Thursday, August 09, 2007

Great Article

http://www.sikhchic .com/article- detail.php# q1)

Ek Sikh Barabar Sava Lakh

Sikhs may be just two per cent of India's population,
but in their self-image and deportment, it is as if
they constitute two hundred per cent of India's one
billion. As the saying goes: "Ek Sikh barabar sava
lakh" ("Each Sikh is a Legion"). Even during the worst
days of the Partition, Sikhs never felt insecure about
their religion, as their Hindu counterparts did, and
continue to do.

Why then, does a small, insignificant sect like the
Dera Sacha Sauda, that does not even claim to be Sikh,
get mainstream Akalis and a large number of everyday
Sikhs so hot and bothered? This Baba is no medieval
tyrant and martyrdom of any kind would be thoroughly
wasted on him. He is a minor figure, whose demonising
by the Akalis raised his stature and downgraded their
gurus who gave up their lives in far more glorious

The question then is: How did the Sikhs suddenly turn
so insecure? When did it happen and where were we all
looking? Or did the lights suddenly go off in the
changing room?

The original Panthic Party, which later morphed into
the Akali Dal after 1947, never evinced such worries
either, and those were very difficult times. They
regularly participated with the Congress before
Independence. The party even supplied the Congress
with a stable of leaders, from Pratap Singh Kairon to
Swaran Singh. On election campaigns in undivided
Punjab, the Panthic Party frequently displayed the
Congress symbol along with its own. On no occasion did
any of this to-and-fro movement from the Panthic Party
and back threaten Sikhism. Nor did the Shiromani
Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee declare Kairon or Swaran
Singh, or any of the others who took their political
blood lines to the Congress, apostates or tankhaiyas.
Sikhism had that much confidence.

In 1899, when Sardar Kahn Singh Nabha wrote Hum Hindu
Nahin (We are not Hindus), he did not castigate any
other religion, but just said the plain truth. The
Sikhs were not Hindus and let the record state the
facts. It was not as if he was prompted to write this
tract because of the perceived fear that Hinduism was
eating up Sikhism. In this sense, he was not the
mirror opposite of Swami Dayanand, who took every
other religion, including Sikhism, as a threat to the
Hindu faith.

Nabha's interjection was to remind his readers of the
symbolic energies at the heart of his faith, without
deriding non-Sikhs, nor, even for a moment, hoping to
proselytise other religions to his own. Even the Singh
Sabhas and Chief Khalsa Diwan of that period were
intent on crafting a separate Sikh identity and not in
impressing their own thought prints on their immediate
religious neighbours.

Interestingly, in the sixty years after Independence,
the Akali Dal has never used the Partition to evoke
partisanship the way Hindu parties, and sadly, the
Congress even, have done from time to time. This is
indeed quite remarkable. Sikhs, too, had suffered
along with Hindus in their migration to east Punjab
and beyond. And yet, unlike Hindus, the Partition is
history for Sikhs, and not a source of political

When I was working with re-settled rural Sikh refugees
in Punjab and Haryana, what struck me the most was
that they found my questions, which recalled the
Partition, quite stupid. So many of these Sikhs told
me to move on and not keep looking over my shoulder
for monsters and chimeras of the past.

That was such a relief. Hindu refugees, in general,
were still agonising over the Partition and related
stirring tales of their experiences during those
times. Most of this recall was highly adorned, as my
Hindu respondents in the early 1990s were either
babies or playing in the mud in knickers when 1947
happened. Some post-Partition Hindu families even held
prayer meetings to solemnly remember the day they were
ousted from their homes. I found none of this among
Sikh refugees. It is no surprise then, that even a
sectarian party like the Akali Dal has no use for the
Partition as a leavening political agent.

Later, during the bad days of Khalistan, a large
number of Sikhs felt that they were humiliated by the
Indian state, but on no account did they believe that
their religion was under threat. Khalistanis were, of
course, baying to the contrary from the margins, but
an overwhelming majority of Sikhs did not politically
side with these secessionists, though they were widely
admired for giving the hated agents of the government
a tough time. This is not an "a-ha" moment, for, in
spite of the trauma post-Bluestar, Sikhs were willing
to look ahead the instant Prime Minister V.P. Singh
visited Punjab with a healing balm.

The Khalistani years, if one may call them that,
however demonstrated that in times of crisis, it was
not as if there were Sikhs and Sikhs. Regardless of
caste and origin, all Sikhs came together. This is
where the difference lies when we come to the Sikh
over-reaction to Dera Sacha Sauda. There are now Sikhs
and Sikhs and the lines are drawn along the grooves of

Most of the animus against Baba Ram Rahim came from
the Malwa region of Punjab, where Jat Sikhs are
politically dominant. It does not matter really if
Jats vote Congress today and Akali tomorrow; it would
always be a fight between "lions". Dera Sacha Sauda
trampled on this territory, by bringing in non-Jats to
kick up dust and spoil the Jat-versus-Jat slugfest.

This is why Baba Ram Rahim was so profoundly despised
in Jat-dominated Akali circles. It was not because he
was undermining Sikhism, so much as using his "low
caste" followers to defeat Jats in their own lair that
made Baba Ram Rahim such a hated poster-boy for the
Akalis. If the Congress had won without his support,
that would still have been acceptable.

It is not true, as the Akalis allege, that in the
advertisement put out by Baba Ram Rahim he dressed
like Guru Gobind Singh. His turban did not have a
kalgi (plume), he was stirring Rooh Afza (or
something pink) with a ladle and not with a sword
(which is Khalsa tradition), and furthermore, he was
wearing pink and not blue, not even white. No icon of
Guru Gobind Singh can ever be depicted in that colour.
Chhatrapati Shivaji's popular imagery looks closer to
Guru Gobind Singh than this pink spectacle.

And yet many Sikhs blindly believed the Akalis when
they said that Baba Ram Rahim was imitating Guru
Gobind Singh and thus, mocking Sikhism. The majority
of such Sikhs did not bother to verify the facts, as
they were primed to believe anything against him. It
was their Jatness, not their Sikhness, that Baba Ram
Rahim deeply hurt. In the 1980s, Hindus, too, eagerly
believed the tale that the Anandpur Sahib Resolution
was secessionist. The drive to hate always numbs the
better senses.

At the end of the day, what is most depressing is that
Sikhs are becoming caste-ridden, and more and more
like Hindus. If this trend continues, then Sikhism
will probably find its greatest threat from within and
not from figures clad in baby pink.

Dipankar Gupta is professor of social sciences at
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

[Courtesy: The Hindustan Times]