Kids Corner

Roundtable

The Sikh & Muslim Minorities of India:
Pawns in The Hands of Mischief-Makers -
The Roundtable Open Forum # 134

NANAK SINGH NISHTER

 

 

 




PREFACE

In the gloom and doom of global inter-religious conflict, there is a ray of shining light.

The Islamic rulers of the jewel in the desert, Dubai, in the Gulf states of United Arab Emirates, on the sub-continent of Arabia, the heart of Islam, have given permission to the Sikhs to build their 'Gurdwara' (Sikh place of worship) amongst them!

Up till 1966 Dubai was completely under British protection and the Indian rupee was the currency. That same year oil was discovered leading to a massive influx of Indian and Pakistani workers. In 1971 the Emirs of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and five other neighbouring emirates joined together to form the United Arab Emirates with its own currency, the UAE dirham, and gained independence from Britain.

Dubai is only a small sub-emirate within the UAE with Abu Dhabi being the largest city, but due to the astuteness of the Emir, His Highness Mohammed bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, it began development as a business and tourism hub of the middle-east. It opened the Ali Jebel Free Zone and invited investment with minimum restrictions and red-tape.

Today Dubai is called the business capital of the middle-east. This has also attracted tourism on a very large scale. It boasts some of the most futuristic buildings and structures in the world. The tallest building in the world, the 'Khalifah Burj' is constructed here.

About 50,000 Sikhs live in this land. Their Gurdwara is a shining example and a positive step in inter-religious harmony with Muslims allowing Sikhs to build their first ever gurdwara in the Gulf on donated land which covers 25,400 sq ft (2,360 m).

The major boost came when the Dubai government came to know that Sikhs don't worship idols and once Dubai authorities were convinced that setting up a gurdwara is not going to impact on the basic principles of Islam, things quickly started falling in place and approval came for construction of the gurdwara.

In June 2010, foundations were laid for this large gurdwara, the first 'official' Sikh place of worship, in the region.

Earlier, in the year 2009, the Emir, after repeated requests from the Sikhs, gave the approval subject to consent from the 'Council of Imams' which is responsible for all matters of a religious nature. The Sikh submissions strived to show the close proximity between the basic spiritual pillars of Islam and Sikhism; the role played by various Muslim and Sufi saints in the developmental stage of Sikhism, including the fact that seven Muslims have their hymns enshrined within the Guru Granth Sahib; that Sikhism, like Islam, believes in the One God and does not approve of idol-worship; and that Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, passed this way with his constant travel companion, a Muslim, Bhai Mardana, on their way to Mecca and Medina.

To add to the joy and sense of well-being, the Emir offered a piece of land free of charge, for the Sikhs to build their gurdwara.

SIKHS PARTICIPATE IN IFTAR AT DUBAI MOSQUE

The Sikhs from Guru Nanak Darbar in Dubai were invited to visit the Al Manar Islamic Centre to attend the Iftar Party on Friday, July 4, 2014.

About 150 Sikhs from Dubai’s Gurdwara visited the Centre and experienced an Iftar. Ahmed Hashim, one of the organisers, believes such events help people improve their understanding of Islam.

In an exchange of pleasantries, the Guru Nanak Darbar presented a plaque with the opening verses of the Holy Quran and Guru Granth Sahib.

Sardar Surender Singh Kandhari, president of the Gurdwara said, “We feel proud and happy that our Muslim brothers invited us as a community. Together we learned about the similarities between Sikhism and Islam. It was a unique and a great learning experience, having a dialogue and knowing the goodness in
every human being is the biggest benefit of such inter-faith dialogues.”

MOSQUE - GURDWARA - MOSQUE

In a developing process to keep pace with the challenging times and to effectively incorporate the Sikh fundamentals, the Sixth Master armed the Sikhs and encouraged them to be defenders of the weak and the oppressed.

In the year 1608, he built the Akal Takht, the Sikh Religious Seat of Authority, in front of the Golden Temple, within the same premises.

