– Op/Ed: The dangers of a schism in Sikhism

Dr Gurnam Singh, Coventry University, UK

Coventry, 18 May 2017. Like many 1000’s of Sikhs across the world, I am saddened by the recent clashes between different Sikh groups in Italy and Germany. These follow a worrying pattern, where a Sikh preacher is accused of distorting Sikh traditions and is ordered to stop his preaching.

This produces a reaction and before we know it, two camps emerge, each upping the anti and the result is not dialogue but physical threats and violence. There is nothing Sikhi like in this and it is the innocent on both sides that suffer.

The sentiments of ordinary, impressionable individuals are manipulated by much bigger fish that hide in the shadows.

Sikh teachings are very clear, opposition to anything should be proportionate. So, if you disagree with somebody you make your case in a reasoned and polite way.

If you are physically attacked then you have the right to defend yourself. There is no justification for acting in any offensive manner and violence should always be an absolute last resort.

To understand the pattern of events and violent incidents, it is necessary to stand back and take in a broader perspective. The tragedy is unfolding before our very eyes is not just about a few skirmishes in particular Gurdwaras but the crushing of a nation.

It is nothing less that an attempt to destroy a revolutionary movement commenced by Guru Nanak. A movement that sought to fuse social justice with human rights and spiritual consciousness. An ideology that rejected the authority of the priestly class and a force that took on imperialists and tyrants like Aurangzeb and the East India Company.

The dreams of ‘Heleimi raj’ (Just rule) or Begampura, (classless society) that are captured in the Guru Granth Sahib and form the basis for Sikh political ideology are evaporating and the saffron fascists are asserting themselves.

Today the ‘Godmen’ and their foot soldiers have become the defenders of Santana Hindu ideology.

Today whilst some Sikhs seek political office and awards, OBE’s, MBE’s, etc a revolutionary sprit in Punjab is being crushed, today a generation of youth has been sedated on drugs, peasant farmers are choosing suicide than living an undignified life of debt, violence against women and girls is rampant and an egalitarian spirit of the essential oneness of all is slowly being forgotten.

But all is not lost; each and everyone of us needs to reflect, how true are we to the tenants of Sikhi and the revolutionary spirit of our Gurus?

Today we must look beyond the bricks and mortar of ornate Gurdwaras and take our struggles into the political mainstream. Today Modi is the new Aurangzeb and he is busy recruiting his storm troopers from the various sects in Punjab and elsewhere.

Today we need to step outside of the narrow confines of jathebandis and like the missal period, unite to defeat the saffron fascists. Anybody that advocates violence to stop anybody expressing their ideas is a fascist. So we need to decide which side of the line and of history we stand; simple as that!


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