Sikh’s contribution in Indian Freedom Movement and promises made with them

Sikhs played a significant role during India’s independence struggle from the British, even though they were just 2% of the Indian population demographics.

According to the figures provided by Maulana Abul Azad, President of the Congress Party after the Independence in 1947:

  • out of 2125 Indians killed in British atrocities, 1550 (73%) were Sikhs.
  • 2646 Indians deported for life to the Andaman Islands, 2147 (80%) were Sikhs.
  • 92 (80%) out of 127 Indians executed were Sikhs.
  • the tragic incident of Jalliawalla Bagh, where 1302 men, women, and children were killed, 799 (61%) were Sikhs.
  • Even in the Indian Liberation Army, out of 20,000 ranks and officers, 12,000 (60%) were Sikhs.
  • Furthermore, out of 121 persons executed during the freedom struggle, 73 (60%) were Sikhs.

Despite their immense contribution, the Sikhs, who ardently participated in the Indian independence struggle, were the third party the British negotiated with for the transfer of power.

However, due to inadequate Sikh leadership and misplaced trust in promises made by Nehru and Gandhi, the Sikhs lost their rightful claim to power.

In 1929, after a massive peaceful Independence rally in Lahore led by Sikhs, Gandhi, and Nehru met Sikh leaders and advocated for Sikh-Hindu unity and a unified India where Sikh sentiments (social, economic, and religious) would be respected.

They made solemn assurances, such as Gandhi’s statement in Young India on 19 March 1931:

In Mahatma Gandhi’s words from “Young India” on March 19, 1931: “Let God be the witness of the bond that binds me and the Congress to you. Our Sikh friends have no reason to fear that it would betray them. For, the moment it does so, the Congress would not only thereby seal its own doom but that of the country too. Moreover, the Sikhs are brave people. They know how to safeguard their rights, by the exercise of arms, with perfect justification before God and man, if it should ever come to that.”

In the collection work of MK Gandhi he states that “No Constitution would be acceptable to the Congress which did not satisfy the Sikhs.” (Vol.58. p. 192)

In a congress meeting in July 1944, Jawaharlal Nehru (Congress President) said “The brave Sikhs of Punjab are entitled to special consideration. I find nothing wrong in an area and a setup in the North wherein the Sikhs can also experience the glow of freedom.

However, the aftermath of independence was harsh for the Sikhs.

Their homeland, Punjab, was divided, leading to significant losses. Sikh shrines, including Nankana Sahib and Panja Sahib, were given to Pakistan. Pakistan also claimed over 70% of the fertile land owned by Sikhs, and during the partition, more than 500,000 men, women, and children lost their lives. This period marked a dark chapter in Sikh history despite their pivotal role in India’s independence movement.

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