Are Sikhs to be a Minority For Ever? KAMALDEEP SINGH
Having read ‘The Numbers Game: It’s Not Our Racket’, by T. Sher Singh, I could not help but feel a little disheartened, dismayed, and perhaps even saddened at reading another article extolling the virtues of being a minority.
Despite these feelings, I still felt the need to articulate a response, not least because my stance is pretty much the exact opposite: that Sikhi is a completely inclusive dharam and invites all to embrace it.
I do not feel that I am alone in my thinking. There are many others who feel the same way, I would even go as far as to say the vast majority would love to see Sikhi grow outside of its current Punjabi stronghold instead of watching others advocate a non-majority stance wherever we reside.
However, due to the fear of sticking their head out of the parapet and being shot (shouted) at for actually wanting to grow actively and invite people to Sikhi, they have wearily decided to maintain their silence.
As this was originally a response to the above stated article, I would recommend reading it before and alongside this one, helping to place it in context.
GURU & DHARAM
Sikhi is the re-expression of the original dharam [GGS:445-446] and was restored to its pure, natural, and pristine state through the Guru.
From its very inception, Sikhi naturally appealed to a hugely diverse background of people who were Hindus, Muslims, householders, yogis, 'high' castes and 'low', and so forth.
The Gurus employed a vast array of metaphors and allegories to explain how one could experience naam from their current understanding whilst using several languages and idioms to further drive home principles which would cause paradigm shifts to take place.
However it could only be experienced fully if one were to accept The Guru.
"Everyone longs for the Name, but it is only found through the Guru's teachings" - [GGS:789]
It was against this backdrop that each successive Guru further revealed, propagated and strengthened the dharam, utilising a variety of methods.
Through Guru Nanak the langar was founded so all could come and eat together. Through Guru Angad the Gurumukhi script was created, allowing the masses to absorb the teachings directly. Through Guru Amar Das, the Manji system (Centres of Propagation of the Dharam) were started inviting everyone to become Sikh, and it was through Guru Arjun the Harmandar Sahib with its four doors was constructed, confirming that this path was for all.
From a scriptural perspective, the Guru Granth Sahib instructs us to become like the Guru and to spread the teachings  to inspire others towards God  and confirms that the Guru's path is in fact unequalled [360-361]. Also, following the path of the Guru will ensure that one prospers and increases .
When this is taken into consideration, it can be seen that from its very roots, Sikhi comes with growth at its very heart so that it spreads everywhere and ensures that all connect with it, otherwise there would be no need to introduce the teachings.
WRONGLY STRIVING FOR NON-MAJORITY STATUS - AND ITS EFFECTS
Even at the most basic level, aiming to become a non-majority - goes against all common sense and is something that has only recently begun to creep into Sikhi.
There are some faiths and ideologies whose sole aim is to reduce others to this state and then pick them off at will. The experience of "minority" faiths on the subcontinent is but one such example.
Whilst a faith group may find itself in that position, to actively seek it out is not the wisest of decisions. In doing so, one becomes a sitting duck at the mercy of others. This is especially the case if one is in an environment where one particular group has a complete strangle-hold on an area and refuses to allow others to grow on any level. Consequently one is forced to make compromises when it comes to matters that relate to the dharam.
Whilst a few individuals may practice their faith a little more observantly in this climate, the vast remainder do in fact fall by the wayside, disintegrating into the general populace as they are wrongly made to feel that nothing can be gained from being Sikh anymore.
As the maxim goes, strength is found in numbers. It is through that principle that gurdwaras are created, institutions that cater to Sikh needs are established, and thus the ability to practice one's faith safely and securely with the natural growth of culture. This in turn helps towards the development and happiness of future Sikh generations and ensures that Sikhs flourish. (Dasam Granth, Benti Chaupai).
Once it is gained, I believe it makes sense to say that losing it should not be an option. Surprisingly though, it currently is.
As we know, Sikhs travel the world far and wide; however a pattern has begun to emerge.
Sikhs settle in a country en masse, do quite well financially and set up gurdwaras and institutions to cater to their needs and simply live with little to no concern for the growth of the dharam, so much so that despite living in a country for a long time, most of the local people still do not know who Sikhs are.
