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Sikhi: Violence And Warfare


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I'll keep this brief. I want to ask the sangat their opinions on an issue that has been on my mind for the past few years.

I'm hoping we're all aware of the current situation in the world regarding the so-called war on terror, and associated issues such as extremism, fanaticism, etc. The Western world (the media and governments) is always looking for assurances from Muslims that they do not endorse the violent behaviour exhibited by certain factions to further their respective causes. Thus, we always hear the classic line "Islam is a religion of peace" as a way of assuring the sensitive West that everything is fine and they've got nothing to worry about.

This got me thinking about Sikhi and how a large chunk of our faith's existence has been spent on the battlefield. Guru Gobind Singh Ji says that the greatest death is one whereby shaheedi is given, and many of us seem to revel in this kind of talk because it makes us feel proud of our heritage and proud of the brave individuals that once populated our homeland & called themselves Sikh.

So my question is this: In this modern world - where the spreading of peace & democracy through warfare seem to be the exclusive preserve of the United States and it's allies - does glorifying violent causes and wars (even if they ARE permissable from a moral and religious (Sikhi) standpoint) and in-fact approving of it's methods and ends - be something Sikhs should not be ashamed to do?

Should we compromise our core beliefs and remain anonymous in order not to be tarred with the "extremist brush" OR should we say "To hell with that! I'm not distorting my faith and it's ideals because it makes a few hypocritical politicians and arm-chair pundits feel uncomfortable"?

Who knows what the future will bring. If there are future conflicts involving Sikhs - such as what happened in Punjab during the 80s and 90s - how many of us will look over the parapets and support our fellow Sikhs even if to the rest of the world it seems like a bunch of mad militants running around causing trouble?

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I'm not sure how to answer this as I've also thought about this question as well. One thing that may help bring an answer is that Harbhajan Singh Yogi "warned" the Sangat regarding the possible global implications (in terms of classification of acts) related to the 84 movement. With that said, it's important to note he did support Sant Jarnail Singh Khalsa ji, but he believed he could have avoided shaheedi. He blames leadership, but gives credit to Sant Ji for sticking 100% to his word and Sikhi.

I don't think there's a black and white answer for this.

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I'm not sure how to answer this as I've also thought about this question as well. One thing that may help bring an answer is that Harbhajan Singh Yogi "warned" the Sangat regarding the possible global implications (in terms of classification of acts) related to the 84 movement. With that said, it's important to note he did support Sant Jarnail Singh Khalsa ji, but he believed he could have avoided shaheedi. He blames leadership, but gives credit to Sant Ji for sticking 100% to his word and Sikhi.

I don't think there's a black and white answer for this.

That's a very good point. Like I said, even a fully justifiable cause from a moralistic viewpoint whereby normal men have no choice but to fight or face extinction is termed as militancy, and you get the associated negative connotations that come with that term.

But when elected officials do not listen to the voices of a group of people - and are instead chasing their own warped interests - then what choice does the common man have but to take matters into his own hands? He can't rely on his democractically elected leaders to take a stance and fight his corner, so what is he expected to do --- watch as his world burns?

I think the 'Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale / 1984' issue involves many factors, some theological and others from a social / political perspective. It is a very difficult area to categorically say "Yep, so-and-so should've happened" or "The leadership at the time made THIS mistake" etc. I think you would need to ask Sant Ji himself what exactly the policy was regarding the uprising during the 1980s.

Was it a personal, theological issue whereby shaheedi was the policy in order to not only defend Sikhs in Punjab - and make a statement to the whole country - but also on an individual basis by living-up to the ideals of the Sikh warrior dharam. OR was there a grander, over-arching plan which involved sitting down with the government of India and thrashing out some kind of plan whereby the grievances of the Sikhs could be identified, of course taking into account if the GOI were genuinely interested in a peaceful outcome and not secretly hoping to give the Sikhs a bloody nose whatever happened.

Like I said before, if future conflicts were to arise what would be the best policy to affect change for Sikhs? Wholly political means or a militant uprising? Does the world support the brave militant anymore (even if he IS justified) now that the media has stigmatised raising arms as something undemocratic and dangerous - and dare I say 'Islamic'? Do the "relaxed" Sikhs around the world have the stomach to defend their bretheren when they are questioned as to why Sikhs are causing such trouble (in an hypothetical conflict scenario)? Or will they fold under questioning and say "Its nothing to do with me. They're terrorists" in order to alleviate the strain and distance themselves from such searching queries and accusations, seeing as some ignorant quarters of the world are under the assumption that Sikhs are somehow connected to Islam?

