As Punjab farmers, backed by Congress and leftist parties threatens to being hijacked by separatist groups like Khalistanis, certain section of ‘liberals’ have rushed in to pitch the agitation as Hindus vs Sikhs.
‘Journalist’ Rana Ayyub on Saturday took to Twitter to question the Right-wing nationalists of the country over why do they feel outraged over tweets that speak on ‘Muslim-Sikh solidarity’.
Rana Ayyub imagined a so-called ‘Sikh-Muslim’ unity to claim that the right-wing, which she essentially meant as Hindus, had a problem with such a union. Ayyub resorting to her usual dog-whistling about the mythical ‘Sikh-Muslim’ unity attempted to stitch and push a new narrative of a coalition of Sikhs and Muslims to take on the majority Hindus.
In reality, the tactical understanding between the Pakistan-sponsored Khalistani elements, who seem to have infiltrated the farmers’ protests, and Islamists is being falsely depicted as some sort of ‘Sikh-Muslim unity’ which according to the left-liberals existed for centuries now. The Islamists, who just months back burnt the national capital during the anti-Hindu Delhi riots, have declared their support to Khalistani elements, who have hijacked these farmers protests to further their anti-India agenda.
People like Rana Ayyub have now come up with ‘Sikh-Muslim’ bogey to not only try and dissociate Sikhs from India story but also create fault lines within the Indic communities. In the past, the Islamists have enjoyed a little bit of success in this endeavour with the active support from Pakistan establishment, who have lost no time to fund Sikh separatism movements from foreign soil.
Anyway, the newly cherished myth of ‘Sikh-Muslim’ unity pushed by the left-liberals and Islamists is far from reality. All you need to do is take a glimpse into the history of Sikhism. From persecution of Sikhs at the hands of Mughal invaders in the medieval era to the state-sponsored attacks against the Sikh community in Islamic nations such as Afghanistan and Pakistan only proves that Sikhs and Muslims have not enjoyed coherence at any point of time in any epoch.
Let us have a look at past incidents which not only breaks down the myths of ‘Sikh-Muslim’ unity being propagated by the left-liberal-secular establishment in the country but also elaborates on the Sikh-Muslim tensions that prevailed over centuries and the persecutions suffered by Sikh communities at the hands of Muslim invaders.
The propaganda of Sikh-Muslim unity is nothing but a ‘fairy tale’
The Sikh religion dates back to the end of the fifteenth century and was founded by Guru Nanak. Dissatisfied with both Hinduism and Islamic practises prevailing at that time, the founder of Sikhism – Guru Nanak formulated an egalitarian doctrine which transcended both religion and preached a message of love and harmony.
The advent of Sikhism in the country, however, was not viewed favourably by the prevailing political order of the country. At the end of the 15th century, Lodhi dynasty was at the helm of its powers and the conflict between two faiths began to emerge. For the next 250 years, the Sikhs remained involved in conflict first with Mughals, then with the Afghan tribes and other Islamic invaders in the north.
The persecution of Sikhs began with the emergence of the Mughal empire. Perceiving the growth of the Sikhs as a threat to not only their political ambitions but also Islam, the Mughal authorities began to persecute them.
In 1606, Sikh leader Guru Arjan was executed by Mughal emperor Jahangir and imprisoned Guru Hargobind for a long time. Aurangzeb also ordered Gurdwaras to be destroyed. Later during the reign of Aurangzeb, Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed in Delhi under Aurangzeb’s orders. Gurudwara Sis Ganj in Delhi is the place where the beheading of Sikh Guru took place.
The subsequent Sikh religious leaders, including Guru Gobind Singh, was forced to remain in a constant state of warfare owing to the intolerance of the Mughal Empire and other invading Muslim factions.
In the 1740s, Zakariya Khan, the Mughal governor of Lahore, offered lucrative rewards for the discovery and killing of Sikhs. During his rule, a substantial monetary reward was offered for persecuting and killing, including a larger sum for the delivery of a Sikh skull. The Mughal governor Zakariya Khan was also responsible for the ‘Chhota Ghallughara‘, a massacre unleashed against the Sikh population by the Mughal Empire.
