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SIKHS: Change We Must

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http://www.worldsikhnews.com/5%20November%...20We%20Must.htm

SIKHS: Change We Must

Kalam Nishan Singh

The Indian Nation State is luring the Dalit domain into similar mainstreaming. Barack Obama refused to be “mainstreamedâ€. He called for Change, and showed that he is the Change. We have to be made of different stuff than we are out to fight against. It is here that the lessons of an Obama win lie for Sikhs and for the marginalised Dalits, the Blacks of India.

Thomas Jefferson made a promise in 1776. This was a promise of a free world. Thomas Jefferson also owned slaves. This was a flaw in the entire project of democracy. In 1776, America made a promise to facilitate a dream. Something happened there. Something that most Americans were not very comfortable about. It took 14th Amendment, Civil War, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X and the diligent fight of the lovers of true democracy for years but then came Barack Obama.

Something happened in the US of A. History's wrongs can never be righted by one sweep. But Obama's victory was the one decisive step the Americans took to make a valiant attempt.

Sikhs have many lessons to learn from Obama's victory. Marginalised in their own country, pushed to the brink, stereotyped at one stage as terrorists, painted as language chauvinists in the 1960s, seen as spanner-throwers in the run up to the freedom struggle and branded as separatists in the most negative sense, the fate of the Sikhs in India is no better than the fate of the Black man in the USA in the 1960s.

Brahmanical forces hold the levers of power in India, and the country's best and the brilliant cast their lot with these forces. Even the most accomplished and gifted weigh in on the side of the establishment, and right now there is not a single political party in India that is not controlled by Brahamnical forces. So intelligent are these forces that they have created a confusion between Brahmins and brahamanical forces, thus ensuring that the fissures between the haves and the have-nots of power structure become further solidified.

Barack Obama came from a class and race that Indians can best understand in their own indegenous terms of sociology. Barack Obama was the Dalit of the US society. Dalits are the Blacks of India. Sikhs are the marginalised of India. Punjab is the backwater of New Delhi's concerns.

The lesson from Barack Obama's victory are simple in their nature, grave in their appeal, weighty in their meaning and challenging in their form.

India saw some resurgence of the power of the marginalised in the last few years. Dalit empowerment started crawling towards political agenda of certain parties, and the old brahamnical power structures started feeling threatened. But they have faced these challenges repeatedly in the past.

" Barack Obama's was a force of honesty. The graciousness of Senator John McCain, a truly genuine hero of the United States, in his concessional speech was a tribute to the honesty and the hope generated by Obama. Unfortunately in India, the brahamanical forces have so corrupted the agenda of empowerment of the Dalit that they have succeeded in Brahamanising the Dalit movement."

For the first time, there were serious questions being raised by saner people about the exalted theories of India's genius to 'create unity out of diversity;, 'the wonderful assimilative power of Hinduism' and the unparalleled intellectual glories of the Vedic-brahmanic traditions, to quote a rather eye opening passage from Braj Ranjan Mani's De-Brahamanising History (Manohar Publishers).

Like the promise of a truly free world and the land of the dreams that was talked about as far as the US was concerned even when there was much path to be still covered, in India the brahamanical strategy was to create the lure of the Oriental exotica, and many a so-called progressive radicals fell for it. Such was the patriotic pedagogy that was created from colonial historiography and fine tuned in the conundrum of Dayananda, KC Sen, Bankim, RC Dutta, Tilak, Vivekananda, Ranade, Lajpat Rai, BC Pal, Aurobindo, gandhi, Savarkar and SP Mukherjee. This is the poison that the children in schools in India are fed with cheap charts of portraits of "Our Great National Leaders" that sell for a penny and from which the kids clip and paste pictures in their scrap books.

The project of popular education in brahamanical mode thus feeds on itself. Brahamanise the Sikhs, brahamanise Budhhism, and now there is a new script being staged by the brahamanical forces.

Brahamnise the Dalits.

Since a charismatic African-American is now set to arrive in the White House, expect the debate in India to turn to whether we can ever have a Dalit as Prime Minister.

Such debates are always fraught with some dangerous assumptions. Indira Gandhi was a woman, so is Sonia Gandhi. What contribution did they make to the cause of women empowerment? What contribution did the string of Muslim presidents of India make to the fate of Muslims? By how much was the stock and fate of Sikhs as a nation improve due to Giani Zail Singh and Manmohan Singh being in positions which we thought can and often make a difference?

Barack Obama's was a force of honesty. The graciousness of Senator John McCain, a truly genuine hero of the United States, was a tribute to the honesty and the hope generated by Obama. Unfortunately in India, the brahamanical forces have so corrupted the agenda of empowerment of the Dalit that they have succeeded in Brahamanising the Dalit movement.

So out of such strategy has emerged the current avatar of Mayawati. In about six months, the Indian electorate will be asked to give its verdict on who the next Prime Minister should be. The larger question is: are Indian voters prepared to consider the Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati’s quest for the top post?

Many would ask if she is indeed the Dalit as people know a dalit? The similarity between her and Mr. Obama, if any, is the race factor that has a bearing on the U.S. elections and could be equated with the issue of caste that invariably determines the outcome in the Indian elections. But can Ms. Mayawati emulate the Obama strategy? Is she prepared to draw lessons from the Obama campaign?

Mr. Obama has faced a series of challenges over the last two years. That he has a way with words is well established. His ability to expand his voter base by drawing the otherwise sceptical American youth into the vortex of politics is the second of his two outstanding attributes. He assiduously built his image as a politician who has a grip on the complex challenges faced by Americans in an increasingly globalised world.

Dalit empowerment advocates in India need to learn.

Just as Sikhs need to learn. What we need is a continuous engagement with the issues, with the world. Why is there no stand of the community on the neo-liberal policies? Why is Manmohan Singh our hero but not Utsa Patnaik? Why are the Sikhs, the community that established the tradition of langar to not only ensure that caste barriers are broken but to ensure that the poor have a stake in your development is not engaging itself with the complex interconnections between the global food crises and the economic recession?

We will be told that global recession is not a religious issue. By that reckoning, Guru Nanak's hymns about Babur may not fall within the religious domain. The concept of Miri-Piri does not leave anything outside the scope of our religious engagements.

Obama had done his homework, and his engagement is a life time's work. Anyone with any doubt can go read the text of the Philadelphia speech on race. We must as a community resist from our usual tactics of swift-boat attacks and steer away from acrimonious and avoidable debates.

In the year of the tercentenary of Gurta Gaddi, the Sikhs must vow to return to the traditions of engagement with the Word, engagement with knowledge acquisition that helps us in understanding the world and its interconnections, engagement with the incomplete work of creating an egalitarian society, engagement with the larger value system that Sikhism holds.

An engagement with being a Nyara Khalsa, a unique human being.

One of the Sikh community’s true heroes, Prof Randhir Singh, the Marxism scholar, once said it was unfortunate that Sikhs too have become mainstream. He enumerated a number of evils that plague people from other religious affiliations, and then said he can match all this with Sikh names too. It is such mainstreaming that the Sikhs have slipped into that we should avoid.

The Indian Nation State is luring the Dalit domain into similar mainstreaming. Barack Obama refused to be “mainstreamedâ€. He called for Change, and showed that he is the Change. We have to be made of different stuff than we are out to fight against. It is here that the lessons of an Obama win lie for Sikhs and for the marginalised Dalits, the Blacks of India.

Will we be the Change? Change we need, Change we want, Change we must.

5 November 2008

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