Sidhu Moose Wala, born Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, was a popular Indian-Punjabi singer. He was assassinated on the 29th of May, at the age of 28.
This may seem like any another celebrity assassination, but Sikh activists see it as something else. For them, it’s a Hindu nationalist conspiracy, trying to silence dissenting Sikh voices.
They argue that the method itself is extremely dubious:
Two cars were strategically placed around Sidhu’s car to block him in. Then dozens of shots were fired using AN-94 assault rifles. This weapon is more lethal than the usual AK-47 and is only available to some privileged elite forces.
For Sikh activists, such a “professionally organized” crime gives credence to the idea of a conspiracy, set in motion by some high-placed authorities.
Sidhu was also in favor of “Khalistan,” – the independent Sikh religious state that many Sikhs desire. This obviously frustrates Hindu nationalists, who envision an “Akhand Bharat” (Greater India) expanding even as far as Thailand in some maps. And of course, they consider Sikhs to be one of the “branches” of their cult.
Sikh activists would say that it wouldn’t even be a first if Sidhu was indeed assassinated for political reasons. As recently as February, popular actor Deep Sidhu (unrelated to the singer – they just share the same caste) died in a car accident. Sikhs claim that it was an organized assassination, because Deep Sidhu was a supporter of the farmers’ movement which antagonized the ruling BJP.
Hindu Animosity Towards Sikhs and Sikhism
The case of the assassinated singer leads us to consider something more generic: the relationship dynamics between Hindus and Sikhs.
Many outside India – and in fact many Indians too – are unaware of the animosity both sides harbor against each other.
British India: The Arya Samaj and Hinduizing the Sikhs
It all begins in the 1870s when Dayananda Saraswati, an ascetic Hindu, founded the Arya Samaj or “Society of Nobles” – a reformist movement within Hinduism. Saraswati aimed to “purify” popular Hinduism of what he considered to be later additions – such as idol-worship and the caste-system – and to return to what he called the pure and monotheistic Vedic religion.
The Arya Samaj was also the Hindus’ first modern missionary organization. Arya Samajis considered the Muslims to be “lost Hindus” and endeavored towards “reconverting” them
Despite the Sikhs having initially welcomed him in Punjab, Saraswati antagonized them further by insulting their gurus.
We read on The Indian Express from the pen of a Sikh writer:
“The Hindu-Sikh tension… was a thing unknown during the Sikh rule up to middle of the last [19th] century,” historian Dr Ganda Singh wrote in his paper ‘The origin of the Hindu-Sikh Tension in the Punjab’.
In 1875, the Arya Samaj published the book Satyarth Prakash which, Sikhs held, made defamatory references to Sikh gurus. It was followed by the Singh Sabha movement which, while countering these references, focused on a larger objective of asserting the Sikh identity as unique.
So these are the roots of the Hindu-Sikh conflict in a nutshell. This would eventually become bloodier with India’s “independence” in 1947. It would then worsen further with the Hindutva taking power with Modi in 2014.
Hindu nationalists, like the Arya Samajis, deny Sikhs their own identity. Instead they classify Sikhs as a type of Hindu. The Arya Samajis are in fact considered the first Hindutva movement.
“Independent” India: The Secular State and Killing the Sikhs
Conflicts arose immediately between Sikhs and the newly “independent” Indian state. Sikh leaders started campaigning for a Punjabi province, where Sikhs would be the majority, and where they’d be able to dictate the province’s politics and culture. One such person was the influential Master Tara Singh, who was instrumental in convincing the Sikhs to join Hindu-majority India.
Nehru’s India, being socialist, aimed at heavy centralization of the State. It viewed any sort of regionalism as dangerous irredentism or separatism threatening the very existence of the federal union. Clashes therefore naturally followed.
A highlight of this conflict was in 1955 when government police forces, symbolically headed by a Hindu, raided the Golden Temple in Amritsar. This is the Sikh equivalent to the Ka’bah. Entering their holiest temple with shoes was already going too far for the Sikhs. But the Indian police also killed hundreds, and injured thousands more.
