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The Lions of Punjab

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by spnadmin, Dec 5, 2010.

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  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    This article was published originally by Time Magazine on November 12, 1984 What are your impressions of it, sangat ji, now more than 25 years later?

    Strong and close-knit, the Sikhs fight to preserve their identity

    He cuts a strikingly distinctive figure. Generally tall and strapping, he sports a thick beard and, over his uncut hair, a turban wrapped of 15 ft. of elegantly coiled and pleated cloth. He takes as one of his names "Singh" (lion). He does not smoke or chew tobacco, and he eats the meat only of an animal that has been slain with one decisive stroke. In accordance with his religion, he at all times wears the five Ks: kes (long hair); kach (short trousers); kara (a steel bracelet on his right wrist); kangha (a comb); and kirpan (a curved dagger). Holding tenaciously to a creed of activism that decrees, "With your hands carve out your destiny," he tends to be a hard-working farmer, a go-getting businessman or a fearless warrior. He has been described, with poetic license perhaps, as "the Texan of India."

    He is a Sikh, a member of a casteless religion that combines elements of Hinduism and Islam but scorns both the caste system of the Hindus and the historic expansionism of the Muslims in favor of monotheism, unembarrassed materialism and, where necessary, militarism. Though the 15 million Sikhs represent only about 2% of India's polyglot population, their influence is considerable. They account for 15% of the nation's army and an almost equally high proportion of its civil servants. Their efficient farming in Punjab, India's richest state, has helped make the country virtually self-sufficient in food production. Moreover, the President of India, Zail Singh, is a Sikh. Above all, perhaps, the Sikhs are fortified and distinguished by a binding sense of community, at home and abroad, and a mighty determination to protect their rights.

    Together with their language and literature, the Sikhs cherish their religious customs and institutions. A newcomer is initiated by being anointed with sweet water that has been stirred in an iron bowl with a double-edged dagger. Sikhs pray together on equal footing in gurdwaras, or temples, through which reverberate chanted verses from the sacred book known as the Granth Sahib. The holiest of holies is the Golden Temple at Amritsar, some 250 miles northwest of Delhi, the shrine that was stormed by government troops five months ago. Rejecting all idols as false, the Sikh (the name means disciple) draws his inspiration from ten religious teachers, or gurus.

    Ironically, the first of those teachers, and the founder of a faith now known for its warlike strength, was a gentle sage who preached a code of pacifism. Declaring "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim," Guru Nanak forged a path between the two warring religions, drawing followers from both, when he created Sikhism in Punjab at the end of the 15th century. Two centuries later, however, Guru Nanak's teaching of religious tolerance was radically redirected by the tenth and last of the Sikh gurus, a skilled horseman and dauntless fighter named Gobind Singh. With his people being persecuted by Mogul warlords, Gobind formed a fierce fraternity of "warriors of God" known as the Khalsa (Pure).

    As the Sikhs cleaved to Gobind's martial principles, the tales of their valor and ferocity became legion. They routed the Afghans at the Battle of Attock in 1813, and in 1849 they delivered a stinging defeat to the British at the Battle of Chillianwala. After they were forced to succumb to superior British firepower six weeks later, the Sikhs became among the sturdiest and trustiest men of the British army: during the great Indian Mutiny of 1857, the raj was kept alive by their support. After the British slaughtered nearly 400 civilians, many of them Sikhs, at Amritsar in 1919, the warriors changed allegiances and joined the crusade to bring down the raj. Sikh soldiers and policemen have, to this day, loyally protected their Hindu compatriots all over India.

    With partition and independence in 1947, India went to the Hindus and Pakistan to the Muslims; the Sikhs were left in the middle. The Sikhs' home state of Punjab was cut to a third of its former size, and many Sikhs, finding themselves landless, became urban teachers, doctors and engineers. By now the vast majority of Sikhs are the very picture of middle-class respectability. Yet a small band of extremists has continued agitating, with ever more fervor, for a separate Sikh state that would be called Khalistan.

    Their cause has enjoyed increasingly vigorous support in recent months from Sikhs abroad. "We may not be in India," said Amarjit Singh Dhillon, general secretary of the Supreme Council of Sikhs, in London last week. "But we are to the fighters in the homeland what the provisional Sinn Fein is to the Irish Republican Army here." In all, there are about 250,000 Sikhs in the U.S., 80,000 of them in New York and as many as 60,000 more in Northern California. Some 400,000 live in Britain.

