THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE OF PANTH-PUNJAB: A BLUEPRINT FOR A NEW GENERATION
This platform will synthesize the lessons of our past struggles, grapple with the political genesis of our current realities, and move towards developing a blueprint for a new generation.
February 10, 2021 | 5 min. read
In the past several months, we have witnessed an outpouring of rage across Punjab in the face of new legislation passed by Delhi. The new bills not only surrender whatever little remained of Punjab’s self-governance to Indian corporations, but also leaves Punjab’s already struggling kirti-kisan (labourers and farmers) at their mercy.
This recent wave of resistance marks a significant turning point however, with the potential to radically transform the course of politics in Punjab, the subcontinent more broadly, and the geopolitics of the region as a result.
As Panth-Punjab steps into this new horizon, our future action must be informed by a nuanced understanding of the forces and structures that have crafted the current realities we’re facing today. Only by diagnosing the root causes which have shaped Punjab’s ground realities, will we be able to effectively dismantle the systems of domination and oppression in order to build towards liberation.
Despite our desire to develop a just political structure which reflects the Panth’s patshahi and enables liberation, sanjhivalta, and sarbat da bhala in Punjab, there remain countless challenges stemming from the colonization of Sirkar-i-Khalsa in 1849 and the ongoing imperialism of the Delhi takhat (throne) today. This fundamental reality of power imbalance has led to the erosion of Punjab’s geography, ecology, economy, and social structures.
Although it has come to be commonly acknowledged that the Indian nation-building project adopted (and continues to mobilize) the institutions of the British colonial state, we need to build upon this understanding to identify the ongoing colonial designs of global capitalism. Beyond the celebratory narratives of supposed “decolonization” of the subcontinent, we need to analyze Indian state-building and the British “Transfer of Power” merely as a reconfiguration of global power structures. Our focus needs to remain on how colonial designs continue to impact Panth-Punjab today—through both the Indian state, as well as global structures beyond.
Much of the panthic discourse and educational resources available today still heavily depend on an analysis of the region from the 1970s and 1980s. Despite this however, the period since 1991 has posed a new set of challenges for us and a transformed adversary—all of which brought a qualitative shift in our politics, economy, and social relations.
While the valiant Sikh resistance mounted through the Dharam Yudh Morcha and Sikh jujharoo lehar (armed struggle) directly challenged the ongoing colonization of Punjab and imperialism of the modern/colonial state, we have seen how India’s anti-Sikh violence coincided with a new process of economic liberalization. We can clearly identify the patterns along which the means of counter-insurgency were used to facilitate the deeper penetration of Indian nationalism and capitalism into rural Punjab—and the drastic social, economic, cultural, and spiritual degeneration that it brought with it since the early 1990s.
While state violence targeted Sikh jujharoos, dharmik institutions, and advocates of Khalistan to erase panthic issues from the political arena, the Badal Akali Dal capitalized on the opportunity to monopolize politics in the region. This rise to power was contingent on Delhi’s tacit approval based on Badal’s willingness to actively repress panthic activists and limit Punjab’s political discourse to an apolitical rhetoric of vikaas (economic development)—rooted in the 1991 neoliberal shift in the region.
Recalibrating our analysis within these terms, we need to turn our minds to the intentional manufacturing of our current conditions through this process—including the issues giving rise to the current kisaan sangarsh (farmers’ struggle). From widespread drug abuse, ecological destruction, the declining legitimacy of institutions, to the sharp uptick in farmer debt and suicides—Punjab’s current challenges can squarely be tied to the simultaneous imposition of neoliberal policies and the state’s genocidal counter-insurgency against Sikhs.
Taking this broader view of our current moment, we can see how the Sikh sangarsh (struggle) did not ever end—the ground beneath our feet has merely been shifting. In this sense, the current uprising is not entirely spontaneous, or altogether new. It is a continuity and only another phase of our struggle.
In order to effectively combat the host of issues we’re facing right now, it’s imperative that we accurately understand the root causes and their evolving forms. Looking forward, there are some potentially massive shifts on our horizon as well. Not only is the fascist Hindutva project rapidly advancing within the subcontinent, but global capitalism is intensely looking for new “markets” to devour while the international political order is undergoing some seismic shifts.
To fully grasp the realities of Panth-Punjab today and prepare for the implications of future changes, it’s crucial to analyze this transition through a comprehensive analysis of Punjab’s political economy, political shifts in the broader region, and the geopolitical processes which have shaped both. This is one of the primary goals of the Panth-Punjab project.
Driven by panthic naujawan scattered throughout the world, the Panth-Punjab Project was setup to explore answers to these questions and lay the foundations for a collective way forward. In some sense, the content shared on the platform is the result of a self-reflexive process that facilitates critical dialogue within panth dardi (sympathizers of the panth) around the world. The focal point of the initiative is its ability to build upon deep connections with naujawan doing grassroots work in Punjab. Prioritizing the frontlines of our struggle, the content centres discussion with those voices emanating from the ground and finding meaningful ways to engage with them in the diaspora/exile.
Building on these foundations, the platform will synthesize the lessons of our past struggles, grapple with the political genesis of our current realities, and move towards developing a blueprint for a new generation of heirs to Panth-Punjab.