By Hardev Singh Virk | OPINION |
Indian Parliament is a mammoth organisation to run the Indian democracy. The Lok Sabha at present consists of 545 members. Of these, 530 members are directly elected from the States and 13 from Union Territories, while two are nominated by the President to represent the Anglo-Indian community. There are total 20 Members in Parliament (MPs) from Punjab, 13 in Lok Sabha and 7 in Rajya Sabha. So representation of Punjab in Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) is just 2.5 percent. It is unfortunate that there is no Punjab Forum of Members of Parliament to fight for common causes; hence they fight among themselves in Parliament as directed by their political parties. That is one reason that Punjab and Sikh issues remain unresolved.
Punjab has been ruled by two political parties, Congress and Akali Dal. Other parties act as splinter groups to join either of these two. Akali Dal has been represented by stalwarts like Hukam Singh, Kapur Singh, Rajinder Kaur and Gurcharan Singh Tohra in the Indian Parliament. Some of their light weights included Kikar Singh, a driver of Sant Fateh Singh; Dhanna Singh Gulshan, a Dhadi by profession; and Giani Bhupinder Singh, Jathedar of Akal Takhat. The parliament record shows that some of these worthies never opened their mouth in Parliament. The track record of speeches delivered in Indian Parliament is available. This article gives critical analysis of speeches delivered by three Parliamentarians who fought for the Sikh Causes in the Indian Parliament.
A CRITIQUE OF S. HUKAM SINGH‘S LAST SPEECH IN THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY OF INDIA
Hukam Singh (1895-1983) was elected to the Constituent Assembly of India on 30 April 1948 as a member of the Shiromani Akali Dal. He actively participated in the Constituent Assembly’s debates, and only a year after his entry was nominated to the panel of its chairmen. He continued to be on the panel till his unanimous election as Deputy Speaker on 20 March 1956, this even though he was a member of the Opposition.
He was one of the two Sikh Members, the other being Bhupinder Singh Mann, who did not sign the Indian Constitution in protest against providing no guarantees to the Sikhs, as promised by the leaders of Indian National Congress, for joining India. Hukam Singh was a qualified lawyer and had a brief stint as a Judge of Kapurthala High Court, hence he was a prominent member of the constituent assembly. His speech in the assembly is remarkable and full of pithy comments on the basic structure, articles and schedules of the Indian Constitution. A gist of his comments on the Constitution in his famous speech is given as under:
- We have produced the bulkiest Constitution in the world. The Constitutions of other countries are much simpler. I am not happy at all over this achievement.
- Indian Constitution is neither indigenous nor a complete copy of any other single type. It is neither federal nor unitary.
- We have created a hybrid by mixing American, English, Australian, Canadian and Irish constitutions, which we have been pleased to name the Indian Constitution.
- Hukam Singh quoted BR Ambedkar, the main architect of Indian Constitution: “Democracy in India is only a top-dressing on Indian Soil, which is essentially undemocratic.”
- He warned about Emergency provisions: “The mere Proclamation of Emergency ought not to have been allowed to abrogate civil liberties“. Hukam Singh stood vindicated when Emergency was imposed by PM, Indra Gandhi, in June 1975.
- He was in favour of providing social and economic security to Indian citizens: “Unless material insecurity is eliminated, personal freedoms are paper safeguards and worth nothing“.
- “I believe rights are no rights unless enforceable“.
- He spoke about the apprehensions of Sikhs which proved to be true: “The Sikhs grew apprehensive that the Congress, in their anxiety to win freedom, otherwise very commendable, might hand over their home-land to the Muslims and they might be subjugated forever”.
- He referred to the wrath of the Sikhs in their boycott: “The Sikhs got indignant and the Panthic Prathinidhi Board boycotted the Constituent Assembly by their resolution dated 5th July 1946 when the Muslim League had accepted it“.
- He reminded the Constituent Assembly about the promises made by the Working Committee of the Congress to the Sikhs: “Congress will give them all possible support in removing their legitimate grievances and in securing adequate safeguards for the protection of their just interests“.
- In view of the promises made by the Congress in para supra, the Sikhs made common cause with the Congress and stood firmly by it. Then again on 6th January 1947, the Congress made it clear that the right of the Sikhs in the Punjab should not be jeopardised, keeping in view the Cabinet Mission Plan.
- He referred to the predicament of the Sikh masses: “It is only the Sikh Community that earnestly desired, repeatedly requested and constantly cried for safeguards but have been denied any consideration. They fail to understand why they have met this treatment“.
