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A New Vision For Punjab:
The Roundtable Open Forum # 92

by ALEX SANGHA

 

 

 

There is an urgent need for an open forum where Sikhs, especially those living in Punjab and India, can freely explore their vision of Punjab and its future. sikhchic.com's Roundtable hereby offers one where readers can present their thoughts and ideas freely, for or against.

We are fully cognizant of the oppressive role of Indian government authorities and their censorship over such discussions in India, and their attempts to quash any such discussion outside India. Therefore, we will entertain requests for publishing comments anonymously, but will still require that the reader submit his/her name and city/country of residence to us along with the comment. We will respect their request for anonymity in this case (which should accompany the comment), under the circumstances, in order to facilitate a free and open discussion.

Submissions of any and every position are welcome, as long as each is presented in a logical and reasoned manner, with courtesy and respect for the others, and the argument or proposal is clear and succinct. Please make your comments short, in point form, not essays.

The following article by Mr. Sangha may assist in being the starting point.

 

Recently, I wrote an article that floated the idea of Punjab becoming a sovereign state within India, similar to how Scotland and Wales are separate countries but still a part of the United Kingdom.

Punjab is dependent on India and India is dependent on Punjab. Punjab’s future rests with closer integration and a new federal arrangement within India and increased cooperation with adjacent Indian states and Pakistan.

Some segments of the Sikh population feel outright independence from India and preferably a separate Sikh state is the only solution.

Despite the historical reasons and merits of this proposal, I do not feel it is compatible with a modern-day Punjab and India.

First of all, there are approximately nine million Hindus living in Punjab and smaller populations of Christians, Jains, Buddhists, and Muslims. Why would they agree to live in a Sikh-dominated state? Why would they want to live in a religious state based on Sikhism when they currently benefit from all the rights, freedoms, protections, and opportunities provided in a secular, democratic, growing regional-if-not-world power in India.

Furthermore, Punjab is a landlocked state with severe shortages of water and electricity. Punjab does not even have control over its dams. This is a major problem.

The solution is to work cooperatively with India to resolve this issue.

For instance, I don’t see why India cannot harness fresh mountain water, whether by melting ice or collecting rain water from the Himalayas, and distribute it throughout northern India. Who knows how toxic water has become in Punjab already due to the use of fertilizers, chemicals, and sprays for agricultural production, all of which are leaching into the shrinking ground water tables?

Punjab also needs a state-of-the-art high-speed train and transportation routes connecting major cities in the area, such as from Delhi, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Lahore, and Islamabad. This will facilitate trade and tourism. Punjab needs to work cooperatively with India and Pakistan to better industrialize and develop its economy, and new transportation routes can facilitate the moving of new goods and people to new markets.

There are a number of other major issues. For example, Punjab has been partitioned many times and does not even have its own state capital or high court, I believe. These issues need to be resolved as a state capital and court system are part of the necessary institutional development of a final political arrangement with India.

But why should India negotiate with Punjab? The central government has not shown a major interest in decentralization or a renewed federalism.

Well, times have changed. India even has a Sikh prime minister now. It’s in Punjab’s and India’s mutual interest for social development and political peace to move forward.

Furthermore, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohandas Gandhi both promised Sikhs a degree of self-determination and sovereignty. It’s time for India to live up to its promises. In 1930, Nehru stated that “the brave Sikhs of Punjab are entitled to special considerations. I see nothing wrong in an area set up in the north of India wherein, the Sikhs can also experience the glow of freedom.”

It is also important to note that both historically and legally that the leaders of Punjab never surrendered their territory to the British or India, to my knowledge. At partition the British simply handed over Punjab to India. Punjab at one time was a separate country prior to British colonial rule under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Punjab is unceded territory, and the citizens of Punjab have a rightful claim for a final settlement agreement with the government of India. An agreement of this sort will only provide political stability in the region and settle historical wrongs.

However, Punjab becoming a sovereign state within India will have a huge practical and psychological benefit as well. The people of Punjab will feel more safe and secure in the development and protection of their land, culture, language, religion, religious shrines, and people. There is an important national healing that has to occur between the Sikhs and Punjabis and the rest of the citizens of India.

Giving each other the freedom and flexibility to develop each other’s land, people, and society and live in harmony with each other cooperatively as part of a unified country would be one big step forward toward a final reconciliation.

THE ROUNDTABLE OPEN FORUM # 92

 What are your thoughts on the issues raised hereinabove?

Do you agree? If so, how would you expand on the concept?

Do you disagree? Then, what do you see as a solution to the current situation?

 

The author is a registered social worker in British Columbia, Canada, and the author of the social-discussion book The Modern Thinker. He has an M.Sc. in Public Administration and Public Policy from the Department of Government at the London School of Economics. He resides in suburban Vancouver.

[Courtesy: Straight]

April 20, 2012

 

Conversation about this article

1: S. (London, United Kingdom), April 20, 2012, 8:19 AM.

Ranjit's reign became a monarchy, a contradiction to Guru Gobind Singh'ss edict, "raj karega Khalsa". Hence destined to failure. The Punj Pyarey system of decision making of the Khalsa is the only viable option. Can religion and state be separated in Punjab?

2: Kulwant Singh (U.S.A.), April 20, 2012, 9:22 AM.

All the ideas that the author has put forth are good ones, but I think more thought needs to be given on how to achieve the goal. We need more Sikhs. If you only make up two percent of the population in the whole country, then your voice is going to be drowned out in a less than ideal democracy like India. Historically, we have not reached out to spread our faith. This is our failing point.

