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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Divided We Stand

There are two kinds of Sikhs in the World, Kattarhs (radicals) and cutters (liberals)

If there is any room for generalization which can be applied to the types of ‘groups’ which have appeared among the Sikh circles, following the Panthic issues of the recent past, this can be considered to be the closest one. The various issues, ranging from the authority of Sikh Rehat Maryada to Maryada of Langar to issues concerning writers like Gurbaksh Singh Kala Afghana, have seen these two ‘groups’ locking horns.

The analyses of these groups, apart from being interesting, help to understand some of the issues and their consequences.

The first (Kattarhs) are those who want Sikhi to be followed and propagated in a traditional way, not questioning the Scriptures, and abiding by the authority of Akal Takhat Sahib, the highest Temporal and Spiritual Seat of the Sikhs.

The other group is the one which wants Sikhi to be propagated in a more ‘’modern’’ and ‘’contemporary’’ form; accepting every claimant to be a Sikh, irrespective of whether he falls into the definition given in the 'Sikh Rehat Maryada'. The first salvo, by this group, is fired on the age old traditions and even the Scriptures which have become part and parcel of the Sikh brotherhood. This group regards the Sikh traditions as ''brahminical rituals'', as were prevalent during Guru Sahibs, and which they condemned, and hence they try hard to convince people to get rid of them. Infamous ex-communicated writer Gurbaksh Singh Kala Afghana is an example.

Sikh Rehat Maryada

The first issue of debate between these two ‘’groups’’ is the ‘Sikh Rehat Maryada’’, the constitution of the Sikhs accepted by the Sikh panth in 1945, after more than 13 years of deliberations where comments were invited from the Sikhs from all over the World. The first group respects it as a word-of-law, and considers it as a hard fetched document which the Sikhs got after so many years of struggle. For the second group ‘’Sikh Rehat Maryada’’ does not hold any credibility. According to them, because it is not the word-of-the-Guru, it can be changed, and even trespassed. Sometimes they go a step further in criticizing it. The reason for rejecting the 'Sikh Rehat Maryada' is straight. Once this well accepted document is rejected and made void, it will be easier to attack the Sikh scriptures and Sikh traditions. The head of a state getting immunity from legal procedures was heard; but deliberately rejecting the law before breaking it, is somewhat absurd. Reprobating the Maryada would be like un-knitting a well designed framework of rules and regulations accepted by the panth in the most democratic possible way. Kulraj Singh, the English translator of Sikh Rehat Maryada, writes in the Preface, '' The Sikh Reht Maryada, as the ensuing preface to the original Punjabi text will show is the product of collective Panthic wisdom. What is more, some of the greatest Sikh scholars and savants of all times contributed to it and deliberated on its contents. So this work should take precedence on any sectional beliefs and preferences. In a wider context, the contents of the Reht Maryada should be taken as the final word as to the matters they deal with. That will foster panthic cohesion''.

Sikh Traditions and Customs

Another point of disagreement between the two groups is the concept of ‘’faith’’. What is seen as ‘’faith’’ by the first group is sometimes considered as ‘’blind-faith’’ by the second. That’s how the Sikh customs and traditions are perceived differently by the two groups.

This difficulty in differentiating ''faith'' and ''blind-faith'' is not new to the Sikhs, especially to the youth, for whom Sikhism is, and has to be, propagated with utmost rationality. It is understandable because there is a very thin line which separates the both. Once, while sitting at the Gurdwara in the University in Amritsar, I was asked by a new comer, what I thought about Sikhs taking the 'charan dhoor', 'kissing the manji', 'bowing in front of the Guru Granth Sahib again and again' etc. That was a genuine question, which concerned a lot of youngsters; and hence needed a genuine answer. And not getting a reasonable reply made them stay away from Sikhi. The only answer which I could think of, at that moment, was based on 'the expression of love' [shardha]. I told him, we all love our mothers, but the intensity and our ways of expression are different. Some prefer to hug, others kiss and hug again and again and some others just refrain from either of these. Similarly we have to see everything which we do and which others do in the Gurdwara with the eyes of 'expression of love'. Once love goes out of our expression and greed comes in, a 'faith' becomes a 'blind-faith', and everything converts to ritualism and superstition.

''Revolutionary'' writers?

Frustrated by the pathetic state of Sikh polity and its inability to guide the Sikh masses in the important issues, followed by a constant fear of the ''big-brother'' intimidating and hitting on the Sikh identity, some of the Sikh writers take extreme steps. For them everything they see in Sikhi, be it Sikh traditions, customs or even scriptures, is adulterated. And without considering the consequences of their writings, either on the psyche of the ordinary Sikhs or on the organizational institution of the Panth, they do more damage than mending any of the prevalent issues. The writings of Gurbaksh Singh Kala Afghana, followed by the uproar among the Sikhs and various Sikh Organizations; leading to his ex-communication, is a latest example. Again these two ‘’groups’’ are divided on this issue. The second group considers these writings to be ''revolutionary'', and ones which instill the essence of rationality among the Sikhs. For the first group these writings are blasphemous and slanderous and an attempt to demolish ones own house in the guise of constructing a wall with the neighbor's house. For them these writers, in Sikhi saroop, but with the same ideology as the communists, are doing more damage. According to them the communists talked of filling the sarovar around Darbar Sahib and growing grain in it, and these writers talk of the same thing but with a different tone. Again the confusion between the 'faith' and 'blind-faith' drives these writers. Without giving a second thought they reject all Sikh traditions, just because, for them everything they see is a deliberate attempt by the ''enemy'' to diffuse the identity of the Sikhs. But they fail to understand that Gurbani is the ultimate source of educating the Sikhs of the values of Sikhi. Gurbani teaches us to be rational. Following the path of Guru’s rationality is Gurmat. But today Sikhs take this liberty from Gurmat and define rationality according to their own beliefs [Manmat]. If we need any guidance Gurbani is there to help us out. But the attempt by these writers to highjack the Gurbani, and misuse it in order to harm the very structure of Sikhi is unacceptable. We also have to consider the fact that in Sikhism there is emphasis on the concept of organizational institution [panth]. If it has to be kept in a proper network, then we will have to respect the way an institution is run; which means that no one as an individual should comment on, or criticize any aspect of Sikhi, be it traditions or scriptures, which has found a firm ground among the Sikh masses.

Sikhs have suffered a lot in the recent past. They have been deceived by the panthic ''leaders'' again and again. They need to be lifted. The youth is confused. The absence of Sikh media has forced them to be attracted towards the Western culture. The absence of teaching Sikh history in a larger level in the schools has made them less interested in Sikhi. They question the importance of religion in general and Sikhi saroop in particular. They need to be rejoined to Sikhi. The ''revolutionary'' writers and their writings will not help. They will add oil to the burning fire in them. Love for the Gurus and love and faith in what they achieved and bestowed upon us [Sikhi], love and pride in the traditions [Maryada], has to be instilled in the youth. Love and faith are the strong and firm foundations on which the huge structure of Sikh rationality can stand. Rationality alone, wearing the robe of atheism and apostasy, is already knocking at our doors.


Blogger Sikh Blood Donation Drive said...

Ripudaman singh ji, You seem to have mixed the content.

6:30 AM  

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