds, India. This brought prosperity.
Prosperity in tandem with zero pressure of either local wars or impending invasions, led to parents showering their children with monetary gifts hitherto unheard of in India. Sikhs were, and are, massively wealthy compared to the rest of the non-west European world. In fact, when I traveled the countries that were at that time locked behind the iron curtain almost twenty years after leaving Panjab, I was shocked to see those countries suffering from lower, weaker, almost non-existent infrastructure; and the local poverty was breathtakingly shocking even in comparison to the Panjab of twenty years earlier.
So, Panjab was wealthy. Wealthy enough to send members of their family to study abroad, and indeed to live abroad; these members in turn sending remittances back to the family village and home, thereby increasing the family’s earning and power-prestige further.
The handicap of wealth is improved health. Health, married to wealth, automatically childs conceit, self-importance and delusions of the self as an omnipotent being. Sikhs of his time suffered from the same disease of the avant-garde, technicolour palette of romanticism seducing monologue, with philosophies spiced with short-lived interactions with European industrial civilisation.
In a mixture of multi-complex rationales, he laced his oratory skills with the insistence that wealthy Sikhs ought to pressure their children towards the rites normally associated with a Sikh monastic lifestyle. Its conditions are so confusing to an outsider, especially when each male is meant to see each woman as his sister or mother, yet be anxiously prepared to marry one of these very women, and thereafter, to engage in and enjoy a full sexual life with her. It’s a case of heads I win, tails you cannot live a normal lifestyle, unless you marry. These rich kids, emasculated by the parental pressure he advocated, threw tantrums.
He, meanwhile, gained fame and popularity. For he constantly evoked age-old glories of sword-fighting, small hand-arms defence, and overcoming outrageous odds against trained armies of invaders, or indeed against ‘home grown’ newly settled Muslim rulers. He drew crowds. He spoke uncompromisingly, mired in passion as if he had returned fresh from sword-fighting and hand-to-hand combat. Sikhs so love tales of hand-to-hand combat against overwhelming odds…his popularity increased exponentially. However, he had never set a foot on a battlefield, and he had no formal or informal military and tactical training.
He was an orator, one who had the ability to inflame his audience. He evoked passions. His message stirred people. He became an irresistible force. This drew the attention of the politicians. However kitsch he appeared to seasoned politicians nevertheless he commanded a sizeable vote bank that they couldn’t ignore. So, his ego was massaged, and seduction-hypocrisy gained momentum. Everything has a price. He had a price. It was a matter of identifying that price and leveraging him into the politicians’ pocket.
A date with destiny, a reluctant delusion that he was ‘chosen’ to deliver respect, along with self-determination to Sikhs within the statehood of a collective India.
Expatriate Sikhs stoked, inflamed, and financially supported calls for an independent state named Khalistan (and not Panjab). I truthfully cannot recall him advancing that particular idea, but the theme of self-determination never left his lips. In reality, all he sought – and as is the demand of all Sikhs – was dignity via the fulfillment of a promise; and the honest barter of that promise made to Sikhs by Pandit Nehru and (Mohan Dass Gandhi) Mahatama Gandhi, in the days before India’s independence.
This set him on a collision course. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi stepped into the ring and offered a staged, well-practiced trade-off; stopping short of Sikh demands for the fulfillment of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution.
A dance of Shiva had begun.
Death was on the cards.
Each thought it would be the other’s.
The death drum gathered speed.
And he made one naive mistake after another. He miscalculated the world of politics. In fact, he had zero appreciation of politics. He did not understand that you cut a tree for firewood one day and the next day you stand on its stump delivering a speech pronouncing your credentials as an ecologist.
His lack of military service became evident in his utterances. He took the bait. He prepared to take on the might of the Indian army’s modern weaponry and tactics with his handful of men equipped with small arms weapons. He was neither a politician, nor a strategist or tactician. His popularity was based on his honesty, earnestness and frankness. He lacked guile. He lacked deceit. He lacked hypocrisy. He lacked cunning. What he said was what he meant. Wonderful attributes for a religious orator. But as a politician and military tactician he was a dead duck.
