On assuming Guruship, Guru Gobind Singh looked back and ahead, looked all round him and above, and pondered on what he had to do and how.
The great task to accomplish, for which he had come into the world, had been enjoined upon him by the Lord above; it had been clearly marked out by Him. In this connexion Guru Gobind Singh says as under in his autobiographic composition called the Vachitra Natak :
‘God sent me forth into the world after saying to me as follows: “I install and cherish thee as My son,
And create thee in human form to spread My religion;
Go forth, spread true religion there,
And restrain people from evil and senseless acts.” —
I came into this world for this reason,
The Great Father sent me forth for the sake of true religion, saying, “Spread righteousness in all places.
Seize and destroy the evil, the wicked, and the sinful.”
For this purpose did I assume birth,
Understand ye, holy men, full well in your souls:
• To spread dharma, to lift and save the saints,
And to uproot and finish up tyrants, one and all.”
Thus Guru Gobind Singh was deputed by God to restrain people from doing evil and committing sins, and to bring them on to the path of goodness and piety; to root out sin, tyranny, high-handedness, injustice, and brutality; and to plant, instead, the sweet virtues of justice, mercy, all-embracing love, brotherlines, and purity; to reform all sinners and evil-doers, to extirpate the oppressors and tyrants who were spreading terror in the world; and to help and lift the righteous, the good, and the kind, those who contended against evil and the doers of evil.
What was the position in which Guru Gobind Singh found himself after having sacrificed his father for the sake of the poor and the oppressed ? Imagine a child of less than nine called upon to face the might of the Mughal Empire at its zenith, verily the tiniest sparrow before the mightiest hawk. He knew that Duty called him to the holy, yet extremely hard, task of destroying a system of government under which heart-rending inhumanities could be perpetrated in the name of God and His Prophet; in which holy and innocent personages, like Guru Tegh Bahadur, Bhai Mati Das, and Bhai Diala, could be tortured and killed for their refusal to abjure their faith; in which all sorts of inhuman brutalities were perpetrated against human beings in hopes of winning Grace of Him, whom they called the loving and merciful Father of all. The very thought of the tremendous odds which faced him makes one nervous with uncertainty about the choice he would make. The heroic sublimity of his resolve, and the magnitude of the undertaking, fill one’s heart with awe and admiration.
But what were the means at his disposal ? Most of his kith and kin were divided against him on the question of succession to Guruship.
His followers were mostly of the poor classes. He had no equipment and no army to match against the imperial might. He had no store of wealth. The high-caste Hindus were, at best, but lukewarm supporters of his mission, while some were openly hostile. The Hindus had become so degraded that nobler sentiments and an urge for freedom had ceased to inspire them. They were divided into mutually antagonistic groups.
It was impossible for them to unite in a common cause. They refused to make common cause with him; for while ‘they were idol worshippers, he was an idol breaker’. How, then, was he to accomplish his noble and patriotic resolve ?
Constitutional agitation was out of the question, as there was no constitution and no agitation was tolerated. Peaceful persuasion and representation had failed. Passive resistance or non-violence could not accomplish much in those days. Has it accomplished anything substantial even in these days of enlightenment in similar circumstances ? But of that later. The object of the Satyagrahi is to oppose evil by self-suffering and self-immolation, if need be, in the hope that these sufferings will, one day, produce a change of heart in the oppressor. But there are hearts and hearts. Since the beginning of Islam, crores and crores of ‘infidels’ had perished beneath the Muslim sword in different countries.
Centuries of plunder, oppression, and slaughter, had not quenched, nay, had only whetted, their zeal for Kafir-Kushi or killing of infidels. The hunters and butchers, all their lives, kill birds and animals without feeling the least compunction. This taking of life for the sake of food and pleasure began with the world and will, most probably, endure with it. It is only in those rather rare places where a finer sentiment has developed sanctifying all life, that we find this carnivorous spirit to have abated to some extent. Still, the larger section of humanity, with all its sacred lore and inspired prophets, has not given up the ‘murder’ of birds and animals for pleasure. The spirit which worked in the hearts of sons of Islam at that time regarded the non-believers as worse than the filthiest hog. 1 It was as impossible for the average Muhammadan of that time to feel any softer feelings for the victims of his zeal for Islam as it has been for the average man even up to the modern times to notice any sanctity attaching to the lower life found in the victims of his palate and leisure.
The slaughter of the Indian Kafirs had begun centuries before that time. Thousands of their women and childern had been sent to Kabul, Kandhar, Gazni, etc. and sold for a few annas each. Even the otherwise mild Ferozshah Tughlak had not relaxed his campaign against the idol-worshippers. For centuries the Hindus had suffered unspeakable tortures and miseries with perfect non-violence. Was there any change of heart in the strikers ? Was there any abatement in their zeal for Kafir-Kushi ? No, not the least. No amount of further suffering on the part of the non-believers could, therefore, have produced any change of heart in the people who were drunk with power and were mad with a fanatic zeal for Jeliad.
If political sagacity had induced Akbar to follow a policy of conciliation, religious fanaticism impelled Aurangzeb to launch a 1. This spirit is not altogether extinct even in the twentieth century. It sways not only the ignorant and illiterate masses, but still inspires the acts and thoughts of responsible and educated people. An instance of its recent exhibition in such an advanced country as Egypt js given by J.N.Sarkar. He writes, ‘When, in 1910, Boutros Pasha was murdered by an Egyptian Muhammadan for no personal provocation but for the political reason that he had presided over the court that sentenced the Denshwai villagers, and the guilt of the murderer was conclusively proved by evidence, the Chief Qazi pronounced the judgment that according to Islam it is no crime for a Muslim to slay a non-believer. This is the opnion held by the highest exponent cf Islamic laws in a modern civilised country.’
