The Great Sikh Hope

TLH_MMS1.jpgI remember that night…election night, watching on TV students rejoicing in the streets outside of Howard University (a local Historically Black University). I’m not sure how much of it was about Obama’s policy, or just the “historic” nature of the event, but it was all summed up to me as an African-American student holding back his tears said to a reporter, “I’m just so happy to have one of our guys in power.” It was a common sentiment, but this statement stuck in my head for several days. What did he mean by this? What was his expectation of President Obama over the next 4 years? Did he think just because a black man is in office, all of a sudden the American experience will now change for black people? That the wrongs of their history will now become right? That discriminatory laws and policies toward black people will all of a sudden be overturned? If that is what he meant, then I understand the celebration…but I would celebrate with caution.

Five years ago, many Sikhs were celebrating in the streets as well. Finally, one of “our guys” had become Prime Minister. Manmohan Singh was elected selected as the 17th Prime Minister of India, by Sonia Gandhi herself. Sikhs all over the world rejoiced. Even many of the Sikh political prisoners in jail were celebrating with this victory, believing their release was now imminent.

Even some of my more progressive and panthic-minded friends got caught up in Manmohan Singh Fever and encouraged me to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, how could we judge him? Who knows what he may do for us?

I, however, remained skeptical.


How could I ever trust any PM from the Congress party Sikh or Not? This party had so much Sikh blood on its hands from 1984. And more importantly, how could Manmohan Singh trust the Congress Party?

After 1984, many Sikh soldiers deserted their army positions, prominent Sikhs returned medals of honor and even denounced their country for its role in 1984, but Manmohan Singh had no problem. He was perfectly comfortable working for the same family that ordered the Darbar Sahib attack and anti-Sikh pogroms.

In August 2005 came Manmohan Singh’s famous “apology speech” for 1984. I was bothered by his refusal to term the November tragedy as “pogroms.” He used the word “riots implying spontaneity and he dismissed the depth of the atrocities by referring to the massacres as a human tragedy, this whole mass tragedy, and all those ghastly happenings.” Where was the apology? It was the kind of apology you give to a friend when their family member passes away. There is a big difference between offering an apology out of condolence versus an apology of responsibility. If you read further, you see him refer to the “love and affection that Indira Gandhi bestowed on the Sikhs.” And he makes very clear in this so-called apology, there is absolutely no evidence that Shri Rajiv Gandhi or any other high ranking Congress (I) leaders had suggested or organised attacks on the Sikhs.”

What was more shocking than the apology itself was that many Sikhs took solace in it. They actually felt some sense of “closure” with this speech! Clearly, Manmohan Singh knows nothing of Sikh history. If he did, he would know that Sikhs dont accept apologies, we accept justicenothing less.

Nowhere in his speech did he outline how the crimes of 1984 will be investigated beyond vague committees and inquiries, nor did he mention what type of redress, rehabilitation, restitution, and reparations will be made to survivors. At the end of the day, 25 years later (5 of which under Manmohan Singh’s leadership) there has been no policy, law, or even precedent set that could prevent a “1984” from happening all over again tomorrow…to Sikhs or any other religious or ethnic minority.

Many feel that we should hot hold him responsible for Sikh grievances – after all, he was just a Finance Minister for most of his career with the Congress Party. What does he have to do with Human Rights, 1984, or justice for Sikhs? That may be the case, but the Congress Party did feel compelled to send their Finance Minister to the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Commission in February 1994, where Manmohan Singh downplayed the widespread human rights abuses in India by referring to them as “aberrations” that had occurredto confront terrorism. Less than a year later, Jaswant Singh Khalrawould file a writ petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court to investigate their discovery of mass illegal cremations in three crematoria in Amritsar district.

In my arguments with friends, family, and good-natured Sikhs about Manmohan Singh – they are willing to sweep all this under therug for one simple reason – “Having a Sikh head of State will be good for us…people will know whoSikhs are.” But I wonder…has it really made a difference?

Did it stop the attackers of Seattle Taxi Driver,Sukhvir Singh, who was punched, choked, bitten, and hadlocks of hairpulled from his head by a racist passenger as he escaped for his life? Did it help Jagmohan Singh, a Queens High School student who was punched in the face, suffering an orbital fracture, and other students getting their hair forcibly cutin the past year? Did Manmohan Singhs public profile prevent the Tagore family from getting harassed in their own home by the Harris County Police? Or prevent the legendary Raagi Jatha BhaiGulbah Singh & Bhai Devinder Singh from getting kicked off a US Airways fight?

