Blame it to our inability or frivolity in recording history, India has never had the privilege of good historians TILL DATE. Most historians we have today are either given to appeasing the dictates of the ruling political party or to the prejudices of belonging to a particular religion. What we need are researchers who are willing to look at facts objectively and dispassionately, not through their colored lenses. For this, we need to stop the State (government) from sponsoring research. Let private players do it – only then can research be accomplished scientifically.
I realized the dearth of historical facts when I wanted to read more about our Sikh Gurus – Govind Singh and Tegh Bahadur Singh. No books are available which study their biographies in detail (by referring to original, first-hand sources).
Even then, one common story I found among ALL the sources I researched about Guru Tegh Bahadur is that he was BEHEADED by Aurangzeb (a cruel Mughal tyrant) who wanted to Islamize India. Tegh Bahadur had refused to convert to Islam and willingly gave up his life.
To be specific, Kashmiri Pandits were increasingly getting worried about the growing torture carried out by Aurangzeb’s empire. So, they approached Tegh Bahadur in Punjab, who then challenged Aurangzeb that if he would convert him to Islam, then all Kashmiri Pandits would also do so willingly. Four days later, Aurangzeb had Tegh Bahadur captured and tortured. Unwilling to surrender, Tegh Bahadur was beheaded.
Today, Tegh Bahadur stands as a hero who saved Pandits from the Moghul tyrant’s atrocities. Brave, valiant, and unflinching character he possessed!
Why is this relevant today?
Fanatic Hindus would look at Tegh Bahadur as a savior of Hindus. By becoming “inspired” by him, they would justify undue violence against today’s Muslims. This is ignorance and stupidity at best. Today’s Muslims have nothing (NOTHING!) to do with Aurangzeb. It is unwarranted to avenge Aurangzeb’s cruelty by punishing today’s Muslims.
Yes, truth be told. Tegh Bahadur gave up his life for Hindus. But seeing from a bigger, much broader perspective, he gave up his life for freedom – freedom to practice one’s own religion. Had Aurangzeb allowed Kashmiri Hindus to practice their religion with COMPLETE freedom, had he not threatened them with life on failing to convert, Tegh Bahadur wouldn’t have had to sacrifice his life. So Tegh Bahadur stood for freedom, just like Bhagat Singh, Rani Laxmibai, and others.
Preserving this basic freedom sometimes demands life. It demands one’s own blood. To quote from Ronald Reagan, “Each generation must renew and win again for itself the precious gift of liberty, the sacred heritage of freedom.” Freedom, not from a particular religion, but to practice one’s own religion peacefully.
In today’s era, India being democracy, our Constitution has provided for a democratic process to ensure the preservation of our freedoms. Undue violence is not only NOT needed, but is illegal. Let us therefore make sure that we don’t make it a war between two religions, but between supporters and enemies of freedom. If some extremists within Islam impose their views on other religions, let us protest them with all our might, but peacefully. Nonviolently. Let us use our constitutional rights (laws and judiciary) to ensure we are not dominated by antisocial elements again. That is the India our ancestors dreamed of. This is what Tegh Bahadur preached.
ਤਿਲਕ ਜੰਵੂ ਰਾਖਾ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਤਾ ਕਾ ॥ ਕੀਨੋ ਬਡੋ ਕਲੂ ਮਹਿ ਸਾਕਾ ॥
ਸਾਧਨ ਹੇਤਿ ਇਤੀ ਜਿਨਿ ਕਰੀ ॥ ਸੀਸ ਦੀਆ ਪਰ ਸੀ ਨ ਉਚਰੀ ॥੧੩॥
“He protected the janeu and tilak of the Hindus. It was a great event in the modern ages. For the sake of humankind, he sacrificed himself. He laid down his head but not his creed.” – Bachittar Natak