November 28, 2013 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
authored by: Moninder Singh
(Director, Canadian Sikh Coalition)
As Bhai Gurbaksh Singh continues on his crusade which ultimately will see him on this hunger strike until his death, we as a community have gone back to squabbling amongst one another. Forget the “is a hunger strike a valid form of protest within Sikhi” type questions, we’re far more cynical. It’s not going to do anything, why is he even bothering? It would be so much better if there was a different and more active form of protest…wouldn’t it? Where is the leadership that should be championing this cause? This last question is tied to the first two and actually may be at the heart of the answer as well.
There are many terms used for a leader in Gurbani. If we stretch, something as simple as a Gurmukh can be considered a leader as if one is a true Gurmukh, they become the voice of the Guru and hence a leader of the community in their own right. Leaders have qualities that instill inspiration in a segment of the population and that inspiration comes from the leaders own virtuous characteristics that are on display for the people to see as they move towards a destination. In the same breath however, a leader that is unsure of the destination themselves will be incapable of appealing to the masses and will be left to a small group of loyal followers who see no other option. Today in the Sikh Panth we unfortunately have “leaders” by default…there is nobody else.
“ਅੰਧਾ ਆਗੂ ਜੇ ਥੀਐ ਕਿਉ ਪਾਧਰੁ ਜਾਣੈ ॥ ਆਪਿ ਮੁਸੈ ਮਤਿ ਹੋਛੀਐ ਕਿਉ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਣੈ ॥
Andhaa aagoo je theeai kiou paadhar jaanai. Aap musai mati hochheeai kiou raah pachhaanai:
If a blind individual (blinded by worldly ambition and corruption) is made the leader (the term “Aagoo”), how will they know the right path (when their decision making is corrupted). Because of their corruption and inadequate understanding, they themselves are being plundered (by worldly and materialistic inclinations.); then how will those that follow them recognize the true path? (767).”
Our loyalty to a human being is what does not allow us to further ourselves down any path. Be it Akali Dal Mann, Akali Dal Panch Pardhani, Dal Khalsa or so on; it is not that they have not sacrificed for the betterment of the Panth, but this struggle demands continuous sacrifice at the behest of its leadership to set an example for the generations coming forward so they may also rise. If these organizations and ones like it are at the forefront of this movement and claim to be supporting the idea of freedom and supporting Shaheed families, then they are accountable to the Panth for Tann (body), Mann (spirit) and Dhann (resources). As one sister phrased it on social media “Leaders coming only to see Bhai Gurbaksh Singh will do nothing and no Sikh prisoner will be released. The leaders should join the hunger strike as it is by their involvement and sacrifice that the governments will be shaken.” If we weigh the leadership now being shown by Bhai Gurbaksh Singh with the leadership of Panthic organizations and even the occupied Akal Takht, it should be obvious that a Sikh leads by example and not by title.
“ਸਚੁ ਵਰਤੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥ ਦਇਆ ਦੇਵਤਾ ਖਿਮਾ ਜਪਮਾਲੀ ਤੇ ਮਾਣਸ ਪਰਧਾਨ ॥
Sach varat santokh teerath giaan dhian isnaan. Daya devta khimaa japmaalee te manas pardhaan:
The most complete individuals are those who make a difference in the world through action and for that they must make truth and its protection their fasting, contentment in the will of the divine their pilgrimage, knowledge (spiritual and worldly) and awareness (of the plight of those around them) their ablution Compassion will be their deity and forgiveness their rosary, only then are they a Pardhan (Leader) (1245).”
Many have heard of the hunger strike that Baba Ramdev went on in 2012 to push for stronger anti-corruption laws in India. Within 6 days of his fast being initiated Governments of various states and the Central Government were all desperate to get involved and have it called off. At around the same time Swami Nigmanand died after entering the 68th consecutive day of his hunger strike to protect the Ganges river and surrounding areas from environmental contamination being caused by overseas corporations. As soon as Swami Nigmanand died, his leader went on a hunger strike in his students name to continue the struggle. Ramdev is a national figure and demands attention while Nigmanand was in the eyes of the media, a nobody. This begs the question, where is our “Ramdev” because we have definitely found our Nigmanand in Bhai Gurbaksh Singh.
For those asking what will this hunger strike accomplish, if it doesn’t move our leadership to action (which in turn should move the masses to action), then if we have any anakh left in us it should move us as the people to sever our ties with them and move forward collectively. We have forgotten who holds and wields power. We as a people have become complacent with our leadership and fallen into a slumber of sorts. But we are stirring and when we realize how many we are and how few they are, the Sarbat Khalsa will rise again to reclaim leadership.
‘And these words shall then become
Like Oppression’s thundered doom
Ringing through each heart and brain.
‘Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number—
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few.’