I have the privilege to be married to a Sikhni for twenty five years and I hold the Sikh people in high regard: proud, hard working, friendly and outgoing.
During the 1984 anti-Sikhs riots that followed Indira Gandhi’s assassination, my father in law’s factory was burnt to the ground and my wife’s brother had to remove his turban and cut his hair to avoid being targeted by the rampaging mobs. Of course, the insurance never reimbursed the cost of the factory…
I am not a great fan of Mrs Indira Gandhi, though I hardly knew her, but there is no doubt too that the Blue Star Operation, which she ordered, caused a great trauma to Sikhism.
I know that Mrs Gandhi has often been accused of having created Bhindranwale. But that is only partly true and there are four questions that I need to ask my friends the Sikhs :
- Why did the Sikhs allow Pakistan, to foster the demon of separatism amongst them? Sikhs are a tiny minority of India, 2%, yet they have always been the cherished sons of the soil and the pampered ones. Their presence in the army, for instance, during British times and thereafter, was disproportionate to their numbers and they played an important part in the economy because of their hard work. Bhindranwale was originally the creation of Pakistan – not of Mrs Gandhi, even if she used him subsequently for her own selfish purposes..
- If the Golden Temple is so sacred to Sikhs, as it should be, why then did they allow Bhindranwale to occupy their most holy shrine, for so long, storing arms and liquors, plotting assassinations and constantly defying the Government?
They are been many voices who remarked that Bhindranwale was invited into the premises of the Golden Temple by the SGPC president, Mr Tohra, otherwise nobody could live in the premises of the Golden Temple without the permission of the SGPC president.
“For six years, writes Mark Tully, who has been a critic of Operation Blue Star and cannot be accused to be a friend of Mrs Gandhi (who had him briefly imprisoned), Bhindranwale had been telling Sikhs that they had become slaves of the majority Hindu population in India. His young supporters had mounted a reign of terror and murder in Punjab, attacking police, terrifying villagers and extorting money. There had been a spate of murders by Bhindranwale’s supporters and they were threatening to disrupt the supply of food throughout the Punjab”.
No country in the world would tolerate that its most holy place be taken over by terrorists. Remember what happened in the Mecca, when the Grand Mosque was taken over by 70 terrorists wanting to overthrow the Saudi monarchy, accusing it of having betrayed Islamic principles and sold out to western countries? Within a few days, Saudi forces, helped by French commandos, drilled holes into the courtyard and dropped grenades into the rooms below, indiscriminately killing many hostages but driving the remaining rebels into more open areas where they could be picked off by sharpshooters. More than two weeks after the assault began, the surviving rebels finally surrendered. At dawn on Jan. 9, 1980, in the public squares of eight Saudi cities, including Mecca, 63 Grand Mosque militants were beheaded by sword on orders of the king.
Though Harmandir Saheb and the Akal Takht were heavily damaged, The Golden Temple itself was intact, scarred only by a few bullet holes. While defenders had fired from the Temple, the army had clearly obeyed orders not to fire at it.
Why make saints of Indira Gandhi’s assassins ? Satwant Singh and Beant Singhwere murderers who killed a defenceless woman lying on the ground that they had sworn to protect. She had been asked by her advisers to remove them, yet she had trusted them.
- Why is the Sikh minority drifting away from its Hindu brothers and sisters? They should remember that they were created to defend the Hindus. Indeed every Hindu family used to give their eldest son to Sikhism. This is how my wife’s grandfather became a Sikh. And they did indeed defend them, particularly against Aurangzeb, or at the time of Partition, when Muslims mobs murdered Hindus at will and Sikhs retaliated, protecting Hindus.
But today many Sikhs, particularly abroad, insist they have nothing to do with Hindus and think of themselves as separate. I remember meeting some Sikh community leaders of JK1 in Delhi a few years ago, to ask them to host an exhibition on Aurangzeb, which my Foundation FACT (fact-india.com) had mounted. I was shocked when they told me that they felt closer to Aurangzeb than to Bush (who was President of US at that time), whereas Aurangzeb had one of their dearest Gurus, Teg Bahadur, beheaded ! Another time in the USA, I met some of the richest US Sikhs, to raise money for the Museum of Indian History I am building in Pune. We have an exhibition on Sikhism, which was inaugurated by HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the SPG president in the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara in Delhi, and is now hosted permanently in the Museum (http://defenders-of-dharma.blogspot.in/) . But they aggressed me because at that time the French Government had banned the wearing of the hijab in French public schools and out of fairness, they also had forbidden the Sikh turban.
I salute Mrs Gandhi, who whatever her faults, died a martyr.