During the raids, an estimated 7,000 Sikhs were killed and 3,000 were captured. Even women and children were not spared by the Mughal army, who murdered children and made into garlands and tied around necks of their mothers. The captives Sikhs were marched back to Lahore, paraded in the streets and publicly beheaded. As Sikhs were numerically small groups, the persecution resulted in a very substantial decrease in the Sikh population. The extent of hatred for Sikhs during the Mughal rule was such that the plunder of Sikh homes was made lawful and anyone giving shelter to Sikhs was executed.
In fact, the persecution of Sikhs by Mughals continued till the very end of their reign. It is interesting to know that the Muslims invaders and the indigenous Sikh have fought more than 130 wars in a span of two centuries from the 16th to 18th century. The decline of Mughals in the 18th century and the invasion of Afghan tribes under the leadership of Ahmed Shah Abdali also brought extreme misery to the Sikhs.
The Afghan–Sikh wars, the series of wars between the Islamic Durrani Empire and the Sikh Empire resulted in massive brutalities on the Sikhs. Known as the ‘Vadda Ghallughara’ (the great holocaust), this massacre of Sikhs at the hands of Afghan invader Ahmed Shah Abdali resulted in the killing of 10,000 to 20,000 Sikhs on a single day.
Abdali attacked the Sikhs’ revered place of worship, Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar. He filled the sacred pond with slaughtered cows. Historians believe that this carnage became a turning point, with Sikhs turning against the foreign invaders.
The persecution of Sikhs did not stop even after the advent of the British empire into India. The Mughals, though not mighty as they were earlier, continued to inflict terror on Sikh rulers in the North-West. With their ‘divide and rule’ policy in place, the British empire continued to pit Hindus against Muslims as well as Sikhs during their almost 200 year-rule.
However, the partition of Indian subcontinent following the withdrawal of British empire in 1947 acted as one of tipping point in Sikh-Muslim relations in the country. Before leaving India, the British drew up a line dividing India and Pakistan where one of the major casualties were the Sikhs who lived in Pakistan and India near the border areas, especially Punjab.
Punjab was home to the majority of Sikh population. The partition also brought massive terror for Sikhs as hundreds of thousands of Punjabis from Pakistan were killed and millions fled to India to save their lives. The horror unleashed against the Sikhs during the partition of India still haunts the collective memory of millions of people in the country.
Islamic countries continued persecution of Sikhs
Atrocities against non-Muslims continued post-independence too. On October 22, 1947, just weeks after Indian independence, Pakistan-backed tribal lashkars invaded Jammu & Kashmir and plundered and raped women. Raiders attacked Gurudwaras where Sikhs were taking refuge and as many as two hundred of them were killed in a day.
This was followed by Rajouri Massacre. Pakistan Army and Muslim tribesmen from Pakistan carried out targeted killing of thousands of Hindu and Sikh residents and refugees in the Rajouri tehsil in the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Pakistani tribal raiders, along with the rebels and deserters, massacred nearly 3,000 to 7,000 people Hindus and Sikhs every day for more than a week. More 30,000 Hindus and Sikhs living in Rajouri were reportedly killed, wounded or abducted.
Pakistan, which defined itself as an Islamic state and split itself from undivided India on the basis of state religion of Islam, resorted to mass killing, raping and abducting lakhs of Sikhs soon after partition. The massacre of the Sikhs took place in Jammu, Kashmir, Punjab, Baltistan regions. The Sikh women were abducted, raped and taken across to Pakistan. To save from the wrath, the Sikhs resorted to honour killings at many places to save their women from falling into the hands of Pakistanis.
Unlike the communal violence witnessed during Partition, killings of Hindus and Sikhs were state-sponsored ethnic cleansing. The objectives of Pakistan’s invasion was not just the conquest of the territory but also was aimed at destroying non-Muslim populations too.
