It is sad that the demand for Khalistan has reared its ugly head once again in the West where some Sikhs can make statements about Khalistan without realising the consequences or feeling the effects of their actions on the Sikh community in Punjab, India and across the rest of the world.
It is disturbing to say the least when a handful of unelected Sikhs claim to speak for the wider diaspora and demand a kingdom for themselves which the Sikh Gurus never did. These self-proclaimed leaders act as if they are greater visionaries than the Sikh Gurus and, in the process,, damage the interests and respect of Sikhs across the world. They project us as anti-India separatists when most of us are not that at all and are proud to be Indians and Sikhs like the Hindus, Muslims and Christians of India are. Sikhs have always been, and still are, in the forefront of India’s defence and integrity.
The Sikh Gurus were visionaries who led exemplary lives so that the world would respect them along with their followers. Sadly, some of their followers are now acting and behaving totally against the vision of our Gurus and bringing disrespect not only to themselves but also to us all with their actions. They are in fact diminishing the respect of the Sikh Gurus who dedicated their lives to upholding human rights, freedom and justice throughout India and not just in Punjab. The Sikh Gurus were always above territorial claims and taught principles that crossed borders and cultures.
We are proud that it is due to the efforts of the Sikh Gurus that today India is a better place for everyone. Due to their contribution, we the Sikhs receive an unparalleled level of respect throughout India and abroad. More importantly, more and more Indians are now beginning to realise the vision and sacrifices of the Sikh Gurus for India and more and more Indians are paying their respects to them and us. As a result, the Government of India has also started to celebrate the lives and teachings of our Gurus on a national scale. Recently, Guru Gobind Sigh Ji’s 350th birthday was celebrated on a huge scale, led by the Prime Minister. No other religious leader has been accorded such high respect and place to date.
Frankly, the Sikhs can never get Khalistan just as the Kashmiris cannot get Kashmir even with the support of Pakistan and aided in the past by the USA. Pakistan fought four fully fledged bloody wars to gain Kashmir, but to no avail. All Kashmiris have achieved to date is to turn a paradise into a no go area for tourists and in the process ruined the economy. If these handful of Sikhs are not careful, they will make Sikhs not only second class in India and beyond but also bring destruction to Punjab’s economy and prosperity.
Before the militant movement in Punjab which lead to operation Blue Star, approximately 20% Sikhs were in the Indian Armed Forces and now they have been reduced to a quota of just 2% due to the mutiny of some Sikhs soldiers after operation Blue Star. Sadly, now the Sikh farmers are committing suicide due to lack of employment prospects in Punjab and not to mention a drug epidemic blighting the region. These misguided Sikhs are scoring own goals unwittingly and bringing disrespect not only to their fellow Sikhs around the world but also to their Gurus by behaving in a manner which is totally incompatible with their teachings.
In 1947 Sikhs could have got an independent State as the British wanted to divide India on the basis of religion, but now as an independent and sovereign country India will never give an inch of its land to anyone not even to the mighty China. The Sikhs should learn from the Kashmir experience and reflect back upon how many young innocent Sikhs have already lost their lives before and after the Operation Blue Star along with massive setbacks to Punjab’s economy. Do we wish to repeat the same sad and bloody episode in the history of Punjab again?
Our Gurus established the Brotherhood of Khalsa to liberate Indians from the religious oppression of the Mughal kings through immense sacrifices and not to break up India. They also gave us a modern and practical philosophy to make us the best amongst the rest and for us to use religion to get something for nothing, like the Muslims did in 1947 with the death of over a million innocent people along with over 15 million who became refugees in their own country, will be an insult to our Gurus who never used religion to divide mankind. The effects of an artificial manmade division of India are still being felt today and, I dare say, will be felt forever. Throughout their lives our Gurus worked to unite mankind and also gave us a religion based on interfaith teachings by incorporating teachings of Hindu and Muslim holy men to bring people of different faiths closer to one another.
These lacklustre Sikhs should think about the Sikh farmers who are settled in UP, Haryana, Rajasthan and also in the rest of India and businessmen in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata along with many other Indian cities. What about Sikhs serving in the Indian Government and Armed forces including the previous Air Chief? How will the people of different faiths who come to Sikhs Gurdwaras in every part of India to pay their respect to Sikh Gurus feel? These Sikhs cannot eat their cake and have it too.
Sikhs will continue to enjoy respect in India and the world if they live as their Gurus wanted them to. We should, as we have always done, rise on merit and if we continue to spread the teachings and principles of our Gurus through our actions then every Indian will celebrate our Gurus and respect Sikhs even more. It is a fact that no one promotes disloyal staff in their companies similarly, India cannot promote its disloyal citizens either. For these handful of misguided Sikhs to reduce the stature of our Gurus and their followers to just Punjab is reprehensible.
Finally, our roots are in India where our Gurus were born, the Five Beloved Sikhs (Panj Pyare) who helped establish the Brotherhood of Khalsa, were Hindu Indians who came from every corner of India and who with Guru Gobind Singh Ji helped transform the lives of every Indian. Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself was born in Bihar and left for his heavenly abode in Maharashtra. Banda Singh Bhadur, a renowned Sikh warrior came from Maharashtra. The 9th Guru, Guru Teg Bhadur Ji, paid the ultimate sacrifice not for the Sikhs but for Hindu Kashmiri Pundits and in the capital of India, Delhi symbolising that Sikh Gurus were for every Indian and the universe. We should also remember that present Sikh surnames like Malhotra, Sethi, Kohli, Khurana, Vohra and many others, are originally Hindu surnames and there are still so many Hindus and Sikhs who have these common surnames which signifies that it was the Hindu families who made their eldest son Sikh. To separate us from our roots will deny facts about our origin. We should be proud to say we have so much in common with Hindus whilst also having our own distinctions and should continue to live together in a united India.
Lord Rami Ranger, CBE is a founding member of the Hindu Forum of Britain, and Chairman of the Pakistan, India & UK Friendship Forum, and the British Sikh Association. In 2005 he was made a Member of the British Empire and in 2016 the Commander of British Empire for his services to British Business and the Asian Community.