Who Are They to Burn My Flag?JASJIT SINGH DHANOA
The Sikh Gurdwara shooting that left 6 innocent congregants dead in Wisconsin has left many devastated, and looking for answers.
In the hours following the shooting, news channels desperately attempted to find answers on Sikhism, and as a Sikh all I could do is sit there in shock, not just at the shooting, but more at how no one seemed to know who we were.
Many misconceptions were released by the media, including statements that Sikhs were an offshoot of Hinduism, or a blend of Islam and Hinduism.
Sikhism has a great deal of respect for all faiths, but it is as independent as any faith. Founded in Punjab (which now falls in both Pakistan and India), its rejection of the caste system, idol worship, and rituals were just a few of the reasons the faith arose, not out of Hinduism or Islam, but separately as a force against oppressive theologies of the time.
Equally appalling however, is the reaction of India’s political party leaders over the horrific events. With some Indian citizens burning American flags, and shouting in protest against America, I was angered by their ignorance.
Who are they to burn my flag?
Had these Indians and party leaders forgotten what caused the Sikhs to flee India and find refuge in America in the first place?
On June 4, 1984 the Indian army under the order of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi attacked the Sikh’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple. The attack was justified by the government as an attempt to flush out Sikh separatists.
Like most Sikhs, these separatists were demanding freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and equal representation. However, the attack did not justify the human rights violations committed within the complex of killing congregants, urinating on dead bodies, tying congregants’ hands with their own turbans, and forcing them to drink the bloody water of the holy pool surrounding the Golden Temple.
Along with the Golden Temple, 52 other gurdwaras (housing no such separatists) were attacked. Reports estimate that 3,000 – 5,000 congregants were killed in 2 days, however, due to a media blackout and ban of Amnesty International (which continues to this day), an accurate number is difficult to fathom.
Tens of thousands of Sikhs fled the nation of India in the years following 1984.
When Indira Gandhi was killed by her own two Sikh body guards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, the ruling Congress party enticed mobs to ransack the capital of Delhi, and kill Sikhs. It is estimated that over 5,000 Sikhs were killed between October 31 and November 2 of 1984. Sikh men were lit on fire with tires hung around their neck, women were raped in the streets, and the police stood around and did absolutely nothing to stop it. To this day, regardless of all the eye-witness reports that put politicians such as Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar at the scene of these murders, no one has been convicted.
Witness reports from the Wisconsin shooting state that the shooter aimed at mostly “turbaned individuals."
Similarly, in the years following 1984 in India, the government of India began Operation Woodrose, which was a shoot and kill policy of all “terrorists“, with terrorists being described as those who wore turbans and had long beards.
It is estimated that 150,000 to 250,000 Sikhs were killed under the false accusation of terrorism during that operation. The state sponsored terrorism gave a disturbing amount of power to then police chief KPS Gill. It is the orders of KPS Gill and other such high ranking officers that caused the death of thousands. Today, KPS Gill and most of the police officers who killed young men in police encounters, raped daughters in front of their fathers, and destroyed a whole generation, roam free.
Due to these reasons above, I cannot accept India’s “outrage” of the Wisconsin Sikh Temple incident. The leaders of India are hypocrites if they call for swift action for the killing of 6 Sikhs, when they themselves have the blood of 200,000 Sikhs on their hands. (I am only speaking of Sikhs in this post, but many minorities, including Christians, suffer in India).
The American media immediately fixed whatever mistakes they had made regarding the Sikh faith. Police shot and killed the culprit, the Gurdwara’s president was hailed a hero for his attempt to fight the shooter with his kirpan, and over $150,000 have been raised by Americans to help the victims and those that were wounded.
That is what makes America great.
As Americans we may have some work to do in understanding each other through inter-faith dialogue, but the value of human life and freedom is held at a level unknown to the Indian Government. The Indian government is yet to acknowledge the thousands disappeared and killed, yet to prosecute those responsible, and have provided almost nothing to the families of the victims.
India’s hypocrisy should not be tolerated.
The violence in India continues as recently as this last month, where 17 innocent villagers were killed by Indian Police.
India does not represent Sikhs or the Sikh faith, and it definitely does not represent Sikh-Americans.
I am thankful that I live in a nation where I can practice my faith freely, safely, and even when tough times arise, I can turn to my fellow Americans for comfort, support, and change.
August 12, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Parminder Singh Mangat (Ludhiana, Punjab ), August 12, 2012, 7:48 AM.
2: Inderjit Singh (New Delhi, India), August 12, 2012, 8:00 AM.
Please let me assure you that no Sikh in this country approves of or condones the stupid actions outside the American Embassy the other day, purportedly over the Wisconsin tragedy. The handful of people participating in the charade were clearly hired hands, meant to embarrass Sikhs and Americans. If you look carefully at the photos, you'll note that the signs are professionally produced - which means expensive. There is no way a spontaneous mob or genuinely grieving and distressed group in India would have the wherewithal to produce such signs. This is part of the perennial propaganda machine that our own government (alas!) has unleashed against us. Please give this silliness no weight. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Lord willing, we too will join you one day, somewhere, anywhere outside India, once we are able to extricate ourselves from the entanglements of this miserable land.
3: Harinder (Uttar Pradesh, India), August 12, 2012, 3:29 PM.
No Sikh in India condones burning the flag of your country. Those who did it don't represent us, nor are they of the community. God bless America which gave you what you needed the most during your time of need - while India stood by and did nothing.
4: Harry (Willowbrook, Illinois, USA), August 12, 2012, 4:54 PM.
The fellows who were burning the American flag in New Delhi claimed to be part of something called the "National Akali Dal" - an unheard of organization! I have never heard about this party. Was it created in just a few days' time? Why don't Sikhs in India question the racist attacks on Sikhs in 1984, and in the years following to date, and ask why they were never denounced as hate crimes and domestic terrorism? This is a good time to question the racist rulers of India.
5: Harmander Singh (London, United Kingdom), August 13, 2012, 8:45 AM.
As Jasjit Singh points out, we need to contrast the way America has behaved through this tragedy with the manner in which India has dealt with even worse atrocities against its Sikh citizens. It is worth remembering this before rushing off to wave Indian flags later this week as India's Independence Day comes around. There is little left to celebrate about India any more, no matter how hard we try looking for a reason.
6: Jespal Brar (Lodi, California, U.S.A.), August 14, 2012, 12:19 AM.
To Indians: Please keep your hands of the flag of my country, the United States of America. We will not tolerate your disrespect to our flag.
7: Ari Singh (Sofia, Bulgaria), August 14, 2012, 2:11 AM.
Well spoken. There is no comparison between America and India! The Indians are very clever at playing games.
8: Sanjeet (Dana Point, California, USA), August 14, 2012, 11:59 AM.
Excellent article. Thank you for expressing what so many others are feeling. As the 2nd comment above stated, with such professional signs, you know a lot of money and mischief was behind that gathering. India, you are the world's biggest fake democracy!
9: Paul (Fresno, California, USA), August 21, 2012, 12:30 AM.
This was an act sponsored by the RSS to throw mud on Sikhs. We are much better than that. America is a great country and I am proud to call myself a citizen of this country. Jasjit, great job in writing this!