Role of Sikh Intelligentsia in Present Day Crisis-ridden Sikh Society
Before we discuss the role of Sikh Intelligentsia in the present day crisis ridden Sikh Society, it would be more useful to define an intellectual and the main contours of his mental makeup and personality. An intellectual is one who is more enlightened, more well-read, more sensible and more sensitive than ordinary human beings. Every incident which occurs before his eyes leaves a deep impression on his mind and gets stored in his memory. He has a knack of recalling each such incident at the conscious or unconscious level as if chewing the cud and evaluating each incident's significance. While filtering each such incident through his mental and moral sensibility, he dumps certain incidents in his mind's garbage for being insignificant, he makes some incidents an integral part of his psyche which may either provide him joy or grief for a long time. So, such a person alone can be termed an intellectual who is comparatively far more sensitive, wide awake, and sensitive towards the milieu in which he happens to live. Furthermore, a Sikh intellectual is one who is well-versed with his Sikh heritage, Sikh culture, Sikh religion and its fundamental beliefs, ethos and traditions and has a firm faith in the veracity of these values and their value system. Any incident, human act or activity which violates these values hurts him. Conversely, any activity which promotes these values provides him satisfaction and joy. A group or organization of such spirited Sikh intellectuals is collectively termed as Sikh intelligentsia which together is the conscience keeper of the Sikh community. Any well-analysed, crystallized and considered opinion expressed by this group carries weight and is taken seriously by members of the Sikh community. Their opinion has the capacity to provide proper leadership and direction to the entire community especially at the critical moments of history such as the present crisis of political and religious leadership among the Sikh Panth. Undoubtedly, it is incumbent upon the Sikh intelligentsia at the present moment that it must address all these aberrations which have crept into the Political religious and institutional structure of the Sikh Panth. Their silence or indifference at this critical juncture neither behoves them nor can it absolve them of their moral and historical responsibility. Someone from among them has to be a Socrates or a Mansoor of his times or a fearless, frank, honest and vocal leader like the famous Akali Phoola Singh to name and shame the erring individuals among the Sikh political and religious leadership. All other Sikh intellectuals need to rally round such an intellectual giant among the Sikhs who dares to challenge these errant and devious leaders. The recent compaign "Maro Jan Virodh Karo" launched by Padam Bhushan Dr S S Johl and his companions on the social media recently is a step in the right direction.
During the well-known Gurdwara Reform Movement also which had started in the second decade of 20th century, it were the Sikh intellectuals including the teachers and students of the Khalsa College, Amritsar who had made significant contribution to that movement. The draft of Anandpur Resolution highlighting the Sikh demands in accordance with the federal structure of Indian union enshrined in the constitution of India was also prepared by Sirdar Kapoor Singh, one of the leading Sikh intellectuals in 1980. The present day crisis in the political, religious, social and institutional segments of Sikh society is extremely serious and worrisome. The Sikh intelligentsia must look into this multidimensional crisis and suggest suitable solutions to address this crisis.
It would be more profitable to identify these fault lines before defining the role of Sikh intelligentisia at this juncture Prominent among these fault lines are the dominance of the highly opportunist, morally bankrupt, manipulative present Sikh leadership inclined to use every legitimate or illegitimate means to remain in power both in State politics/ government as well as in the SGPC by indulging in all the malpractices and corrupt means in Gurdwara elections; the dysfunctional Gurdwara management; the deployment of underserving and pliable members of the Sikh clergy as Jathedars of Sikh Takhts, ineffective and insipid Sikh parchar; misuse of Gurdwara funds for political ends; lack of proper propagation of the valuable teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib; the mushrooming proliferation of innumerable Deras established by the self-appointed Sikh Sant Babas under the patronage of political leaders throughout Punjab resulting in the emergence of schisms in Sikh religion; alarming rise of apostate and gone stray numbers among the Sikh youth; lack of qualitative school and college education especially in rural areas of Punjab and equally alarming level of addiction to drugs and substance use among them, exodus of Sikh youth and young Sikh brides to foreign countries mainly through illegal channels and fake marriages by the unregistered unscrupulous travel agents often at the cost of their meager rural assets through sale or mortgage of agricultural assets which puts their helpless parents under heavy debt; increasing number of Sikh farmers' suicides due to the unrumenerative prices of agricultural produce and costly inputs, senseless indulgence in extravagance and inordinate expenditure on Sikh marriages and other family ceremonies, highly collous attitude of the Akali leadership shown towards the unpardonable acts of sacrilege and completely uncalled for police firing of peaceful Sikh protestors agitating against these sinful activities in village Bargari and neighbouring villages in Faridkot district in 2015, and the completely spineless rather collaborative Akali leadership with the rabidly communal, majoritarian, ideologically safforinzed Hindutva-oriented government at the centre manifestly detrimental to the Punjab and Sikh interests and aspirations. The Akali leadership responsible for causing this downslide in Sikh polity, mismanagement of Sikh shrines and prestige of Sikh Takhts after being completely discredited and discarded in the State elections in 2017 by the Sikh masses has belatedly realized their guilt, but instead of genuinely admitting and confessing their guilt caused by the prick of their conscience in the true Sikh tradition and presenting themselves at Sri Akal Takht Sahib in all humility, they have committed another sin by arbitrarily fixing their own punishment for their alleged advertent or inadvertent lapses committed during their rule. This self assumed role of an accused-court and judge all rolled into one is a charade no sensitive Sikh can condone because this unprecedented sham exercise is a clear violation of an established Sikh tradition.
