In 1947, Sikhs, in their own right as a qaum (religio-ethnic group), sat on the same table with Indians and Pakistanis. Following certain promises, Sikh leadership decided to side with the Indians, albeit, without giving up their ultimate inalienable right to self-determination as a distinct nation which had been subdued by the British in 1849 with the support of British India following Jang Hind-Punjab.
In the UK, Indians and Pakistanis, and later Bangladeshi, are counted and monitored as Ethnic Communities. By the same logic, Sikhs qualify as an ethnic community (qaum) as confirmed by the House of Lords in 1983. The debate continues.
Guru Nanak confronted the invader Babar and two Guru martyrs gave their lives for social justice and political freedom. Their aim was to lay the foundation of a just regime, halemi raj, in which all were equal partners. No religion or Bhagti movement had those socio-political objectives before, or since.
A rigorous analysis of the compositions of Guru Nanak reveals that there is hardly anything in contemporary politics, society or religion that he finds commendable. [Dr J S Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab] Guru Nanak Sahib rebelled against an oppressive regime. He saw that the age of kalyug is like a knife in which the rulers have become butchers, all have forgotten their responsibilities (dharam) and in the night of falsehood, the moon of truth is no longer rising. The socio-political revolution he started, gathered momentum to continue for 300 years after him to achieve Khalsa halemi raj of the people. He started social reforms to be continued by the successor Gurus, who also continued with the political objective to establish a peoples regime led by the Khalsa. Guru Nanak Sahib started with these earthly (miri) objectives and sought divine sanction and guidance in the revealed Word.
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As Dr Grewal shows, Guru Nanak Sahib was thoroughly familiar with the politico-administrative arrangements made by the Afghan rulers as reflected in the use of his words like jizya and kar (tax) mukadam (judges) raiyat (public) etc. His denunciation of the cruel regime of his time was another way of announcing the arrival of a new order to be hailed as the halemi raj by Nanak V, Guru Arjan Dev.
The new path or Teesra Panth of Guru Nanak was not another religion like the orthodox dogma-based Semitic and the eastern religious traditions. It was a paradigm shift from traditional religion to a new way of thinking and living in the New Age. It was an invitation to give up all sorts of religious pretence, ritualism and superstition. His aim was not just another religion but to build a plural society in which all were equal partners. None of the religions have been able to do that in religion states to date because their pre-occupation has been and continues to be with spreading own religion.
About Sikh ethnic tick box in the UK Census, one commentator observed: I don’t understand what religion has to do with Sikh social monitoring in the UK. Sikhism and Sikh ethnicity are mutually exclusive so such opposition to Sikh ethnic monitoring is futile. Indeed, it is and we hope sense prevails.
Gurmukh Singh OBE, a retired UK senior civil servant, chairs the Advisory Board of The Sikh Missionary Society UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The article first appeared at The Panjab Times, UK
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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