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Sikhs feel the Parivar brunt
By S Ubaidur Rahman

The RSS-Sikh controversy took an unexpected turn on 1st January when newly appointed Akal Takht Jathedar Bhai Joginder Singh Vedanti issued a strongly worded statement warning the RSS and its affiliates of a sangharsh (struggle) against divisive plans of the Sangh Parivar. Jathedar in his statement has asked the RSS not to distort Sikh tenets and distribute distorted literature. It comes on the heels of the proposal made by Punjab unit of Sikh Sangat, an affiliate of the RSS, to celebrate Gurpurab in all the Hindu temples in Punjab. 

The statement carries great significance as it is seen to be flying in the face of Akali Dal chief and Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal's preference for conciliation on the issue. Interestingly it came within hours of Badal's meeting with SGPC chief Jagdev Singh Talwandi where both had claimed that the crisis is over. Vedanti who was virtually handpicked by the Punjab chief minister for the post as a replacement of defamed Bibi Jagir Kaur is reported to have discussed the issue quite extensively with Prof. Manjit Singh and Giani Keval Singh, Jathedars of Takht Keshgarh Sahib and takht Damadama Sahib, before issuing the statement. A large number of Sikh organizations had been urging the Akal Takht to issue a Hukumnama against what they believed to be anti-Sikh activities amounting to interference in Sikh's religious issues. Badal in the past too has tried to go soft on such interventions by the Sangh Parivar in the religious matters of the Sikh community.

Vedanti in his statement issued said that, 'the RSS has been deliberately spreading one or the other ridiculous idea.' He added that idea of celebrating gurpurab and installing the Guru Granth Sahib in temples was part of the same chain of the hatred plan of the RSS… such talk of divisive plans can not be tolerated and are a blot on the face of the humanity.

The Jathedar is reported to have said that Sikhism and Hinduism are quite different. The ideology of Hinduism is based on idol worship whereas it is fully prohibited in Sikhism. The Jathedar made it clear that Guru Granth Sahib can only be installed at a place where all activities are as per the Sikh traditions. To install the Guru Granth Sahib at a place where idol worship is observed is to nullify the high principles of Guru Granth Sahib and is an insult to the scriptures. 

Meanwhile seeing to the strong position taken by the Sikh community, the Sikh Sangat, the organization that planned to celebrate gurupurab has announced to abandon its plan of celebrating the occasion in the temples in Punjab. There are news of serious internal differences between the central leadership and the Punjab unit of Sikh Sangat on the issue.

It is around six months since the RSS and its affiliate Sikh Sangat have been trying in a different manner to project that Sikhs are a part of the Hindu community. During the last half a year it is third time when Sikh leaders have agitated against the RSS. The first time was in May last when RSS chief KS Sudarshan described the Sikhs as part of Hindus. Yet another provocation came from the Sangh when one of its posters showed India's map with a Sikh slogan 'Ek Omkar' written below it. Sikh organizations termed it as an insult of their religion.

The Sikh community is infuriated over the intervention of Sangh Parivar to show the Sikhs as part of the Hindu community. It is not this community alone that has been targetted by the Sangh Parivar, all the communities and religious entities have time and again been threatened by them. 

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.


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