The Sikh intelligentsia should make concerted efforts to start a vigorous campaign against all the above mentioned distortions. They should use every platform to expose the wrong doings of this selfish leadership which have brought the once prosperous Punjab State to the verge of bankruptcy due to their acts of self aggrandizement and promoting their family businesses at the cost of State welfare. The several acts of exploitation of State finances and other sources for their vested interests must have crossed all the earlier levels of political corruption. Prevailing massive scale unemployment among the Sikh/ Punjabi Youth, production, availability and sale of synthetic and opiate drugs under their political patronage, existence of innumerable land, mining, cable Public transport and drug mafias owe their origin to their misrule. With this family oriented octopus-like grip on primary Sikh religious institutions and election and selection of members of these august institutions and the mis-governance of the State – the rot is complete. Add to this incidents of unilateral pardon granted to a criminal anti-Sikh Dera Chief, for several acts of sacrilege and consequent loss of two precious lives and removal of Dr Kirpal Singh, an established historian and their own declared Professor of Sikhism from the post of a Director of Sikh Itihas Sarot Sampandna Granth without providing him an opportunity to put forth his response – the Sikh politicio-religious canvas is completely dark and scary.
Of all the sections of Sikh society, it is the foremost duty of the Sikh intelligentsia to enlighten the Sikh electorate about the wrong doings of this family combine. At the present juncture when there is every possibility of minority communities and their legitimate place in the country's political space being marginalized, the Sikh intelligentsia must inform the Sikh political leadership to safeguard the Sikh interests rather their then collaborating with the ruling Hindutva combine at the centre for the sake of few crumbs of office. There is a definite design in this madness of changing the names of cities and places (Allahabad to Prayag Raj, Faizabad to Ayodhya, Mughal Sarai to Deen Dyal Upadhya) and attempts at banning of books of Dalit authors and appointments of secular renowned historians (Kancha Illiah, Shephered-Ramchandra Guha). Intellectuals, including Sikh intellectuals alone can see through this design and the threat it poses to the existing status of minorities. The Sikh intelligentsia must not shirk this responsibility of awakening the Sikh leadership about this looming threat of majoritarian intolerance of minorities and their intentions to make India a theocratic Hindu Rashtra by gradual of destroying the multicultural, multi-religious and multilingual and peaceful co-existence of all the Indian communities and the secular fabric of India's constitutions. The signs are ominous and future scenario is scary. Another aspect that Dr Gurinder Singh Mann (USA) pointed out in his seminar speech is the divisions among the Sikh intellectuals themselves on their different ideological and interpretative stances about Sikh religious beliefs and history. They must close their ranks for the larger interests of the Sikh Panth. The synergy between the forth coming Sikh political leadership and Sikh intelligentsia alone can safeguard the Sikh interests at this crucial juncture of Sikh history. The presence of the Sikhs all over the globe in the modern world is likely to bolster and strengthen the intrinsic worth and relevance of Sikhs in India despite their small numerical strength. Let the Sikh intellectual be channelize their energies towards this end. The Sikh society is looking towards them for guidance.
ਬਾਬਾਣੀਆ ਕਹਾਣੀਆ ਪੁਤ ਸਪੁਤ ਕਰੇਨਿ ॥
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2019, All