Sikhs and Dera SachKhand – Vienna and Jalandhar

sikhvienna.jpgAs suggested by our readers (pagh salute: ambi and an indian Sikh), I am posting on the tragedy in Vienna. The facts are still coming in, so we have little perspective on what exactly occurred.

This much is known. In the Austrian capital of Vienna, six Sikh men carrying various weapons and a handgun entered a Dera [Some media are calling this a Sikh temple or a gurdwara, but it seems to be a dera attached to the Sach Khand group]. The men proceeded to go towards the preachers of the Dera and in the melee 16 people have been reported injured, including 6 seriously two names have been reported amongst the injured – Niranjan Das and Sant Rama Nand and the other 4 were the attackers (there are rumors that Sant Rama Nand may have been killed, but this has not yet been confirmed. Sant Rama Nand is one of the highest leaders of the SachaKhand Dera).

Some of the media is attempting to frame the dispute in terms of caste, asserting that the Dera is set up to honor Bhagat Ravi Das, whose own Bani can be found in the Guru Granth Sahib. Other reports for a cause have provided the following:

[the attackers] accused one or both of the preachers of being disrespectful of the Holy Book [Sri Guru Granth Sahib]. Indian news reports said the attackers were incensed that one of the preachers was given a ceremonial shawl considered a high Sikh honor. [link]

Still some of the local press has provided the following reason:

It was assumed by local media that the conflict between the temples like competing for worshipers might be the reason of this shooting incident. [link]

The story does not end there.

Seemingly sparked by the incident in Vienna, violence soon broke out in Jalandhar in Punjab.

As soon the news of firing on the Sant and his followers reached Jalandhar, hundreds of people belonging to dalit community came out of their houses and started pelting stones on the buses and other vehicles plying on Jalandhar-Nakodar, Jalandhar-Phagwara road. The mob set a truck on fire in Bootan Mandi and smashed the window panes of more one dozen buses. The mob blocked the traffic nearly on all roads leading to other cities and towns.

The protestors gave a call of Punjab Bandh on Monday and threatened that Bharat Bandh call would be given in case the assailants were not nabbed with in a day or two. Fearing damage to the petroleum out lets the pump owners closed their out lets. The police is facing hard times to control the situation. The whole city has been converted in to a police cantonment to avoid any type of untoward incident. The infuriated mob declined to lift dharna in Bootan Mandi chowk. [link]

A curfew has been declared in Jalandhar by the Punjab Government. This is not the first time there has been caste-related violence in Doaba.

I have checked Twitter as of 3:41pm PST and no eye-witnesses have added anything to the story. I have also checked some of the foreign presses and there is no extra information there.

So here I begin a reflection. Most posts will come to condemn the actions by these men. I agree with the sentiment. I dont want to get too far ahead of myself, but as a person who has tried to actively engage with members of our community that are part of the Ravi Das Sabha in Roseville, Caruthers, and Pittsburgh, it is absolutely necessary for the greater Sikh community to make amends and move beyond the caste-conscious that continues to divide us as a community and as a Qaum. I have personally participated in the Nagar Kirtans and various functions at these Guru Ghars. Until we begin to heal these fractions and realize that caste is only a figment of our imagination that we have the power to let go, we will continued to be divided on the very basis that our Sikh Gurus initiated a revolution. Each individual that calls themselves a Sikh of the Guru needs to re-evaluate our own outlooks, whether it be in terms of friends, associates, marriage partners, or even the seemingly small (but actually malignant) jokes people tell.

Instead of knee-jerk accusations and knee-jerk counter-accusations, I hope that we can take a moment to reflect. I hope here in The Langar Hall, where the crusade against caste has always played a prominent role, I hope we can engage in introspection and begin to develop real solutions.

For the most recent updates, see this post.


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152 Responses to “Sikhs and Dera SachKhand – Vienna and Jalandhar”

  1. an Indian Sikh says:

    On a side note, I often notice on this site and many other that the only Guru that's mentioned repeatedly is the Dasam Patshah.

