There are some issues that should not be allowed to gain credence out of fear of ‘hurting religious sentiments’. The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee’s (SGPC) action of hailing the assassins of former PM Indira Gandhi as ‘martyrs’ is one such instance that should be roundly condemned. The SGPC paid homage to the assassins, Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, in a ‘commemorative function’ at the Golden Temple complex. While the anniversary function has been observed ever since the two were hanged on January 6, 1989, this year things have gone a bit too far. An immediate protest by the Congress and the BJP was recorded. But there’s been little by way of the SGPC or the Punjab government’s reaction to the move which would show that the act of applauding the killers of an Indian PM was a distasteful mistake.
While the dictum of ‘one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter’ will invariably be used to gloss over the matter, this is actually a move that should be seen for what it is: a jingoistic attempt at using a religious plank for blatantly political motives. That, in itself, is deeply worrying. At a time when religious leaders of all communities are the ones who need to really be most responsible in terms of maintaining peace, rattling communal sabres is not only insensitive, but also downright damaging for the nation’s secular fabric. It is one thing to refer to the scriptures and talk of protecting one’s places of worship. It is quite another to condone the targeting of individuals to kill them. The allusion to Sikh marjiwarae — the readiness to die for a religious cause — as ‘reason’ to ‘celebrate’ the assassins’ ‘martyrdom’ is a misplaced sentiment. They were criminals misusing religion to do their dastardly deed.
We live in uncertain and ritualistic times where the only certitudes seem to be derived from religious power. To that end, India, with the world’s many religions cohabiting here for thousands of years, is chock-a-block with religious leaders. They must realise their responsibilities in maintaining peace and harmony among their followers and not give their faith a bad name.