A nation that does not remember those who laid down their lives for it, cannot always remain a nation worth dying for. – unknown
First their family members were tortured, humiliated and killed by the state. Then, for more than 30 years these people lived in fear, silence, and loneliness. They were abandoned by their own people to experience misery of poverty and humiliation by the hands of so called friends and relatives, let alone the state security forces. They were put through this agony simply because they happen to be “Sikhs” and they choose to stand up for their rights and protect their freedom, the freedom they earned through the history which is protected under the constitution of India.
Many are now waiting to die without any medical care or even anyone beside them to console. It is not easy to understand the mental state they live in. They felt used and humiliated by their own. They learned to live life as invisible people; neither the Indian nor Punjab government supported these victims. I can safely say that the Sikhs, specially the rich Sikhs, around the globe did not took much initiative to look after them. SGPC, Sikh political parties, and majority of individual Sikhs continuously ignored them for so long. They broke down financially, mentally, socially, and slipped into the anguish of poverty.
Now, some of us (intentionally or unintentionally) are violating their left over of the shredded dignity. Many of us get our pictures done with them and tell the World that we are helping them. Suddenly, many Individuals have realized that by taking advantage of the condition of state victims they can cash in political benefits, establish charity organizations and enjoy fast fame in the era of social media. I would say this is seva (selfless service) with benefits!
Many individuals and organizations are now fighting to take credit for how much they care about these abandoned people and media is being used very skilfully to win this fight. I personally, have been monitoring and writing of these developments for at least six to seven years now.
The people I am talking about are known as “Shaheed Parivar” (families of Sikh martyrs). The living dead families of those who restored the Honour of the Sikh faith. I can only call upon people asking to stop degrading them in their darkest hour, help them but don’t make them into a media circus. For humanities sake let them die with little dignity they are left with. Everyone deserves and have the right to die with dignity. Don’t put their crumbling last days on display to prove that you are doing a great work. People who perform “true seva” (selfless service to humanity) don’t need to flash their images and honk their horn in media. Stop using their helpless situation for your cheap fame. They deserve to die with dignity.
We failed them by not standing in their hour of need. I have seen many families all alone following up on the legal court matters, more specifically the wives of militants, human rights workers, political activists, and even to the extent of Panthic politicians. I have witnessed the homes belonging to these families crumbled down, I have seen them becoming homeless. We as a Nation failed them when we could not protect their daughters, victims of various abuses, of these “shaheeds”. We failed them when we could not arrange for the education of their children. We failed them when we use these families during political campaigns. We fail them each day when we ignore them. We failed them when our institutions did nothing proactive to help them but were mere showcase models and yet these institutions spend millions on political stunts and personal “VIP status” spending.
Many would say that Sikhs are not organized and were not ready, and still not ready to assist these families. Well, then we must halt and mobilize all our resources for the protections and betterment of these families. I am sure we can save lot of Sikh Nations money by not adding marble to the gurdwaras, by not wasting our funds on court cases as a result of infighting between gurdwara committees.
It is time that we stop the photo ops and the race for personal status gains. It is time we start taking care of what is left of these invisible people of Punjab, it will not clear the Sikh name but at the least our future history books will have a chapter saying Sikhs did stopped and looked back at these families. We should not go into a battle if we have no weapons. We must not blow the horn of war if we are not prepared. We must be politically smart, and we must be politically strong before we move forward.
These innocent victim families were Indian citizens and yet neither and Indian or Punjab governments have mobilized their resources to compensate them, help them start their lives, or made any noticeable effort to provide justice. Unfortunately, the governments failed them too and failed to recognize the citizen rights and did not provided any support which they may qualify being victim families.
I may get lot of slack for this, but I must write my thoughts out. Every time I talk about this issue, my thoughts are shot down by the fellow Sikhs. I am always told to forget the issue or put this issue on a back burner and work together for future action plans. I do not agree with it, as I think we cannot successfully move forward until we have honestly complete a post mortem of our actions in past. In more than 30 years, actually since 1947, we as Sikhs have not assessed or learnt from our mistakes. We cannot move forward until we address the past, admit the mistakes, and stand by our fundamental duties. Sikhs failed the children of their martyrs and this fact will always poke us through the history books.
Baljit Singh Ghuman – December 2013.