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How Hope and Change Must Sweep The Sikhs ?

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How Hope and Change Must Sweep The Sikhs?

From The Editor’s Desk - WORLD SIKH NEWS

WASHINGTON / AMRITSAR: Sometimes, datelines in newspapers can give a clue to the route the thought travels. If our thoughts travelled from Washington to Amritsar, obviously you know what these might be about.

Who did not in this wide world spare some time after Barack Obama's victory to think how it will affect his life? Naturally, each community, Sikhs being no exception, did ask themselves as to what lessons they need to learn from an epoch-changing epic victory that has moved every heart and left few eyes that did not moisten.

We all knew the world just cannot go on like this, and we needed change. Change and Hope are tricky words. We all know the world would be no different after January 20, 2009.

But we know the world will not be the same either.

It is not a mean achievement. Rising from a community that was completely marginalised just a few decades ago, Barack Obama has given hopes to all those in India who have been marginalised, stereotyped, dis-empowered, cheated by the entrenched brahmanical forces that wield the levers of power. The Sikhs as a community are one people in India who have earned and experienced sovereignty, have remained married to the concept of universal brotherhood, utter the slogan of Sarbat Dal Bhala everytime they are in communion with their God, have the most egalitarian perception of the world, and have proven themselves to be a hard-working, entrepreneur community.

Outside India, wherever the Sikhs have migrated to, they have carved their niche, earned their place and have underlined the spirit of compassion and hope and change and egalitarianism.

In India, things have been somewhat different.

At a time when the Sikh community was joining in the celebrations of Barack Obama's victory, it was also marking the anniversary of the November massacre of the Sikhs on the roads of Delhi in 1984. Just a quarter century before Obama talked of Hope, Sikhs had lost the final vestiges of hope in India when thousands of them were made to run on the roads of Delhi, chased by blood-thirsty mobs who finally caught up, and burnt the men to death, raped women and enjoyed killing children.

India's Prime Minister went on national TV to justify it all by saying that when a big tree falls, the earth was bound to shake. Sikhs' belief shook. And little was done to restore it. A quarter century later, justice eludes Sikhs even though official Indian establishment and top courts now agree that hundreds were burnt alive in Delhi and elsewhere.

Of the guilty, the top politicians were accomodated, one even becoming a minister in the union cabinet of PM Manmohan Singh. He had to quit only after his role was exposed beyond all doubt by a panel set up by the central government. Other killers still roam free on the roads of Delhi and top sleuthing agency of India, the CBI, still looks out for ways to give clean chits to senior politicians allegedly involved.

It is at a such a time that the Sikh community finds itself once again grappling with the issues of Change and Hope. The United States is an evolved democracy, not its Indian banana version. So it becomes easier to not only Hope but to also question whether we do have hope.

Hope was the only possession of the skinny lad with dark skin whom we saw being ushered into the White House last week by President Bush. Soon, hope will reside in that House and in our homes also.

Barack Obama had hoped not only for the men and women of African-American descent. His way of nurturing and keeping the hope was more broadminded. He nurtured a hope for America, a hope for the world, a hope for mankind.

He too must have pored over history text books. He too would have been sad and angry. Just as Sikhs do.

The one thing that the Sikhs must learn from Barack Obama is that any hopes and aspirations they must nurture have to include all the people who have been wronged, who have been marginalised, who have been forced to live in degraded ways, stripped of their humanity by the powerful, the elite and the shameless. Sikhs are for not only themselves, they are for the world, of the world.

Guru Nanak walked thousands of miles. Gurus made so much sacrifice. Guru Gobind Singh blessed the Khalsa Panth. With what objectives? Surely, it could not be for Sikhs only. We are a world religion, our philosophy is for the world. We are egalitarian. And there is no variety of egalitarianism that is only meant for one community. No one can be egalitarian within a group and a non-egalitarian outside it.

How can the Sikhs not be bothered about what is happening to women in India's north-east? How can we not be worried about the stereotyping of the Muslims in India? How are we not concerned about what the notion of "reprisal terrorism" is leading to (see page 14-15 for a detailed reportage)?

So, how is being a Sikh not connected to being bothered about what is happening to the entire Dalit domain in India?

Seventy years before Barack Obama, someone else studied at the same university and similarly pored over texts to find that his people hadn't been free as long as he could remember. He was Bhimrao Ambedkar. He too wanted Change. Much of Barack Obama's agenda of Change is still to even begin. Much of Ambedkar's Change agenda is being talked about in India and the brahamanical forces have either succeeded or are trying to hijack that agenda in order to defeat it.

As for the Sikhs, the policy of annihilation failed, so the brahamnical policy currently is to assimilate. There is an entire economic, political, social, religious, cultural war being waged against the Sikhs, most of it in most polite terms of the discourse, to finish off the uniqueness of the religion, its outer idenitity, its inner core values, its basic philosophy of opposition to brahamnism (not brahamans).

To just have a glimpse of the ways in which the brahamanical forces usurp the agenda, the identity, the philosophy, the ethos of a community, read the accompanying story on the front page to see how a political party formed and nurtured to advance the interests and the agenda of a fiercely unique community like Sikhs degrades itself into a “secular†party that is ailed by the same non-seriousness, money and mafia power, de-politicisation menace and cult of individual and family. What else is brahamanisation? A total disregard for democratic, egalitarian modes of thought and action and arrogating the resources, power and agenda to oneself and alignment with the elite and the corrupt is revealed by all facets of the functioning of the Akali Dal and its leadership.

It is time the Diaspora Sikhs stopped looking towards those within the party to take up the cudgels and start themselves asking the questions. So many of the Diaspora Sikhs visit Punjab, and Punjab lives in so many hearts among the Diaspora Sikhs. Please re-connect to this Punjab in your hearts, re-connect to the concern in your hearts. It is this connect that will bring forth the ideas and hope churned by the great change in the United States of America to the agendas and concerns of the Sikh community.

Obama is not a product of the Black movement for civil rights, and he never claimed that legacy. But nothing takes away his right to invoke the name of Malcolm X. He continues with the legacy of King, X & Company. But the Americans cannot arrogate to themselves the right and privilege to look up to Obama. The Sikhs have as much right to look up to him and be inspired. America’s black movement has had a great influence on the Indian Dalits’ fight for their rights. Why should the Sikhs resist any influence on their agenda?

So, let us celebrate the Hope. With the promise that we shall inspire and be inspired by promise of Change. This Change will start from Self and then go on the Society. Let us turn to the Self. That is the message also of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. In this year of Gurta Gaddi Celebrations, may Waheguru open our minds and hearts to absorb the universal ideology of egalitarianism.

12 November 2008

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