Genocidees Anonymous: Armenians and Sikhs

Blogged: Amol Singh

Armenian Genocide RibbonOn the night of April 24, 1915, over 200 of Constantinoples Armenian intellectual and civic leaders were taken from their homes and boarded upon trains headed eastward toward the city of Ankara. What followed over the next few months would be a concerted, systematic Ottoman project meant to eradicate the Armenian identity. Millions of Armenians, depicted by the state as dangerous Russian conspirators and hazardous to the security of the Ottoman Empire, were uprooted from their homes and marched across the Turkish desert. What transpired over the course of that summer was the raping, pillaging, and butchering of over a million people. Though the Ottoman forces might have failed in the complete liquidation of a people, genocide served as a near consolation prize.

As April 24th approaches, Armenians around the world will gather as they have for the past 90+ years and demand that the Turkish state take responsibility for its actions. This summer, as Sikhs also embark on projects to mark the events of 1984, it seems hard to escape the fact that we too, are becoming part of a global collective searching for some sort of acceptance of the atrocities that have been done to us. This sharing of spaces by the worlds downtrodden is allowing for more nuanced perspectives of each atrocity. In this understanding, the 1915 Armenian genocide becomes not a yearlong campaign to annihilate Armenia, but rather a set of events concurrent with a larger Ottoman decades- long campaign meant to undermine Armenian existence. In this sphere, Operation Blue Star becomes not a plan to rid Harimander Sahib of radicals hijacking the Sikh identity, but rather another incident in a set of systematic attacks on Sikh sovereignty by the Indian Center.

In this mold, we are becoming participants in a unique Genocidees Anonymous of sorts, where the recognition of our tragedies becomes cast into a set of layered political demands.

As a Sikh friend stated recently, We’re the Armenians looking for a genocide, the Palestinians looking for a home, and the Tibetans looking to practice our faith in the face of an intolerant government This is nothing new for the quam. Our history can be marked by stages where relentless attacks on Sikh autonomy have forced us to assert and reassert our visions for social justice. The most remarkable part of these assertions has been the universalization of our demands for justice. Whether it was Guru Hargobind Ji rejecting release from Gwalior kila (jail) because freedom did not mean freedom if it those imprisoned alongside him would still languish while he left or Bhai Kanhaiya giving water to those mandated to annihilate anyone like him, a Sikh existence has meant an inherent demand for engagement with the world.

As an undergraduate at what is considered to be a leading US university, the interpretation of Sikhi many students including myself have received through our work with the community, is an attack on anything that deals with any engagement with the world around us. It seems implausible to construct a vision of the world where we can become active practitioners of the Sarbat da Bhalla yearned for in ardaas, if we continue to view the world with utter and sheer contempt. Over the past year, Sikhs attempting to engage with their local communities have been likened to rapists and accused of prostitution for holding turban tying days by professors considered to be the voices of Sikh academia. We have been warned of associating with Goray (white) Sikhs because they are practitioners of a falsified version of Sikhi. Entire organizations have been critiqued and undermined for offering lightweight models of Sikhi without the presentation of any alternative. Any engagement they have had with the American populace at large has been deemed conciliatory and thus subversive and dangerous. At first glance, it seems easy to simply listen and subsequently ignore what we believe to be a confined understanding of Sikhi. Yet at the point where the collective investment of the Panth, through the work of entire curriculums and organizations can become so easily undermined by a terrified few, then we fear that the greater global challenges that we as Sikhs feel mandated to engage in are placed in jeopardy.

A part of us still holds true to the conviction that the heroes of Sikh lore we grew up with would be immune to this disease of communalism. It seems almost nonsensical for us to think a Sikh history whereupon Guru Tegh Bahadhur doesnt faithfully march towards Chandi Chowk because he is protecting the right of religious expression, even if it is indirectly for the leaders of a faith who through caste, have mandated one of the worlds most expansive forms of subjugation. I fail to believe that the forces of the Dal Khalsa would not march into Afghanistan if those taken were only Sikh women. Our history is not littered with heroes who served faithfully for an insular cause. Rather, we cherish those who looked at these artificial societal veneers and used pen and sword to shatter them beyond comprehension. To once again become the embodiment of what our ancestors were, and to adopt the tragedies of the faceless and powerless, we must learn to reject those within our panth who wish to narrowly define what it means to be Sikh. Sikhi, in my humble opinion, is not meant to be an expression of the insecurities toward the world of a few, but rather a space so special that it elicits a response that shakes the worlds oppressors toward justice.


bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark bookmark
tabs-top


14 Responses to “Genocidees Anonymous: Armenians and Sikhs”

  1. Sue says:

    As a ethnic studies professor from Northwestern, I was given this link from one of my students. I found the the piece to be truly insightful– it offered a perspective that is not only original, but also its argument stands as being legitimately persuasive.