Once they have done a little better and decide to move on, they will almost always leave it in a weakened state. Their back will have hardly have turned and they will have already started talking negatively about where they have lived for all those years.
Seeds are planted and this in turn causes other Sikhs to migrate in a similar manner when the opportunity arises. This continues at such an extent that where there once used to be a thriving Sikh population, it now becomes bereft of them, barring but a few.
New Sikhs who come in now may have an area to move to with an infrastructure, however are pretty much isolated from other Sikhs and thus submerged.
This pattern repeats itself until there is nowhere else to go, at which point Sikhs will migrate to another country only to repeat the same cycle again.
One will note that faiths which strive for majority status do not follow this pattern. Their aim is to build upon what the first settlers had created, developing and deepening their understanding of their teachings as they strive to become the dominatant group in that area and hold it for others, come what may. As a result, funds are more readily allocated attracting others to their cause
quicker, thus expediting their ascent and consequently solidifying the decline of others.
Special attention also needs to be given to what message we are sending out when we actively state that we are striving for a non-majority status. The stage is being set to close ourselves up and pull up barricades, when as a dharam we are in fact meant to be anything but.
Originally Sikhi appealed to the strongest and most spiritually inclined with a constant and rapid flow of ideas and people. This was of course alongside the normal person who was attracted to the ideals that the dharam taught, and they came from all walks of life, from every direction. The attraction was so strong that they became Sikh even in the face of death.
They were greeted with open arms by all as they accepted the invitation of Sikhi.
Today however, due to non-majority thinking, we have put a halt to this and are solely interested in focusing our efforts on current Sikhs alone and are promoting, without even knowing it, a concentrating and shrinking gene pool, that too despite its beautiful nature and perfect ideals.
Due to this, the critical mass of thinkers, leaders, and speakers are not being allowed to form and synergize as quickly as they should, and consequently one is left groping in the dark in times of need.
I am of the belief that the root cause of a non-majority mindset is three-fold.
First and foremost, one of the main contributors to a non-majority mode of thinking is that we do not educate about the dharam in any real way.
There are of course centres of education. However, out of a population of 30 million Sikhs, to only have produced a handful of centres at best, clearly indicates that they are the exception and not the rule. Further still, it shows where our priorities currently lie.
This leaves individuals to struggle on their own, or sadly remain empty of spiritual knowledge, eventually leading to a state where they or the next generation, disconnect from Sikhi.
One only has to look at the faiths which are growing and see that educating about their teachings, both to their followers and non-followers, is of primary concern and for good reason too.
It is from here that the people set out and start shaping the world. If this is strong enough, a change comes about to such an extent that others either have to follow suit, refuse to do so but live in a state of acceptance, or quite simply flee.
By aiming for non-majority status one automatically takes an apathetic, dull, and inconsequential stance when it comes to understanding the dharam, and simply repeat the fundamentals continually ad nauseum.
As a result, one does not develop beyond it or deepen one's understanding, and thus Sikhs never really reach out to others in an organised or structured manner with a clear objective.
I cannot but feel that this has come about as we wrongly do not want anything to change, and want to remain the same forever. Clearly this will never happen and thus this aspiration is inherently self-defeating by its very nature. One should not become upset when the shade of the tree changes [GGS:268] as, like life, it will happen whether we like it or not.
Instead, embracing change and actively striving to exert a positive one so that things fall in the favour of Sikhs is infinitely better than doing nothing and hoping everything sorts itself out.
This stance is naturally taken by the vast majority of Sikhs when it comes to their own education, careers, partners, etc. So why this discrepancy appears when it comes to inviting people to Sikhi is truly a strange one. It is inconsistent with what one generally does in life and needs to be remedied.
The second point is the Partition of Punjab in 1947.
The effect that this had on the very psyche of Sikhs is, I believe, one of the greatest if not the chief cause for Sikhs wrongly striving for non-majority status today.
Sikhs lost Nankana Sahib - the very birthplace of our First Master, Guru Nanak; Lahore - which was not only the centre of Sikhi but the cultural capital of the country; and Gujranwala - the birth place of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the great Sikh Emperor who unified everyone under one banner.
Our leadership was severely lacking and Sikhs did not think about securing themselves as a nation. Sadly this meant that everything was reduced to a numbers game and nothing really else mattered in the big scheme of things.
