Head Granthi at Nanakmatta Sahib

‘Religious Leaders Must Foster Harmony Not Discord’

Lakhwinder Singh, the head Granthi at Nanakmatta Sahib, Uttarakhand, says the principle of compassion for all and discrimination to none must be inculcated in every human being

Dharmguruon ko dharm ki hi bat karni chahiye, siyasat nahi karni chahiye (A religious guru must work in the domain of religion, not dabble into politics). Similarly, politicians should serve people rather than try to be representatives of religion. While I agree that the situation in our country might have become communally charged of late, I won’t say that religious leaders have failed in their duty.

Most gurus do foster communal harmony. Anyone who has truly understood the essence of divine will show compassion to others. Any religious leader who propagates hate towards other communities or talks about them in bad light isn’t a guru. A priest interested in politics isn’t serving God, only his or her own interests.

A guru is meant to guide everyone, same goes for the politician: both should not discriminate. A guru gives people roots, while a political leader gives them wings. Both should be above hatred. Guru Nanak Dev Ji has taught us that seva and daya (service and compassion) are the pillars of true Dharma. Sikhism believes that humanity is always bigger than community.

Across the world, wherever there is an upheaval, political or natural, you will find Sikhs at the forefront. Even right now, people from Khalsa Aid are helping those affected by war in Ukraine. A true religion is born out of compassion. So one of the first rules of Sikhism is non-discrimination and ensuring that we helped those who are in a difficult situation. Blessings for all, wellbeing of all – sarbat da bhala.

Singh believes in compassion for all, discrimination to none

Religious leaders must give hope to the people. We cannot just sit and lament at the situation, we need to do something about it: spread compassion and love. If we want the mahaul of our country to change, then we need to slow down the hustle culture first of all. Only when families get time to sit and talk with each other can compassion truly flourish.

ALSO READ: ‘Religious Gurus Duty Bound To Build A Righteous Society’

If children don’t feel loved or heard how can we expect them to spread love and compassion to others, especially towards women? When a family is strong, it makes the mohalla strong and then the town and then the state, country and finally the world…you get the drift. World peace begins at home. I believe faith will always be stronger than political outlooks.

As about the ongoing hijab controversy, I feel that people should understand that the essence of religion lies not in our clothes, but in our hearts, especially in how we behave towards others. Jaisa des, waisa bhes means you understand the importance of culture as well along with religion. We have a school uniform, especially so we all understand that we are ‘uniform’ while accessing education.

So I feel that people from either side should not fight over these issues. However, I do feel sad about the condition of women in our country. Our mothers and sisters definitely need to be treated with so much more respect. We cannot hurt women in the name of protecting our own religion or trying to prove any other point in general.

As told to Yog Maya Singh

Weekly Update: Gasbag Gunboat Diplomacy, Hijab Row & Yogi’s Maya

With pop guns blazing from her mouth and a dance of eyebrows that mimicked Clint Eastwood in A Few Dollars More, Liz Truss, Britain’s Foreign Secretary (Foreign Minister), went to meet the savvy, experienced Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergei Lavrov to tell him ‘Clear out or….’

The amused Lavrov waited for the ‘or…’. It turned out the gunboat waiting outside Kremlin was threat of economic sanctions and the prophecy of a dangerous war that Britain won’t get involved in but will sell weapons in.

One of the most experienced diplomats in the world, Lavrov made comic of Britain’s diplomatic initiative and said it was like a mute talking to the deaf and called her style, ‘shouting slogans from the tribunes’. The British Foreign Minister thought he was calling her ‘mute’ and immediately retorted that she was certainly not mute in the talks making herself look even more silly.

But that was not the only banana slip. During the talks Lavrov asked her a ‘trick question’ whether she recognised Russia’s sovereignty over regions of Voronehz and Rostov. ‘Never’ said Clint Liz Truss Eastwood making lip contortions as if spitting tobacco on the floor just as Clint does on screen. Liz, who had done as much homework as her Boss, Boris of Global Britain does before a meeting, thought Voronehz was Donbass. She probably didn’t know where Donbass was either.

By this time Lavrov probably felt like a University professor asked to do an oral viva of a student who had less knowledge than a nursery child but attempting a degree exam. It was the British Ambassador who quietly reminded Liz Truss that Voronehz and Rostov were Russian regions just as Midlands and Hertfordshire are in Britain.

During colonialism, the British had perfected a unique form of diplomacy called gunboat diplomacy. There would be a few ships with cannons loaded and pointing towards the Chief’s house while the British representative would engage in ‘diplomatic negotiations’. It went like this:

Brit Diplomat: ‘Chief, we want your land to dig gold and we will give you these shiny plastic beads in return.’

Chief: ‘Not acceptable.’

British Diplomat: ‘Ok that boat there will make our opening diplomatic statement.’

The cannons fired killing half the village and the Chief.

