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Why Indian media outcries at Akal Takhat honoring national Sikh martyrs?

January 8, 2013 | By

On January 06, 2013 Bhai Kehar Singh and Bhai Satwant Singh were remembered by the Sikh nation on their martyrdom day. Akal Takhat Sahib, Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC) and Sikh sangat observed their martyrdom day by organizing a function at Gurudwara Jhanda-Bunga Sahib near Sri Akal Takhat for three days. Akhand Path of Sri Guru Granth Sahib was recited for three days, January 04 to January 06; and the bhog ceremony was held on January 06, 2013. The bhog was attended by Jathedar of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib, Manager of Sri Darbar Sahib besides representatives of various Sikh organizations and member of the Sikh sangat.

Still from a News Channel’s footage regarding Akal Takhat honoring kins of Sikh martyrs on January 06, 2013

Various sections of Indian media is out-crying at this ceremony. Some are blaming SGPC and ruling Badal Dal for playing politics on “sensitive” issues, while others are blaming Sikh “community” for their “sad silence” over “worrying assertion among Sikhs of the politics of violence and extremism”. As per Deccan Herald: “The Akal Takht’s honouring of the assassins of former prime minister Indira Gandhi on the occasion of the 24th anniversary of their hanging marks an unambiguous endorsement of an act of terrorism”.

It is notable that Bhai Satwant Singh and Bhai Kehar Singh were sentenced to death by an Indian court in Indira Gandhi “murder” case. They were hanged to death on 6 January 1989.

It is further notable here that in order to suppress peaceful political agitation named “Dharam Youth Morcha” initiated by Sikhs to secure their political rights, Indira Gandhi had launched an armed attack on various Sikh Gurudwaras in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana. Nearly 36 Sikh Gurudwaras were attacked by Indian army during this armed attack that was code-named as “Operation Blue Star”.

Shaheed Beant Singh

Shaheed Kehar Singh

The attack had begun on June 4, 1984 – a day when Sikhs were observing martyrdom day of their Fifth Guru, Sri Guru Arjun Sahib and Sikh pilgrims in large numbers had gathered in Gurudwaras.

During this attack thousands of Sikh pilgrims were killed by Indian Army. Sikh leader Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale along with about two hundred Sikh fighters attained martyrdom while defending Sri Darbar Sahib and Akal Takhat Sahib at Amritsar.

Indian army used tanks to destroy the structure of Akal Takhat Sahib, eternal seat of Sikh Sovereignty. National Sikh Library, situated with in the precincts of Sri Darbar Sahib (the Golden Temple of Amritsar) was set on fire by the Indian army after removing some valuable historic manuscripts that were preserved there.

Shaheed Satwant Singh

After this attack Indian army had initiated another activity that was code-named as “Operation Wood Rose” aimed at finishing away political dissent of Sikhs by physical elimination of Sikh youth from Punjab, the only Sikh majority state in India.

The attack of June 1984 brought “zero-period” for the contemporary Sikhs and this attack changed the relation of Sikhs with India in entirety. Sikhs were facing existential crisis.

Incidents of Sikh history guided the Sikhs during this period when the entire Sikh nation was under attack by the Indian state and Indira Gandhi was symbolising this dangerously hostile phenomena.

On October 31, 1984 Bhai Beant Singh and Bhai Satwant Singh, two Sikh bodyguards of Indira Gandhi shot her dead. Their act was stood as avowal to the fact that anyone who dared to attack Sri Darbar Sahib was brought to justice as per Sikh traditions.

Both Bhai Beant Singh and Bhai Satwant Singh were later shot at by other bodyguards of Indira Gandhi. There were reports that after shooting at Indira Gandhi Bhai Beant Singh and Satwant Singh had laid their weapons and they were shot at by other bodyguards of Indira Gandhi after being taken into custody.

Bhai Beant Singh attained martyrdom as a result of those gun shots; where as Bhai Satwant Singh survived the injuries. Bhai Kehar Singh was also charged along with Bhai Satwant Singh and both were sentenced to death by an Indian court.

Soon after their execution on January 06, 1989 Bhai Satwant Singh and Bhai Kehar Singh were declared as “Martyrs of the faith” by the Akal Takhat Sahib, whereas Bhai Beant Singh was already endowed with that title ever since his martyrdom on October 31, 1984.

It is further notable that the Sikh nation is observing their martyrdom day annually at Akal Takhat Sahib since the day of their martyrdom.

In this background one thing should be clearly understood that Bhai Beant Singh, Bhai Satwant Singh and Bhai Kehar Singh are martyrs for the Sikh nation and the Sikh nation is observing their martyrdom day annually.

Indian media’s “worries” have specific reasons. Media in India has been working as an extension of the Indian State. The “single-nation building” process initiated by the Indian State soon after partition of 1947 was adopted as “aim project” for Indian media.

The problem is that this peninsula named India is “multi-national” and “multi-cultural” country that has been turned in “boiling pot” of nations. Sikh nation’s political assertions successfully challenged this process, especially in 1980s-90s.

Armed attack of June 1984; murder of Indira Gandhi in October 1984 and martyrdoms of Bhai Beant Singh, Bhai Satwant Singh and Bhai Kihar Singh are closely related to the events symbolizing challenge posed by the Sikh nation to the illusionary concept of single-Indian nation. Therefore, Indian media is so much hostile to the annual functions held by the Sikhs to remember these martyrs.

Outcry of Indian media against June 1984 memorial that is being build near Akal Takhat Sahib and annual functions held in the memory of Bhai Harjinder Singh Jinda and Bhai Sukhdev Singh Sukha, who punished the chief of Indian Army under whose command army had attacked Sri Darbar Sahib and other Sikh Gurudwaras in June 1984, may also be viewed under the light of above argument.

Indian State’s ominous desire to crush identities of distinct nations residing in this peninsula to form single Indian identity is the root cause of conflicts – be it the case of struggle of Sikhs, Kashmiris, Nagas, Bodos, Mizos or the Tamils. Indian media’s alignment with the Indian state as front guards in this conflict has added dangerous attributes that serve the State and works against the rightful struggle of the people.

Therefore, anyone accessing recent write-ups published by Indian media out-crying at Akal Takhat’s honouring of Bhai Satwant Singh and Bhai Kehar Singh’s kins should give due weight-age to the fact of bias of India Media against the Sikh nation. These write-ups need to be read in rightful context that could be termed as “media war” initiated by the Indian state against the Sikhs.

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