23 Feb 2011
Article from Jagdeesh, graphic from LGBT Sikhs
WOMEN : From Guru Nanak to present day Panjaabi-Sikh community -
a sombre reflection for International Womens Day, 5th March 2011
In the fifteenth century, Guru Nanak (1469-1539), not only delcared but actively championed the principle that women are not equal but in fact superior to men, for a whole range of reasons - physical, emotional, biological, etc. This represents the first known example in history of a male spearheading the rights of women. "Sikhs, a most egalitarian society." Karl Marx, 'India's First War of Independence', 1880.
Today, 500 years on, we are witnessing gruesome live examples, from family to family, household to household, of physical and mental abuse of females. This is in Panjaab itself, and equally in our 'community' in the UK.
Our grandiose multi-million pound gurdwara buildings, and our religious rhetoric, and our vain beards and turbans, all conceal this hidden oppression of womankind amidst our community. Abusers, murders lurk within our community, protected and immune from community action aswell from legal action due to community silence, inaction and collusion.
The radical Sikh history from the 16th - 18th century, is replete with powerful examples, of Sikh warriors championing women against rogues like Ahmad Shah Abdali from Afghanistan (medieval equivalents of Colonel Gadaffi and Saddam Hussein) and the rogue rulers of the Mughal empire, who saw women as easy and simple sexual booty in warfare and tribal conflicts and often taken to be sold in the international slave market of Baghdad (current day Iraq).
The mid-17th century case of 20,000 Sikh fighters from Amritsar resolving to rescue a Hindu Brahman daughter taken by Pathan invaders on one of their routine raids into Panjaab, stands out powerfully. The daughter was rescued, with the loss of more than 10,000 Sikh lives; however, she was not accepted back into her original Hindu family as she was now 'violated' and 'impure'. Instead, she was embraced into the family and ranks of these roaming Sikh warriors, whose homes were their horse saddles, the horses their closest companions, as they roamed across the Panjaab landscape battling against Mughal and Afghan oppression and protecting indigenous communities and encouraging communal living.
Today, when I hear the terrifying examples of each case after case, of violent abuse, thrown out of the home, the deliberate failure of Gurdwara leaders to intervene and protect, the homelessness and ordeal of the victims; it makes me feel ashamed of being part of this modern day male dominated community.
Behind the religious paraphernalia, the religious sermons, the rhetoric, the rabid chantings, the cultish mentality and behaviour with a stream of holier than thou holy men (often implicated in sexual exploitation of young females), the grandiose multi-million pound palatial gurdwara buildings which refuse to give sanctuary or shelter to female victims; lies the chronic and real injustice of how we as a community treat our women folk with the same obscene, dehumanising attitudes that we accuse Muslims of and Afghans of. We are the same. We maybe more discrete. More concealed. But the difference is only in degrees.
The grievance and systematic injustice against women, however much denied and concealed, is one of the top few obstacles facing the development and empowerment of the Sikh community today. Our gurdwaras, our community organisations and our national freedom struggle, is all exclusively men led and controlled. Just like the Palestinians and Kurds cannot be fully-free and dignified in their independent statehood until they resolve their internal oppression of women, so the Panjaabi-Sikh cannot achieve a dignifity and independent statehood until we resolve our issues with women. Indeed, women in charge would probably be a much better option than the enduring mess of a male driven world! An independent Panjaab homeland which oppresses its women population, would be a horrible and undesirable contradiction.
From woman, man is born;
within woman, man is conceived;
to woman he is engaged and married.
Woman becomes his friend;
through woman, the future generations come.
When his woman dies, he seeks another woman;
to woman he is bound.
So why call her bad?
From her, kings are born.
From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all.
– Guru Nanak, Raag Aasaa Mehal 1, Page 473
JUSTICE FOR SURJIT
Posted by Derek Wall at 11:06 am