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I think first the mindset of Sikhs need to change in this world nothing can be achieved without being political aware and involved. We are now creating generations of Sikhs who are not political and do not understand that being political involved is key to protecting our religious rights and our freedoms even in the west let alone india or other nations.

Once we are involved in politics we become a threat to the established powers who want to maintain their own top dog status so will try every means at their disposal to undermine you....which was the case in India when Sikhs demanded equal rights and jobs and an end to discriminatory polices in their own homeland in regards to employment and religious rights. They were ignored but small concessions were made by various indian prime ministers after mass agitations were launched which threatened the stability and transportation of wheat grain out of punjab.

This is when the government of India took notice and launched various schemes to divide the Sikh political powers and subvert their interests. After killings of peaceful protesters by the Indian authorities started to occur and major violations of Sikhism went without investigation or punishment... it is then we had great scholarly and military leaders like sant jarnail bhindranwale stand up against these injustices by the exercise of arms (as m.k.gandhi had promised the Sikhs if they ever felt threatened in the Indian Union).

We do not need any permission to carry arms and exercise them in a just and righteous manor if we live under Sikh rule but at the moment we do not which is why every Sikh needs to get political in India and even in pakistan and afghanistan to safeguard their rights. And here in the west we also need to get political to ensure our basic freedoms and civil liberties are maintained and we gain further rights (ie the right to carry and use arms in defence of oneself) because at the moment we often are at the mercy of criminal thugs, muggers who go out attacking robbing innocent civilians yet often go without punishment or when caught given little soft sentences for them to re-commit that crime.

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I'll keep this brief. I want to ask the sangat their opinions on an issue that has been on my mind for the past few years.

I'm hoping we're all aware of the current situation in the world regarding the so-called war on terror, and associated issues such as extremism, fanaticism, etc. The Western world (the media and governments) is always looking for assurances from Muslims that they do not endorse the violent behaviour exhibited by certain factions to further their respective causes. Thus, we always hear the classic line "Islam is a religion of peace" as a way of assuring the sensitive West that everything is fine and they've got nothing to worry about.

This got me thinking about Sikhi and how a large chunk of our faith's existence has been spent on the battlefield. Guru Gobind Singh Ji says that the greatest death is one whereby shaheedi is given, and many of us seem to revel in this kind of talk because it makes us feel proud of our heritage and proud of the brave individuals that once populated our homeland & called themselves Sikh.

So my question is this: In this modern world - where the spreading of peace & democracy through warfare seem to be the exclusive preserve of the United States and it's allies - does glorifying violent causes and wars (even if they ARE permissable from a moral and religious (Sikhi) standpoint) and in-fact approving of it's methods and ends - be something Sikhs should not be ashamed to do?

Should we compromise our core beliefs and remain anonymous in order not to be tarred with the "extremist brush" OR should we say "To hell with that! I'm not distorting my faith and it's ideals because it makes a few hypocritical politicians and arm-chair pundits feel uncomfortable"?

Who knows what the future will bring. If there are future conflicts involving Sikhs - such as what happened in Punjab during the 80s and 90s - how many of us will look over the parapets and support our fellow Sikhs even if to the rest of the world it seems like a bunch of mad militants running around causing trouble?

Good question. I interpret this to be a question about strategy. My view on this is that you have to develop a strategy that works under the circumstances.

The reason that I am against militancy is because I believe that it simply doesnt work for Sikhs as a methodology in modern times, but not because of any kind of moral dilemma.

If there is a chance that militancy will work, then there is a case for it. However, unless India is de-stabilised, there is foreign aid, media support, great support amongst the populace, a tremendous amount of fund-raising and Punjab suddenly sprouts vast areas of jungles and mountains, then militancy is doomed to an A-Class fail.

The difference between a religious extremist and a strategist/realist is that the religious extremist will not adapt to the circumstances and instead try to force a certain sequence of events from his own myopic lens (his own religious beliefs or the beliefs of his group) rather than look at the broader picture.