In the year 1634 he also built a mosque for Muslims in the village now known as Hargobindpur in the Gurdaspur district of Punjab, which was famous as “Guru ki Maseet”. In the year 1947, during the Partition, all Muslims of the village migrated and the mosque was abandoned.

Sikhs converted this deserted mosque into a gurdwara and named it as “Gurdwara Guru ki Maseet,” retaining the name of mosque. In the year 2003, some Muslim families came for settlement in the village. Seeing this and without their asking for it, the Sikhs voluntarily vacated the gurdwara and handed it over to the Muslims.

Now it stands once again as “Guru ki Maseet”, telling a unique story of Sikh-Muslim friendship.

SIKHS & MUSLIMS IN LONDON

During the riots in the United Kingdom, the worst of its kind between August 6 and 11, 2011 in the month of Ramazan, a bunch of Sikhs stood outside the Mosque of Southhall, London and protected them while they were praying their Taraweeh Namaz (prayer at night) even as the riots were going on.

SIKH MASSACRE IN CHHATI-SINGHPURA, KASHMIR

Sikhs and Muslims have lived together in Kashmir for more than five centuries, right from the days of the travels of Guru Nanak in this region. During all these years Sikhs and Muslims have lived harmoniously without getting influenced by any biased histories projecting the two communities against each other. 

The reaction of the Muslims in the Muslim-dominated area and the State Government is commendable, when 35 innocent Sikhs were massacred and several injured on March 20, 2000, in Chhati-Singhpura.

[It was discovered later that the massacre was carried out by Indian Intelligence operatives with the goal of fomenting conflict between the various communities of Jammu & Kashmir.]

On March 23, 2000, the State Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the killing of 35 Sikhs in Chhati Singhpura. Members belonging to different communities and political parties expressed heart-felt condolences to the dependants of those killed. Speaking on the resolution, the Chief Minister said that there was no apprehension that the militants would target the Sikhs and hence no security ‘bandobast’ (arrangements, precautions) had been taken. The carnage also figured in and was condemned in the state Legislative Council.

This was the first time in the Kashmir that Sikhs had ever been targeted. In the aftermath of the attacks, Indian Home Minister offered protective measures. However the local Sikh leadership rejected the plan, saying that the Muslim majority had not been hostile to them and that no protection was needed.

The massacre was widely condemned especially by all the Muslims, as well as by the leaders of the Kashmiri separatist movement. I had personal interviews with Sikh and Muslim members individually. Every one of them was of the firm opinion that this massacre can never be the task of the Kashmiri militants. We have been living as brothers in this valley since last several centuries, not even a minor problem ever cropped up whatsoever. And that this had been deliberately created to diversify our relations.

On July 28 2010, some unidentified persons allegedly beat up and chopped off the hair of a Sikh youth. Subsequently, the Sikhs received anonymous letters from so-called Islamic militants asking them to either embrace Islam or leave the Valley.

The Kashmir State president of All India Shiromani Akali Dal, Joginder Singh said, “There is every apprehension that some governmental agency wants to create a rift between us and the Muslims.”

The Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah condemned the incident. Separatist
leader and chairman of the Hurriyat group, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq called the incident “highly un-civilized and unacceptable”. He condemned the threats delivered to the Sikhs, maintaining that the Sikhs are part of Kashmiri society and it is the duty of every Muslim to protect the honour and lives of the Sikh community.

The hard-line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani also reassured the Sikhs, saying they shouldn't feel threatened and should ignore the "fake letters". He assured the community that nobody would harm them. Earlier, Geelani had made an emotional appeal and said that harming the Sikhs would be like "inflicting a wound on his (Geelani's) body".

NAMAAZ OFFERED IN GURDWARA JOSHIMATH

You might have observed in the media that the Sikhs have established another unique precedent. On August 20, 2012, on the occasion of Eid-Ul-Fitar (Ramazan Eid), the village Joshimath in the Himalayan State of Uttranchal had heavy rains. About 800 Muslims live in the area and it is a general practice that on Eid, the Muslim population offers collective prayers, and here they used to pray in the open space of the Maidan.