If he had had a cunning mind, then he would and could have instigated a war between Pakistan and India. This would have brought the Sikh regiments stationed far afield from Panjab back to the border with Pakistan, which in the main is shared by Pakistan and Panjab. Simultaneously, he would, on the quiet, have had his own followers present in various cities ready to occupy main-frame buildings; the armed occupation of which would have put him in control of mass broadcast, and of transportation, thereby causing maximum and immediate mayhem among the people. Thereafter, he could have incited the Sikh regiments to support his quest for the negotiation of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution from a position of reasonable strength. Just for the fun of creating discord and facilitating the possible breakup of India, Pakistan would have supported him to the hilt, politically and militarily.
However, he did what no Sikh army had done in Sikh history. He occupied the holy shrine of Amritsar not for its protection from an imminent attack but for sheltering in. After all, prior to his occupation Amritsar was under absolutely no threat from an imminent Indian army attack.
A majority of expatriate Sikhs were against his occupation of Amritsar. Yes, he had supporters, but they were a minority, albeit a vocal one.
A foregone conclusion.
A mere formality.
He totally played into the hands of the politicians.
The rest is history.
I witnessed the events here in the UK, and am shocked by how many of the people who ridiculed him at the time, including his lack of education, now address him as a glorified, proud, fearless Sikh General.
Yes, they call him General!
He was an innocent man, honest and sincere as the day is long. But a General? Are Sikhs really that desperate that they equate his tactics with those of a General? I absolutely will credit him with fearlessness, courage and strength of character. He did not sell himself short. But a General? Come on, please, you Sikhs can do better than that. Give him plaudits, but let us not get carried away with overly emotional praise either.
Having said that, for me as a Sikh, he gave me the one thing no one else had delivered up to that point.
Let me explain.
While traveling Europe I would come across veterans of the first and the second European war (1914-18 and 1939-45) who many a time would present themselves to me as admirers of the Sikh soldiers and battalion, and who would salute me as an orthodox young Sikh. Apart for these European war veterans, everyone else would confuse me for an Arab, Muslim or indeed a Hindu. I was never recognised as a Sikh.
Because of this sincere, honest, earnest Sikh preacher, today I am recognised globally as a Sikh, part of a nation of people who gave up their own kingdom, their country, in order to free India.
My nation, a people I am proud to call my own, the Sikhs, made a selfless sacrifice foregoing their own nation for the sake of securing freedom for what is now more than a billion people in India.
Yes, the ruling classes cheated us out of a promise. But that is the political Hindu for you. The citizen Hindu and Muslim of India, by contrast, categorically maintains that we do deserve our own statehood. I thank them for their support.
Yet in today’s India, the arrogance of some Hindu politicians is leading them to proclaim that all citizens of India are Hindus.
I once again want to remind them that ‘Hindu’ is neither a race nor a religion.
Hindi is a communal language of communication that slowly gathered momentum following its birth just over one hundred and fifty years after the establishment of Sikhism.
Hindi is like the fabled pan-European language Esperanto. Nothing more and nothing less.
And as for Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale: Sikhs, he was a seasoned preacher, a Giani. He was not a Sant in any shape or form. Please, let us not get over emotional about his credentials. Let us be sincere in our evaluation.
As a Giani, what he achieved for Sikhism is that which the best amongst us will never be able to emulate or attain. He gave me global recognition, a global presence. And, no, I do not accept the excuse that globally, in the age of the internet, race Europeans mistake me for a Muslim. The truth is that they hate me because of the colour of my skin – pure and simple. It is race and culture hatred that they exercise. And the easiest way to murder me is to call me a Muslim. Race Europeans are neither that ignorant nor that stupid that they cannot tell me apart from a Muslim. Exactly how many Muslims in the western world walk around with their traditional very loose cloth wound around their heads? I have only ever seen three in all my years of living in race European countries.
So, the fact that the world now views me as a Sikh must be credited entirely to this one, very basically educated, sincere orator/preacher, who merely wanted the dignity and self-esteem of the Sikhs to be respected by the Hindu Government – the very Hindus who until 1946 had been slaves in their own land for just a little over one thousand years.
Sikhs deserve their dignity and self-esteem to be respected by the Hindu Government of India.
And on the anniversary death of this preacher I hope and pray it will begin to accept a world where Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhist, Jains, Christians and Hindus can live in peace with each other in the land we now call India: as autonomous cultures, languages, heritages, and dignities that together protect our collective defence, economy and infrastructure as these exist now.