Beyond The Blue Series: Many Want The Nihung Aesthetic, But Are Not Prepared For The Nihung Way
“The Nihungs are coming.”
Gurpartap Singh Toor
January 27, 2021 | 3 min. read
The farmers had just established themselves at the border of Delhi, face to face with the Indian government when the rumours started.
“The Nihungs are coming.”
Social media was buzzing more than usual with speculation, analysis, and predictions of when they would show up to add a layer of protection from further state-sponsored violence.
Some reported that a Nihung Fauj had already departed Punjab and was making its way to the protest site; even sharing videos of processions, unaware that they were actually from past celebrations.
Meanwhile, in Punjab, Nihung Jathedars (leaders) met and discussed ramping up their support for the protest. In fact, a small contingent of Nihungs, from Dal Baba Bidhi Chand, had already arrived at Delhi in their vehicles and were supporting the langars.
While this conversation was happening in the mainstream, many Sikhs shared their thoughts and caution about the haneri (tempestuous force of nature) that was about to descend upon Delhi on horseback.
One message in a personal group chat I am in summed it up best.
“Many people may want the Nihung aesthetic, but they are not prepared for the Nihung way”.
Not long thereafter, the Nihungs from Guru Nanak Dal, and then later Buddha Dal, did arrive and established a key settlement at the very front of the protest where they continue to grow in number each day.
A majestic, and now iconic, baaz sits guard at their encampment.
On both sides of the heavily fortified barricades, you will see forces dressed in blue; state police guarding the capital against no imminent threat, and Nihungs on guard for its free people.
Nihungs came into existence hundreds of years ago. There are many historians and scholars who are excellent resources if you are interested in learning their history.
I am an observer who is learning the Nihung way of life, as are many Sikh youths. This series for Baaz does not aim to be a historical account, but instead provide commentary on the Nihungs, and their role in the world today.
The Nihung way of life has hardly changed since its inception.
Here in the west, we tend to compartmentalize Sikhs into political camps. We have the left, the right, liberal, conservative, socialist, populist - you get the point. Nihungs, and all Khalsa, do not fit into any of these boxes. In fact, they do not have any set boundaries.
Media and people paint them different shades depending on the subject. They are seen as heroic and skillful when they showcase Gatka or their horsemanship, but barbaric and aggressive when they put those skills to use.
As they were welcomed to the farmers’ protest with loud cheers and hailed as a line of defense against police brutality, I recalled the negative public reaction when at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic a Nihung severed a police officer’s hand when he was surrounded by cops at a checkpoint.
The point being, we struggle to define Nihungs within our thought parameters and end up relying on our emotional response to paint a picture. Frankly, the Nihungs do not care about what the rest of the world thinks of them or feels. They only operate under the command of the Timeless Being - Akaal Purakh di fauj.
Even at the protest, they stand to maintain peace but they are not subordinate to it.
We witnessed this as the farmers marched on Indian Republic Day and Nihungs kept their word by providing a critical line of defense.
In most places, it would be considered radical to see young boys racing their horses on a state highway, brandishing unsheathed swords and clearing scores of police officers to make way for marching peaceful farmers. In the minds of those boys, they are sovereigns of the land their horses stomp on and for as far as the tip of their swords reach. No second authority can exist in this space.
Some may not yet appreciate the Nihung way of life, but we must try to learn from it.
This series is dedicated to the sacrifice of the valiant horse that departed from a Nihung’s life on January 26, 2021 in Delhi. This horse lived amongst them, saw their way of life, and knew more about them than we may - their life beyond the cosmic blue they adorn themselves with.
Akaal Ji Sahai.
Gurpartap Singh Toor hails from the United Arab Emirates. He is on the Khalsa Aid Canada team, as well as a regional member of the World Sikh Organization of Canada. You can find him on Twitter at @gurpartapstoor
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