The Cancer of Caste – Divided We Fall
by Verpal Singh
[This article was published in The Sikh Review of June 1998. Looking back at it now, I find some of the terminology I used quite inappropriate. Another aspect is lack of gender neutral language. But the overall argument is still sound and sadly still applicable to even greater degree than it was in 1998 – Verpal Singh]
“Jatt” Sikh, “Khatri” Sikh, “Mazhabi” Sikh – where did all these different types of Sikhs come from? Does Guru Granth Sahib describe what a Jatt Sikh should be like, or what a Khatri Sikh should do? Did the Gurus ever tell us how to differentiate between a Mazhabi and a Jatt Sikh?
We all know that there is no place for casteism in Sikhi, yet we have accepted casteism’s trap and proclaim ourselves to be Jatt and Khatri and Lubana and Ramgarhia and so on. These proud claims result in not goodwill or sarbat da bhalla but contempt. How did we forget what the Barhman had done to Buddhism? Remember that the Buddha too had preached against the reincarnation and idol worship and the Barhman had used the stratagem of describing Buddha as the eleventh incarnation of Vishnu in order to negate what Buddha preached; and soon enough, the idols of Buddha sprang into existence. When the Buddha’s principles became part of Hinduism the Buddhists never knew. It seems that it was only in twentieth century that people woke up to the diabolical designs of Barhman vis-a-vis other religions. Even after knowing the history of the Brahmanical diabolism we the Sikhs are dithering.
Remember that the Sikh Gurus came into conflict with Brahmanism when they started preaching against casteism. Remember how the (in)famous Birbal had tried to sabotage the institutions of ‘Langar’ (Community kitchen) during the times of Guru Amar Das Ji because Guruji had made it compulsory for all to have their meals sitting in one line without any distinction being made vis-a-vis caste which was directly related to the social status of the person. We have to keep in mind that the Barhman has been trying to do to Sikhs what he did to Buddhism. And these efforts to make Sikhism a sect of Hinduism have been going on from the times of Guru Angad Devji when it had started becoming apparent that Sikhism was evolving a distinct identity of its own. Note that the opposition to what Bhagat Kabir preached and what other Saints of the Bhagati movement preached was also in conflict with Brahmanical view. But the Brahmans’ oppositions to these Saints lasted only till the life-time of the Saints, after which the Saints and their teachings were relegated to an obscure corner of Indian literature. It was only because of the efforts of Guru Nanak and the Gurus who followed him, that teachings of these Saints were saved from extinction.
It is open to conjecture that one of the reasons why Guru Nanak chose to appoint an heir to his legacy was what he had seen being done to the Saints like Bhagat Kabir, Bhagat Ravdas, Bhagat Tarlochan , Bhagat Namdev and others. We have history as proof that if the teachings of these Saints had not been incorporated in Guru Granth Sahib most of them would have been lost due to deliberate Brahmanist design. Guru Nanak may have appointed Guru Angad as the heir to his legacy (and the legacy of the Bhagats) in order to sefegaurd the basic truths of this legacy. So, failing to destroy the sanctity of Guru Ji’s teachings (not that the Barhman did not try; we find in the Bani of Guru Amar Das Ji, Guru Ji telling the Sikh to follow only the True Bani – the Bani written by the Sikh Gurus – and not the shallow thoughts beings propagated by the pretenders. The Brahman did the next worse thing: he tried to stop the Sikhs from acting on the teachings of Gurus. The Hindus who enjoyed positions of power under the Mughals did everything to somehow weaken Sikhism.
The martyrdom of Guru Arjun was due to the scheming of Dewan Chandu Mal; the battles Guru Gobind Singh had to fight with the Hill Chieftains; the inhuman treatment meted out to the younger Sahibzadas was because a Hindu had betrayed them, and another Hindu egged on the Nawab of Sirhind to kill the younger Sahibzadas and Mata Gujri Ji. Then during the battles of Khalsa the worst cruelties the Sikhs suffered were at the hands of Diwan Lakhpat Rai, Jaspat Rai, Akal Das Niranjania, Karma Chhina, etc. And then when the Sikhs established their independent kingdom it was handed over to the British due to the betrayal of the Dogra brothers and the Poorbia soldiery of Bengal, U.P. combining with the British to destroy the Sikh Raj.
