548. The Man in Blue – The Sant Sipahi

Sant-Sipahi or Saint-Soldier is a concept conceived by Guru Gobind Singh. Tenth Guru was not the first Guru to keep an army, and I think that for instance the armies of Guru Hargobind or Guru Har Rai were based on similar principles.

When Guru Teg Bahadur went to Delhi to ask Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb to grant religious freedom to the Kashmiri Pandits his four companions were tortured and murdered and the Guru Sahib was beheaded.

That demonstrated to Guru Gobind Rai that it was impossible to negotiate with Aurengzeb. He felt that Sikhs had to stand up for the right to be different and that due to the emperor’s bigotry they had to use the sword.

But using violence is dangerous. There are plenty examples of historical and modern movements which were forced to use violence against dictators, but who ended up losing sight of the ideals they started out with. They became warriors and oppressors like the rulers they fought against.

This is the context in which I understand the Sant-Sipahi. Guru Teg Bahadur tried the peaceful way and that did not work. Guru Gobind Singh felt forced to use the sword, but he wanted his soldiers to remain faithful to the Sikh ethical principles.

Saint-Soldiers should first look for a peaceful solution but when that is not possible armed struggle is justified. The Saint-Soldier should remember God with everything he/she does, should not fight out of anger or because of wanting to take what does not belong to him/her.

The Guru’s principles worked for his army. How well the principles were maintained in the period between the Guru’s death until the advent of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is another matter.

There are stories from that period about Sikhs who did not fight out of anger or greed. But there are also stories that show the opposite, like Misl fighting Misl over the land that was under their protection.

And it is obvious that Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who took over the areas protected by other misls, who was greedy for costly jewels, costly horses and costly women, was not a Sant-Sipahi. That does not mean that he was all bad, but his professional army was not an organisation that a Sant-Sipahi could feel at home in.

Most of the Misl soldiers that he inherited despised him, but in spite of that they were the ones who during the Anglo-Sikh wars remained loyal to the Lahore Kingdom and gave the British army a very hard time. Many of the people connected to the Lahore darbar betrayed the kingdom to the British.

Since then many Sikhs have served in the British Indian Army and fought in both World Wars. The British saw the Sikhs as a ‘martial race’. But is being ‘martial’ enough to be a Sant-Sipahi ? There are also many Sikhs who only do the Sant bit, not the Sipahi, which is not what the Guru wants from us. Guru’s teachings are not difficult to understand, but practising them is challenging.

To see my katha on the Sant Sipahi and Miri Piri click on the link below

https://youtu.be/JbKuJGzTZiw

Published in: on April 26, 2015 at 7:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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546. Akal Takht & it’s Jathedar

In 1606 Guru Hargobind and Baba Buddha built a platform which was 12 feet in height in defiance of a decree Mughal Emperor Jahangir that no one but his own royal personage be allowed to sit on a dais over three feet in height.

Guru Hargobind called it the Akál Takht, the Throne of the Deathless One (God). Inside Harmandr Sahib the Ádi Granth, the first version of Guru Granth Sahib, was installed as the Shabad Guru, the Teacher of the Word (of God).

There was no building, there was no institution with its own Maryada, nor was there any suggestion that whoever was in charge of this Takht was the ruler of the Sikh panth.

When Guru Hargobind lived in Kartarpur (Jalandhar) and Kiratpur, and during the the Guruship of Guru Har Rai, Guru Har Kishan, Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh the Harmandr Sahib complex was in charge of non-mainstream Sikhs. These ‘sikhs’ never thought that because they were in charge of the Akál Takht they could issue Hukamnamas that had to be followed by the panth.

The Akál Takht as a concept went with the Guru Sahib to Kartarpur, Kiratpur and Anandpur.

Guru Gobind Singh ordained that after his passing away the Sikhs would be ruled by the Guru Panth (Sikh community) under the guidance of the Guru Granth. He did not say that any power was vested in Jathedars or in any building.