Ethnic cleansing of Sikhs in Pakistan, Afghanistan in a post-colonial era
Unfortunately, the persecution of Sikhs by Muslims did not stop even after partition of Indian subcontinent. The newly created Islamic Republic of Pakistan continued its state-sponsored ethnic cleansing of Sikhs. The remaining Sikhs, who could not cross the Pakistan border due to various logistical issues, were systematically persecuted by the state.
Prior to partition, a significant Sikh population was found in Peshawar, Lahore, Muzaffarabad in Pakistan. The bloody partition and subsequent state-sponsored persecution, only a few Sikhs live in small pockets in Lahore and Nankana Sahib in Punjab.
The widespread discrimination and continuing attacks against religious minorities have resulted in dwindling non-Muslim population in Islamic societies such as Pakistan. There were about 2 million Sikhs living in Pakistan during the 1940s in Pakistan, but today there are just 6,000-odd Sikhs who live in Pakistan amidst the constant fear of abduction, rapes and forceful conversion by Islamists.
Here is a glimpse of atrocities carried out by Pakistanis on non-Muslims, especially Sikhs. In 2009, the Pakistani Taliban had imposed Jizya on Non-Muslims and had demolished houses of 11 Sikh families were demolished in Orakzai Agency for refusing to pay jizya ransom. Similarly, three Sikhs were beheaded in Khyber Agency in 2010 after they allegedly refused to convert to Islam and their family could not pay the big Jizya ransom.
Fearing persecution, thousands of Sikhs had to abandon their homes and flee from tribal areas to resettled in areas with larger Sikh populations, such as Peshawar, Hassanabdal and Nankana Sahib.
In May 2018, a prominent Sikh leader Charanjeet Singh was shot dead in Peshawar. The targeted killing of Sikhs in Pakistan has now stoked unprecedented fear among the community’s members. Just recently, in 2020, scores of protesters had surrounded the Gurdwara Nankana Sahib threatening to overrun the holy site if their demands for the release of suspects in an alleged forced conversion case were not met.
In July 2020, the Islamists had been forcibly taken over Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh and converted into a mosque to rename it.
Not just in Pakistan, the Jihadists sponsored by Pakistan have also unleashed similar terror against Sikhs in Jammu and Kashmir. The Islamic terrorists had massacred 35 Sikhs in the Chittisinghpora village in J&K on 20 March 2000. The terrorists had attacked two gurdwaras while the villagers had been celebrating the Hola Mahalla festival. They ordered Sikhs to line up in front of the gurdwaras and opened fire. Thirty-six people were killed.
The unending misery of Sikhs living outside continues even in Afghanistan. The Islamic terror groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have time-and-again targeted Sikhs living in Afghanistan. In 2018, a suicide bomber detonated in the centre of the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, killing 20 people, mainly Sikhs. In 2020, suicide bombers and assailants armed with guns attacked the Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul, Afghanistan. The terror attack on Gurudwara had taken lives of at least 25 Sikh worshippers.
The United Kingdom has seen some instances of tension between Sikhs and Muslims on allegations that some Sikhs have been forced to convert to Islam. In Germany, two Muslim teens had bombed a gurdwara in the German city of Essen in 2016. The two terrorists had converted fire extinguishers into an explosive device.
Islamists turn blind eye to the atrocities against Sikhs, tries to weave a mythical bonding with Sikhs
The accounted history of over almost 500 years only validates that Sikhs and Muslims never co-existed peacefully together. The lies of so-called bonhomie between Sikhs and Muslims peddled by our historians, have been told and retold several times to absolve the atrocities inflicted by Muslims on Sikhs over centuries.
However, just like failed attempted in the past to weave another imaginary coalition of Muslims and Dalits, the ‘communal engineering’ being carried out by the liberal-secular’ establishment will eventually fail as there are inherent contradictions between these two communities, that has manifested over centuries through continued persecution of minority Sikhs.
The ‘liberal-secular’ ecosystem seems to have failed to understand the incoherence between the two faiths, one being extremely predatory, exclusivist and proselytising and on the other hand Sikhism is founded on the principles of equality, love and compassion.