by SS Dr. Harjot Kaur Singh, Calgary, Canada
In the concept of Miri Piri, there is a subtle co-existence of the two bases of authority—spiritual and temporal. The Sikhs were acknowledged spiritually in India but not politically and this lack of recognition eventually resulted in the attack on the Akal Takhat.
The Sikhs fought valiantly for India in the World wars and also during the partition of India and Pakistan. More than 80% of the freedom fight for India came from the Sikhs who only represented less than 2% of the Indian population.
So respected were the Sikhs that the British even suggested an independent state within India, but the Sikhs were so loyal to Mother India that they rejected this in order to live in harmony within the country. India achieved independence in 1947 but sadly even in 1973 the Sikhs, in the Anandpur Resolution, were still petitioning for their political rights and identity from the Indian Government.
Through a series of events this lack of recognition eventually led to the attack on the Harimander Sahib in 1984 and the martyrdom of the Akal Thakat. Siri Singh Sahib ji called the Akal Takhat the “longitude and latitude of the nerve center of the universe which keeps the central movement of magnetic rotation of the shield of the planet earth.”
The Psyche of the Sikhs
When the Akal Takhat was attacked, the psyche of the Sikhs and Sikh political identity, Miri, was attacked. Those within the Harimander complex were brutally murdered and the sarovar (tank of holy water) was a sea of blood. Sikh men in Punjab were taken from their homes, doused in petrol, and burnt alive. Sikh women and girls were abused and raped. Entire families and their homes were burnt and pillaged.
A blackout was placed on the state, blocking TV, radio, phone, and media communication to the outside world. The Sikhs abroad were not able to communicate with their relatives. This shook the Sikh Diaspora to its roots. The Sikhs cried in anger and outrage at the atrocities. Just imagine: if the Vatican were attacked in such a manner, the entire Christian world would be in an uproar. This eventually resulted in an awakening of the Sikh Identity in the Sikh Diaspora abroad.
Lessons of History
We, as Sikhs, must learn the lesson from this dark chapter of history so that it will never be repeated. We must learn methods to educate the rest of the world about the Sikh Holocaust of 1984, especially since most the information was suppressed and hidden even in this modern day and age.
Ultimately, we must look to the concept of Miri and Piri established by Guru Hargobind to ensure the sanctity of our religious identity and political identity.
The Siri Singh Sahib stated that the Akal Takhat gave itself in martyrdom. The Akal Takhat martyred itself to preserve the sanctity of the Harimander and so Miri sacrificed itself to protect Piri. As Sikhs, we need to understand the importance of this balance where Spiritual authority must supersede Political authority.
For each individual Sikh it means to practice the Dharma to first build one’s spirituality, and then one can build his/her temporal authority. When we as Sikhs are committed to our spiritual practice, then our political identity will also have strength. Only then can Sikhs truly grow on the path of Khalsa and help to bring the Guru’s prophecy of Khalsa Raj to fruition.
About the Author
SS Dr. Harjot Kaur Singh is an ordained Sikh Dharma Minister. She served as the chairperson of the International Khalsa Council from 2016 to 2018. Dr. Harjot Kaur Singh is a practicing Family physician and the Chair of Alberta Health Services Interfaith Spiritual Care Advisory Committee in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She is an Interfaith and Sikh Activist. Her various board appointments span both medical and Sikh avenues such as the Primary Care Network, Siri Singh Sahib Corporation, and SikhNet. Dr. Singh is an accomplished devotional Sikh musician and international lecturer, teacher and mentor on Sikh Philosophy and practice.