The Betrayal Of The Sikhs

Dr. Sirdar Kapur Singh (Addressed to Indian Parliament, 6th September, I966)
National Professor on Sikhism; Member of Parliament; formerly of the British India Civil Service. Courtesy: Sachi Sakhi (True Story) by Kapur Singh

Mr. Chairman: Motion moved:

That the Bill to provide for the reorganisation of the existing State of Punjab and for matters connected therewith, be taken into consideration.

Shri Kapur Singh: Madam Chairman, I have gone through this draft Bill most carefully and I have heard the Honourable Home Minister with the diligence and respect which his speeches and utterances always deserve. Madam Chairman, as it is, I have no option but to oppose this Bill. Like the curateıs egg, though it might be good in parts, it is a rotten egg. It might be edible, but only as a measure of courtesy, as it is devoid of nutritional qualities and since its putrefaction is far gone, it is really unfit for human consumption.

Shri Tyagi: It depends upon the power of digestion.

Shri Kapur Singh: I am convinced that it is deleterious for the Sikhs however strong their stomachs might be supposed to be, as Honourable Mr. Tyagi hints. I oppose this Bill, on behalf of my constituents and reject it on behalf of my parent party, Shiromani Akali Dal. I do so for three reasons, firstly, it is conceived in sin, secondly, it has been delivered by an incompetent and untrained midwife and thirdly, it is opposed to the best interests of the nation, as it will almost certainly lead to a weakening of national integration and loss of faith in the integrity of those who exercise political power in the country.

Shri Tyagi: It is not an illicit child.

Shri Kapur Singh: It is not an illicit child but it is conceived in sin. It may have the vigour of hybrid offspring but unfortunately, it is an offspring of a miscegenous union, and, therefore, I oppose it. I say, it is conceived in sin, because it constitutes the latest act of betrayal of solemn promises - series of solemn promises - given to the Sikh people by the accredited leaders of the majority community, by the revered leaders of the Congress national movement, and by the unchallenged spokesmen of the ruling party. It will do this House good - it will do the public a lot of good- it will do the people of India a great deal of good and it will do the International Community a world of good to listen to a brief narration of this story of betrayal of a people, who though small in numbers have not been adjudged as of no consequence in terms of dynamism of History, people, though modern and forward-looking, are staunch guardians of the basic insights into Reality of the ancient Hindu race, and a people who though they may be matched in qualities of courage, self-sacrifice and patriotism, have not been surpassed by any community in India or any group of people outside. Here is the brief story of a callous betrayal of such a people the Sikhs of India by those whose flesh of flesh and bones of bones the Sikhs are, and whose ancestors common ancestors of the betrayed and the betrayers, both had upheld the highest and the noblest notions and standards of ethical conduct in respect of the subject of keeping faith with fellow men and redeeming promises solemnly made.

I quote from Mahabharat, Adiparvam, sub-chapter, 74 and verse, 25: Yo anayathas aintamtmanam anayatha pratipadayete, kintena kritam na Papam. ­ It means: "He who has one thing in mind but represents another thing to others, what sin he is not capable of committing? For, he is a thief and robber of his own self." I ask the Honıble, members to take their minds back to the year 1929, when the All India National Congress met at the banks of the River Ravi Amravati of our ancestors and fixed Complete Independence as its political goal. On that bitterly cold night of destiny, I was present as one of the student volunteers in the service of the Nation. On the previous day, the Sikhs had taken out a five hundred thousand strong procession with veteran Baba Kharak Singh leading it on elephant's back, from under the walls of the ancient fort of Lahore, which was described in THE TIMES, of London, as "a most impressive spectacle of human congregation that put the Congress show into shame and shade." It was on this occasion that Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Moti Lal Nehru, and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, went to meet Baba Kharak Singh, at his place on. the Chauburji Road, and gave the Sikhs a solemn assurance that after India achieves political freedom no Constitution shall be framed by the majority community unless it is freely acceptable to the Sikhs. This promise was then reduced into a formal Policy Resolution of the All India Congress Committee.

