In 1947, at the advent of the division of the Sub-continent, Shiromani Akali Dali, the political and religious party of the Sikhs and its leaders, particularly Master Tara Singh decided to get independence by attaching the Sikh nation with India. If we view political, social and religious status of the Sikhs in independent India, we come to know:
1. The history repeats itself, and
2. Nations spring from religion and not from country or land.
The Sikh experiment of independence can vividly be observed in the resolution (gurmetJ of Shiromani Akali Dal in independent India during previous over sixty four years. This resolution was passed in Anandpur Sahib in 1973. This resolution reflects economic, political and social and religious condition of the Sikhs in independent India highlighting the keen sense of their being the second-rank citizens, alongwith the clear indication of the inclination for striving against these conditions. Their most significant demand is: "The Sikhs are a separate nation."(Atma Singh, April 15,1981)
The words and tone used by Sardar Rajinder Singh Ji, the (then) General Secretary of Shiromani Akali Dal to relate and interpret this comment express the acute realization of the Sikhs in this regard:
"It is our belief that the Sikhs are a separate nation- an admitted and recognized nation in India. Whether anybody recognizes us as a nation or not but none can deny us the right of being a separate nation."(Atma Singh, April 15,1981).
Their insistence of being a separate nation on the basis of their religion may either make their movement an issue of provincial sovereignty and constitutional problem for federation or it paves the way for "Khalistan", a separate country. The politicians of India would consider and assert it an internal issue of India. However, irrespective of conceptual politics regarding significant and noticeable incidents and events of recent history, the most conspicuous proposition is the outcome of the theoretical basis of this issue. It is because of their historical disposition as well as their religious sensibility that the Sikhs are the second effective and organized nation of South Asia, after the Muslims, who claim the unification of politics and religion in settling the state's issues. However, the Sikhs had to wait for decades to get this fact admitted and now the history is repeating itself in the region of South Asia in affirming the existence of nation's basis on their religion and their growth is based on their religious identity. The style and maturity of perception and expression the Sikhs executed after 1947 is due to the disobedience of religious education and comments of the Sikh Guru. The first Guru of Sikh religion Baba Guru Nanak Ji has clearly instructed:
"Naal Kararran Dosti, Korri Kurrey Haye"
(The friendship with Hindu leads to destitution)
The tenth and last Guru of Sikh religion, Guru Gobind Singh ji has also warned in these words:
"Aise Atrial Hindu Kar Dekhe,
Mat Kar Hindu Naam Kahaye"
(The Hindus are so wrongful that be wise and keep away from the name of a Hindu)
Alongwith their historical disposition if we observe Sikh religion, we come to know that it believes in the unification of politics and religion. It is not only theircentral character but they also strive to enforce it. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that the confrontation between Sikh politics and Hindu rule during the decade of 1980s and consequently their retreat was the punishment of leaving their religious education and historical disposition, because disobedience of religious principles (on individual or collective level) is definitely punished. What are the achievements and losses of Sikh politics during the decade of 1980s? To answer this question we have to review the incidental evident from Sikh history. There has been a chance in the history of Sub-continent India and Pakistan during 1920 to 1930 and 1940 to 1947 for the minorities' politics to recognize themselves as a nation on religious basis and express this identity in geographical terms. However, the Sikh nation got this sensibility after the experiments of more than half a century.
After loosing a chance to get their recognition as a separate nation on religious basis in 1947, now they have collectively resolved that the nations are constituted on religious basis instead of country or land. However, instead of conceptually deciphering it they reached at this conclusion after practically passing through an experiment. Now the conclusion of this historical process has become evident. The leaders of all the groups of Shiromani Akali Dal agree that in the light of famous resolution of Anandpur Sahib the main point of Sikh National Movement in India is that the Sikhs are a separate nation. The practical significance of this verdict of Sikh leadership is manifest through the statement of the (then) General Secretary of Shiromani Akali Dal, Sardar Rajinder Singh Ji that "It is our belief that the Sikhs are a separate nation- an admitted nation in India. Either somebody acknowledge us as a nation or not but nobody can prevent us saying ourselves a separate nation". After the resolution of Anandpur Sahib this fact should be kept in mind that the realization and its expression of their being a separate nation on religious basis is considered Sikh movement of provincial sovereignty or separation or Khalistan movement, it is an issue of India's internal politics as well as this issue is related to the conceptual politics of the minorities of this region that are the nations constituted on religious basis or country basis? The study of the period prior to the resolution of Anandpur Sahib will reveal the political circumstances as well as the vision of the Akali leaders. There might have been many groups of Akalis but their vision is collective and coherent that was expressed through Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. The Sikh population is 1.89% of the total population of India (Gobind Singh Ji, 1980: 215) and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee is the most significant, organized and religiously most responsible representative of the Sikhs. It passed a resolution unanimously in its meeting held on March 29, 1981 in Amritsar in which it was vigorously affirmed that "The Sikhs are a separate nation." (Atma Singh, April 15, 1981). Explaining this resolution Sardar Rajinder Singh, the (then) General Secretary of Shiromani Akali Dal wrote:
"Our demand is limited to provincial autonomy and
a federal structure and we affirm that the Sikhs are
a separate nation. A reorganized nation of India".
