Post-Independence: Broken Promises & Discrimination
In 1950, despite protests by Sikhs, the Indian constitution was adopted, which failes to even recognize the Sikhs as a separate religion or “quam,” instead Sikhs were categorised as Hindus, and remained defined as such under Article 25 of the Constitution. The British recognised Sikh marriages under the Anand Karaj Act 1909, however this was replaced by the Hindu Marriage Act 1951. Sikh marriages are no longer recognised. To get a marriage license in “secular India”, Sikhs have to sign a form entitled “The Hindu Marriage Act of 1951”
Panjab was a state utterly broken and totally ruined both economically and socially by the Partition with Pakistan. Instead of Government help, the Sikhs began facing economical, social and religious discrimination.
|Farmers in Panjab paid higher prices for their agriculture inputs, but were offered lower prices for their produce in comparison with neighbouring states. The Central Government assumed sole control over prices and farmers were not allowed to cross state boundaries to get higher prices for their labours in the next state.
Electricity generated by the Hydroelectric Dam Bhakra on the Panjab borders was more costly and provided in smaller amounts in Panjab than in it’s neighbouring states.
75% of the water available to Panjab was being diverted to other states.
70% of the revenue raised by Panjabis, for development of Panjab was sent to other states.
The Central Government investment in Panjab was less than 1%, the lowest amongst all the states, however Panjab was the most highly taxed.
Restrictions on the recruitment and promotion of Sikhs in the armed forces were applied. This was a grave insult as Sikhs being 2% of India’s population counted for the majority of sacrifices in the freedom struggle against the British.
After Independence Sikhs began facing racial slurs from leaders and the media. When Nehru was reminded about the promises he and Gandhi made to the Sikhs before Independence and all the broken promises since, he stated simple, “the circumstances have now changed.”
“Kya main taqat dushman ke hath main de dun (How can I entrust powwer into the hands of the enemies).” (Jawaharlal Nehru, 1961)
“The Sikhs are lawless people and a menace to the law abiding Hindus… The Government should take strict measures against them.” (Jawaharlal Nehru)
In a circular sent to all Deputy Commisioners in Panjab by the Home Minister Vallabhi Patel, there were instructions that Sikhs should be treated like a “criminal tribe.” They were urged to be severe so that the Sikhs should wake up to the political realities and recognize “who are the masters and who are the slaves.”
In 1956 all states in India were recognized on linguistic and cultural basis, however Panjab was the only state in India left out of this. In addition huge anti-Sikh propoganda compelled virtually all Panjabi speaking Hindus to deny Panjabi as their language and claim allegiance to Hindi, however, their knowledge of Hindi was non-existent.
Furthermore, Sikhs felt the wrath of Hindu nationalism nurtured by M.K. Gandhi. After his death fundamentalist cults and organisations such as RSS and Ayra Smaaj began anti-Sikh propaganda. Sikhs were humiliated throughout national media and literature. Ayra Smaaj and other fundamentalist Hindu organisations published literature, held events and conferences which degraded and insulted the Sikh Gurus. A great effort was made to disolve Sikhism into Hinduism.
In 1966 the Panjabi Suba Movement began, during peaceful agitations throughout the 50’s and 60’s over 250,000 Sikhs demonstrated peacefully and courted arrest to get their linguistic rights (this is 5times the number of Indians arrested by the British in the whole “Quit India Movement”). Darshan Singh Peruman was martyred whilst on hunger strike in prison. He demanded that Sikhs should be given more rights and more autonomy for Panjab. His martyrdom and noble sacrifice was ignored by the Government.
Two majority Panjabi speaking districts were left out of the 1961 census. The now already shrunken Panjab was further halved to form a Hindi speaking state Haryana in 1966. Furthermore, the small remmant of Panjab was still denied the status of a Panjabi speaking state. Some of the prosperous Panjabi speaking areas including the capital Chandigarh were left out and given to Haryana. This was a direct violation of the Indian Constitution and pre-independence promises. Panjab remains the only state in India to have a shared capital and no control over its natural resources, water and electricity.