Rising Above: The Sikh Community’s Journey Beyond 1984

by Harleen Kaur

The year 1984 marks a dark chapter in the history of India, particularly for the Sikh community. The tragic events that unfolded left indelible scars on the Sikh psyche. However, the resilience demonstrated by the Sikh community in the years following 1984 is a testament to its strength, unity, and unwavering spirit.

Growing up, I have heard and seen firsthand the remarkable journey of my community as we have moved beyond the trauma of 1984, embracing progress, unity, and a steadfast commitment to the Indian nation. This resilience is often overshadowed by the persistent efforts of a handful of individuals in the diaspora who continue to stoke old wounds for their selfish political agendas. These individuals, primarily based in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, use the concept of Khalistan as a rallying point, driven by identity politics and a desire for political clout.

The Sikh Spirit of Resilience

The Sikh community’s journey of resilience began in the immediate aftermath of the 1984 riots. Amidst the chaos and destruction, Sikhs across India came together to rebuild their lives, communities, and places of worship. The principles of Sikhism—hard work, community service, and faith—guided us through these challenging times. Gurdwaras (Sikh temples) played a crucial role, offering not only spiritual solace but also practical support in the form of langar (community kitchens) and relief efforts.

This spirit of resilience is deeply rooted in Sikh history. Sikhism, founded by Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the 15th century, has always emphasized the importance of standing up against injustice and oppression. The Sikh Gurus, particularly Guru Gobind Singh Ji, instilled a sense of bravery and self-reliance in the community. These values have carried us through numerous adversities, including the partition of India in 1947 and the challenges faced during the post-1984 era.

Moving Beyond 1984

In the decades following 1984, the Sikh community has made significant strides in various fields, including business, education, and public service. Punjab, the heartland of the Sikhs, has seen substantial development, with its people contributing to India’s agricultural success, earning it the moniker “Granary of India.” Sikhs have also excelled in professions such as medicine, engineering, and the armed forces, reflecting our community’s resilience and determination to move forward. Ajay Banga, a true ‘Made in India’ Sikh at heart, at present is the President of the World Bank.

One of the most profound expressions of this progress is the political landscape of Punjab. Despite the turmoil of the 1980s, the people of Punjab have consistently rejected divisive forces in elections. The Shiromani Akali Dal, Amritsar (SAD-A), once a prominent political force advocating for Sikh rights, has seen its influence wane significantly. Time and again the people of Punjab have chosen parties that promise development, unity, and progress over those pushing a separatist agenda.

This electoral behavior underscores a crucial point: the Sikh community in India has overwhelmingly chosen to stay united with the nation. The idea of Khalistan, a separate Sikh state, holds little appeal for the vast majority of Sikhs in India. Instead, they seek to build a prosperous future within the framework of the Indian republic, contributing to its growth and standing as proud Indians.

The Diaspora and Identity Politics

In contrast to the progress and unity seen within India, a small section of the Sikh diaspora continues to harp on the Khalistan issue. For these individuals, Khalistan provides a sense of identity and a platform for political mobilization. The allure of identity politics is strong, especially in multicultural societies where communities often seek ways to assert their distinctiveness.

In countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, some Sikh organizations and leaders have used the Khalistan issue to galvanize support and gain political leverage. This has been particularly evident in Canadian politics, where leaders like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been accused of pandering to Khalistani elements for electoral gains. The dynamics of diaspora politics, where communities hold considerable voting power, often lead politicians to engage in appeasement, inadvertently giving extremists a platform to voice their separatist agendas.

The Fault Lines Exploited by the West

Western politicians’ engagement with Khalistani elements is not merely a matter of appeasement but also a reflection of broader geopolitical strategies. The Khalistan issue provides a convenient fault line for those seeking to exert pressure on India. By supporting separatist elements, albeit indirectly, Western powers can create internal strife and weaken India’s social fabric.

However, this strategy overlooks the ground reality in India, where the Sikh community has demonstrated time and again its preference for unity and progress over separatism. The attempts to exploit historical wounds for political gain fail to resonate with the majority of Sikhs who have moved beyond the tragedies of 1984 and are focused on building a better future.

The Sikh Choice

The narrative of Sikh resilience is incomplete without acknowledging the conscious choice made by the Sikh community to stay united with India. This choice is reflected in the day-to-day lives of millions of Sikhs who live and thrive across the country. From the bustling streets of Delhi to the serene fields of Punjab, Sikhs are an integral part of India’s social, economic, and cultural fabric.

The resilience of the Sikh community is not just about overcoming past tragedies; it is about building a future rooted in the values of Sikhism—equality, justice, and community service. This future is intrinsically linked with the Indian nation, where Sikhs have found a home that respects their identity and contributions.

Marching Ahead

The resilience of the Sikh community in India is a story of triumph over adversity, of unity over division, and of progress over stagnation. While a small section of the diaspora continues to pursue a separatist agenda driven by identity politics, the vast majority of Sikhs have moved beyond the traumas of 1984. They have chosen to stay united with India, contributing to its growth and embodying the spirit of resilience that has defined Sikhism for centuries.

As we look to the future, it is essential to recognize and celebrate this resilience. The Sikh community’s journey is a powerful reminder that, despite the challenges and provocations, unity and progress can prevail. The legacy of 1984 is not one of division but of the unyielding spirit of a community that has risen above its past, looking forward to a future of shared prosperity and harmony within the Indian nation.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Khalsa Vox or its members.

Harleen Kaur

You may also like

Khalsa Vox

Khalsa Vox is a new-age online digest that brings to you the latest in Punjab politics, history, culture, heritage and more.

Latest Stories

Khalsa Vox, All Right Reserved.