The unrelenting farmers protests, the infamous insurrection attempt, hoisting of Kesari flag at Red Fort, subsequent leak of the toolkit has inadvertently exposed the dark underbelly of the global conspiracy to defame India. Inexorably Police investigations are now leading to explicit Khalistani links to the entire doom of conundrum that has descended on the national capital. Toolkit probe has inexorably exposed the sinister motives of the seemingly innocuous farmers protests.
Unfortunately, decades after Independence, India struggled to rein in on the two “K Movements” that threatened her territorial integrity and sovereignty. With the abrogation of Article 370, Indian leadership has successfully scuttled the attempts of the belligerent Western neighbour to keep the cauldron burning. Through masterful diplomacy, India garnered international support and have downsized the “K Movement” to an internal issue.
Refusing to mend ways, humiliated western neighbour, whose very purpose of existence is destruction of India began reigniting another “K Movement” with Kartarpur Corridor bait. Stoking latent secessionist sentiments, Pakistan has deviously touched a raw nerve. Now the vicious turn of events leading to desecration of Indian flag have exposed the resurrection of the dreaded K-movement.
Under the garb of dissent, opportunistically the old hostilities are now stoked. Before the animosities blow out of proportions, it is advisable to understand and assess the genesis of the enmity and the crisis faced by Punjab during 80s when political dispensation allowed the situation slip into chaos.
Ravaged by Muslim invasions, Marathas in the South and Gurus in Punjab created a religious and political awakening leading to Hindu Renaissance. To achieve these twin purposes Guru Govind Singh founded two sects (Panths)-Khalsa (warriors) and Nirmale (upholders of Dharma). Dharma in this context was Hinduism. Special attribute of Hinduism is the acceptance of existence of several Panths depending on the needs of the time as different paths leading to the Divine. Creation of Panths by Guru Govind Singh is based on this Liberal aspect of Hinduism.
The Khalsa Panth of warriors emerged as power fighting force against Mughal Empire and even liberated some areas from them. Intimidated by the valour of the Khalsa, Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali announced special cash rewards to kill them and perpetrated a genocide. But didn’t waver their loyalty to protect the Dharma.
To overcome the thwarting efforts of Mughals Sikhs eventually organised themselves similar to Marathas after the death of Sambaji Rao into small bands or Jhattas and took on the Mughals. Later they re-organised into 11 Misls with independent flag and a leader. Each Misls administered their own provinces. Whenever they had information of a foreign attack, they would attach them together. Ultimately Maharaja Ranjit Singh brought these Misls together and established a Khalsa Empire in 1799. He ruled impartially and appointed people from various religious denominations, Sikhs, non-Sikhs, Rajput Muslims to high government posts. Held Brahmins in high regard, banned cow slaughter and patronised temples.
Under his regime, Hindu families would hold Pahul ceremony or a baptisation ceremony of the elder son of the family who would become Keshadhari (one with uncut hair) and praticeed wearing all the five K’s- (Kesh, Kangha, Kaccha, Kada and Kripan). Because of this special identity, they assumed the names of Sikhs. The others were termed as Sahajdharis. Hence there wasn’t any distinction between Sikh and Hindu under Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule from 1799 to 1839.
Indeed, English Officer GF Macmunn wrote, “It is an important factor to remember that no man is born a Sikh, and that he must be baptized to the faith. The baptismal ceremony, termed taking the Pahul is usually performed on attaining, or just before attaining, man-hood. A man who does not take the Pahul is automatically a Hindu”. The 1855 census has only Hindus and Muslim denominations.
British found the Hindu resistance especially from the Khalsa sect (Amritdhari Sikhs who are recipients of Amrit) as formidable. Anticipating danger from this Warrior class, Lord Dalhousie after annexation of Punjab in 1855 disbanded them from the Army. Chief Commissioner of Punjab, John Lawrence instigated the dismissed soldiers against the soldiers from UP and Bihar as the people who has destroyed the kingdom of Ranjit Singh and sowed seeds of suspicion between Hindus and Sikhs.
Later, Britishers twisted the predictions of Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Govind Singh out of context to imply that Sikhs should align with British to destroy the Islamic rule. By viciously circulating these prophecies British attempted to earn the loyalty of Sikhs. Alarmed by the concerted uprising against the British by both Hindus and Muslims together, British tried every trick in the book to alienate both communities. Perceiving the Hindu consolidation as another resistance to their authority, they sought to create dissensions between Hindus and Sikhs. They adopted a divide and rule policy to alienate Sikhs from Hindus.
Accordingly, they praised the valour of Sikhs and goaded them to adhere to Sikh traditions to protect themselves from the contagion of idolatry. British began to treat Sikhs as a separate entity and encouraged them to consider themselves as distinct and separate nation. They began the practice of saluting the Guru Granth Saheb in specially constituted Sikh regiments and preferred recruiting the Keshadharis.
