(On 3rd & 4th November, 2003 The Tribune published two articles of Khushwant Singh defining Hindu-Sikh relations. A response was sent on 19th November, 2003 which the newspaper declined to publish)
Abhimaniyu in Chakraviyuh
A careful reading of Khushwant Singh’s “Hindu-Sikh relations-I & II” suggests a very pedestrian approach to the relations between the two communities in the Punjab. His analysis of causes of disunity have been plucked from the air, as it were. His understanding of the recent turmoil in the Punjab predictably runs on the rails provided by the official propaganda mill. His conclusion both gives a very weak justification for inflicting the two verbose articles on the public and his wish for closer Hindu-Sikh relations appears to be a mere ploy. By basing his articles on manufactured, doctored facts, by expressing hatred of the armed struggle and by denigrating its leaders, he appears to actually aim at inducing violent reaction.
From his summary of Hindu-Sikh relations before 1947 in his own racy journalistic style, it may be inferred that a separate Sikh identity was established at the time of Sikh Gurus. The Sikhs went out of their way, to maintain the best of relations with their Hindu neighbours. From the facts presented by him it is apparent that the good relations continued to hold sway as long as the Sikhs were in political ascendancy. The Sikh rulers took good care to respect the sentiments of the Hindus over whom they ruled over. But once the Hindu became certain that they were on the road to political eminence, the relations started worsening. These were irretrievably damaged when the Hindus definitely ascended to political power after 1947. All these conclusions are warranted by the facts he presents but he fails to make them for they will not be palatable to the audience he has in his mind.
In another section of the article he hangs his story on the peg of ‘Sikh separatism’. The crucial person in the turn of events for him is Sirdar Kapur Singh, philosopher, poet, orator, linguist, and statesman. He accuses him of the worse without realising that to lay stress on the official version without critical examination is to give into official propaganda. The Singh’s case is well documented and the circular condemning the Sikhs which he made public is on record of the Supreme Court of India. That Kapur Singh was deliberately weeded out is also clear from the absolutely parallel case of R.P. Kapur,ICS from the Punjab, who was similarly thrown out but duly re-instated. He projects Kapur Singh as fountainhead of separatism although he accredits him with drafting the Anandpur Sahib Resolution which is clearly a document seeking Sikh homeland within the Union of India. He attributes what he considers ultimate slogan of disunity “Khalsa ji de bol bale’ to the resolution Kapur Singh drafted. Had he just looked up the one page of resolution, he would have known that these words find no mention therein. He has also conveniently forgotten, while projecting Kapur Singh as particularly close to Master Tara Singh, that he himself also enjoyed his confidence. As a matter of fact he sat on the left side of Master Tara Singh while Kapur Singh sat on his right the day they together proclaimed validity of the concept of Sikh Homeland, expounded in the resolution Khushwant Singh no longer likes to associate with. Such lapses of memory are many. He also forgets that justification for the Sikh Homeland was also a part of his A History of the Sikhs.
The other link, in development of ‘Sikh separatism’ is the Singh Sabha Movement, according to him. He accepts along with official historians that it somehow propagated the separate Sikh identity for the first time. He fails to notice that the Sikh identity vis-a-vis the Hindu was established on the day Guru Nanak refused to don the sacred thread. It was established also when the only prominent man to protest against the execution of Guru Arjun was a Sufi Saint and when the Hindu kings of mountains refused to take Amrit. They also abandoned their consistent well-wisher and a person who fought alongside with them in many battles against the Mughals. He was and left alone to face the might of Aurangzeb.
Banda Singh Bahadur, it is well known, was opposed by all those who counted for anything in Hindu India. Rajputs princes of Rajputana, Jats and others all joined Bahadur Shah to destroy Banda Singh. The khatris of Lahore financed the campaign against him.