The heavy rains and resulting floods made it impossible that year. Moreover, their small mosques could not accommodate them.

The local Sikhs invited them to offer their prayers in the gurdwara and the Muslims gladly agreed and prayed facing towards Mecca, not towards the Guru Granth Sahib. 

Thus Sikhs have proved effective in uniting humankind. And their Scripture spreads a little known message that no religion in its correct perspective could cause any misgivings or segregatory influences. On the other hand, the text of this Scripture has proved beyond all reasonable doubts that by understanding and respecting other religions one could stand for integration of human beings by staunchly following his own religion.

MUSLIMS TAKE SHELTER IN GURDWARA

In the Sunday edition of the Siasat Daily of Hyderabad, dated 8-12-2013 on page 3, there was a survey report titled  “Riots of Muzafar Nagar” by Janab Zaheer Uddin Ali Khan, Managing Editor, published with the caption, “Sympathy of the Sikh brothers with the Muslim victims”.

Saying that, “When in Muzafar Nagar and its surrounding villages, anti-Muslim riots were at a peak and Muslims were being killed, two Sikh brothers have opened the doors of the gurdwara for these refugees. They have arranged food for them and offered place in their houses. This Sikh family, after migration from Pakistan, had settled here. Even then they had sympathy with the Muslims.”

It need not be mentioned that these Sikh brothers might have witnessed the destructions and killings of their relatives and properties at the hands of Muslims in Pakistan; even then fearlessly they stood against the mad wave of rioters to help the Muslim victims.

This is the result of the teachings of Sikhism to treat humanity as one.

HYDSERABAD SIKH-MUSLIM CLASH

During the night of May 9, 2014, some miscreants hung the flesh of a cow on the Khanda at the entrance gate of Gurdwara Sikh Chhawani of Kishanbagh, Hyderabad.

The Sikhs did not over-react or retaliate, and remained quite calm and peaceful, and merely filed an FIR with the Police. But no action was taken to satisfy the aggrieved Sikh community.

On May 14 the situation aggravated and trouble erupted spontaneously when the Sikhs discovered around 6.15 am that some miscreants had burnt their Nishan Sahib (religious flag) at a hillock on one side of which is the Sikh Chhawani inhabited by a Sikh population and on the upper side a Muslim-dominated locality, Arsh Mahal, which was the centre of the clashes.

A large number of Sikhs armed with kirpans (swords) and lathis confronted the residents of Arsh Mahal area. By 8 am, there were 1,000 armed people from both the groups.

The situation worsened when the Border Security Force (“BSF”) personnel were injured by heavy stone pelting by the Muslim mob from the hillside and opened fire injuring 11 and killing 3 Muslims. People of both sides suffered injuries in mutual clashes and police booked cases against members of both communities.

It would not be out of place to mention that these Sikhs are the descendents of the Sikh Army sent around 1830 by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to help the Muslim Ruler Nizam for the protection of his state, which in itself is a marvellous example of Sikh-Muslim friendship during the last two centuries in this region.

Through the generations, the Nizams have maintained these soldiers as a separate Irregular Army of a Sikh Force during their regime, conferring them with a special status and privileges. The ranks were made hereditary and were conferred to their dependents without any other requirements or qualifications.

SAHARANPUR MUSLIM-SIKH RIOTS

After the partition of Punjab and India, this is the first occurrence of a communal conflict between Sikhs and Muslims in this region. It is urgent that it be contained by stopping the flaring by the leaders and intellectuals of both communities.

Certain aspects of the Saharanpur clashes indicate meticulous planning by those who had a singular agenda of dividing the Sikhs and Muslims in the western Uttar Pradesh district. The Inspector General of Police, Meerut Zone, Alok Sharma confirmed that "the riot was pre-planned. The way the firing was done and shops were burnt indicate many possibilities".