- He was a visionary who predicted the future state of affairs in India: “The majority can oppress, it can even suppress the minority; but it cannot infuse contentment or satisfaction by these methods“.
- He ridiculed that despite India being a Secular state, special provisions were being made: “It was said that it was a blot to acknowledge any religious minority; but the Anglo-Indians have been given safeguards in the Constitution”.
- He highlighted the Sikh problems diligently: “The whole economy of the Sikh community depended upon agriculture and army service. Lands have been left in Pakistan and their proportion in the army since the partition has been greatly reduced and is being reduced every day”.
- He referred to the discrimination being made on the basis of language: “They (Sikhs) wanted a Punjabi speaking province. That has been denied. It was not a communal demand, but a territorial one”.
- He referred to the stubborn attitude of Punjabi Hindus and their communal attitude towards their mother tongue Punjabi: “Majority community in the province went so far as to disown their mother tongue. That language is in danger on account of aggressive communalism of the majority“.
- He spoke boldly about the reasons for rejection of Indian Constitution by the Sikhs: “The Sikhs feel utterly disappointed and frustrated. They feel that they have been discriminated against. Let it not be misunderstood that the Sikh community has agreed to this Constitution. I wish to record an emphatic protest here. My community cannot subscribe its assent to this historic document“.
- He pointed to the weakness of basic structure of Indian Constitution: “In our Constitution, each article tends to sap the local autonomy and makes the provinces irresponsible”.
- Hukam Singh was forthright in pointing out the serious flaws of our Constitution: “The right to work is not guaranteed. There is no assurance for old age maintenance or provision during sickness or loss of capacity. Even free primary education has not been provided for. The minorities and particularly the Sikhs have been ignored and completely neglected“. Several Amendments have been made subsequently in Indian Constitution, in view of his criticism, to rectify the situation.
- He was highly critical of the Status provided to the President of Indian Republic which agitates against the spirit of Parliamentary Democracy: “President has been enthroned as the Great Moghul to rule from Delhi with enough splendour and grandeur”.
- We must appreciate the futuristic vision of Hukam Singh who predicted that Indian State can catapult itself to a fascist state: “This shall consequently facilitate the development of administration into a fascist State for which there is enough provision in our Constitution“. It is going to happen during our lifetime, if the present trends of Indian polity are true indicators of future of Indian democracy.
Kapur Singh (ICS) (1909-1986) was a renowned scholar of Sikhism. This speech was delivered by him on 6th September, 1966 in Lok Sabha. He remained Member of Parliament of 3rd Lok Sabha (1962-67). He became popular among the Sikhs due to his Anandpur Sahib Resolution of 1973 which is a magna carta of Sikhs demands and aspirations.
Kapur Singh was a vociferous orator in Indian Parliament and he participated in almost all debates concerning Punjab and Sikh issues. Out of his many speeches, we may refer to just two: (i) Causes of Sikh Unrest, and (ii) Betrayal of the Sikhs. The modus operandi in both these speeches is same, as there is a common thread of blame game running between the two, though they were delivered on different occasions for different purposes.
Kapur Singh was speaking on the Bill to provide for the reorganisation of the existing State of Punjab on linguistic basis. He started his speech with his remark: “Madam Chairman, as it is, I have no option but to oppose this Bill. Like the curate’s egg, though it might be good in parts, it is a rotten egg”.
He opposed it on the following grounds: “This act is conceived in sin, because it constitutes the latest act of betrayal of solemn promises given to the Sikh people by the revered leaders of the Congress national movement”. He quotes a Slok from Mahabharat to bring home the point: “He who has one thing in mind but represents another thing to others, what sin he is not capable if committing? For, he is a thief and robber of his own self.”
His criticism is based on eight points. First, he reminded the Members of Lok Sabha that Congress leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Moti Lal Nehru, and Jawaharlal Nehru went to meet Baba Kharak Singh, the undisputed leader of the Sikhs, in 1929 and gave him a solemn assurance that after India achieves political freedom, no Constitution shall be framed by the majority community unless it is freely acceptable to the Sikhs”.
