By Gurmukh Singh | OPINION |
- Sikh Homeland was not a separatist move but would have strengthened Indian unity.
- Dedicated to Bhujangi Khalsa, the publication is a permanent contribution to the Sikh polity as it emerges from the uncertainties of the present.
Historically, the Sikhs as the Khalsa Panth have always insisted that they should be approached and dealt with at state level as a collective group and entity.
This Sikh insistence on being treated as a collective group and entity was understood by the Mughals. The Sikhs were recognised as such when colonial Britain called them around the negotiation table in their own right during independence talks. This condition had also been continually met by the Indian leaders before the partition of the Indian sub-continent when the brave Sikhs were always at the forefront of Indian struggles over the centuries, for independence. Promise of a Sikh Homeland was made.
However, as soon as the colonial powers left India, Indian national leaders no longer felt any need to keep their promise nor to negotiate with the Sikhs as a collective group and entity.
Minus any distinct Sikh qaomi recognition in the Constitution, the document was not signed by the Sikh representatives. Thenceforth, in one form or another, the relationship between the Sikhs and the Indian State has never been stable. In fact, it has been quite violent at times.
Documents on SIKH HOMELAND and Speeches in Parliament by Bhai Sahib Sirdar Kapur Singh is the title of a recently published book edited by Prof Gurtej Singh. (Published by Satvic Media Pvt Ltd, January 2020). It places demand for Sikh homeland in its historical context and gives useful pointers to the future direction of Sikh political thought and interface with the rulers of India. Below are some general points with quotes in italics from the book. The book is also relevant to the future Sikh and Indian State relationship.
Prof Gurtej Singh has given an excellent summary in two introductory items. (The Foreword is in the name of Jaswant Singh Mann but was drafted by Gurtej Singh.) It was probably the 1965 war with Pakistan which resulted in the much truncated and grudgingly conceded Punjabi Suba. According to Gurtej Singh, most leading figures were against it: Nehru did not want it, Lal Bahadur Shastri too believed like him that it was dangerous to trust a Sikh majority state at the sensitive border with Pakistan, Indira Gandhi subscribed to the same view with more vehemence. ….Sardar Hukam Singh was personally opposed to it and his Parliamentary Consultative Committee was equally divided about it.
The Sikh Homeland Resolution of Akali Dal, passed by its working Committee on July 20 1966, at Delhi, reminded the rulers of India of their pre-independence promises so that Sikhs could live as respectable and equal citizens of the Union of India. It was not a separatist move but quite the opposite! It was a statement of the just aspiration of the Sikhs as a distinct people in the Indian Union. It was conceived to be a demand which would strengthen the unity of India and will enhance its prestige.
It asked for inclusion of certain Sikh areas (listed in the Resolution) deliberately and intentionally cut off and not included in the new Punjab which the Resolution proposed as the Sikh Homeland, within the Union of India.
Such an autonomous constitutional status had already been envisaged for Jammu and Kashmir in the Constitution Act in 1950. The Sikhs were only asking for a redefinition of their status through a perfectly legitimate right of amendment to the Constitution, otherwise already amended a number of times before that. So, to those who opposed such an amendment so vehemently, the question: What can construe a demand for another alteration [to the Constitution] into a sedition? Indeed!
Sikh history is witness to the nature of a Sikh state. In such a state to be a Sikh shall be a matter of pride, but at the same time all citizens without any distinction whatever shall be co-sharers in the rights and privileges which accrue from it…. There is nothing in the past history of the Sikhs or their present political aims which is detrimental to the interests of Hindus as such.
History has already witnessed such a shared socio-political environment of a Sikh Homeland during the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Such a regime would rest on the pillars of universal Sikh values of kirat karo, naam japo, wand chhako. That means that one must work honestly and share with those in need while remaining God-aware.
Punjab – undivided and, later, divided and much reduced to a fraction of its original size – where Sikhs have lived and regarded the land as their home, all have been welcomed from all over India to work and live while other states have imposed restrictions on Punjabi migrants.
The Sikh Homeland idea as presented by Sirdar Kapur Singh in his Parliamentary speeches is his permanent contribution to the Sikh polity as it emerges from the uncertainties of the present.
The book is recommended reading for the Bhujangi Khalsa of today to whom the book is dedicated.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
Delhi Violence and the Future of Indian Democracy (Asia Samachar, 9 March 2020)