  • Guess how many times Ive been asked if Im related to Manmohan Singh zero!
  • Guess how many times Ive been asked if Im related to Vijay Singh (the Fijian pro golfer who is not a recognizable Sikh) at least 50!


Even if we forget the bullying, racist attacks, and Kirpan issues – are you telling me a Sikh head of State (representing a population over 1 billion) can’t seem to influence the blatantly racist Turban ban in France? Whatever happened to Sarkozy “looking in tothis issue” after meeting with Manmohan Singh? Nothing! And to add yet another insult - Manmohan Singh could not even influence his own party to keep architects of the anti-Sikh pogroms, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar from the Congress ticket for the upcoming elections, despite the affadavits naming them for inciting mob violence during the 1984 pogroms and their specific mention in the Nanavati report. Instead, it took mass protests outside of the courtrooms in Delhi, railway protests in Punjab, and Jarnail’s Singh flying shoe to put that to a stop.

TLH_MMS2.jpgWhere are all those Sikhs who felt Manmohan Singhs conscience would lead him to address past wrongs toward Sikhs? Where are all the Sikhs who paraded in the streets who told me to just wait and see? What happened to this “Great Sikh Hope” that Sikhs were so excited about? I thought he was one of our guys? Truth is, he’s not one of our guys…or at least…not one of mine!

Because this November 1st, while millions of Sikhs gather to remember the thousands of victims of the anti-Sikh pogroms…and fold their hands before the Guru , Manmohan Singh will also be standing with folded hands, paying floral tributes to Indira Gandhi.


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25 Responses to “The Great Sikh Hope”

  1. Ravinder Singh (Aust says:

    I completely agree with your post. I had a discussion with my father just a few days ago regarding Manmohan Singh and how his silence during the selection of Sajjan Kumar & Jagdish Tytler said alot to me.

    I have to say that i was truly shocked when i saw the picture of Manmohan Singh bowing to a picture of Indra Gandhi in your post, to me he is just a cultural / visible Sikh not a Sikh of the Guru's. If he was he would understand the anguish we feel..

  2. rocco says:

    right on the money. very convincing.

  3. Ravinder Singh (Australia) says:

    I completely agree with your post. I had a discussion with my father just a few days ago regarding Manmohan Singh and how his silence during the selection of Sajjan Kumar & Jagdish Tytler said alot to me.

    I have to say that i was truly shocked when i saw the picture of Manmohan Singh bowing to a picture of Indra Gandhi in your post, to me he is just a cultural / visible Sikh not a Sikh of the Guru’s. If he was he would understand the anguish we feel..

  4. Teg says:

    Sikhs have been sentimental and naive at the symbolic gestures. The real power is in the hand of the majority. They choose well vetted and servile turbaned minions to do their bidding.

  5. Singhsta says:

    screw manmohan singh… sikhs are truely lost, who would pay homage to a tyrant… would maharaja ranjit singh ever pay homage to a muslim tyranny… this is act itself is a major betrayal.. .

    simply on the basis of moral and social conscience with grievances such as these, the call for a in independent homeland is just… Only the oppressed would patronize an oppressor, and demerit their own values. just like african americans did with their slaves until leaders stirred the moral conscious for change… Sant Jarnail Singh lived too few years.

  6. rocco says:

    right on the money. very convincing.

  7. Teg says:

    Sikhs have been sentimental and naive at the symbolic gestures. The real power is in the hand of the majority. They choose well vetted and servile turbaned minions to do their bidding.

  8. Singhsta says:

    screw manmohan singh… sikhs are truely lost, who would pay homage to a tyrant… would maharaja ranjit singh ever pay homage to a muslim tyranny… this is act itself is a major betrayal.. .

    simply on the basis of moral and social conscience with grievances such as these, the call for a in independent homeland is just… Only the oppressed would patronize an oppressor, and demerit their own values. just like african americans did with their slaves until leaders stirred the moral conscious for change… Sant Jarnail Singh lived too few years.

  9. JSB says:

    excellent post!

  10. Jay says:

    Manmohan is a puppet that the ghandies have used to shut the mouths of sikhs. He is nothing but a over educated baffon i do not care how many degrees he has. He has never done any good for Sikhs other than the france turban apeal and that wasnt even the tip of the ice berg.

  11. JSB says:

    excellent post!

  12. Jay says:

    Manmohan is a puppet that the ghandies have used to shut the mouths of sikhs. He is nothing but a over educated baffon i do not care how many degrees he has. He has never done any good for Sikhs other than the france turban apeal and that wasnt even the tip of the ice berg.

