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Sikhs: another target of Hindutva

The response has surprised the Sangh Parivar. The backlash from the Sikh clergy and community over the Sangh propaganda claiming that Sikhism is a part of the pan-Hindu movement has taken the saffronites by surprise. They have been crying on top of their voices that Sikh have no separate identity other than Hinduism. The saffronites have been trying to project as if Sikhism was not a faith but a creation just to counter Islam in India. 

The process of hegemonization initiated by the RSS has evoked a forceful reassertion of an exclusive Sikh identity. This is a situation that saffronites had never anticipated even in their wildest dreams. Now the boundaries of Sikh faith are being redefined. The issue that evoked RSS to come out in the open and propagate the theme of pan-Hinduism was the implementation of the Nanakshahi calendar. It forced saffronites to intensify their campaign to co-opt and integrate Sikhs as a ‘reformist’ sect of Hinduism. The reaction of the Sikh leaders has been very strong as they perceive this as an effort to freeze Sikhism in history, ignoring how the new faith is developing and evolving.

The Akal Takht and other Sikh religious centres have come forward to fight against the hidden motives of the Sangh parivar. In a significant development on 14 May, Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti alongwith four other high priests, directed the ruling Akali Dal to seek the review of the Indian Constitution in a manner that Sikhs get due recognition as a separate religious identity. In a four-hour-long meeting at the Akal Takht, over a dozen speakers from various Sikh organizations took exception to the contention of the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, an offshoot of the RSS, that Sikhs were a part of the Hindu community. The Takht Jathedar suggested that the Akali Dal constitute an experts’ committee to prepare a case for separate Sikh identity in the Constitution. In a resolution the high priests said that the Akali Dal should put forth the community’s viewpoint before the Constitution Review Committee set up by the central government to suggest that what in Constitution needs to be modified. In another resolution the high priests also directed the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee to deliberate on the Dasham Garanth within the Dharam Prachar Committee to dispel doubts on its authenticity.

Maintaining that narrow-minded powers were showing disrespect to minority communities, the strongly-worded resolution said: they appeared to be considering eliminating minority communities or at least making them feel like slaves by using political power and other means available to them. It also accused that these powers were using illegal methods to undermine the existence of the minorities. In a separate statement Jathedar Vedanti said that Sikhs should be aware of certain anti-Panthic forces, which were trying to create confusion about the identity of Sikhs. The statement added that this is not the first time that Sikhs are struggling to maintain their identity, they have faced such situations since the advent of the faith. 

It is for the first time that the supreme religious body of Sikhs, the Akal Takht, has stepped in to institutionalize the exclusive identity of the Sikhs. The meeting of Sikh organizations at Amritsar on 14 May was convened by acting Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti.

The fact of the matter is that in recent times, the thinking in the RSS on Punjab has been focussed on evolving a policy to check the resurgence of militancy. The effort to integrate Sikhs within the ‘mainstream’ Hinduism is a part of this policy.

A century back, an effort was made to assert the separate religious identity of the Sikhs. Hum Hindu Nahin, asserted Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha in 1889 itself when efforts were being made to project Sikhism as part of Hinduism. The book, Hum Hindu Nahin by the Sikh scholar was used in a big way to remove the misconception being preached by Hindu leaders. Again this book is being projected now to counter the propaganda of the RSS and its offshoots. 

RSS in recent times has been trying to project itself as a major force in Punjab and trying to impress upon Sikhs that their culture is part of the Hindu tradition. It has been active in rural Punjab and has been trying to project among villagers that they are part of Hinduism. Even during the tercentenary Khalsa celebrations they tried to project themselves in a big way. Sikh reaction to such gimmicks was imminent. When the RSS supremo recently visited Punjab, he had to face the brunt of the people. In the recent past tempers have been rising, with several Sikh organizations demanding ban on the RSS in the state. Now liberal and democrat Sikhs have also come out in the open to demand the same. Dal Khalsa has been in the forefront to denounce and campaign against what the RSS is preaching in the state. 

This correspondent asked Prof. Ajit Singh Jabaiwal, a Sikh scholar, as to why the saffronites have been targetting Sikhs. He said that it is a heinous design of Hindutvavadis. According to him, for the last thousand years Hindus have been trying to immerse all religious minorities of India into Hinduism. There was a planned movement to project them as a part of Hinduism. Only Muslims and Christians persisted and could withstand the pressures of Hindutvavadis. Sikhs too started struggling against this propaganda. There has been an effort to preserve the religious distinction of Sikhism from any other religion for a long time. We were never part of Hinduism. You will not find idols in our houses and Gurudwaras. Fifteen years back Shiromani Committee ordered that we cannot keep even the Gurus’ photographs in Gurudwaras. 

Prof. Jabaiwal added that nobody will ever be allowed to play with the religious sanctity of Sikhism. We are separate from any other religion and this is for ever.
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