Banda Singh Bahadar to Badal: Democratic ethos to dynasty


Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, July 4: Prime Minister Narendra Modi had done his homework very well and he made some remarkable observations at 300thmartyrdom anniversary function of Baba Banda Singh Bahadar, the revolutionary warrior who founded the first Sikh rule, the first since the Mughal rule  in this region with Babar being the first emperor from that period. He related the legacy and value system of Banda Bahadar to the present. In the context of Punjab, that journey starts with the rule based upon the value system that negates self  but in present times, the priority is to destiny.

There is very interesting commonality so far as the present BJP regime is concerned as compared to the earlier one, the first. Then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was not married. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has no dynasty with his wife staying at her native place. They lived together only for a brief period.

In the context of the Modi’s speech on life and contribution of Banda Bahadar and the legacy he left behind, there were certain interesting situations yesterday, the most important being his arrival at the venue.

It was a function organized jointly by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Punjab Government.

As he arrived at the venue, Modi was received only by the Badal family-Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Union Minister for Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal. It was not their family function. One does not know whether this pecking order had come from PM’s security set up or not. DSGMC president Manjit Singh and SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar should have received the Prime Minister along with the Chief Minister. One can justify Harsimrat being part of those receiving the Prime Minister as she is Union Minister from Punjab.

On the stage again, the Prime Minister was flanked by father and son. Makkar and Manjit were called to the stage only when the Prime Minister was to be honoured with a siropa and book on Baba Banda Bahadar was to be released..

This has to be seen in the context of the legacy of Baba Banda Singh Bahadar and the reference by the Prime Minister to his rule. He issued coins in the names of the Gurus. Here was the first Sikh ruler but self was not important for him. Bestowing ownership rights to the tillers of the land during that period was perhaps the most revolutionary step at the socio-economic level during that period. Land reforms are still to be fully implemented in many parts of the country.

The basic ethos of Sikh religion is democratic and this system was institutionalised by Guru Gobind Singh. The Panj Piaras represent that institution. Baba Banda Bahadar carried forward the democratic ethos. Here was the first Sikh Raj and it was pro-people with thrust on socio-economic justice and egalitarianism. The journey to dynastic rule is decadence of that value system.

Modi praised Badal as the leader who has always worked to defend the unity and integrity of the country. He addressed Sukhbir as “my friend Sukhbir”. At the same time, his thrust was on legacy of the first Sikh ruler in the context of present times.

One might object to comparisons but it can’t be overlooked that Badal heads the Akali Dal government and the party for years articulated the Sikh aspirations and ambitions and was rooted in the democratic Panthic values. One can’t commemorate the legacy of the first Sikh ruler merely by raising his memorial or organising functions. The basic issue is of following that legacy. Badal does not represent that legacy.

In this context, yet another observation of Modi is significant. He said only those people create history who are rooted in history. The history of the Sikhs is rooted in a value system that in the present terminology, aims at social justice and egalitarianism. The Panthic character of the Akali Dal  was supposed to reflect that value system and not ritualism to which Sikhism has been reduced.


Jagtar Singh


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