Chandigarh, May 30: Langar. This is one word with which the Sikh identity has come to be associated at the global level for the last about more than a year. The global Sikh community is hammering its exclusive and distinct identity in entirely a different way, by serving the cause of humanity while at the same time, its members and shrines also continue to be targeted under hate crime. The aspect that is emerging is different from what the Sikh radicals abroad have been and continue to prpagate, although they are just a microscopic minority. Sikh volunteers organising free kitchen in strife torn Syria is an extreme in the cause of serving humanity. This is a better cause for the moneyed Sikhs abroad to donate rather than funding political parties and some radical groups in their native state of Indian Punjab.
Reports have appeared about young Sikhs being imparted weapon training by some radical groups in Canada. Canada is the only country in the world where four ministers happen to be Sikhs. Even the defence minister is a baptized Sikh, such is the influence that the community has come to yield. Canada is virtually the other Punjab.
The concept of Langar was started by Guru Nanak Dev, not to provide just free food but with the larger objective of ending distinctions on the basis of caste and creed, high and low. He created the Sikhs as a casteless and a classless society. However, the biggest violators of the doctrine of Guru Nanak not are his disciples themselves. The gurdwaras have come up in the names of the castes and at several places, dalits are not supposed to be served langar in the main hall. This has been reported from some deras run by the so called babas in Punjab. But then in the present day context, it is this institution that is providing a new identity to the Sikhs at the global level.
The same is true in case of several other European countries. Sikhs are in the headlines during natural calamities at the global level for organising langar. It is the Sikh community that has organized langars for refugees in various European cities.
This new identity is in sharp contrast to the Sikhs clashing in gurdwaras in Canada that had become the stronghold of radicals who shifted from Punjab to seek safe haven.
The interesting part is that it is in the metros like London that big congregations are seen on anniversary of Operation Bluestar, the army action in the Golden Temple complex on June 6, 1984. The resentment against the Indian state is a different aspect but that is not the dominant feature. Sikhs are emerging with their distinct identity preaching what Guru Nanak taught them.
With the Assembly elections in Punjab a few months away, reports have again started appearing about increasing activities of radicals including the so called Khalistan armed training camps abroad. Increasing frustration with the state government in Punjab could be one factor that is contributing to the Sikh youth getting attracted to the radical thought again. This is the next generation. Those who suffered earlier don’t want even to look back.
Certain organisations and individuals, mainly abroad, continue to be active demanding self-determination for Sikhs or Khalistan. The report about Khalistan terror camp in Canada is the latest. The problem with such organisations, many of them one man, is that their agenda has no relevance in Punjab. If the farmers in Punjab are dying, it is not because of lack of ‘special status to the Sikhs’ or denial of self-determined status. The issues are different and fringe elements from Sikh and Hindu sections don’t reflect the ground situation. These are mostly the elements that are used by the state.
Of course, a major section of the Sikhs settled abroad is keen to see improvement in Punjab as the socio-economic situation here has been deteriorating over the period. It is this section that funded Aam Aadmi Party campaign during 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It is this section that was approached by Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh. It is this section that was recently visited by some AAP leaders from Punjab.
Dal Khalsa spokesman Kanwarpal Singh had an interesting comment to make saying if these leaders from parties like the Akali Dal, the Congress and the AAP go abroad to mobilise funds, why should there be objection to small funding of some Sikh organisations functioning in Punjab. There definitely is logic in this.