A recent strong reaction from a prominent Sikh from India was provoked by continual running commentary criticising India and SGPC by a diaspora Sikh on wide circulation e-mail network. This exchange is typical of similar complaints from Indian Sikhs that Sikh activists in the diaspora, especially those living in the UK, Europe, Canada and America, make their life difficult in India.
They complain that some diaspora Sikh activists denounce India and condemn the Sikh religious authorities like the S.G.P.C. They accuse that those who criticise India endlessly do not allow the vast number of Sikhs in India to be able to live in peace. Perhaps there is a need to understand the real issues and strike the right balance.
There are first generation Sikhs living abroad who take a keen interest in Sikh affairs in India and Punjab. Some have become armchair critics of what goes on. They offer comment on topics of which they have little or no “practical” experience. These self-appointed critics do have knowledge of what is going on but very little actual experience. They feel secure sitting at home while criticising what goes on in another country. In fact, from some of the comments one reads on computer discussion forums, sometimes they do not even have practical experience of what goes in the countries they live in!
So, the question is, are they always wrong to point to injustice and oppression e.g. of minorities, reported in national and world media? Let me give an example from a recent response by a diaspora Sikh, “Normally, the civilized governments of the world appoint commissions of inquiry when injustices are perpetrated on innocent citizens and harmed grievously. Such Commissions are appointed to find the truth and punish the guilty to dispense justice and restore confidence. However, it has been observed that Indian Government appoint such commissions of inquiry and manipulate the terms of reference to hide the truth and protect the guilty. Thirty three years later and eleven commissions of inquiry on killings of Sikhs in 1984 and aftermath, the guilty are roaming free and justice delayed has been justice denied.”
Another example is that of Sikhs rotting in jails even after completing their sentences. The diaspora Sikh continues, “On the contrary there are criminals who belong to Congress party committed Evil Crimes against human Dignity and are roaming free after 33 years and 11 commissions of Inquiry into Killings of innocent Sikhs in Delhi, Chhillar -Hond in Haryana, and other cities….” And so on, the list is almost endless and much coverage is given in the Sikh and even the Indian media. Videos and films are made and shown to the whole world.
Responsible political Sikh activism is justified in the countries they live in. There will be issues which concern their rights as citizens of the diaspora countries. There will also be just concerns about injustices against the Sikhs in other countries, including India. Accountable charity work, in tandem with presentation of evidence in balanced language through own governments in the diaspora, would be the right approach by diaspora Sikh organisations.
Gurmukh Singh OBE