Sikhism in Jeopardy (In India)
By Prabh Singh
Published: October 5, 2009
Author: Mamoona Ali Kazmi
Discrimination against different communities such as Sikhs, Christians, and Muslims is rampant in India and it’s spreading like plague. No doctor can cure this disease, and no miracle cure is possible. Different types of discrimination are prevalent in India such as religious discrimination, racism, nationality, social status etc. The Sikhs are discriminated on racial, linguistic and religious lines.
Of the major threats to Sikhism is that Hinduism wants to engulf it in its fold as it has already done the same to Buddhism and Jainism. The movement of annihilation of the minorities is going on in India with complete support of Indian government.
The theological principles, the articles of faith, the way of life, rites and rituals etc of the Sikhs are altogether different from those of the Hindus. In Sikhism every one has the equal right whereas Hindus believe in caste system. Sikhism does not have a clergy class as it considers this as a gateway to corruption. According to Sikh’s Holy book Guru Granth Sahib, “All the people have one base”. (Guru Granth Sahib P.83).In Hinduism, the worship of idols of the mythological gods and goddesses has great importance, but Sikhism rejects it altogether and prohibits it. “Those who worship stones are ignorant and foolish”. (Guru Granth Sahib p. 556)
Even the British government considered the Sikhs a separate nation. In the 1940’s the British Parliament declared unequivocally that after the British quit India, there are three distinct peoples, i.e. Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who are the legitimate heirs to the sovereignty of India, and whatever these three “nations” agree to, the British will accept their decision before they quit India. But the Indian government always mistrusted them and exploited them. On 10th October 1947, less than two months of India’s independence a secret circular by the Punjab Governor, Sir Chandu Lal Trivedi, declared that Sikhs are a criminal tribe and threat to peace and that the activities of Sikhs should be kept under watch.
Nehru and Gandhi, urging the Sikhs to join India, made a commitment that no constitution of India would be framed unless it was acceptable to the Sikhs. Even the Indian constitution farmed and adopted in 1950, did not recognize Sikhs as a separate identity and considers them Hindus with long hair. Due to this the Sikh representatives had rejected and refused to give their assent to it. In 2005 the Indian Supreme Court, said, “ if the argument for recognising every religious group within the broad Hindu religion as separate religious minority was accepted and such tendencies were encouraged, ‘the whole country, which is already under class and social conflicts due to various divisive forces, will further face divisions on the basis of religious diversities. A claim by one group of citizens would lead to a similar claim by another group and conflict and strife would ensue.”
The Indian government tried to undermine Punjabi, the language of Sikhs, several times. In 1951 census Hindi was preferred over Punjabi. The ruling Congress party issued an advertisement in newspapers asking non-Sikh residents of Punjab to return to Hindi as their mother tongue, even though Punjabi had been their mother tongue since ages. Almost all the Punjabi speaking Hindus declared Hindi as their mother tongue during the census of India in 1951 and 1961. Similarly, the Congress government even opposed the formation of Punjabi State in total contrast to the commitment to demarcate India on a linguistic basis made by the Congress party in 1929, 1946 and 1947.
The Hindus burnt the Sikh religious literature several times and committed the acts of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and the Gurdwaras on the behest of government. To quote a few instances from history, in 1983, the State Reserve Police and the Central Reserve Police were directed by the government to attack Gurdwaras on the slightest pretext. During the year, Gurdwara Sahib Sisganj, Delhi, Gurdwara Imli Sahib, Indore, Gurdwara Sahib, Churu, Rajasthan, Gurdwara Sahib Chandokalan, Haryana and Gurdwara Sahib, Chowk Mehta, Amritsar were attacked. In June 1984, on the orders of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Golden Temple and 37 other Gurdwaras were attacked by all sections of the Indian Armed Forces and other security agencies, killing thousands of Sikhs, desecrating the holy premises, vandalizing heritage records and artifacts. During the attack on Golden Temple, the Sikh Reference Library was vandalized by the Indian Armed Forces and the looted material has not been returned to this day.
