Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
Sat Nam Readers!
It’s been an difficult long week.
Last night, RCMP in Canada apprehended a man, after a manhunt that beseiged a small town near where I grew up. That man, on Thursday killed 3 RCMP Members and wounded two others. I’m ever so glad the hunt is over and that no one else was hurt by a madman bearing high-powered weapons. Today, I am remember those three men who gave their lives protecting the community – Cst. David Ross, Cst. Fabrice Gevaudan, Cst. Douglas Larche and I’m praying for their families.
Today is also the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, where thousands of young men, on both sides of the war, lost their lives at the beginning of World War II. The battle last 10 days, breaking through German lines to lead ultimately to victory in the war against fascism. I am trying to remember those young men who never came home from that war – from the thousands that died at Normandy to the hundreds of thousands who would not return from other battles during that war. I’m remember the veterans who served and the family members, who have lived these last 70 years without their loved one.
Today is finally, an just as importantly for me, the 30th anniversary of Operation Bluestar. 1984 saw a great deal of horror and hardship for the Sikhs. I’ll get to Operation Bluestar in another post later today, but the essentials you need to know for this post follow:
Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was the leader of the Damdami Taksal. By accounts that I’ve read he was very influential among the youth in the Punjab, steering them away from alcohol and drugs which had been (and does again) plaguing the region. He was a political revolutionary and support the Anandpur Sahib Resolution (a topic for a later post). He condemned the fact that the Indian Constitution treated some minorities as part of Hinduism. And he was picked out by Indira Ghandi’s government as a “separatist” and a “terrorist” though there is no credible evidence that he was either.
Bhindranwaleji eventually moved into the Golden Temple compound, first into the guesthouse and then at the holy Akal Takht. On June 3, 1984, with thousands of people visiting the Temple on one of Sikhi’s holiest days, she ordered the Indian Army to attack, to get Bhrindranwale out.
Hundreds of people died at the Temple complex during the four days of the invasion. Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was among them but so were elderly and unarmed men, women and children who were there for prayer and were not allowed out during the siege.
Operation Bluestar set of a chain of events in India that would see many more thousands of Sikhs slaughtered before the end of 1984.
Today we remember and mourn those that were lost in Operation Bluestar. We remember the families and particularly the widows and children who have had little help since June 1984. We remember these Sikhs who gave their lives in a poorly planned and poorly executed operation to extract a small group of men. We remember the violence that broke out on our holy ground, where no violence ought ever to be.
We remember and protest the fact that the genocide that followed by November, 1984 has never been properly dealt with and that some of the perpetrators are still out there, some apparently in government.
Yet this is what I woke up to this morning. This picture just below. And news reports (links below). And videos. Headlines that read “Sword-wielding Sikhs Clash…” Overnight (here in the Pacific Time Zone but morning in Amritsar) two groups of Sikhs – apparently in a dispute over who would speak first during a memorial to the victims – went after one another with their kirpans (note: Dear Press – Please stop referring to kirpans as merely swords, they have a deep and spiritual meaning for us). 6 people are injured reportedly and no-one has died. Police surrounded the Akal Takht for a time and apparently had some measure of success in restoring peace.
I don’t know which side was in the right or whether either side was in the right. I don’t think that it really matters, frankly. What I do know is that our kirpans are not meant to be used against one another in this way.
Our kirpans have so much meaning and frankly, I think that meaning is washed out when we raise them against one another after an argument. Our kirpans are gifts from Guru Gobind Singh Ji who I expect would not have approved of what happened this morning. They are a part of our identity and remind us that we must fight against oppression and defend the oppressed. They were used to protect the Hindus from forced conversion by the Mughal Empire, to protect their right to their faith. They are not to be used to threaten or intimidate. They are a last resort when peaceful attempts fail. They are miri and piri. Why are we raising them against one another?
Somewhere this message seems to have been lost. Somewhere along the way Sikhs have become divided against one another. In a time and on a particular day when we should all stand united, in the memory of those who gave their lives, we are violent to one another at our holiest site. In a time when Sikhs still suffer oppression and discrimination, we have fallen away from one another and away from the roots of Sikhi that Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale advocated. While this happens, those that would continue their discrimination and oppression win. They don’t have to put much effort into dividing and conquering a people who are already doing it to themselves.
This morning’s example was no way to commemorate the victims of 1984. It was no way to remember them. It is, it pains me to say, embarrassing. We are a faith based in love and peace and this was in no way loving and peaceful. I pray today, and I will continue to pray, that we find a way to come face to face with our internal issues and resolve them, that we find a way to unite and stand together again as one Panth. The Panth united is unstoppable and not vulnerable to the discrimination and oppression that have marked this time.
Please think on unity and setting our smaller issues aside.
Sat Nam Readers!
You’ll find links to the news stories below. Though by now I’m quite certain that the story is all over the media:
Update June 7th, 2014: The Jathedar of the Akhal Takht, who was at the incident, states that the people who began the violence were plants of the RSS and Shiv Seva. I’ll get to those two organisations in a later post. Right now, does it matter that there were people present meant to disrupt the event and cause negative media attention? Not really.
First, where is that evidence? We are a group seeking justice for terrible crimes. We are trying to gather and present credible evidence of those crimes in order to obtain some measure of justice. A proclamation that it must be so is not evidence. A suspicion is not evidence. A conclusion is not evidence. A confession (voluntary and not coerced) would be evidence. Condemning others too early and without sufficient evidence, to explain an incident that you were a part of, is exactly what Sikhs complain of when dealing with the Punjabi police and other government agencies. It is also exactly the behaviour that will alienate the support that Sikhs have in their struggle. We must be above reproach with our allegations otherwise we as a group are discredited and justice will forever remain a dream.
Secondly. The weapons-play went in both directions yesterday. Let’s not be Orwellian here and change history – haven’t enough people done that to Sikhs? If the object was to have us misbehave for the cameras, well they sure reached their objective. The problem is and remains that we are not focused enough on unifying ourselves and too ready to react. When we behave in this way, we set ourselves up for the other side to discredit us further. It’s a sad, sad state that we’re in.
Also, many Sikhs have taken the attitude “we are a passionate people”, it has happened in the past and will happen again. That statement, that attitude… I don’t even know where to begin with what is wrong with it. Really? It’s okay to be violent because we’re passionate about our faith? No. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was clear – the use of violence is a last means to defend ourselves and to defend others. That is not what happened on the morning of June 6th.