Kapur Singh to Gurcharan Singh
The Shiromani Akali Dal –the party that Kapur Singh represented in the Indian Parliament did not learn anything from his tenure and contribution. The party sent Kapur Singh to parliament, for they considered him to be a nuisance and all potential mischief makers deserve to be sent to Parliament, so that others, those running politics as a family business, those who compromise at the drop of a hat, those who do not wish to understand the true religious and political tradition of the Sikhs –can continue to rule the roost.
In 1962, Kapur Singh was fielded as a candidate from the Ludhiana constituency, against another stalwart, Dr. Mangal Singh, one of the founders of the legendary and now fledgling Punjabi daily, Akali Patrika, who was the candidate of the Congress party. In 2009, the Shiromani Akali Dal -hardly bearing any similarity to the one in 1962, but still proclaiming to be the heirs of the Panthic legacy, will be fielding from Ludhiana, Gurcharan Singh Galib –a Congress turncoat who has managed to get the nod from the father-son duo who run the present day Punjab.
During the last half a decade nothing has changed for the Sikhs in the Indian parliament. The speeches of Kapur Singh, particularly the Betrayal of the Sikhs, continue to be ranked as one of the classic speeches of the Indian Parliament by any one and more so by a Sikh Member of Parliament from Punjab.
The choice of candidates for parliament is based on loyalty, more loyalty and most loyalty. In the present scenario, money plays a pivotal role, as politicians are still seen as tools of money making by those who sponsor their million rupee election expenditure.
Ask any member of the legislative assembly of Punjab whether he desires to become a Member of Parliament. His or her answer would be prompt and only one. Sorry, I do not want to become a foot note. I do not want to become a Minister without Portfolio, which is how they see the meaning of being a parliamentarian.
In most nations and sub-nations, in progressive societies with an ever vigilant people and media, the quality of the Member Parliament would determine the standing of the party in the public. The quality of the debate in Parliament would determine the status of the party in the Parliament, but not so for the Sikhs or other Indian members of Parliament.
Speaking on the Punjab Reorganisation Bill on 6th September 1966, the retort of Bhai Sahib Kapur Singh to fellow parliamentarian, Mr. Tyagi warrants repetition:
Kapur Singh: I oppose this Bill, on behalf of my constituents and reject it on behalf of my parent party, Shiromani Akali Dal. I do so for three reasons, firstly, it is conceived in sin, secondly, it has been delivered by an incompetent and untrained midwife and thirdly, it is opposed to the best interests of the nation….
Shri Tyagi: It is not an illicit child.
Kapur Singh: It is not an illicit child but it is conceived in sin. It may have the vigour of hybrid offspring but unfortunately, it is an offspring of a miscegenous union, and, therefore, I oppose it. I say, it is conceived in sin, because it constitutes the latest act of betrayal of solemn promises.
I know of no other Sikh politician that had the sagacity, wisdom and sense of repartee to counter the maneouvres of the ruling class. To expect the same from the present Akali leaders would amount to asking for the moon.
From Kapur Singh to Kikar Singh to Zora Singh Mann and now Gurcharan Singh Galib, we have come a long way. In between, we had the likes of Amar Singh and Simranjit Singh Mann, but that is another story.
A peaceful Sikh renaissance movement engaging the youth and the world community is the need of the hour.
4 March 2009