This particular type of British diplomacy worked well during colonialism. Now everyone has big cannons and the Russians some hundred times more than British Army. But habits die hard. The British Foreign Office still sticks to the old and tried methods. So its minister went to the Bear’s den to tell Lavrov, ‘Clear off or….’

Imagine Lavrov’s disbelief! In a war between Britain and Russia, the British Island will be frazzled within 15 minutes out of sight, making the channel crossing a long journey between France and America without any recognisable land mass in between.

The British Foreign Minister, Liz Truss, hoping to oust Boris the Boss, came back to Britain thinking she had put Lavrov in his place with her gunboat diplomacy and looking tough and determined. To the many old Brits, this playacting reminds of old days and they love it, even if it is only drama now. She will get their votes.

As for the sanctions, the Russians know that the threat of freezing their ‘slush money’ is non-starter. Britain owns 90% of ex pirate Islands now used for ‘keeping safe illicit money or money away from the taxman.’ The arrangement works in secrecy. If the Government freezes funds of one person, the whole edifice will start to come apart exposing British Oligarchs as well. Not a chance that British impose real sanctions.

Karnataka Going French

It was just the French who were afraid of women’s clothing and brought in the full force of the law against little girls wearing hijab. Now it is the brave men of Karnataka, the Hindu Rashtra soldiers, who feel their identity, masculinity and Trishul power draining existentially when they see an 8 year old girl with a Hijab over her head.

It seems romantic revivalism of the Kshatriya soldier has had the same effect on the men of Karnataka as the French revolution did on the French.

Both have huddled in numbers and passed laws banning the threatening and dangerous piece of cotton or polyester clothing over the head of young women. Imagine little girls saying, ‘Mummy, why is that man going pale and trembling when he looks at my hijab?’

The police, the Government officers and the teachers have forced little girls to ‘TAKE OFF THAT HEAD SCARF’, called hijab. The men can feel safe in Karnataka. Onward march the soldiers of Krishna, now that they have removed the most powerful defence equipment that was hampering their progress in what ever they think they are progressing to.

Only problem, when is a hijab not a form of chunni. dupatta or vice versa. Women have been covering their heads in South Asia since time immemorial. Even Sita covered her head. Will all young girls in Karnataka be subjected to naked heads! No more chunni! That is what the French did.

It is quite a sight to see a French Foreign Legion trained soldier reduced to a weeping, melting body of tissue when he sees a schoolgirl with a hijab. So it was understandable the French had to ban head covering. It is a quirk of French cultural genes as no one else in the world was inflicted with this fear psychosis of the hijab. Now it seems the genetic mutation has reached Karnataka. It would have been better to ban Air France.

Can ‘flyover superman’ Modi ji come to the rescue?

Moksha Elections Continue

It was a belief held in ancient times that this world is ‘maya’, an illusion. Moksha is when the soul leaves the body and joins the great ‘Brahma’. That belief sustained Hindus for thousands of years. Hindus survived alien occupations, wars, and oppressive regimes knowing that all that takes ‘form as matter’ is ‘maya’. Yoga and meditation were geared towards that.

Now Yogi Adityanath, perhaps having done enough yoga and not seeing any Mokshastan in sight has decided that it will be Hindustan that will be made into Moksha basti. The concept of Maya itself has become illusion and reality is to make first UP, then Hindustan, free of Muslims. So his tirades against Indian Muslims continue and an underlying theme of elections in UP.

One will no longer have to persevere through Yoga, Simran, Samadhi, Dhyan. People can just go to the voting booth, put Yogi ji in power again and Moksha will be in sight. And its all thanks to the genius of the British.

The power of British invention of democracy is extraordinary. Seems Westminster style democracy panth beats all other Indian panths and can achieve moksha in mayaland too.

Hijab Ban In Karnataka

A Headscarf Lifts The BJP Veil

First it was Love Jehad. Then, mob-lynching and beef. Then it was Romeo Squads. This was followed by blocking inter-faith marriages, harassing and humiliating adult couples.

If she is an adult Hindu woman wanting to have a consensual marriage with a Muslim or Christian man, then a thousand hurdles will be created for them. Reminds of the gory honour killings of yesteryears. Reminds more grotesquely of how Dalits are degraded and brutalised if they choose to have a relationship with an upper caste woman or man.

If this is the dominant narrative in modern India, that too in a pluralist, secular, democracy, then it is a major civilisational crisis. An entire country is being dragged into a retrograde and regressive abyss, a ghetto from which it will take great guts, resilience, enlightenment and the will to finally transcend into wisdom, love and hope.

As of now, every attempt is being made to turn this unhappy abyss in bad faith, as the principal adrenaline of our civil society, however unsuccessful. And lead protagonist in this horrible public spectacle, being celebrated routinely and ritualistically, is the BJP, the Sangh Parivar, and the states where it has its ruling regimes.