The missal system, established after the death of Banda Singh Bahadur consisted of 11 fighting missals (guerrilla groups) and one group of veterans, the Buddha Dal. Their Jathedar played a role in the functioning of the Sarbat Khalsa, which was the meeting of all the missals.

Decisions were made by the Sarbat Khalsa while striving for unanimity. A decision taken in this manner was called a Gurmatta. The Jathedar of the Buddha Dal would then make this Gurmatta official by announcing it from the Ákal Takht.

This is comparable with procedures that exist in many countries where decisions made by parliament are made official by the signature of a head of state.

I am not suggesting that during the missals period Sikhs were always sensible, and only fought for the values laid down by the Guru Sahib, selflessly serving the wider interest of all peoples of their areas of influence.

But If we want to practice Guru Gobind Singh’s Guru Granth/Guru Panth we should copy elements of the arrangements that existed in the missal time. Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations would be the missals, and sarbat khalsas could meet discussing Sikh issues on the level of countries, continents and world-wide.

What we don’t want is Jathedars without jatha who instead of serving the the panth serve corrupt political masters.

545. The Man in Blue – If you want to play the game of love

If you want to play the game of love
then step onto My Path with your head on the palm of your hand.
When you place your feet on this Path,
give Me your head, and do not listen to what others say ||20||
Guru Nanak, Guru Granth Sahib page 1412

I am not a great kathakar, I like it much better when what I say is part of a dialogue and when I am not obliged to make a long speech. But listening again to the katha that I did for Sangat TV, starting with the above slok, I feel that I did a reasonable job on that occasion.

The slok is well known, and is often compared with Guru Gobind Singh’s question on Vaisakhi 1699: Who wants to give their head? The circumstances were different, but the meaning of giving your head or carrying your head on the palm of your hand is the same. It means total dedication, total commitment to God.

The meaning of ‘game of love’ should also be clear to those who are familiar with the Guru Granth Sahib. It is about the love that God pours out over us, without limit, without condition, and the unconditional love that we should try to develop for God. We are all brides of God, God is our groom.

The strength that you can see in real Gursikhs comes from that mutual love. Of course the Sikh warrior-saints of the past trained their bodies and worked on their skills with various weapons. But without the love for God and without experiencing God’s love, they would just have been warriors, not Saint-Warriors.

The game of love is played when you always keep God in mind, whatever you do, when you make an honest living and when you share money, goods or time with others.

The game of love is played by those who are in control of their lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride and instead are full of Truth, Contentment, Humility, Love and Compassion.

We should realise that the five ‘thieves’ which take away our peace of mind are based on natural inclinations. Sexual desire is part of our nature and can be a force for the good within a loving relationship, but we should not be ruled by it.

We should feel anger when we see injustice, and use that anger as a motivator for positive action. Greed is there where the natural desire to have our basic needs fulfilled changes in lust for more, more and more again. We should not be attached to our cars, our families or to branded clothes that are unnecessary expensive. It is good to feel satisfied with a job well done, as long as we realise that our talents are gifts from God. Where ego is, God is not!

If you don’t see God in all
you won’t see God at all.

543. The Man in Blue – Open Masjid day in Southall

On Sunday the 1st of February it was Open Masjid (mosque) day. I knew that this was not something that all masjids had signed up to, but I wanted to go to the local mosque anyway in view of the bad news from France and Belgium recently, showing that I knew that not all Muslims are with Islamic State.

Together with a friend I went to Montague Way and on our arrival it was soon clear that no arrangements were made to receive non-Muslim visitors. A man spoke to us and I explained what we had in mind and he told us to sit in the wudu (ritual washing) area and wait for a committee member.

When I tried to explain that if he came to the Gurdwara he would receive a different treatment, he made it clear that he had no reason to ever do so.

After that I decided to leave, as it was obvious to me that we were not welcome and that the concept of people of other faiths visiting the masjid was alien to him and to a few other people who by then joined in the conversation.

