There is little doubt that Guru Gobind Singh ji’s 350thParkaash Celebrations at Patna in Bihar state have raised the profile of Sikhs in India and worldwide. Glowing tributes have been paid to Guru ji and there has been lavish praise for the egalitarian Sikh ideology and institutions.
Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, has gained much popularity amongst the Sikhs by making state-backed preparations and by making state facilities available to the millions visiting Patna and the Bihar state. His great admiration for Guru ji and the Sikhs seems genuine and without any political or other motivations.
On 5 January 2016, the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, attended the celebrations in Patna. He said that “the world should know how Guru Gobind Singh ji has inspired so many people…Guru Gobind Singh ji put knowledge at the core of his teachings and inspired so many people through his thoughts and ideals. In addition to his valour, there are other aspects about Guru Gobind Singh ji’s personality that are admirable…Guru Gobind Singh ji did not believe in any form of social discrimination and he treated everyone equally.”
A commemorative postage stamp was released to mark the occasion. A high-level national committee has been formed “that would chalk out an elaborate plan for the celebrations.” Celebrations would take place , “in every corner of the country. It will be celebrated everywhere across the world where Indians reside. For this, the government of India has earmarked an amount of Rs 100 crore for the events.”
The above is a lot for the Sikhs to take in one reading. Should Sikhs suspect the motives of the Hindutva led Indian establishment? A Sikh scholar said recently that in India and the west there is great good will for Sikhs. Let us not dampen it. Indeed we should not dampen it. Yet, nor should we close our eyes to the challenges before us to get our own house in order.
In India today, 1984 seems like a distant memory. For centuries the Hindus have been saying that Sikhs are Hindus. The Sikhs have been saying that Sikhs are not Hindus nor Muslim but a distinct “Tisra mazhab”. Scholars like Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha went out of their way to show without any shred of doubt that Khalsa Panth of Guru Nanak-Guru Gobind Singh is “naira” (distinct). That conviction is based on Sikh thought – Sikh ideology, identity and institutions. Hindus and even Muslims can say whatever they like – that Sikhs are Hindus or Muslims. Hindus and Muslims have been attending Sangats and Gurdwaras for centuries.
However, it is the inner conviction of Sikhs based on historical fact of “Ek Guru and Ek Panth” that Sikhs remain the naira Khalsa Panth – universal in outlook yet with distinct Khalsa principles, code and conduct. Regrettably, recent events have shown that some Sikhs tend to score own goals regarding the unity of One Guru Granth and Guru khalsa Panth. We need to keep Guru Gobind Singh ji’s final Command in mind and strengthen Panthic institutions and processes.
Gurmukh Singh OBE