452.The Man in Blue – Where are Sikhs in the caste society ?

Man in Blue, Sint-Truiden, Belgian Limburg, 2007

The answer to this question should be : nowhere. We should all be like people whose origins are outside the subcontinent and who have no position in the caste system at all. None of us should be Dhillons, Sandhus, Sharmas or whatever, there should only be Kaurs and Singhs in the Sikh Qaum.  

UK ‘main stream’ Gurdwaré are often dominated by Jats, Ramgarhia Gurdwaré are dominated by Sikhs who are known as ‘tarkhans’ (carpenters) and Ravi Das Gurdwaré are for people who belong to various jatis that are perceived to be of low caste.

When Ramgarhia Ranjit Singh was appointed as Jathedar Akal Takhat by SGPC Pradhan Tohra, the Amrisaris talked as much about the fact that he was not a Jat as they talked about the alleged killing for which he had spent time in prison.

Sikhs elders, but also some ‘orthodox’ Sikhs, are happy when Chinese, Russian, German or Dutch people become Sikhs, but a lot less happy when these ‘malech’ Sikhs start marrying ‘proper’ Sikh ladies.

Can I remind everybody that the Sikh Rehat Maryada defines a Sikh according to her/his beliefs and not according to whom their father and mother are. Guru Nanak’s father was a Hindu, Sri Chand, Guru Nanak’s son, was a Hindu too.

The Sikh ethnic category as defined by the UK Law Lords is linked to the fact that the majority of the Sikhs are from Panjab, but they are defined by their dharm, their way of life, which sets them apart from other Panjabis. Sikhs can leave the ethnic category by not living according to Guru’s teachings or join by starting to follow those teachings. The Law Lords also explicitly mention non-Panjabis joining the Sikh ethnic category.

That does not stop some people to see the Sikh ethnic category as an excuse to make the Sikh Panth, Qaum or Nation a closed group, as if it is a biological category. Again this is not how my friend Ranjit Singh Vakil (CoK) described the Sikh Nation in his excellent paper on the subject.

Just like the Dutch, the British or the Belgian Nations are not closed categories, the same should apply to the Sikhs. Whether we see ourselves as a nation, as a dharm or as a religion, we should welcome all comers. Sikhs are not into converting people, but everybody is welcome, regardless whether they are just looking for information or whether they want to become Khalsas. They should feel like being amongst sisters and brothers (as we are all members of one family).

In the south of India is a group called the Lingayats. They practice Shaiva bhakti and were against caste, but have ended up as a caste themselves. I think that there is a serious risk that the Sikhs in India will end up in the same position ! Let us who live outside Bharat Mata make sure that we do not get caught in this trap.

Published in: on December 25, 2010 at 11:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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