All these instances should be seen in the light that the caste Hindu was trying to stop the Sikhs from acting on the teachings of the Sikh Gurus. The persecution of the Sikhs because they were Sikhs, the betrayal of Khalsa Raj, the assault of Dayanand and his Arya Samaj, the lectures of Shardha Ram Phillauri in Amritsar, the Mahants’ putting of idols in Darbar Sahib, had all been part of the continued plan to destroy the identity of Sikhism. This plan continues with the Constitution of India describing the Sikhs as ‘Hindus’, the ‘government propaganda since 1947 to discredit the Sikhs, deliberate attempts to stop the progress of Punjab by taking its river waters away from it, by refusing to give Chandigarh to it, by forming Himachal, and taking away the control of most of Punjab’s water-works, and the recent propaganda barrage of describing Sikhs as terrorists (remember that it is only the execution of what Patel had planned in 1949 and failed to execute due to the courageous opposition of Sirdar Kapur Singh) and giving an open license to kill a Sikh (with a turban and beard) and collect the rewards!
Efforts continue to be made to destroy the sanctity of our history. The text-books of NCERT, the ‘authoritative’ books like ‘Advanced History of India’ (By Raychoudhary, et al.) are playing their part in destroying that in our history which makes us proud. Efforts are also succeeding in keeping the Sikhs away from their source of strength the Guru Granth Sahib. I give you my own example.
Till an year back, my knowledge of Gurbani did not stretch beyond the ‘Mool Mantar’. All through my years of schooling and then in the Engineering college, I never had to study Gurbani (or the Sikh history). I passed my school and got admission in the Engineering College, but education system is such that a student hardly finds enough time for Gurbani and the philosophic thought in Gurbani. So it is only in the last year and a half that I read the Sikh history and Gurbani and became aware of what is going on.
Before this, it was Sikhs Vs Mughals, Sikh Vs British, Sikh Vs Arya Samaj, Sikh Vs Centre, but it was never Sikhs Vs Hidus for me. And I think it is a measure of enemy’s success that we have not even succeeded in identifying him yet!
Secularism does not mean that we have to take crap, such as an article (published in Times of India dated April 7, 1996) under the title ‘Clergy is the mother of all bigotry’. The writer of the article was purportedly a Sikh named N. S. Chawla, who wrote: “I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry when I read in the Times of India of April 27 the story about the (SGPC) ordaining that Sikhs who drink, smoke or use other intoxicants cannot keep the Guru Granth Sahib in their homes. I guess there is no such restriction on cheats, liars, robbers or politicians, etc. “
What is happening is that the Indian media is projecting the turban and the beard as enough to be a good Sikh. And this is the last stage before we become a sect of Hindus. Because when a turban and a beard is enough to become a Sikh, who will put the extra effort needed to read and understand Gurbani and then work to come true to the principles of Gurbani?
So we have this Times of India ‘expert’ view on who is and who is not a Sikh. And what kind of a Sikh. Let me give an analogy here about the Sehajdhari ‘Sikh’ and the Amritdhari Sikh (there is no type called “kesdhari Sikhs” for the reason that Sikhs cannot be Sikhs without hair. Period)
There are in the marine life, two life-forms called the ‘Salamander’ and the ‘Axolotl’. These two life-forms exist as adults. But the Axolotl is, in fact, the larva form of the Salamander. Yet Axolotl, despite its juvenile form, is sexually mature and capable of reproducing more Axolotl. But the biologists have found that if its thyroid gland is stimulated, the Axolotl can mature into the Salamander.
So the point is, if a Sehajdhari remains a Sehajdhari all his life, how can we call him a Sikh? Because a Sikh is the one who follows the Gurus and unless a Sehajdhari matures into Amritdhari he cannot claim to be a Sikh. Once a Sehajdhari has become a Sikh it is impossible for him to lapse back into a Sehajdhari again. For confirmation of this, look at Bhai Taru Singh Ji, Bhai Shahbaz Singh Ji, Bhai Subeg Singh Ji, and thousands of others who became martyrs because they were asked to revert back from being Sikhs. It was impossible for them to revert from being Sikhs – and they chose death. This is the sign of who is and who is not a Sikh. Making classifications like “Sehajdhari Sikh”, “Kesdhari Sikh”, “Amritdhari Sikh” does not make everyone who thinks he belongs to one of these categories, a Sikh. There is only one kind of a Sikh: one who follows all the Ten Gurus- which means that unless one has passed through the learning stage we call Sehajdhari and become, after amrit initiation, a disciplined follower of the Guru, one cannot be called a Sikh. An Axolotl can never be called a Salamander, it is as simple as that.