    Besides Guru Gobind Singh Ji, there were nine other gurus in Sikhism who people refuse to talk about for some reason. It's always about the Tenth guru and the Khalsa Panth that he started. What about the rest of the nine who were NOT amritdhari? Let me list them for you in case you forgot:

    1. Guru Nanak Dev Ji

    2. Guru Angad Dev Ji

    3. Guru Amar Das Ji

    4. Guru Ram Das Ji

    5. Guru Arjan Dev Ji

    6. Guru Hargobind Ji

    7. Guru Har Rai Ji

    8. Guru Harkrishen Ji

    9. Guru Teg Bahadur Ji

    If none of them were Singhs or none of them were amritdhaari, that's not a reason to sideline them. :(

  2. atheist says:

    another observer i agree with your statement below

    Many Punjabi youth were brainwashed in the 90s to think that Sant Jarnail Singh was a terrorist – without knowing it was Indira Gandhi that brought him into the political fold as a counter-weight to the Akalis

    but indira’s decision backfired when the CIA and pakistan realised the importance of sant bhindrawale and his following got hold of him told him to start a rebellion against India and they will support him,as they say………….rest is history

  3. an Indian Sikh says:

    I am with Virk on this completely.

    Virk writes:

    “Is this religion so weak, and its followers feel so threatened constantly, that they must kill anyone they think is not in line with their view?”

    Couldn’t have been said better. Is this religion really that insecure that it cannot tolerate someone they do not agree with? Some commenter on this site said somewhere that those who are turbaned Sikhs and don’t go to gurdwaras should be taught a lesson. Say what? What of personal freedoms? Perhaps that person was born in a Sikh family and grew up wearing a turban but he decided to be a nirankari in his adulthood … is he to stop wearing a turban all of a sudden? He defines his identity with his turban. Is he to get rid of it just because his religious choice changed? Why can’t Sikhs tolerate him as is? Why is he supposed to ‘fall in line with the views’ of fanatics who would otherwise kill him?

    Sad. Terrible. These are days when I am ashamed to even admit that I am related to these people in any manner. Are we really headed the jehadi route? What is this that I read of sikh equivalents of madrassas being conducting in Southall gurdwara preaching hatred against India?

    My goodness! Smarten up, kids !! See truth for what it is before your own hatred consumes you.

  4. This is starting to get out of control…and off topic. The above comment re: "other 9 gurus" is ridiculous. All Gurus had the same Jyot!!! "Das Guruaan di ik jyot". To refer to Dasven Patshahi is to reflect the embodiement and culmination of Guru Nanak's ideology. The same enlightened rooh was in ALL 10 Gurus. Therefore, each Guru's ideology/mat can NEVER be bifurcated from another. This is Sikhi 101, guys. It amazes me that all self-proclaimed "indian sikhs" above (and enemies of the Sikh panth), are hell-bent on starting their own version of the Sikh faith. Hindus may have succeeded with wiping out Buddhism from the country of its birth, but this will NEVER happen with Sikhs my friends! The more Mir Mannu tried to cut us down, the more stronger we became – it's the same in this day and age.

  5. atheist says:

    its sad that sikh madrassas are set up around the world and kids as young as 5 are taught to wage jihad against India……sad…very sad indeed that we are not far from being talibanised by these minority of so called “sikhi re rakhwaley”

  6. Observer says:

    Another Observer, a very emotional and rhetorical reply which begins logically but very cleverly steers the readers through emotional appeals by mentioning the name of the great gurus and their followers.

    ” collective consciousness of the Panth awakens to the fact that:…” On what basis can we assume that this was a result of the collection consciousness of the Panth ? Are you trying to suggest that this act of violence was sanctioned by the Panth ? I would be careful in stating my own opinion as a collective decision of the Panth. This was nothing but an act of foolishness by some misled vigilantes.

    Also, if the youth are easily swayed by the MTV culture, its the older sikh generation’s fault that they failed to propagate the Sikhi message to the youth. Mentioning the names of Guru Gobind Singh or for that matter even Baba Deep Singh and Bhagat Singh is plain rhetoric and nothing else. No one in their right frame of mind has and ever will call them terrorists. Also, I resent grouping Guru Gobind Singh and Bhindranwale in one sentence or a para justifying the actions of the latter, but that’s just me.