3: Ari Singh (Soifia, Bulgaria), April 20, 2012, 9:39 AM.

Sikhs have helped make India a super power. We should now co-operate with this super power. We have had enough of bloodshed because of political issues. Other states will ask for the same sovereignty rights so a clash from Indian Government will be inevitable.

4: Jaswant Singh (New Delhi, India), April 20, 2012, 9:57 AM.

Modern India was created to be a Federal state, but it doesn't behave like one - and that is at the very heart of Punjab's problems and the dysfunctionality of India itself. The federal nature of its governance has been sabotaged to the point that it cannot be called a federation. To see how a federal state is meant to function, look at U.S.A. or Canada as two different examples.

5: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), April 20, 2012, 12:16 PM.

I agree with the sober realization that an independent Sikh state is unrealistic. The Indian government should honour its promise to the Sikhs and allow the Punjab to become a special state. There should be assurances that the Sikhs will have FULL control over the political institutions in the state. There is no reason why Sikhs should become a minority in their homeland because of Bihari Hindus flooding the state and skewing the population in favour of Hindus. It was for precisely this reason that in Jammu and Kashmir non-Kashmiris are not allowed to purchase property. If the Indian government can acknowledge the special situation of J&K then it can apply this precedent to Punjab as well. If not, Punjab is in fear of becoming like the North Eastern states where the indigenous tribal groups are being swamped by illegal Bengali immigrants. We need assurances that the Indian government respects the Sikhs as a SEPARATE community, and not one which is a part of the Hindu fold. The Anand Karaj Marriage Act is to be passed shortly, from what I understand, and the Indian government should continue to develop upon its implementation.

6: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), April 21, 2012, 2:02 AM.

I think the idea of a country based on one particular religion or one particular way of thought is anti religion and sheer hypocrisy. The propagation of Sikhi in the Punjab, in India and the world as a whole should be the goal of the Sikh community. A strong Sikh community spread throughout the world is more beneficial to the panth and the world at large and is also very much in accordance with the universal teachings of the Sikh way of life.

7: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), April 21, 2012, 2:40 AM.

Look at the Vatican, Israel, U.S.A., Pakistan ...! We need religion in politics like a hole in the head! We need to live with Sikh values anywhere and everywhere. However, the only reason we need a free and clean Punjab is for survival as a way of life in the land of our birth. And, in India, our people don't want to live like the sexist, violent, greedy, bigoted, criminal thugs that the subcontinent has now become populated with mostly.

8: N. Singh (Canada), April 21, 2012, 8:14 PM.

Having just read the article, "Britain systematically destroys records of its colonial crimes," with the accompanying painting by Verestechagin, and with a view to the recent events in India 1980-present, I am not sure how anyone can argue that there shouldn't be a separate Sikh state? Atrocities aside, one only has to look at how the Sikhs as a minority have fared in majority countries to realize that if our values, way of life and religion is to survive, we need a separate space for them to flourish. Look at the dangers of integration in India today (superstition, female feoticide, etc). Sikhs in the diaspora are no better ... embracing Christmas and other customs ... (a step down the same road, so why judge Sikhs in India?). I am not sure how we would achieved a separate state or what it would look like but I for one firmly believe that that should be our future. I have a couple of points to make with regards to the article and the comments here. Firstly, the article is full of what India 'should' do ... yes, they should give the Punjab more autonomy etc., but when has any country done what they 'should' do? Countries are motivated by power and gain. Why would India just embrace the Punjab and the Sikhs? They haven't done this for the last 60 years and in fact no sooner was independence declared than Sikhs were labelled as criminals ... so what makes you believe they will change now? Secondly, why does everyone always believe that a separate Sikh homeland would be a religious state like Pakistan, Israel or the Arab countries? Why not a state with Sikh values and culture like England or Canada. The Church of England is still the official religion of the UK and the Queen is still its head and yet we are all able to practice our religions there. However its values are dominantly Christian/ English ... its official language is English, English history is taught in schools, its roads, rivers and places all have English names, its justice system and way of life is English ... so why can't we have the same? We need a state that furthers our values and our interests. Only then can we help others. We will be able to offer aid, send soldiers, scholars and build an exemplary society to which others will flock and want to either emulate or participate. Why not?

9: Tarsem  (Milton Keynes, United Kingdom), April 22, 2012, 1:41 AM.

There is no doubt that Sikhs need to have power to be able control their own destiny. My family left British India where they did not have the rights they deserved so they uprooted themselves to Kenya. Here they were slightly better off but still treated second class to the Colonial power there, the British. Once Kenya acquired its Independence we were still second class citizens to the black Kenyans, so we moved to United Kingdom. Here we are still second class citizens although better off than our brethren in India and most other countries. I want to see a country of ours where the Sikh Prime minister is not propped up just to whitewash the atrocities committed by the majority against them. I dream of a place where we are free to make our own rules and not beg for an "Anand Marriage Act", for example. We have enough talented sports-men and women but, alas no teams that will take us to World Sports events. I yearn to see a Sikh team walking with the Khalsa flag at the Olympics opening ceremony. Am I asking for too much? I agree with Kulwant Singh, why are we reluctant to spread Guru Nanak's message. After all, he himself traveled far and wide to do exactly that. Guru Amar Das set up the "manji" system to take Sikhi to all parts of the subcontinent. Sikhi has remained within the confines of the gurdwaras and the Punjabi community only. Remember: democracy is a numbers game.

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The Roundtable Open Forum # 92"









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