By Gurmukh Singh OBE | PANJAB TIMES |
Guru Gobind Singh ji completed the religio-social and political revolution started by Guru Nanak Sahib to reveal the Khalsa Panth as a sovereign nation.
Award winning historiographer, Dr J S Grewal, wrote, “By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the socio-religious community of Guru Nanak’s followers became a state within the state.” (The Sikhs of Punjab, p 42.) The Sikh right to nationhood was openly asserted over 400 years ago by Guru Hargobind Sahib when he formally sat on the temporal-spiritual (miri-piri) throne at Akal Bunga on 15 June 1606. Twice in history the Sikhs established their own sovereign state.
Following partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 and certain assurances by Indian leaders, the Sikhs voluntarily decided to remain in India, the secular state. They rejected siding with Pakistan, an Islamic religion state, and they will reject joining the Hindu Rashtra, the declared objective of one of the main political Indian parties.
Essentially, Guru Nanak Sahib made social activism in this world a precondition to achieving the main objective of human life. He was more concerned with here-and-now than hereafter in accordance with the Gurbani maxim: Wich dunyia sev kamayiay. Tan Dargeh baisan paayiay. (ਵਿਚਿ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਸੇਵ ਕਮਾਈਐ ॥ ਤਾ ਦਰਗਹ ਬੈਸਣੁ ਪਾਈਐ ॥ SGGS, 25).
So, unlike any other religion (mazhab), an Abrahamic concept, or an Eastern other-worldly sect, Guru Nanak Sahib’s revolutionary Panth had social, religious and political objectives from the outset. Guru Gobind Singh gave final shape to Sikh identity, decision-making processes and organisation in 1699.
On Saturday 29 December, 2018, the topic of Sikh Ik Vakhri Qaum Hai (Sikhs are a separate nation), was discussed at the Sikh Missionary Society UK to clarify the revolutionary nature of the Panth of Guru Nanak-Guru Gobind Singh. Sardar Gurmel Singh Kandola MBE (ex-Secretary General, the Sikh Council UK), Jathedar Mohinder Singh Khaira, S. Avtar Singh Journalist and S Amarjit Singh Khalra led the seminar.
Those who keep on insisting that Sikhi is a religion only need to study Sikh tradition more closely. As a colleague observed recently, “Sadly, some, otherwise well-educated Sikhs in UK are so highly Anglicised that they can only view the world from western Abrahamic paradigm. They wish to come across as progressive and objective liberals. It is not in their destiny to contribute positively to the aspirations of the Panth towards an independent and distinct people who are a force for good in the world.”
The Sikhs were created and organised as a nation, a distinct qaum: a community of people who share a common language, culture, descent, or history. In this definition, a nation has no physical borders (wikipedia.org/wiki/Qaum).They were given own independent ideological, social and political objectives and provided the resources by the Guru through the daswandh system, to sustain a prolonged campaign to achieve those objectives. The political objective of a just halemi raj in which no one inflicted pain on another, was also clear from the outset.
Today the Sikh Qaum is global and attracts many to their egalitarian religio-social values. All those who join, become members of the Khalsa Panth, the Sikh nation. They own and share the same history, tradition, literature, institutions and identity.
In the UK, the House of Lords too came to the same conclusion in 1983 in the famous Mandla case when deciding that, in addition to being a religion, the Sikhs are also an ethnic (non-biological social) community just like Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis etc under the current community classification system.
Securing own Sikh qaumi (ethnicity) box in the Census 2021 classification, continues to be a high priority objective for British Sikhs.
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.