A Short History of Aurargzeb,p.l51.
Add to this the testimony of the blood-curdling horrors and inhuman atrocities committed by Pakistani Muslims against the Hindus and Sikhs in 1947, in 1950, and many times afterwards. That campaign of murder, arson, rape, rapine and abduction was planned, organized, and directed by responsible and educated Muslims.
Their leaders, from Mr. Jinnah downwards, all scrupulously abstained from even the mildest condemnation of these terrible excesses. Kay, some even publicly applauded them as acts of laudable service to Islam. All this would show that at least with the Pakistani Muslims and others of their way of thinking, Islam does not enjoin upon its followers any tolerance towards Hindus and Sikhs.
If such was the state of the Muslim mind in this land in the middle of the twentieth century, it is easy to believe that the conditions must have been far worse during the period which we are speaking of here.
vigorous campaign to convert the entire population, and to liquidate every form of dissent. A change of heart could have been possible if there had been even the slightest addmission by the oppressors that from their hearts they disliked all their deeds of oppression, but the exigencies of state-policy necessitated condign punishment for offences against the State. The punishments were mostly for the mere offence refusing to embrace the State-religion and they were inflicted in hopes of winning Divine pleasure and registering seats of Paradise.
Much as the Guru would have liked the advent of love, peace, and goodwill among the militant sections of humanity; great though his desire was for the dawn of a new era when the people in every place would conform to the sublime codes of morality preached by gifted personages from time to time, when no one would usurp another’s right, when every one would learn the great lesson of all-embracing love, the lesson:
‘Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels; 1
When a resort to arms and brute force would cease to be the means of settling differences between individuals and nations, when the sufferings of one would arouse the active sympathy of the rest; but there did not appear to be much hope for the world to jump into the Utopian atmosphere for some time to come. Is that hope a whit brighter now ? Nowhere in the world, at any stage or time, has passive suffering been the direct means of any great progress or political advancement.
Even in this century, when there appears to be a powerful world — opinion and a gradually developing worldconscience, passive suffering or peaceful negotiation had not been able to achieve much. The Maories of New-Zealand, the Red Indians of North America, and the Negroes of Africa, were, in the recent past, hunted down like wild animals in their own homes so that their lands might be available for the ‘civilized’
nations of Europe. Did the cries and pangs of these ‘uncivilised creatures’
rouse the Chirslian conscience of their exterminators ? Again, was the League of Nations able to preserve peace and amity among its members 7 Could it banish war from the surface of the earth, and replace it by 1. Compare the following words of the Guru said to Bhai Nand Lai: ‘Remembering that all living beings are God’s creatures and belong to Him, one should not give them pain or sorrow;
‘For believe me, O Nand Lai, when His Creatures have to suffer, the Creator feels the pang and is displeased.’
friendly discussion and peaceful arbitration ? It failed in the very first trial. Japan could defy the world with impunity. She was followed by Italy in Abyssinia and Germany in Poland. Then there was the World War II. Almost at the heels of the cessation of that war came the alarming news that the nations were preparing for a Third World War.
Even the U.N.O had failed to hold in leash for long the war-dogs spoiling so much for a clash. Undeclared wars are going on in so many lands.
Such has been the course of events among people who have
ever professed compassion for human suffering and repugnance to man-slaughter. Things had a different outlook in the times which we are here speaking of .There was then no effective public opinion, no world opinion, or world conscience, which could have exercised any restraint on the wielders of power. Do they exist and function even now ?
Moreover, think of the hell which was let loose on the non-Muslims in the Muslim majority areas of India in the years of grace 1946, 1947, and in Pakistan in 1950, and quite often thereafter, when barbarous acts were committed with the express object of ‘shaming the deeds of Halaku and Changez Khan’. Was the aggressors’ fanatic zeal to surpass their barbarous ancestors in barbarity, in the least damped or abated by the spectacle of the immense suffering inflicted by them on their innocent and unresisting victims ?
It was, indeed, very prudent of Mahatmaji to have refrained from a practical test of the efficacy of his ‘never-failing weapon’ of Ahimsa or non-violence by marching, all alone or with a band of his unarmed disciples, into the midst of the fanatic Muslim murderers in the Panjab or Bengal in 1947.
In those days hopes were entertained of winning paradise and Divine grace with such cruel deeds. God’s own word delivered through the Prophet was then held to enjoin such cold blooded murders. The execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur had clearly demonstrated that the soul of the Emperor had lost all traces of humanity and had become completely brutalized. It was impossible, therefore, to bring about any change of heart in the tyrant with any amount of further suffering. The method of dealing with him had, accordingly, to be changed. It was clear that power of the Muslim state had to be broken up, and the sword had to be wrenched from the tyrants’
hands before the Muslims here could be taught to live peacefully with their non-Muslim neighbours. Silent suffering had been helpful only in so far as it had aroused resentment and a desire for liberation in the hearts of some of the oppressed. Unless these sentiments were timely sublimed into action, they would evaporate.
1. Alas, most of them did not learn that lesson even after centuries of close association. The creation of Pakistan and the systematic mopping up of all nonMuslims found there amply prove that they have not yet learnt to live in peace with non-Muslims in places where they themselves are in power.