Ranveer Singh: A Sikh Critique Of Those Honouring Queen Elizabeth II
"Sikhs should think twice before jumping on the bandwagon and making absurd statements about shared values between the British Crown and the Guru’s Darbar."
September 9, 2022 | 5 min. read | Opinion
Much has been shared since news of the Queen of England’s death was announced yesterday. There has been an outpouring of grief from the British establishment, politicians, businesses, sports personalities, celebrities, academics, and the general public. We have seen around-the-clock media coverage from Balmoral Castle to Buckingham Palace, with Britain’s global allies offering their condolences too.
On the other side, many have pushed back against the mainstream views and highlighted the atrocities that were committed by the UK government under her reign. The royal family’s role during overt colonialism, slavery, genocide, and the displacement of peoples across the world are the most obvious points, but domestic crimes and cover-ups that have shaped the lives of people in Britain and the Republic of Ireland are also being flagged.
I have heard and seen family and friends express their support for both perspectives.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but one cannot deny historical facts. The damning role of the British Empire, and indeed the Queen’s government, is well documented, particularly for Sikhs.
From the annexation of the Sikh homeland, the exile of Maharaja Duleep Singh, and looting Darbar-i-Khalsa, to the systematic reshaping of Panjab, the violent suppression of political dissent, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, and the events of 1984, the list is a long one.
So, when one expresses their well wishes it is a personal choice, but when one infers the Queen embodied Sikh values and principles such as seva, it deserves a response.
ਰਾਜੇ ਸੀਹ ਮੁਕਦਮ ਕੁਤੇ॥ ਜਾਇ ਜਗਾਇਨ੍ ਬੈਠੇ ਸੁਤੇ॥
The above two pangtia are from a Shabad contained within Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji. In this Shabad, Guru Nanak Sahib is critical of world leaders and their officers who harass and exploit the masses. Ultimately, the Guru states that they will all be judged and those who have violated the people's trust will be exposed for their crimes in the True Court.
This critique of individuals in positions of power is evident not only in Gurbani but from the written accounts of pre-colonial Sikh writers such as Bhai Gurdas ji and others who recorded and preserved the establishment and development of the Guru’s movement.
Guru Nanak Sahib came to redeem the world in this Age of Darkness (Kaljug), with the treasure of Naam, wisdom of the Shabad, and comfort of the Sadh Sangat. From the offset, there was a firm rejection of worldly renunciation as the sole means of liberation.
The Guru's way was not to avoid worldly affairs but to acknowledge the realities of oppression, challenge them and work to uproot them. A whole consciousness was nurtured following their arrival - the Gurmukh consciousness and a whole new Panth was established to advance this. The spiritual teachings went hand in glove with the Sikh political movement.
At the nucleus of Gurmukh consciousness was the recognition of ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਹੈ ਸੋਇ॥ - (the light of Akal Purakh exists within us all). This is why Sarbat Da Bhala (welfare of all) forms a cornerstone of Sikh political and social mobilisation. There was however a strong condemnation of those who abused their positions of power.
Kings, queens, and emperors who exploited others for personal and familial gain, wealth, and control were criticized and challenged. In fact, there was not just a critique of their ways but a proactive move to create parallel power structures built on Gurmat.
Guru Nanak Sahib outlines who is worthy of occupying a seat of authority and control.
The Guru writes ਤਖਤ ਬਹੈ ਤਕਤੈ ਕੀ ਲਾਇਕ॥ ਪੰਚ ਸਮਾਏ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਪਾਇਕ॥ - (those who have conquered the internal five enemies, they alone are worthy of sitting on thrones). It is upon such wisdom that after their Udassis Guru Sahib returned to Panjab and established Raj - ਨਾਨਕਿ ਰਾਜੁ ਚਲਾਇਆ ਸਚੁ ਕੋਟੁ ਸਤਾਣੀ ਨੀਂਵ ਦੈ॥ - (Guru Nanak established Raj on the foundations of Truth). This is why they are revered as Sache Patshah, the True Emperor (of both worlds).
The Bhatt Sahiban, whose compositions are recorded in Gurbani, and Bhai Gurdas ji in their own writings, have used the phrase Raj Jog to describe those who sat on the Throne of Guru Nanak Sahib. Raj Jog, a phrase for one who exercises political rule while completely absorbed in Akal Purakh, is the proclamation of divine existence within the temporal structures of worldly governance. It is Akal within Kal, the basis of Miri Piri.
In my book 'Patshahi Mehima' I expand on this by revisiting the Guru’s movement from Kartarpur Sahib to Anandpur Sahib, where the sovereign flags of the Guru flew, and the glory of the Guru's Darbar spread far and wide.
The Patshahi of the Guru, physically expressed with the founding of the Guru’s Darbar, was an integral part of the Sikh revolution that swept the land. It was the foundation upon which new towns were founded, emissaries were stationed from Kabul to Dhaka and bheta (funds) collected. It is why weapons were demanded, horses were bought, armies were raised, battle drums were beaten and wars were waged. It was not reactionary. It was the manifestation of Satguru Di Amaldari; the proactive mobilisation of the Guru's Power as Sache Patshah. This in turn paved the way for the establishment Sikh Raj, in various forms throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
While the Guru Sahiban mobilised on the ground, there was, and by virtue of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji, continues to be a clear critique of those who occupy seats of authority built on falsehood. Those who lead people away from Akal Purakh because they themselves are engrossed in Maya and the five thieves. Those who are not worthy of sitting on thrones let alone capable of leading others.
Let's not forget we are still in Kaljug and Guru Angad Sahib tells us - ਇਲਤਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਉ ਚਉਧਰੀ ਕੂੜੀ ਪੂਰੇ ਥਾਉ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਾਣੀਐ ਕਲਿ ਕਾ ਏਹੁ ਨਿਆਉ॥ (The trouble makers are known as leaders and falsehood is honoured. O' Nanak, the Gurmukhs know this to be the type of justice dispensed in Kaljug). Gurbani is not a religious scripture in the conventional sense of the term. Gurbani contains eternal Truth, and the Shabad is alive and applicable today.
In the Queen of England, there was not a more evident example of an individual sitting on a throne built on falsehood. Either I missed something and there was a shift from Kaljug to Satjug and the above pangtia from Gurbani no longer apply, or we have forgotten the timeless wisdom of the Shabad, and what the Panth demands of us, and are now just following the ways of the world.
Gurbani tells us everyone has an account to answer for. The rich and the poor, the so-called high and the low. Especially monarchs with seventy-year reigns who enjoined the spoils of loot, genocide and the displacement of entire peoples across continents.
In Gurbani, Bhagat Kabir ji writes ਧਰਮਰਾਇ ਜਬ ਲੇਖਾ ਮਾਗੈ ਕਿਆ ਮੁਖੁ ਲੈ ਕੈ ਜਾਹਿਗਾ॥ - (what face will you show when Dharam Raj asks for your account?). This is a timely reminder that everyone has an account for which they must answer to in the True Court, and no amount of political show of force or media manipulation can hide that truth.
As historians, celebrities, and other world leaders sing the praises of a dead monarch, Sikhs should think twice before jumping on the bandwagon and making absurd statements about shared values between the British Crown and the Guru’s Darbar.
Real power lies not within palaces and castles built on falsehood and exploitation but at the feet of those who embody Raj Jog, those who are imbued in Naam, praise of the Creator and in service of Creation. We must reflect on the Shabad and Gurmat. We must do better. One day we too shall be held to account for our actions.
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 @ranveersp
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