Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often been painted with the brush of a right-leaning hardliner, serving only the interests of the Hindu majority of India. A quick scan of leading global newspapers and their commentary on him will corroborate this. In this article, however, we aim to peel back the layers of Narendra Modi’s leadership scrutinizing his motivations and actions toward the Sikh community. Our goal is to discern whether he truly aligns with the community’s interests, as he proclaims, and whether he can be considered a genuine ally of the Sikhs.
Since taking charge as the Prime Minister of India, one of his most prominent examples of this commitment towards the Sikh community has been the exemption of GST on ‘Langars’, community kitchens at the Harmandir Sahib and Gurudwaras nationwide. Implemented under the “Seva Bhoj Yojna,” this move helped alleviate the financial strain on religious and charitable institutions that offer free meals to all, thus recognizing their selfless service towards humanity.
Adding another feather to its cap, the Modi government ensured the registration of the Golden Temple in Amritsar under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). This ground-breaking decision allows the revered Sikh shrine to accept international donations, strengthening the bond between the global Sikh diaspora and their spiritual heartland.
PM Modi’s reverence for Sikhism is also reflected in his efforts to make Sikh pilgrimage sites more accessible. The inauguration of the Ropeway at Hemkund Sahib has made the journey to this sacred Sikh shrine easier for devotees, especially the elderly and those with physical disabilities.
In an effort to celebrate the valour and sacrifice of the Sikh Gurus, Modi dedicated ‘Veer Baal Diwas’ to remember the fortitude and sacrifice of Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s sons. This commemoration reinforces the heroic spirit and resilience of the young martyrs, who chose to uphold their beliefs fearlessly.
To further the understanding of Sikhism, the Indian government established the Guru Nanak Chair at the University of Birmingham. This initiative not only honours the first Sikh Guru but also facilitates global engagement with his teachings, spreading the philosophy of Guru Nanak Dev Ji to a larger audience.
PM Modi’s reverence for Sikhism isn’t a recent development or political manoeuvre. It traces back to his tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat, where he supervised the restoration of the Lakhpat Gurdwara post-earthquake, demonstrating his commitment to preserving Sikh heritage, well before he had political aspirations on a national level.
The Modi administration has consistently shown its appreciation for the Sikh community and its spiritual leaders, acknowledging them as an integral part of India’s diverse cultural mosaic. The government’s approach to Sikhism, under Modi’s guidance, has been imbued with respect, reverence, and a desire to uphold the Sikh Gurus’ legacy. Regardless of whether you support or oppose him, it’s undeniable that PM Modi has significantly contributed to the well-being and advancement of Sikhs and Sikhism in India.