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Gur Panth Parkash

Gur Panth Parkash
by Rattan Singh Bhangoo
Translated by
Prof Kulwant Singh

 

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Article 25 Deprives Sikhs of their Right to Religion

Santokh Singh

The draft Constitution of India was not signed by Sikh representatives of Constituent Assembly under protest. They were of the confirmed view that Article 25 of Constitution was anti-Sikh. Legal experts interpreted Article 25 with different opinions. Rulers did not take any measure to accept the independence of Sikh religion in the Constitution of India. The Hindu Laws were made applicable to Sikhs by virtue of legal authority vested in Article 25. Even a very moderate and progressive politician like Sardar Parkash Singh Badal protested against Article 25. He adopted democratic method of protest and publicly burnt the anti-Sikh portion of Constitution. The rulers did not relent. Instead of caring for Sikh identity and Sikh sentiments, and setting up a commission to find out the truth about Article 25, vast propaganda was spread against Sikhs, blaming them as anti-nationals. Thus secularism and democracy were suppressed under authoritarianism.

The National Commission to Review the working of the Constitution was set up vide Government Resolution dated 22.2.2000. The terms of reference stated that the Commission shall examine, in the light of the experience of the past 50 years, as to how best the Constitution can respond to the changing needs of efficient, smooth and effective system of governance and socio-economic development of modern India within the framework of Parliamentary Democracy, and to recommend changes, if any, that are required in the provision of the Constitution without interfering with its basic structure and features. The NCRWC was headed by Chief Justice M.N. Venkata Chaliah and consisted of 11 eminent persons of the country including Justice R.S. Sarkaria, Justice Jeevan Reddy, Mr Soli Sorabjee, Parasaran etc. This Commission accepted the Sikh view and made recommendation in its Report (Para 3.23.2), for amendment of Article 25 of the Constitution of India. The recommendation is for omitting Explanation II to Article 25, which currently reads: Explanation II – In sub clause (b) of clause (2) the reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jain and Buddhist religions. It is this part of Article 25 which makes Sikhism a part of Hinduism, denies independent status and identity to Sikhism and authorizes the legislation to make Hindu Laws applicable to Sikhs. The recommendation of NCRWC has been lying with the Government of India for about a decade. So long as this recommendation is not accepted, Sikhs are Keshadhari Hindus, a sect of Hinduism having no independent religion.

Though Sikhs made efforts to get Article 25 amended but no body came forward to enlighten the Sikhs about the problems created by Article 25. Since there are no Sikh personal laws, so a person cannot inherit property in India by claiming to be a Sikh. He will have to declare himself as Hindu, then and only then he can inherit the property under Hindu Succession Act. A Sikh cannot have Income Tax benefit without declaring himself as Hindu, and a member of Hindu Joint Family. Law does not recognize any Sikh joint family. Similar are the cases of minority and guardianship, marriage and divorce, adoptions and maintenance etc.

Though a high powered Commission like NCRWC recommended the amendment of Article 25, but still Article 25 remained ambiguous and there was lot of propaganda that Article 25 does not harm Sikhism and it gives the right to Sikhs to wear Kirpan. This right is merely on paper and for the sake of propaganda. Sardar Simranjit Singh Mann who won election with unprecedented majority, was refused entry to the Parliament, because he was wearing a Kirpan. Constitution should be respected in letter and spirit and rules should not over ride the Constitution. This proved world famous German sociologist Karl Monhiem’s observation right, that, there is vast difference in Indian theory and practice.

On 8-8-2005 ambiguity of Article 25 was cleared by an eleven member bench of Supreme Court of India, headed by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India observed that Sikhism is a part of wider Hindu community. Supreme Court is the highest authority to interpret law and the interpretation of Supreme Court is binding for all legal purposes. Supreme Court’s observation has made it crystal clear that as per Indian Constitution, Sikhism is part of Hinduism and not an independent religion. Sikhism fulfills all conditions of an independent religion as required under international law, political science and sociology. Sikhs have their own revealed scripture, culture, language, society, social customs, separate attire and way of life. Constitutions are framed to safeguard the interests of minorities, but Indian Constitution exterminates Sikhism and assimilates it into Hindu fold. Sikhism is spiritually nearer to Islam and Christianity. Like Muslims and Christians, Sikhs believe in one and only one God, equality of human race and service of weak. Hinduism practises worship of millions of gods and caste system (superior and inferior humans). There is no rational, logic or reason to classify Sikhs as Hindus. There was no discussion, debate or concurrence of the Sikhs to classify them as Hindu in Indian Constitution. Rather Sikhs were kept in dark about the intention of the rulers to slowly exterminate and assimilate Sikhism into Hindu fold. Are we proud of such secularism?

After Supreme Court’s observation on 8-8-05 that Sikhs are part of wider Hindu Community, the Institute of Sikh Studies, an organization of Sikh intellectuals, scholars thinkers and academicians took it very seriously. A meeting in the office of IOSS was held on 10-9-2005. Sikh organizations and Gurdwaras participated. Meeting was chaired by the late Giani Harinder Singh, President Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha. Lt General Kartar Singh, Sardar Gurdev Singh IAS, Dr Kharak Singh, Major Karnail Singh participated. IOSS continued efforts to get Article 25 amended. Sardar Santokh Singh wrote articles on Article 25 which were published in magazines having international circulation. IOSS appointed a sub-committee headed by S Santokh Singh to pursue the issue vigorously.