    Babas and deras are not the problem sir, they are a result of the problem. It doesn’t make sense harping on the Mandal Commission to condone or justify such acts, sikhs are not the only people who are suffering from the quota system for engineers and doctors.

    I do agree with a part of your statement regarding drugs (and alcohol) being a major problem in the present day Punjab.

  7. Observer says:

    Another Observer, a very emotional and rhetorical reply which begins logically but very cleverly steers the readers through emotional appeals by mentioning the name of the great gurus and their followers.

    ” collective consciousness of the Panth awakens to the fact that:…” On what basis can we assume that this was a result of the collection consciousness of the Panth ? Are you trying to suggest that this act of violence was sanctioned by the Panth ? I would be careful in stating my own opinion as a collective decision of the Panth. This was nothing but an act of foolishness by some misled vigilantes.

    Also, if the youth are easily swayed by the MTV culture, its the older sikh generation’s fault that they failed to propagate the Sikhi message to the youth. Mentioning the names of Guru Gobind Singh or for that matter even Baba Deep Singh and Bhagat Singh is plain rhetoric and nothing else. No one in their right frame of mind has and ever will call them terrorists. Also, I resent grouping Guru Gobind Singh and Bhindranwale in one sentence or a para justifying the actions of the latter, but that’s just me.

    Babas and deras are not the problem sir, they are a result of the problem. It doesn’t make sense harping on the Mandal Commission to condone or justify such acts, sikhs are not the only people who are suffering from the quota system for engineers and doctors.

    I do agree with a part of your statement regarding drugs (and alcohol) being a major problem in the present day Punjab.

  8. Miss Kaur says:

    For any Amritdharee Sikh Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj is their father; the person that they choose to show them the path to reaching God. If you truly believe that Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj is your father then you would not allow anyone to disrespect them in any way shape or form.

    People that follow these cults and sects are truly misguided and the so called "sants/babas" should be stopped. No I am not saying that you need to kill them or use violence but they need to be stopped. For some unknown reason people feel they need to follow some baba around to help them spiritually when they already have a perfect Guru. Perhaps re-education for these people is the most important issue, then perhaps these cults and sects will come to an end.

  9. Punjabi says:

    I totally agree with Ibadat Singh about "side-lining" the 9 Gurus. Our Dasham Guru was a Sant-Sipahi and he established Khalsa, so what is wrong in talking about Khalsa. And, even if u believe that we are sidelining other Gurus, then I would ask you to follow even one of the 10 gurus and you'll never face a problem in your life. Because, you won't look at it as a problem, would look at as an opportunity and a challenge to prove your devotion to God.

    And, yes the more anyone will try to uproot Sikhism, the more the Sikhs will have faith in it and the more it is going to be established.

    And, one day with these inner and outer conflicts, Sikhs will realize the Khalsa way and that is when Khalsa will rise.

  10. Vijay says:

    “Babas and deras are not the problem sir, they are a result of the problem.” – Observer

    Exactly!

  11. Observer says:

    On a side note, one shouldn't condone the violence in India as a result of this event. Its sad that whenever such things happen, the first thing the public resorts to is to damage public property.

    Easier said that done obviously, but just making a point.

  12. Punjabi says:

    I just skimmed through the posts above and what I see is that some people have so much hatred in their hearts that they tell Sikhs to give up kirpans and sikhs are corrput. The first thing is that they don’t understand the meaning of kirpan…it is to defend someone. If someone was about to rape you or kill you and ur an innocent person would u not say “oh thanks lord i have this tool with me gifted by you that has helped me save humanity from these crooks.” Yes, you would! And, Sikhism does not preach caste system which is very well known and yes there are few sikhs those think they are the highest, but they still don’t go around killing others by telling them that im a “jatt” or “lebana” n im gonna kill u. NO they dont do that.
    I’m not justifying the attacks, and some of u wont beleive this. It’s like that “shoe matter.” The reason was just, but their way of uprooting evil was wrong. But, then again no one else doing anything to uproot it. may be they were just tired of the crooks and could not bear it anymore. But, again that doesn’t justify the act since its against our shabad Guru.

