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Something Burning

Jan 7, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
source: Something Burning :

OUTLOOKINDIA Magazine| Jun 08, 2009

punjab: deras

Something Burning

Sikh reactionaries and Dalit dera followers range themselves across an age-old divide


A Pot Simmers

  • [*]The shooting of Dera patriarchs in a Vienna gurudwara saw Dalit Sikhs vent their anger in Punjab

    [*]The Dalits in Punjab are attracted to Deras as they are shown respect

    [*]Conservative Sikhs find Dera heads declaring themselves as the guru objectionable

    [*]Intelligence points to radical pro-Khalistan groups recruiting and indoctrinating Sikhs in Europe and Canada. Their strategy is to mobilise upper-caste Sikhs against Dalits.
True to the strong diasporic element in the Sikh community, it took a shootout in a Vienna gurudwara to open up a new cleavage in Punjab’s socio-religious fabric—or rather, to bring a simmering discord to full boil. The May 24 shootout led to an intense eruption of Dalit Sikh fury in Punjab: in the end, three people were dead, over 100 injured, property worth crores destroyed. For three days, Punjab came to a standstill, curfew was declared in four towns. Most disturbingly, the ‘Khalistan’ word was heard again in popular discourse. What does this portend for the future? Can the reported involvement of a terrorist organisation called the Khalistan Zindabad Force embolden other radical Sikh bodies to conduct similar attacks with the ultimate aim of reviving terrorism in Punjab? Radical Sikhs in Punjab have for long been at loggerheads with numerous deras over their theology and forms of worship. Conservative Sikhs cannot stomach the concept of living gurus—propagated by dera heads who project themselves as the guru. This is because the founder of the Khalsa Panth, the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh, decreed that after him the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, will be considered the guru and guiding force for all Sikhs. To protect them from attacks by radical Sikhs, leaders of prominent deras have been provided security by the Punjab government. What could not be attempted in Punjab was done in Austria, among the Sikh diaspora, where tensions on sectarian issues tend to run deep.

Sant Niranjan Dass recovers in Vienna

According to reports from Vienna, Niranjan Dass, head of Dera Sachkhand, in Ballan village near Jalandhar (which follows the teachings of the 14th century saint Ravidass, born as an untouchable), and his deputy Rama Nand were conducting a prayer ceremony at a newly built gurudwara of their sect on Rudolphsheim Street. An older gurudwara in the neighbourhood, controlled by radical Sikhs who still support the Khalistan movement, had warned Niranjan Dass against disrespecting the holy book by projecting himself as the guru. When the Ravidassias continued with their ceremony, five Jat Sikh youth burst into the premises and shot at both the visiting preachers. Rama Nand succumbed to his injuries and Niranjan Dass is recuperating in hospital. As news reached home, Dalit followers of the sect in Punjab and Haryana erupted in fury.
In recent years, intelligence agencies in Punjab who keep an eye on former Khalistanis have been reporting on the latter’s attempts to revive the movement. They keep an eye out for disaffected youth amongst the migrant Sikhs settled in Europe and North America who they seek to recruit and indoctrinate. The drive against the deras has given fundamentalist Sikhs a solid foothold to resurrect themselves in Punjab and abroad. So far the average Punjabi’s aversion to any kind of extremism which harks back to the dark days of terrorism has stalled their efforts. This rejection of violence has forced even former Khalistanis to change strategy. Kanwarpal Singh of the Dal Khalsa told Outlook, "We will always oppose violation of the Sikh model code of conduct by deras but believe in making our point through peaceful means." As political scientist and Punjab watcher P.S.Verma puts it, "Even if the hand of extremists is proved in the Vienna shootout, it is unlikely to find support from radical Sikh organisations in Punjab, who are more in tune with the ground reality back home."
At another level, the numerical clout of the Dalits in Punjab and their assertion of identity will force political parties to take note and give them more space. Dalits comprise around 29 per cent of Punjab’s population; in the Doaba region they are 40 per cent strong. This is why the ruling Akali Dal rushed to express solidarity with followers of Dera Sachkhand and announced a Punjab bandh. Elaborating on this, Prof Verma says, "The notion that Jat Sikhs are the dominant community in Punjab has to change. Numerically, Dalits command as much influence. Though in the last two decades they have grown in prosperity and are not prepared to suffer upper-caste hegemony anymore, the landed Jat Sikhs still dominate economically, and this rankles."
Ronki Ram, head of Punjab University’s political science department, has researched the phenomenon. He says: "So far Dalits in both Punjab and Haryana have been politically divided. But now there is an undercurrent of Dalit consolidation, as seen by the rise in BSP voteshare. In Punjab it increased to 5.4 per cent, whereas in Haryana the BSP trebled its voteshare from 5.8 per cent to almost 16 per cent. Deras like Sachkhand have chiseled Dalit identity in the last few years and emboldened them to assert themselves. I would say Dalits in Punjab have come of age."


