LAHORE/NEW DELHI: British award-winning journalist Yvvone Ridley, who under captivity of the Taliban converted to Islam, tells us that oppression by the Taliban is not about Islam but about tradition and customs. The tyranny against women has been going on for decades.
Notwithstanding the tyranny by many Mughal emperors, it is the strong belief of the Sikhs that Sikhism and Islam are religiously close to each other in the worship of the One Almighty and that the historical animosity perceived to be between Sikhs and Muslims was actually a revolt against the tyranny of the Mughal empire.
Sikhs worldwide are disturbed. For long, Pakistan has been perceived as a friend of the Sikhs and do not understand as to why suddenly it has turned foe. Many do not go beyond the surface to understand that the tyranny of the Taliban is directed not only against the minorities –Sikhs, Christians and Hindus, but also Muslims who do not toe their line.
More than 300 Sikhs from Buner district of the Orakzai Agency area are now taking shelter in Gurdwara Panja Sahib in the Hasanabdal town of Panjab district. It is further agonizing to note that the number of Sikhs is increasing by the hour. Most of the victims from Orakzai Agency are from Peer Baba, Daggar, Dewana Baba, Jhangi, Gogga, Sawari, Changli and Ghourgohsti areas. During the course of his abduction for recovery of Jazia tax, Kalyan Singh, who is the head of a family of 24 members, was brutally tortured for 10 days by the Taliban militias.
According to latest reports, the Shrines Evacuee Trust Property Board has made elaborate arrangements to assist the families who for fear of the Taliban have left their home and hearth and have made Gurdwara Panjab Sahib, their refugee home.
Human rights body, Voices for Freedom in its communiqué to Asma Jahangir of the Human Rights Commission for Pakistan has called for immediate intervention saying, “The Jazia tax on the Sikhs is reminiscent of the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban in the early part of the last century. In that case, it was a violation of the right to manifest one’s religion through one’s heritage. In the case of the Jazia tax on Sikhs, the very right for Sikhs to exist has been egregiously violated by the Taliban.”
Dal Khalsa too has sent a plea to the Pakistan embassy in New Delhi seeking immediate assistance and support to the beleagured Sikhs from the FATA regions.
Fighting with bare hands against a set of people who know no logic, the cry of a Sikh shopkeeper quoted in a section of the media tells all, "I have four children, all of them are with me. My husband has a shop. We can’t say anything against the Taliban but the truth is that they are brutal. I think the militants are not against any specific religion. They are fighting against humanity. No peaceful citizen can be their friend." No doubt, It is time for the Pakistangovernment to ensure that the numbers do not swell.
Citing history, Voices for Freedom says, “It is also historically evident that Emperor Mohammad Jalluludin Akbar had abolished Jazia during his reign. Though the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had reinforced the tax, history has witnessed that Sikhs accepted to die than to embrace another religion through force.”
Agitating Sikhs in India and the rest of the world are clear that the Islam of Prophet Mohammad is against tyranny, oppression and injustice. The tyranny of the Taliban can be that of Emperor Aurangzeb or even Frakhshiyar, who had ordered the destruction of Sikh home and hearth. During those times too Sikhs fled, chose martyrdom, but did not accept racial discrimination and subjugation.
Pakistan may have dismissed the verbal demarche of the government of India on grounds of non-interference in the affairs of Pakistan, but it has to follow up on the many good will measures that it has taken for the Sikh community that descends on Pakistan from across the globe for a variety of religious anniversary celebrations every year.
Muslims clerics and scholars have been unequivocal. Maulana Abdul Hameed Nomani, Secretary of Jamiat Ulama-e Hind said, "Levying jaziya on Pakistani Sikhs is absurd as they have not been a party in any war and have lived in the land for as long as the Taliban elements themselves. In the light of Islam, the action is wrong; we do not know, which Shariah they are trying to impose in the tribal regions.
World Sikh News columnist, Nanak Singh Nishter, while talking about Sikh-Muslim relations has the last word, “The multi-religious nature of Guru Granth Sahib prevents the Sikhs from any communal hatred and ill feelings in the name of religion. The brutalities of the Mughal emperors for about two centuries, leading to the near-extinction of the community could not make the Sikhs, anti-Muslim. Similarly, the countrywide genocide and plundering of the Sikhs in the eighties of the twentieth century by the Hindu rulers and Hindu masses could not make them, anti-Hindu.”