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Blind Republic

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by Archived_Member16, Jul 28, 2008.

  1. Archived_Member16

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    Jan 7, 2005
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    Blind Republic
    By: Saurabh Kapoor
    July 28, 2008

    In the dead of the night, a blind man carrying a lantern bumped into another visually impaired gentleman clutching a lantern. Dazed by the incident the bloke shouted at his perpetrator: “Are you blind or something, even with all this light you can’t see me.”

    “YOU must be blind. Can’t you see this lantern in my hand,” retorted the other, anguished at the ignorance of his fellow being.

    This is precisely what is happening in Punjab these days. Herds of senseless blind men accusing each other of being sightless and flashing their respective lanterns have held the state to ransom.

    The Sikhs today are a divided house. How can, otherwise, a God-fearing Sikh ever explain existence of separate Gurudwaras for Dalits Sikhs? How can a true follower of the ten Gurus, who would disallow sangat(religious congregation) before pangat (community meal) to all their followers, recognize the fact that caste divisions exist in their religion and accept reservations to Dalit Sikhs?

    Harijan Sikhs or the Mazhabi Sikhs in Punjab form more than 30% of the state’s population. 80% of them stay in villages. So villages in Punjab are predominantly Dalit but are controlled by affluent Jat Sikhs. In sooth, the economy, politics, culture of the state is dominated by this powerful landowning class- the Jat Sikhs.

    This is one of the major reasons behind mushrooming of around 9,000 deras in the state. Over three-fourth of the state’s population visits these deras. With their back against the wall the marginalized searched for separate cultural space in Punjab. It all started as a battle for self-respect and now the Sikh clergy see it as a threat to their religion.

    They are a threat because they are asserting themselves politically, something the upper caste Sikhs can’t stand.

    In recent times these deras put together have been used as a politico-religious tool by the Congress to counter SGPC support to the Akali Dal. (DSS with its 40 lakh followers supported Congress in the recent elections and helped it bag around 12 seats in Aklai dominated Malwa region.)

    But calling for the closure of these deras is not a workable solution. The problem is not the existence of these deras but the reasons behind their inception and the support they enjoy.

    Social boycott is not the answer, in fact, it’s a pointer towards the real problem and that is the explosive divisions in Punjabi society; the deep-rooted social, economic and caste inequalities.

    Few years ago there was another insult to Guru Gobind Singh that had infuriated the Jat Sikhs in Punjab. In the sleepy village of Bhail in Taran Taran district, the Mazhabi Sikhs took out a procession to mark the birthday of the 10th Guru.

    Traditionally the procession had been taken out by Jat Gurudwaras, four of them in the area taking turns to do so. But when Mazhabi Sikhs, who had built a Gurudwara of their own in the village, collected Rs 10,000 and expressed desire to take out a procession from their mud-floored Gurudwara, the Jats were outraged. It was an open challenge to the supremacy of Jat zamidars.

    The procession went ahead in defiance and retaliation followed soon. Armed with sticks the Jats prevented the Mazhabis from entering their fields for three days.

    60-year-old Hazara Singh was prevented from cremating his 22-year old daughter Binder at the village cremation ground. A dejected Hazara dumped the body into the river around 5 kms away from his village lugging it with two sacks of mud.

    More cremations were denied and the Mazabis were asked to build a separate cremation ground.

    A similar call for social boycott of the Dalits was given by the Jat Sikhs of Talhan near Jalandhar in 2003. Dalit Sikhs sought representation in the management of the Gurudwara at Talhan but were refused the same by local Sikh clergy. Clashes followed the decision and curfew had to be imposed to control the situation.

    People outside don’t identify Punjab with such incidents. To a simple mind these tales don’t happen in the prosperous land of five rivers. The truth is that the manifestation of caste division in the Punjab society is not Brahmanical. It is incredible though that a society where Brahmins have been immensely marginalized and are even a subject of ridicule, still retains its Brahmnical character.

    The Jats have always tried to culturally, socially, economically and politically marginalize the rest in Punjab. The movies, songs glorify them and not a Punjabi. Sikh politicians represent them and guard their interests in the name of the entire Sikh community.

    But times in Punjab are changing and they are changing fast.

    The Daltis in Punjab are looking for total emancipation. Immigration gave them economic independence and social status back home and now deras that earlier gave them spiritual solace are giving them political boldness.

    Someone who otherwise would have worked for less than Rs 100 per day as a farm labourer in Punjab now earns over a lakh per month after immigrating illegally and looks a Jat, known for their stiff upper lips, in the eye when he meets him abroad or in his village.

    Deras now hold sway over huge chunk of Punjab population and also pocket a much of the offerings in the state. This has made them precious for politicians in the state who come running for support turning these religious assemblies in political pressure groups.

    So, is Sikhi under threat? Yes, it is. There is a threat for sure but it is from within. The Sikh society is as casteist as the Hindu society. Sikhs cannot just wish away this reality by shouting from roof-tops that Sikhi is in danger, where the only danger that exists is to the interest of the affluent landowners of Punjab.

    More than eyesight, Punjabis today need commonsense to see the writing on the wall. But then again, there are none so blind than those who will not see.

    source: Zee News - saurabh sinha blind republic
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