Sikh Educational Issues
Nanak Singh Nishter
In days gone by, we were respected and treated as Sardars having led the Nation with our muscle and military power towards the struggle for freedom from the clutches of the mighty Mughals. After dethroning the Mughals and the Sikhs, the British came to power. They wisely absorbed the defeated Sikh personnel and utilized their qualities and services by giving them honorable positions. The so-called independence of the country came to the Muslims who got Pakistan and the Hindus got India, but what about the Sikhs? For an attempt to write about the Sikhs the pen is oozing blood and tears of blood are coming through the eyes.
Nowadays, to smash the Sikhs, along with the genocide a long range policy has been cleverly adopted. It has been done by making most of our religious preachers and leaders ineffective and unquestionable tool for diverting our attention and funds towards the destructive projects of constructions and celebrations. When all other communities and states are run by “Brain Power”, our community has been gradually dragged down by the religious emotions and misleading slogans. We have been made so much addicted to celebrations with unwarranted lavish pomp and show that we have lost the vision to look beyond that.
In India, Sikhs and Muslims were the worst hit people. If we don’t have any plans for our community, at least we can observe and follow the strategy of the Muslims. How they are gaining power and favour from all corners and developing their community? The remarkable present situation is that the infamously known anti-Muslim party of BJP is competing with the Congress to woo the Muslims, and has dropped the agenda of construction of “Ram Mandir” at Ram Janam Bhumi of Ayodhiya. The BJP’s 10 points election manifesto, released on April 3, 2009, has clearly declared that, “On the Ram temple issue, the BJP must end confusion and continue with the position that it will respect the opinion of the courts”. Whereas the same BJP a collusion partner of the Akali Dal Government in Punjab is diluting, interfering in their religious places and philosophy for assimilating them into the Hindu fold.
Muslim think tank
On 6th to 9th May 2011, a 3 days National Conference on “Changes & Challenges in Education” was organized at Hyderabad. It was organized by Muslim Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (MESCO), Hyderabad, Confederation of Muslim Educational Institutions of India and many more Muslim educational institutions, participated by the Muslim educationists from all over the country. The grand inaugural function was held at the auditorium of Salar Jung Museum, followed by dinner. It was inaugurated by Justice M. S. A. Siddiqui, Chairman, National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, Government of India, presided by Mr. M. Naushad Ahmed, Chairman, Bihar State Minorities Commission, and the author of this article was one of the Special Guests. A picture of the function, showing Justice Siddiqui and the author holding the placard of inaugural of the conference is, at one side and Mr. Mr. Naushad holding the other side was prominently published in the news papers and T. V. channels telecasted the event. The author was honored to speak on the inaugural function and also on the following day at the Plenary Session – 1, on the theme of “Primary Education & Minorities”.
Failure of the Sikhs on Educational Front
My purpose of quoting the above recent National Event is to draw the attention of the Sikh think tank towards the dire necessity of the need for educating the Sikhs at par with Muslim brethren. As per our tradition, we cannot expect each and every Sikh individual to become a missionary as Christian and Muslim individuals work, whereas most of our institutions do not have this attitude and aptitude to work on this pattern. For this purpose we have to train and prepare volunteers or paid workers to approach at the doorsteps of the individuals and institutions for motivating and helping them to get maximum Government benefits for achieving the targets and utilizing the Gurdwara platforms for spreading this message. We have to admire, appreciate and follow the longstanding planning, gradual efforts and framing the policies for economic and educational transformation of the fortune of the Muslim community from underdogs to the forthcoming administrative rulers and King Makers of the Indian Nation. For instance this year 2011, 26 Muslim candidates are selected for Civil Services (I.A.S.) among them 3 are girls.
Let us frankly introspect, whether we have really failed on educational front? First of all, let us take Sikh Educational Institutions. How many of these know what the Minority Status is and what are the benefits which could be availed of? Among a very few in Punjab, Association of Un-aided Sikh Minority Medical & Dental Institutions is working to some extent, but Vahiguru only knows till what date they can continue to avail the status? As minority status of the Sikhs is being challenged due to their slight majority population in the state of Punjab.
