UNDERESTIMATING THE SIKH COMMUNITY

ALI SUKHANVER

Ali display picGurdawara Panja Sahib is a Sikh temple located 48 kilometers away from Pakistan’s very important city Rawalpindi in Hassan Abdal and is considered one of the most sacred places of worship for the Sikhs from all over the world. It is visited by thousands of Sikh and Hindu pilgrims twice every year. A few weeks back, I had a chance of visiting Gurdawara Panja Sahib in precious company of Dr. Ali Ahmed Kharal who is a world renowned educationist and author of a research book ‘Humanism & Pakistani English Novel’.  Gurdawara Panja Sahib is no doubt a majestic building with a unique historical background built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh somewhere in the 15th century, according to some historians. My intention of going to Hassan Abdal was to visit Cadet College Hassan Abdal too which is the first Cadet College in Pakistan and was established at the initiative of General Muhammad Ayub Khan, the then Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army. Though Hassan Abdal is a Muslim majority town but all around the Gurdawara one could find a lot of Sikh residents. The government of Pakistan has provided them all facilities, all basic rights and all possible security. They say, ‘Pakistan is our own homeland; it is the land of Gurdawara Panja Sahib, so it is very dear and sacred to us.’ Coming out of the Gurdawara, we met an old Sikh Sardar in a street leading to the town. I have forgotten his name but his hopefully glittering eyes are still in my memories. He said to me, ‘We shall build a very grand mosque in Khalistan and safeguard it, just to thank our Pakistani Muslim brothers for the care they shower upon us and our places of worship in Pakistan’. I don’t know when the Sikhs would succeed in getting an independent homeland of their own but I am very much sure that they would certainly build a grand mosque when they succeed in materializing their dream of Khalistan. Sardar Jee promised to invite me to the first National Day of Khalistan when Khalistan comes into being. God knows better what is the present status of the Khalistan Movement but the hope-glittering eyes of Sardar Jee seemed very much confident that things would be alright soon.

Some analysts are of opinion that issue of Khalistan is a dead horse now and it is always useless to flog a dead horse. But at the same time there are people who say ‘Pakistan is for the Muslims, India for the Hindus then why not a homeland for the Sikhs’. Robin Raj works at the Rayat Institute of Engineering and Information Technology Pune, Maharashtra, India. In an article he tried to link up the Khalistan movement with extremism. He said, ‘During unfortunate year of 1984, the biggest mistake of our government was the way they handled events. Many innocents got killed in riots. Attack on Golden Temple led to anger among Sikhs against Indian government. Extremists got benefit of the situation. During insurgency many people involved in terrorist activities migrated to Canada, UK and other countries. Though they are still trying hard to keep movement going but this movement is now limited to seminars, demonstration and fund raising.’

Why do the Sikhs need a separate homeland of their own; it is certainly a question frequently under discussion; People say that the Sikhs had been assisting the Hindus with all their force when they were slaughtering the Muslims at the time of the partition. Though I don’t have a vast knowledge of history but as a lay-man I am of the opinion that the Sikhs were at fault that time; they couldn’t understand the shrewdness of the Hindus who simply misused them against the Muslims. Very soon after the partition, the Sikhs realized their mistake when the Hindus started treating them in the same way as they had been treating the Muslims; the same exploitation, the same cruel injustice and the same degrading insult they had to face at the hands of the Hindus. Their life became a continuous series of trial and tribulations. The Hindu extremists not only desecrated their holy books but also threatened to demolish their Gurdawaras. At different stages they were treated like slaves. The Hindu extremists deprived them even of their basic rights. In short the democratic and secular shining India could not save the Sikhs from the wrath of the Hindus. There remained no difference between the low-caste Hindus and the Sikhs. Ultimately the Sikhs had to realize the need of a separate homeland. Situation became more horrifying when in June 1984 a military operation was started against the Sikh community. The target of this Operation Blue Star was to establish control over the Harmandir Sahib Complex in Amritsar, Punjab, and remove Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers from the complex buildings. The operation was carried out by Indian Army troops with tanks, artillery, helicopters, armored vehicles and tear gas. More than 2000 people lost their life in this operation. Since after that cruel operation against the Sikhs, the Khalistan movement is stepping ahead though at a slow speed but still one thing is very much clear that the Sikhs would never let disappointment come over their independence movement and certainly one day they would succeed in their mission.

 

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