    And, then I also heard someone saying science has reason so stop following religion. For them I would like to say that Sikh religion has all the science of the world that even scientists have not understood yet.
    As said in out Guru Granth Sahib, there is no point in arguing with the fools and the ignorants, they’ll learn the lesson one day, but don’t stop following ur path because of them. Keep up your faith as God will test you until and unless you prove ur Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s Khalsa.

    Because, in the end as predicted by Guru Gobind Singh hundereds of years ago (he predicted a lot of things years ago):
    Raaj Karega Khalsa Aaki Rahe Na Koe, Khwaar Hoye Sab Milenge Bache Sharan Jo Hoye. Bole So Nihaal Sat Sri Akal

  13. Mike says:

    Dear Ibadat, I agree with you that the facts need to be established first. In this respect, what is your definition of right-wing Hindu organizations? Hindu organizations in Punjab are very diverse and same goes for Sikh organizations. One can not deny that Hinduism for over 5000 years in Punjab has captured the hearts of the believers in God and one can not deny that Sikhism has brought many Punjabi’s to a firm and committed faith in the Almighty.

    Your opinion is that other religions are diluting the Sikh Panth in Punjab, while above organizations might claim that they want to serve the spiritual needs of the people in Punjab. And we shouldn’t forget that the Punjabi relaity is similar to Nepali reality where people practice the tenets of more than one faith.(Sikhism and Hinduism vs. Hinduism and Buddhism)

    Both in Hinduism and Sikhish there are people who want to gain a powerful position in religious affairs based on their family and caste status. Though, both are not supported by the religious scriptures or words of the Guru’s and Sants. No community is going to benefit from playing the caste card by attacking other religions. As long as the debate resolves around the caste card cronyism among one’s faith community will never be eliminated.

    Perhaps it is time to open the caste debate more open and prominent then before. Just say what you believe on your personal account, that’s the only way we are going to solve this issue.

  14. an Indian Sikh says:

    On a side note, I often notice on this site and many other that the only Guru that’s mentioned repeatedly is the Dasam Patshah.

    Besides Guru Gobind Singh Ji, there were nine other gurus in Sikhism who people refuse to talk about for some reason. It’s always about the Tenth guru and the Khalsa Panth that he started. What about the rest of the nine who were NOT amritdhari? Let me list them for you in case you forgot:

    1. Guru Nanak Dev Ji
    2. Guru Angad Dev Ji
    3. Guru Amar Das Ji
    4. Guru Ram Das Ji
    5. Guru Arjan Dev Ji
    6. Guru Hargobind Ji
    7. Guru Har Rai Ji
    8. Guru Harkrishen Ji
    9. Guru Teg Bahadur Ji

    If none of them were Singhs or none of them were amritdhaari, that’s not a reason to sideline them. :(

  15. 121312 says:

    Do you think that the Dalits have been deliberately ignored by the sikh leadership who are mainly jatts? because if the dalits were openly welcomed into the sikh community than the predominently jatt leadership would lose their influence because there are way more dalits than jatts. The reason I ask is because caste is unfortunately still prevelant within the commmunity. Here in canada, there are smaller gurdwara's that specific castes only go to. Do you think that caste politics is an issue?, do you think that people in gurdwara committee's usually vote for people from their own caste? It is sad that there is so much division.

  16. This is starting to get out of control…and off topic. The above comment re: “other 9 gurus” is ridiculous. All Gurus had the same Jyot!!! “Das Guruaan di ik jyot”. To refer to Dasven Patshahi is to reflect the embodiement and culmination of Guru Nanak’s ideology. The same enlightened rooh was in ALL 10 Gurus. Therefore, each Guru’s ideology/mat can NEVER be bifurcated from another. This is Sikhi 101, guys. It amazes me that all self-proclaimed “indian sikhs” above (and enemies of the Sikh panth), are hell-bent on starting their own version of the Sikh faith. Hindus may have succeeded with wiping out Buddhism from the country of its birth, but this will NEVER happen with Sikhs my friends! The more Mir Mannu tried to cut us down, the more stronger we became – it’s the same in this day and age.

