December 22, 2012 | By Editor
I am writing you this letter in hopes that you will clarify the following questions for me; who is Thomas Friedman? And why is he giving you such terrible advice? I don’t understand why a man so far away from your struggle would tell you to become like another struggle he is foreign to. You see Egypt; the reason for my concern is that you and I have a lot in common especially in terms of Mr. Friedman’s comments. We have always been slandered, defamed and portrayed in a negative light by those on the other side of the world, the “West”. For centuries, we have had others occupy our lands and even after their departure they have attempted to control and dictate our way of life never considering that we have the ability to determine our own destiny. As a member of the “world’s largest democracy” I am sharing with you my personal experiences and what I have endured with the aspiration that you will consider this information before you find it necessary to choose a “role model”.
India has always appointed members of minorities into positions of power, but so has every nation. Malcolm X commented on the United States utilizing race politics as a way to continue the oppression of Blacks throughout the country. According to him, individuals who collaborated with the oppressor did not do so to represent the needs of minorities but to satisfy their own desires and as a result continue to perpetuate their own mental slavery onto the masses. These individuals “ate good, cause they ate his good, what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but they still lived near their master, and they loved their master, more than their master loved himself.” These individuals look different but they don’t act different; their mentality is indistinguishable from the ruling elite. It is these individuals who Mr. Friedman provided examples of such as Manmohan Singh, the Sikh Prime Minister. Similarly how Muslim minorities are told that the appointment of a Muslim as the new director of India’s Intelligence Bureau is a great success is how Sikhs are constantly reminded that the Prime Minister of the nation is a Sikh. It is through the appointment of individuals such as Manmohan Singh and Syed Asif Ibrahim that the Indian state blankets the real issues pertaining to human rights abuses and the marginalization of religious minorities such as Sikhs and Muslims. “Preposterous,” you say? For India to appoint visible minorities in a position of power is a method in which token minority puppets are used as a tool to paint a distorted image of “the world’s largest democracy.”
Democracy in India has failed. It has rather become a dictator-like country where citizens are physically and mentally tortured, stripped of their basic rights and denied the freedom to choose their own destiny. According to Srikrishna Deva Rao, the Registrar of the National Law University in Delhi, “the very fabric of democracy and constitutional safeguards of personal liberty have been eroded-not in a totalitarian dictatorship, but in country which prides itself on being the world’s largest democracy.” Over the past six decades, India has continued to strengthen primordial barriers – such as caste, tribe, and religion – and as a result has suppressed all different sectors of Indian society only allowing the “loyal Indians” to hold power, which is exactly what Ibrahim did.
Since the creation of India, it has remained a country deeply divided, where minorities are continuously suppressed and no individual is able to question their government. I know after hearing all this you must be wondering how does India, a former British colony, get to be the way it is?
The first answer is power. India has had decades of hierarchical forms of power and during independence power was transferred from one ruling elite to another. Political leaders from Mahatma Gandhi to Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh have used this power to ensure the segregation of classes within Indian society. No leader has abused this power more than Indira Gandhi. During her term in power she used a very calculated approach to turn an entire nation against one community. Communal politics were employed to dehumanize an entire population of people therefore justifying the mass atrocities subjected against them. My friend, from personal experiences I can tell you that to this day the screams of innocents are carried in my blowing winds, the remains of young men are still surfacing from beneath my soil, and the blood of an entire nation has tainted my clear waters red forever.
The dominant political party in India inherited power from its colonial master and is probably the most tyrannical, exclusive, and oppressive minded political party – the Indian National Congress. In 1984, the Congress party took it upon itself to lead a state-sanctioned genocide against the Sikh nation. Political leaders passed out election lists with names and addresses and used the governmental arm of the police and military to ensure that every Sikh they encountered was murdered, tortured and left without any justice. My friend, twenty eight years have passed since the blood of innocents was shed by a corrupt government and my people have yet not received any justice rather their struggles are brushed under the carpet and men like Friedman have the audacity to tell you that India is one of the greatest democracies today.
Then there is the military, India’s leaders have combined military and politics in order to ensure that the State agenda is enforced throughout the nation. It is incredibly difficult to differentiate between politics and the military in India as the army is constantly carrying out attacks ordered by the political elite. Further, there is no space for morality or questioning as the army is viewed as a mechanism that is meant to carry out its actions without any question. In the case of Indira Gandhi, when General Sinha voiced his discontent with the attack on the holiest Sikh shrine as unjust and unnecessary he was suspended from his position without hesitation and replaced by a man who would carry out the heinous crime. India’s elite masters have always maintained a strong hold over the army for internal affairs but have justified their expansive military efforts through the portrayal of external threats. By using Pakistan as a pretext for a large military, India has created one of the largest police forces in the world. However, these officers have been employed to manage internal security concerns and are deployed unquestionably in areas to contain rebellions of dissent. My friend, the tracks of armored tanks and gaping holes of bullets and bombs have wounded my body and serve as a constant reminder of the oppression of my people. I know you carry these scars too, and it is these wounds that are the price we have had to pay for a century’s long struggle. Our wounds will close one day and the permanent scars they leave behind will awaken a generation of our people who will demand equality and demand justice.
Yes, democracy matters. But what Friedman and the world need to understand is that democracy in India is nothing but a façade. It is nurturing a culture of exclusion and the suppression of peaceful discourse. The Nobel Prize-winning Nelson Mandela has argued that a nation cannot be judged in how it treats its highest citizens – in India’s case the political elite – but how it treats its lowest citizens, the masses. The time has come for India to develop a new culture and course of dialogue, a new approach in its internal politics rather than abusing and suppressing minorities in an attempt to ensure they never upset the status quo. Democracy based on oppression is not democracy; it is a travesty against the freedoms and liberties all human beings are entitled to.
Until we tread our own path, a path devoid of any influence upon us by the very hands of those who tried to destroy our existence, we will forever be at the mercy of imperialistic powers. Once our soil feels the stomping of revolutionary soldiers, dreamers and philosophers – all with the vision of justice and self-determination – than we will be able obtain our liberation. Now is not a time to look at broken models of democracy and choose “role models”, now is a time for us to become a beacon of tolerance and humanity. To ensure the liberties of all those that live within our borders, now is the time to determine our own destiny. It is with these words I bid you adieu, now is the time for Egypt to be neither India nor Pakistan… now is the time for Egypt to be Egypt and Punjab to be Punjab.
This article is in response to Thomas Friedman’s Article, “Egypt: The Next India or the Next Pakistan?” in the New York Times.
– Canadian Sikh Coalition
Note: Above write-up is sent to Sikh Siyasat News (SSN) by Canadaian Sikh Coalition, and it was originally published on CSC website at source: http://www.canadiansikhcoalition.com/post/2012/12/19/A-Letter-to-Egypt-From-Punjab.aspx.
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