Guru Nanak              

It was Sunday, November 13 in 2016.

We had gathered at Holland Park in Surrey to protest against the growing attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents in India under the current right wing Hindu nationalist government in New Delhi.

The keynote speaker at the event held by Radical Desi was the visiting scholar from India, Anand Teltumbde.

The occasion was the eve of the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. Nanak had preached his followers to stand up against state repression. As Master of Ceremonies, I opened the event, quoting from his verses that say how the rulers have become barbaric and at whose command their soldiers go after people and shake them out of their slumber.

I wanted to emphasise that today’s rulers have become more tyrannical, as they kill people at will and put them behind bars under draconian laws.

Five years later, close to this year’s birth anniversary of Nanak, Teltumbde is incarcerated in an Indian jail, while his brother has been killed by the Indian police under mysterious circumstances.

Teltumbde happens to be the grand-son-in-law of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian constitution and an undisputed icon of Dalits or the so called untouchables.

He is a published author, and has been writing columns on social justice for the past many years. His critical writings had bothered those in power. He was arrested last year under trumped up charges along with other scholars and activists. Ironically, he was taken in custody on the birth anniversary of Ambedkar, whom the Indian Prime Minister reveres publicly.

Even as the campaign for his release continues, his brother Milind, who was a Maoist insurgent, was killed in an alleged exchange of fire with the police on November 14. He was among 26 killed in the incident, with no police deaths, raising suspicions of this being a staged shoot out. The members of civil society are asking for an independent judicial enquiry. However, it is not surprising to see the police killing political activists belonging to the minority groups or the Maoist movement in fake encounters, or locking them up under black laws, while looking away when it comes to dealing with Hindu extremists. Notably, Modi brought Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, a controversial female ascetic involved in the bombing of a Muslim community, into politics in 2019. She now sits in the parliament.

Putting one brother in jail and killing the other reflects very poorly on the world’s so-called largest democracy. It only shows that the Indian state, especially under Modi, not only remains intolerant to armed uprisings, which in most cases are the outcome of uneven growth and development, and oppression – but also to any peaceful dissent. His national security adviser, Ajit Doval, has recently declared war with civil society. Make no mistake. This isn’t the India of Gandhi anymore, when the state itself shamelessly indulges in cover up and violence to suppress opposition, against his principles of Truth and Peace.

This year’s birth anniversary of Guru Nanak reminds us all of our obligation to raise our voices against such brutality. Let’s make our politicians, including Modi, accountable for paying lip service to Nanak. We honestly must not let such brutes even utter the name of Nanak, who dared to challenge the power without fear.

Gurpreet Singh  is a journalist from Canada


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