"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

Sikh history of the month of December - Lest We Forget Featured

Kulbir Singh Sidhu

We have one of the richest legacies in respect of our heritage, history and culture of our Guru Sahiban, martyrs and great patriots who have left behind unique traditions of selfless service and supreme sacrifice for the sake of humanity.

Our Gurus, saints and scholars have enunciated excellent covenants, high ideals and noble principles. Likewise, our great ancestors and soldiers have set the exemplary ways to serve the mankind. But it is a sad story that we have not been able to imbibe and follow their philosophy and teachings as a nation. Consequently, we seem to have lost the fine instincts and great virtues taught by our noble forefathers. Rather we have developed, unfortunately the insensitivities apropos the legacy of bravery and supreme sacrifices. We have apparently put our sense and sensibilities in hibernation to elude the high spirits, willpower and passion to pursue the traditions of customary courage and bravery of our illustrious Saint- Soldiers like Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and Baba Dip Singh ji.

Due to our time old slavery, we developed a mentality with the perversions like deceit, hypocrisy and sycophancy. Further ungratefulness and an element of ignorance in our character has taken us to the dismal level where we stopped well neigh to see and recognize the footprints left by our national heroes and sons of the soil on the sands of time.

This whole sad scenario may find its elaboration in the history of Punjab itself.  Where the two most significant, but tragic events took place more particularly in second fortnight of the month of December though after 140 years from each other.

One is wonderstruck to mark the irony of Time & History that the first event occurred as the completion of Sarbans- Daan by Dasmesh-Pita Guru Gobind Singh between 20th to 27th December in 1705; whereas the Second event happened on 18th and 22nd December in 1845 with the beginning of two battles at Mudki and Ferushehar of the first Anglo-Sikh war.

Therefore, December is a month of most sanguine and ever unheard of “Sarbans-Daan” in the world history and also of unparalleled bravery and sacrifices of thousands of unsung heroes like S. Sham Singh Attariwala who attained martyrdom on February 10, 1846.

In the context of significance of December in our history, we must not ever forget that when the battle of Chamkaur was fought on Dec 22, 1705, it happened to be the 39th Birthday of Siri Guru Gobind Singh ji.

It is pertinent to mention here that on this day Sahibzada Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh, besides beloved soldiers and again on December 27, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh laid down their lives to present the most unique gift to Guru-Pita’s mission of bestowing upon honour, dignity and sovereignty to the downtrodden.  

Thus, a grand journey which started with Baba Nanak’s Kalam (pen) writing Babar-Bani against tyranny was completed by the Talwar (Sword) of Guru Gobind Singh.

In this connection at this point in time, we must hear the voice of our conscience and accordingly confess our ingratitude, indifference and insensitivity towards our supreme martyrs. More especially when we almost go berserk in a mood of festivities during this most tragic period of our history.

Of course, Christmas celebrations also chronologically come in these days which, admittedly, relate to the epoch-maker Yug-Purakh Jesus- the Massiah, ie The Savior of mankind. But at the same time forgetting about the supreme sacrifices of our own “Massiahs” in a total festive mood and bonhomie can never be justified.

Rather during these particular days the wayward “Glassy” indulgence and fanfare with an attitude of “Begaani Shaadi mein Abdulla Diwana” on the Punjab soil is most regretful.

In continuity with the same ethos; another soulful stance may be cited here relating to our history of “The last sunset of first and last Sikh Empire".

It was in the year 2005-06 that I ventured with a sense of national pride as a Commissioner at Ferozepur to get back the Status of “National Monuments” to the battle fields of Mudki, Ferushehar, Aliwal and Sabhraon, those being the war theatres of first Anglo-Sikh war fought in Dec-Jan 1845-1846.

In the meanwhile, I thought of including the memorials of our bravest of brave soldiers of Saragarhi, martyrs and patriots to pay a humble homage. Therefore, with all the reverence and gratitude the following Samaraks were also inducted to be declared as national monuments. These were the Shaheedi Samaraks, like the Saragarhi Gurdwara, Shaheed- E -Azam S.Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev Memorial at Hussainiwala; Shelter Place of Bhagat Singh and his comrades in Ferozepur city besides, railway line going to Kasur, especially the bridge at Hussainiwala which stands as an eye witness to the bravery of our officers like Major SPS Waraich and Capt. KJS Sandhu and other jawans of 1965 and 1971 wars.

In this running reference, it may be disheartening and very sad to know that national status of Anglo-Sikh war monuments; being no more of national importance was withdrawn actually in our Independent India Vide Notification—1962; with the logic and reasons best known to the then decision makers. Anyway, I could only have the copies of earlier notification of 1918 and de-notification of year 1962. But I could never reach out the hidden wisdom or truth on the deep-dumped papers.

It is pertinent to mention here that by the official patronage of then Chief Minister-Capt. Amrinder Singh, I could invite and host a very high-powered central team from departments of Cultural affairs, National Archives and National Museum under the supervision of Secretary General Sh. K. K. Chakravorty. The team visited and surveyed all the sites with relevant records to further recommend in principle the status of “National Monuments” to these historical sites in September 2006.

This “Pilgrim’s Progress” however ended for me at least with my retirement on August 31, 2006.

But in spite of the genuine handicap of retired life, I did try to continue for couple of months to follow and keep up the track of my passionate endeavour with the next government under S. Parkash Singh Badal, but all in vain.

Finally, on seeing and believing that “Love’s labour’s lost”; I tried to be at peace with myself by agreeing with the practical wisdom of Ustad Saqib Lakhnavi ; “Zamāna barhey shauq se sun rahā thā ; hameeñ so gaye dāstāñ kahte kahte”

Ultimately, I realised, that in our system of governmental functioning, more often, the files with the abstract issues of heritage and culture are branded obsolete and irrelevant and swept long under the carpet with cryptic “Seen & File” observation.

Anyhow, now a million dollar question remains there as to when the “fortunate one” will dig and do the dusting of such important files pertaining to the bravery and sacrifices of our ancestral generations. It is to be further seen that in official hierarchy who will come up with the instinctive aptitude, besides required will and skill to pursue this case to the logical end.

More precisely, again at the competent level in the government, who would have the courage or conviction and more importantly “time” to take appropriate decision with regard to the national pride and glory. Unfortunately, in our Vote-Raj, it seems all the more horrendous because of the fact that “Shaheedan diyan taan votan hi nahi hundian”

Will any government or organisation or else we as a nation ever offer an explanation in view of the soulful query that why our selfless supreme martyrs, great patriots and teeming soldiers made sacrifices for such ungrateful people? Perhaps only God knows!!  

Kulbir Singh Sidhu is a retired IAS officer, who currently lives in Brampton, Canada. 

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