550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak

Justice Markandey Katju-

The 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak is being observed worldwide.

In this connection I was invited by the Sikh community in the Bay Area ( Silicon Valley ) of California, USA to address them in a gurdwara in Milpitas ( which is very near Fremont where I am presently staying ).


Many of the Sikhs here had come as refugees (not on visas) following the events in India in the 1980s, and many are strong supporters of Khalistan and Bhindranwaale. Before the function to which I was invited, some Sikhs met me and said that I had put up a Facebook post and blog some years back critical of Bhindranwaale, and I should delete it. I said I will certainly not delete it, but I will not speak about him in the function.


At the function, attended by a large number of Sikhs, I said that the spirit of service (seva bhaavna) which I found in Sikhs I found in no other community in the world. I referred to the recent Bihar floods and mentioned that almost the whole of Patna had become a lake. At that time Sikh youth from various places arrived to help the victims, and I posted on my Facebook page their photos giving relief. In Gurgaon, Sikh youth rescued passengers whose car had gone underwater from drowning. I also referred to the video which went viral of police sub inspector Gagandeep Singh saving a Muslim youth who was in love with a Hindu girl from being beaten ( and perhaps lynched ) by a frenzied mob by taking their blows on his own body. I have not seen this spirit in any other community, and this is due to the teachings of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, who placed great emphasis on service to fellow humans.

I said you Sikhs want Khalistan, I too want it, but my concept of Khalistan is different from yours. You want a portion of Punjab, where the majority is Sikh, to be given independence and declared Khalistan. I want the whole of India to be declared Khalistan, in the sense that all Indians must learn the spirit of service from our Sikh brothers and sisters, for only then can India progress and prosper. If you leave us, who will be our gurus. The word ‘Sikh’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘shishya’ which means disciple. Sikhs are disciples of Guru Nanak, but we Indians want to become your disciples i.e. Sikhs of the Sikhs.

Having praised Sikhs, I then went on to criticize them. I said that Sikhism arose as a revolt against the inhuman caste system, and Guru Nanak taught equality of all humans, but do you practice that ? Jat Sikhs, who are the dominant Sikh caste, and are big land holders, look down on dalit (mazhabi) Sikhs, regarding them as inferior, and will not inter marry with them. In the Indian army, the Sikh Regiment has Jat Sikhs, while the Sikh Light Infantry has dalit Sikhs. This indicates that Jat and dalit Sikh soldiers have to kept apart otherwise there will be fights among them, as Jat Sikhs regard dalit Sikhs as inferior. Is this what Guru Nanak has taught you, I asked ?


When I said this, many Sikhs in the audience said what I spoke was not correct, but I said don’t tell me lies. You can’t bluff me. I am a real Sikh, a real disciple of Guru Nanak, because I regard everyone as equal, whereas you discriminate among yourselves on caste basis, and so you are fake Sikhs.


Now I am an old man of over 73, whereas many of those in the audience were strongly built Sikh youths, yet they could do me no harm, because the truth was on my side. Many even said that we are ashamed but what you said is true. Satya mein badi shakti hoti hai, and that is why it is said ‘ Satyamev Jayate ‘ ( Truth is ultimately victorious ).


[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.]