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Above: Sardar Beant Singh [1959 - 84].

Roundtable

Sikh Portrait Gallery:
The Roundtable Open Forum # 111

SATJEEV SINGH

 

 

 




I am the editor of a daily feature on sikhchic.com called “Sikh Portrait Gallery” which appears in the box titled “TODAY’S PHOTO” close to the bottom of the HomePage.

The one-a-day portraits have been appearing on that spot for a full six months now, and continue on a daily basis.

I have been selecting the daily entry and posting it along with a short biographical sketch, for a few weeks now. Not only do I enjoy doing this but it has also been an incredible learning experience for me: I‘m discovering important Sikh newsmakers that I‘ve never heard of before, either because of the limited exposure I have had to Sikh history while I was growing up, or the fact that their contribution has been forgotten and their memory is being lost to our generation and those who will follow.

I see my role as not only uncovering lost pages of our history, but also bringing them to the forefront of our collective consciousness. So that we learn from what has gone before us, good and bad, and honour those on whose shoulders we stand tall today.  

Most selections are easy.

Some, invariably and inevitably, are grey areas.

A few of my choices have even raised concerns from an odd reader or two, such as the inclusion of Manmohan Singh and Ujjal Singh Dosanjh, two examples of politicians who have fallen far short of integrity and ethics in their desperate clawing for or clinging to political power.

I too have struggled with such names, but have chosen to err on the side of inclusion. My logic has been that they are ours, good or bad, and they are nevertheless notable because they are newsmakers and have indeed made history.

I draw the line, however, when it comes to outright criminals, such as mass-murderers KPS Gill or Beant Singh, the erstwhile chief minister. Or the corrupt politicians who hold our community hostage in India and Punjab today. They may find a place one day if ever a list of the damned and the ignominious is begun. 

On the other hand, we readily and proudly include those who, though convicted of crimes by contemporaneous regimes, have been confirmed by history to be heroes and patriots.

Bravehearts such as Bhagat Singh, Mewa Singh and Udham Singh fall into this category. Once labelled ‘terrorists’ by the state, today they are hailed as national heroes by one and all. What sets them apart and brings them to the forefront as shaheeds (martyrs) is the test of time and history.

Which brings me to our latest inclusions.

I must confess that I have hesitated with the likes of Beant Singh and Satwant Singh -- to take but two examples. I, of course, refer to two of the executioners of the person who desecrated the Darbar Sahib and, despite her repeated and horrendous crimes against humanity, managed to evade justice. They delivered justice as members of the country’s own elite security forces who are trained to and sworn to defend its Constitution from anyone and everyone, no matter how high or powerful or evil.

My hesitation? Because we neither support nor condone violence and I have waited for the test of time to guide us.

That concern was finally addressed by the Government of India yesterday, which seems to consider itself at loggerheads with its own 30 million Sikh citizens, their cheap theatrics shaped by the arrogance of the majority.

A mass murderer, also with the name of Beant Singh -- a man who, at the behest of the Central government had unleashed a reign of terror in Punjab during the 1980s -- has this week been honoured by the state with the issuance of a postage stamp.

This hasn’t been an isolated incident.

Other recent mass-murderers of innocent Sikhs have been similarly honoured, either posthumously or with plum positions in power as they still walk free, immune from the reach of law and justice by the dint of protection from their political masters.

This latest ignominy by the Indians themselves has brought home to me in no uncertain terms that indeed our shaheeds are no less freedom fighters than those of yore: Bhagat Singh, Uddham Singh, et al. The very same who are hailed by India today as their liberators.

These latest actions of the Indians have also reminded me that though we abhor violence, we must nevertheless not shy away from honouring those who gave their lives selflessly in the cause of freedom and for the greater good of humanity.

Hence, today, I honour Beant Singh who wielded the sword of justice on the latest desecrator of the Darbar Sahib. Others who deserve the honour will follow in due course.

Thank you, Government of India, for reminding me of my duty.  


THE ROUNDTABLE OPEN FORUM # 111


We invite our readers to share with us their thoughts on the above.    

We also hereby ask our readers to tell us of who they would like to see on this gallery, with brief reasons behind each choice.

 


December 18, 2013

Conversation about this article

1: Harjit Singh, Jagmeet Kaur, Harnam Singh, Himmat Singh & Jaswant Kaur (Amritsar, Punjab), December 17, 2013, 11:42 PM.

