Thursday, December 6, 2007

BHINDRANWALE RETURNS TO THE GOLDEN TEMPLE

The great Sikh General of the 20th Century, the 14th chief of the Damdami Taksal, Sant Giani Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who along with numerous valiant Sikhs attained martyrdom on Wednesday, the 6th of June, 1984, fighting against the Indian Armed Forces for the honour and prestige of Sri Harmandar Sahib and Sri Akal Takht Sahib.

Twenty three years after he was killed while hiding in the Golden Temple in a saddening but inescapable military assault, Bhindranwale has returned transformed as a Great Sikh General who fought for the honour and prestige of the Sri Harimandir Sahib and Sri Akal Takht Sahib against ‘Indian Armed Forces’. At least that is what the above citation which accompanies his portrait installed in the Golden Temple Museum on November 29, 2007 would want you to believe. It has been conveniently forgotten that it was Bhindranwale himself who had first desecrated the holiest of holy places where the Living Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib resides, by converting it into a battle zone from where he spewed nothing but political venom and sent out death squads to come back with the blood of innocents

Does it not eerily remind you of what the extremist elements in Pakistan are saying about the recent military assault on the Lal Masjid in Islamabad to remove the radical Muslim cleric who was doing nothing different from within the precincts of the mosque? A similar citation will also be put up to honour him, if and when Talibani type Islamic militants take political control of Pakistan.

Unfortunately, the honouring of Bhindranwale in this manner in Amritsar is not the handiwork of Khalistani militants. It has been done in a state which has a democratically elected coalition government headed by a mainstream Sikh party. The full might of the Sikh religious and political leadership (if you can make out where one ends and the other starts, that is) has manifestly approved and endorsed the move. Worse, the Indian Armed Forces have been literally called enemies of the Sikhs.

We never seem to learn.

So much of blood was shed during the period of terrorism in Punjab; so much of harm was done to the communal fabric of the state that it is nothing but a miracle that both Hindus and Sikhs have almost erased that dark chapter from their collective psyche. Punjab, with its wounds almost healed, is back in the forefront as one of the leading states of India.

A Sikh is today the Prime Minister of India, the de facto Supreme Commander of India’s Armed Forces. Till a couple of months back, a Sikh General was even commanding the Indian Army. The integration of Sikhs into India’s very soul is complete, like it always was, save for those traumatic years when Bhindranwale and a few merchants of hate went on a wanton killing spree, ostensibly for an independent Sikh state, Khalistan. After all the political blunders by the Congress and the tame and almost complete surrender to militants by the Akalis, it took two unsung gallant Sikhs, Police Chief KPS Gill and the slain Chief Minister Beant Singh, to put a swift and firm end to the madness that at one time seemed beyond quick resolution, and restore the identity of Sikhs as the ‘Lions’ of this ancient land.

As per my very limited knowledge and understanding of the teachings of the Sikh Gurus, Sikhism is a religion steeped in Bhakti, devotion to and love for Hari, God, call Him what you like. The great Tenth Guru, Sri Guru Govind Singh added Shakti, power, to Bhakti in His time, as the conditions necessitated that He take on that role solely to protect Dharma. I may be wrong, but He possibly realized that the powerful tool of Shakti was vulnerable to misuse (see what the concept of jehad has become) and could lead His followers astray. Perhaps that is why he terminated the lineage of Gurus and asked all Sikhs to revert to the original path of bhakti shown by Guru Nanak, by believing only in Sri Guru Granth Sahib as their Living Guru.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib speaks only of Bhakti and love. Most of the verses in it are in Braj Bhasha, the language of Vrindanvan, the land of Gopis and Hari priya Radha, where there is nothing except unconditional devotion and love for God. There is not one word of hate anywhere in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Karta Purakh (Purush) and Hari are not revered by Sikhs alone. All Indian Panths and Sampradaays have revered Them since time immemorial.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib is, thus, the divine fountain which belongs to and nourishes us all, even if some don’t know.That is perhaps why the wounds created by militancy in Punjab have healed almost completely so quickly.

In all societies there will always be fringe elements who will misuse the name of God for their narrow worldly objectives. They can be ignored and even endured as long as they do not start tearing the fabric which keeps society together. When that starts to happen, sane leaders of religion have to sit up and awaken sleeping masses. If they don’t or, worse, become willing/helpless tools themselves, there is real danger ahead.

Ironically, Bhindranwale has 'returned' to Shri Harimandir Sahib, where the Living Guru of Bhakti, Shri Guru Granth Sahib resides, as His General, and as the defender and protector of the God who has never asked for anything but love from all of us. This return has nothing at all to do with the pride and identity of the Sikhs who understand what the Living Guru says and follow His Vani/Bani (Voice). It has everything to do with the fact that, once again, the desire to use the name of God to forcefully assert mortal political views and achieve petty political power has won. Whether this will again lead to a recurrence of the tragedy that had struck Punjab once remains to be seen. But one can be sure that if that happens, mainstream Sikh religious leaders will have no answer to the call of their conscience.

Guru Nanak had asked all of us living in Kalyug to do nothing more than constantly remember (simran/sumiran/smaran) the Name of Hari. The Name is the Ship, He had said, which will take us across: Across the sansar, the mrityulok, and into the abode of God. As Bhindranwale returns to this world to relive the dark memories his own past, let us not be provoked into looking away from the Light that Guru Nanak wanted us to look at in this Yug.

As for Bhindranwale, perhaps his long and silent and frozen residence in the Golden Temple this time, listening constantly to Gurbani and doing nothing else, will finally make him hear what The Guru wanted him to hear when he was alive.