Afterwards, this Policy Resolution was repeatedly reiterated, officially and semi-officially, throughout the period up to August 1947, and it was not officially repudiated till 1950 when the present Constitution was framed. The trusting Sikhs, who in their Daily Prayer, extol keeping faith as the noblest of human virtues, placing complete reliance in this solemn undertaking given to them by the majority community, resisted and refused all offers and proposals made to them by the British and the other people whom we now prefer to call, the Muslim League proposing to accord the Sikhs a sovereign or autonomous status in the areas constituting their ancestral homeland between the River Ghaggar and the River Chenab. This is first link of the story which I am going to narrate here so as to provide background to the conclusion as to this Bill should be rejected.

The second link is that in the year 1932, at the time of the Second Round Table Conference, the British Government, through Sardar-Bahadur Shivdev Singh, then a member of the Indian Secretary of State's Council, made an informal proposal to the Sikhs that if they dissociate finally with the Congress movement, they would be given such a decisive political weight-age in the Punjab, as would lead to their emerging as a third independent element in India after the British transfer Power to the inhabitants of this subcontinent.

The much maligned, the naive, Master Tara Singh, to my personal knowledge, promptly rejected this tempting offer. I was then a student at the University of Cambridge and was closely associated with these developments. The third link is this: In the month of July, 1946, the All India Congress Working Committee met at Calcutta, which reaffirmed the assurances already given to the Sikhs, and in his Press Conference held on the 6th July, there, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru spelt out the concrete content of this solemn undertaking in the following flowery words:

"The brave Sikhs of the Punjab are entitled to special consideration. I see nothing wrong in an area and a set-up in the North wherein the Sikhs can also experience the glow of freedom"

In these words, an autonomous State to the Sikhs, within India, was promised. Fourthly, in the early Winter of 1946, the Cabinet Mission, while at Delhi, communicated to the Sikhs through the late Sardar Baldev Singh that if the Sikhs are determined not to part company with Hindu India, the British Parliament, in their solicitude for the Sikh people, was prepared to so frame the Independence Act of India, so that in respect of the Sikh home-land, wherever these areas might eventually go, in Pakistan or India, no Constitution shall be framed such as does not have the concurrence of the Sikhs. But Sardar Baldev Singh, in consultation with the Congress leaders, summarily rejected this offer which went even beyond the assurances given by the majority community, in 1929 and in 1946 by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in Calcutta. Fifthly, in April 1947, Mr. Jinnah, in consultation with certain most powerful leaders of the British Cabinet in London, offered to the Sikhs, first through Master Tara Singh and then through the Maharaja of Patiala, a sovereign Sikh State comprising areas lying in the west of Panipat and east of the left bank of the Ravi river on the understanding that this State then confederates with Pakistan on very advantageous terms to the Sikhs and Master Tara Singh summarily rejected this attractive offer. The Maharaja of Patiala declined to accept it in consultation with Sardar Patel and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Sixthly, on the 9th December, 1946, when the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly was held under the Chairmanship of Babu Rajendra Prasad, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru moved the first and the fundamental Resolution in which it was said: "Adequate safeguards would be provided for minorities... It was a declaration, a pledge and an undertaking before the world, a contract with millions of Indians, and, therefore, in the nature of an oath, which we must keep." "To take recourse to a solemn oath, to inspire confidence that might be betrayed when convenient, is quite in the political tradition of the Indian National Congress. On 16th March, 1931, Mahatma Gandhi came to a special Sikh congregation held in Gurdwara Sisganj, Delhi, where he was asked as to what guarantee there was that his Indian National Congress would implement the assurances, given to the Sikh people in 1929, at Lahore. His reply is published in his Young India, of the 19th March, 1931, and it contains the following: "Sardar Madhusudan Singh has asked for an assurance that the Congress would do nothing that might alienate sympathies of the Sikhs from the Congress. Well, the Congress, in its Lahore Session, passed a Resolution that it would not enter into or be a party to any settlement with regard to the minority question that failed to satisfy any of the minorities concerned. What further assurances the Congress can give to the Sikhs, I fail to understand. I ask you to accept my word and the Resolution of the Congress that it will not betray a single individual much less a community. If it ever thinks of doing so, it will only hasten its own doom. I pray you, therefore, to unbosom yourselves of all your doubts... What more shall I say? What more can I say than this. Let God be the witness of the bond that binds me and the Congress with you".