The Sikhs were consigned to separatism by a million actions and professions of the Hindus, before the Singh Sabha movement was even heard of. The British policy was rather to keep the Sikhs nearest to the Hindu fold, lands under whom they had conquered, like their Muslim predecessors, with such great ease. They placed the Hindu Mahants in control of Gurdwaras and were responsible for installation of images in Sri Darbar Sahib.
In modern times the Arya Samaj, through denigration of Guru Nanak, gave expression to the Hindu hatred of Sikhs. It is even more palpable in the sermons of Shardhanand Phillauri who delivered them from the vicinity of the Darbar Sahib immediately after the British occupation of the Punjab. This is what Gandhi was to repeat in his prayer meetings after 1947. Singh Sabha in its slogans and pamphlets reacted to this mind set more fully expressed in Sikh Hindu Hain. It was in reaction to it that Bhai Kahn Singh reacted by writing Ham Hindu Nahin.
Much more is possible on those lines but the above may suffice.
The foremost cause of the recent militant movement was the immediate need of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to communalise Indian polity for the sake of continued political power in the same family. Someone wanted to emerge as Durga Maheshasur-mardini. For that purpose the Sikhs were cast into the role of demons. Situations were contrived and Sant Bhindranwale was always blamed for what the agents of the government did. The Akali leaders, who should have defended him politically, hunted with the hound and ran with the hare alternately. They were hand in glove with the central government which promised (and delivered) political power to them (again and again) after it had given a bloody nose to the Sikhs. All known facts lend themselves to this construction.
What Sant Bhinderanwale did was no issue with Indira. The demolition of the Akal Takhat, invasion of the holiest Sikh shrine and decimation of the Sikhs could alone have helped her to emerge as Durga of Hindu dreams. The army also invaded 37 other shrines in which there was no Bhinderanwale. It invaded the Darbar on the martyrdom day of Guru Arjun when the pilgrims would congregate in large numbers. Even Giani Zail Singh, the supreme commander of India’s armed forces, admits that no warning was issued to the pilgrims to vacate the premises before mounting the attack.. So we know what was intended. The unprecedented victory at the next general elections which the Congress-I received was, clearly the aim of the whole exercise.
In the face of all this, Mr. Khushwant Singh’s verbal terrorism is difficult to accept. His thesis is wrong and deserves to be rejected.
Sikhs, like all others are equal partners in the governance of this country. They cannot be ignored merely because they are fewer in numbers. History is not the version of the powerful usurpers. The Sikhs have every right to govern themselves. This is the essence of democracy; unless this thesis is addressed, history may be found to repeat itself, misinterpretation of it by apologists and soothsayers not withstanding.
The Article By The Traitor Khushwant Singh
Independence changed equations
by Khushwant Singh
GURU Nanak proclaimed his faith around 1500 AD in one God who was Nirankar (without bodily manifestations) and a caste-free society. Those who accepted his creed described themselves as Sikhs or his disciples. They remained a part of the Hindu social system. Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru, declared: “We are neither Hindus nor Muslims.” Nevertheless, in the Adi Granth he compiled around 1600 AD a little over 11,000 names of God that appear over 95 per cent are of Hindu origin: Hari, Rama, Gopal, Govind, Madhav, Vithal and others. Some like Allah, Rab, Malik are Muslim. The exclusively Sikh word for God, Wahguru, appears only 16 times. Guru Gobind Singh, the last Sikh Guru who founded the Khalsa Panth in 1699 AD, invoked the names of Shiva, Sri and Chandi.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh had slokas from Granth Sahib recited to him every morning and had the holy book in a palki mounted on an elephant when leading his troops in battles. He also had Brahmins perform havans, regarded cows as sacred, punished cow-killing with death, went to Hardwar to bathe in the Ganga and expressed the wish that on his death the diamond and Koh-i-Noor should be gifted to the temple of Jagannath at Puri. Till then relations between the Hindus and the Sikhs were of naunh-maas — as the nail to the flesh out of which it grows. Inter-marriages between Hindus and Sikhs of same castes were common. Many Hindu families brought up their eldest sons as Khalsas, whom they regarded as Kesha Dhaaree Hindus (Hindus who did not cut their hair or beards).