The latest thorn in their flesh are the hijabs worn by innocent and hardworking Muslim school girls in Karnataka, chasing a dream. The Karnataka government has declared that “clothes which disturb equality, integrity and public law and order should not be worn”.

Hijab has been banned in classrooms, though, clearly, it is not a violation of fundamental rights as inscribed in the secular Indian Constitution. Clearly, it is a wilful attack on law-abiding Muslim citizens, Muslim students, and, especially, Muslim girls seeking education and higher aspirations in an unequal, male dominated society.

It is a method followed in a certain predictable and clichéd pattern. In an oblique and yet brazen signal, this implies that it is an attack on Muslim youngsters attaining education, enlightenment, modernity, higher aspiration levels, and thereby finding their rightful time and space in a democratic India. It is therefore yet another signal that if you are inclined for education, then you better follow our repressive and regressive Hindutva rules, and it does not matter what were the values of the Indian freedom struggle.

No wonder, observers are certain that the hounding and prolonged imprisonment of brilliant Muslim scholars such as Umar Khalid on allegedly cooked up charges, is a sharp pointer, that, no, you have no business to reinterpret Indian history and politics, and, surely, you have no business to express dissent, or dream of a better society, and that if you do so, you will rot in jail for no rhyme or reason. This is the short, nasty and brutish message to all concerned, especially dissenters, especially youngsters, especially enlightened Muslim scholars, both men and women.

The banning of the Hijab, therefore, is part of this predictable and sick pattern. And, pray, how can wearing a headscarf ‘‘disturb equality, integrity and public law and order’’?

In that case, dupattas should be banned, and so should turbans, caps and hats. In that case, no one should wear a ‘tilak’ on his or her forehead, nor any sign or ornament depicting their religious identity. In that case, youngsters with shaven heads, mourning the death of their loved ones, should not be able to attend schools.

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And what if a Brahmin boy comes with a shaven head, what is called a ‘boddi’ in the Hindi heartland? Will he too be so unfortunately banned from attending school? Will sacred threads too be banned? And what if brothers flaunt their rakhis on the day of the festival, tied so lovingly on their wrists by their sisters?

And what about parents and guardians? Will they be allowed to participate in teacher-parents meetings wearing a burqa, a skull cap or a turban?

The example of France is too far-fetched. Barring fanatically defending the Rafael deal, the fanatics or their mentors in the Sangh Parivar are clueless about anything that is French, including its early 20th century staunch secularism, if not the narratives of the heady French revolution which inspired the world, the Paris commune run by the communists and anarchists, and an entrenched value system derived from fraternity, equality and liberty. Surely, they have no clue about its literature, art, architecture and culture, its cinema and music, and its great academic scholarship.

The French are fanatics about secularism, not communal polarisation, hate politics and xenophobia, which it hates compulsively. They only refuse to accept religious dresses in public institutions, including in schools, of all religions.  They do not discriminate. The French government allowed, for instance, Charlie Hebdo, to publish those extremely controversial cartoons, for which the newspaper, its journalists and cartoonists, had to pay a heavy and tragic price.

The Karnataka government would do well to learn a few lessons from the civil society and democratic government of New Zealand, including its police force. After 50 innocent people were massacred at two mosques in Christchurch, women wore headscarves all over the country, in solidarity with their fellow Muslim citizens. It was a heartwarming signature stamped across the faces of the women of New Zealand, including its Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who wore a headscarf too, and much earlier, as a leader of a secular nation where all communities are respected and are allowed to live with freedom and dignity. She was wearing a black scarf in solidarity, while meeting and hugging the mourning members of the Muslim community.

“I wanted to say: ‘We are with you, we want you to feel at home on your own streets, we love, support and respect you’,” a doctor in Auckland said. She was the inspiration behind the popular idea, reported Reuters in March 2019.

“Why am I wearing a headscarf today? Well, my primary reason was that if anybody else turns up waving a gun, I want to stand between him and anybody he might be pointing it at. And I don’t want him to be able to tell the difference, because there is no difference,” said Bell Sibly, in Christchurch.

Indeed, what became a celebrated image all over the world, a woman police officer on duty guarding the Christchurch cemetery, where the victims of the massacre were buried, held an automatic weapon, with a weapon in her hands, while wearing a headscarf.

Hijab or no hijab, it is the quest for humanity, enlightenment and pluralism which was celebrated in New Zealand by its people, its women across all communities, and its compassionate government. And that is how a civilized, pluralist and modern democracy should conduct itself. Not like what the Karnataka government is doing these days, targeting young school girls, with stars in their eyes, clutching onto their school bags, hounded and humiliated, denied their right to freedom and education. Indeed, and instead, they should celebrate them, as they do in those fake ads called ‘Beti Padhao…’

Pray, how much more fake can it get, really!