When further asked as to what may the Sikhs do in case of betrayal he said, the Sikhs could, in that case, take their kirpans in hand with perfect justification before God and man. What happens in case of political perjury is not a point I propose to discuss today, for, when neither the feelings of shame, the reproaches of conscience, nor the dread of punishment from any bar is there, the sufferers can only pray to God, which the Sikhs are doing today. But since it is the perquisite of power to invent its own past, I am putting the record straight for the public opinion and the posterity by recapitulating this sorry tale of betrayal of the Sikhs, a trusting people Seventhly, in the month of May, 1947, precisely on the 17th May, Lord Mountbatten, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Nawab Liaqat Ali Khan and Sardar Beldev Singh, flew to London on the invitation of the British Cabinet, in search of final solution of the Indian communal problem. When the Congress and the Muslim League failed to strike any mutual understanding and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru decided to return to India, the British Cabinet leaders conveyed to Sardar Baldev Singh that, if he stays behind, arrangements might be made: "So as to enable the Sikhs to have political feet of their own on which they may walk into the current of World History."

Sardar Baldev Singh promptly divulged the contents of this confidential offer to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and in compliance with the latterıs wishes, declined to stay back and flew back to India after giving the following brave message to the Press: "The Sikhs have no demands to make on the British except the demand that they should quit India. Whatever political rights and aspirations the Sikhs have, they shall have them satisfied through the goodwill of the Congress and the majority community." Eighthly, and lastly, in the month of July, 1947 the Hindu and Sikh members of the Punjab Legislative Assembly met at Delhi to pass a unanimous Resolution favouring partition of the country, in which Resolution occur the following words: "In the divided Indian Punjab, special constitutional measures are imperative to meet just aspirations and rights of the Sikhs." It is these very Hindus of the Punjab, who, with the ready aid of the Government of India leaders, even when their understanding was not qualified to keep pace with the wishes of the heart, adopted every conceivable posture and shrank from no stratagem to keep Sikhs permanently under their political heel, first, by refusing to form a Punjabi-speaking State in which the Sikhs might acquire political effectiveness, and second, by falsely declaring that Panjabi was not their mother tongue. The Bill before the House is a calculatedly forged link in the chain, the story of which I have just narrated. When in 1950, the present Constitution Act of India was enacted, the accredited representatives of the Sikhs the Shiromani Akali Dal declared vehemently and unambiguously in the Constituent Assembly that: "The Sikhs do not accept this Constitution: the Sikhs reject this Constitution Act"

Our spokesmen declined to append their signatures to the Constitution Act as a token of this clear and irrevocable rejection. I will, for want of time, skip over the story of the Sikh sufferings during the last 18 years in an Independent India under the political control of political and anglicised Hindu and will merely refer to the reply which Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru gave to Master Tara Singh in 1954, when the latter reminded him of the solemn undertaking previously given to the Sikhs on behalf of the majority community. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru coolly replied, The circumstances have now changed. If there is one thing that the Sikhs know too well, it is that now the circumstances have changed!

Let us now briefly examine the immediate ancestry of the present Bill. It was on 21st March, 1966 that the Minister of Home Affairs set up a Commission presided over by a Supreme Court Judge, requiring the Commission, firstly, to examine existing boundaries of Hindi and Punjabi regions of Punjab to set up Punjab and Haryana States; secondly, by applying linguistic principles as they have resulted in the 1961 census figures; and thirdly, to determine boundaries that do not involve breaking up of tehsils. All these three guidelines given to the Commission by the Government of India are found to be, when they are properly examined by people who understand the realities of our politics, heavily loaded against the Punjab State, and have the effect of reducing Sikhs to even more political ineffectiveness than at present. Nor has the Shah Commission failed to take full advantage of the instruments of discrimination thus placed in their hands by the Government of India. They have, firstly, arbitrarily truncated and reduced, as much as they could, the existing Punjabi region, and secondly, applied all principles of demarcation with a left-handed justice-made use of a principle where it could harm the Punjab and not used it where it could harm the resultant territorial interests of Haryana or Himachal Pradesh. For instance, Dalhousie has been taken out of Punjab and given to Himachal because it is hilly, while Morni which is of a higher altitude than Dalhousie has been taken away to be bestowed on Haryana, because its residents are Hindus, which is the same thing as saying that they are Hindi-speaking. Thus, this story goes on and every conceivable stratagem has been adopted through truncating its areas, through divesting it of its utility undertakings in public sector, and through neutralizing its limbs of governmental apparatus and by robbing it of its Capital city, and by forging the so-called common links, to reduce the Punjab State into a glorified Zila Parishad, and to convert it into a Sikh quarantine and to achieve these sordid unedifying objectives, the Judiciary has been made use of.