Seeds of Hindu-Sikh separatism were sown by the British after they annexed Punjab in 1839 AD. They made reservations for Khalsa Sikhs in the Army, Civil Services and legislatures. Thus an economic incentive was given to Khalsa separateness. The feeling was eagerly nurtured by leaders of both communities. The lead was taken by Swami Dayanand Saraswati of the Arya Samaj. He visited Punjab and in his intemperate speeches described Guru Nanak as a semi-literate imposter (Dambhi). Sikhs picked up the gauntlet and made Swamiji or mahasha a synonym for a bigoted Hindu. Sikh separatism was boosted by the Singh Sabha movement started in the 1880s. It found expression in a booklet by Sikh scholar Bhai Kahan Singh of Nabha entitled “Hum Hindu Naheen Hain” — we are not Hindus. Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs started treading different paths. The Hindus opened DAV and Sanatan Dharm schools and colleges. The Sikhs opened Khalsa schools and colleges. They closed ranks to face Muslim dominance and later against the demand for Pakistan. Though Muslims conceded that Sikhs were Ahl-e-Kitaab (people of the Book) as were the Jews and the Christians, they regarded them too close to the Hindus to be accommodated in Pakistan. When Partition came, Punjabi Muslims drove both Hindus and Sikhs out of their country.
Independence brought about a radical change in Hindu-Sikh equations. Sikhs were the worst sufferers of Partition. From being the biggest land-owners in West Punjab, they were levelled to comparative poverty; they became an aggrieved people: “With Partition, Hindus got Hindustan, Muslims got Pakistan, we Sikhs got nothing.” The notion of a Sikh State gained credence. Their last Guru had promised them Raj Kareyga Khalsa — the Khalsa shall rule. They felt it was time to change the promise into a reality. In the exchange of populations the Sikhs found themselves in majority in a few districts of Punjab. If Haryana and Himachal could be separated they could have a Punjab in which they could form a majority of 60 per cent against the Hindus being 40 per cent. The Hindus sensed what the Sikhs had in mind. They, supported by the Hindu newspapers from Jalandhar, exhorted Punjabi Hindus to declare Hindi as their “mother tongue” instead of Punjabi in the censuses that took place, so that the Sikhs could be deprived of the argument that they were only asking for a Punjabi-speaking Suba. The Boundary Commission, which granted states to all regional languages listed in the Constitution, denied it to only one, Punjabi. This gross injustice gave the demand for a Punjabi Suba its rationale. After a prolonged agitation in which thousands were jailed, Indira Gandhi conceded the demand in 1966 but only after the Sikhs had proved their loyalty to their country by actively assisting the Indian Army in the Indo-Pak war of 1965. The Punjabi Suba was where all the Sikhs would legitimately expect a state of their own in a democratic India. It did not turn out that way.
With the affluence that came with the Green Revolution, the younger generation of Sikhs in increasing numbers began to give up the Khalsa tradition of keeping their beards and hair unshorn. They became clean-shaven (mona) Sikhs. The dividing line between the two communities became blurred because a mona Sikh was no different from a Hindu believing in Sikhism, no different from millions of Punjabi and Sindhi Hindus who revered Granth Sahib and frequented gurdwaras. The Sikh identity being separate from the Hindu was challenged. Sikh leaders changed the emphasis from the Sikh to Khalsa.
A man whose role in the identity crisis has not been fully highlighted was Kapur Singh of the ICS. He had been dismissed from service on charges of corruption. He tried to portray himself as a martyr. In a pamphlet he published he alleged that Prime Minister Nehru through Governor Chandu Lal Trivedi had issued a directive in 1947 to all the Commissioners in Punjab to the effect that the “Sikhs in general must be treated as a criminal tribe. Harsh treatment must be meted out to them to the extent of shooting them so that they wake up to political realities.” He concluded: “Mughal King Bahadur Shah ordered followers of Nanak to be executed on sight. I, being a declared Sikh, fell victim to this Mughal firman.”
