Sikhs and Hindus
Amit Srivastava | 16 Nov 2013

If I could borrow from memory I clearly and distinctly remember a middle-aged Sikh and his three Hindu friends fighting over an issue when I used to travel from Kanpur back to my home town Lucknow. I watched them thrice and understood after third time as to why they were having a minor scuffle. This was the time when Punjab was recovering from the bad days of insurgency. All four were government employees and the reason they were fighting for the first two times was because they disagree about who should pay for the food they were taking from outside stall while train was waiting for the green signal.

That particular Sikh was insisting that he paid the bill while his three Hindu friends were not agreeing. The third time Hindus took the food offered by their Sikh friend and the minor scuffle ended rather happily. I was a bit appalled by the incident.

By the same method my family once told me, when I was a young child, that I should seek refuge in a Sikh's tempo if a trouble starts. It was the exact time when Punjab was burning deadly. They were obviously referring to a possible communal fight between Hindus and Muslims. I didn’t take it. Why Muslims would hurt me, I always thought?

Lucknow is after all a very decent place as far as Hindu-Muslim relation is concerned. I didn't take my family dogma and never thought against any Muslim even though during my college days I was very much for the construction of exclusive Rama temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. Still I am, but for different reasons now.

I don't keep any opinion against any group. Although I don't like to do so, I can swear for that. But always and I don't remember exactly when it all started, I have pre-consciously, stochastically and even consciously kept a positive opinion about Sikhs. The passion has subsided now and I keep very rational views about myself and my surroundings.

Now as much as I can understand about the foundation of Sikhism, it was a positive reaction to weaknesses and flaws in Hinduism and that towards atrocities by Muslims. The first Sikh Guru, Nanak, took a middle path knowing very well that his authorship in the form of Guru Granth Sahib would be the foundation of a great religion.

He took many positive things from Hinduism and Islam and blended them with his own teachings in stylish Punjabi. But it so happen that the latter Gurus of Sikhism had had very bad relationship with Muslim rulers, particularly with Moguls and in that sense initial quasi-neutrality of the times of Nanak towards both religions shifted a bit: as a consequence Sikhism become more pro-Hindu and more anti-Muslim.

The last Sikh Guru, Gobind, formally founded Khalsa as a religion of martial race. The martial nature still drives the dominant opinion among many Sikhs, particularly the traditional ones.

I remember very clearly the then Editor-in-Chief of the Hindustan Times, H K Dua, writing in its editorial in nineties about the RSS position about Sikhism. He wrote that he once asked a prominent RSS leader in New Delhi to stop calling Sikhs as Hindus. That particular leader, according to Mr. Dua, remained silent for a while but on the seventh day started again calling Sikhs as Hindus.

To be frank I always consider Sikhs as different people than Hindus and this has been true since my adolescence since when I started making opinion about the world around me. Indeed the way it is practiced, Sikhism is a different religion than Hinduism. I have not even seen the eternal eleventh Guru from naked eyes, therefore, I don't know much about what is reality in theory. But I fully accept the fact that Sikhs are neither Hindus nor Muslims; they are definitely different people from both.

Simply because their numbers are low and many of their traditions are related with Hindus, they cannot be dubbed as Hindus. Their numbers are low because Sikhism is a language specific religion which was discovered during medieval times when they were not the dominant people and they obviously required Hindus support to hold and spread the religion.

I also remember noted columnist Khushwant Singh making remarks somewhere in the media that while Sikhs had improved their strained relationship with Muslims, Hindus continued their persistent dogma towards them and were almost uncomfortable with all minorities. The fact is that since the arrival of British into the subcontinent and more remarkably in the post-partition period, Indian Muslims have become lesser dominant people.

Sikhs since their inception have been insignificant minority. Therefore, the trauma of partition could be rather easily overcome by the two minorities; one numerical, one psychological, against the dominant majority. The same just cannot be true regarding Hindus. The readers shouldn’t think that I am suggesting that ideologies and beliefs are irrelevant but rather that there were political reasons to end the contest and animosity between Sikh and Muslim elites.

Pakistan and continuing dispute in Kashmir along with some demands in some quarters among Sikhs about a separate homeland were also the reasons to end the long-held hostility between the two Indian minorities.

Now Hindu-Sikh relationship has been positive since the inception of Khalsa or even since the writings by Nanak, except for the short period of time during the trouble in Punjab since the late-seventies to mid-nineties of the last century. The fact is that the then all-powerful Prime Minister Indira Gandhi played up with the hidden demands for Khalistan and manipulated a minority fundamentalism with a majority fundamentalism to continue her family’s grip over the national affairs.

Ms. Gandhi and many Hindus paid the price for this and so did Sikhs as a community. The fact is that the 1984 anti-Sikh riots have been a blot on the way Indian system works. The trial having been pended and delayed for such a long cannot give justice to Sikhs victims and their families.
I know it is rather easy to say but difficult to accept that Sikhs as a group should forget that particular incident. For all practical purposes, majority of New Delhi Sikhs have forgotten and have returned to their pre-riot position of being a dominant minority and mainstreamers. Now if Sikhs have forgotten their plights, Hindus as a majority too have accepted them back as their brethrens. Therefore, the credit is shared by both the communities.

Now after all these positive remarks let me state a word of caution that Sikhs require serious thinking about their future. They as a significant majority should accept the fact that they can never have independent homeland nor should they invest in such beliefs. While it can be rather easily accepted that Sikhs' supra group; Punjabis, are the most talented and the most productive people of the North, when their number is properly scaled, but they should never have superiority beliefs about themselves and their religion as such can sour their relationship with the Hindu majority. Neither Punjabis should be much chauvinist about their language as they require using Hindi to expand their influence and horizons.

At the same time in India all are free to believe that their beliefs are better than those of others; expressing them may be self-defeating for minorities many times though. A religion which was invented in relatively high conscious era during medieval times when all major religions had been already discovered and their pros and cons all were known to Nanak, would obviously be relatively free of mistakes that others made. That's all and that is what all Sikhs should know. Also, they need to understand that few among them in order to become national leaders would have to abandon their martial nature.

As a rule Hindus and Sikhs should live together as brothers but they should not keep any dogma and antagonism against Muslims. The fact is that Sikhism is closer towards Hinduism than towards Islam. Sikhs cannot undo history. Their attempt to equalize Hindus with Muslims, if they at all try, would be considered a desperate attempt towards extreme minorityism and is doomed to fail. They should rather avoid making such attempts. People like me shall never support annulment of history. But sure, there is a world beyond the shackles of the past and past does not always guide future.