My Sikh Sense
Satpal Singh Khalsa
. Firstly, in keeping with the guidelines given to our organizations and us, asked that we not get involved with politics or any political party. However, SSS Ji did engage in religious affairs in Punjab and at times with mediating between warring factions. He was actively involved with Sikh religious organizations in the U.S. and India and many religious and some political leaders consulted with him on various matters.
With that said, I follow the guidelines given to me by SSS Ji and I do not engage or comment on the political views of various Sikh political parties. I am not a scholar nor do I profess to be an authority of any kind on Sikh affairs or the . I am a humble servant of the Guru and I have a deep faith in and reverence for our .
I am deeply pained at the current affairs of our Sikh community in Punjab and other parts of India and the world where Sikhs are facing strikes, protests, and demonstrations and the wrath of the world. I strongly condemn the sacrilegious actions against our Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. This must stop. The highest office of the Prime Minister of India along with the Home Minister of India and the Chief Minister of Punjab must act powerfully and conscientiously to curb further of our Sri Guru Granth Sahib, and act to bring peace and ensure safety of all Sikhs in India.
The existing crisis is dividing the Sikh community further whereby Sikhs are being asked to take sides. Some Sikh radicals have demanded no less than a state, and there is a grave danger of Punjab reverting back into the early '80s, which led to the attack on Sri Darbar Sahib (). The current situation in Punjab evokes memories of the Anti-Sikh movement of 1984 (Operation Blue Star).
Social media is compounding the problem as Sikh youth and others are believing whatever they see without looking at the root causes being portrayed. The lack of media coverage internationally is appalling. Sikhs need to bring awareness to their communities, cities, elected representatives and major media companies like CNN.
Many intellectuals from other faiths have asked the Office of the President of India to take suitable action to stop the intolerance and polarization and spreading of further desecration of our Siri Guru Granth Sahib by whosoever is responsible. India is truly plural where many faiths and religions have existed for centuries allowing space for each other to live in harmony and peace. This is the greatest strength and stability that the Indian civilization enjoys.
The present crisis is due to many reasons. Firstly, there was pardon of the self-proclaimed Godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of Dera Sach Sauda who in 2007 dressed up like . He was charged with blasphemy and ex-communicated by . He was pardoned recently by the five Takhat Jathedars which the Sikh community did not approve. Then, that pardon was taken back by Sri Akal Takhat Sahib.
To understand why the pardon was given, one must look into the organization of and their political and financial strength. Gurmeet Ram Rahim is the head of this organization with over ten million followers, of which almost seven million live in Punjab. They have a considerable financial strength that they use to push their agendas. They are a major vote bank for any politician running for office. Punjab is going in for assembly elections in 2017 and the current , headed by Chief Minister Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal (Deputy Chief Minister and Head of Akali Dal which governs the ) are going to have a tough fight winning the elections. They want to use the help of Dera Sacha Sauda along with the financial power of this organization. According to insider reports, the pardon was authorized by the Chief Minister of Punjab who directed the SGPC and Sri Akal Takhat to give the pardon to Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
It is also pertinent to mention that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh enjoys close association with militant Gurjant Singh of Khalistan Liberation Force. He is believed to be inciting some of the clashes in various villages in Punjab and Haryana. The role of Pakistan and ISIS in Sikh unrest in Punjab cannot be ruled out.
The desecration of Siri Guru Granth Sahib has created major disturbance in Punjab. Many times, political parties create unrest by diverting the attention of the public from real issues facing the state. The Akali Dal, the ruling Sikh political party in Punjab, is also in control of SGPC which is a religious body of the Sikhs. The Akali Dal has been blamed by many Sikh organizations and global Sikh community for interfering in the religious affairs of the Sikhs and for creating the current situation. They have also been blamed for inciting sacrilege of Siri Guru Granth Sahib. There can me religion in politics but no politics in any religion.
One major solution is to free the office of the Sri Akal Takhat Sahib from SGPC and any (current or future) ruling party in Punjab. Siri Singh Sahib Ji-Yogi Bhajan was a major advocate of this and said that our Jathedar of Akal Takhat should be like the Pope, under nobody’s authority. Some Sikh organizations have supported this move, but most have not as they do not see the bigger picture.
A committee of Sikh scholars of the highest caliber and integrity must be formed to give guidance on the tenants of Sikh religion as regards to hierarchy and who is the supreme authority. Is the Jathedar of Akal Takhat, the Punj Piaras, the Head Granthi, and the collective five Jathedars of the five Takhat Sahibs or SGPC? Sikhs must first agree and accept the decision of this committee which must have at least five members or more and must be independent and neutral of any organization or individual.
It may be noted that all public offices in Punjab, are democratically contested and elected by the people of Punjab. The SGPC elections, the Punjab assembly elections and other public offices are all held in strict democratic way. It is the Sikhs and people of Punjab that elect the SGPC members, the Chief Minister and other ministers and all other public offices.
It is also important to note that in the last assembly elections in Punjab in 2012, it was for the first time since 1966 that any political party has retained power for two consecutive terms- the Akal Party. Chief Minister Badal made history by winning two consecutive terms. The Sikhs need to take cognizance of who they want to elect as their leaders in 2017 and in the next SGPC elections.
The situation in Punjab is changing rapidly on a daily basis and new issues and demands are coming in from all over the world. Unfortunately, Sikhs are vastly divided in their views. They have called for the Sarbat Khalsa meeting on November 10th, 2015 at Manji Sahib (Golden Temple) which the Punjab government and SGPC will try to diffuse. This was a hasty decision, as more groundwork was needed before calling this meet. The global Sikh community and organizations must have been consulted and an agenda encompassing the major voice of the Sikh Panth should have been taken.