I have to stress that the people we spoke to were not rude, and also that there are enough ignorant people amongst people of other faiths than Islam.

I am convinced that the way forward for multi-cultural societies is to have more dialogue, more visits to each other’s places of worship, more saying to people of other faith: this church/gurdwara/mandir/masjid/synagogue/vihara is also your church/gurdwara/mandir/masjid/synagogue/vihara.

And it is even more wonderful when communities work together on projects in their local area. There is nothing better than cooking together, cleaning up a park together or bring food and warm clothing to the homeless together.

It is good when ‘faith leaders’ meet, but that should result in meetings of the ordinary members of those communities.

I remember a group that came to the Belgian gurdwara where I did seva for three years. One of the members of that group refused to enter the premises.

In the UK an enlightened Human Resources department of an establishment with many clients of non-Christian backgrounds sent new employees as part of their training on a tour of west-London to visit a mandir, a masjid and a gurdwara.

In this case none of trainees refused to enter the Hindu or the Sikh place of worship. But about one third of them did not want to enter the masjid.

There is a lot of work to do, on the level of ‘faith leaders’, on the level of local government and amongst the grassroots of all faiths. I do not think that all faiths are the same, but we have enough in common as human beings, as people who want to live a life based on ethics, to make dialogue and cooperation fruitful.

Central Jamia Masjid, Montague Waye, Southall UB2 5PA

542. The Man in Blue – The Sikh Manifesto

The Sikh Manifesto that was launched on Saturday 31 January 2015 in the Havelock Road Singh Sabha in Southall, is a logical follow-up on the 2001 Sikh Agenda.

The main difference between the Agenda and the Manifesto is that the latter is specifically written with the 2015 elections in mind. And it is aimed both at the politicians and at Sikh voters and their friends.

Our message to the politicians is that those that commit support on all or on a good number of the issues raised, can count on our support. The message to the Sikh sangat is, mind less which party the candidates belong too, look for commitment to the Manifesto.

Many people of religious or ethnic minorities almost automatically vote Labour and that is understandable, because historically that was the party that was more interested in human rights and equality issues.

But there have also been individual Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs who were champions of the minority interest, and in recent years both the Greens and Scottish Nationalists have been very supportive.

There also were, and still are, Labour MPs who want the minority vote without being a true representative of the Sikhs or other minority groups. Some of these MPs are of South Asian background. Mostly the Sikh community has been best served by ‘white’ MPs.

As far as the 2015 vote is concerned we are looking for politicians of any background who are committed to at least part of the Sikh Manifesto. Just coming to the Gurdwara and talk about the wonderful contribution of the Sikhs to the UK is not good enough.

We would like to see more Sikhs in the House of Commons, and preferably at least some who look like Sikhs and whose behaviour is in tune with the Guru’s teachings. But for all sitting MPs defending their seat and for all new hopefuls to be MPs the same goes: help us to implement the Sikh Manifesto.

Like with the 2001 eight point Sikh Agenda we do not ‘demand’ politicians to sign up to all ten points of the Manifesto. But if there are more candidates who promise support, we should look at their past record and at the number of issues they subscribe to.

There are Sikhs who are mostly interested in issues belonging to living in the UK, there are others who identify more with the South Asian issues of self-determination and rights of minorities.

Both are welcome, we are interested in their views, in challenges faced by them or their family in South Asia or in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia or other parts of the world.

If you are interested in receiving a copy of the Sikh Manifesto, please send an email to
harjindersinghkhalsa@yahoo.co.uk

540.The Man in Blue – See God in All

If you do not see God in all – You won’t see God at all

The above statement in italics is not a quote from the Guru Granth Sahib, but it is in tune with the Guru’s teachings. The problem we face is that most Sikhs come from South Asia where equality is not well understood.

Apart from the categories that you find in the equality laws there are other reasons to discriminate ‘the other’, like for instance because he/she is younger or from the wrong jaati (groups like Jats, Ramgarhias, Chamar etc), from the wrong state or the wrong part of your state.