There is another point here. This Mr Chawla says that he was ‘born a Sikh and will die a Sikh’. But this is nothing short of being a hypocrite. A Sikh is the one who follows the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib and this he has to learn to do. No one is born with the ability to follow the Guru because no one comes into this world with the knowledge of what the Gurus said. We have to observe the world around, and only then we understand what the Gurus are talking about. When the Guru uses the analogy of the “sea-river” relationship one who does not know what this relationship is, won’t understand what the Guru means. And furthermore, being born into a religion is a non-Sikh concept. We are not an exclusive group, like the Jews and the Hindus, where the birth decides everything. We decide, God willing, what we are going to be, what we are going to work towards. We become Sikh by our deeds and not by our birth. At the time of birth everyone is equal. It is only his acts in life which make a person respectable or contemptible.
If we are going to be afraid of speaking the truth lest someone should brand us ‘fundamentalist’ then the situation is only going to get worse. We have to remember that secularism does not mean that if our saying that ‘Hindus are deliberately trying to destroy the Sikh identity and are committing the genocide of the Sikhs’, is going to hurt our Hindu friends then we should not say it, or soften it a bit. When it comes to choosing between the truth and the ‘secularism’ being practised today, it is better for a Sikh to choose to speak the truth,. And if the truth hurts someone’s sensibilities, do not ‘soften’ the truth with some lies or half truths, but ask the other man to change his sensibilities if they are hurt by the truth. We have to learn never to compromise on truth because this is something which is sacred in this world and the next.
Where the caste factor comes in is of vital importance. Casteism has acquired its independent identity in Sikhism, and the “caste” heirarchy of Sikhs is completely different from the one in Hinduism. For example, we will not find Ramgarhias, Mazhabis, etc amongst the Hindus. They are peculiar to the Sikhs. But the real danger comes from the castes which we can find amongst the Hindus. I have come across many instances where the Jatts in Bathinda did not think twice before marrying off their sons or daughters to Hindu Jaats of neighboring Haryana, for the simple reason that the land holdings lured them. Khatris among the Sikhs have been marrying amongst Hindus even before Jatts. This phenomenon of caste taking precedence over Sikhism can be the death-knell of Sikhism, because once our loyalties have shifted from our Gurus to our caste, where is the need to defend our religion? I remember being greatly shocked and angered as a child of twelve, when a Hindu friend of mine had claimed that Guru Nanak was a Khatri. That friend of mine was a Khatri (Bhandari) himself. I had angrily rebutted his claim because I had been brought up to believe that casteism was a Hindu phenomenon and calling Guruji Khatri was to me calling him a Hindu, which is what it amounts to.
Now, the situation has reached a state where we are claiming the Sikh heroes for particular castes. We find nothing wrong with claiming that Baba Buddha Ji was a ‘Randhawa Jatt’, Bhai Makhan Shah was a ‘Lubana’, Sardar Jassa Singh (who built Ram Rownni) was a ‘Tarkhaan’, Bhai Jeevan Singh was a ‘Chamar’ and, of course, the claims of Bedis and Sodhis. These claims just go to show how low we have fallen. By abusing our heroes we try to feel proud. What can be more shocking than this? In this fight ‘for one-up-manship between castes, we think nothing of insulting our Gurus and heroes and martyrs. Have we ever given it a thought that if the Jatts or Khatris succeed in proving themselves superior to all other castes, what will be the cost the Sikhs would have paid? Very likely, the cost will be the destruction of Sikh identity and its assimilation in Hinduism.
Look at all the various ‘sects’ who claim to be Sikhs. We have the Radhasoamis at Beas, who lure the Jatts because the head of this sect has always been a Jatt. We have Bibi Jagir Kaur, from Bholath who is described as the ‘religious head of the Lubana community’; then we have the 25th or 26th descendent of the Sodhis reigning, and in addition to all these, we have innumerable ‘Sants’ who belong to various castes and sub-castes and have carved a niche for themselves amongst the castes they belong to.
There is no stop to this slide that has set in, save that, in some years, we will be hearing about a sect whose headquarters are at Akal Takht, and then it will be no problem for the government of the day to destroy a sect even though its headquarters are at Akal Takht Sahib. We have to remember that persecution of a sect does not arouse international indignation as does the persecution of a religion. And the Sikhs are fast becoming a sect, that too of Hinduism. With the baptized Sikhs being branded as terrorists, which nation will come to help when the genocide starts again? And start it will. Because the Brahman vs Sikh fight is a fight for sheer survival. It will continue till one of the two accepts the view-point of the other. Now look at the present c1osely and see how much of the Brahminical viewpoint we have accepted. Khalsaji, we are losing. And losing badly.
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