Punjab within India, India within Punjab - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Punjab within India, India within Punjab

Oct 09, 2023 12:35 PM IST

Sikhs are self-reliant, confident, courageous, and inclusive. That is why they are widely accepted and respected throughout the country.

This happened in December 2006. We were aboard a plane carrying the then prime minister Manmohan Singh and an Indian delegation to Tokyo. During the flight, the PM’s media adviser, Sanjaya Baru, came up to the gallery unexpectedly and told me: “The PM is waiting for you.” I had told Baru before boarding the flight at the New Delhi airport that I wanted to meet the PM.

The point is simple and straightforward. Some people in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and other western countries are attempting to rekindle the fire of Khalistan (AFP)(HT_PRINT) PREMIUM
The point is simple and straightforward. Some people in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and other western countries are attempting to rekindle the fire of Khalistan (AFP)(HT_PRINT)

I was led to the meeting room aboard this Air India special aircraft. Two of the five chairs in the room were occupied. Singh was seated on the chair in the centre, and the editor of a well-known Punjabi publication was sitting on another. They were conversing in Punjabi and Hindi. Upon seeing me, Singh broke mid-sentence, and said: “Yes, tell me?”

I hadn’t meant to ask the PM any questions. However, the process of assembly elections was underway then in Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. There were reports in the newspapers that electoral rallies were being planned for practically every Congress politician who mattered, but the PM’s name was not on the list.

So, I just said: “You must visit most, if not all, Sikh-dominated areas of Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. Palia in Uttar Pradesh, and Rudrapur in Uttarakhand have a large Sikh community. You should also spend at least one night in Amritsar and offer prayers at the Golden Temple. This will not only calm the Sikhs but also take the wind out of the sails of separatists.”

Manmohan Singh had already made a few trips to Harmandir Sahib even before he became PM. Singh had become pensive by the time I finished. The room fell into an awkward silence. I took leave of the PM quickly.

Some time later Baru approached me, smiling, and in his unique style said, “You have increased my work. The prime minister has asked that visits to all the three places be planned.” Singh later visited all the three places. His visit to the Golden Temple heralded a new era of peace in Punjab.

The point is simple and straightforward. Some people in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and other western countries are attempting to rekindle the fire of Khalistan. They sometimes attack diplomats, threaten Hindus to leave Canada, and try to plant provocateurs such as Amritpal Singh on the soil of Punjab. They claim that the Indian government is adopting double standards towards the Sikhs. They are only trying to deceive people with these falsehoods.

Singh’s tour is a thing of the past, but it is important to gain insights into the position and attitude of the current PM Narendra Modi. In the last nine years, PM Modi has paid respects at the country’s major gurdwaras, including the Golden Temple. He has highlighted the patriotism, bravery, service, and dedication of the Sikh community.

The Opposition has done the same. Earlier this month, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi offered voluntary service at the Golden Temple for two days. He cleaned utensils as part of the langar service, and did joda seva, or the cleaning of shoes.

When it comes to national unity, the differences between the ruling and Opposition parties vanish. No Indian can imagine this country without Punjab, Punjabis, and Sikhs.

To emphasise the point, let me quote what Maneka Gandhi told me during an informal conversation we had on the sidelines of a programme Hindustan had organised in Agra a few years ago: “Everywhere you go [in India], you’ll see women wearing salwar kurtas. Without dal makhani, paneer masala, and tandoori roti, no large restaurant can run. What do you want to call it?” She was absolutely right when she said the clothing and food of the Punjabis were the most popular in the entire country.

Maneka, a Sikh, did not touch upon another important facet of the community during our conversation. I’d like to add that to her list. Without the Sikhs, no trading world in any city or town in India is complete. You’ve probably seen Sikhs pulling rickshaws, but you’ve probably never seen them begging anywhere. They are self-reliant, confident, courageous, and inclusive. That is why they are widely accepted and respected throughout the country. People address them by the prefix “sardarji” rather than only by their given names. The Sikhs of our country understand this sentiment and reciprocate in every possible way.

Why don’t Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and the ISI brass realise this simple truth?

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal

Tell us what your First Vote will stand for in a short video & get a chance to be featured on HT’s social media handles. Click here to know more!

Get Current Updates on India News, Elections 2024, Lok sabha election 2024 voting live , Karnataka election 2024 live in Bengaluru , Election 2024 Date along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
freemium
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On