Farid, the farmer plants thorny acacia, and wishes for yeild of raisins (SGGS p. 1379)
This is the high point of debates and discussion on the Dera Sacha Sauda issue. Media, Political sphere, civil society, opponents and defenders of the Dera have their own views. No body is making an effort to dig deeper to get at the root cause of the malaise, it seems like no body wants to either. Most of the arguments and explanations are shaped according to convenience.
Without any doubt, any criminal should be punished for his act, and the Dera Chief has finally got the punishment he deserved. But now the question is, has this malaise been eliminated completely, Is it an end toDerawaad – a proto religious cultish tradition? Is the character of other honoured and revered religious institutions spotless clean? Would the meaning of every faith based institution be redefined? The thousands of innocent people who are/were followers of the Dera, what happens to them? Would they be the target of ridicule and ostracizationby the civil society? Are they the only ones responsible for they became embroiled in the Dera Chief’s entrapment, or should the social economic and political conditions that made them blind followers should also be sifted?
Will they be left by the civil society to be a recruitment fodder for the rioter/murderous gangs like the RSS? Should not the civil society feel ashamed for the part they played? Did Ram Rahim drop into this world from outer space? Was he alone to blame? or the tendency that made him Gurmeet Ram Rahim from Gurmeet Singh Sidhu and established him as the Dera Sacha Sauda chief is also equally responsible? Because it is the supporters of that tendency are the ones who are celebrating the most, not feeling ashamed of the fact that it is an outcome of their oblivion to the concept of ‘Manas ki jaat sabhe eke pahichanbo‘ (Regard the human race as one)
The majority of these followers come from marginalised sections of society, even if they are not the followers of any Dera, they have to go through many kinds of humiliations in the society. The so called civil society exploits them much more than any Dera chief. The majority of the followers are from the Malwa region of Punjab. The section of society they come from; their social and economic exploitation, their ostracization by the affluent, powerful section of society does not happen because they are Dera followers, but also when they get together and ask for social equity and respect. The civil society goes bonkers and these people have to go face immense tyrannies including social boycott.
In the Malwa region people of marginalised section (Dalits) are struggling for the right to common land, the landowning dominating section of society often stands against them and administration and government too acts against them and collude with the dominant section of the society. Grappling with social boycotts and societal assaults, this section struggles for animprovement in their conditionsin every thorny and muddy place they find.
The upper caste hegemonic section has the intent to keep them under their heel in every way. The Dera does have participation of upper caste hegemonic section as well, but this section is in a way better off even in Dera setup; be it transportation to go satsang, or shopkeepers/ agents of Dera branded goods, they have more options of Sacha Sauda* than the regular followers. On its face majority of educated/well-off people believe that there is blind faith that operates in Dera, but the blind faith is in practice in the so called progressive faith institutions as well, it is just ‘my dog is bigger than your dog’ trip at play here. Nobody wants to look within themselves and a vice in other community is considered evil, whereas own vices are concealed slyly under the shield of progressiveness. Would an RSS styled Ghar Wapsi program will give the Dera premis a proper respectful place in the Ghar? Would the progressive society have a feeling of regret for always excluding this section from the Ghar?
I have been working on‘Landless’ – a documentary and photography project -about this dispossessed section of our society since the last seven years. I did so to understand their social, economic and political participation pattern. I went to all the places they went collectively; although it was not part of my project in a direct way but I wanted to, so that I understand the reason of their restless search to gain some respect. I met many Dera followers in person, and got to know the section of society the followers come from. I asked the followers what do they get or experience by being there. Although the management committee of Dera Sacha Sauda is quite shrewd and explains most of the things in a manner that is far from truth, and states that people of all religious and castes come to our Dera in equal number, but in reality it is not true. I went to a Dalit household where they organised the Naam Charcha (Prayer meeting) of the Dera Sacha Saudaa, more than the spirituality I could see the social equity and respectfulness there. Some upper caste Premis in a poor Dalit’s household, a Bhangi Daas ( Leader of the village followers) among them, were participating in every task without any discrimination. People were sitting on a big sheet made of empty bags of fertilisers, without any different line or exclusivity. Now the question this does it exist in all other progressive religious or faith institutions?
Rather than mere adding of the marginalised section people, like hordes, in a single religion’s fold as an exercise to increase census numbers what is needed is to address the looming questions pertaining to our society and its ways. The section that considers itself the most progressive politically also needs to check its house otherwise neither these incidents/trends would stop, nor a socially equitable, rationalised society be realised. As long as the social political and economic structure built on loot, plunder, inequality and discrimination is in place, many more like Raam Rahims would come and go, and rape the faith of dispossessed marginalised innocent people. We can not shirk from our responsibilities and hope for a transformation in our society; the fight for social justice should start from our selves. As Baba Farid said, we cannot hope for a yield of raisins if we plant acacia trees.
Translated from Punjabi by Jasdeep Singh.
Randeep Maddoke is a photographer and filmmaker from Punjab. He has documented everyday experiences of Dalits in Punjab, Haryana, and Tamil Nadu to study the operation of caste, power, and hegemony. In Nepal, he has documented the armed struggle of the rebels, the majority of whom are from the Dalit castes.
Jasdeep Singh is a translator, blogger, and software engineer based in Chandigarh. He curates a blog on translated Punjabi poetry. He has worked as an additional dialogue writer and translator for the critically acclaimed Punjabi films, Annhe Ghore Da Daan and Chauthi Koot.