Many South Asians have problems seeing God in females, in people with dark skins, in people with disabilities, or in people whose children have disabilities. Caste, as in the four castes of Manuvád is not often discussed amongst Sikhs, but there is lots of mention of Jats, Ramgarhias, Chamár etc (see above).

Jats are not a caste, but as farmers they are seen to be above Rámgarhias, who themselves are seen as being above Chamárs, who are leatherworkers or cobblers, those that work with the skins of dead animals.

The real test comes when you ask religious people to see God in people with different sexual preferences. Almost all religions are obsessed with sex. They might accept wife beaters, swindlers or alcoholics, but will tell you that you cannot be a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu or a Sikh if you are a homosexual.

Homosexuals could be in a truly loving relationship, approaching Guru’s ideal of having two bodies and one soul. They could be always honest, think about God with all they do, do honest work and share with others, but it is to no avail.

Homosexuals have been a persecuted minority who were marginalised from society. They could not have steady relationships, often had casual sex in urinals and other unsavoury locations, with ever changing partners.

Now secular society has discovered that as long as homosexual relationships are between consenting partners, these partners should have the same rights as heterosexuals.

This takes homosexuals out of the funny clubs, the urinals etc. This opens the door to having steady loving relationships, to working towards Guru’s ideal of marriage, having two bodies and one soul.

The Guru considers procreation a perfectly natural and God given process, but does not order us to ‘go forth and multiply’, as the Bible does.

A loving relationship with God should be our highest priority, all other loves are impermanent, all other loves end with death. But that does not mean that true unconditional love for another human being is bad. Such love should be based on the similar principles as love between the soul and the All-Soul.

538. Man in Blue – If Narendra Modi becomes the Prime Minister of India International Relations

Before tackling the subject I want to introduce two assumptions.

Assumption 1: The BJP after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections will either have a majority of the seats in the Lok Sabha or will be near to having such a majority.

If the BJP is the biggest single party but depends on the support of a number of smaller parties to form a government, it will not be able to implement its nationalistic and Hindu supremacist programme.

Supposition 2: Narendra Modi as PM will be like Narendra Modi the Gujarat CM, and will follow a nationalistic and Hindu supremacist programme.

His record in Gujarat worries us greatly, and many of his statements and posturing in the campaign confirm our worries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and international relations

India has problematic relations with Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Deterioration of the already problematic relations with Pakistan will have a negative effect on India’s relation with many other countries in the world.

I will tackle India’s relations with Pakistan first.

Pakistan

Pakistan’s civilian governments were never in control of the security forces, and its various security forces do not always sing from the same hymn sheet either.

In India the government has more control over the security forces, but border incidents along the international border or along the ‘Line of Control’ between the Pakistan and Indian controlled parts of Jammu and Kashmir are not necessarily always reported correctly to Delhi.

Jammu and Kashmir, which has a Muslim majority and is adjacent to other Muslim majority parts of pre-partition India, should have been part of Pakistan from 1947 going by the partition agreement. What the majority of the population of Jammu & Kashmir want is another matter. For many ‘Azad Kashmir’ should be an independent state and not a part of Pakistan.

Even ‘moderate’ Indian and Pakistani governments have taken positions on Jammu and Kashmir that make compromise near impossible. Just to maintain ‘status quo’ needs governments that practice a lot of self-restraint and are willing not to get provoked by incidents between the security forces of both countries or between Indian forces and ‘militants’.

With Narendra Modi at the helm an already fraught situation is bound to get worse. Going by newspaper reports the BJP has always been more stridently anti-Pakistan than the Congress led UPA government.

Politically aware people on both sides of the border are worried about another India – Pakistan war fought in the planes of Punjab, this time between two nuclear armed opponents.

There are two areas where the India – Pakistan border or the Line of Control has not been clearly defined.

Sir Creek is a 60 mile strip of water disputed between India and Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch marshlands on the border between Sindh and Gujarat. Pakistan claims that the line follows the eastern shore of the estuary while India claims a centre line.