  17. Suresh Chopra says:

    Ibadat, you make a valid point with regards to there being one jyot. However, I feel that it is the same jyot which enlightened the many 'baghats' that made significant contributions to Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. They (Kabir Ji, Ravidass, Baba Farid, Sain…) were also responsible for propogating and preaching much of the ideology and philosophy around the time that Guru Nanak was around. Guru Nanak Ji met with some of these Baghats and collected their works for the collation of the Granth Sahib. These 'Baghats' (meaning worshipers of god) were also Gurus (meaning teacher) in that they also preached and taught the word of god to people.

    If you have read about the history and oppression of the dalit and shudra people you may have some understanding of why they 'are hell bent on starting their own version of the sikh faith'. It is called survival. Although our faith is built on values such as equality and tolerance this did not always exist and low caste people were excluded and alienated from soceity by sikhs as well as the hindus. As a result they identify with specific baghats who reflect their background and set up religious institutions in their name.

    I believe that it is time that we moved on and came together as one, under the banner of sikh. However, we all need to have the tolerence and understanding which is required in such a complex and sensetive task. Nothing will be achieved if members of sikh sects are told that they are wrong. Any dialogue will have to be made with love and understanding of peoples views and needs. God Bless

  18. Miss Kaur says:

    For any Amritdharee Sikh Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj is their father; the person that they choose to show them the path to reaching God. If you truly believe that Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj is your father then you would not allow anyone to disrespect them in any way shape or form.

    People that follow these cults and sects are truly misguided and the so called “sants/babas” should be stopped. No I am not saying that you need to kill them or use violence but they need to be stopped. For some unknown reason people feel they need to follow some baba around to help them spiritually when they already have a perfect Guru. Perhaps re-education for these people is the most important issue, then perhaps these cults and sects will come to an end.

  19. Punjabi says:

    I totally agree with Ibadat Singh about “side-lining” the 9 Gurus. Our Dasham Guru was a Sant-Sipahi and he established Khalsa, so what is wrong in talking about Khalsa. And, even if u believe that we are sidelining other Gurus, then I would ask you to follow even one of the 10 gurus and you’ll never face a problem in your life. Because, you won’t look at it as a problem, would look at as an opportunity and a challenge to prove your devotion to God.
    And, yes the more anyone will try to uproot Sikhism, the more the Sikhs will have faith in it and the more it is going to be established.

    And, one day with these inner and outer conflicts, Sikhs will realize the Khalsa way and that is when Khalsa will rise.

  20. an Indian Sikh says:

    "It amazes me that all self-proclaimed “indian sikhs” above (and enemies of the Sikh panth), are hell-bent on starting their own version of the Sikh faith."

    The hatred you ooze out of every word that you type never ceases to amaze me either, Mr. Gill. May God bless you with patience so that you keep your calm even when you are tortured. That's what Guru Arjan Dev Ji stands as a symbol of. Guru Ram Das Ji built Golden Temple with a Muslim peer laying the foundation … and four doors welcoming people of all creed and religion … and today, you are maligning Hindus on the whole as a people. Good for you. God bless.

  21. Observer says:

    On a side note, one shouldn’t condone the violence in India as a result of this event. Its sad that whenever such things happen, the first thing the public resorts to is to damage public property.

    Easier said that done obviously, but just making a point.

  22. Mike says:

    Dear Ibadat, please keep an eye on the larger picture based on established facts. There is not ONE religion in the world without many sects and the problem starts if we don't accept this and try to compete. Instead Sikhs should work to build one community which accept differences. And the reality is that there are considerable numbers of Sikhs who follow teachings from other religions.

    There are still many Buddhists in India, and throughout the whole of Asia as well. But such people don't say I believe in Buddha so I can't nothing else. This is especially true in Nepal, where people say I a Hindu AND a Buddhist. The largest Hindu temple in the world is in Cambodia that is now overwhelming Buddhist. Should you say, Buddhists wiped Hindus out of Cambodia? (and Southeast Asia in general)We can only speculate about why religions come and go in countries and it is not interesting at all. It is about the here and now. The message of the SGGS is of timeless value and the true strenght and backbone of Sikhism. The teachings and sacrifices of the Guru's appeal to many if they only heard about these fascinating realities but if you fight about which movement is the one and only true representation of Sikhism I am afraid many people will walk away.