An example of this would be a Sikh who believes that Sikhi gives him the right to take up arms as a last resort and then proceeds to take violent action when he believes that this point has been reached, regardless of whether or not it is a sensible thing to do and when the rest of the world can clearly see that there are still other options available, and still not achieving his goal in the process; a lose-lose situation.

Things to consider are legality, public and world opinion, the knock on effect to innocent Sikhs going about their daily business, the reputation of Sikhs in the media, and negative effects on the economy.... Most people dont realise how badly Punjab's economy has suffered because of the kharku movement. People still harp on about Punjab being India's number one state but forget that it is industrially undeveloped because of its reputation as a troubled region and the resultant high levels of unemployment.

Sikhs should be able to reserve the right to go militant and certainly have the capability to do so if circumstances both necessitate and favour such action, even if it is just for the purposes of self-preservation.

However, in the modern climate, it is always better to portray an image of civility, integration and peaceful harmony.

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Good question. I interpret this to be a question about strategy. My view on this is that you have to develop a strategy that works under the circumstances.

The reason that I am against militancy is because I believe that it simply doesnt work for Sikhs as a methodology in modern times, but not because of any kind of moral dilemma.

If it doesnt work..try telling that to the libyans, taliban, and currently the sunnis in syria....but yes i agree with you in regards to sikhs going down the millitancy route...we just dont have the demographics in india to win by force alone

If there is a chance that militancy will work, then there is a case for it. However, unless India is de-stabilised, there is foreign aid, media support, great support amongst the populace, a tremendous amount of fund-raising and Punjab suddenly sprouts vast areas of jungles and mountains, then militancy is doomed to an A-Class fail.

our only option is to go the chinese...as it looks more and more likely they will eventually enter a war with india over certain disputed territories...chinas millitary is miles ahead of indias..so this scenario isnt unlikely...if we seek their assitance in gaining independance in return for fighting for their interests and ours..then i see no proeblem in that...a large scale insurgency in north east india, kashmir, punjab, naxalite controlled areas would smash india into pieces...all thats needed is powerful allies willing to fund and support you...

The difference between a religious extremist and a strategist/realist is that the religious extremist will not adapt to the circumstances and instead try to force a certain sequence of events from his own myopic lens (his own religious beliefs or the beliefs of his group) rather than look at the broader picture.

its always been like that..there are members in our community who will pick up arms and there are some who will go through a more legal democratic approach...in my opinion they are both just as important..without a contingent of armed millitants who are not willing to compromise on their demands there would be no deterent for the enemy...but then again a more legal approach would be seen in good light amongst the international community

An example of this would be a Sikh who believes that Sikhi gives him the right to take up arms as a last resort and then proceeds to take violent action when he believes that this point has been reached, regardless of whether or not it is a sensible thing to do and when the rest of the world can clearly see that there are still other options available, and still not achieving his goal in the process; a lose-lose situation.

then in your opinion when should we pick up arms?...should we discard our gurus teachings?...

Things to consider are legality, public and world opinion, the knock on effect to innocent Sikhs going about their daily business, the reputation of Sikhs in the media, and negative effects on the economy.... Most people dont realise how badly Punjab's economy has suffered because of the kharku movement. People still harp on about Punjab being India's number one state but forget that it is industrially undeveloped because of its reputation as a troubled region and the resultant high levels of unemployment.

there was no alternative to the kharkoo movement...the indian government cornered the sikhs into a corner...they had no other option other than picking up the gun...if that affected the industry in punjab..then thats their fault not ours...they should of known sikhs would react violently and agressively to the invasion of harmandir sahib...if someone invades your house and kills your father and rapes your mother....naturally you want to find and punish the culprits and as you know yourself sikhs will never recieve justice through indian courts...in india..its the rule of the gun

Sikhs should be able to reserve the right to go militant and certainly have the capability to do so if circumstances both necessitate and favour such action, even if it is just for the purposes of self-preservation.

i dont believe sikhs have the right to become millitant when necessary..i believe they should be millitant all the time...you cannot seperate millitancy from the khalsa...sri dasam granth and sri sarbloh granth encourage millitancy against injustice..so how can you expect the fauj of akaal purkh not to be millitant..but i agree with you...we should resort to violence as a very last resort ...and sometimes its even better to not go violent and use our brains for a change...

