image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Politics of the Background of the Gurus and the Panj Piaray

(Part I of response to some misconceptions)

One certain way to lose an argument is to distort or quote selectively from the ideology or the history of a people like the Sikhs. Sometimes, those who speak for or against Sikh autonomy, that is, the Sikh case for self-rule within or outside India, do just that. There should be no need to re-write history &ndash own or that of another!

It is true that the Gurus, the Panj Piaray and most Sikhs were originally from Hindu families. However, they had consciously chosen to follow the distinct and demanding path of Sikhi which rejected Hindu practices. They were followers of the Sikh Panth of Guru Nanak Sahib who had sowed the seed of a whole-life revolutionary egalitarian theo-political system to be nurtured by nine other Guru-persons followed by the Khalsa Panth, with great sacrifices.

Those aiming for a Hindu Rashtra, are trying to win over the Sikhs in India and Panjab by claiming that Sikhi is a sect of the Hindu conglomeration now conflated with an Indic civilisation being re-discovered almost daily.

Sadly, some Sikhs themselves are also pushing this regressive political agenda and genuinely believe that they are doing this for the wellbeing of the Sikh community. When these sort of falsehoods and pre-election tactics are used, there is a reaction from all right-thinking people otherwise committed to a secular state with assured democratic safeguards for diversity and minorities. Those who distort sovereign status of Sikh ideology and the facts of Sikh sacrifices and history do a disservice to the people of India.

Perhaps this is the right time to repeat some facts about Sikh ideology and history because, yet once again, some elements are hyperactive tailoring Sikhi tradition to suit own motivations. Some common misconceptions being spread, are discussed in this column and continued in later parts.

Sometimes, the flaws in arguments are glaring. For example, it would be quite ridiculous to argue that because Jesus Christ was born in a Jewish family and most Christians were converts from Judaism, therefore, the Christians are Jews! Yet, that is the sort of nonsense presented to prove that the Gurus and the Panj Piaray were Hindus. The fact is that, not just all the Gurus but the Bhagats who have been given a place of honour in Guru Granth Sahib, were socio-political revolutionaries against own family religions. They were no longer Hindus or Muslims but treaded a path of spiritual and social enlightenment and freedom. For that, they were persecuted. In their teachings, they repeatedly rejected the rituals, superstitions, social discriminations, for example, those based on the Hindu caste system.

Therefore, it is not correct to say that the Bhagats honoured in Guru Granth Sahib were from this or that religion. Those Bhagats were liberated beings because they no longer subscribed to the ideologies of the religions they were born into. They preached the same egalitarian and socially revolutionary ideology as Guru Nanak Sahib. They specifically rejected the false practices of the religions of their birth and the societal divisions and practices due to those beliefs.

These enlightened beings underwent an experience similar to that described in the Nash Doctrine of the Khalsa. For the same reason, in this context, it is irrelevant to talk about the backgrounds of the Panj Piaray, or where they came from. (continued next week.

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant retd (UK)