Apr 4, 2005
I don't understand why this media is converting this issue into Dalit vs jats.Just because the sants are Dalits it does not mean that attack on them happened because they are Dalits.Dera sacha sauda head is jat and Some other Dera's are too headed by upper caste Persons and they too are not acceptable too
mainstream sikhism

I think to counter this propaganda next Akal takhat Jathedar or SGPC head should be a Dalit sikh

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
The BEAS Gurus have always been JATTS....and they are the largest group...and MOST of their Followers are DALITS. The Sirsa baba Ram rahim is also a Jatt and ALL his followers are also DALITS.

The Media always have their own spin on things...or they INVENT one if needed.

Another interesting thing is discovered...
The Blacks were under apartheid....suffered for nearly 100 years as slaves in USA...etc but the Black-White Conflict never brought JESUS/Christianity into the equation... Neither Black nor White ever blamed Jesus..or christian these conflicts jatts, dalits, guru nanak, sikhs, sggs etc always come in....I searched through teh archives and enver came across one report which said..
Christians burn CHURCH...when the WHITE (christians) burnt a Black Church (Christians)..but in the Vienna case it was SIKHS CLASH and Kill SIKH GURU.....all the Ireland reports also avoid the christianity of BOTH sides....sad but true...

Tejwant Singh

Jun 30, 2004
Henderson, NV.
Sant Niranjan Dass seems to have a joora (Kesh) and uncut beard and he wears a pug. Does anyone know why doesn't he call himself Niranjan Singh? Why look like a Sikh when you call yourself with a Hindu name?

Tejwant Singh

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
Tejwant Ji,

Because he is NOT a SIKH. The BEAS Gurus also wear smart dastaars, have long flowing beards...
SIKHISM is the only religion in which people TRY and LOOK like Sikhs, Behave like SIKHS..BUT are NOT SIKHS and DONT want to be called SIKHS. IMHO..THAT is a TACIT ADMISSION on their part that LOOKING LIKE A ...... JUST GREAT !! SIKH IS KING... NO other SROOP LOOKS GRAND and Only a SIKH SROOP CAN...!!!!!
On the other hand we also have.....
Others..who DONT look like SIKHS..dotn want the discipline, the dastaar, the kesh etc BUT INSIST..we are SIKHS !!
BUT IMHO..all this is still long as they all leep the PEACE and not be like the Talibans..after all being a SIKH is every humans Fundamental RIGHT..and being a SINGH is CHOICE !! No body can force anyone else to be a SINGH...and Shoudlnt judge or try to do that. ( IK Oangkars job )

There is another such Baba that I met recently..He is the Environmentalsit baba...Baba Seechewaal Balbir Singh....this one has the Dastaar..and Name SINGH..But he wears a CHOLA that is ORANGE in colour and wrapped like the SADHUS do....and he doesnt use the WAHEGURU JI KA KHALSA FATEH to addresss ...He has his DERa on the Bein River and has done a marvellous job of cleaning it up, beautifying it, planting trees etc in Sultanpur Lodhi and nearby areas of GURU NANAK Jis hometown. Thsi River into which Guru Ji si said to have disappeared for three days..was dirty its waters are pristine and the walls are solid...and have walks and paths etc and lots of trees...:ice:


Jun 13, 2006
Gyani Ji

I must say though. Another post of yours had me thinking. I have been hearing about caste for decades, and being told that we should keep quiet about it and it is on its way out. That it is an "older generation" thing etc. etc. But fast forward decades later, what do I find? Like you, I found find that no actually, it hasn't gone, in fact it is getting stronger!

And the people who were telling us to be quiet about it, saying it will go away are the ones who have secretly been promoting it! I remember Sikh society meetings at uni many many years ago...the caste issue was stifled. Those same people were subsequently found to highly caste discrimantory.

After reading your thread on another post, saying that you too were told by your elders that it will disappear, I realise this thing is not going to go unless robustly attacked. I know India will make full capital out of this, when have they ever not fished in murky waters in the Panjab?

Despite this people have to accept that not nearly enough has been done to combat caste. Any opportunity we get to do that, we should take, because the vast number of surreptitious caste promoters are deeply entrenched and are adamant that they will not change - whatever the fate of the panth! It used to be that the future of Panjab was related to Sikhi, now a number of reasons, including caste, have made this questionable.

YouTube - Sikhs in India Untouched (in Punjab) - The Movie - Part 7

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