In Ishtiaq Ahmed's "Report - Forced Migration and Ethnic Cleansing in Lahore in 1947: Some First Person Accounts", one will note that whereever Sikhs were a non-majority, huge tracts of land were lost alongside properties, gurdwaras, businesses, and wealth accumulated over generations. It goes without saying that countless Sikh families were torn apart at this time as well.
It did not matter whether Sikhs controlled the district from a financial perspective either, such as Lahore, for example. Being an overall minority, 34.7% from a non-Muslim perspective, resulted in Sikhs ultimately being forced to give this up also, alongside Nankana Sahib which was located nearby.
Gujranwala, the birthplace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, only had a combined demographic strength of 22.7% of non-Muslims, and thus this did not remain in India either.
It is highly likely that due to this loss, many have consciously as well as sub-consciously decided to not engage in anything that is even remotely related to becoming a majority. This is sadly to everyone’s disadvantage as we are being let down due to them simply acting on impulses. They wrongly feel that nothing can now be done, thus are continually moving or live in highly remote areas in the hope that they do not have to deal with it. It is a mark of rootlessness and a strong indicator that they are
now attempting to find strength in belonging to something else.
Had our leadership been much stronger and better educated, and had we dominated areas of major significance, Sikhs would have come out a lot better if and when partition occurred.
The Partition of Punjab is something that should be studied further, as I believe it would allow us to not only understand why Sikhs have gone against the very ethos of Sikhi today, but allow us to heal as a collective and learn from our past.
Continued on Friday - Part II ...
Kamaldeep Singh is a Senior IT Consultant with several years' experience in the Investment Banking Sector. He is currently working for a leading financial brokers in London, England, which is listed on the LSE and is a FTSE 100 company. He lives in Ilford, Essex with his wife Sarabjeet Kaur and family.
August 29, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: R. Singh (Canada), August 29, 2012, 10:39 AM.
A wonderful, thought-provoking article. A wake up call to all who believe that hiding our heads in the temporary din of nagar-kirtans and the carnival-like atmosphere with speeches from narrow-minded politicians, indulging in lavish langars (instead of feeding the poor), etc., will somehow connect our younger generation to Sikhi. Our sense of complacency and inertia needs a wakeup call, and fast. Even after 1984 and the recent Wisconsin shootings, we are still flailing in the air, or taking solace in some tangential, simplistic explanations like: Oh, the separatists brought it upon themselves, or, we are mistaken for Muslims, or, how supported we are, the flags at half-mast offered as proof. The rate at which we are losing our younger generation in the heartland, Punjab, to mainstream Hindus or even the minority Christians, is just one of the many areas that highlights the quality of our generation's response to date, or the lack of it.
2: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), August 29, 2012, 12:23 PM.
We are a very fortunate community. We have gurbani - the Gurus' own words. We have the writings of Guru Gobind Singh. I, as a common Sikh, do feel that we have relied more on other writings than we have on gurbani. At our own peril and disadvantage. Is it possible that we ourselves have become obstacles to the growth of Sikhi?
3: Gurdip Chana (Ilford, United Kingdom), August 29, 2012, 3:04 PM.
A refreshing and sobering article. Certainly have spent my time relentlessly 'thinking' of our failures to properly ascertain and churn the real knowledge / dharam principles of Sikhi. I can confidently point our weakness to one thing alone - lack of education (a point the author has rightly pointed out). I pray Waheguru awakens the panth and all of us, on an individual as well as group level, take it upon ourselves to first practice Sikhi and then teach others: "aap juppo avar Naam juppaavo" (worship and inspire others to worship). If I won a million pounds, I'd aim to set up education centres throughout the world, wherever Sikhs reside. The Jewish community has shown what education can mean to them as a people - yet there are less of them than us! I believe it's not always a numbers game - it's more related to quality, rather than quantity. Doesn't mean our numbers should be low, considering there are hundreds of people just like me who need to learn about being closer to Waheguru. I hope for a better tomorrow - and I pray I get to do my bit rather than sit on the sidelines (a lot of us Sikhs are doing that as well!)
4: Harpreet Singh (Delhi, India), August 29, 2012, 3:32 PM.
