Sikhism evolved as a response to religious orthodoxy, be it in Hinduism or Islam, the two prominent faith systems in the times of the Gurus. As such, it is heartbreaking to see the ritualistic extremes that seem to have overtaken it. The consequences of a fundamentalist approach have already been experienced during the years of the Khalistan movement in Punjab. Unfortunately, politics and religion are, once again, acquiring a toxic mix in the state, going by the endless controversies surrounding acts of so-called ‘beadbi’, which basically translates to ‘discourtesy’, but is interpreted more as ‘blasphemy’. The killing of a person on the Singhu border by Nihangs for such alleged sacrilege and, now, the beating to death of a possibly mentally unstable person in the holiest of holies, the Golden Temple, indicates the extent to which extremists seem to be hijacking the agenda once again.
Even supposedly mainstream politicians like Navjot Singh Sidhu, who should know better, are stoking the flames on a regular basis just for the sake of acquiring power, regardless of the long term consequences. Compelled by the increasing hold of orthodoxy, not many members of the community are questioning this narrative and are just hoping that somehow Punjab will find its way out of the quagmire.
There is no doubt that the fundamentalists are being encouraged, directed and financed by forces inimical to India and peace in the Punjab. Their most hoped for scenario is a repeat of the ‘80s and ‘90s, which not only fragmented society but also entirely destroyed the state’s economic trajectory. It still has not recovered and is in no position to face another upheaval.
Such incidents are also a direct challenge to the rule of law, just as are mob lynchings for other kinds of ‘blasphemy’. It is the job of the police and the courts to deal with unsocial and provocative acts such as the one that took place in the Golden Temple. Every effort should be made in society to ensure nobody takes the law into their hands. Traditionally, places of worship have served as a sanctuary for the spiritually disturbed, not somewhere they meet a brutal end. How can the cruelty inflicted on the Sahibzadas and the Gurus be condemned if Sikhs themselves indulge in such acts? Those who have tasted the Amrit, at least, should conform to a higher morality.