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Caste Cutting: Clash Of Identities Dividing Sikhs

Jan 7, 2005
3,450
3,760
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
source: IBNLive : Caste cutting: Clash of identities dividing Sikhs : Print Page
Caste cutting: Clash of identities dividing Sikhs

CNN-IBN


CLASH OF FAITH: CNN-IBN debated on causes of a widening rift between mainstream Sikhism and deras.


Punjab remained on edge on Tuesday after protests by backward caste and Dalit members of the Dera Sach Akhand erupted across the state following an attack on the members of the sect in Vienna, Austria.

Niranjan Dass, leader of the Dera - a sect within Sikhism that comprise of backward castes and Dalits - who was reportedly attacked by upper caste Sikhs is now stated to be out of danger.

In an all-party meeting in Punjab, leaders condemned the attack on the Dera. But in a state with 29 per cent Dalits, reports say that Jatt Sikhs are still deeply prejudiced about lower castes.

This was manifested as recently as last year when violent clashes broke out between Sikhs and the followers of Dera Saccha Sauda, a sect headed by the controversial Baba Ram Rahim.

CNN-IBN debated on the causes of this widening rift between the mainstream Sikhism and the deras on Face the Nation. The panel comprised Professor of Sociology at Punjab University, Sherry Sabharwal; senior lawyer, Harvinder Singh Phoolka and Professor of Sociology, JNU, S S Jodhka.

Research shows that there has been a constant clash of faith between the institutionalised version of Sikhism and the various sects in Sikhism. Many feel that the Jatt Sikhs seem to monopolise the Gurudwara.

However, Phoolka – an upper-caste Sikh himself – vociferously denied there was a caste-based division among Sikhs. Though he agreed that class divide could be one of the reasons as economically-backward Sikhs weren't really "looked after" by the richer members of the community.

"There are some problems in the villages but that's mostly a class difference between farmer and labour communities. These deras are surfacing because Sikhs haven't been able to take care of the poor among them," he said.

CASTE IN THE SAME MOULD?
Jodhka, however, was more accepting of the problem. He said Punjab has had a history of caste-based differences and that was perhaps being manifested in the ferocious anger erupting now. "Caste is a part of life, that's evolved with it. Demographically, Punjab has changed a lot. It's a Sikh majority state where SCs are given quotas too.

Now, after the Green revolution, Dalits in Doaba region have moved from agrarian economies and are now prosperous. And these sects have evolved," he explained.
But then where lies the fault? Not with the institutionalised Sikhism for not being able to reach out to these groups? Jodhka said it was more to do with politicisation of various institutions. He also conceded that the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee – the premier Sikh body - has been taken over by dominant sections within the community namely Jatt Sikhs and Khatirs.

Importantly, the violence in Vienna has a nugget of history attached to it. A number of Sikh militants, Jodhka said, fled Punjab to seek refuge in Vienna. "There is no tension between Ravidasis and mainstream Sikhs. Ravidasis are confined to themselves. But here the diaspora is involved," he said, indicating that the feeling is more virulent among the diaspora.

Sherry Sabharwal said sectarianism was not a Sikh-specific issue but she admitted that casteism was a problem. "Also, the emergence of deras is not fragmentation of faith. It's more of plurality," she said.

But Phoolka insisted that it was not a caste-based problem, it was more a problem of non-inclusion. "Dalits who own land in villages are treated at par with the rich Sikhs. They go to the deras because of the facilities that they provide which mainstream Sikhs don't. Sikhs haven't looked after their poor," he said.

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST?
Jodhka pointed out that most deras in the state were dominated by the upper castes. "Ravidas dera is owned by Jatt Sikhs. There's no hostility between deras and Sikhs. Only a small incident happened with Dera Saccha Sauda . Otherwise there's been no clash," he said.

Phoolka said the problem is when the Dera chiefs start calling themselves gurus. "In 1978, Nirankari chief was called Guru Nanak Dev in a procession that was taken out in Punjab. That's what the Sikhs couldn't tolerate," he said.

But do the outward manifestations of identity – both the Sikhs and dera followers don turban and beard – lead to insecurity among the upper castes? Jodhka said most Ravidasis weren't Sikhs but listed as SC Hindus with the Government. Hence, he said the Vienna incident was not about identity clash or caste divide. He said it was done simply to induce disharmony between two sects.

Phoolka agreed that Sikhs were very sensitive about their identity especially if someone would want to project themselves as a guru. He said the deras were doing very well in Punjab and had a great "management plan to attract more people" as opposed to SGPC that was more interested in amassing property.

Sherry Sabharwal agreed that the root cause of the problem was that gurudwaras were losing out on supporters. "This is an emotional issue. If the Sikh tenets are being diluted in any way, the problem is how to do resolve it – why violence and not dialogue," he said.

All panelists agreed that the issues of sensitivity were very much a part of Sikh-dera existence but dialogue not violence was the only way to resolve it.

SMS/Web Poll: Is Sikhism being torn apart by caste divide?
Yes: 92 per cent
No: 8 per cent





 

dalsingh

SPNer
Jun 13, 2006
1,064
233
London
He said the deras were doing very well in Punjab and had a great "management plan to attract more people" as opposed to SGPC that was more interested in amassing property.
Never a truer word spoken......
 

kds1980

SPNer
Apr 4, 2005
4,502
2,742
40
INDIA
I myself has seen this programme and to be honest I did not like it.The anchor was asking several times why,why like why sikhs feel offended when someone calls himself guru.She should know that Religions
sometimes don't have answers especially in Public.There is voilence in India several times if cows are found killed why she don't ask questions why cow is special for hindu's or why pork is haraam for muslims.

Also I think Phoolka and jodhka were not able to defend sikhism in much appropriate way.Phoolka was still giving Answers but Jodhka was unable to answer hardly any question
 

spnadmin

1947-2014 (Archived)
SPNer
Jun 17, 2004
14,500
19,206
kdsji

I also think that if a person is a news broadcaster and is interviewing about this subject that he/she should do some advance preparation and know the answer to some of those questions. This is called dumbing down the interview.
 

kds1980

SPNer
Apr 4, 2005
4,502
2,742
40
INDIA
kdsji

I also think that if a person is a news broadcaster and is interviewing about this subject that he/she should do some advance preparation and know the answer to some of those questions. This is called dumbing down the interview.
Antonia ji

The anchor of that programme was Sagarika ghosh.She is not an ordinary Anchor but an expert on poltical issues.She was also part of CNN-IBN's special programme on Elections with best experts.So I think she was trying to be add some spice in programme and make it more interesting for her viwers mainly who are non sikhs.
 

spnadmin

1947-2014 (Archived)
SPNer
Jun 17, 2004
14,500
19,206
kds ji

You are probably right. You usually are. The strategy leaves me cold. I think it is a waste of time and energy when they do that same thing here. That is what my reaction is based on - US news anchors. Either the anchor knows the answer to the question and he/she keeps on asking it. Or the anchor is unprepared and keeps asking the same question over and over. At the end, I become very impatient because the interview needs to move on.
 

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