Long overdue! A million thanks for doing this.

2: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), December 18, 2013, 1:53 AM.

Interesting. I am not sure why it is okay to put up a picture of Manmohan Singh but not KPS Gill. One committed a genocide against his own people, the other denied that it ever happened. Similarly I'm assuming by politicians you are referring to the Badals in Punjab, not sure why they can't have their pictures posted but Ujjal Dosanjh can have his. Mr. Dosanjh seems to serve the Sikh cause just as well as the Badals, the fact that he refers to my generation as Khalistanis is a case in point.

3: Yuktanand Singh (Michigan, USA), December 18, 2013, 8:08 AM.

It is not easy to draw the line. If the aim was to bring forth pages of history, then we need to drop the burden of judging people and include all Sikh history makers, but with a general note that this list was only a pictorial - not an endorsement. A camera does not discriminate. An unbiased biographical caption is always welcome, unless of course, the aim was to remember only memorable individuals which, is more interesting.

4: Mike Rodrigues (Gurgaon, India), December 18, 2013, 11:17 AM.

Her chamchas named our airport after the silly woman who tore this country apart. What we need to do is honour the man who brought her to justice, by renaming Delhi into "Beantgarh"!

5: N Singh (Canada), December 18, 2013, 11:42 AM.

My understanding of this feature was that it was designed to highlight prominent figures within the Sikh community/history with the purpose of acting as role models, raising the spirit of the Sikhs, especially those among our new generations who are constantly bombarded by negative propaganda. If you even remotely agree with this, then the question is, do we want to highlight those people (Manmohan Singh, Ujjal Dosanjh) who have worked contrary to the interests of the Sikh Panth? Are we saying that it is okay to make history and garner publicity even if you are doing this in a negative way and are prepared to lie and collude with those who would harm us? I must admit that I am struggling with your logic as pointed out by Sunny Grewal #2. You say "My logic has been that they are ours, ggod or bad, and they are nevertheless notable because they are newsmakers and have indeed made history". If this is the case then why have you not addressed the elephant in the room ... Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale? Did he not single handedly change the course of Sikh history? With regards to the test of time, how do you think history will judge a man who denies the genocide of Sikhs to the whole world? Do we really need time to tell us whether this is right or wrong? What do you think would happen to someone who denied the 20th century Jewish holocaust?

6: Raj  (Canada), December 18, 2013, 5:35 PM.

It was long overdue. Satwant Singh should be your next choice. Remember three points: these individuals did not do it for personal reasons, they did not run away like cowards, and finally, they did not hurt any member of the general public, only the criminal who had evaded justice. This should be the basis of your selection in similar cases.

7: Bikramjit Singh (London, United Kingdom), December 19, 2013, 12:06 AM.

If we cannot stand by our shaheeds, then who will? Let us not be swayed by Indian propaganda. It is not a matter of supporting or condoning violence. Sardar Beant Singh and Sardar Satwant Singh dispensed justice; otherwise we would have been plagued with Indira's tyranny for many years. They took their decision not for personal revenge or for any personal gain. In fact they voluntarily gave up their precious lives whilst the one who boasted that she would give her life for her country tried unsuccessfully to flee. Please do not sully the names of these two heroes by including them in a line up with the likes of Manmohan Singh and Ujjal Dosanjh.

8: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), December 19, 2013, 9:59 AM.

I don't think that Sikhs should ever feel it is controversial to praise Sikhs such as Beant Singh and Satwant Singh. The way I see it, had justice not been meted out, I am %100 sure that Indira Gandhi would be alive today, still clinging on to power and still tearing the country apart. You would be crazy to think that any of the courts would have even thought about bringing any kinds of charges against her, especially not after her "victory" for the Hindu dharam. These brave men delivered justice in the face of tyranny, and we should be forever grateful to them.

9: MKS (New York City, USA), December 19, 2013, 11:13 AM.

Singh Sahib - I love this 'Sikh Portrait Gallery'. In 30 seconds, I get to learn so much about other Sikhs. While I make it a point to scroll down and take a peek everyday, I know there are days that I've missed. Can this be given a more prominent place on the site, say towards the top of the page?

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The Roundtable Open Forum # 111"









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