ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE SEMINAR THEME: PROBLEMS, CONCERNS AND ASPIRATIONS OF SIKHS LIVING OUTSIDE PUNJAB IN INDIA
Pritam Singh (Kohli),
President, Institute of Sikh Studies, Chd
The main objective of the Seminar is:
- To take stock of the problems, concerns and aspirations of the Sikh community living as a minority community in states other than Punjab, and
- To devise effective remedial measures in terms .of education and empowerment to enable them to avail of all the benefits under various programs for the minority community.
The analytical framework developed for the Seminar theme is outlined as below:
Sikhism is no longer either ethnicity or region bound, though the homeland of Sikhism will always remain Punjab. There are Sikhs of various ethnicities within India apart from Sikhs living abroad and coming from the ethnicities of USA, Canada, Latin America, etc. We have now, for example Deccani, Bihari and Assamese Sikhs i.e., those Sikhs in some of the states whose native ancestors embraced Sikhism during the Guru Period or the Maharaja Ranjit Singh period. Then there are, insubstantial strength, Sikligars, Vanjaras etc. in number of states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra etc. who profess to follow the Sikh faith. Again, there are Sikhs in states other than Punjab who migrated to those states for Transport and other types of business before or after 1947 -partition.
Thus Sikh community is now trans-sub-regional within India and trans-national at the global level.
The various issues arising from the problems, concerns and aspirations of the Sikhs of different ethnicities and living in different regions of India can be classified under four broad categories: .
1. Sikhs and State interaction issues;
2. Ethno-sociological issues;
3. Impact of political developments in Punjab for Sikhs of other states;
4. Religious, cultural, socio-economic problems, political participation, education and empowerment issues relating to Sikligars, Vanjaras.
1. Sikhs and State Issues:
- Grant of minority status to the Sikhs 'of various categories;
- Setting up of State minority Commission and appointment of a Sikh as its member;
- The role played by the State Minority Commission and particularly the Sikh member in addressing the problems and concerns of the Sikhs in each state;
- Issues relating to availing of benefits from the PM's program far the minorities; and
- Arrangements far the collective representation of Sikhs; need far setting up of an effective organization an the pattern of Gujarat far example.
2. Ethno-sociological issues may include:
i. Perceptions about each other amongst Sikhs of various ethnicities within a State i.e. Sikhs of Punjabi origin and Sikhs of Bihari / Assamese origin. There is a lat of literature produced by the Western social anthropology scholars like Dusenberry an such issues far the Diaspora Sikh community settled in USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore and south eastern Asian countries, pointing out mutual misunderstandings between Sikhs of Punjabi origin and the native Sikh converts in same of these countries.
We don't have much of literature in the Indian context. There are reports that Sikhs of Punjabi origin have law opinion about the indigenous Sikhs in some of the states with disastrous consequences. We must design the remedial measures and programs to address this problem wherever it exists.
ii. Perceptions of the local majority community about Sikhs of that area or of Punjab and changes in those perceptions across the different regions and aver time. Much of the literature on this aspect is essentially Punjab-centered and not much has been written in trans-Punjab context. In same cases, there have been marked shifts in such perception. An Example: Contrast in R.N. Tagore's earlier poems on Guru Gobind Singh Ji with his later ones. We should locate scholars from the majority community who hold favorable perceptions about Sikh history, culture and religion and promote the circulation of their writings.
3. Impact of political development in Punjab"on Sikhs of other states:
i. Attitude of state security agencies and of majority community past-1984 genocide towards the Sikh community settled in that state.
ii. Adverse implications, if any, with regards to socio-economic issues far the Sikh community as a consequence of the political developments in Punjab.
4. Religious, cultural, socio-economic problems and political participation, education and empowerment issues relating to Sikligars, Vanjaras:
"The main .objective of Seminar on this sub-theme is to highlight the peculiar problems faced by these invisible communities and suggest measures to integrate them into the mainstream.
The Central Govt set up the National Commission on DENOTIFIED NOMADIC AND SEMI NOMADIC Tribes with the following terms of Reference:
a) To specify the economic interventions required far raising the living standards of Denotified, Nomadic and Semi Nomadic Tribes by asset creation and self-employment opportunities;
b) To recommend measures to utilize the existing channeling agencies set up far the economic development of SC/STs and OBCs far extending an economic development package to these groups, keeping in view their specific requirements;
c) Ta identify programmes required far their education, development and health; and
To make any other connected or incidental recommendation, that the Commission deems necessary.
