image caption: Gurmukh Singh

Red Fort Event Marking 400th Parkash Year of Guru Tegh Bahadur

ਤਿਲਕ ਜੰਞੂ ਰਾਖਾ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਤਾ ਕਾ

Guru Tegh Bahadur upheld a universal principle when he gave his head to protect their []]ਤਾ ਕਾ] forehead mark and sacred thread. Thus, Guru Gobind Singh made it clear that the Miri-Piri Sikhi of Guru Nanak and the Brahmanical Hindu traditions are separate paths.

No matter what the political motivations, the two days mega event at Red Fort, Delhi, marking the 400 Parkash Anniversary of Guru Tegh Bahadur was symbolic and significant for the Sikhs. The Home Minister Amit Shah inaugurated the event on 20th and the Prime Minister Modi on 21st April when he addressed the Indian nation and released a commemorative coin and a postage stamp. Planning and preparations for the event took place under the aegis of the Union Culture Ministry and the Office of the Prime Minister.

Kirtan by 400 Ragis (representing 400 years), Gatka display and a two day exhibition carried a strong sense of Sikh qaumi identity. According to news reports, prominent Sikh personalities included, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann, ex-Chief Ministers Parkash Singh Badal and Capt Amarinder Singh, heads of the five Sikh Takhts, former and sitting Sikh MPs and MLAs, former Chairman of National Commission of Minorities Tarlochan Singh and heads of other Sikh institutions like the SGPC.

The symbolism is significant. Guru Tegh Bahadur revived India-wide network of Sikh Sangats set up by Guru Nanak Sahib in readiness for the arrival of Guru Gobind Singh and the emergence of the Khalsa Panth. The event recognized Sikh theo-political Qaumi identity and importance. To quote a news report: The BJP has been trying to reach out to the Sikh community ever since it decided to go it alone in the Punjab Assembly elections following the breakdown of the old alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal over the three farm laws.

After much distortion of the life and mission of Guru Tegh Bahadur by Indian NCERT historians, it is possible that India is now discovering the true story. (Last year, my research publication Guru Tegh Bahadur: The True Story** was read by about 50,000 researchers on ResearchGate Website.)

The national importance of the mission and martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur has been given prominence. To quote a Sikh intellectual, Prof Nirmal Singh: The legacy of Guru Tegh Bahadur is huge, unique and for the freedom and well-being of sarbat. That his shaheedi happened in the heart of Delhi - the famed and much fancied Chandni Chowk and within easy sight of Red Fort - was historic and its memory should find an expression by nation in one voice deciding, in homage to this memory, to give it permanent home to it by a fitting Memorial in Delhi.

Regardless of whether it is a political move (akheen ghatta by Hindutva politics as a Sikh observer put it) or a change of state policy towards the Sikhs, the event has certainly raised the national and global Sikh profile. However, due to the post 1947 Sikh experience, the 1984 Ghallughara, the blood-stained decade that followed and the unresolved Sikh grievances and issues, Sikhs have a good reason to remain watchful of the embrace of the Hindutva boa. Otherwise, like any nation, Sikhs must remain fully engaged in all spheres of Indian life for the good of all.

**ResearchGate link Guru Tegh Bahadur: The True Story:

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant Retd