At big book fairs in Delhi in recent years many communities put many book stalls and distribute their literature free or at nominal cost. But from the Sikh side no major body - SGPC, DSGMC, etc. - is ever there. Similarly many foreign visitors come to the Delhi gurdwaras daily, especially Banla Sahib, but no satisfactory presentation about Sikhi or issues leating to Sikhs is made available or literature given. On major gurpurabs no news on media or any effort made to tell the ordinary public about our history, etc. Why?
5: Kirpal Singh (Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S.A.), August 29, 2012, 4:55 PM.
This is a marvellous article. Sikhs are consumed in Punjabiat and not seeking inspiration from Sikh heritage. They have become ethnocentric and swallowed by caste, hereditary rights like brahmins, and provincial divisions instead of promoting equality and equal opportunity based on merit as emphasized by our Gurus. The current confusion is a wake-up call for us to re-visit our priorities and develop an all-inclusive Sikhi outlook which will include all non-Punjabi Sikhs as well from across the diaspora.
6: R. Singh (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), August 29, 2012, 5:34 PM.
Sikhi is the religion of the new age. We should practice our religion properly. We need to live by exemplary behaviour.
7: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), August 30, 2012, 9:00 AM.
Gurbani in very simple words defines Sikhi as the learning of the Gurus' teachings. Guru Gobind Singh in his hukamnamah states that his sangat is the Khalsa. The Guru of the Gurus is the One, all pervading God. To my understanding, these terms have been defined by the Guru and are as per gurmat. However, some of us have completely redefined these terms, which is nothing but pure manmat.
8: Tinku (Punjab), August 31, 2012, 1:36 AM.
How can Sikhs make any progress when the greatest betrayal is from our own women folk?
9: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), September 01, 2012, 11:42 AM.
One should not become upset when the shade of the tree changes [GGS:268]. The Guru himself the best of writers in his farsightedness did not put down any exclusive code of conduct in the written form. The shabad Guru does not lay down any exclusive codes of conduct. These should serve as instructions that the Guru wants us to be an inclusive and not an exclusive community. Sikhi, to my understanding, is the relationship between the Guru and the Sikh, the Guru being the One all-pervading God who was true before the ages began, is true and will always be true, and resides within each one of us. Sikhi is learning the Gurus' thoughts. The shabad Guru shows us the way to realize the Guru within us. I totally agree with the comments made by R. Singh from Canada that Sikhi is the religion of the new age. We should practice our religion properly. I feel just accepting the definition of Sikhi as per gurbani, in itself will go a long way in the growth and spread of Sikhi.
10: Kamaldeep Singh (London, England), September 04, 2012, 1:28 PM.
R.Singh: when substance is lacking, many will grasp at something tangible such as a nagar kirtan. Whilst such activities have their place, they do not do much spiritually, and it is infinitely better to listen, accept and love God in one's heart instead [GGS:4]. Solace is being sort of all that Sikhs have after decades of neglect. This is one of the primary drivers for the high attrition rate and can be rectified when our priorities are in order. Ravinder Singh: I agree. Writings of other faiths were compiled after many years by the followers once their prophet had died. Sikhs are in an infinitely better place yet do not use it to their advantage. Only when Sikhi is experienced and taught will we spearhead the teachings. If these conditions are not met, then others taking the helm will make little difference.
11: Kamaldeep Singh (London, England), September 04, 2012, 1:31 PM.
Harpreet Singh: a majority of Sikhs come from an agrarian background with little emphasis on reading. This is one of the key reasons for the dearth of literature today. Things are of course changing. The reason why the aforementioned groups have done little with regards to this is because today the relationship is that of a land revenue collector with a farmer. Their main concern is to simply control the golak. Anything else is sadly of little value. Tinku Singh: we are all equal. There is nothing special about Sikhs genetically, man or woman. This leaves the environment and women are reacting to it. If it is permeating with the teachings, if Sikh men are shown in a positive light, if good practices are spearheaded, and if our institutions cater to our needs, then these betrayals would be reduced. Sikhs are immersed in Bollywood and are taught to idolize the general person instead of the Sardar so they are in fact being targeted. We cannot blame the women; instead, we should look at ourselves and see what needs to be done to rectify this issue. Those beautiful Sitas who are imbued with the naam are not lead astray [GGS:8]