We should try to get a copy of the Report sent by each of the state govts on the following questionnaire, particularly on study reports; suggestions and recommendations in respect of Sikligars and Vanjaras etc.
Questionnaire to seek information from States/UTS regarding Denotified Nomadic and Semi Nomadic Tribes
- Demographic Information
- List of the Communities and Criteria for Identification
- Information on Development and Welfare Measures
- Employment Opportunities
- Preservation and Promotion of Art, Culture and Heritage
- Political Participation
- Implementation Laws
- Suggestion and Recommendation
Theprevailing conditions of Sikligars/Vanjaras:
Living in precarious conditions, India's denotified and nomadic tribes are subject to maltreatment and abuse by all and sundry. Highlighting their subhuman existence, a convention held in the national capital brought together many of these floating communities to demand basic rights of food and shelter from the government.
They have no address, no landholdings, no citizenship documents - in fact, no identity proof of the usual sort available to other citizens. Their children remain out of school and the women struggle for dignity.
Even after 62 years of independence, a large section of the country's denotified tribes (DNTs) and communities continue to remain out of the census list, as they are not registered as primary residents. The last community-wise census of these tribes was done during the colonial rule in 1931.
Since then, only projections have been used to arrive at an estimate of their population. While some of these communities are classified as Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes (OBCs), others do not find. mention in any of these categories.
One of the major problems being faced by the DNTs is a continuing stigma of criminality attached to them, which has made them vulnerable to frequent police harassments merely on the grounds of suspicion. It is, therefore, necessary that they come out of this stigma and live a dignified life like the mainstream citizenry of the country.
Taking note of their socio-economic conditions and to suggest measures for their all round upliftment, a report by the National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi Nomadic Tribes was submitted to the prime minister last year.
This report observed that these communities across the country were seen dwelling in temporary shelters or tents on vacant lands. They had no permanent addresses and hence had got no land allocation for housing purpose.
With no proof of residence or property ownership certificates, they were not in a position to avail ration cards and had not been included in the BPL (below poverty line) list. They also faced a lot of trouble in getting the caste certificates and therefore no access to government welfare schemes.
"Illiteracy and lack of awareness have kept them away from the political arena." They remained the most marginalised, neglected, scattered and excluded from the society. Lack of identity and residential proofs do not allow them to come under the purview of various poverty alleviation programmes of the government.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that the issue of giving Constitutional protection and privileges to certain tribes, which were stigmatized by the British as criminal, is expected to come before the Cabinet soon.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has 'completed the examination' of the recommendations of the National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-nomadic Tribes, Singh has told an MP from Maharashtra.
"It is hoped that the matter will soon come before the Cabinet," the Prime Minister told Haribhau Rathod in a letter recently.
The Action Plan:
The social revolution promoted by the Sikh Gurus was based on the concept of an egalitarian society with emphasis on "Sarbat da Bhalla" and the special grace of Waheguru for those who take care of the lowliest: : Jithry Neech samalian, tithry Nadar ten Bakhshish"
In that place where the lowly are cared for
there, the Blessings of Your Glance of Grace rain down.
We also have Guru's assurance that "Jithry Jaaryryjagat mein, tithet har saaee (SGGS-P. 851) and their instruction that
"Jithry Jt?Yry bahryry, Bhalla kahryry. S urat S abad Likhaaeryry. (SGGS, p 566)
Wherver I go in this world, I see the Lord there.
In the world hereafter as well, the Lord, the True Judge Himself, is pervading and permeating everywhere.
Keeping in view these commandments of the Gurus, the following action plan is suggested to start with:
i. The Sikh organizations in some of the states have developed models for socioeconomic upliftment, education and empowerment of Sikligars etc., We need to collect information on the models being implemented in different States and then develop an integrated model comprising of all relevant components like land allocation, housing, health, employment, education and empowerment.
ii. Drafting of a suitable model constitution/regulations of NGOs at District and State levels for addressing the issues of and imparting education and empowerment to the Sikligars etc.
iii. Setting up of a Mother NGO on the lines of SOSVA to support the activities of the State level NGOs and to undertake liaison with State Govts and the concerned Ministries of the Central Govt.
iv. Organization of an annual consultation conclave with the state level NGOs by the lOSS, Chandigarh, for reviewing the problems and pr9gress in availing the benefits under the various programs by the Sikhs, especially Sikligars/Vanjaras, living as a minority community in various states.
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