Us Khet Ke Har Khosha-E-Gandum Ko Jala Do
- Allama Iqbal ( Written in 1907)
The meaning of the above couplet is that if a farm does not provide meal and sustenance to the farmer, (then) that wheat harvest of that farm should be burnt.
In the year of 1907, there was a mass agitation in Punjab against the three ordinances passed by the British Rulers of India. These were: Doab Bari Act, Punjab Land Colonization Act, and Punjab Land Alienation Act. These acts would have resulted in changing land holdings and farming on those lands by Punjabi Farmers. There were massive protests by the Punjabi farming community against these laws with a good degree of support from left leaning intelligentsia. Layallpur (now Faisalabad in Pakistan) was epicenter of it. Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his Uncle Ajeet Singh were active participants in this revolt. On March 3, 1907, a big protest was held in Layallpur and the editor of Daily Jhang, Lala Banke Dayal, recited his poem “Pagri Sambhal Jatta, Pagri Sambhal Oye (Take Care of your pride peasant, take care of your pride o’ peasant). The British withdrew the ordinances after 9 months given non- stop agitation by the farmers.
It is said that Past is Prelude. There is a big protest currently going on in India against three new laws passed by the Indian Government. Punjab once again is spearheading the agitation. There is an eerie similarity between 1907 and 2020. Once again, the anthem of the protesters is “Pagri Sambhal Jatta.” The farmers are concerned that these new laws will put them at the mercy of big corporations, and they fear losing their land and livelihood. The worst part is that under the new laws, the aggrieved farmer cannot go to courts for redressal. Farmers were not consulted before these laws were passed.
Thousands of farmers mainly from Punjab and Haryana with good numbers from other states are agitating against new farm laws. Sikh farmers have walked hundreds of miles and on the way faced (to name a few) - baton charges, water cannons, deep trenches (8x8 ft) dug to stop them, and barbed wire barriers. Now they are sitting in peaceful protest on the highways outside Delhi. The current Government thinks that honest negotiations are sign of weakness. To divide communities the Government is using bought and pliable media to defame the protest by calling the farmers terrorists, agents of foreign powers, and secessionists.
The farmers – men, women, and young children - have brought with them rations for many months and are prepared to fight on as long as it takes. They in the true Sikh tradition are cooking Langar, food for everyone, in makeshift community kitchens. They are even serving tea, snacks, and dinner to police who have beaten them. As of Dec 16th, 31 agitating farmers have died, and one holy man has committed suicide in sympathy of the farmers. The Sikh doctors have established care centers by the roadside to tend to sick and old. To counter Government’s maligning narrative, Sikh boys and girls are using social media to tell the story of their side. Listening to the stories of sacrifice and seeing the pictures of farmers busy serving everybody around them including their tormentors, and tending to sick, my faith burns with pride and passion.
Service to mankind without discriminating because of color, religion, caste, gender is one of the main articles of Sikh faith. Serving food to any and everyone is done with humility as a service to mankind. During this pandemic, Sikh communities all over the world have been serving and delivering food to people. Serving Langar is a tradition of over 500 years in Sikhism. It has become part of our genetic memory. The tradition was started by Guru Nanak at the age of eighteen. He was given 20 rupees by his father to go and do a true bargain thus fetching a handsome profit. He, instead, bought clothes and food for the poor and needy, some among them low caste discards of the society and called it a True Bargain. It is said that while Baba Nanak started langar with 20 rupees, it has lasted over 500 years and continues to grow.
In Sikh faith, every Ardas ( Prayer ) ends with the following lines:
Nanak Naam Chardi Kalan, Tere Bhane Sarbat Da Bhala
Sarbat da Bhala is one of the driving principles behind the Seva (Service) ethos in Sikh Faith. This Shabad defies a simple one line translation. For me translating it was a difficult task. The way I interpret it is that Baba Nanak is saying is that by incorporating Naam (which is the respectful devotion to the fact that every sentient and non-sentient being is manifestation of one light), the “Can Do” spirit keeps rising resulting in a positive attitude towards life. That rising spirit always endeavors and wishes that everyone in your (lord’s) wisdom live a blessed life. To me, this also reflect Guru Nanak's foundation of a "social contract" in Sikhism.
The Gurus who came after Baba Nanak strengthen the ethos of Service by engaging masses in acts of selfless service. To keep the flame of service burning eternally, they wrote Shabads like Seva Tey Sada Sukh Paya ( Through Selfless Service Eternal Peace is Obtained), and Seva Karat Hoi Nehkami, Tis Ko Hot Parapat Swami (One Who Does Service Without a Thought of Reward, Shall Find The Master).
The community’s development trajectory changed due to execution of fifth and ninth Gurus by the ruling class of that time. Active military resistance to tyranny became part of our faith’s Ethos. It gave rise to active resistance against autocrats with the believe in Universal Brotherhood (Manas Ki Jaat Sabhe Ekay Pehchanbo- Recognize whole Human Race as of one caste). Fearlessness became the shield of justice seekers (Bhae Kaho Ko Daet Neh, Neh Bhae Manath Aan : One does not frighten anyone, and does not get frightened by anyone either ).
True to their faith, The Sikhs through out their history have fought against injustice, tyranny, and autocrats (to name a few - Mugal King Aurangzeb, Invader Abdali. British Rulers, Indira Gandhi, and now fighting Modi). They have come out of the comfort zone of their homes, into fields in open cold of 2-3 degree Celsius to fight for their livelihood. Sikhs know that the path of passionate goal seeking requires sacrifice of lives.
Ishq to Sir Hi Maangta Hai Mian, Ishq Par Karbala Ka Saaya Hai
The Love Demands Head, Mr.,The Love is Under the Spell of ( its) Goal)
My mother always use to say that every few decades the Land of Punjab demands sacrifice of blood and life by Sikhs and in our struggles we have come out of our comfort zones and raised a new dawn under a new sky.
Nahin Tera Nasheman, Qasr-e-Sultani Ke Gumbad Par
Tu Shaheen Hai, Basera Kar Paharon Ki Chatanon Mein
(The dome of palace is not your place, you are an eagle who belongs to the mountains)
Tu Shahin Hai Parvaz Hai Kaam Tera
Tere Samne Aasman Aur Bhi Hain
(You are a high Flying Eagle, Your have more skies in front of you)
- Allama Iqbal