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30 Years of Confusing path – British involvement in June 1984 assault

January 14, 2014 | By

(By: Moninder Singh)

“I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.”

-Malcolm X

We all have perspectives and we all have motives, that’s just the way it is. The recently released information in regards to British Government involvement in planning the June 1984 assault on Darbar Sahib is providing the Sikh community with an abundance of both. Where perspectives need to be weighed in on and discussed as part of healthy growth, personal/organizational motives will no doubt make a strong attempt to divert the scarce time and resources of Sikhs worldwide and push them to engage in futile and almost humiliating exercises of protest only to serve their own selfish motives.

So here’s another perspective, but without a motive (well…aside from the obvious ego boost). I find myself asking if we as a nation are so naive that we don’t understand international politics and our place in the wider spectrum of international interests and geo-politics? The resounding answer seems to be yes. Why are we shocked that the “great” colonial master turned on a section of its once most rebellious “subjects” in this fashion? Why are we shocked that the British Government came to the aid of its imposed governing body in the illegitimate borders of modern-day India? Why are we shocked that the British Government acted based on economics, trade ties, etc. rather than the human and political rights of a minority? Do we truly believe that any Government or the United Nations for that matter acts on anything but self-interest? I am not saying that holding an oppressor or wrong-doer accountable with diplomatic means is somehow wrong, rather I am questioning why we as a people place such heavy expectations on foreign nations to provide for us?

In my opinion, the reason we are so shocked as a nation is that we still do not have a full grasp of the events leading to and culminating in the assault that occurred in June 1984. This does not mean that we don’t understand facts and information that we have combed through for 3 decades now, it simply means that we are still apprehensive in discussing the solution and therefore we continue to tread down a confusing journey where our definition of freedom and justice has been distorted. If we were willing to accept the final destination of this current struggle perhaps our journey wouldn’t be as confusing. If we understood our place as Sikhs in the world since the time of Guru Nanak and the fact that we have continuously been subjected to some form of oppression throughout our history, it would not be so difficult to grasp as to why we are targeted. With the creation of the Sikh identity and thought process it was not only for those who could be noticed amongst crowds as we proudly put it, but more importantly it was for those who came willingly and no longer wanted to (and nor could they) hide due to their appearance and their actions. We do not remain silent regardless of the personal cost and if that is what a Sikh is then a Sikh will be subject to opposition, persecution and oppression and they will bear it in high spirits (Chardi Kala) as millions before them also did.

There is a serious imbalance amongst the efforts of our organizations between trying to convince the western world of our plight and working within our own community with those same resources and effort for those who will be the catalyst for the change we seek. Our struggle has become almost completely a human rights movement and for me as an individual, this is unacceptable. Why? Here is a scenario that would never happen but let’s humor ourselves for just a minute. This year Narendra Modi sweeps to power across India. He immediately puts on trial and convicts everyone associated with the genocidal campaign that was unleashed upon the Sikh nation for the last 30 years. He immediately issues an apology to the Sikh nation from parliament and then offers reparations for the losses of 10s of thousands of Sikh families across India (maybe not totally out of the question as in April 2012 27.78 crore rupees was allocated by the Supreme Court for 1500+ families in which extra-judicial murder at the hands of authorities was found to be the cause). Then Mr. Modi turns to the Sikh nation…folds his hands…and with a glowing smile states “We have provided you with justice. Please now enjoy the freedom of Bharat. Go home.” Does any sensible Sikh think that this is justice? For that matter, does any sensible Sikh or member of India’s minorities think that they are able to be truly free within India? How long before the communal flames of elections in India turn against the Sikh community again and we are then demonized and aligned with an age-old enemy (Pakistan) and made subject to similar attacks? After a decade of physical and mental attacks upon the Sikh people, the linguistic and cultural fabric of Punjab are being torn. An almost “final-solution” of the assimilation Sikhs, Punjabi and Punjab is well-under way, but we as a people are still not comfortable discussing the only solution which is the complete separation of Punjab from India.

Where we spend an abundance of time with petitions and lobbying activity we need to apply even more time and resources to work within our own community to develop a thought process that engages them to take action rather than have someone take it for them. Established to semi-established movements such as the Palestinians, Tibetans, and Tamils all use the human rights abuses they suffer to further justify the true cause they aspire for, which they are just as up front about. Their movements only have 1 end and it empowers an individual within those movements to know exactly what they are moving towards.

Within the Sikh community, the last 5-7 years has seen a definite shift in the right direction and we still need more. The discussion around Punjab’s sovereignty or Khalistan is once again becoming household talk. Active steps by various groups across the globe allow us to engage in discussion on the topic and the negative connotations associated Khalistan are being re-defined by our coming generation. In the course of this struggle we should never forget who we are as a people and never should we become so diplomatic where we are seen as weak and cowering. Our mode of revolution was given to us by our Gurus and it will be us as a people who decide when and how to apply it.

“We are nonviolent with people who are nonviolent with us.”

-Malcolm X


* Author of above write-up, Moninder Singh, is one of the directors of Canadian Sikh Coalition. 

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