Over the course of the last year there has been a sharp rise in activity that impacts the Sikh world, some of which you will have heard about, others not so much. From the incarceration of Scottish citizen Jagtar Singh Johal to the emergence of a proposed ‘World Sikh Parliament’, change is coming. This is nothing new, for a Sikh understands that life is dynamic – our reality and circumstances can be altered in the blink of an eye, all as fits within the Divine Design that is Hukam. But with so much going on it has been difficult to keep up from an analytical point of view – to step back and see the pieces move on the proverbial chess board, consider the intentions and goals behind any particular course of action, and to calculate how such change might affect the Sikh psyche.
The political sphere has been the setting for the biggest news. In the past year, the Punjab electorate returned a Congress Party to power in the State bringing Captain Amarinder Singh to the Chief Minister’s seat at a time when the party is suffering on the national stage. The Captain’s eye may very well spy a seat on the grander table of Indian power, influentially if not quite physically. In the UK, last year’s general election saw the first female MP who is Sikh voted in to power, alongside the first turbaned Sikh, whilst the USA saw the successful election of a Mayor who is Sikh. But it is in Canada where the biggest waves have rippled following provincial parliamentarian Jagmeet Singh’s rise to become leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) – the first and only non-white leader of a major political party in the West. That Jagmeet Singh has been an outspoken critic of the Indian state’s human rights record in the past, successfully lobbying for the Ontario legislature to recognise the November 1984 State-orchestrated violence centred in Delhi as a Genocide, cannot be understated if one is to comprehend just why both the Canadian media and their counterparts in India have made attempts to pounce upon him in recent weeks.
But despite these political developments, it remains difficult to track how and why so much in so many ways is taking place in the Sikh world right now. At a time when the entire world sits on the precipice of a major shift due to technological advancements and environmental transformations, it is vital that those amongst us predisposed to an unfettered commitment to the Guru Granth and Guru Panth, devote themselves to seeing the bigger picture. I have written sparingly on many of these topics in recent months because I have been trying to do just this; case in point, when queried by a Sikh Studies student last month for my thoughts on the Indian media’s coverage of Trudeau’s trip to Punjab, I uttered the words, “I’m not quite sure what this means yet“.
It is not easy for me to publicly predict that something ‘big’ is coming, a statement that I have shared in private with a number of peers in recent months mostly to ascertain how they see things panning out. And yet my gut tells me that something big is approaching, whether it will be psychological, political, or physical; why? We never got closure from the reeling shock felt on the subcontinent and in the Diaspora when six years ago predominantly young Sikh generations protested en masse for the freedom of Balwant Singh Rajoana. That such a roar could encapsulate the mindsets of Sikhs globally, many of whom were not even born when the atrocities meted out by the State in Punjab took place, would have shocked the corridors of power in Delhi, and perhaps London, Washington and Ottawa too. Although the #iPledgeOrange movement dissipated, that all it took was a loose affiliation with the Sikh way of life, a broad identification as Sikh, for individuals to mobilise in major cities across the world was simply stunning, all the more when one considers the crimes that Rajoana is accused of and the manner in which he speaks so brazenly against State tyranny.
I know that the wind of change is blowing. I’m still trying to work out which way.