A week ago, both the President and former President of the Sikh political party, Akali Dal (Panch Pardhani) were charged with waging war on the State, possession of explosives and sedition. Bhai Kulbir Singh Barapind and Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu were originally arrested under preventative measures, but have since seen their charges exacerbated and have been placed in judicial custody for a period of 14 days. The former is a serving member of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) – notably the only candidate to successfully defeat a (CM of Punjab) Badal-supported nominee in recent SGPC elections in the Doaba region – whilst under Daljit Singh Bittu, the Akali Dal (Panch Pardhani) has continued to gain credence as a political party.
It is no secret that the arrests have been to the benefit of the Badal-led Punjab Govt. and the wider Sikh hierarchy in Punjab, including the President of the SGPC, Avtar Singh Makkar who upheld that the Police were correct to make the arrests, despite human rights groups and media outlets confirming that no evidence of banned paraphernalia or explosives have yet been found. But more worryingly, each passing day with the surfacing of new and unrelated revelations, it has begun to appear that there may be a wider plot unfolding to silence any opposition to the status quo of recent years that has seen the Punjab, and Sikh institutions there, denigrated ever closer to oblivion.
Almost a month ago now, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird made sensational remarks suggesting that extremism and radicalisation was on the rise amidst Sikhs in Canada. His comments were widely rebuked throughout the country, but in the light of recent events, appear to merely be an opening shot across the bow of the Sikh World. Many in the Diaspora have been campaigning for greater transparency within Sikh institutions in the Punjab and have questioned the unhealthy influence of the Badal-led, supposed Sikh political party, the Shiromani Akali Dal, over the SGPC specifically. This has not been met with great welcome and clear attempts to marginalise the Sikh voice abroad have been filtering through Punjabi/Sikh media over the past year. Baird’s remarks were a pronounced escalation of this strategy.
However, today’s news of the alleged attack on retired Lt. General Kuldip S Brar who led the 1984 invasion of Sri Darbar Sahib Amritsar, is even more puzzling and timely. Indian media began to report late this afternoon, that Gen. Brar and his wife who are ordinarily under constant protection in Mumbai, were attacked last night in London, where the retired General suffered wounds to his neck. Depending on which Indian media outlet you believe, he was attacked either outside his hotel or on Oxford Street at around 10:30pm, although we ascertained from the Metropolitan Police that the attack took place on Old Quebec Street, a stone’s throw from Marble Arch tube station. The original source issuing the news is the High Commission of India which reports that Brar was in a critical condition in hospital overnight but has now been released and is recuperating in private. The Metropolitan Police newswire reported Brar’s wounds as serious but not critical and that he had indeed been released from hospital after an overnight stay. His wife is quoted by Indian media as saying that they were set upon by four individuals whom she cannot identify.
Despite what seems to be an apparent knife attack near the most popular street and area of the capital city, no press statement was issued last night or indeed this morning, but when they were issued were littered with references to the rise of Sikh extremism. Any native to central London will know that the slightest hint of an incident in Soho or Mayfair results in an instant cordoning-off of the area, which incidentally has one of the highest numbers of surveillance cameras in Western Europe, not to mention pedestrian foot-fall, so one would hope that the Metropolitan Police will have access to sufficient evidence to get to the heart of the matter. At this time, they are reporting no arrests although inquiries continue.
It is remarkable to think that in this day and age, this news story is being published by both the Indian press, the bewildering Sikh TV stations and now the BBC with most of the news article leading on the fact that General Brar has long been a target for ‘Sikh extremists’. It is remarkable of course, unless seen in the wider context of what has been happening in a post-Rajoana World. Clearly the Badal-led Shiromani Akali Dal and their sibling forces hell-bent on usurping the Sikh people and vanquishing Guru Nanak’s egalitarian concept of Halemi Raj, have been so stunned by the global support to ‘Pledge Orange’ last Spring that they have moved rapidly to diminish the movement and what they see as the clearest threat to their autonomy over the Punjab and Sikh institutions. Opposition voices are no longer slowly being drowned out, rather they are erratically being routed through a multi-faceted campaign being played out primarily in the media.
My gravest concern however remains for the everyday Sikh people who remain sightless to the situation. What will it take for our people to awake and realise what is being perpetrated against us? Must a well-known Sikh born and raised in the West be killed in dubious circumstances or face false charges before we care? Are the lives of the likes of Bhai Kulbir Singh Barapind and Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu not worthy of our time, for us to pause from our daily lives and think seriously and critically about what we as a people are doing? Rallies come and go, protests here then there, and TV shows galore, but all the while we fail to see through the looking glass, where white is black and black is white; all the while we fail to make a change for good, for now and ever more.