However, in the modern climate, it is always better to portray an image of civility, integration and peaceful harmony.

are you saying sikhs are not civilised?..are you using the western white nations as a model for a civilised people?...they are the most millitant and warlike nations in the world yet they call themselves civilised...brother this is a inferiority complex...we are not uncivlised....and yes i agree with your view on being integrated...but even then only to a certain degree as being fully integrated would demand you to remove your dastaar, cut your kesh and remove your kirpan/shastar .....and a BIG YES ! to peaceful harmony..thats what we all want!...even us religous zealots lol

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If it doesnt work..try telling that to the libyans, taliban, and currently the sunnis in syria....but yes i agree with you in regards to sikhs going down the millitancy route...we just dont have the demographics in india to win by force alone

our only option is to go the chinese...as it looks more and more likely they will eventually enter a war with india over certain disputed territories...chinas millitary is miles ahead of indias..so this scenario isnt unlikely...if we seek their assitance in gaining independance in return for fighting for their interests and ours..then i see no proeblem in that...a large scale insurgency in north east india, kashmir, punjab, naxalite controlled areas would smash india into pieces...all thats needed is powerful allies willing to fund and support you...

its always been like that..there are members in our community who will pick up arms and there are some who will go through a more legal democratic approach...in my opinion they are both just as important..without a contingent of armed millitants who are not willing to compromise on their demands there would be no deterent for the enemy...but then again a more legal approach would be seen in good light amongst the international community

then in your opinion when should we pick up arms?...should we discard our gurus teachings?...

there was no alternative to the kharkoo movement...the indian government cornered the sikhs into a corner...they had no other option other than picking up the gun...if that affected the industry in punjab..then thats their fault not ours...they should of known sikhs would react violently and agressively to the invasion of harmandir sahib...if someone invades your house and kills your father and rapes your mother....naturally you want to find and punish the culprits and as you know yourself sikhs will never recieve justice through indian courts...in india..its the rule of the gun

i dont believe sikhs have the right to become millitant when necessary..i believe they should be millitant all the time...you cannot seperate millitancy from the khalsa...sri dasam granth and sri sarbloh granth encourage millitancy against injustice..so how can you expect the fauj of akaal purkh not to be millitant..but i agree with you...we should resort to violence as a very last resort ...and sometimes its even better to not go violent and use our brains for a change...

are you saying sikhs are not civilised?..are you using the western white nations as a model for a civilised people?...they are the most millitant and warlike nations in the world yet they call themselves civilised...brother this is a inferiority complex...we are not uncivlised....and yes i agree with your view on being integrated...but even then only to a certain degree as being fully integrated would demand you to remove your dastaar, cut your kesh and remove your kirpan/shastar .....and a BIG YES ! to peaceful harmony..thats what we all want!...even us religous zealots lol

Lol. We definitely need people like yourselves to fight the wars. We also need people who think like me to stop things spiralling out of control!

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Lol. We definitely need people like yourselves to fight the wars. We also need people who think like me to stop things spiralling out of control!

i dont know if your being sarcastic brother..but i agree with you...people have their own calling...some are made for the battlefield and some are made for the pen (diplomacy, propaganda, creating awareness, etc)...and i believe the latter is the best option and we should seek to channel our resources through this option...however there will always be men who will itch to pick up the gun...you just cant stop that...

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If a Sikh hides Sikh history, then consider them a giddar and a person who doesn't understand Sikhi. Sikhs don't hide their history neither do they force others to read it. It's there for everyone to see, study and if they want to take their point of view and judge Sikh history, then so be it. Ignorance is bliss.

Those that want to know the world's opinions before acting, then they are no better than those who they ask. Khalsa only bows to Satguru and only looks to Satguru before acting. We take Hukams from Satguru not from the world.

This topic is a waste of time because the Sikhs that don't practice Sikhi or havn't taken Amrit will always disagree with Gurmat. They will stick to their opinion and use words like extremist toward Singhs like Sant Baba Jarnail Singh ji Khalsa and if they were born in Satguru's time they will be calling Satguru in many slanderous names. Those that want to know the truth about taking the sword, first need to understand what it means to give and take life. Bhagti is the base of then going into the world and using the sword to protect.