“The second link is that in the year 1932, at the time of the Second Round Table Conference, the British Government, through Sardar Bahadur Shivdev Singh, then a member of the Indian Secretary of States’ Council, made an informal proposal to the Sikhs that if they disassociate finally with the Congress movement, they would be given a decisive political weightage in the Punjab, such as would lead to their emerging as a third independent element in India after the British transfer power to the inhabitants of this sub-continent”. Kapur Singh squarely blames Master Tara Singh for his naivety: “Master Tara Singh, to my personal knowledge, promptly rejected this tempting offer, I was then a student at the University of Cambridge and was closely associated with these developments”.
The third link refers to the All India Congress Working Committee meeting held at Calcutta in the month of July, 1946, which reaffirmed the assurances already given to the Sikhs, and in his Press Conference held on the 6th July, there, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru spelt out the concrete content of these solemn undertaking in the following flowery words: “The brave Sikhs of the Punjab are entitled to special consideration. I see nothing wrong in an area and a set-up in the North wherein the Sikhs can also experience the glow of freedom.” In these words, an autonomous State to the Sikhs within India, was promised.
Fourthly, Kapur Singh claims that at the time of the Cabinet Mission’s visit to Delhi in early 1946, a message was communicated to the Sikhs through the late Sardar Baldev Singh that if the Sikhs are determined not to part company with Hindu India, the British Parliament in their solicitude for the Sikh people, will ensure that no Constitution shall be framed such as does not have the concurrence of the Sikhs. But Sardar Baldev Singh, in consultation with the Congress leaders, summarily rejected this offer.
Fifthly, in April, 1947, Mr. Jinnah, in consultation with certain most powerful leaders of the British Cabinet in London, offered to the Sikhs, first through Master Tara Singh and then through the Maharaja of Patiala, a sovereign Sikh State. Master Tara Singh summarily rejected this attractive offer and the Maharaja of Patiala declined to accept it in consultation with Sardar Patel and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
Sixthly, on the 9th December 1946, when the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly was held under the Chairmanship of Babu Rajendra Prasad, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru moved the first and the fundamental resolution in which it was said: “Adequate safeguards would be provided for minorities… It was a declaration, a pledge and an undertaking before the world, a contract with millions of Indians, and, therefore, in the nature of an oath which we must keep.”
Seventhly, Kapur Singh blames Sardar Baldev Singh for committing the blunder of revealing the offer made to him by the British Cabinet to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru during a meeting held in London on 17th May, 1946, to find a final solution to the Indian communal problem: “When the Congress and the Muslim League failed to strike any mutual understanding and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru decided to return to India, the British Cabinet leaders conveyed to Sardar Baldev Singh that if he stayed behind, arrangements might be made “So as to enable the Sikhs to have political feet of their own on which they may walk into the current of World History.”
Eighthly, and lastly, in the month of July 1947, the Hindu and Sikh members of the Punjab Legislative Assembly met at Delhi to pass a unanimous resolution favouring partition of the country, in which resolution occur the following words: “In the divided Indian Punjab, special constitutional measures are imperative to meet just aspirations and rights of the Sikhs.”
When in 1954, Master Tara Singh reminded Pandit Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, of the solemn undertaking previously given to the Sikhs on behalf of the majority community by passing resolutions for providing safeguards to the Sikhs in free India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru coolly replied, “the circumstances have now changed.”
Kapur Singh blames Hindus of Punjab in an equal measure: “The Hindus of Punjab aided and abetted by the Central leadership of India are playing a sordid drama by refusing to form a Punjabi speaking State in which the Sikhs might acquire political effectiveness and second by falsely declaring that Punjabi was not their mother tongue”.
He reminds the Members of the Lok Sabha that Sikhs have no faith in Indian constitution: “the Sikhs do not accept this Constitution Act; the Sikhs reject this Constitution Act.” Nevertheless, the Sikhs are aware that, under the existing constitutional arrangements, they cannot send more than a couple of their own representatives to the Parliament and even they may not always be heard freely.
Kapur Singh ridiculed the TERMS given to the Shah commission for reorganising Punjab on linguistic basis: “All these three guidelines given to the Commission by the Government of India are found to be, when they are properly examined by people who understand the realities of politics, heavily loaded against the Punjab State, and have the effect of reducing Sikhs to even more political ineffectiveness than at present”.
The ramifications of this reorganisation act of Punjab on the linguistic basis are being felt till today after more than fifty years of its enactment by the Indian Parliament. The injustices done to Punjab by sharing its water resources and power resources; merging Punjabi speaking areas in adjoining states of Haryana and Himachal; and robbing Punjab of its Capital by creating a Union Territory of Chandigarh, were vociferously referred to in the speech of Sirdar Kapur Singh.
