Insaaf Zindabad

Although this article is over 3 months old, I still thought it was necessary. While the press has all but forgotten Burma, the struggle still continues. In the aftermath of the devastating brutality unleashed by the junta, I found a new hero.

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Surinder Singh Karkar AKA U Pancha (The Punjabi) seemed to be out of place in the marches. In a sea of monks with shaved heads and maroon robes, we saw one sardar with a full beard and purple turban. His bravery and his willingness to fight for justice for his fellow Burmese people are awe-inspiring:

“I took up the protest again because prices were rising and people were starving around me. I was not at all frightened. I participated in the forefront, I was prepared to die,” he said.

The beginning of the video suggests that he had “witnessed the horrors of the Saffron Revolution firsthand.” I am not sure if this means that he was in India during 1984 and witnessed that violence as well. If any commenters can find any information on this, I would be interested to find out.

While many, including even me, sometimes wonder if the original spirit of the Khalsa still survives, people like U Pancha give me hope. His life reminded me about comments that I had read by another Sikh fighter, interviewed in Cynthia Keppley Mahmood’s groundbreaking Fighting for Faith and Nation:

He states:

Thats Guru Tegh Bahadur. His story is so beautiful, because he sacrificed his life for the sake of another religion, for Hindus. At that time they were being persecuted by the Mughals. Thats really an inspiration to me. Thats why I think Sikhs are in the world, not just for Sikhs alone but for anybody who needs a Sikh.

Honestly, deep in my heart I feel like our work in this world has to be much bigger than just for ourselves. Some of my friends say that when [our country] is established then well be able to kick back and relax! But I say no, the work is just getting started. You have your country but then you need to work on achieving justice in it and then in the rest of the world.

All these wars that are going on today, people are demanding justice at all costs. Bosnia is a clear-cut case. We have to not only be more peaceful in spirit but we have to be willing to sacrifice our lives. The United Nations doesnt really have any power because there arent enough parents willing to sacrifice their sons. Its all just a big hoopla. If there is injustice and somebody in Somalia isnt getting food, the United Nations should be able to take care of it.

When [our country] is established if I have any say I will send 500, 1000, 5000 Sikhs right away. You dont get peace and justice without sacrifice and our Gurus taught us all about that. (p. 42)

No I don’t want to talk about a Sikh country, I only want to talk about the spirit of justice. Please keep your comments about U Pancha and the spirit of justice. Insaaf Zindabad!


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8 Responses to “Insaaf Zindabad”

  1. Reema says:

    Jodha,

    Great to see U Pancha involved in Burma! Totally moving video…

    I only want to talk about the spirit of justice.

    Considering the relatively small size of the Sikh population in the US, and how spread out we are across the continent, I think we're FAR more organized and have more ngos serving our communities' needs than many other South Asian diaspora communities (Ensaaf, Sikh Coalition, United Sikhs, Saldef, SRI, Spinning Wheel Film, various national conferences, etc.) with new ones springing up all the time it seems (Sikhcess among the latest). (Although this perception could be because I just don't know about the other communities :) …)

    I was at a town hall meeting in DC recently of Indian-Americans talking about what issues they wanted to raise with candidates leading up to the upcoming presidential elections when one of the panelists (Sanjay Puri, the founder of USINPAC, if I remember correctly) commented that they would like the 'Indian-American' community to be as organized as the Punjabi Sikh community….

    Should we be doing more for other communities, as well as our own? (I think so :) but I also understand if people want to make sure everything's ok at home before they focus their energy outside…)

    At an individual level, I've often seen friends and family actively working at local food kitchens, and getting involved with major current events(Jakara's trip to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina comes to mind).

    I think the spirit of justice is alive and well.

  2. Reema says:

    Jodha,

    Great to see U Pancha involved in Burma! Totally moving video…

    I only want to talk about the spirit of justice.

    Considering the relatively small size of the Sikh population in the US, and how spread out we are across the continent, I think we’re FAR more organized and have more ngos serving our communities’ needs than many other South Asian diaspora communities (Ensaaf, Sikh Coalition, United Sikhs, Saldef, SRI, Spinning Wheel Film, various national conferences, etc.) with new ones springing up all the time it seems (Sikhcess among the latest). (Although this perception could be because I just don’t know about the other communities :) …)

    I was at a town hall meeting in DC recently of Indian-Americans talking about what issues they wanted to raise with candidates leading up to the upcoming presidential elections when one of the panelists (Sanjay Puri, the founder of USINPAC, if I remember correctly) commented that they would like the ‘Indian-American’ community to be as organized as the Punjabi Sikh community….

    Should we be doing more for other communities, as well as our own? (I think so :) but I also understand if people want to make sure everything’s ok at home before they focus their energy outside…)

    At an individual level, I’ve often seen friends and family actively working at local food kitchens, and getting involved with major current events(Jakara’s trip to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina comes to mind).

    I think the spirit of justice is alive and well.

  3. Ennis says:

    Jodha – great post. Unfortunately, the video is gone. Do you remember what he said?

  4. Ennis says:

    Jodha – great post. Unfortunately, the video is gone. Do you remember what he said?

  5. Ennis says:

    btw – the Saffron revolution refers to the protests against the Burmese government in 2007. What he means is that he saw how the government cracked down and slaughtered protesters.

  6. Ennis says:

    btw – the Saffron revolution refers to the protests against the Burmese government in 2007. What he means is that he saw how the government cracked down and slaughtered protesters.

  7. Jodha says:

    Ennis,

    The video still works. If you still can't view it, Please see it at YouTube.

    Thanks for clarifying the saffron revolution reference.

  8. Jodha says:

    Ennis,
    The video still works. If you still can’t view it, Please see it at YouTube.

    Thanks for clarifying the saffron revolution reference.