image caption: Gurmukh Singh

Sikh Activism Should be Guided by Panthic Miri-Piri Goals.

 Every Sikh is guided to lead a life of social activism as described in the second part of the Sikh Reht Mayryada. It is stated under Article XXIII: &ldquoA Sikh's entire life is a life of benevolent exertion. The most fruitful service is the service that secures the optimum good by minimal endeavour. That can be achieved through organised collective action. A Sikh has, for this reason, to fulfil his/her Panthic obligations (obligations as a member of the corporate entity, the Panth), even as he/she performs his/her individual duties. This corporate entity is the Panth. Every Sikh has also to fulfil his obligations as a unit of the corporate body, the Panth.&rdquo

There have been times when I have not been able to support all objectives of an organization but have had no difficulty supporting some. That has not prevented my modest contribution as invited to some jathebandis and organisations over the last few decades.

Let me approach this type of Sikh activism which works towards Panthic ideals above jathebandi loyalties with an example. When USA lost the Vietnam war, I seem to recall some American saying something like, &ldquoWe had the bombs but they had the idea&rdquo. An idea brings human spirit and action together to motivate a people in a common direction. When that happens, they cannot be defeated. The Constitution of a country is an &ldquoIdea&rdquo which aims for an ideal social order and unites the people above party politics and loyalties.

That is Sikh heritage and history also, centred around shared ideals and way of life. There are Sikhi interpretational stages which guide Sikhi activism. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Gur-Ithaas (Guru history), the Institution of Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Ardaas and Sikh Reht Maryada have guided Sikhi activism above loyalties to jathebandis and individuals for centuries. All Sikh jathebandis and individuals claiming to be truly Panthic, have been guided by these manifestations of Guru Jot-Jugat working through the Khalsa Panth. On the other hand, when they have blindly followed own jathebandi or individual aims and ambitions only, they have managed to divide and weaken the Panth from within. That is happening in Panjab today.

It is possible to extend this hierarchical Sikhi guidance process starting with Sri Guru Granth Sahib by agreeing common agendas and manifestos at national and regional level to which jathebandis and individual Sikh activists can subscribe. This Panthic guidance hierarchy represents shared vision to promote global Sikhi mission. There have been many examples in the UK when single issues have united the British Sikhs.

When Sikh bus drivers and London underground staff were not allowed to wear their dastars, the issue provoked nationwide Sikh support regardless of jathebandi affiliations. The Sikhi issues mattered, not the organisation taking the initiative. All Sikhs defended a basic Sikh identity right. The Mandla case which reached the House of Lords in 1983 had nationwide Sikh backing. Again, no Sikh asked which jathebandi was taking the lead.

The most important point to understand is that Sikhs can only protect own rights and bring about political change for sarbatt da bhalaa (for the benefit of all) by remaining politically active at individual and at Panthic levels. Jathebandis should be the facilitators in this process and remain accountable to the collective Khalsa Panth.

Gurmukh Singh