(Atma Singh, April 1981).
The Sikh movement in India can be focused on two points:
1. The Sikhs of India are a separate nation that is entirely different from Hindus. However, their nationality is Indian.
2. The province of Punjab should be given internal autonomy, although, it would be an Indian province but internally independent.
Why had the Sikh nation to submit their such demands before Indian government of Hindu majority? Sant Harchand Singh Longowal answers this question in the following words:
"Sikh nation, a significant minority of India, had been treated as second ranked citizens for previous thirty six years. Neglecting all the promises made to the Sikhs before independence. The Sikhs are not only considered as criminals but plans have also been made to successively destroy them religiously, politically socially and economically.... Against this willful policy of control by government the second phase of a Dharam Yudh Morcha (a religious war) is being started on April 4, 1982 AD so that a decisive battle could be fought against the prejudiced rulers of Delhi." (Longowal, 1983).
Now, why and how did this situation arise? We will have to search this answer in the basic elements of the principles of nationality comprising religion, history, politics, economics and common interests and objectives alongwith race and even language, which helps a social group to become a nation when as common geography and realization of being an oppressed minority is definitely moulded into fate and course of action after passing through considerations.
In this age of scientific advancement when means of communication have connected the whole of the world together the terms of 'nation' and nationality do not depend upon political interpretations for their meanings and explanation, particular the main nations of South Asia Sub-continent like Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs are well aware of their wide-ranging meanings.
The nations are constituted either of country or religion. Common race is also a constitutional element like common language. They are founded on geographical extension or common economic interests, which element may also be considered essential for nation and nationality. The history of this region for the last over sixty five years is aware of all these facts conceptually as well as practically. The main issue of Hindu-Muslim politics of British India before the Resolution of all India Muslim League on March 23, 1940 was the conception of 'nation and nationality'. This conception was beyond the understanding of Indian National Congress, which considered common race, language and region were the constituent elements of a nation. Therefore, there had been only 'one nation' in India that they considered united nationality. The stand of Muslim League was entirely different than that of the Congress. They were of the view that a nation was not constituted of country, language, race and region, instead, it was constituted of ideology or Din (religion). It was their reputed 'two nations theory'. Although the Sikh nation had also been participating in these discussions, yet, inspite of their realization of being a, separate nation, they thought it better for their future to join themselves with India. They, therefore, gladly did so. However, after the practical experiment in India for more than sixty four years they absolutely refuse to assimilate their identity in Hindu majority. That is why for previous more than sixty years, from the movement of Punjabi province (1955-1965) to the movement of provincial autonomy of 1980s, their religious identity has created a sense of being a separate nation in them.
They have also well-realized that they have lost a golden chance to get their separate identity acknowledged in 1947 at the advent of division of the Sub-continent although, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan tried hard to make them conscious of the fact. A Sikh scholar thus delineates the state of affairs:
"During the month of August, 1947, Muhammad Ali jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, went to see his Sikh friend, Sardar Bahadur Sobha Singh and while talking he said, "The Sikhs have committed a blunder by not getting their own rule". Sir Sobha Singh replied: "It is a good decision to trust on Hindus and join our fate with them. The Hindus will not deceive us or be ungrateful to us." Mr. jinnah said on this, "Sardar Bahadur, you know Hindu only as your co-slave. Now, you will know the real Hindu when he becomes your master and you become his slave". (Kapoor Singh, 1972: 144).