  13. JarBackwards says:

    While I do remember being very encouraged by his selection a few years back, he has been a let down. I've always heard that the boom of the Indian economy was directly tied to his and Ahluwalia's financial policies.

    While that fact is impressive, it is gravely overshadowed by his lack of desire to use his platform in a just way.

  14. JarBackwards says:

    While I do remember being very encouraged by his selection a few years back, he has been a let down. I’ve always heard that the boom of the Indian economy was directly tied to his and Ahluwalia’s financial policies.

    While that fact is impressive, it is gravely overshadowed by his lack of desire to use his platform in a just way.

  15. Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime minister of India

    Any hurdles in the way of Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime minister of India, who is a modern philosopher King of Plato-an exceptional and one of the rare of the rarest Sikhs in practice and in action and considered as the most decorated among the Prime Ministers of the world, would not work.

    I have not close to with him but I do know to differentiate man to man, to some extent, may not be possessing intellect of his standard. But, I am among those who wish to learn and amend.

    To keep the person like him away from the real task by playing politics of deception including by raising the old fashioned hate generating issues like ‘Lord Rama’ existed or not, to be worshiped or not and other similar issues to raise the emotions and sentiments against each other for weakening the people in India and at the same time, making them useless to interact and compete with the outer world, never could be justified in the modern world.

    Such issues are not only deceptive and superstitious in nature but also being highlighted cunningly with the ulterior motive to side track and politically harm such wonderful personlalities. ‘The Great Sikh Hope’ is within Sikhs and men like Dr Manmohan Singh, out of young generation, could not be ruled out.

    To my mind, Dr Manmohan Singh is far better than all those elements, which supported silently the genocide of Sikhs, are being taken non-seriously by government for the maltreatment of Sikhs since long in India.

    Though, Indian state has provided the elements a space to function, issue pamphlets, organise seminars etc.

    In fact, it is generally known that many of these so called panthic organisations are routinely used by the police to issue statements……In many cases, the press hand-outs are prepared by the police and merely distributed to the selected media in their name for glorifying them. Please search and read: Protecting Religion and the Politics of Religion

  16. Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime minister of India

    Any hurdles in the way of Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime minister of India, who is a modern philosopher King of Plato-an exceptional and one of the rare of the rarest Sikhs in practice and in action and considered as the most decorated among the Prime Ministers of the world, would not work.

    I have not close to with him but I do know to differentiate man to man, to some extent, may not be possessing intellect of his standard. But, I am among those who wish to learn and amend.

    To keep the person like him away from the real task by playing politics of deception including by raising the old fashioned hate generating issues like Lord Rama existed or not, to be worshiped or not and other similar issues to raise the emotions and sentiments against each other for weakening the people in India and at the same time, making them useless to interact and compete with the outer world, never could be justified in the modern world.

    Such issues are not only deceptive and superstitious in nature but also being highlighted cunningly with the ulterior motive to side track and politically harm such wonderful personlalities. The Great Sikh Hope is within Sikhs and men like Dr Manmohan Singh, out of young generation, could not be ruled out.

    To my mind, Dr Manmohan Singh is far better than all those elements, which supported silently the genocide of Sikhs, are being taken non-seriously by government for the maltreatment of Sikhs since long in India.

    Though, Indian state has provided the elements a space to function, issue pamphlets, organise seminars etc.

    In fact, it is generally known that many of these so called panthic organisations are routinely used by the police to issue statementsIn many cases, the press hand-outs are prepared by the police and merely distributed to the selected media in their name for glorifying them. Please search and read: Protecting Religion and the Politics of Religion

  17. an Indian Sikh says:

    "What was his expectation of President Obama over the next 4 years? Did he think just because a black man is in office, all of a sudden the American experience will now change for black people? That the wrongs of their history will now become right? That discriminatory laws and policies toward black people will all of a sudden be overturned?"

    Answer to all those questions is a resounding 'no'.

    I have a few black neighbors here who I have had a chance of spending a lot of time with in my last few weeks of stay here in the US. I also have a couple of black colleagues with whom I often talk about issues affecting black people. A good majority of them would tell you that they don't expect anything to change for black people just because a black man is in the office. It's the breaking of stereotypes that matters to them. They are glad that with Obama's election, some black child somewhere might get inspired that he too can become the president of the United States of America. They are glad that the stereotyping of black people that has happened over years of discrimination might be reviewed by some elements of the society. They are just glad that they too can finally rightfully feel a part of this country (that they've lived in for generations) since it has accepted one of their own – a black man – as its president.

