I have been trying to find out what exactly happened in the Ravi Das Gurdwara in Vienna, but neither I nor the people charged to do this by a meeting at the Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Southall succeeded in this. It is clear that people were wounded and killed, but it is not clear whether the ‘men of violence’ were Sikhs, Ravidas panthis or both.
Babé, our common problem
The baba involved is controversial amongst the followers of Ravidas. I heard that the majority of the Ravidas Gurdwaré in the UK do not like this baba (which of course is no excuse for killing or wounding him or his cronies).
We have to recognise that we have common problems. Fake holy men can be found amongst all traditions in South Asia, even amongst Muslims in West Panjab or amongst Syrian Christians of Kerala.
I do not want to start a rant about sants, but I do think that Ravi Das panthis and Sikhs of good will should join forces and take a stand against the plague of the fake saints.
Caste, the scourge of the sub-continent
I was disappointed by most of the Sikh reactionsto the news from Vienna. It is true that a Ravidas Gurdwara is not a mainstream Sikh place of worship, and caste is not part of the teachings of the Sikh Gurus. But Sikhs do not fully realise that Ravidas is part of the Sikh Guru and do not want to admit that caste still plays an important negative part in the ‘Sikh’ community.
Caste in some shape or form is practiced amongst followers of almost all religious traditions on the subcontinent. Many of our brothers and sisters of Panjabi background fail to translate ‘seeing God’s presence in all’ in treating all as equals.
Equality is also a problem in the UK, where we struggle with the legacy of its rigid class structures and with the present situation where many people are doing quite well, but where there is a growing ‘underclass’.
Sikhs, in the light of Guru’s teachings, should see people of low caste, from sink estates, gipsies and travellers or any other group as their sisters and brothers.
If we really practice this we will become better Sikhs and there would be no more need for Ramgarhia or Ravidas Gurdwaré. It is now more than five hundred years after Guru Nanak taught us about One God and One Humanity, are we actually going to adopt these teachings in 2009 ?