    Keep up the good work Amol.

  2. Sue says:

    As a ethnic studies professor from Northwestern, I was given this link from one of my students. I found the the piece to be truly insightful– it offered a perspective that is not only original, but also its argument stands as being legitimately persuasive.

    Keep up the good work Amol.

  3. Sahnewal says:

    This is an excellent post Amol, and interestingly enough it also speaks to the expereinces I have had on my university campus.

    If we as Sikhs refuse to engage with the rest of the world, we only stand to lose. I take little solace in the fact that some emerging Sikh academic said in a similar thread:

    I have a suspicion that the Gurus never really nor seriously entertained the question of what needs to be done. Ok Guru Tegh Bahadur and others to the contrary, but there was so much else at work something close to sublime indifference and fearlessness – that what is happening is all good. Jo tudh bhavai saii balee kaar. That free utterly open spirit is hard to grasp. and this is why those deeply in love come across to us as insane for it is clear that to them nothing much matters apart from that love…

    I understand that there is a level of spirituality that I have yet to access, but can one imagine how Sikhs would fare today if organizations like Saldef and the Sikh Coalition dissolved into the sublime mist?

    Also, coalition building with groups like Armenians will not only create more cohesive efforts, but will also help Sikhs to evaluate ourselves.

  4. Sahnewal says:

    This is an excellent post Amol, and interestingly enough it also speaks to the expereinces I have had on my university campus.

    If we as Sikhs refuse to engage with the rest of the world, we only stand to lose. I take little solace in the fact that some emerging Sikh academic said in a similar thread:

    I have a suspicion that the Gurus never really nor seriously entertained the question of what needs to be done. Ok Guru Tegh Bahadur and others to the contrary, but there was so much else at work something close to sublime indifference and fearlessness – that what is happening is all good. Jo tudh bhavai saii balee kaar. That free utterly open spirit is hard to grasp. and this is why those deeply in love come across to us as insane for it is clear that to them nothing much matters apart from that love

    I understand that there is a level of spirituality that I have yet to access, but can one imagine how Sikhs would fare today if organizations like Saldef and the Sikh Coalition dissolved into the sublime mist?

    Also, coalition building with groups like Armenians will not only create more cohesive efforts, but will also help Sikhs to evaluate ourselves.

  5. baingandabhartha says:

    Well said Sir!

  6. baingandabhartha says:

    Well said Sir!

  7. Emre Cide says:

    I have just coincided this post from a link in Facebook and wanted to add some comments under it.

    Do you believe that the recognition of the Armenian genocide will bring a solution to the current problems between the Armenian and Turkish societies? Intervention of third parties have never succeeded to take a step forward on the way of solution until Barack Obama's last visit to Turkey. Contrary to this, they have always stood in front of the way of a solution by straining the relations between Armenia and Turkey. Yes, international mediation is certainly needed for the peace, but not this way. Recognition of Armenian genocide will not remove the desolation of Armenia, it will not open the border gates, it will not set the peace between Turks and Armenians.

    A few weeks ago, Mr. Obama took a big step for the future of the relations between Armenia and Turkey. Without saying that sensitive word for Turkish side, he called for the establishment of dialogue between two sides. Reactions from two sides, except some extremist groups, were -beyond the expectations- surprisingly positive. It should be understood that the ones who can solve this conflict, are the parties of this conflict; Armenia and Turkey. Unfortunately, although it is necessary, it is not easy to integrate the Diaspora into the solution of conflict. Diaspora Armenians are still living in 1915, they uprooted from their lands a century ago, they never had to live with Turks after that time. In fact, far away from their homeland, the thing that sticks them together and keep their national identity alive is the hate against Turks and Turkey. This hate is successfully exploited by governments and used as a political weapon to threat Turkey in international area. Each law draft for the recognition of the Armenian genocide is rising the hate and destructing the dialogue environment between two countries.

