Every Sikh can decide for himself or herself whether s/he wants to follow in the footsteps of great Gurus and be inspired by their message and life or walk on the path laid by the British
The news from Punjab is ominous. Media reports quoting intelligence sources and a string of terror related incidents that have hit the State in the recent past indicate the possibility of a revival of Pakistan sponsored violence in the border state. Delhi police is also on alert after inputs stated that a group of six-seven Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorists are reportedly in Punjab, possibly in Ferozpur area and are planning to move towards Delhi.
Meanwhile, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) says a common link has been found to all the recent six killings of Hindu leaders in Punjab. The anti-terror probe agency has revealed that these killings were part of a larger conspiracy hatched by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to foment communal trouble and in turn revive Khalistani movement in the State.
Interrogation of the Jalandhar blast accused has established that a nexus of Kashmiri and Khalistani militant organisations is trying to revive militancy in Punjab on the directions of Pakistan’s ISI. Intelligence agencies fear that Khalistan militants are getting consignments of illegal weapons, including AK 56, magazines, pistols and RDX from Pakistan as the same cannot be sourced from Jammu.
Whatsoever is happening today in the border state, is a mere repeat of all that shook the country in 1980s, resulting in unfortunate ‘Operation Blue Star’ by the Indian Army at the sacred Golden Temple in Amritsar, subsequent dastardly assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the hands of her Sikh body guards, followed by the horrible killings of innocent Sikhs in Delhi and several other parts of the country.
The hands of the ISI were obvious in creating this bloody mess, which posed a serious threat to the unity and integrity of the country. But how did a section of Sikh community (known for its valour and patriotism) get so alienated from the Indian mainstream that it became a willing partner in ISI’s plans to dismember India? This unfortunate chain of events has its origins in British stratagem of “divide and rule”, employed by them to perpetuate their control over India in the wake of the first war of Independence by Indians in 1857. The wily colonial masters underlined six fault lines in Indian society, did the necessary academic exercise to back their divisive plans and worked simultaneously on all of them.
The easiest to work on was the Hindu-Muslim fault line. The two communities have mostly been at war against each other for over 600 years. Their alliance during 1857 uprising was nascent and limited. The British wisely picked up Syed Ahmad Khan (please see my column of October 23, 2017 and October 22, 2018 in this paper) to carry forward their divisive agenda among the Muslim of the sub-continent.
The British obviously found it impossible to get someone in the patriotic community of Sikhs to play the treacherous role that Sir Syed was happily doing among the Muslims. So, they found someone from within their ranks. He was one Max Arthur Macauliffe, born on September 10, 1841, in Newcastle West, Ireland. He got into the coveted Imperial Civil Service (ICS) in 1862 and was quickly posted to Punjab in 1864.
Macauliffe soon converted to Sikhism and with the help of Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, undertook the task of translating Sikh scriptures, including the holy Guru Granth Sahib. In 1897, Bhai wrote a pamphlet “Hum Hindu Nahi”, the very basis of the present day Khalistan movement, which has since largely been hijacked by the ISI and Islamic zealots.
A white man converting to Sikh faith, was a major development in Punjab. His high profile in the British colonial set up naturally gave Macauliffe, now a ‘devoted’ Sikh, an esteemed position in the Sikh community. He undoubtedly pioneered the exercise of creating a divide between Hindus and Sikhs.
In an introduction to Macauliffe’s celebrated work, “The Sikhs, Their Religion, Gurus, Sacred, Writings and Authors”, noted historian and author, Sardar Khushwant Singh wrote: “It has been suggested that the British Government of the day had sinister motives in commissioning Macauliffe to undertake this work. That Sikhs were fast relapsing back into the Hindu fold was recorded by Lord Dalhousie soon after he annexed the Sikh Kingdom. He and other British administrators felt that it would serve their interests better if the Khalsa Sikhs were encouraged to retain their distinct and separate identity.”
The technique adopted by both, Sir Syed and Macauliffe, to achieve their dubious objective had lot in common. Both invoked ‘divine’ injunctions to alienate the targeted community from the main stream and convert it into an ally of the British masters. Here is a sample from Macauliffe’s work (The Sikhs, Vol 1).
“One day, as Guru Teg Bahadur was in the top story of his prison, the Emperor Aurangzeb thought he saw him looking towards the south in the direction of the Imperial zenana. He was sent for the next day, and charged with this grave breach of Oriental etiquette and propriety.” The Guru replied, “Emperor Aurangzeb, I was on the top story of my prison. But I was not looking at thy private apartments or at thy queens. I was looking in the director of the Europeans who are coming from beyond the seas to tear down thy pardas and destroy thine empire.”
The follow-up of action on the divisive and motivated “academic” exercise by the colonial power was calibrated and swift. On May 1, 1905, the then manager of Golden Temple issued orders banning the practice of worshiping of Hindu deities on the banks of the holy tank by Brahmins. The statues of Hindu Gods and Goddesses were thrown out. Those who spearheaded this divisive agenda termed themselves as “Tat Khalsa” or the “neo Sikhs”. The trend of eviction of Hindu practices and symbols from the Golden Temple was subsequently followed in rest of Gurudwaras of Punjab.
The population of Sikhs, according to 1901 Census, was a little over a million. Prior to 1911 Census, the Census Commissioner of Punjab issued special instructive to the enumerators, to try to record Sikhs, separately from the Hindus. The result was that the number of Sikhs in the State moved up by 300 times, over three million, in just a decade.
In the British Indian Army, a separate Khalsa regiment was created wherein the soldier were required to observe all the five kakars, so as to underline the distinction between the Khalsa and other followers of Sikh Gurus.
In the following decades, (even after Independence) this divisive mindset and practices have continued unabated. The neo-Sikhs, completely different from the ones who follow the Gurus in letter and spirit, dominate the public discourse and political life of Punjab. No wonder Pakistan makes use of this gap in our polity.
Every Sikh can decide for himself/herself —whether s/he wants to follow in the footsteps of great Gurus and be inspired by their message and life, or, walk on the path laid by the British.
(The writer is a political commentator and a former BJP Rajya Sabha MP)