There was no truth whatsoever in Nehru ever having sent out such a directive, nor was Kapur Singh a victim of any firman. His case was scrutinised by his own colleagues in the Service before he was dismissed. Nevertheless, he won the favour of Akali leader Master Tara Singh who helped him win an election to the Punjab legislature and then to the Lok Sabha. Kapur Singh was the brain behind the drafting of the Anandpur Sahib resolution demanding a dominant role for the Sikhs — Khalsa ji da bol bala.
Another so-called intellectual was Pritam Singh Gill, a retired Principal of Lyallpur Khalsa College, Jalandhar. He talked of “the Hindu conspiracy to destroy Sikhs; kill the language, kill the culture, kill the community.”
They found takers for this hate propaganda in Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Simranjit Singh Mann, (a police officer who was cruelly tortured in jail and later became an Akali leader and Member of the Lok Sabha), Jagjit Singh Chauhan, Ganga Singh Dhillon, Gurmit Singh Aulakh and a few others among the ranks and leaders of different factions of the Akalis.
(The Tribune 3, November 2003)Hindu-Sikh relations-II
Punjabiat can show the way to brotherhood
by Khushwant Singh
THE man most responsible for widening the gulf between the Hindus and the Sikhs was Bhindranwale. Starting as a preacher, exhorting the Sikhs to return to the spartan traditions of Guru Gobind Singh, he chose that an easier way to stop Sikhs lapsing into Hindu fold was to create a gulf between them. He used abusive language for the Hindus describing them as dhotian topian wale — wearers of dhotis and caps. His goons threw heads of cows in the Durgiana Temple. Hindu goons retaliated by throwing cigarette butts in the Golden Temple, smashing up a portrait of Guru Ramdas, founder of the city, on Amritsar railway station. Then it came to killing Hindus. Buses were hijacked, Hindu passengers off-loaded and shot. Punjabi Hindus set up their own Shiv Sena, armed its members with trishuls (three-pronged spears). If Sikhs could carry kirpans, they had every right to carry trishuls, they argued. They claimed a membership of over 80,000.
Bhindranwale had to be silenced. This was no easy task since he was a creation of the government as well as the Akali leaders. He was arrested on charges of involvement in the murder of Lala Jagat Narain of the Hind Samachar group. Giani Zail Singh, then Home Minister, who had a negative knee-jerk reaction to whatever Chief Minister Darbara Singh did had him let out on his own terms. Sant Longowal described him as a danda (stave) to beat the government. G.S. Tohra, President of the SGPC, let him find sanctuary in the Golden Temple and convert Akal Takht into a fortress. Indira Gandhi, misled by her advisers, chose the crudest way of getting rid of him: she ordered the Army to storm the temple complex. What could have been handled by the police (as proved later by Operation Black Thunder) was a botched-up “operation Blue Star”. It was a horrendous blunder entailing a heavy loss of life and damage to sacred property. Though Bhindranwale was killed, he became a martyr in the eyes of the Sikh masses. Since the Hindus did not share the anguish caused to the Sikhs, most of them who had never supported Bindranwale, the gulf between the two communities widened.
Worse was to follow. The widespread massacre of innocent Sikhs following the assassination of Indira Gandhi embittered the Sikhs against the government as well as the Hindus who they felt had not done enough to save their lives and property. The demand for an independent Sikh State gathered momentum.
The first open declaration in support of Khalistan was made on April 13, 1986 at a convention of the Sarbat Khalsa in Amritsar. The June 1986 issue of Sant Sipahi, edited by Dr Rajinder Kaur, daughter of Master Tara Singh, published the details. “The Khalsa Panth will have its own home where the writ of the Khalsa will run supreme.” It demanded recognition by foreign nations and recognition by the United Nations. It asked the Sikhs living outside Punjab to migrate to their “homeland”.
