Lakhbir Singh’s Murder Notwithstanding – A Wake-up Call for the Sikh Community

Lakhbir Singh

Thank you Vidya Bhushan Rawat for mincing no words in your piece “Sacrilege or blasphemy: The dirty attempt to cover up the caste prejudices against Dalits.” The underbelly of a progressive community stands exposed. It is a wake-up call for the Sikh community. The deathly silence of the Sikh leadership in not unequivocally condemning the ghastly murder is reminiscent of the silence by the Sikh intellectuals and senior retired army officials based in Delhi over the selective killings of minority (Hindu) community members in Punjab during the turbulent 1990s.

When I read Rawat’s piece the images which crossed my mind was the burning alive of Sikhs in 1984 in Delhi and northern India. Those images were no different from the image which get conjured up of butchering of a Dalit, Lakhbir Singh.

I am reproducing the comment (slightly edited) which I had sent to CC in response to Rawat’s piece. The left of the centre activists bends over backwards for rights of religious minorities; but are loathe to condemn their fault lines. (quote)

“Vidya Bhushan Rawat’s piece is an honest, courageous and an eye-opening one for Sikh community in particular and rest of the Indians in general…

During my medical student years in Delhi there used to be 150 students in the MBBS class in 1969; when attendance would be taken and names called out e.g. that of C.S. Kain, another student a Jat Sikh would yell out: “Scheduled Caste Hai”; when Sadia Din’s name would be called out the same gentleman would shout “gone to Pakistan”. No student or professor ever raised objection! Thus began my exposure to caste and communal bias; and also the anti-Pakistan feelings.

Reforms in the Sikh community would have to come primarily from within keeping the following in mind:

  • The Mazhabi Sikhs – untouchables – (Scheduled Castes) live in separate clusters in villages in Punjab; are forced to live in less desirable areas in the village.
  • This community accounts for 32% of population in Punjab as per 2011 Census.
  • Only 3.5% of private farmland belongs to Dalits as per Agriculture Census of 2015-16.
  • The Mazhabi Sikhs cannot use Gurudwaras frequented by higher caste Sikhs and
  • They must use special cremation grounds.
  • The Shiromani Akali Dal, a religio-political party founded in 1920 is dominated by Jat Sikhs. The SGPC (Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee) is Jat controlled.
  • The British Raj system of land allocation in Punjab worked against the Mazhabis. The Jats received most of the 4,000,000 acres that became available between 1885 and 1940 while outcastes were excluded entirely. Thus the relationship of a Jat Sikh and a Mazhabi is invariably that of a farmer and landless labourer.
  • Marriages between Jats and untouchables does not even enter one’s mind since in very few reported cases beheading of such couples follows suit.
  • Such is the environment created by casteism that Kanshi Ram; Harkishan Singh Surjeet, Mayawati; Dr. B. R. Ambedkar opted to work outside of Punjab.”

Guru Nanak the founder of Sikhism had the courage and – if I may dare say the little space/freedom to mock at Brahminism over five centuries earlier. Such space should accrue for all times to come to those who interpret/analyze Holy Scriptures differently without disrespecting the holy books. Tolerance of diverse views would result in peaceful coexistence.

[P. S. Sahni is a member of PIL Watch Group. Email: [email protected]]

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