- Dr. Amrit Kaur
Vir Bal Diwas & Objection of the Sikhs
Recently, the Central Government of India has been pushing for a narrative that the Shaheedis given by the Chaar Sahibzaade were for an independent India. Ridiculous as it sounds, the Central Government is still pushing to falsely call this occasion, “Veer Baal Divas”.
The New York Sikh community has taken up cudgels against this propaganda the Indian Government Consulate in New York that distorts Sikh history and attempts to change its ethos. The Sikh community reacted immediately and very wisely by issuing the following as a reminder to the consulate and alerting the Sikh Sangat in North America and the rest of the world. Below is their letter received in full to the editorial board of TSL and reproduced as is for our readers: To Whom It May Concern, It has been brought to the attention of the New York Sikh community that the Consulate General of India, NY has organized an exhibition, “Veer Baal Diwas,” on December 26, 2022. The event is in commemoration of the “unparallel sacrifices made by the
This program is being organized by the Embassy of India in partnership with the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Ministry of Culture under the umbrella of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. This is “an initiative of the Government of India to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of independence and the glorious history of its people, culture and achievements.” We are concerned about how this initiative is wielding the historical Sikh narrative to promote a Hindu nationalistic agenda, especially when the Indian constitution defines India as a pluralistic democracy and a secular nation. Firstly, the “Veer Baal Diwas” event details, under the main initiative page, dictate that this commemoration is to “honor those who had dedicated their lives to the [state of India].” This sentiment is again claimed by the initiative that “the first commemoration of Veer Baal Diwas is happening as the country is celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav to celebrate 75 years of independence and honor those who had dedicated their lives to the [Indian] nation.”
This is a clear distortion of the historical Sikh narrative. The sacrifices of the Sahibzade were not for the establishment of the current Indian state nor is there any correlation to be made. Their sacrifices were for the Sikh revolutionary cause, which is to fight tyranny and corruption. In fact, the Sikhs established Khalsa Rule within the Panjab territory directly after the Sahibzades’ sacrifices.Secondly, the exhibition is presented under the theme of ‘Freedom Struggle’ under Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, which “helps bring alive stories of unsung heroes whose sacrifices have made freedom a reality for [Indians].” However, freedom is still not a reality for minorities living within the state of India, including for Sikhs. Sikhs in Panjab live in a state of oppression, which is evident by the countless Sikh political prisoners serving beyond their sentences without just trials. Thus, to use the sacrifices of the Sahibzade as a symbol of freedom/independence for the Indian state is erroneous. Lastly, the title of the exhibition also raises concerns for us because within the historical Sikh narrative, these sacrifices are part of the Sikh “Sahibzade” Diharrha not “Veer Baal” Diwas as used by the initiative. This nomenclature does not align with Sikh language, thought, or principles. We request a review of the initiative under which this exhibition is presented along with a revision of the language used. Sincerely, The NY Sikh Community