Sunday, 4 January 2015

Sikh Tradition of Morchas & Martyrdoms

Panjab Times (UK) lead column  (18 December 2014)

- Based on discipline and dignity
- British democratic values do support egalitarian Sikhi values
- Need for code of discipline during protests
Gurmukh Singh
 As mentioned last week, sensibilities of the global Sikh community have been deeply hurt by the damage done to the Saroop of Sri Guru Granth Sahib at Jodhpur village in Punjab. There have been strong protests. 

As we continue to face such challenges, we also need to remind ourselves of the proud Sikh tradition of historical campaigns (“morchas”) and sacrifices made for just causes. World-renowned national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, and even the fair minded British colonial rulers, paid liberal tribute to the discipline and dignity with which the Khalsa led the freedom struggle for India’s independence, and to free the Gurdwaras from the control of the Mahants. Sikh history is dotted with countless martyrdoms and sacrifices which teach us how to live and die with dignity.

Sikhs have clashed with oppressive regimes and used armed conflict as a last resort. In peacetime, Sikhs have always supported regimes which promote egalitarian values and rule of law. Most probably, that has been the main reason for the durability of Anglo-Sikh relations (see “Anglo-Sikh,,,” serial in Panjab Times) through peace treaties, wars and later as allies to defend the free world. And so the ex-colonial Britain has evolved into a true multi-racial democracy in which Sikhs are significant stake holders and contributors. 

Sikhs have always been accepted as hard working and law abiding citizens of these countries due to own Sikhi values which are also the ideals adopted by these societies.
Even when protesting in a democracy, we need to abide by and influence others through Sikhi values. 

A few years ago, I had the privilege of covering a protest by young Sikhs at Trafalgar Square in response to a challenge by some religious zealots from another community threatening public conversions. The behaviour of the Sikhs was exemplary and highly praised by the police and the on-lookers. The protest was totally effective.

In addition to upholding Sikh tradition, we also need to be aware of the hardening attitude of the UK government towards irresponsible, almost criminal behaviour of certain elements in all communities. The political focus is also on immigration control. To quote a colleague, “Some who arrive in this country from abroad do not believe in freedom of speech and the right of individuals to have differing views from theirs. Both of which are fundamental teachings of Guru Nanak Sahib. Tolerance and respect are key to Sikhi way of life. Some established in the UK are also manipulating the youth.”

Sikh values can only accept law abiding behavior as a method of protest in the countries we live in i.e. unless the law of the country the Sikhs live in is itself failing to protect human rights. In the UK, the country we have adopted, this is a wakeup call for Sikh youth leaders to give responsible collective lead.

As an umbrella organization, the Sikh Council UK is ideally placed to facilitate a constructive discussion on this and related issues to agree a code of exemplary Sikhi behavior in British pluralism, which itself is aspiring towards the same human values as those taught by Sikhi.
Gurmukh Singh

Article may be published with acknowledgement.

© Gurmukh Singh

One comment about this article from a non-Sikh:
----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Aryeh Leib  [e-mail address edited out]
Sent: Tuesday, 30 December 2014, 15:20
Subject: Sikh Tradition of Morchas and Martyrdom

Veer ji,

Many thanks for your heartfelt and well thought out piece in GLZ on proper conduct for demonstrations and the like, in the spirit of Gurmat. May I suggest publishing it in a wider forum? These are words that need to be heard by the Sangat-at-Large, which unfortunately seems to be led all too often by those who subscribe to the notion, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease", the results of which are frequently at odds with the stated goal.

Again, thank you, and please continue your efforts!

Aryeh Leib Lerner
This article is probably the first in a series.  
I leave it to editors to publish articles of interest from this blog with acknowledgement.

Gurmukh Singh