Ranveer Singh: All Roads Lead To Anandpur
"Bhai Amritpal Singh’s emergence is a timely reminder of the dhard that countless Sikhs across the diaspora continue to experience."
October 10, 2022 | 6 min. read | Opinion
There are many individuals and organisations who speak about the systemic nature of oppression Panjab has endured due to the policies of consecutive governments in New Delhi. From human rights advocates to academics, activists, artists, and even social media accounts who provide historical facts and damning statistics to highlight the systematic proliferation of this oppression, we understand what the Sikhs of Panjab have endured.
Some start in 1984, when the Indian government declared war on the Sikh Quam and launched a full-scale military attack on Amritsar. Some go further back to the ‘transfer of power’ by colonisers in 1947 which created the nation states of India and Pakistan. Some reach back further to 1849 when colonisers sought to confine Sikh sovereignty through the ‘annexation’ of Panjab.
Whichever account you read; everyone seems to grasp what is happening to Panjab. Whether it’s the ongoing beadbi (sacrilege) of Guru Granth Sahib or the state setting up fake god-men; the drugs epidemic that is destroying life, or the depleting levels of ground water; the displacement of youth via IELTS schemes or the work of Christian missionaries who prey on vulnerable villagers with the promise of salvation and a heaven where one can indulge in activities that are otherwise sinful on Earth.
As a collective we are cognisant of the plague that is ravaging the land of the five rivers. It is multi-faceted and those in power do little to stop it, on the contrary, they solidify their positions of power by allowing the devastation and displacement to continue.
We know what is happening, yet we find ourselves trapped in a cycle of regurgitating content to the rest of the world, and for what? In the hope of it reaching a larger audience? Is it not enough that we know? What happens when everyone knows? Some may argue nothing happens because only those who have an affiliation with Panjab are the ones who have ever acted to address the root cause. Only those who feel Panthic dhard (pain), of the way in which the land of the Gurus is suffering have taken steps to challenge the oppression and offer an alternative for the peoples of Panjab.
One hundred years ago it was the likes of Shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha who left the relative comforts of the West and travelled home to remove colonial power from Panjab. In fact thousands returned home under the Ghadar Movement (1913-1917), some of whom continued the anti-colonial fight under the Babbar Akali Lehar (1921-1925).
Just over half a century later we saw another wave of Panth dhardi Sikhs return home during the Khalistan Sangarsh (Sikh struggle for independence) to remove the shackles of the slavery imposed by the new colonial power that sat in New Delhi.
There is a long history of Sikhs leaving worldly attachments and comforts to return home and fight for a righteous cause. Despite Panjab being home to various people, it is the spiritual birthplace of the Sikhs and why they have always stood for its wellbeing and prosperity.
Coupled with the Sikh spirit of rising to uproot oppression that is empowered by the Gurus-word, those who dare to make a stand and resist are few and far between, but there is a vibrancy in their words as they not only highlight the systemic nature of oppression in Panjab but seek to mobilise the masses to bring change. They don’t just present the facts on a PowerPoint presentation in a lecture theatre thousands of miles away, or design cool graphics to share on social media which erase Khalistan. They land on the ground and awaken the people through grassroots engagement. They connect directly with the people and shine a light on the realities of the oppression and allow Guru’s Kirpa to do the rest.
Now another Sikh, 29-year-old Bhai Amritpal Singh, has left the comforts of life in Dubai and returned home to Panjab.
Drawing inspiration from the words and actions of late Bhai Deep Sidhu, and as the head of ‘Waris Punjab De’, he has spoken out against the treatment of Sikhs in Panjab and recentred the conversation of Sikh sovereignty, of Khalistan. Since his return to Panjab on August 19, 2022, he has urged Sikhs across villages in Majha and the surrounding regions, to return to our true home of Anandpur Sahib and become initiated Khalse.
On September 25 he led by example when he travelled to Anandpur Sahib and received Khande-ki-Paulh from the Panj Pyar-e. Numerous videos surfaced across social media platforms of the crowds that had gathered, many of whom could be heard shouting slogans of ‘Raj Karega Khalsa’ and ‘Khalistan Zindabad’. There is a real sense of euphoria surrounding his arrival and how he speaks about Panjab and the Panth. The key however is not to get caught up in that euphoria and focus instead on his words and actions.
