Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Sikhism & Hindutva

Why never the twain shall meet under one centralist system

“It is clear to my mind, if Hinduism accepts Social Democracy it must necessarily cease to be Hinduism.” (Letters of Iqbal to Jinnah quoted by S. Kapur Singh in Saachi Saakhi p.45)

Reclaiming Vande Mataram, India’s national anthem:
“In the end it took just two words of a well-known.....mantra to instil feeling into the 50th anniversary celebrations......Vande Mataram....It is a matter of minor detail that the Vande Mataram of 1997 is more identified with composer A R Rahman than with Bankam Chandra Chatterjee’s Ananda Math.....Nehru’s aesthetic abhorrence of Bankim’s depiction.....of the country as a mother goddess on par with Durga and Lakshmi led to Vande Mataram losing its natural claim to be independent India’s national anthem. Nehru was tacitly echoing a 1937 Muslim League resolution that denounced the song as “ not merely positively anti-Islamic and idolatrous in its inspiration and ideas, but definitely subversive of the growth of genuine nationalism in India”.” (India Today of 1 September 1997, page 55 Reclaiming Vande Mataram.)

In Indian politics, the underlying Hindu nationalism oozes out sometimes from the most unexpected places ! I have nothing against nationalism or religious sentiment but what I do find galling is the hypocrisy behind Indian secularism. India Today, a noted secular national publication of India of some considerable repute, would normally be the last place where one would expect to find prominent coverage given to an admittedly Hindu mantra, disguised as the national anthem of India. This is the mantra and the associated deeply religious sentiment promoted by a succession of prominent Congress leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gandhi. As is clear from the Muslim League resolution quoted above, probably such mantras and Vedic terminology brought about the division of a sub-continent and much bloodshed thereafter. It was such divisive communal terminology which laid the foundation of so called modern, secular and democratic India for which the Sikhs as a community, made and continue to make after independence, (witness the Chinese and Indo-Pak wars), more sacrifices than any other community of India, including the Hindu majority.

We are not concerned here with the ludicrous but persistent suggestion from certain quarters, some naive though well intentioned, others devious and politically motivated, that Sikhism is an off-shoot of Hinduism. From the first clarification of the theological position of the two religions by scholars like Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha’s Ham Hindu Nahi (“We are not Hindus”) much has been written on this topic. No one argues these days that Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism because Christ was a Jew! Indeed the theological differences between Hinduism and Sikhism are even greater than those found between Judaism and Christianity.

We are concerned here with the implications for the Indian democracy since the independence of India on 15 August, 1947, of the co-existence of two diametrically opposed social systems: one of oppressive Manuwaadic Brahmanism and the other based on Guru Nanak’s far reaching vision of a plural society. The Ninth Guru Tegh Bahadhur gave his life not for Hinduism but to uphold the fundamental human right of freedom of religion. He gave his life for the principle of a tolerant plural society.

S Kapur Singh in his “Saachi Saakhi” traces the division of India through much blood-shed into India and Pakistan to the back door introduction of Vedic language and thinking in the Congress movement. The Sikh leaders were slow to realise this. Thus:

“Hinduism has always been hostile to Sikhism whose Gurus powerfully and successfully attacked the principle of caste which is the foundation on which the whole fabric of Brahmanism has been reared. The activities of Hindus have, therefore, been constantly directed to the undermining of Sikhism both by preventing the children of Sikh fathers from taking pahul (initiation ceremony) and by reducing professed Sikhs from their allegiance to their faith. Hinduism has strangled Budhism, once a formidable rival to it and it has already made serious inroads into the domain of Sikhism.” A Report on Developments in Sikh Politics (1900-1911) by D Petrie, Assistant Director, Criminal Intelligence, Govt of India, dated 11th August 1911 quoted in Kapur Singh’s Saachi Saakhi at page 121.)

Hinduism cannot accept Sikh thinking regarding social justice, human rights, the brotherhood of mankind regardless of ethnicity, colour or creed and the “unity in variety” concept of a multi-cultural society. These differences cannot be resolved in an allegedly secular India in which the realities of Brahmanic control over the four estates of a modern government are glossed over. (These four estates of a government are the Legislature, the Executive, the Judiciary and the Press.)

As Dr Iqbal noted in one of his letters to Jinnah “....Socialism is likely to cause much blood-shed among the Hindus themselves.” It is impossible to ignore the social divisions in India. Yet Sikhism is all about human dignity and equality. It is impossible for Hinduism to accept democracy and it is impossible for Sikhism to accept any regime which has scant regard for human rights. It needs to be borne in mind that Sikhism is strongly opposed to the oppressive Manuwaadic caste system and the Vedic rituals, superstitions and cult practices. Indeed Sikhism would oppose, by force if necessary, horrendous sacrifices child sacrifices to Kali and the cruel tradition of “sutee” (in which a widow is expected to (or forced to) burn herself to death in the funeral pyre of her deceased husband.). Gurbani has condemned such evil practices and the unequal treatment of women in very strong language (see Asa ki Waar of Guru Nanak.)

Sikhism advocates a moderate and liberal approach to life but its “live and let live” doctrine can, from time to time, bring it into conflict with oppressive religious, social or administrative regimes. Such practices will remain abhorrent not only to Sikhism but to all civilised societies. I conclude by quoting further from the India Today’s illuminating article on Vande Mataram, the Indian national anthem or mantra as the author puts it, viz.:
“To endure, the symbols of Indianness have to be rooted in real life and culture.....Reclaiming Vande Mataram could be a first step in the larger discovery of India.”

Indeed! And for Indianness read Manuwaadic Brahmanism. This indeed would be a first step towards the larger discovery of what secular India really stands for ! And what sort of India have we been discovering in the last fifty years? Let the reader decide.

© Copyright Gurmukh Singh
Please acknowledge quotations from this article
Articles may be published subject to prior approval by the author

Gurmukh Singh (UK)
E-mail: sewauk2005@yahoo.co.uk

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