Their anger against the government and disenchantment with their Hindu brethren were justified. But the solution proposed was totally unviable. So far not one protagonist of Khalistan has drawn a map outlining its boundaries nor given the communal ratios of other communities, including Hindus, Christians and Muslims. At the very best it would be a land-locked state, almost entirely dependent on agriculture. Its only buyers would be India or Pakistan. If the state envisaged is the present-day Punjab what will happen to the 20 per cent or more prosperous section of the community living outside Punjab — in the Terai area, Sriganganager district of Rajasthan and the rest of India? It should be evident to every Sikh that Khalistan would be the doom of the Khalsa Panth. Fortunately, most Sikhs have come to realise that their future lies in remaining an integral part of India.
The realisation came after 10 years of bloodshed and lawlessness. There were nearly a dozen gangs with fancy names like the Babbar Khalsa International, the Khalsa Commando Force, the Bhindranwale Tigers Force, and the Khalsa Liberation Front, composed of between 10-50 men armed with weapons like AK-47 rifles, grenades, etc, made available by Pakistan’s ISI, which also set up training camps for them. Terrorist gangs ruled the state by might — the policemen were too scared to come out of their police stations. By day the police took its revenge by looting villagers whose homes had been visited by terrorists. Terrorists collected levies daswandh (one-tenth in the way of protection tax). They extorted money, molested women and shot anyone who resisted them. Their word was law; no lights at night, village dogs had to be silenced by poison or bullets. Hindus began to migrate from villages to towns and cities where they felt safe.
The governments, both Central and state, were at their wits’ end. They held meetings, changed Governors, imposed President’s rule, talked of elections, made Mr S.S. Barnala Chief Minister for a while without a clear policy for the state. By sheer chance the government’s gamble to hold elections paid off. It was boycotted by all Akali parties and the BJP. Because of the absence of any Opposition the Congress recorded a sweeping victory and Beant Singh was elected Chief Minister. His top priority was to eradicate terrorists. He had the full support of Governor Surendra Nath, a retired police officer with plenty of money at his disposal. The task was entrusted to K.P.S. Gill, then DIG, Police.
By then Punjab was sick and tired of terrorist depredations. Mr Gill carried forward his predecessor Julio Ribeiro’s policy of a bullet for a bullet by infiltrating into the ranks of terrorists and bribing informers. He had the support of the Army which successfully blocked contacts with Pakistan. Within a few months Mr Gill had terrorists on the run. Many were killed, many more laid down their arms and surrendered to the police. They were too scared to come out of jails on bail lest they be killed by their own erstwhile colleagues. Mr Gill had good reasons to pat himself on the back. But somewhat prematurely. On August 31, 1995, a human bomb exploded outside the Punjab Secretariat building killing Chief Minister Beant Singh and nine others.
Khalistan is dead as dodo. But separatist elements still find takers among the Sikhs. The latest example was the acceptance of the Nanak Shahi Calendar prepared by Piara Singh of Canada by the SGPC. Hitherto the Sikhs had followed the Bikrami Calendar to celebrate their religious festivals. Some anomalies were certainly there — some years ago Guru Gobind Singh’s birth anniversary was celebrated twice but no one bothered. But the logic behind the rejection of the calendar is insidious: all communities have calendars of their own, why not the Sikhs? In addition, while it mentions Bhindranwale as a martyr, it ignores the martyrdom of Sant Longowal.
Law and order has been restored in Punjab. Its peasants grow bumper crops of wheat and rice year after year. Its industrial city, Ludhiana, is booming with its hosiery, bicycles, sewing machines and ancillary motor parts. Its products find markets in India and abroad. Punjab could even do better provided its two principal communities worked hand in hand. At the moment they live together but separately. This is not good enough. For the spirit of Panjabiyat it is necessary to restore the old relationship of naunh tay maas da rishta. It can be done provided leaders of the two communities stop criticising each other and show the way to a united brotherhood of Hindus and Sikhs.
(The Tribune 4, November 2003)