Some rioters were lighting bombs made of bottles filled with flammable liquid and throwing them inside the shops and were using guns and swords. Muslims from Moradabad and Muzzafarpur were brought in in large numbers.

Interestingly, the disputed plot is adjacent to the gurdwara and was purchased in 2001 by them for extension. This land belonged to a Muslim family prior to 1947 and subsequently sold to a Hindu family.

Certain Muslims had claimed their rights over the plot four years ago whereas the Sikhs purchased the land 14 years ago and since then were taking care of it. Though the Muslims claimed that the plot was a Waqf property, they could not prove the same in the court of law and it was finally handed over to the Sikhs.

Since then, it was a non-issue for both the communities. The construction work was started there by the Sikhs a year ago without any opposition. But all of a sudden, some miscreants objected to the construction and violence erupted on Saturday, July 26, 2014.

NEED OF THE HOUR

In spite of the abundant material distorting the Sikh image, the Muslims and Hindus do not have any religious prejudices against the Sikhs in general, as Sikhism came into existence for uniting mankind through harmony between all religions. The Sikhs in India have their friends and foes in both the Hindu and Muslim controlled political parties who never miss any chance of indulging in the Sikh affairs and unwarrantedly involve themselves to exploit the situation and create a sense of enmity with the other community to achieve their political goals.

We have been made sacrificial goats and victims of their conspiracy since centuries, so let us introspect on the present scenario and resolve to address the issues:

I    Apart from several conformities, the fundamental fact is that both Islam and Sikhism are religions of Scripture, and worshippers of One Formless Creator. It is the need of the hour that they should realize that the conspiracies and concocted plans have the express purpose of making them fight each other.

In the present scenario it is important and essential to hold joint seminars of Sikhs and Muslims to provide opportunities for discussions and to educate the masses to dispel the ignorance and misunderstandings about each other.

II   The Sikhs and Muslims being minorities in India and in many other countries are in the same boat with a threat of storm on the horizon. Let us start afresh the misunderstood and exploited Sikh–Muslim relations in the present perspectives and resolve to work for peaceful co-existence, progress and prosperity, with the belief in One Almighty, in His Will and oneness of humanity.

It is interesting to note that the word ‘Allah’ appears 114 times in the Quran Sharif and 37 times in Guru Granth Sahib … with the same meaning, concept and spirit. Whereas in no other scripture of the world, there appears the names of God from a multiplicity of faith traditions, including the term ‘Allah‘.

III    There is another similarity -- of poverty and illiteracy within certain segments in both communities. The Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee reported in 2006 that the socio-economic and educational status of Indian Muslims is below the conditions of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

And according to the 2001 Census, Sikhs are having 60.55% literacy, indicating that 39.45% of the Sikhs are without any formal language training.

The NSSO a government survey during 2009-10 says that unemployment was highest among Sikhs.

Among allcommunities, unemployment increased only among Sikhs, and not in any other community. At the same time, most unfortunately, the per capita spending was highest with Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure Report (MPCE) disclosing the figure of Sikh households at Rs 1659.

IV   These degraded and alarming conditions of both the Sikh and Muslim communities demand that instead of becoming tools in the hands of destructive forces, they should concentrate on building their wealth, strength and energy and applying them for developmental works within their communities. They should invest all of their resources for this cause, including propagating and availing of the benefits from the government schemes for minorities and passing the necessary information and helping each other.


THE ROUNDTABLE OPEN FORUM # 134

We welcome your thoughts and opinions on the issues raised in this article.



 
Edited for sikhchic.com
October 14, 2014


 

Conversation about this article

1: Karamvir Kaur (New Delhi, India), October 14, 2014, 5:30 AM.

No matter how great or grievous the provocation, we Sikhs in India need to learn not to over-react or respond in a knee-jerk way. Instigating clashes between Sikhs and Muslims is the latest tool being used by the BJP/RSS scoundrels -- in the same way the Congress used to pit one community against another - in order to keep the minority communities weak and off-balance. In going this route, they can claim the higher ground while secretly being the real culprits. It is time for Sikhs to make allies with Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Dalits, etc. in a serious and concerted way if we are to survive this phase of the Age of Kali -- Kalijug. We WILL prevail, but it is in our hands to contain and limit our losses along the way.