Sardar Pritam Singh the then President of IOSS did a commendable research work. He is a mild Sikh, retired IAS officer who was selected as advisor to Governor during eighties. His source is Third Word Quarterly, Vol 26 no 6 (2005) pp 909-926 published by Taylor and Francis, Ltd. He writes that secularism of Indian Constitution is Hindu-tainted, Article 25 (2) (b) fundamentally undermines the secular character of the State in favour of Hindus. Explanation II (Article 25 (2) reflects a Hindu assimilationist perspective towards the Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists in India. All these three religious communities have, in varying degrees and at different points in time, protested against this section of the Constitution.

Sardarni Dr Birendra Kaur, Executive Member, IOSS filed a civil court Petition No 18634 / 2011 under public interest litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court for declaration of use of term Hindu as a religion as an expression in Hindu succession Act, Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu adoption and Maintenance Act to be ultra vires of the Constitution of India as the same infringes on the fundamental rights of the members of the other religious communities Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. High Court has not accepted the plea and has mainly depended on Article 25. The case was argued with logic and reasoning, but the court has reminded the counsel for the petitioner to revisit; inter alia, explanation II to Article 25 of the Constitution. So Explanation II to Article 25 does not allow the Sikhs an independent religious status.

Legal experts are trained to act and work as per provision of law. In rare cases advocates like Sir Chhotoo Ram examine the law and take vow to get the unjust law amended.

Sikh intellectuals, scholars, academicians, politicians and religious leaders are to cogitate on the issue that Article 25 legally exterminates Sikhism and assimilates it into Hindu fold. After understanding it properly Sikh masses should be enlightened. Sikhs inherit property under Hindu succession Act. This means that since there is no Sikhs Succession Act, Sikhs have to accept that they are Hindus, and then become entitled to inherit property under Hindu succession Act. Similar condition in case of others Hindus laws are applicable to Sikhs. So long as Article 25 is not amended, Sikhs cannot have their personal law. Sikh Personal Law can only be enacted if Article 25 is amended. This amendment will certainly strengthen Indian secularism.

Sardar Daljit Singh, Professor of Law and Principal, Khalsa College, Amritsar has given his opinion (HT 26-4-2012) that Union Cabinet’s decision to amend the Anand Marriage Act to include the provision for registration of marriage might not prove to be a blessing for the Sikh community. The laudatory statements by political leaders and others about the center’s move are baseless and misleading in view of lack of proper knowledge regarding the subject. The applicability of the Hindu Marriage Act to Sikh marriages will not cease by simply making the registration provision in the Anand Marriage Act. If the Central or State Governments are really concerned about fulfilling the Sikh demand for a separate personal law, it should enact laws for community relating to marriage and divorce, adoption, maintenance, minority, guardianship and succession. It is only when such Acts are enacted that the Sikh community can feel elated to have its own personal laws, paving the way for the establishment of an independent identity.

The Sikh Personal Laws cannot be enacted till Sikhs are Hindus. Since Muslims, Christians and Parsis are not Hindus, they have their own Personal Law. It is only after omitting of Explanation II to Article 25, that the Sikh would cease to be Hindus and then they can have their Personal Law. It is the duty of the Sikh and secular intellectuals, politicians and social workers to enlighten the Sikh masses, that they are at present classified as Hindus for all legal purposes. Suitable amendment of Article 25 will strengthen India’s democracy, nationalism and secularism.

Sikhs are intelligent, hardworking and committed to work culture. Their religion is very progressive and has scientific approach. Their religion provides for eradication of illiteracy, ignorance, superstition. They do not want any favour from any quarter and are only interested in their legitimate rights.

Sikhism is the only religion having revealed scripture in original form. Sikh Prophet in Sikh scripture categorically declares that Sikhs are not Hindus. The Prophet (Guru) of a religion has the right to define the religion. Politicians have neither any right nor jurisdiction to define or classify a religion against the WILL and proclamation of the Prophet. So Sikhs have been wrongly classified as Hindus in Indian Constitution. Article 25 is based on the version of Arya Samaj which is totally wrong. Suitable correction is essential required. Constitution has already been amended about hundred times. Let Article 25 be amended to preserve the secular credentials of India.

Let the issue of Article 25 be discussed and debated on how the Sikhs are not Hindus. This issue should not be communalized. Basically this is a religious issue of human rights of a minority community in a country which claims to be secular and is a signatory to Human Rights Charter of UNO. Sikhs should depend on logic and reasoning and seek support from peace loving, democratic minded and secular people all over the globe and maintain very cordial relations with all communities, particularly with Hindus.

IOSS is of the confirmed belief that Article 25 exterminate Sikhism, so this organization is making vigorous efforts (within its means) to get Article 25 amended as recommended by the high powered Constitution Review Committee. International Sikh Confederation and Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha are also actively supporting IOSS. Let all Sikh organizations take part for accomplishing this noble cause. No sentimental approach. Sikh organizations and individuals should cogitate on the issue and devise such democratic means, which should strengthen secularism and communal harmony. Secular and Sikh members of Parliament may raise questions “How Sikhs are Hindus, when Sikh scripture categorically declares that Sikhs are neither Hindu nor Muslim?” “How Sikhs have been classified as Hindus under Constitution of India and Hindu laws have been made applicable to Sikhs, when these Hindu laws are not applicable to Muslims, Christians and Parsis?” “Britishers recognized Sikhs as a Nation and invited them as a party at the time of transfer of power, then who has made Sikh a part of wider Hindu community, after 15-8-1947?” “Sikhs sided with India at the time of partition. This caused the death of lacs of Sikhs. Sikhs lost their fertile canal irrigated lands and flourishing business for upholding secularism. How Sikhs have been denied their independent State and Sikh identity?” “How Sikhs have been made part of wider Hindu Community?”

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ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2012, All rights reserved.