Guest column: Correcting fault lines to frame Sikh narrative based on Gurbani - Hindustan Times
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Guest column: Correcting fault lines to frame Sikh narrative based on Gurbani

Oct 22, 2023 07:02 AM IST

Returning to the teachings of the Gurus and saints is crucial for Sikhs to uphold values of humility, human rights, and service, diminishing talk of Khalistan. The Sikh population in Canada is over 2% and the conflict between the Indian and Canadian governments has led to visa issues. The Sikh community must not fall prey to anti-Sikhism and remember the legacy of Guru Teg Bahadur.

Whenever the Sikh narrative shifted away from the teachings of Gurus and saints encased in the Gurbani or the ‘gurmat’, the results have been disastrous. We have seen this in the past and are experiencing the same in the present.

Hardworking Sikhs who went to British Columbia as lumber labourers and continue to do so till date. (Photo sourced from FB)
Hardworking Sikhs who went to British Columbia as lumber labourers and continue to do so till date. (Photo sourced from FB)

For a clear perspective about everything and to not lose sight of what the religion actually stands for, we need to return to the gurmat. There is a need to recognise and be conscious of our commitment to humility, human rights, the fight against injustice and service or sewa. These are the values which make the Sikh thought and traditions proud and turning to them in all earnestness naturally diminishes the talk of Khalistan, a subject that is not only irrelevant but has also consumed so much time of our community, besides doing much harm.

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In the historical perspective, immigration of Sikhs to Canada dates back to the 19th century. Sikhs first left for Canada from Colonial India in 1897 during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. Kesur Singh, a Risaldar Major in the British Indian Army, is believed to be the first Sikh to have reached Canada. Following this, the 1900s saw migration of workers for the British Columbia lumber industry, adding the phrase ‘Chak de phatte’ to Punjabi language. Over the time, it has become a dream destination of Punjabis, mainly Sikhs. The population of Sikhs in Canada today is estimated to be nearly 80 lakh, making for over 2% of the country’s population. Canada is now home to the largest Sikh population outside India. Recently, there has been a conflict between the Indian and Canadian governments over the demand of Khalistan, which is raised only by a section of Canadian Sikhs.

The sad fallout of the situation is that a narrative is coming up that all Sikhs are ‘Khalistanis’. It is in this context that Sikh Indians in Canada are not being issued visas for India even in cases of illness or death of close relatives, if they do not have the OCI card. Even Rajya Sabha MP Vikramjit Singh Sahney has appealed to external affairs minister S Jaishankar to resume the visa services saying: “Every second home in Punjab has one or the other family member in Canada.” This is indeed a valid appeal.

It becomes the responsibility of the Sikh community here and there to not fall prey to popular sloganeering that goes against the very basic spirit of Sikhism as emulated in Guru Granth Sahib with courage, dignity and extreme sacrifice. Our religion has shown that no sacrifice is too big when it comes to standing for truth and we are the proud yet humble followers of the legacy of Guru Teg Bahadur.

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Gurpreet Singh is a spokesman of the Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Chandigarh.

Captions: Hardworking Sikhs who went to British Columbia as lumber labourers and continue to do so till date. Photo sourced from FB.

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