Opinion: Those who do not learn from history end up repeating it with even more dire consequences

Sant Bhindranwale, an unelected and self-appointed leader, promised Sikhs extra rights and benefits in a secular and democratic country, India, where equality for all is enshrined in its constitution.

He offered the Sikhs more benefits than the elected Chief Minister of Punjab could give them. He played on the human weakness of wanting to get something for nothing. The result is that Sikhs who had no vision or merit believed in him and followed him blindly.

Sadly, Bhindranwale and his followers took on the Central Govt and turned Punjab into a lawless state and a haven for terrorists. Hindus were killed in Punjab against the teachings of the Sikh Gurus who believed in the oneness of the human race. “Manus Ki Jaat Sabe Eke Pahchanbo”. The Golden Temple, where people came to pray, became the centre of political activities by the separatists. They also amassed weapons in the Gurdwara complex and turned it into a fortress.

They kept defying the Government and attracted the wrath of the Indian Army. They gave an excuse to the Indian Army to attack our holiest shrine with unprecedented force and brutality. The scars are still fresh in the hearts of every Sikh. Sadly, one wrong led to another, and Sikh bodyguards assassinated the then Indian Prime Minister and prompted anti-Sikh riots across India. Thousands of innocent Sikhs lost their lives and properties. Many women became widows, and many children became orphans.

Some soldiers of the Sikh regiment mutinied, thereby damaging their reputation as loyal soldiers of Mother India. As a result of the mutiny, the Govt of India reduced the number of Sikhs able to join the Indian Army. Now, unemployed Sikh youths have turned to taking drugs and committing suicide out of despair. The Indian Army used to provide a secure and disciplined life for the Punjabi youth.

It is worth remembering that before Bhindranwale, though Sikhs were less than 2% of the Indian population, they were enjoying over 20% of the benefits from the resources of the Indian Army.

My five brothers out of seven were Commissioned Officers in the Indian Army, enjoying above average living standards. We had come to India as refugees from a newly created Pakistan with nothing. The Indian Armed Forces provided so many destitute Sikhs with the opportunity to get gainful employment to look after their families. This was also the case for every family in Punjab. Sadly, Bhindranwale changed all this.

When people look at the small picture of promoting themselves, they then miss the bigger picture and damage the future of their community without realisation. However, the consequences of their judgement are felt by so many until today.

Unfortunately, the consequences of the vision and judgement of Bhindranwale is still haunting us today. Sikhs who lack vision become his followers with dire implications for the Sikh community as a whole.

It cannot be difficult to appreciate that no one promotes disloyal people. Loyalty is a prerequisite for success. Those who cannot be trusted cannot go far in their lives. If we continue to be anti-India, then people will start to perceive us as separatists and disloyal Indians. Sikhs will be denied opportunities in India like the rest. Incidentally, India is emerging as the 5th largest economy in the world with massive opportunities for its citizens, including the Sikhs.

No one should scupper the future of our fellow Sikhs with impunity while enjoying their lives thousands of miles away in America, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The time has come for people to appreciate the supreme sacrifices of the Sikh Gurus and their followers for India. The entire of India is celebrating their lives on a national and international scale. Our Gurus worked tirelessly to unite humanity, Surely, no one cannot be a greater visionary than our illustrious Gurus. By standing in short grass, we appear to look tall. Similarly, by surrounding ourself with visionless people cannot make us a visionary.

Finally, it is a fallacy to think anyone can ever break up India, simply because India is no longer a fragmented and divided country. India has one of the most powerful and advance Armed Forces in the world capable of dealing with terrorists remotely with the help of drones.

We must start following the philosophy of our Gurus rather than trying to invent one like Bhindranwale did with dire consequences for Punjab and Sikhs in India.

Lord Rami Ranger

Lord Raminder Singh Ranger, Baron Ranger, CBE is a British businessman and the founder of Sun Mark, an international marketing and distribution company. He is also chairman and managing director of Sea Air and Land Forwarding. Both companies have received the Queen's Award for excellence in business. He is the chairman of the British Sikh Association and became Baron Ranger in October 2019 as part of Theresa May's resignation honours.