Gradually Britishers cultivated the feeling of separateness from Hindus in Army camps, educational, administrative and religious levels. Through the Priests of Gurudwaras, the British used to exercise power and influence the masses. The degeneration of the Priest class, their complicity towards the British and erosion of high ideals of Gurus created a feeling of despair. To bring about self-improvement and inculcate patriotism, Ram Singh who served in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army began Kuka Agitation in 1872. With the clarion call for Swadharma, Swadeshi and Swaraj, this agitation quickly spread like a wild fire across Punjab. But the Britishers who have already wooed the Landlords and Priest class, used them to crush the agitation.
As a token of appreciation, British allowed the formation of Sikh Sabhas which eventually called for loyalty towards the Crown and even doubled up as recruitment platforms to the British Army. Khalsa Diwan set up in Lahore and Amritsar excluded Sahajdharis supported the policies of the British. By this time, British conducted special census in Punjab and enumerated Sikhs separately. Indeed, people who claimed that, “We are Hindus as well as Sikhs” were persuaded to register themselves as Sikhs.
To further the divisions between Hindus and Sikhs, Assistant Commissioner Robert Nidhamcust suggested that Guru Granth Saheb be translated into English and other European languages. They assigned this task to Ernest Trumpp, a German Priest. Trumpp who couldn’t translate the copy descended in Lahore and engaged with Sikh Granthis. But the Granthis who were into war-like training lost their learning and could be of little help. Eventually he turned to Pt Shraddha Ram Phillor for intellectual help under the pretext that Sikhism is besot with distortions and ritualism. Under his influence, Shraddha Ram and other scholars began to critically analyse the evil practices in Sikhism. This became a contentious issue and sowed seeds to mistrust between Hindus and Sikhs.
Though Trumpp finally underscored, “Sikhs are only a part of Hindu Society and have strayed on a separate path only after the Gurus, this troubled the Sikh scholars who began to ask, “Is Sikhism a separate religion and when did it separate from mainstream Hinduism?’’.
This eventually divided Sikhs into two groups- one who believed Sikhs are one special variety of Hindus who followed the Hindu ways and laws, another group under the influence of the British tactics declared that they are not Hindus.
At this juncture, European Scholar Macauliffe who supported the separate identity of Sikhs and volunteered to translate Guru Granth Saheb. He criticised Trumpp and stated that
- Sikh religion didn’t originate from Hinduism but evolved on its own as an independent religion and that Hindus were trying to devour it
- Basic Sikh philosophy was chivalry and unflinching loyalty for the master
- Hindu religion is biggest enemy of Sikh religion and protection of Sikh religion is possible only with the British and hence they should be loyal to the British.
With this, the British successfully sowed seeds of disaffection between Hindus and Sikhs. To deeply instill the feeling of separateness, the British recognised Punjabi as the official language in Punjab under the ruse of preserving the Sikh religion.
Keenly understanding the religious practices of these communities, the British believed that at social level, Sikhism rejected the caste which is central to Hinduism. To create hostilities British even employed the handle of caste to deepen the divided between Hindus and Sikhs. They exhorted the educated Sikhs that the Khalsa clearly doesn’t respect the Hindu Pantheon or observe Hindu rites and even contended that Sikh Gurus never practiced the Vedic Philosophy nor did they practice Brahmanical rituals.
As against these dubious contentions of British propagated by scholars- Lepen Henry Greiffen, Gorden, Binglay and Payne, Guru Govind Singh sent five of his disciples- Karam Singh, Ganda Singh, Veer Singh, Sena Singh and Ram Singh to Varanasi to learn Vedas, Puranas, Shastras and Sanskrit language. They were allowed to remain celibate and trusted with the responsibility of propagating religious learning.
Subsequently, Arya Samaj founded by Swami Dayanand further accentuated the fissures by stating that Sikhism is movement evolved to rid Hindu society of idol worship, casteism and hypocrisy of priests. Following a criticism of Guru Nanak by Swami Dayanand, Arya Samaj over a period of time had a sweet and sour relationship with Sikhs.
At society level, while lives of Hindus and Sikhs varied interpretations by the British and Arya Samaj led to proliferation of conflicting literature- Bhai Jagta Singh’s “Risala Satyaprakash” concluded that Sikh sect is an old form of Arya Samaj. Lala Thakurdas and Baba Narain Singh released a pamphlet titled-Sikh Hindu Hain.
On the contrary influenced by Macauliffe’s interpretations, Sardar Kahan Singh propounded a Sikh Alienation theory in his book, “Hum Hindu Nahin”. In a bid to earn the loyalty of Sikhs whom British considered as vital to stall the Russian invasions, created this confusion and dilemma and weaned them away from the concept of Indian nationalism.
Indeed, the Sikh loyalists under the influence of General Dyer, who carried out Jalianwala Bagh massacre removed all the idols of Hindu deities and dismissed the Brahmins from Hari Mandir in Amritsar. Simultaneously, Arya Samaj which is trying to find a new identity as a rational Hindu organisation tried to destroyed the bonds between Sikhs and Hindus.
While removal of idols marked the beginning of religious alienation, G W Leitner through an organisation Anjuman-e-Punjab created a perception that Sikhs were a separate community and had their own religion different from Hindus and introduced Gurumukhi script. He set up a Gurumukhi school.
