Political sovereignty is an important issue to many Sikhs. The nature of that sovereignty and how it will manifest itself is less clear and there is nothing resembling consensus in the Qaum over this issue. The Akal Takht Sahib must be sovereign and free regardless of the nature of the government that surrounds it. Punjab is undoubtedly the heart of the Sikh Qaum, but it is not home to all Sikhs, nor are all Sikhs of Punjabi ethnic origin. The Akal Takht Sahib is the Sikh Qaum’s internal governance authority and therefore must work for and represent all Sikhs. Punjab has very serious issues that need to be addressed. However, so do many other countries in the world where Sikhs live. There are significant Sikh populations in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, China (Hong Kong) and other countries with systemic corruption, human rights abuses and dictatorial governments. Before Sikhs can figure out how to bring Guru Nanak Sahib’s values into whatever society they live in, we need to first have a sovereign system to govern ourselves
The longest lasting sovereign Sikh state was the Lahore Darbar (Sarkar-e-Khalsa) of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. However, Ranjit Singh’s kingdom did not function as many Sikhs today may imagine it to have. It was a multi-ethnic and diverse state. There were Muslims, Hindus and Christians in prominent positions of authority; the Prime Minister was a Muslim and the head of the army was a Brahmin. It was not a state run exclusively by Sikhs and nor was it governed by Sikh institutions. So, even though Sikhs had a state that stretched from Afghanistan to Nepal, Sikhs still needed their own internal governance structure as a community. The Sikh Qaum did not equal the Sikh state. While Ranjit Singh did limit fundamental aspects of Sikh governance (e.g. his cessation of the Sarbat Khalsa), the Akal Takht Sahib was still free and had authority even over him, the emperor of one of Asia’s most powerful states, as he was still a member of the Qaum. Ranjit Singh did not have control over the commands issued by the Akal Takht Sahib, the leadership structure of the Akal Takht Sahib or the internal policies of the Sikh Qaum. The point being that even if there was a Free Punjab, a sovereign Akal Takht Sahib would still be necessary.
Sovereignty may not be limited to one geographic area. In fact, historically, there were multiple Sikh states in existence at the same time. While Ranjit Singh’s Lahore Darbar was most powerful, Kapurthala, Patiala, Nabha and Jind were also Sikh states. The Akal Takht Sahib had authority over the Sikhs living in all of these different states. The Eternal Throne where the Guru is seated cannot be limited in its scope, power or range. It is the Takht of the Infinite and Divine Creator after all. In the future there may be several sovereign Sikh states. How would the Akal Takht Sahib be run in that scenario? We need to create institutions based on principles that will last for centuries, not ones that will quickly become obsolete. The Akal Takht Sahib needs to be free of any state, even a Sikh one. Guru Granth Sahib ji teaches us that everything made will one day be destroyed. Empires that were once vast and powerful are but a memory today, but the Takht of Guru Nanak Sahib is eternal and can never be destroyed.
- It is when we are free, and under our own sovereign governance, that the Panth has had the biggest impact. The Sikhs of the early 1900's first freed their Gurdwaras and then were able to direct their energy to freeing all of South Asia from colonial rule. So, in a sense, we don't need to free Punjab to free the Akal Takht. We need a Free Akal Takht to save Punjab.