How can the “Sarbat Khalsa”, the entire Sikh community of 30 million Sikhs, meet in one place on one day and agree on all the issues unanimously. Sikhs have not been able to agree on even one Gurdwara committee and hence we see so many Gurdwaras in one city. Many Gurdwaras in the Western World have opposing and divergent views on how Sikhs should live and pray.
There is no need for us Sikhs to get emotional and there is a good possibility that the ruling governments in India and Punjab may take advantage of this weakness and attack Sikhs and further create more problems in the Sikh community. Sikhs may attack other Sikhs in these meetings and we may lose our respect, honor and admiration in the community. On October 30, 2015, the Sikh Parcharaks (Eminent Sikh Ragis and Scholars) are being asked to march to the home of the Chief Minister of Punjab to protest against the Jathedars and the sacrilege of Siri Guru Granth Sahib and also to bring to justice the cops that fired on the two Sikhs who were killed in the peaceful protest. If this protest turns violent, we will lose more Sikh brothers and the situation will further worsen.
Chief Minister Badal is under pressure to bring the cops who fired on innocent Sikhs and killed two of our Sikh brothers. He changed the Police Chief in Punjab but that again presents a catch 22 for Badal. If he brings the cops to justice and puts them behind bars, the outgoing Police Chief has threatened mutiny in the Punjab Police. Police Chief claims that he had authority from the Chief Minister to fire on the protesting crowds.
The SGPC is on a firing mode with firing Punj Pyares, kirtan jathas and anyone that opposes their moves. In a secret meeting of the SGPC President and Chief Minister Badal; the resignation of SGPC President was sought by Badal. The SGPC President refused to resign and technically he cannot be fired by Badal as he enjoys the protection of the courts in India. Last year, the high court issued orders for SGPC President to continue in his post pending the outcome of the case against him challenging his presidency and election of SGPC members.
Until that case comes to hearing, which could be several years, no one can dismiss the SGPC President. Similarly the Jathedars have refused to resign threatening Badal with exposure of his links to the R.SS (a Hindu organization) and the drug mafia. Just yesterday, the SGPC President met privately with the Jathedar of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib and convinced him to resign. Most likely, the three Jathedars of the three Takhats in Punjab will resign soon. If they don’t, the SGPC will fire them. The other two Takhats (Sri Hazur Sahib and Sri Patna Sahib) are not in the jurisdiction of SGPC and are independent.
Regarding the Panj Piaras, they have been reinstated, but there chain of commands has changed. Previously they reported to the Head Granthi of Sri Darbar Sahib. With their reinstatement, they are now to report to the Chairman of the Dharm Parchar Committee of SGPC, which means that SGPC can transfer them anytime to any Gurdwara where they still will be supervising the Amrit Ceremony. So this is a catch 22 for them and the SGPC.
It is interesting to note that the Punj Piaras are asking the SGPC to fire the Jathedars or ask for their resignation. Being appointed by the SGPC, the Punj Piaras are not willing to accept the SGPC’s decision of their transfer to other cities; yet they want the same SGPC to fire the Jathedars who may or may not accept the decision of the SGPC-just like the Punj Piaras. This is the irony of Sikh politics.
Many Sikhs are demanding the abolishment of the office of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib. What happens to the institution of Miri-Piri that Guru Hargobind Sahib gave the Sikhs? The Akal Takhat was established by the sixth Guru himself and now Sikhs are demanding its abolishment. Over centuries, Sikhs have given their lives protecting the institution of Sri Akal Takhat which until now was considered to be the highest supreme authority of the Sikhs.
The solution is not to eliminate the Sri Akal Takhat Sahib but to strengthen it and free it from the political and religious leaders and make it independent. The entire global Sikh community was saddened at the attack on Sri Akal Takhat Sahib in 1984, joined together and rebuilt the sacred historic Sri Akal Takhat Sahib with much fervor and enthusiasm. Sikhs need to more deeply introspective than to just follow the herd blindly.
Sikhs are now demanding the resignations of all the five Jathedars, the Chief Minister of Punjab, the President and certain members of SGPC and of several heads of Sikh organizations. By changing guard at all of these offices, do the Sikhs think that there will be no more problems in the Sikh community and all will be well and fine? Can Sikhs even agree upon who the new leaders will be in these offices? Which Sikh body, institution or Sikh individual will decide who the new Jathedar or SGPC Chief should be? We Sikhs need to ponder on these issues more intuitively and not make any hurried decision.
The American, Canadian, Australian and U.K. Gurdwaras are passing resolutions without knowing the consequences. They can’t even agree with each other in the same city and yet they seem to agree upon these global declarations jeopardizing the fate of Sikhs in India. One can agree on the Sikh psyche and the sentiments that have been hurt in the recent turn of events, nevertheless, Sikhs must not rush into decisions without discussing them with the Sikh sangat worldwide, and engaging Sikh intellectuals and scholars.
The situation in Punjab is tenuous. Communal hatred may turn into extreme violence jeopardizing the security and safety of Sikhs in India. It is painfully harrowing for me to watch the current situation in Punjab and I pray to the Almighty that good sense may prevail on the Sikh leaders in Punjab to bring peace and harmony to the Sikh community. As other communities in India and worldwide who enjoy basic human rights and privileges, Sikhs are entitled to these civil liberties and people in power must ensure that Sikhs are not targeted in such violence. The present unrest in Punjab is eerily familiar to the pre-1984 attack on Sri Darbar Sahib and the subsequent violence on Sikhs in India after the death of then Prime Minister Gandhi. (See .)
With prayers and blessings for the chardi kalaa of Sikhs all over the world.
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