2: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), October 14, 2014, 8:18 AM.

The Muslim community too needs to take responsibility and be accountable. They need to step outside of the jihadist complex which drapes their religion and understand that reformation is necessary in order for them to progress socially, economically and politically. The Abrahamic religions at their core are quite intolerant, there is a reason why Judaism and Christianity which is practiced today is nothing like the way these religions were traditionally practiced.

3: Taran Singh (Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India), October 14, 2014, 12:40 PM.

No doubt, the Muslims have to answer for a lot the world over. It is tempting to point fingers at the Muslims themselves, who too are played as pawns in the Big Mischief here in India. But this is not the time to bring out a litany of complaints. We need to be practical and strategic if we are to survive this period of Kalijug unscathed. We need to let bygones be bygones, and control ourselves when agents provocateurs play with us, and stay focused on building and retaining allies. In unity lies strength. And let's be wary: even within our midst, there will be many who will be hired by the same BJP/RSS goons to goad us into over-reaction. Simple: if we keep our heads cool and find a way of subverting those amongst us who would hurt us, we'll be home free. It's call "Realpolitik".

4: Amarjeet Singh (Marewa, Napier, New Zealand), October 14, 2014, 2:16 PM.

The RSS line is becoming a cliche. Reality is that both Sikhs and Muslims need to take responsibility for their own actions and ensure peace among their ranks. The fact that RSS and other radicals are instantaneously blamed as the sole cause, serves only to brush the matter under the carpet until the next time.

5: Kaala Singh (Punjab), October 15, 2014, 12:56 AM.

People who lack education and reverence for knowledge do not produce a competent leadership and easily become pawns for others to play with. This has been the case with Sikhs throughout their history. Let us start with the establishment of the Sikh Kingdom. The expansion and consolidation of Ranjit Singh's kingdom was a result of the efforts and sacrifices of the Sikh community at large. Once the Sikh Kingdom enjoyed a semblance of peace and security, the Maharaja was distracted by his vices and, in his weakness, corrupted the corridors of power with alien elements like the Dogras. These Dogras ultimately brought down the Sikh Empire. The Maharaja failed to evolve s political system and a succession plan for the continuity of the Sikh Kingdom and sacrifices of the Sikhs went to waste. Once Sikh sovereignty was lost, Sikhs became gun fodder for the British but failed to take advantage of the modern British education as other communities took and evolved intellectual think tanks to guide their communities. Come 1947, Both Hindus and Muslims had British-educated leaders like Jinnah, Nehru and Gandhi who had the knowledge to protect the interests of their people, but Sikhs did not allow their educated ones to come forward. A country was being handed to us and we lost it. Post 1947, Sikhs again became pawns in the hands of the Indian state who used them to the hilt and then gave us 1984. In present day Punjab, where majority of the Sikh population lives, we have very low literacy rates and two political dynasties, one led by a person who is completely illiterate and is a pawn in the hands of the BJP and the other who is a Congress pawn. There is no hope until the Sikh community evolves into a knowledge-society, aware of its interests.

6: N Singh (Canada), October 15, 2014, 12:41 PM.

#5 Kaala Singh ji: That is a fairly accurate analysis, and the transition to a knowledge-based society for us is not going to happen in my lifetime at least. It will be a slow and painful process for us as old structures and systems fall, to be gradually replaced by new ones as newer generations more integrated with the western education system evolve.

Comment on "The Sikh & Muslim Minorities of India:
Pawns in The Hands of Mischief-Makers -
The Roundtable Open Forum # 134"









To help us distinguish between comments submitted by individuals and those automatically entered by software robots, please complete the following.

Please note: your email address will not be shown on the site, this is for contact and follow-up purposes only. All information will be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Sikhchic reserves the right to edit or remove content at any time.