“Non-violence is a piece of theatre. You need an audience. What can you do when you have no audience? People have the right to resist annihilation.” -Arundhati Roy
Bhai Gurbaksh Singh has been sitting on hunger strike till death for over 30 days now. The Indian mainstream media have once again successfully ignored the Sikh issues by not giving the strike any meaningful coverage. To my surprise one of the main English newspapers published from Chandigarh have no mention of Bhai Gurbaksh Singh anywhere on their today’s publication.
Bhai Gurbaksh Singh seems to be a man who is honestly willing to give up his life in return to create awareness on pending Sikh issues. More specifically, he wants all innocent Sikh’s to be released from the Indian jails. Some of these Sikh’s are behind bars for over 20 years and some from the era of “black thunder” – glamour’s name given to Indian forces attack on holiest Sikh shrine Sri Harmandir Sahib. Some of these prisoners of hate were put behind jails under the orders of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Singh is expressing his frustration and exercising his right to resist state unfairness. So far after 30 days of hunger strike, he is not able to move any level of government to come negotiate with him and neither he is able to generate a serious level of mass Sikh support. The Sikh institutions are silent; clearly they have their orders from their political masters.
Let’s look at the politicians first. Bhai Gurbaksh Singh is more valuable to them dead. In his death various political parties can claim him as a hero who gave his life for the people of Punjab. Every politician will be fighting nail and tooth over to get face time to praise him in his death. The Akali-BJP Punjab government will get ammunition to attack the central congress lead government for not taking Gurbaksh Singh seriously and tell the World that congress is anti-Sikh. This is a great way to fool Sikh’s once gain and get their votes. (I am no way implementing that congress is better) Obviously, the elected members of Punjab government are too busy with Kabaddi tournaments; after all Kabaddi is Punjab’s national game and how can any politician miss the face time in front of thousands of voters. Punjab government have already made statements saying that releasing of Sikh prisoners is an issue in the jurisdiction of central government of India and state is unable to do much.
On the other hand, the Sikh people of Punjab have not poured out on streets like they use to in 70’s and 80’s. We must keep in mind that majority population of Punjab presently is not Sikh but consist of other religions. I will be not be surprised if in the coming future Punjabi language is not the official state language and “majority” may even ask to change the name of Punjab state. The BJP and Congress led governments systematically changed the demographics by providing incentive to poor from Uttar Pardesh, Madhaya Pardesh, and other states to migrate and live in Punjab. Whatever is left of Sikh population, many are busy doing drugs and infighting.
Why are Sikh’s not responding to the call of support? To find the answer we must go about 30 years back when Sikh’s were butchered, hacked, and burnet alive in India. Then from 1984 till around 1996 Sikhs were killed in fake police encounters, raped, and their homes destroyed. Sikh’s were destroyed financially, intellectually, and politically. Any human rights or political activist who wanted to raise a voice were either disappeared from Police custody, never to be found again, or shot dead by the state sponsored police killers known as ‘cats’. The fear of past atrocities still haunts the people of Punjab and thus the hesitation to answer the call. There is off course a second hidden factor why many have chosen to be quite, and that factor are Sikhs themselves. The Sikh victims of state violence from 80’s and 90’s were left to live in misery. No Sikh institution took the initiative to take care of them. No organized approach was taken by Sikhs to provide shelter, food, and cloths to these victims who were mostly women and small children. These people have lived in silent horrifying lives under constant fear of being victimized again. People of Punjab know the consequences and understand that they have no support from the government and no support from their own people. Why should they risk it all again?
What does this mean? This means Punjab needs a revolution. Sikhs need a revolution. Will they get a revolution? Ah! This is the question worth millions. I don’t have the answer but I do know that nothing can be achieved until there is a pro Sikh government in Punjab. A government with a strong political will to uphold the Sikh rights and be bold enough to fight for the Punjab’s interest. Almost an impossible task but we must remember that Rome was not built in a day. I respect Bhai Gurbaksh Singh’s esteem; he is doing his part in building a revolution.
Baljit Singh Ghuman – December 14, 2013.