Madam Chairman, permit me to say that if there is one political crime greater than any other, the ruling party has committed during the post-Independence era; it is frequent employment of Judiciary for quasi-political purposes, and the result is that the Working Committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal has passed a Resolution on the 20th July, 1966, which reads: "AFTER HAVING CAREFULLY VIEWED the findings, the reports and judgements of judicial and quasi-judicial Tribunals and Forums that have dealt with matters and cases involving important Sikh interests, COMES TO THE CONCLUSION, that the entire judicial machinery and the judicial process of the Independent India, under influences of a certain section of political Hindus, is prejudiced and has been perverted against the Sikh people in India in relation to their just and legal rights"

Madam Chairman, here, it might be honestly asked, and I am sure there must be many honest Members in this House, who might wish to ask the question as to what is this tiresome talk this man is talking about the Sikhsı interests in a secular democratic India; where is the question of the Sikhs being discriminated against. There are no Sikhs or Hindus in a democratic secular set-up, and the Constitution has already established it in this country. To this I can give a very simple reply, Constitutional provisions are not the same thing as day-to-day political realities. As for the democracy, its form is one thing and its substance is quite another thing. Those who equate them are treacherous without art and hypocrites without deceiving. The Mundakopanishad, our ancient scripture, tells us that Samsara is the manifestation of four modifications of Self, the Atma, and is called as caturpad. Likewise, a modern State, that is, the Government, has four estates: the Parliament, the Executive, the Judiciary and the Press. The concrete realities of these four alone can furnish an acid test as to whether the Sikh problem in India is a real problem or not.

To the Executive and the Judiciary, reference has already been made by me. I now propose to make a reference to Parliament, this august House, which is deserving of our highest respect, as its dignity is the dignity of the people of India and hence inviolable. Nevertheless, the Sikhs are aware that under the existing constitutional arrangements, they cannot send more than a couple of their own representatives to the Parliament and even they may not always be heard freely. How many times has it happened in this House, in the recent past, that particular Members of the minority communities have been made aware, in no uncertain manner that they must not must never say this thing or that, or else a hearing might be denied them. How many times the disciplinary wrath of the House has fallen on individuals, without hearing them and without letting them subsequently submit that their punishment was not in order. And, lastly, the Press. We have a free Press here and a lively and impartial Press on the whole. But, what is it like when it comes to dealing with Sikhs, that is, politically vocal Sikhs or questions largely concerning the Sikhs? In the days of his clash, with Beaverbrook, Baldwin said of the Press "power without responsibility, the privileges of harlots throughout the ages." And, I say no more, I have said enough to explain the background of the Resolution No. 2 of the Working Committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal passed on the 20th July, 1966, wherein occur the following passages in relation to the scope of this Bill: "SIKHS RESOLVE AND PROCLAIM their determination to resist, through all legitimate means, all such attempts to devalue and liquidate the Sikh people in a free India, and consequently, DEMAND that the following steps should be taken forthwith by the rulers of India to assure and enable the Sikhs to live as respectable and equal citizens of the Union of India, namely, FIRST the Sikh areas deliberately and intentionally cut off and not included in the new Punjab to be set up, namely, the area of Gurdaspur District including Dalhousie, Ambala District including Chandigarh, Pinjore, Kalka and Ambala Saddar, the entire Una Tehsil of Hoshiarpur District, the areas of Nalagarh, called Desh, the Theisl of Sirsa, the sub-Tehsils of Tohana and Guhla, and Rattia Block, of District Hissar, Shahbad block of district Karnal, and the contiguous portion of the Ganganagar District of Rajasthan must now be immediately included in the new proposed Punjab so as to bring all contiguous Sikh areas into an administrative unit, to be the Sikh Homeland, wherein the Sikh interests are of special importance, within the Union of India. And SECOND, such a new Punjab should be granted an autonomous constitutional status on the analogy of the status of Jammu and Kashmir as was envisaged in the Constitution Act of India in the year 1950.

I am coming to a close. Madam, on behalf of the Sikh people represented by the Shiromani Akali Dal, I reject the entire schemata of this Bill, and oppose it. I call upon the Government to take necessary legislative measures to solve the problem of Punjab in the light of the Resolution of the Shiromani Akali Dal just referred to.

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