When you open any random Sikh handle on social media, chances are, the person will not be a Modi supporter. Of course, there are some – but these people are rare. Most Sikh handles and profiles are averse to the Modi persona. They do not exude confidence in the Prime Minister, are staunch critics of the Bharatiya Janata Party and in some cases, are even found abusing PM Modi and his government. In the animated video of the Punjabi song ‘Fer Dekhange’, ‘Jatts’ are seen blocking Prime Minister Modi’s convoy and singling out the Prime Minister. They surround him while being armed with sticks. What happens next is anybody’s guess. What is the reason for such hate?
With the coming of PM Modi in 2014, the hatred for India’s majority community has only turned more poisonous among Khalistani quarters. Finally, a man came to power in Delhi who stood for Hindus, who wore his Sanatan culture on his sleeve proudly and who has himself in the past claimed to be a ‘Hindu Nationalist’. He gave voiceless Hindus a voice.
Khalistanis went berserk merely seeing visuals of Prime Minister Modi. They still cannot stand the very sight of him. That no other government in the past has worked a fraction of what the Modi government has when it comes to the welfare of Sikhs and propagation of their glorious history is a separate matter altogether.
But Sikhs have been engulfed by an ecosystem of Modi-haters. Khalistanis are a vocal lot. They tend to shape the opinions of malleable Sikhs when it comes to PM Modi, which is why so many from the community can be seen expressing their dislike for the Prime Minister.
Hindus and Sikhs are inseparable entities. These two communities are by far India’s most interactive. Hindus marry Sikhs and vice versa without really blinking an eye. Sikhs can be seen in abundance at the Vaishno Devi shrine and other Hindu temples, while Hindus visit Gurdwaras often – even more frequently than some Sikhs at times. The general psyche between the two communities is that of not seeing each other’s faith or beliefs before becoming friends and even relatives.
But there is a caveat. This brotherhood between the two communities posed a severe challenge to politicians who have historically made divisive politics their mainstay. Hindus and Sikhs becoming one bloc and voting as such could spell doom for many back in the day. The Akali Dal became very strong in Punjab in the 20th century as a result.
This camaraderie went beyond Punjab. In Delhi – where Sikhs form a sizable population, this mutual understanding between the two communities could upset many equations for politicians belonging to the Gandhi clan. It is for this very reason that Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi propped up Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in Punjab.
Bhindranwale was supposed to be a political opponent to the Akali Dal. He was supposed to follow an extremist line of politics, alienate Sikhs and Hindus from each other and push Hindu voters of the state towards the Congress. But then, as history tells us, Bhindranwale became a Frankenstein monster who turned against Indira Gandhi and set out on a dangerous militant path – becoming a danger to the Indian state. Under his watch, Hindus were killed in Punjab without any fear of the law.
He set base at Sri Harmandir Sahib. Before he entered the holiest site of Sikhs, he could be taken out by the Congress government. Have no doubt about it. He was no less of a danger when he did not enter the Darbar Sahib complex. But Indira Gandhi is accused of having waited for him to go inside the Golden Temple complex, after which she launched an unprecedented military offensive on the heart of Sikhs.
Operation Bluestar remains an unpardonable sin which Indira Gandhi committed. Any Sikh – moderate or not, cannot accept the fact that an Indian Prime Minister would order the army to go in all guns blazing inside the Harmandir Sahib complex. But Indira Gandhi did just that. Her goal? To alienate Sikhs and Hindus beyond repair. To drive a wedge so deep that these two communities do not stand the sight of each other.
The failure of Operation Bluestar becomes manifest in the way it was shoddily planned, the army’s unpreparedness to conduct a swift takedown of Bhindranwale and the unprecedented number of civilian casualties. And then, Indira Gandhi chose to attack the complex on the martyrdom day of the fifth Sikh Guru – Guru Arjun Dev. There can be coincidences, surely – just not so many of them.
Operation Bluestar resulted in the assassination of Indira Gandhi. This was followed by an anti-Sikh riot.
Despite such massive wounds, in a very short span of time, Sikhs and Hindus reconciled. The massive Gandhi pet project of turning every Indian Sikh into a monster had failed. But memories remain on both sides of the spectrum. And today, those memories are being rekindled.
