Seventy plus Manmohan Singh, with his light blue turban, almost as a brand of his middle of the road political management approach, looks destined to take over the reigns of the country again. The Bharatiya Janta Party is almost out of the race, even before it has actually begun. With the burden of a Saffron agenda and with allies of its alliance in the NDA falling apart like nine pins, it only has an ever willing Akali Dal led by Parkash Singh Badal as its key supporter in the build up to the countdown to become the rulers of the vast sub-continent called Bharat by the natives and India by the world.
As we go further in the year, our recall of the past becomes heavier and painful. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister is happy news for the Sikhs. Almost. Manmohan Singh of the Congress party as the key leader of the country does not instill enthusiasm even twenty five years after June 1984 and November 1984. Even in the last five years, at the country level the country may have much to boost, but the Sikhs do not.
The immaculate grace, unparalleled dignity, core honesty of Manmohan Singh and the amazing low profile of his wife and all other members of the family and the extended family are reasons to make Sikhs happy about Manmohan Singh’s persona. India has not seen in the last sixty years of its existence a person like him who carries no extra weight around him, literally and figuratively. His management skills, his fiscal and financial prowess, and his diplomatic coups –all deserve not only praise but commendation from Sikhs and everyone else.
Somehow, the Sikhs cannot go beyond this. The reality byte for Sikhs becomes harsher on deep analysis. Manmohan Singh is honest, et al is fine. Does being honest and non-corruptible mean that you have to continue to make conscious attempts to hide your love, affection and affiliation with people who consider you a little more on your side than the average resident of the country? Does one have to always be holier than thou? Will the Prime Minister in his second term still be willing to hold on to his reputation sacrificing the interests of the community he belongs to?
Notwithstanding a Sikh Prime Minister in the form of Manmohan Singh, Chandigarh is still not the capital of Punjab, the Rajasansi International Airport at Amritsar is on the verge of closure as most airlines have flown out, respect for human rights issues of the Sikhs and other nationalities which should have been another feather on the turban of the man the country adored when he was in hospital recently has not even been touched in the last five years. Substantive issues of discrimination against the state of Punjab on the waters front continue. Justice of victims of the barbaric country-wide pogrom in November 1984 is still a cry. Artefacts and heritage items looted by the Indian army from Darbar Sahib in June 1984 lie in gunny bags in some warehouse of the country as the present Defence Minister retracts from what has been earlier stated in the Indian Parliament. The French government continues to mock at the turban despite defence deals and entente between the countries. Bollywood continues to rattle the Sikhs ad nauseam.
At one level the Sikhs may be happy to see the turban amongst the world leaders. Decline of hatred against Sikhs will be another advantage. However, deep down in its consciousness, Sikhs need to heed the warnings of Sirdar Kapur Singh. The destiny of the Sikh nation cannot be wrested from the Khalsa Panth by symbolism alone.