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Hindu-Sikh Relationship (part 8/10)

              Hindu-Sikh Relationship (part 8/10)

 The British also worked on a more political level. Singh
Sabhas were started, manned mostly by ex-soldiers. These worked
under Khalsa Diwans established at Lahore and Amritsar. Later
on, in 1902, the two Diwans were amalgamated into one body--the
Chief Khalsa Diwan, providing political leadership to the Sikhs.
They all wore the badge of loyalty to the British. As early as
1872, the loyal Sikhs supported the cruel suppression of the
Namdhari Sikhs who had started a Swadeshi movement. They were
described as a "wicked and misguided sect." The same forces
described the Ghadarites in 1914 as "rebels" who should be dealt
with mercilessly.

 These organisations also spearheaded the movement for the
de-Hinduization of the Sikhs and preached that the Sikhs were
distinct from the Hindus. Anticipating the Muslims, they repre-
sented to the British Government as far back as 1888 that they be
recognized as a separate community. They expelled the Brahmins
from the Har Mandir, where the latter had worked as priests. They
also threw out the idols of "Hindu" Gods from this temple which
were installed there. We do not know what these Gods were and
how "Hindu" they were, but most of them are adoringly mentioned
in the poems of Guru Nanak. At any rate, more often than
not, iconoclasm has hardly much spiritual content; on the other
hand, it is a misanthropic idea and is meant to show one's ha-
tred for one's neighbour. In this particular case, it was also
meant to impress the British with one's loyalty. Hitherto,
the Brahmins had presided over different Sikh ceremonies which
were the same as those of the Hindus. There was now a
tendency to have separate rituals. In 1909, the Ananda Marriage
Act was passed.

 Thus the seed sown by the British began to bear fruit. In
1898, Kahan Singh, the Chief Minister of Nabha and a pacca loyal-
ist wrote a pamplet: Hum Hindu Nahin Hain (We are not Hindus).
This note, first struck by the British and then picked up by the
collaboratonists, has not lacked a place in subsequent Sikh
writings and politics, leading eventually in our own time to an
intransigent politics and terroristic activities. But that the
Sikhs learn their history from the British is not peculiar to
them. We all do it. With the British, we all believe that India
is merely a land where successive invaders made good, and that
this country is only a miscellany of ideas and peoples-- in
short, a nation withour a nomos or personality or vision of its

 The British played their game as best as they could, but they
did not possess all the cards. The Hindu-Sikh ties were too inti-
mate and numerous and these continued without much strain at the
grass-root level. Only a small section maintained that there was
a "distinct line of cleavage between Hinduism and Sikhism"; but a
large section, as the British found, "favours, or at any rate
views with indifference the re-absorption of the Sikhs into Hin-
duism." They found it sad to think that very important classes of
Sikhs like Nanak Panthis or Sahajdahris did not even think it
"in- cumbent on them to adopt the ceremonial and social obser-
vances of Govind Singh," and did not "even in theory, reject the
authority of the Brahmins."

 The glorification of the Sikhs was welcome to the British to
the extent it separated them from the Hindus, but it had its
disadvantages too. Mr. Petrie found it a "constant source of
danger," something which tended to give the Sikhs a "wind in the
head." Sikh nationalism once stimulated refused British guidance
and developed its own ambitions. The neo-nationalist Sikhs
thought of a glorious past and had dreams of a glorious future,
but neither in his past nor in his future' "was there a place for
the British Officer," as a British administrator complained.
Any worthwhile Sikh nationalism was incompatible with loyalty to
the British. When neo-nationalists like Labh Singh spoke of the
past "sufferings of the Sikhs at the hands of the Muhammadans,"
the British found in the statement a covert reference to them-
selves. When they admired the Gurus for "their devotion to reli-
gion and their disregard for life," the British heard in it a
call to sedition.

 Sikh nationalism was meant to hurt the Hindus, but in fact it
hurt the British. For what nourished Sikh nationalism also nour-
ished Hindu nationalism. The glories of Sikh Gurus are part of
the glories of the Hindus, and these have been sung by poets like
Tagore and others. On the other hand, as Christians and as
rulers, the British could not go very far in this direction. In
fact, in their more private consultations, they spoke contemp-
tuously of the Gurus. Mr. Petrie considered Guru Arjun Dev as
"essentially a mercenary," who was "prepared to fight for or
against the Mughul as convenience or profit dictated;" he tells
us how "Tegh Bahadur, as an infidel, a robber and a rebel, was
executed at Delhi by the Moghul authorities." As imperialists,
they naturally sympathised with the Moghuls and shared their

						[To be concluded]

Authored by Shri Ram Swarup.  Courtesy: Voice of India

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