Sikh Clergy – The Tasks Ahead
Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd)
On the Baisakhi Day of 1699, under the shadows of the Shivalik
Ranges, Guru Gobind Singh performed a miracle. For centuries
we had been invaded, made slaves, our women raped and taken
away to distant lands, our dwellings looted and burnt down.
The invader boasted, that the dust rising from the hoofs
of their horses, send shivers down the spine of these Indians
and they simply run for their dear lives.
As a nation and people, we were completely demoralized,
drained of all pride, our spirit trampled into dust and
we had resigned ourselves to our fate. It was under these
harrowing and debilitating conditions that the Tenth Master
performed the miracle. When he put his ‘khanda’
(double-edged sword) into that iron pot and stirred the
sweet liquid, he stirred the conscience, pride and the very
soul of the nation. The sublimity of that ceremony and the
magic of the moment is beyond replication. It brought back
to life the dead spirit of a people. He gave them a new
life, of dignity and pride. A new identity was conferred,
their vanquished spirit awakened and caste barriers were
forsaken. He gave them a double-edged sword, one edge to
cut down the tyrant and the other to defend the defenceless,
weak and the meek. It was a momentous and unique event in
Overnight a warrior class was created who were to astound
the world with their spirit of sacrifice and valour. They
not only stemmed the unrelenting tide of invasions from
the North West, but reversed the trend and turned the tide.
It was through his spiritual grace and ordained by the Lord,
that the Guru brought about this metamorphosis of a people.
It was something to rejoice and celebrate not only by the
new sect that he created, but all the people of Hindustan.
The controversial godman Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the
head of Sacha Sauda sect, allegedly, wearing the dress and
attendant accoutrements and impersonating with his actions,
tried to replicate the actions of Guru Gobind Singh from
that holy, historic and soul stirring ceremony of birth
of the Khalsa. It was blasphemy and sacrilege. It is something,
which should have met with universal condemnation, disdain
and contempt in the strongest possible terms from every
Indian rather than Sikhs alone.
Having said that, while it drew violent responses from the
Sikh community, which to an extent may be justifiable, the
actions of baring swords, sloganeering, burning of effigies
and mob fury, forcing a ‘bundh’ are completely
out of tune with the times and totally uncalled for from
a forward looking and progressive community. It was a throw
back to the sequence and play of events of the last two
dreadful decades of the twentieth century. Giving this contemptuous
and purported action of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh a political
colour and opening the lid of religious orthodoxy, the Akali
government has done itself, the community and Punjab, great
injustice, disservice and harm. Opening the lid and releasing
the genie of religious bigotry and orthodoxy was a grave
mistake. Under such circumstances, initiative and agenda
invariably passes into the hands of radical outfits and
issues spin out of control as it happened in the nineteen
eighties. The last bout of terrorism lasted nearly fifteen
years, and did incalculable harm to the social fabric of
the province, its economic well-being, and pushed it back
by a few decades. Corruption attained a new high and thousands
lost their lives, in some cases entire families were wiped
out to gain possession of their properties. Fake encounters
and fake killings became a routine affair, either as contract
killing or to earn awards. Poor schooling further suffered
and an entire generation of young men grew-up in the countryside,
with little education or skills. They are unemployable and
frustrated. Further, no investment (industry) has come to
the province, even years after terrorism had subsided.
As a people we are generally gullible and superstitious.
That has led to the growth of innumerable ‘God-men’
and ‘Deras’, each with a sizeble following.
These ‘God-men’ plant their own agents to spread
the word that their Baba has supernatural powers. These
‘plants’ give their personal and other’s
cooked up examples where chronic diseases have been cured
by the magical powers of the Baba. The ‘Kicking Baba’
on the Jamuna near Mathura, living in a machan, attracted
even VVIPs who yearned to receive a kick on their head from
The challenge these Deras pose has to be met, not through
violence, or seeking their closure but at an altogether
different plane. It calls for introspection by the Sikh
clergy and an analysis of the causes, which make people
turn away from temples and gurdwaras and seek solace in
Deras. The fact that these Deras carry out social work,
oppose caste system, run dispensaries/hospitals, rehablitation
centers for addicts, educational institutions and training
centers to impart skills for useful employment, does appeal
to the people. While the SGPC and the Sikh clergy and ‘sants’
have mostly focused their attention on marblisation of Gurdwaras,
wasteful ventures and on infighting. This infighting amongst
Gurdwaras has even spread to UK and Canada.
The Akal Takht has the moral authority, responsibility and
an inclusive role to play than to get embroiled in the Dera
issue. The Sikh clergy, at large, too must look inward and
see where it has failed in its role, which makes people
seek solace and comfort in Deras. There is the abominable
practice of female foeticide in the Punjab, more so amongst
the Sikhs in the countryside. The youth have taken to drugs
and by and large are leading wasteful lives. They fall prey
to touts who charge a fortune to send them abroad; they
eventually end up in some foreign prison as illegal migrants.
There is the issue of vulgar and wasteful display of wealth
and extreme ostentation at Sikh weddings. Marriage palaces
have mushroomed all over the province and out of sheer social
compulsions, marriage receptions are held there when most
have to take heavy loans or sell land or tractors to hold
these functions. Then there is the shameful and evil custom
of dowry and burning of brides. The reprehensible practice
and prejudice of caste system has crept back; whereas birth
of the Khalsa was to put an end to it.
It is against such evil practices that the Akal Takht and
the ‘Sant Samaj’ must bring to bear their moral
authority and influence to eliminate these, from the society.
Campaign against female foeticide, ostentation and vulgar
display of wealth; corruption and conspicuous consumption.
Send out a strong message that marriage functions should
be simple with limited number of guests. Work towards the
up-lift of the community. Seek to remove caste prejudices
and discourage rituals and bigotry. Wean away the youth
and others from drug addiction and craze to go abroad. Akal
Takht, through its actions and diktats, should be able to
bring about a sea change in the life of the community and
its well being.
Purported actions of the Dera chief need to be treated with
contempt, derision and finally, forgiven and forgotten.
The SGPC should deploy its huge resources to open educational
institutions, de-addiction centers, hospitals for the poor
and training centers to impart skills in demand in the market.
These institutions must match the best in the country. Launch
a special drive for the care and education of the female
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies,
2007, All rights reserved.