image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Clarifying the Issue of Sikh Self-Determination

Self-determination is a basic human right founded in international law. Implementation of this right is a duty of the international community to safeguard global peace. (Ref. Panjabis in Britain All Parties Parliamentary Group paper, March 2005.)

In the United Kingdom, the Scottish National Party (SNP) is a lawful political party. Some years ago, the people of Scotland were allowed to hold a referendum on independence but opted to stay as part of the United Kingdom, albeit, with own Scottish Assembly. That is the constitutional process which should be followed in any true democracy. There is no expectation in the UK that, if Scotland becomes an independent country, Scots will be forced to leave the rest of the United Kingdom (England, Wales and Northern Ireland). Similarly, despite creation of Pakistan, millions of Muslims continue to live and prosper in India.

Therefore, to an outsider, it is not clear why the future of the Sikhs in India should be tied up with the demand for part or full autonomy for Panjab. That is, unless, the rest of India is already in the political process of being converted to a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation). In that case, regardless of what goes on in Panjab, Sikh Indians should be concerned about their own future also. These are issues which can be discussed but without feeling the need to distort Sikh history or to misinterpret Sikh Miri-Piri twin-track ideology to suit own viewpoint.

Firstly, let us be clear that the concept of nationhood is a modern Western concept introduced towards the end of the 18th century. Otherwise, throughout history people have been attached to their native soil&hellip&hellip to established territorial authorities&hellipthe city-state, the feudal fief and its lord, the dynastic state, the religious group, or the sect. (Britannica.Com).

Guru Nanak Sahib referred to Hindostan as a subcontinent of diverse peoples, hundreds of rajas and feudal jagirdars. India was never a nation in the modern sense before 1947. Guru Nanak Sahib laid the foundation of an independent temporal-spiritual (Miri-Piri) regime. Sikh tradition interpreted Gurbani through an evolutionary process during the Guru period. One example is the Gurbani Pankti: ਨਾਨਕਿ ਰਾਜੁ ਚਲਾਇਆ ਸਚੁ ਕੋਟੁ ਸਤਾਣੀ ਨੀਵ ਦੈ Nanak established the []]theo-temporal] kingdom He built the true fortress []]of Khalsa Raj] on the strongest foundations []]of Sikhi whole-life ideology].(SGGS 966). The Guru is always referred to as the Sacha Patshah (True King) of both, spiritual and temporal, worlds.

Therefore, starting with Kartarpur of Guru Nanak Sahib, the towns and cities built during the Guru period were autonomous units where the administration was led by the Guru-persons/families. In another sense these were like states within larger states which, in due course, clashed with unjust authoritarian rulers. For example, neither Guru Hargobind at Amritsar nor Guru Gobind Singh at Anandpur accepted any higher temporal authority in their city states and fought defensive battles. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur was given command of the Khalsa army by Guru Gobind Singh not just to punish the Nawab of Sihind but also to lay down the foundation of egalitarian Khalsa Raj, a process completed by the Misls and Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

In the modern Indian nation, perhaps Sikhs should work with other minorities and moderates in the majority community to make India a true democracy with guaranteed constitutional safeguards. There are lessons to be learnt from the successful all-India farmers protest.

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant Retd (UK)