    How I wish all Sikhs also felt the same about our Prime Minister!

  18. an Indian Sikh says:

    “What was his expectation of President Obama over the next 4 years? Did he think just because a black man is in office, all of a sudden the American experience will now change for black people? That the wrongs of their history will now become right? That discriminatory laws and policies toward black people will all of a sudden be overturned?”

    Answer to all those questions is a resounding ‘no’.

    I have a few black neighbors here who I have had a chance of spending a lot of time with in my last few weeks of stay here in the US. I also have a couple of black colleagues with whom I often talk about issues affecting black people. A good majority of them would tell you that they don’t expect anything to change for black people just because a black man is in the office. It’s the breaking of stereotypes that matters to them. They are glad that with Obama’s election, some black child somewhere might get inspired that he too can become the president of the United States of America. They are glad that the stereotyping of black people that has happened over years of discrimination might be reviewed by some elements of the society. They are just glad that they too can finally rightfully feel a part of this country (that they’ve lived in for generations) since it has accepted one of their own – a black man – as its president.

    How I wish all Sikhs also felt the same about our Prime Minister!

  19. Gabru says:

    Why are we suddenly directing all our pent-up anger at Manmohan Singh? I have raised this issue on this forum before without any convincing response – why is it that we constantly direct our negativity, anger, and frustration at the PM? why not at the Akalis for example, whose nepotism and incompetence has now permeated into the SGPC as well? Why not realise that the drug, alcohol, and unemployment problem in Punjab is first and foremost the problem of the local government? Why not realise that if a young Sikh in full saroop is becoming rare even in Punjab, that is perhaps indicative of the decline in Sikh identity that is not the fault of Manmohan Singh, the Congress, and whoever else you want to blame?

    Some of us never burdened him with limitless expectations when he became PM, and are just happy with what his presence there does (and believe me, it has been a profile raiser for Sikhs). We also understand that he is in a very tricky situation, with coalition politics, Sonia, and many other stakeholders to manage relationships with. In the given circumstance, I’d rather he be there, last one term and return for the next, than take a strong right-wing stance on one issue and get the boot – I mean what will that accomplish? Seriously, what will that accomplish? His very presence there makes a repeat of 1984 less likely, since Indian society (once again) holds Sikhs in high esteem, and would (rightly) be absolutely outraged if anything even remotely similar happened again.

    So if you don't like the PM, just ignore the fact that he is there. Focus your energy instead on issues that really need addressing much closer to home, i.e. in Punjab.

  20. Jarnail Singh says:

    Dear R P Singh ji. I have just read your Article. Nice One

    Jarnail Singh

    Journalist

  21. Dear R P Singh ji. I have just read your Article. Nice One

    Jarnail Singh
    Journalist

  22. Gabru says:

    Why are we suddenly directing all our pent-up anger at Manmohan Singh? I have raised this issue on this forum before without any convincing response – why is it that we constantly direct our negativity, anger, and frustration at the PM? why not at the Akalis for example, whose nepotism and incompetence has now permeated into the SGPC as well? Why not realise that the drug, alcohol, and unemployment problem in Punjab is first and foremost the problem of the local government? Why not realise that if a young Sikh in full saroop is becoming rare even in Punjab, that is perhaps indicative of the decline in Sikh identity that is not the fault of Manmohan Singh, the Congress, and whoever else you want to blame?

    Some of us never burdened him with limitless expectations when he became PM, and are just happy with what his presence there does (and believe me, it has been a profile raiser for Sikhs). We also understand that he is in a very tricky situation, with coalition politics, Sonia, and many other stakeholders to manage relationships with. In the given circumstance, Id rather he be there, last one term and return for the next, than take a strong right-wing stance on one issue and get the boot I mean what will that accomplish? Seriously, what will that accomplish? His very presence there makes a repeat of 1984 less likely, since Indian society (once again) holds Sikhs in high esteem, and would (rightly) be absolutely outraged if anything even remotely similar happened again.

    So if you don’t like the PM, just ignore the fact that he is there. Focus your energy instead on issues that really need addressing much closer to home, i.e. in Punjab.

  23. Manjinder Singh Saho says:

    Khalsa g,

    Now, I have all answers to my misunderstandings.

    Thank you,

    Saccha patsha tuhanu lambi umar sikhi de naam den…

  24. Manjinder Singh Sahota says:

    Khalsa g,
    Now, I have all answers to my misunderstandings.
    Thank you,
    Saccha patsha tuhanu lambi umar sikhi de naam den…

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