Let us analyze what for even the two sections of Hindus that is Jains and Rama Krishna Mission were claiming the minority community status? And a large section of the majority community of Hindus is claiming and availing the linguistic minority status in almost all states of the country. Whereas the Sikhs have been granted the status, but why they are ignoring to avail the benefits?
The Jains are the most prosperous business community with 84.1% literacy rate on the top of the country and holding the key positions in all Governmental organizations. On the other hand; the Sikhs are at 4th position with 62.16% literacy rate in the country. And still lower in Punjab with 58.67%, again at 4th position after the Jains 86.10%, Hindus 4.79% and Buddhists 62.94%. This data is according to the Government of India Census figures of 2001 which can be relied upon. The data of the year 2011 is yet to be tabulated. From the beginning, the Jains are pleading to be declared as minority community at par with Buddhists and Sikhs. But only in the year 2011, they were declared as Minority Community of Andhra Pradesh and still pursuing to get included at all India level.
Interestingly here is a story of “Ramakrishnaism” the champions and preachers of Hinduism, who struggled for more than half a decade to get the minority status. Do you know that the Rama Krishna Mission had declared themselves to be non-Hindus and asked for Minority status since 1980? The Rama Krishna Mission, Kolkata, represented to the Government of Bengal to accord Minority Status for their educational institutions, but failed. When they approached the Kolkata High Court, it gave ruling in 1987 that the Ramakrishna Mission is a non-Hindu religious minority, in spite of all the arguments to the contrary offered by the Hindus. On July 2nd, 1995, the Supreme Court of India declared that neither Sri Ramakrishna nor Swami Vivekananda founded any independent, non-Hindu religion. This ended the lengthy struggle of RK Mission’s claim to gain the privileges accorded only to minority religions in India.
Minority status Certificate for Institutions
Any educational institution intending to avail minority benefits needs to obtain Minority Status Certificate. Generally the State Governments do not issue the certificate conveniently and cannot come out of Red Tapism. Hence the Government of India has established a “National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, having its office at Gate No.4, 1st floor, Jeevan Tara Building, 5, Sansad Marg, Patel Chowk, New Delhi-110001. Apart from other functions of safeguarding the rights of education of minorities, it has the powers to issue Minority Status Certificates for the educational institutions. The present chairman, Justice M. S. A. Siddiqui has promised that in case of any grievance, he may be approached to get the certificate issued without any hindrance.
How to Recoup the Loss
The Christian and Muslim institutions apart from their management have constituted team of experts to get acquainted and update them in the matters of Government Schemes and appoint staff to follow-up. As such their institutions and individuals are the largest beneficiaries of the schemes. They acquire the funds from the Government and public and spend on their people and make money out of those prestigious institutions.
Strangely, most of the Sikh charitable institutions such as dispensaries, hospitals and educational institutions etc., are established and run by the donations of the Sikhs for the benefit of other people in the name of Sarbat Da Bhala. Let us learn the strategy of the other communities, how to deliver the benefits to our people and make sure to get elevated from the disgraceful 4th position of literacy to a higher position.
I would like to draw the attention of the leaders of our institutions towards a simple and basic point. Whatever business they may be doing, definitely they were not aware about it earlier. But they have entered into it, employed skilled staff and got acquainted and gained mastery. In similar way, why we should not “Hire the Brains” for running our institutions? Under the present system of governance of our institutions, every body is loaded with heavy work and we appreciate their efforts. There is a need of appointing a correspondent or P.R.O. (public relations officer) to look after the interests of the institutions and spread awareness among the students. Another important step should be taken to hold annual conference of the Sikh educational institutions for spreading awareness and to deliberate the confronting issues with open invitation to the institutions and interested individuals from every nook and corner of the country.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2012, All