Motivated by the British initiative Sikh intellectuals mooted the idea of establishing a Khalsa College to preserve Sikh identity. The underlying objective was to prevent future generations of Sikhs from getting lost in the multi-faceted Hindu religion. To obtain government aid, the Khalsa Diwan keen of having Sikh Schools submitted a representation to Viceroy Dufferin in 1888 indicating that, “they no longer confounded with Hindus but treated in all respects as separate community”.
By inculcating a deep urge among Sikhs for separate identity and constantly praising them for their valour, they recruited thousands of Sikhs soldiers to fight for them during the World War I. At the same thing, reminding them of rejection of idol worship and casteism they alienated them from Hindus.
Despite these iniquitous attempts, prominent Sikh leaders like Baba Gurubaksha Singh always professed that Sikhs and Hindus were one and the same and that Sikhs were merely a section of the Hindu nation. In 1907, Sikhs who have migrated to Western countries especially to America provided leadership and support to revolutionary Gadar Movement. By and large Sikhs remained loyal to the British till 1919.
In 1920 Sikhs formed the Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee to regain control of Gurudwaras from Mahants and manage them through an elected body. Since 1925, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) has been under the control of Akalis. Aside the religious authority, Akalis who wanted to wield political influence called for territorialisation of Sikhs and passed a resolution to this effect in 1946.
To assert themselves as saviours of Sikhs, Master Tara Singh mischievously incited, …“the British have left but we have yet to be free. For us, this so-called freedom means a change of masters, the white masters have been replaced by black ones. Our freedom and our religion are being suppressed in the name of secularism.” Interestingly, he once said, “Hindus and Sikhs are in no way different from each other; it is Hindu blood which is flowing in my veins”.
For political mileage, Akalis pressed for a Khalistan, rejecting another religious based partition after the unprecedented blood shed in 1947, Congress party approved the creation of state of Punjab in 1966. But dissatisfaction lingered over sharing of Chandigarh and river waters. After the creation of Punjab, Akali Dal’s ambition of retaining the mantle of sole representative of Sikhs remained a pipe dream as it no longer remained the sole representative of Sikhs. Some supported Congress. After losing the electoral battle in 1973 Akalis passed Anandpur Sahib Resolution for creation of political conditions to ensure the supremacy of the Sikh community. It indirectly hinted at the stated objective of developing a deep consciousness of a separate and independent identity and sowed the seeds of Khalistan.
To counter this strategy Congress propped up Bhindranwale, who spurred Khalistan Movement and instigated Sikhs to kill Hindus and augured the emergence of militant Sikh cult. At around same time, waiting for an opportunity to avenge the creation of Bangladesh, Pakistan extended supported to staunch Khalistani advocates like Jagjit Singh Chauhan who started Khalistan National Council and raised Khalistan Flag in Birmingham.
By 1980s both Bhindranmwale and Harancharan Singh Longowal President of Akalis called for Dharmayudh and set up respective camps in the Hari Mandir Saheb. For the fear of being labelled as separatist group while Akalis decamped from the Golden Temple. Bhindranwale turned the holy shrine into fortress prompting the launch of Operation Blue Star to crush the secessionist movement. The ensuing events as we all know has deepened the divide between Hindus and Sikhs.
Interestingly, rebel Sikh elements were accorded shelter, support and aid by Pakistan, Canada, US, UK. Pakistan’s ISI trained Sikh extremists in guerrilla warfare and has been instrumental in creation of International Sikh Youth Foundation (ISYF) and Babbar Khalsa International (BKI). Irked by India’s Friendship Treaty with Russia, US, Canada, UK turned a blind eye to the secessionist movements mushrooming in their territories.
While India managed to snuff out extremist elements from its territories back in 1980s, over the years the deep sectarian, religious and linguistic alienation attempts have seeded mistrust. These disgruntled elements over the years have been trying to regroup under the banner of Khalistan movement.
Unable to break the stiff resistance, Britishers adopted Divide and Rule and created a wedge between Hindus and Sikhs and after independence political parties instead of assuaging these creeping disaffections widened them for their own political objectives.
Right now, country is staring at the resurgence of Khalistan monster backed by Pakistan and other foreign elements. While it is essential to strike at the roots of these malignancy with concerted efforts it is important to remove the venom of distrust. This can be essentially achieved by getting back to the sacred books to delve into the ideological similarities between Hindus and Sikhs which are the Vedas. Creating much needed awareness about the teachings of Gurus can ameliorate the poison of alienation. Besides, castigating the entire Sikh community for few anti-national elements it is important that citizens of country unite in one voice to frustrate the attempts of the Khalistani elements and anti-India Brigade grouping under the veil of farmers protests.
For nearly two centuries vested groups have been trying to earn the loyalty of Sikhs known for their martial prowess as pawns. It is time they realise the higher objective of Indian nationalism postulated by their Gurus and seek recourse in Guru Granth Saheb.
- Genesis of Punjab Crisis-K.S. Sudarshan
Image Source: One India
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