In the Karakoram Mountains in the Himalayas are located the Siachen Glacier and the Saltoro Mountains, where there is disagreement over the location of the LoC.

These disputed territories are of no great economic value, but in spite of that it is very difficult to get both parties around the table and agree on a compromise.

China

There are areas of Pakistan controlled Jammu and Kashmir which have been ceded to China, causing unhappiness in India. The border between India and China in Ladakh (Jammu & Kashmir) is disputed and there are Chinese claims on parts of or all of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

The Chinese government is aggressively nationalistic and claims territories all around it, including large parts of the surrounding seas and islands therein.

PM Manmohan Singh and External Affairs minister Salman Khurshid have been handling recent incidents in Ladakh and visa problems for people from Arunachal Pradesh diplomatically, firmly insisting on India’s version of the border without indulging in non-diplomatic shouting matches.

There has only been one India – Chinese war so far, and both parties would be mad to indulge in another, but if either party feels that its honour requires military action, even if it is meant to be a limited one, things could easily get out of hand.

And Mr Modi and organisations like the RSS and the Bajrang Dal are not known for subtle approaches and self-restraint.

Bangladesh

There are border issues between the two countries, but I feel that the complicated relation between the two countries is mostly based on the Indian intervention in the East – West Pakistan conflict. Without the help of India the struggle for independence would have lasted much longer, but it is not easy to accept big brothers help.

There are additional problems about river waters, about the treatment of Hindus in Bangladesh and about illegal immigrants from Bangladesh settling in neighbouring India states like Assam.

The Shiv Sena, a Maharashtra party to the right of the BJP, claims that all Bengali speakers in Mumbai are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and wants to return them to that country.

There are serious issues between the two countries and the chances are that a Modi government, encouraged by the Trinamol Congress in West Bengal, will not improve matters.

But it seems unlikely that the existing tensions will erupt into an armed conflict.

Sri Lanka

What we are facing here is an equation between the Delhi government, the Tamils from Tamil Nadu, the Tamils from Sri Lanka, specifically those from the north-east of the island and the Colombo government.

The central governments in Delhi and Colombo have both a record of centralising tendencies, and opposition to movements that emphasise local cultures and local autonomy.

Since Congress lost its overall majority in the Lok Sabha India has been governed by coalitions that usually include parties from Tamil Nadu. These parties have supported the efforts of Sri Lanka Tamils to have more political and cultural autonomy.

Tamils speak a Dravidian language and are mostly Hindus. The majority of the Sri Lankans speak Sinhalese (an Indo-Germanic language like Hindi, Punjabi or Urdu) and are Buddhists, while the majority of the Indians speak Indo-Germanic languages and are Hindus.

Rajiv Gandhi sent an Indian Peace Keeping Force into Sri Lanka and changed from peacekeeping to fighting the Tamil Tigers, which led to his assassination in 1991.

At the moment the UPA government is forced by the Tamil Nadu political parties to be highly critical of the treatment of Tamils after Sri Lanka won the civil war against the Tamil Tigers.

What Narendra Modi and the BJP will make out of this is hard to predict. Will they go with the fellow Indo-Germanics who are mostly Buddhists, or with the mostly Hindu Dravidians? And how will these choices work out domestically? As we have also said about the other issues discussed above, strident nationalism and Hindu supremacist attitudes will certainly not be helpful.

526.The Man in Blue – Afghan Sikhs in Belgium

Last year we had a scare both in the Netherlands and Belgium when Afghan Sikh refugees were ordered to return to their country. There is now no more talk about returning to Afghanistan, but that does not mean that there are no more problems.

We have a growing Afghan Sikh community in Belgium and many of them live in the Antwerpen area. In the ‘ethnic minority’ neighbourhoods of Antwerpen you find more and more shops run by Afghan Sikhs.

