Some recent political developments in India remind me of a legend associated with the founder of Sikhism.
Guru Nanak, whose birth anniversary was celebrated on November 8, is credited for traveling widely, reforming the misguided and encouraging them to follow the path of truth and justice. One of those who came under his influence was Sajjan, the thug, who ran an inn, where to deceive people he provided space for worship to both Hindus and Muslims. He often looted his guests and even killed them mercilessly. Such acts were in complete contradiction of his name which means noble.
Nanak’s birthday celebrations this year coincided with the 38th anniversary of the Sikh Genocide. Thousands of Sikhs were slaughtered across India by mobs led by the then-ruling Congress party, which claims to be secular, much like Sajjan who offered place of worship for two different religious groups. This was in the aftermath of the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.
In the national capital of New Delhi alone, close to 3,000 Sikhs were murdered by the political goons with police connivance. Coincidentally, among those involved was a former Member of Parliament who bore the same name as Sajjan, the thug.
Sajjan Kumar is the only senior-most politician to be convicted for life in the case, while a few others remain unpunished. Indira’s son, the late Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded her as the next Prime Minister, died without being indicted. Congress, which portrays itself as a progressive and liberal alternative to the currently ruling right wing Hindu nationalist BJP, under which attacks have grown on religious minorities, especially Muslims, has recently started its Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March). Though it is aimed at challenging the BJP’s divisive agenda of transforming India into a Hindu theocracy, it seems that the party hasn’t learn anything from the history.
Rajiv’s son, Rahul, who is leading the march, tried to sell the image of his father as an advocate of communal harmony, a blatant lie that cannot cover up his complicity in the Sikh massacre. If Rahul really cares for a tolerant India, he could have made the first Indian Prime Minister – his great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru – as the icon of the march. Unlike Rajiv, Nehru was secular to the core and believed in scientific temperament. He was a complete different personality than the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is far more regressive and superstitious. That he was also involved in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms of Gujarat is well documented. Innocent Muslims were targeted all over Gujarat, after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire leaving more than 50 passengers dead. Modi who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat back then, blamed the incident on Islamic extremists and reportedly incited the Hindu mobs to go after the Muslim community.
As if this was not enough, the Congress included Jagdish Tytler, who was prominently involved in the 1984 bloodshed, in a party panel for the upcoming municipal elections in New Delhi. Rubbing salt on the Sikh wounds, Rahul made time to visit a Sikh temple during his march on Guru Nanak’s birth celebrations, while all this was happening under his watch.
The Congress needs to come clean on this issue rather than making mockery of diversity. That said, the Sikh leaders associated with the BJP are no less than Sajjan, the thug. How can they align themselves with a party that is persecuting other minorities, like Muslims and Christians, when Nanak taught the Sikhs to stand up for everyone? Even otherwise the BJP is no friend of the Sikhs. Their supporters were also involved in the Sikh massacre. The Congress did all that to woo the Hindu majority, and was able to win the subsequent general election with more than 400 seats in the parliament. The entire BJP vote shifted to the Congress, implying that the anti-Sikh tide worked. By merely raising a hue and cry over Tytler’s appointment and remaining silent to the crimes of the BJP, they are not doing any service to their community. Be like Nanak, denounce Modi and his cohorts in a strong voice and leave the BJP, otherwise history will never forgive you.
Gurpreet Singh is a journalist