Parties Promise Dalits Space, They Already Have It in Religion | Chandigarh News
Jalandhar: A few months before the State Assembly elections, all political parties are opening up a promising place for communities and castes. With the Jat Sikhs already assured of the domination of state politics, the BJP promises power to the Dalits, which SAD opposes to the Hindu and Dalit deputy ministers. Even with internal conflicts boiling over, Congress is also trying to strike a community balance. While the parties speak as if they invented social engineering in the Punjab, the fact remains that these safety valves already exist. For example, the heads of two larger and higher Sikh institutions come from the so-called lower castes. Giani Harpreet Singh, acting Jathedar of Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs, is from the programmed caste (SC). Likewise, the chairman of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak committee, Bibi Jagir Kaur, comes from a backward class (BC).
Although political discourse has created a perception that Dalits and Sikhs are two completely different entities, data analysis and observations show that not only SCs make up one-third of the total Sikh population in Punjab, but also many comrades from the so-called “lower castes” were working as granthis (scripture readers), ragis (hymn singers), preachers, and dhadis (ballad singers). Some of them have also reached the top, in terms of terms of office, as well as popularity and respect.
It took a lot of investigation to confirm Jathedar Ginai Harpreet Singh’s caste history as the usual response in SGPC circles and even those close to him in religious or community affairs was – no one ever discussed or stood up. worry.
Asked about his caste background, his background in Sikh religious affairs and his rise to the highest office, Giani Harpreet joked, “It never mattered to me or those around me. Throughout my sole identity I have been that of a Sikh and only my dedication to philosophy and the cause of Guru mattered. His father was also granthi.
“I passed the three-year course at the Guru Kashi Gurmat Institute, Talwandi Sabo, in 1997. The SGPC officials themselves called me to be appointed parcharak (preacher). I was then appointed chief granthi and ‘katha vachak’ two years later, then I was appointed Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar in May 2017, ”he said. “I have always said that the Sikh religion offers equal recognition for all,” he added.
He appointed Acting Akal Takht Jathedar in October 2018.
Bibi Jagir Kaur’s caste – Lubana, classified BC – is widely known as it rose through the ranks of political life after becoming an MP in 1997. It also has the distinction of being the first female president of the SGPC.
When asked, she said that during her uninterrupted stay in the Sikh representative body for the past 25 years, she never took into account the caste background of the granthis, ragis, preachers or other employees. “There may be several in the past and currently in service that could come from what are called lower castes or SC backgrounds. People here don’t really care or question the caste background of the granthis, hazoori ragis in Darbar Sahib or other historical gurdwaras, ”she said. Darbar Sahib is the central sanctuary of the Sikhs.
Former SGPC secretary Kulwant Singh Randhawa, who served the representative body for more than 43 years after joining it in 1956, also shared the same observations.
Other notable examples
Elder Akal Takht Jathedar Bhai Ranjit Singh is from Ramgarhia, notified as BC in Punjab. The late Giani Bhagwan Singh, who remained as the head of the granthi of Akal Takht, was also from what are called the lower castes. Former SGPC chairman Professor Kirpal Singh Badungar was also from British Columbia. Darbar Sahib Hazoori Ragi and Padma Shri Prize winner Bhai Nirmal Singh, whose death from Covid last year left the community in mourning across the world, was also of Sikh Mazhabi descent. He was trained at the Missionary College run by the SGPC in Amritsar.
Dozens of granthis, ragis are from SC, BC
Saroop Singh Kadiana, who has led a “dhadi jatha” for 31 years and also ran as the AAP candidate from the reserve headquarters in Phillaur in 2017, said neither before nor after, when ‘we knew he was of SC origin. , he encountered problems. “In fact, many granthis, ragis, dhadis and preachers are from what are called the lower castes and they serve in different gurdwaras in towns and villages. From my anecdotal knowledge, I can say that it is possible that most of them are from SC or BC backgrounds, ”he said. Responding to a question, he revealed that one member of his group were Ramdasia Sikhs (SC) and two were Jat Sikhs. “Most of the dhadi and ragi jathas are said to be people from different castes,” said Kadiana, who comes from the Sikh community of Ramdasia.
Manjit Singh Raj, a Ludhiana-based ragi who comes from the Mazhabi Sikh community, said to be the lowest on the caste ladder, says even his own jatha (group) is a mix. “I have been practicing gurbani singing for seven years and have never encountered any caste issues, although I have been in different gurdwaras across Punjab and outside. People don’t care in the first place, and even though they know it has never been a problem, ”he said.
Why SC among the Sikhs?
“In Sikhism, there is no place for caste stratification. The Sikh leader, Master Tara Singh, had certain castes included among the Sikhs in the planned list of castes with great effort, as those who had joined the Sikh fold of the “lower castes” were still largely economically disadvantaged and deserved to benefit from a reserve for economic upliftment. Granthis and ragis coming from SC backgrounds is the utmost recognition not only of their religious and social emancipation, but also of the complete reversal of caste disabilities, ”said former IAS officer and noted Sikh author Gurtej Singh .
How the Sikh SCs got the reservation
“Sikhs from the ‘lower castes’ were denied the reservation originally in the Constitution even though Akali Dal’s Sikh representatives in the Constituent Assembly had requested it. Interior Minister Sardar Patel strongly opposed the CA. After making further efforts, Master Tara Singh wrote to the President of India on April 4, 1953 on the matter. Eventually he threatened unrest in Delhi and left with a jatha from Anandpur Sahib on October 1, 1953. He and other Sikh activists were on their way when Prime Minister JL Nehru intervened and four castes – Mazhabis, Ramdasias, Kabir Panthis (Julahas) and Sikligars – have been included in the SC list for reservation, ”said Tarlochan Singh, former member of Rajya Sabha and former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities.
Mazhabi Sikh makes the biggest component
The Mazhabi Sikhs come from the “lowest rung of the caste ladder”. They share their caste origin with the ‘ati-shudra’ Balmikis. They make up the largest portion of SC Sikhs and also among all SCs with an enrollment of 25.62 lakh in the 2011 census. Additionally, 2.07 lakh (24%) among those who mentioned their caste as Balmiki / Bhangi also identified themselves as Sikhs.
Population pie 2011
Total population of Punjab | 2.77 crore
Total SC population | 88.60 lakh (31.9%)
SC Sikhs | 53.90 lakh (19.4%)
SC Hindus | 34.42 lakh (12.4%)
SC Buddhists | 27 390
Total Sikh population | 1.60 crore (57.69%)
Total Hindu population | 1.06 crore (38.49%)
Main SC communities in the Punjab and their religious identities (in lakhs) with the exception of Buddhists in the 2011 census
Total Sikh Hindu Buddhists
Mazhabi / Mazhabi Sikh 26.33 25.62 0.71 160
Balmiki / Bhangi 8.66 2.07 6.57 1,588
Ad-dharmi 10.17 0.86 9.12 18,778
Ramdasia / Ravidsaia 20.78 6.29 14.43 5,896