This is without even going into the tens of thousands arrested during the movement. Or the riots elsewhere in India, when Hindu mobs attacked unarmed Sikhs – something which became a regular occurrence.
The province movement endured for almost two decades. It ended only in 1966 with the creation of the Punjab province as we know it today (along with a few other administrative units).
But Sikhs wouldn’t stop there. They anticipated the threat of living in a Hindu-majority India and naturally wanted to safeguard their way of life. As such, they entered into conflict with the central Indian government again when the popular Shiromani Akali Dal, the party to which Master Tara Singh belonged, proposed the Anandpur Sahib Resolution in 1973.
This resolution basically sought genuine autonomy for the Punjabi province and for Sikhs (especially rural Sikhs) – in terms of politics, culture and even economic policies.
Seeing the unwillingness of the Indian state, which was bent on highly centralizing (and thus for Sikhs diluting) federalism, some Sikhs organized a movement to push for the adoption of the Anandpur resolution, the Dharam Yudh Morcha of 1982.
This movement too would be met with violence. Hundreds of Sikhs were killed, and more than a hundred thousand were arrested.
One of its co-founders was a charismatic young religious leader named Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. He believed it was not possible to negotiate politically with a Hindu-majority State. So instead, he opted to launch an outright insurgency, and is thus considered the spiritual father of Sikh militancy.
Throughout the ’80s this insurgency in Punjab turned very ugly for the Sikhs. Its peak was the 1984 Operation Blue Star, when the Indira Gandhi government replicated her father Nehru’s 1955 raid on the Golden Temple of Amritsar. But it was done in far more drastic proportions.
In no time – due to the operation and its consequences – tens of thousands from the Indian armed forces and Sikh militants were killed (including Bhindranwale himself). Many Sikh civilians were also killed, with riots targeting Sikhs raged all over India after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards – who sought revenge for yet another desecration of the Golden Temple.
Other dreadful operations quickly followed (Operation Woodrose and so on). However, this particular 1984 operation has remained an enduring trauma for Sikhs till this very day, forcing them to conclude that they’ll never live freely as Sikhs in a Hindu-majority India. And why they must secure their own homeland, Khalistan. This is also why you’ll notice many Sikhs have “1984” in their social media handles, and talk of genocide.
Lessons for the Muslims of India
What can the Muslims of India learn from this Hindu-Sikh conflict? After all, this is the main reason we penned this article.
First of all, both Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi were secular (at least on paper). Yet this didn’t stop them from violently repressing a religious minority. This is why for Sikhs, the Congress is just as bad as the BJP. In fact they’d prefer the latter, as it’d be more honest in dealing with them – better the devil you know. Likewise, Muslims of India shouldn’t put all their hopes in the so-called secular Congress.
Secondly, despite their obvious differences, Hinduism and Sikhism still belong to the same Dharmic family of religions. Hindu nationalists see Sikhism as some sort of lost child. This is something Sikhs of course reject. The same Hindutva hates Islam. While Sikhs can be accommodated into a “Greater India” by Hindu nationalists, this wouldn’t be the case for Muslims since our religion is “foreign” and “imported,” as they like to put it.
Therefore, ideally Muslims should be even more active in their rejection of Hindu nationalism than Sikhs are. We certainly should not seek to compromise.
Finally, Sikh activism. Look at how well-organized they are. And not only in India, but also – perhaps even more – in the diaspora. You’ll see Sikhs talk of Khalistan and their way of life whenever they have access to politics or mass-media. Such as via music in the case of the the assassinated singer.
Of course we don’t call for the Muslims of India to produce movies or music. However they should make their plight known to the wider world, if not at least to the rest of the Muslim Ummah. In the era of social media this has become very easy.
Muslims of India will also have to go through some serious changes. First of all, they must self-identify as Muslims above all else. Before any other form of identity, such as the regional or national one that is pushed by liberal-secularist agents.
We hope – in sha Allah – that the Muslims of India will begin to act independently of the secular State. It is time to give up idealizing it. It is time to discard regional or national identities for the sake of Islam. It is time to draw the attention of the entire Muslim Ummah to the crimes of the mushrikun.