After the attack on Golden Temple, Baat Cheet the Indian Army Gazette No. 153, 1984 published, “Any knowledge of Amritdharis, who are dangerous people and pledged to commit murders, arson and acts of terrorism, should immediately be brought the notice of authorities. These people might appear harmless from outside but they are basically committed to terrorism. In the interest of all of us their identity and whereabouts must always be disclosed”.
In November, 1984, Sikhs were attacked in 87 towns and cities in ‘secular’ India. According to estimates by human rights organizations at least 10,000 Sikhs were virtually butchered or burnt alive. Officially, 3,700 Sikhs were killed in a matter of 48 hours. More than 200,000 Sikhs rendered homeless. More than 358 Gurdwaras were desecrated and destroyed. Justifying this official pogrom against the Sikhs, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi shamelessly proclaimed, “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.” Since 1986, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been debarred from officially entering Punjab for documenting human rights violations. This ban still continues.
Apart from above mentioned atrocities, efforts were made from time to time to damage the economy of Punjab, especially Sikhs. In this context, in 1966 the Punjab Reorganization Act was passed. Sections 78, 79 and 80 of the Panjab Reorganisation Act placed the irrigation and hydel-power projects of the Panjab geographically in Himachal Pradesh. These provisions also gave exclusive overall control of these projects to the Central government. It was in total contravention of Article 246 of the Indian constitution and universally accepted riparian principles. Similarly, as the Punjab and Sind Bank was understood to be the bank of Sikhs and Punjabis, when the bank reached the zenith of its glory, in 1980, the bank was nationalized and brought under the direct control of the government of India.
Sikhs faced racial discrimination even in the Indian Armed Forces. In 1971 the Defence Ministry under Jagjivan Ram, took a policy decision, to recruit army personnel on the basis of population rather than merit. Due to which the percentage of Sikh participation in the Indian Armed Forces was gradually reduced to a meager 2 percent. Similarly, the government compelled Sikh officers, both in the Defence and Civil services to renounce their Sikh identity (i.e. Kesh and Kirpan) if they desired promotions and possible retention in their services.
Repressive laws were introduced to harm Sikh community. In 1987, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 was passed. This act violated all norms of criminal jurisprudence. Every safeguard guaranteed by the Constitution, all international standards of human rights laid-down by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights were violated by this Act, even though India is a signatory to both these declarations. The Sikhs suffered the consequences of TADA. Thousands of Sikh youth were detained, tortured, and killed both in Panjab and in other Indian states. In 1988, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi introduced the 59th amendment to the constitution of India, withdrawing the right to life of the people of Punjab and enabling more discriminatory laws against Punjab. In 1991, Brigadier Sinha of the Indian Army publicly declared that the only way to subvert the culture of the Sikhs was to rape and humiliates Sikh women.
On 6 September, 1995, human rights activist, Jaswant Singh Khalra, who had unearthed gross human rights abuses in the district of Amritsar about individuals who had disappeared involuntarily was tortured and killed extrajudicially. On 20 March 2000, coinciding with the visit of US President, Bill Clinton, 35 young Sikhs were killed in Chittisingpura, Kashmir by state vigilantes. This has been proved without doubt but the state has not taken any action so far. In the year 2007, while the blasphemous activities of Sirsa dera chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim have been allowed to continue, in complete violation of legal provisions, sedition charges have been foisted against Sikh leaders.
The Indian Supreme Court called the Indian government’s murders of Sikhs “worse than genocide.” According to a report by the Movement against State Repression (MASR), 52,268 Sikhs are being held as political prisoners in India without charge or trial. Twenty-five years after the massacre of thousands of Sikhs in India the country’s government has failed to bring to justice those responsible. Sikhs ruled an independent and sovereign Punjab from 1710 to 1716 and again from 1765 to 1849 and were recognized by most of the countries of the world at that time. No Sikh representative has ever signed the Indian constitution. Indian rulers should understand one thing that persecution can not annihilate the Sikhs and they will never become Hindus even if they are denied their due rights. There is a need that Indian government must respect the minority rights and stop its brutalities and atrocities against them. Otherwise the saying of Franklin D. Roosevelt that “No democracy can long survive which does not accept as fundamental to its very existence the recognition of the rights of minorities” would come true of India.
This article is brought with thanks from KashmirWatch.Com – Editor.