Underneath Sukhvinder Singh’s thoughts on the recent caste debate. All Sikhs should recognise that discrimination based on caste (or gotra) is most definitely against the Guru’s teachings. We should also all humbly admit that many Sikhs practice discrimination, not just on the grounds of caste or gotra, but also for instance on the grounds of gender. This weakens the panth and makes us into a community that preaches high ideals but does not practice them ! Man in Blue
The Universal Human Rights Declaration, Article 1 states that : All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
This is exactly what Guru Nanak Dev ji stated in the 14th Century, yet it took the western world until 1950 onwards to recognise this.
When talking about equality, Sikhs often use the quote ‘Manas ki jatt sab eko pachan’-Recognise the Human Race as One’. However equality is not about denying your different identities as often quoted. Guru Nanak Dev ji revolted against the Varna system, because it put individuals into different categories and treated them according to what category they were based on ritual purity.
Bhagat Ravidas and Bhagat Nam Dev, both classed as Shudras were not allowed to enter the Mandirs to pray. It was the fact that they were not allowed to pray as equals with others that Guru Nanak Dev ji revolted against. He did not deny them their identity, i.e. Bhagat Ravidas as a weaver.
Guru Gobind Singh ji gave the Sikhs a separate identity, does this mean that he did not recognise the human race as one, because you could say that why label humans as belonging to a certain group, why not just say we are all humans, why separate identities or groups like different religions, ethnic groups etc.
Does Sikhi not teach us about the diverse living beings on this earth as all being created by the Creator but in different forms [molded from the same clay - Man in Blue].
For example I could say that I have several identities, Sikhi does not mean that I discard all those identities, i.e. I am a Sikh first, to some I am a Khalsa. I am also of Indian origin, a Punjabi as I was born in Punjab, I was born into a family of farmers, so have a heritage linking me to a ‘Jat identity’. Or do i say I am none of the above but just a human being?
What my understanding of equality according to the teachings of the respected Guru Sahibs was that we should not act as superior to others but treat all as are equals. Equality is about treating people with fairness, respect, equality and dignity. It is not about denying our different identities. It is about not discriminating against others who have a different identity to us.
This is what is central to Sikh principles, not about arguing or having discussions on why we call ourselves jats, tarkans, (social groupings which are different to the Hindu Varna sytem), why we use surnames like Sandhu, Gill etc in addition to Singh or Kaur. The reality is that even Guru Gobind Singh ji said ‘that i am the son of a Kashatri not a Brahman.
The focus on who the different varnas, jatis, biradris etc during the debate on ‘Caste’ recently is all caste based and identity politics. The focus should have been on the victims of discrimination.
The focus on who the different varnas, jatis, biradris etc during the debate on ‘Caste’ recently is all caste based and identity politics. It should have been on the victims of discrimination and the linking of social grouping with the varna system and linking to Sikhism a point even Lord Singh failed to mention during his excellent speech during the debate.
Sukhvinder Singh (UK)