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This week marks 312th anniversary of the martyrdom of the two young sons of Guru Gobind Singh and his mother.
The tenth master of the Sikhs had laid the foundation of the Khalsa, a sect that was dedicated to fight against state oppression of the Mughal rule and determined to challenge the caste-based divisions practiced by orthodox Hindus.
Guru Gobind Singh was born 350 years ago to father Guru Teg Bahadar and mother Mata Gujri. Teg Bahadar was the ninth Guru of the Sikh faith that was founded by Nanak. Sikhism is based on the principles of egalitarianism and social justice. Guru Gobind Singh was very young when he lost his father, who laid down his life for human rights and religious freedom by coming to the defence of Kashmiri Hindus who were being forcibly converted to Islam by the Mughal Empire.
Mata Gujri brought up young Gobind Singh with courage following the execution of her husband. Guru Gobind Singh who led the community as the tenth Guru had resolved to fight against state violence by raising a force of committed men who ended caste barriers to give a united challenge to the enemy. For this Guru Gobind Singh had to face the dual threat from the Mughal government and Hindu kings who could not tolerate people from the so called low castes being empowered with the formation of Khalsa army. So great was this perceived threat that they even tried to incite the Mughals against Guru Gobind Singh.
During the year 1705 he had to fight a very tough battle in which he lost his two elder sons, Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh, while Mata Gujri and his two younger sons Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh were separated from the entire family. The three of them were handed over to a Muslim governor of Sirhind state by a treacherous Hindu servant who deceived them after being bought over by the enemies. Mata Gujri was thrown into jail alongside her grandsons.
Both Zorawar Singh aged nine and Fateh Singh aged seven were pressurised by the Mughals to embrace Islam to save their lives. Undeterred by these warnings, they accepted death with dignity and were bricked alive. Upon receiving the news of the merciless killings of her grandsons, Mata Gujri also died in the prison.
Today when state repression spreads everywhere and we see no end to bigotry, the episode of the great sacrifices made by Guru Gobind Singh, his parents and sons has become even more relevant.
All we need to understand is the real message behind this powerful story rather than letting communal forces misinterpret this history for their ulterior motives. It’s a shame that right wing political parties such as the Hindu supremacist BJP that governs India continues to appropriate the Sikh history in an attempt to polarise Hindus and Sikhs against Muslims, whereas the Sikh gurus and their families fought against repression and not any particular religion. Rather they had some good Muslims on their side as several hostile Hindus joined hands with the Mughal Empire.
The growing incidents of violence against Muslims and Christians under the BJP government(s) would instead have forced the gurus to revolt against the current regime if they were still among us. They would never have compromised with a government whose supporters frequently terrorise minorities with impunity and force Muslims and Christians to embrace Hinduism in the name of Ghar Waapsi – which is nothing but a well-organised religious conversion (through force and intimidation).
Apart from this, the current regime is no different from the then tyrannical Mughal government that killed two small children and let their aging grandmother die in the jail. Activists like Prof. GN Saibaba who are being incarcerated despite being ninety percent disabled below waist for standing up for the oppressed people is a classic case of the brutality of the Indian state. The under- age Kashmiris continue to be arrested and attacked by the Indian forces in the name of war against terror in the valley where uprising for right to self-determination has been going on for years. Even in Punjab during the Sikh insurgency in 1980s the under age children on the militants and their parents were subjected to killings and torturers. Only recently, Jagtar Johal, a young Sikh activist from UK was detained and tortured in Punjab on the allegations of murdering of right wing leaders.
The story is relevant internationally too as this week we saw the arrest of 16-year-old Ahed Tamini – a Palestinian activist who slapped an Israeli soldier for continued repression of her people and the occupation of her homeland by the state of Israel. The indigenous activists in North America also face highhandedness of the state for opposing extraction of natural resources from their traditional lands without informed consent.
Those who believe in the philosophy of Mata Gujri and her young grandsons must come together to raise voice for those who are being persecuted for showing resistance against repression anywhere in the world and defeat the forces of bigotry.