image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

India at a Cossroads

If Modi Comes Again in 2024, India Will Become a Hindu nation&hellip (Prof Ashutosh Varshney**)

There are new challenges for global Sikh activism as a new chapter is opening in the relationship between BJP-led Indian government and Western democratic countries.

Events in India before and after 1947 and especially after 1984 prolonged Ghallughara, and global geo-politics involving BJP-led India in recent months, have always concerned diaspora Sikhs. The history of Indian independence and Sikh movements abroad will confirm that.

Generally, the focus of this column is on events affecting British Sikhs as informed by diverse and lawful Sikhi activism. Conflicting advice is often received from visiting Sikh politicians and scholars from India about the legitimacy of coverage of events in India. Indian Panjab is where most Sikhs live. Diaspora Sikhs cannot remain aloof from what goes on in Panjab and the rest of India. It is clear that Sikh journalists, community mentors and activists will be treading a tight rope to strike the right balance. Diverse viewpoints and approaches have to be accommodated but the process must go on to seek a common direction.

The assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar on 18 June this year, uncovered the much bigger political game which continues to be played behind the scenes between the big powers. Co-incidentally, three main players, India, the US and the UK are also heading towards general elections next year and the stakes are high. Winning votes is not always a noble cause. .

The Ukraine war, and the global balancing position of India flexing its geo-political muscle sitting in the middle of East-West and North-South blocks, seems to have frustrated the US and allies. President Biden failed to persuade PM Modi to vote for his policy in Ukraine. In this global power game and appeal to win over own domestic voters, it is extremely difficult to say who is doing what to whom and how! There is little doubt that the Sikh card is being played by all concerned. That is not good news for the global Khalsa Panth.

India has great talent in scientists, specialists and scholars which has found expression in the diaspora as well as in India in recent decades. Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar has won well-deserved respect but even he cannot gloss over the history of massacres and mistreatment of Muslims, Dalits and minorities in India and the reactions of discontent in India and abroad. UN and other agencies have expressed grave concern.

As discussed by Indian origin thinkers like Prof Ashutosh Varshney, the future of Indian democracy is bleak if India becomes a Hindu Rashtra in due course because the constitutional road to that objective is likely to be covered with much bloodshed. For the Sikhs, the future lies in full engagement and involvement in Indian politics by supporting the downtrodden millions and all right-thinking people of India.

Perhaps responsible Sikh diaspora mentors should be discussing general guidelines for the lawful continuation of Sikhi miri-piri activism for Sarbat da bhalaa, as mandated by the Sikh Reht Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct). They can also be guided by expert organisations like Sikhs in Law.

When dealing with other countries, one important issue for the Sikhs to raise with own governments is harmonisation of basic democratic principles. This should be an important pre-condition to inter-state intelligence sharing and trade deals.

( ** )

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant retd (UK)