Sikhs and the idea of India

The community of Sikhs should ponder and decide whether it is justified to eulogize Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who challenged the idea of India
Sikhs and the idea of India
Sikhs and the idea of India
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Last Friday morning, violent clashes broke out within the premises of the Golden Temple in the city of Amritsar in which many people were injured. The violence erupted between Sikh radical group Shiromani Akali Dal (Mann) and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) Task Force during a ceremony to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Operation Blue Star. 

It was dismaying to see clashes inside the Golden temple which is revered not only by Sikhs but also by people of other religions. The magnificent Golden temple, popularly known as Darbar Sahib or Harmandir Sahib, was fully constructed by the fifth guru of Sikhs, Guru Arjan Dev in 1601 A.D. For a believer like me having immense faith in Gurudwaras and Guru Granth Sahib, it was horrific to see wielding of swords inside Harmandir Sahib. The sacred Harmandir Sahib is not only of Sikhs but of those who believe in the idea of India.

The Operation Blue Star was carried out from 3rd June to 8th June, 1984 to flush out armed militants holed up inside the Golden temple led by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Bhindranwale advocated a separate nation "Khalistan" for the community of Sikhs.

I will leave the discussion on the subject of Operation Bluestar for the experts and the journalists who have covered the incident. For that you may read three columns of Shekhar Gupta ˜First Person Second Draft" in The Indian Express or Hartosh Singh Bal's essay "The Shattered Dome" in The Caravan.

The fact of the matter is along with army personnel and police men, many innocent people died in that operation which was aimed at cleansing the sacred temple of armed militants. It was unfortunate that the security forces had to enter the premises which led to bloodshed inside the temple. The entry of security forces and the damage to the temple resulting in mayhem left an indelible mark on the psyche of Sikhs as it marred the sanctity of temple. 

The Operation Bluestar was followed by assassination of then the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards named Satwant Singh and Beant Singh which was seen as an act of retribution. Subsequently, thousands of Sikhs were killed in the anti-Sikh pogrom sponsored by the Congress politicians. 

On the 30th anniversary of Operation Bluestar, Simranjeet Singh Mann, the head of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Mann), reportedly said that Khalistan is the only solution which is in the interest of all communities. It left me perplexed to see such elements stoking the fire of separatism even after 30 years when there should be talk of progress, growth and development.

There is resentment among the Sikh community which is justified because justice hasn't been delivered to the people in the bloodshed of 1984. That should not move towards separatism rather it should be channelized for pursuing justice. The new government in the centre led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi should take immediate steps regarding the same.

The Sikhs are part and parcel of this very nation India since historic times. Their patriotism is undisputable. The history tells us that the Sikh gurus have laid down their lives for the nation India when perpetrators from outside came to India and unleashed their barbarism. Who can forget their martyrdom for protecting the Indian ethos and civilization? 

When Bhindranwale and ilk are praised by some Sikhs, it is saddening because it implies supporting his cause for secessionism from India which is very much against the idea of India. The community of Sikhs should ponder and decide whether it is justified to eulogize Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who challenged the idea of India. 

The Sikhs have been the defenders of the idea of India. I believe they will continue to do so. The brave community of Sikhs should shun the fire of separatism evoked by these vested groups. Also, the Punjab state government needs to deal with these separatist elements strictly so that such incidents don't occur in the future. 

On a personal note, Harmandir Sahib is the most beautiful and mesmerizing shrine I've ever visited till date (not disrespecting the other religious shrines) which emanates peace, sanctity and harmony.

Varad Sharma is a writer. Follow @varadsharma

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