Bhai Amritpal Singh’s arrival seems to have coincided with another announcement that came from Panjab on September 27, 2022. In a statement from Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu we learn that respected Panthic personalities such as Bhai Rajinder Singh Mughalwal (formerly of the UK), Bhai Lal Singh Akalgarh, Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu, Bhai Narayan Singh Chaura and others met to discuss how the wider political situation in South Asia is unstable.
They spoke about the rise of Hindutva intolerance due to the Bippar Sultanate in Delhi and how different expressions of religious and political existence are being crushed by the Delhi Darbar. They addressed how policies of the Delhi Darbar are tightening the chains of slavery of the Sikhs.
They also questioned the trustworthiness and organizational capability of Sikh political parties active in vote politics, including the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and other Gurdwara management bodies. The statement went on to acknowledge that whilst the Delhi Darbar is benefiting from this, the rapidly changing conditions are also full of possibilities. Toward the end of the statement, we read about the call for Sikh unity. In essence, there must be unity and harmony between Sikh organizations active in the Panth, and they must work towards creating space for a common Panthic platform. A decision was taken to call for a public dialogue, reviving the tradition of mutual discussion, set to take place later this month.
Following this, two days later Bhai Amritpal Singh travelled to Rode, the village of Sant Jarnail Singh ji Khalsa Bhindranwale, where his dastaar-bandi was held. Bhai Amritpal Singh has himself spoken of the inspiration he takes from Sant Jarnail Singh ji. He echoes many of Sant Jarnail Singh ji’s words, that Sikhs are slaves in India and the way to remove the shackles of slavery is to act now - give up intoxicants, ready themselves for Amrit and become tyar-bar-tyar (ever-ready) Khalsa.
Given the manner of his emergence, his choice of attire and his decision to echo Sant Jarnail Singh ji’s words, it is no surprise people are drawing comparisons, but it is premature and unproductive. His own reverence for Sant Jarnail Singh ji is evident, perhaps not more so in the way he has stopped those who claim he is trying to be him. In any event it would be foolish for anyone to omit the decades of Sikh resistance and mobilisation work done by the Sikhs since Sant Jarnail Singh ji. The sangarsh never stopped, despite what some may think.
Considering what the Sikhs have endured over the past few decades, some will have reservations about what is happening, and may even want to downplay the events at least until they witness a sustained movement and commitment from those involved on the ground.
Whilst social media attention has been on Bhai Amritpal Singh, our focus should remain on what he is saying and to where he is pointing. It is both bold and brave to centre the conversation of Khalistan, but it is also the minimum requirement if one is to honour the Shaheeds who sacrificed their lives to the sangarsh. It is, for this reason, we must also be cognisant of other developments taking place within the Panth, developments that are spearheaded by the likes of Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu and Bhai Lal Singh Akalgarh.
Whilst many Sikh political prisoners continue to languish in jails across India, and others remain committed to the Khalistan Sangarsh through various means, such as those Panthic personalities who also met recently, Bhai Amritpal Singh’s emergence is a timely reminder of the dhard that countless Sikhs across the diaspora continue to experience.
For many the trauma associated with state sponsored genocide continues to prove too much to bear, but for others the manner of his return home has been greeted with cheers. May the Guru keep them all in Chardikala and bless them with both courage and wisdom to move forward.
Only time will tell where this renewed mobilisation leads, and whether this moment marks the beginning of a phase in which others realise that all roads lead to Anandpur.
Degh Tegh Fateh
Raj Karega Khalsa
Ranveer Singh writes from Scotland, UK, and is the co-founder of the National Sikh Youth Federation (NSYF). He is an Author and Chief Editor at Khalis House Publishing. Ranveer has a BA in Law and is currently undertaking an MA in Philosophy. His latest book is entitled "Patshahi Mehima - Revisiting Sikh Sovereignty (2021)", which has received early praise from distinguished professors in the field of Sikh Studies and History. You can find him on Twitter at @ranveer5ingh
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