A CRITIQUE OF SPEECH DELIVERED BY SIRDAR TARLOCHAN SINGH
I had the privilege to review the book “Role of A Parliamentarian (Tarlochan Singh’s Speeches, Mentions & Questions in Rajya Sabha)” published by Punjabi University, Patiala in 2016. Sirdar Tarlochan Singh was elected to the Indian Parliament from the state of Haryana, with the support of BJP and INLD, as an independent member of Rajya Sabha for a term of 6 years from August 1, 2004 to July 31, 2010. In the history of Indian Parliament, he is one of the rare Parliamentarians who has shown the temerity to publish the record of his speeches delivered in the Upper House of Parliament.
The Calling Attention Motion of Sirdar Tarlochan Singh was admitted in 2009 in the Rajya Sabha to discuss the 1984 riots. This was for the first time after 25 years of the traumatic events that the discussion took place in the Parliament. The purpose of this critique is to highlight the impact of his speech delivered on 14th December, 2009 during call attention motion on killing of Sikhs in 1984.
Some of the highlights of his speech are as follows:
- Sikhs were the sword arm of India. About 35000 Sikhs were massacred fighting Ahmed Shah Abdali in what is known as “Vadda Ghallughara” in Sikh History.
- Sikh leaders joined India in preference to offer of a Sikh state by MA Jinnah in Pakistan.
- Despite assurances by the Indian leaders, no special rights were included in the Indian Constitution for the Sikhs as promised to them by Gandhi and Nehru.
- The Sikhs made sacrifices for the freedom of India; about 90% Sikhs were imprisoned in the jail in Andaman & Nicobar; out of the total proportion of the people who were hanged in India about 80% were Sikhs.
- He compares the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi in November 1984 for 3 days with the massacre carried out by Nadir Shah for three days in Delhi during March 1739. On 1st to 3rd November, 1984, 2973 Sikhs were murdered in Delhi alone. The number of murders amounted to 5000 in the whole of India.
- Tarlochan Singh decried that Delhi massacre of Sikhs is not a riot as propagated by Govt. of India. “Riot takes place when there is fight between two groups. Our was not a riot? Ours was what happened in case of Jews by Hitler in 1942-43, i.e. genocide, massacre, holocaust”.
- Justice has been denied to the Sikhs. In all, 39 inquiries were conducted by the Home Department and the police, out of these in 36, accused were exonerated.
- The CBI has asked permission from the government for prosecution of Sajjan Kumar, but the government is not giving permission so that the trial should start. I am surprised you have made an accused of Sikh massacre in Delhi, a Minister of your government.
- Tarlochan Singh is at his rhetoric best in his speech delivered on 14th December 2009 during a call attention motion on killing of Sikhs in 1984. Anyone who reads his entire speech will become sentimental as it touches the emotional chords of the Sikhs. He reminds the Parliament: “Why didn’t the earth shake when Mahatma Gandhi was murdered, how many Marathas were murdered in the country, because the murderer was a Marathi? When Rajiv Gandhi was killed, how many Tamils were killed? Why were only the Sikhs victimized, why the tree had to fall only on the Sikhs?“. He is highly critical of the role played by the Indian judiciary and CBI in dealing with the Sikh massacre.
- He concludes his speech with the remarks: “I am thankful to Chairman and Deputy Chairman for allowing the discussion for the first time after 25 years in this House. We were not allowed to discuss this issue earlier and even a motion of this was dissuaded in the Parliament”.
Tarlochan Singh is known for his oratory and political acumen. His training as a public relation man in early stages of his career stood him in good stead in developing long lasting relationships with political leaders of all hues. He believes that most of the problems faced by the Sikhs in Indian state can be fruitfully addressed through a meaningful participation and logical presentation in the democratic forums of the country. He has indomitable courage and passion to fight for the Sikh causes. I always find him pragmatic in politics and optimist in life.
Scholar and scientist Hardev Singh Virk retired from Amritsar-based Guru Nanak Dev University in 2002 after serving as Founder Head Physics Department and Dean Academics. Ex-Professor of Eminence, Punjabi University, Patiala. He is the present Visiting Professor at SGGS World University, Fatehgarh Sahib (Punjab), India.
Failure of Sikhs to gain an Independent State during Partition of India (Asia Samachar, 10 Sept 2020)
Betrayal of the Sikh Community (Asia Samachar, 11 May 2019)
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