Pedrorizzo....not here to knock you down, but i know you don't or havent ever done bhagti in your life (how do i know....there is much fear in your post of worldly people). You care more about public opinion than accepting the Truth. Sit down one day and let go of all your preconcieved opinions of SIkhi and actually listen to Shabad Guru. You are concerned way too much about what worldly people will think of you if you do or say something and are looking to impress worldly superior people in your life. Instead of saying what others expect you to say, do some paat with love and devotion. The fear you have of what others will think of you will go away.

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This topic is a waste of time because the Sikhs that don't practice Sikhi or havn't taken Amrit will always disagree with Gurmat. They will stick to their opinion and use words like extremist toward Singhs like Sant Baba Jarnail Singh ji Khalsa and if they were born in Satguru's time they will be calling Satguru in many slanderous names. Those that want to know the truth about taking the sword, first need to understand what it means to give and take life. Bhagti is the base of then going into the world and using the sword to protect.

I respectfully disagree about this topic being a waste of time. I look around world I live in (Sikhs and non-Sikhs) and I see so many fractures and, like it or not, we have live with and amongst these people be they the international community or our own Sikh brothers and sisters. To try and get a handle on how others think goes some way to understand how and why people function.

I just don't understand the mindset of our own Sikhs who DO label shaheeds as militants and trouble-makers, when all they wanted was to not be oppressed (in the most simplest terms. I'm aware there were other issues).

I don't wish to re-ignite an old conflict but the Dudley situation last year was a prime example of what I'm talking about. That situation was soley a Sikh issue but the opinions and stance of both sides was poles apart. I was listening to the radio and smacking my head in frustration as I heard so-called Sikhs calling the process or taking amrit (amongst other things) "traditions from the 15th century that don't belong in the modern world" and other equally disrespectful and ignorant statements. When did this kind of thinking creep into the mindset of our people?

So, IF a conflict situation were to arise in the future involving Sikhs, I'm sure as hell the aforementioned breed of Sikhs who share the same opinions as some of the Dudley folk will definitely not be supporting their Sikh brothers and sisters. Once those voices begin to be heard and once the wider world (incl. the media) realises that even some elements of the Sikh community do not support each other then the PR war is lost.

Yes, like it or not, EVERYTHING that happens on the political stage involves PR of some sort. To bury your head in the sand and claim "I'll make up my own rules" is complete and utter folly. We live in THIS world with all it's faults and whether this pleases us or not, we sometimes have to function by it's rules when it involves dealing with other people who are not Sikhs.

If Sikhs want something from this world, we will have to play by the rules of the ruling powers. If we do not prepare ourselves on all fronts and appreciate how the other side will or might move then we will show ourselves to be amateurs playing a big man's game at which we will ultimately lose.

That IS the aim isn't it, to win? Surely there's no other reason to enter conflict? Who wants to be a glorious loser and heap more misery on your own people and yourselves? I certainly don't think we should be happy with the tag of plucky tryers.

Anyway, just a few of my opinions from a strictly non-theological point of view, i.e. on how 99% of the world operates and get's things done. Which of course might be a paradox to some as I'm not attempting to seperate myself from my Sikhi. But the rest of the world sure has disassociated itself from their dharam - whatever it may be - and like I said previously these are the people that we must deal with, not by losing our own identity but by trying to work with people who have lost theirs whilst we continue to maintan ours......phew!

You care more about public opinion than accepting the Truth. Sit down one day and let go of all your preconcieved opinions of SIkhi and actually listen to Shabad Guru. You are concerned way too much about what worldly people will think of you if you do or say something and are looking to impress worldly superior people in your life. Instead of saying what others expect you to say, do some paat with love and devotion. The fear you have of what others will think of you will go away.

I cannot dispute the above. Some may call it idealistic thinking but I'm coming to the realisation that if every one of us actually did the above, as a faith and a people we would be in hell of a better shape than we are at the moment.

Even some modern so-called kharkoo elements prefer the gung-ho bravado of violence and force, and actually consider Gurbani to be the preserve of those who cannot take action, i.e. the weak. I guess you might say they aren't true Sikhs if they hold such opinions which is fair enough.

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