It is not a secret now that the echo of bleeding feelings on account of the crucial decision taken by the Sikh nation in 1947 has turned into a permanent source of affliction and vexation for Sikh politics and Sikh leadership. A former Akali provincial minister admits:
"It is true that the Sikh observed the actual picture of Hindu mentality and prejudice after 1947. The slave Hindu was very obedient and always admitted the superiority of the Sikhs, but he absolutely changed himself after getting the power of government. He began to say himself ruler or king and subject and slave to the Sikhs". (Atma Singh, April, 1981)
Alongwith these realizations the Sikh nation started a long and baneful struggle for the formation of a Punjabi province in 1955. The principle of the formation of a province was ruined for "the Hindus at the time of census due to the hostility of the Sikhs, registered their mother language as Hindi instead of Punjabi." (Khushwant Singh, 1985, 59). To establish this Punjabi province, thousands of Sikh men, women and old people offered sacrifices, went to jails and consequently they were confined to a smaller Punjabi Province. Chandigarh, the capital of this province was situated in another province Haryana, administered under the Centre. Due to all these experiments and circumstances the Sikh scholars were compelled to write:
"The idea and concept of Sikh nation was granted by Guru Nanak Ji and the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji practically took it to the destination. After 1947 Sardar Kapoor Singh (former ICS) had been saying since beginning that at the time of the division of the country the Sikhs had been seated alongwith Pakistan and India, admitting them a third party, then why did Master Tara Singh neglect Sikhs keeping a special interest in view." (Harjinder Singh)
Master Tara Singh throneless king before us who played a crucial role at the time of division of the sub-continent, what did this leader give to the Sikh nation? What did the Sikh nation achieve and what did they lose? Keeping aside all these questions, there arises another question, what did he himself achieve? Look at his own comments. He says:
"I am seeing with my own eyes that sense of honour of the Sikhs is being trampled, but I am helpless. I cannot understand anything. Nobody tells me where to go." (Tara Singh, 1950: 33)
Why the Sikh leadership, who decided the future of the nation sixty six years ago, at the time of diversion of sub¬continent, were compelled to admit the fact immediately after the impendence. Their situation is like
Bebasi Haye Tamanna Ke Na Duniya Hai Na Deen (What a helplessness that neither world came to hand nor will of God.)
Before the division of the sub-continent Mahatma Gandhi had written in his well-known journal, "Young India" that although Sikh were not Hindus, yet they were the part of Hindu- mat for millions of Hindus believed in Granth Sahib and several Ashloks and Bhajans of Hindus are written in the Granth Sahib". Moreover Mahatma Ji expected that the Sikhs would abandon the trend of separation. But when after two years, he visited Punjab, he perceived the unanimity among Sikh nation as well as their political awareness, then he said that he would never consider the Sikhs as the part of the Hindus. (Smith, 1967: 441- 42)
Today when the Sikhs claim their separate entity on religious basis they are blamed to be traitors, foreign agents and enemies of national integrity, who want separate country and establish their own state, Khalistan, on religious basis and the solutions to deal with them and to maintain law and order in Punjab are to enter military force in their most sacred place, Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, its disgrace, enforce governor raj and military intrusion. On the other hand Shiromani Akali Dai's stand:
"Between the highly resounding slogans of 'Sikh Nation', the shouts (of Khalistan) are being caused to rise just to misguide Akali leadership and weaken them so that the Hindus should desert Akalis and Congress may continue to rule. When the Sikh rejected the slogan of Khalistan and raised the slogan of 'Sikh Nation' the central government become worried otherwise we openly ask: 'Is the person, who leads the claimants of Khalistan not a P.A. of a bigoted Congress". (Rajinder Singh, June 1981)
The Akali leadership claims that they do not demand Khalistan, neither they raised the slogan of Khalistan, instead, they want to get themselves admitted and recognized as a nation:
On the other hand the government insists that they are separatists. The Shiromani Akali Dai's stand is:
"We say that Bharat (India) is our country whereas our opponents insist that we want to get Khalistan because our claim to be a nation." (Rajinder Singh, june 1981).
So far as the Sikhs' claim to be a separate nation is concerned, it is impossible to deny the fact for there is no common thing between the Sikhs and the Hindus. From birth to death they are not common in any aspect of life on which basis they can be stringed into one nation. However, there exist two bases when a sense of commonality may be felt: region and language. But on the occasion of the formation of Punjabi province, the Punjabi Hindus wrote that their mother tongue was Hindi and thus the best chance of tying Sikhs into 'one nation', otherwise there is no aspect in them including their religion, history, culture, economics and politics. Is it not a fact that inspite of more than sixty six years' struggle the Hindus could not absorb the Sikhs in them. Its basic reasons are the historic disposition of Sikhs, their religious attitude as well as their cultural maturity and their practical experience of more than sixty six years that is expressing itself at higher forums after passing through quiet sensibility and meek cries. Another reason to start this movement which is recorded after immediate incitement and its reaction is: "The Sikhs have been thinking for previous some years that after getting an Akali ministry what have they got? It does not matter that price of wheat has risen, the production of paddy has increased or fare of buses has decreased. The significant issue is that if Akali ministry does not do anything for the benefit of the Sikhs or for their rising abilities, what is the use of this ministry?" (Rajinder Singh May 1981).