    No one can deny the painful history between two sides, but why are we building our future on this hate and hostility? Before all, both sides shall respect each other's pain, and the rest will come. Declaring these events as a genocide, even it is genocide or not, will not change anything. As a Turkish citizen, my biggest wish is to see Turkey Armenians freely mourn without any worry or fear, in 24th of April. When we succeed to do this, I believe that name of these events will not matter.

    (I know that I got off the point, but I do have very limited knowledge to comment on the full of the topic.)

  8. Emre Cide says:

    I have just coincided this post from a link in Facebook and wanted to add some comments under it.

    Do you believe that the recognition of the Armenian genocide will bring a solution to the current problems between the Armenian and Turkish societies? Intervention of third parties have never succeeded to take a step forward on the way of solution until Barack Obama’s last visit to Turkey. Contrary to this, they have always stood in front of the way of a solution by straining the relations between Armenia and Turkey. Yes, international mediation is certainly needed for the peace, but not this way. Recognition of Armenian genocide will not remove the desolation of Armenia, it will not open the border gates, it will not set the peace between Turks and Armenians.

    A few weeks ago, Mr. Obama took a big step for the future of the relations between Armenia and Turkey. Without saying that sensitive word for Turkish side, he called for the establishment of dialogue between two sides. Reactions from two sides, except some extremist groups, were -beyond the expectations- surprisingly positive. It should be understood that the ones who can solve this conflict, are the parties of this conflict; Armenia and Turkey. Unfortunately, although it is necessary, it is not easy to integrate the Diaspora into the solution of conflict. Diaspora Armenians are still living in 1915, they uprooted from their lands a century ago, they never had to live with Turks after that time. In fact, far away from their homeland, the thing that sticks them together and keep their national identity alive is the hate against Turks and Turkey. This hate is successfully exploited by governments and used as a political weapon to threat Turkey in international area. Each law draft for the recognition of the Armenian genocide is rising the hate and destructing the dialogue environment between two countries.

    No one can deny the painful history between two sides, but why are we building our future on this hate and hostility? Before all, both sides shall respect each other’s pain, and the rest will come. Declaring these events as a genocide, even it is genocide or not, will not change anything. As a Turkish citizen, my biggest wish is to see Turkey Armenians freely mourn without any worry or fear, in 24th of April. When we succeed to do this, I believe that name of these events will not matter.

    (I know that I got off the point, but I do have very limited knowledge to comment on the full of the topic.)

  9. Hovo says:

    MyFunLine.com better than odnoklassniki!

    Armenian Social Network site in 9 languages.

    See what's happening on myfunline.com! Find friends & classmates, meet new people, listen to free music & build playlists, shere photos, watch videos, start a blog, read celebrity news, get cool apps, free IM, Video chat with your friends & more…

  10. Hovo says:

    MyFunLine.com better than odnoklassniki!

    Armenian Social Network site in 9 languages.

    See what's happening on myfunline.com! Find friends & classmates, meet new people, listen to free music & build playlists, shere photos, watch videos, start a blog, read celebrity news, get cool apps, free IM, Video chat with your friends & more…

  11. Hovo says:

    MyFunLine.com better than odnoklassniki and facebook

    Armenian Social Network site in 9 languages.

    See what's happening on myfunline.com! Find friends & classmates, meet new people, listen to free music & build playlists, shere photos, watch videos, start a blog, read celebrity news, get cool apps, free IM, Video chat with your friends & more…

  12. Hovo says:

    MyFunLine.com better than odnoklassniki and facebook

    Armenian Social Network site in 9 languages.

    See what's happening on myfunline.com! Find friends & classmates, meet new people, listen to free music & build playlists, shere photos, watch videos, start a blog, read celebrity news, get cool apps, free IM, Video chat with your friends & more…

  13. kaur says:

    great article. last paragraph, especially, drives home the need for self-reflection.

  14. […] համալսարանի ուսանող) Ամոլ Սինղի յանդուգն յօդուածը` «Անանուն ցեղասպանութիւններ. հայեր եւ սիխեր» […]