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Dalit Politics vs Sikh Thought

Raghbir Singh

Division of Indian society in four sections on caste basis by Manu has for centuries played havoc with the Hindu psyche and Indian population in which the Brahmins as gurus, in league with Kshatryas as rulers, and to some extent the trading class Vaishas kept the fourth section Shudras (Dalits) literally under their thumb by denying them any human right including those concerning spiritual and economic progress. There is no denying the fact that Saints like Ravi Dass, Namdev and Kabir, etc., following their so-called menial class professions, to earn livelihood, still made astonishing spiritual progress, much better than the Brahmins in spite of very tough opposition from them. They dauntlessly confronted the Brahmins about their claim of being superior to the lower classes. In spite of all this, there was no end to their sufferings, till Guru Nanak Dev declared the concept of one God controlling the entire universe in which there was no place for any man-made distinctions of caste and creed, and that there was no one superior to the other, all were equal. His teachings were advocated by his successor Sikh Gurus and their followers from the last decade of 15th century to the end of 18th century. Sikh Thought, which soon became popular with the oppressed masses, was the rallying point for a large majority of Dalits and other down-trodden sections of the Indian society to struggle for their rights. They razed the mighty Mughal Empire to the ground, and after dismantling their jagirdari system, distributed the land amongst the landless people irrespective of any distinction. With their joint efforts, they established the secular Sikh Raj, proving the authenticity practical and character building aspects of the Sikh teachings.

The British Colonial power defeated the Sikh forces and took over the administration of Punjab in 1845 in connivance with the remnants of Hindu Hill rajas, who had managed to sneak into the Sikh Raj to dilute the ethos of equality and fraternity which had been vehemently opposed by their elders, especially during the period of Guru Gobind Singh. During their administration, the British people had a tough time to deal with the steadfast Sikhs who would not allow the administration to interfere with their Gurdwaras propagating Sikh religion which was the only hope of the poor. To deal with the intrepid forces of the poor under the banner of Sikhs, they took advantage of the Hindu psyche of caste division and religious intolerance against other minority groups and, therefore, adopted the policy of further divide and rule under which the Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were pitched against each other. Government of India Act, 1931 introduced reservations for these segments not only in legislature, but in some other spheres also by which they could damage the fabric of unity and equality woven by the Sikh Revolution. M.K.Gandhi, whose antecedents were mostly doubtful in the eyes of minorities, also came to the rescue of the British Administration when he persuaded Dr. Abmedkar not to adopt the Sikh way of life along with hundreds and thousands of low caste people. Not only this. He played fraud with the Dalits also by calling them ‘Harijans’ to keep them depressed socially and politically. Otherwise the opposition to colonial power would have gained much more momentum. The British, in league with rich sections of Congress and Muslim League, continued to play this game till 1947 when they found it difficult to curb the feelings of independence aroused in the people by the minority Sikh community who made more than 80% sacrifices to drive them out from India just as they had done in the case of Mughal Empire. They expressed their desire to hand over the power to Indian leaders representing the rich sections. These leaders immediately pounced upon that opportunity and Congress agreed to the formation of Pakistan which its leaders had earlier opposed vehemently declaring that this could be done only on their dead bodies. This led to the uprooting of the Sikhs from West Punjab where they had very good fertile lands for agriculture. This was the first blow inflicted on the Sikh community by the people who always thought Sikhs as a big hurdle in their style of administration based on caste division and oppression of the poor.

The votaries of division on caste basis thought Independence as a God-given gift to them to dismantle the unity amongst the poor brought about by the Sikh Thought of equality and fraternity. In order to continue with their agenda of perpetuation of division on caste basis which ran counter to and diluted the Sikh thought, they made reservations in various sectors for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Constitution adopted in 1952 initially for ten years. But it is still continuing. Thus they have legalized their scheme of division on caste basis. Even the ignorant and selfish Sikh leadership fell prey to this idea which later on led to such reservation in SGPC also which was basically at variance with the Sikh thought of a casteless society.

Did this reservation which continues even today after 54 years of independence ameliorate the lot of these castes and tribes? The answer is a big NO. A very small fringe of their population comprising their leaders and their relations has made the maximum use of this reservation. This has made them socially, economically and politically part of the ruling class. They have managed to give good education to their three generations who have come to occupy prestigious positions in the legislative, executive and judicial wings of the State. They live in urban areas enjoying all comforts of life. In spite of these reservations 95% of their population still continues to live a miserable life as they had lived before Partition as sweepers, farm labour, factory workers and doing other menial jobs without having any access to places of Hindu worship. Their children are uneducated, underfed, ill-clothed, and victims of fatal diseases.

Reservation is a ploy of this progeny of Manu who divided the society in four parts to keep them confined to the lowest fourth section of society exclusively meant for menial jobs. It is a matter of shame for the people who call themselves as leaders of the Sikhs to have connived with the Manuvadis in their clever game, which cuts at the very root of the teachings of Sikh Gurus. It is equally bad for the political leadership of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, who, ignoring the role of Sikh Gurus that they played in ameliorating their lot by giving them equal rights with others, have indirectly helped the Manuvadis to perpetuate this caste-based division by forming small social and political groups. Not content with this division, now the game of reservation for backward and other backward classes among Vaishes is being played to keep the society further fragmented. The observation of the Supreme Court to keep away the creamy layer of these sections from the ambit of reservation has offended the entire ruling classes including even the Left parties who always claim to be the messiah of oppressed and suppressed classes. They are jointly thinking of passing a legislation by which they wish to keep the Supreme Court away from interfering with their game of ruling by division. To save the interests of the poor people, it is time for the well-meaning intellectuals of Sikhs, Dalits and other down-trodden people to purge their leadership of selfish people and come under the banner of time-tested Sikh Sidhant of equality and fraternity, and make a common front against this shrewd game of the ruling and well-to-do classes to keep the masses divided on caste basis.




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