The ISI Angle
Pakistan wishes to make India bleed with a thousand cuts. The Khalistan movement is one such piece to Pakistan’s rather gigantic jigsaw war against India. The ISI has bought some diaspora Sikhs, who in turn brainwash some from the community within India. Thus, an ISI network of anti-India elements is set up, willing to act at the orders of Rawalpindi.
The ISI runs disinformation campaigns on social media. Recently, it tried to convince Indian Sikhs that they were about to be thrown out of the country’s armed forces by PM Modi. This campaign was caught and busted on social media. Some others are not. And then, Punjab is a border state, and that makes Pakistan’s job easier.
ISI is working on a Congress template. PM Modi is a proud Hindu leader. So, Pakistan is trying to convince Sikhs that Modi is not a leader who will look after their interests. The farm laws propaganda added fuel to fire. It convinced Sikhs en masse that the Modi government was out to destroy agriculture in Punjab, and as an implication – the state itself. Again, fearmongering against farm laws was spread by far-left unions of the state. Pakistan had a time of its life exploiting the boiling sentiments of Sikhs. It deployed Khalistani elements to ensure Modi is portrayed as the eternal enemy.
The Road Ahead
Prime Minister Modi’s decision to declare December 26 as ‘Veer Baal Diwas’ in the memory of Guru Gobind Singh’s four sons has had instant and fundamental effects. Many within the Sikh community are surprised. PM Modi did what Dr Manmohan Singh – a Sikh Prime Minister could not. This has been said by the head of the Damdami Taksal himself, and that is no small feat for the Prime Minister. He has impressed the most orthodox sect of Sikhs in Punjab, the leader of which has come out praising him for the same.
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Decisions like these will go a long way in convincing Sikhs that PM Modi is not their enemy. Khalistanis are on the backfoot in Punjab. More such decisions can quite literally turn the tables on Pakistan. In fact, such decisions were expected to be made by the Prime Minister at Ferozepur on January 5. Now you know why that rally was stopped, and PM Modi was not allowed to address it?
Sikhs are sentimental people. We are emotional. We are self-sufficient, hardworking, and perpetually happy – to an extent that we became a bud of jokes for much of India after 1984. Sikhs do not need anybody, much less the government, to ‘save’ them. But they do long for something. And that is recognition. Sikhs want their glorious history to be told across India. They want the Indian state to respect and recognise all that the community has done for this land and its people.
Successive Congress governments, however, have chosen consciously to ignore such Sikh aspirations and demands. Instead, they have worked to portray Sikhs as mindless people who are fit to be made the subject of any joke. Given that the bulk of independent India has been under Congress rule, Sikhs now see ‘Delhi’ as the one looking to take them down, which is why whoever comes to power at the Centre finds Punjab a tricky state to tackle. The lines between parties and the Indian system have been blurred for the community.
PM Modi representing Hindutva did not come as any relief. Yet, PM Modi is also the same man who has worked wonders for the Sikh community. From making the Kartarpur Sahib corridor a reality to allowing FCRA registration for Darbar Sahib, to making a major infrastructure push to connect Sikh spiritual and historical sites – Prime Minister Modi has done it all. And then, celebrating Sikh centenary anniversaries – like the 350th Prakash Purab of Guru Gobind Singh, the 550th Prakash Purab of Guru Nanak, and most recently, the 400th Prakash Purab of Guru Tegh Bahadur with pomp and grandeur, PM Modi has made the unthinkable possible for the community.
This fluttered many feathers. Pakistan saw its plan to inflict pain on India using the Khalistan card slipping out of its hands. The opposition saw PM Modi making a major push to bring Hindus and Sikhs closer than ever. It was but given that a major effort would be made to spill water over such endeavours. That came with propaganda surrounding the farm laws.
But PM Modi’s announcement regarding ‘Veer Baal Diwas’ has put all anti-India forces on the back foot once again. On social media, Sikhs can be seen thanking the Prime Minister. There is a visible sentimental shift within the community vis-à-vis PM Modi. And then, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath is already winning Sikh hearts in his state with a major push for recognising the community’s history, making it a part of curricula, and celebrating it.
Decisions like these will form an antidote to Khalistani venom being injected into the country by Pakistan and its proxies. The Sikh psyche is complex. It needs to be dealt with sensitively. Calling for a repeat of 1984, meanwhile, will serve nobody any good.