But there are Afghan Sikhs who’s application for asylum have been rejected, who get no or little government support, and whose future is uncertain. I have studied a few of the files, and although I am not a lawyer I think that I understand what is ‘wrong’ with these families from the legal point of view.

Many Afghan refugees do not travel directly from Afghanistan to Europe, but often go via Pakistan, India or Russia. In India there is little risk of being sent back to Afghanistan, but the Afghan Sikhs usually do not get any kind of resident status.

Thus frustrated by the lack of progress in their case and their lack of opportunity to start a business or to get a real job, they decide to go to Europe, North America or even to Australia or New Zealand.

Many European countries use any excuse to reject refugee status applications, the refugees know that their case has been weakened by a stay in Pakistan, India or Russia and think to improve their chances by making up stories.

The authorities in charge of refugees do not have detailed knowledge of the situation in Afghanistan. The position of religious minorities (Christians, Hindus, Shia Muslims, Sikhs) and of women in that country is not improving.

The security situation is not good either, not even in the Kabul area. It is far from easy for Afghan Sikhs to go back to their traditional shops in the bazárs of Afghan cities like Kabul, Jalalabad, Gardez, Ghazni or Kandahar.

Many of the Sikhs in Kabul and in other Afghan cities live on the Gurdwara premises due to lack of housing, many rely on irregular handouts from various sources.

This is the situation: I think I understand why European governments refuse refugee status to some of the Afghan Sikhs. But I also understand that sending members of religious minorities back to Afghanistan is not an option.

Sending people to Pakistan, India or even Russia is not a valid option either. The Russians usually send the refugees straight back to where they came from, and in Pakistan and India most Afghan refugees will not get any secure status, and therefore will not be able to build a future for themselves and their children.

Please Belgian and other European governments, show compassion !

523. The Man in Blue – Lieutenant General (retired) Kuldip Singh Brar

As I am now in the Amsterdam Guru Nanak Gurdwara and am not rushing from one meeting to the other, I have time to write a Man in Blue Column about the ‘assault’ on Lieutenant General (retired) Kuldip Singh Brar.

In writing this I have put myself in the position of one of the accused and assumed that this person was both guilty and intelligent.

“I stand here accused of assaulting lieutenant general (retired) Kuldip Singh Brar and I admit that I am guilty and should undergo the appropriate punishment.

This statement explains why I assaulted an old man on holiday in the UK. It is not a plea for clemency, which would be unworthy for a Sikh.

In June 1984 the general was ordered by the Indira Gandhi government to attack the Harmandr Sahib complex. I do not know the specifics of his order but the explanation given at the time was that there were about 50 terrorists in the complex. Whether his orders were to eliminate these terrorists, or whether he had to try and arrest them and bring them to justice I do not know.

The known fact is that the Harmandr Sahib complex was attacked on the day when many Sikhs went there from the early morning to commemorate the martyrdom of Guru Arjan on the 30th of May 1606. The result was that at least 1000 people were killed and not just the 50 alleged terrorists.

I am willing to concede that there were not 50 but maybe up to 100 alleged terrorists in the Harmandr Sahib complex. I also understand that during an operation on this scale some civilians are bound to find themselves in the line of fire, and become what are sometimes called collateral victims.

But the general and his men killed at least one thousand people during the operation, and he was never held responsible for killing 900 innocent visitors to Harmandr Sahib on the 6th of June 1984.

The general said that he acted on orders, but if you carry out criminal orders you are a criminal yourself, as the post World War II Nurnberg trials made clear.

The general is guilty of ‘war crimes’, but he never appeared in court. The Indira Gandhi government ordered the general to commit ‘war crimes’ and did not appear in court either.

Those that were responsible for the mass killings of Sikhs at the end of October and beginning of November 1984 are still walking free, and some of these are even part of the present Indian government, which has a Sikh prime minister.

But I will be tried and receive my due punishment, as I should.

A statement like this would make headlines. But will these assaulters of the retired lieutenant general be mice or men ? Will they be ruled by anger or by wisdom ?