    When they first emigrated, many Sikhs tried to blend into their new homes by shedding their turbans and shaving their beards. But as they have grown more rooted and confident, they have proved characteristically resolute in defense of their customs. In 1969 Sikh bus crews in Britain defied, and defeated, a local transport committee that prohibited the wearing of turbans by employees. Then, mounting their own mobile version of civil disobedience, Sikh motorcyclists flouted British law by wearing their turbans in place of the required helmets. Just last year, after a private school refused admission to a 13-year-old Sikh boy whose father insisted he wear a turban, the three judicial peers who constitute Britain's highest court of appeal unanimously found the school guilty of racial discrimination. The Sikhs, they declared, were not just a religious community but an ethnic group. A group, moreover, that has never been shy about stressing its differences from the world around it. As one Sikh historian writes, "Where there is one Sikh, there is one Sikh. Where there are two Sikhs, there is an assembly of saints. Where there are five Sikhs, there is God."

    —By Pico Iyer. Reported by Dean Brelis/New Delhi and James Shepherd/London


    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,926931,00.html#ixzz17ApZxDxT
     

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  3. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Article was published on 12 nov 1984 and there was no mention 1984 riots :shockedmunda:
    What was American media doing?
     
  4. spnadmin

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    Kanwardeep Singh ji

    It is a fact that during the riots there was a complete news blackout imposed by the Gandhi government. Also a fact, only one news reporter from AP was on the scene providing news feed to UK at that time.

    I was a woman in my early 40's when this happened. I can remember that news of this came late and slowly. If you were not a member of the state department you had no context at all for understanding what was happening. This was before international news bureaus collaborated via the Internet. There was no world wide web to make it possible for instantaneous news coverage. It was before cell-phones, therefore, no one could take pictures and give them to news organizations. In fact desk top computers did not even exist in 1984. News organizations were still sending news coverage by teletype and film by overnight air.

    So you have to imagine a scenario where information about the 1984 pogram was being fed in dribs and drabs to the west, with almost no way to independently verify what was going on. Or for that matter have a sense of the extent of the damage. This came out slowly over months. By that time the government of Indira Gandhi had plenty of time to create its own fiction regarding these events.

    Do not be so hard on the west! There is not a controversy to be found in everything, or a point of contention to be pressed. The technology that we have today, the social networking, Twitter, all of this has created a new view of media. It is almost impossible today to cover anything up. Twenty-five years ago that was not the case. The world was not a global village.

    We are spoiled today by the information at our finger tips. We are the ones who must look back in sadness and ask -- If we had only known then what we know today.
     
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  5. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    We should rather use terms like 1984 Sikh pogrom or 1984 Sikh genocide instead of 1984 Sikh riots... riots simply imply when two communities are fighting with each other and there are a few causalities on either sides. But this is an entirely wrong perception the state driven Indian media has created over the two decades and we are still blinded by this perception.

    5000+ Sikhs, nationwide, were brutally murdered as against almost 0 causalities suffered by the other community, which clearly indicates that it was not a riot but a a state sponsored planned murder.
     
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  6. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    I agree that world was a different place then but still I am sure world's top officials along with media would have gathered in 1984 on Indira Gandhi's funeral.How that bloody event missed those eyes.Once I read that in 1919
    jallianwala bagh massacre was severly criticised in one british newspaper ,if 1919 News of Jallianwala reached England then how could the news of genocide did not reach to USA which was the world's most developed country then
     
  7. spnadmin

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    There are ways to resolve your question. Today the news cycle is less than 24 hours from event to coverage, and the coverage is continually updated. That was not so in 1984, as I tried to describe earlier.

    What was the news cycle like in 1919? In other words, how long, how many days or weeks occurred, between the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the eventual criticism of it in the British Press? Some research may clear this up.

    Another point for clarification. Time Magazine which published this article is a international news journal, though founded and based in the US. The article was aimed at an international audience. So another issue also be researched. How many news venues other than those in UK, which had the most immediate access to the events of '84, provided instant coverage? More to the point of your comments, how was Indira's funeral covered in Time Magazine?

    The article BTW is a feature article, not giving on the scene news coverage. It is giving background on who are the Sikhs. It helps to balance the equation, don't you think? If Sikhs are painted as the bad-guys immediately after news finally did come through about the pograms, and if Sikhs are painted as born-assassins, this article provided a different view, a chance to change perceptions.

    Finally, the article in question was written by 2 reporters in Delhi, and one in UK. Were top media from US at Indira's funeral? You can check and find out.
     
  8. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    I am not comparing US and UK at the time of 1984 ,but look at article it mentioned how sikh protect their rights,distinct communty etc and what was at that time going on in India? The worst time for sikhs.imagine if some americans visited in INdia in dec 1984 and wanted to meet sikhs in Delhi then
    would not they had been surprsised to see the plight of thousands of families
     
  9. findingmyway

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    Kanwardeep ji,
    You have missed the point of the article completely. It actually paints Sikhs in a very good light and supports them. This is very important when the media loves negativity and bad news as that sells more and it is something to be thankful for when it could easily have gone the other way. The bad guys here are not America, but India who allowed the pogrom to happen in the first place. It is India that should be criticised rather than a far off nation, and still the rich in India do not help the people affected. Still in India there is no justice.
     
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