  23. 121312 says:

    Do you think that the Dalits have been deliberately ignored by the sikh leadership who are mainly jatts? because if the dalits were openly welcomed into the sikh community than the predominently jatt leadership would lose their influence because there are way more dalits than jatts. The reason I ask is because caste is unfortunately still prevelant within the commmunity. Here in canada, there are smaller gurdwara’s that specific castes only go to. Do you think that caste politics is an issue?, do you think that people in gurdwara committee’s usually vote for people from their own caste? It is sad that there is so much division.

  24. Suresh Chopra says:

    Ibadat, you make a valid point with regards to there being one jyot. However, I feel that it is the same jyot which enlightened the many ‘baghats’ that made significant contributions to Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. They (Kabir Ji, Ravidass, Baba Farid, Sain…) were also responsible for propogating and preaching much of the ideology and philosophy around the time that Guru Nanak was around. Guru Nanak Ji met with some of these Baghats and collected their works for the collation of the Granth Sahib. These ‘Baghats’ (meaning worshipers of god) were also Gurus (meaning teacher) in that they also preached and taught the word of god to people.

    If you have read about the history and oppression of the dalit and shudra people you may have some understanding of why they ‘are hell bent on starting their own version of the sikh faith’. It is called survival. Although our faith is built on values such as equality and tolerance this did not always exist and low caste people were excluded and alienated from soceity by sikhs as well as the hindus. As a result they identify with specific baghats who reflect their background and set up religious institutions in their name.

    I believe that it is time that we moved on and came together as one, under the banner of sikh. However, we all need to have the tolerence and understanding which is required in such a complex and sensetive task. Nothing will be achieved if members of sikh sects are told that they are wrong. Any dialogue will have to be made with love and understanding of peoples views and needs. God Bless

  25. Admin Singh says:

    It is rather unfortunate that as a community, we are incapable of having a discussion. This forum is not a 'soapbox' to make threats and make incendiary remarks. It is meant to use the original post as a spring board for greater discussion and activism. We understand that emotions are running high, but in our inability to have a discussion in some ways we replicate the stupidity we saw in Vienna. We, again, hope people can read the original post, reflect, and think how to create a better tomorrow. Until then, this post is closed….Admin Singh

  26. an Indian Sikh says:

    “It amazes me that all self-proclaimed indian sikhs above (and enemies of the Sikh panth), are hell-bent on starting their own version of the Sikh faith.”

    The hatred you ooze out of every word that you type never ceases to amaze me either, Mr. Gill. May God bless you with patience so that you keep your calm even when you are tortured. That’s what Guru Arjan Dev Ji stands as a symbol of. Guru Ram Das Ji built Golden Temple with a Muslim peer laying the foundation … and four doors welcoming people of all creed and religion … and today, you are maligning Hindus on the whole as a people. Good for you. God bless.

  27. Mike says:

    Dear Ibadat, please keep an eye on the larger picture based on established facts. There is not ONE religion in the world without many sects and the problem starts if we don’t accept this and try to compete. Instead Sikhs should work to build one community which accept differences. And the reality is that there are considerable numbers of Sikhs who follow teachings from other religions.

    There are still many Buddhists in India, and throughout the whole of Asia as well. But such people don’t say I believe in Buddha so I can’t nothing else. This is especially true in Nepal, where people say I a Hindu AND a Buddhist. The largest Hindu temple in the world is in Cambodia that is now overwhelming Buddhist. Should you say, Buddhists wiped Hindus out of Cambodia? (and Southeast Asia in general)We can only speculate about why religions come and go in countries and it is not interesting at all. It is about the here and now. The message of the SGGS is of timeless value and the true strenght and backbone of Sikhism. The teachings and sacrifices of the Guru’s appeal to many if they only heard about these fascinating realities but if you fight about which movement is the one and only true representation of Sikhism I am afraid many people will walk away.

  28. Admin Singh says:

    It is rather unfortunate that as a community, we are incapable of having a discussion. This forum is not a ‘soapbox’ to make threats and make incendiary remarks. It is meant to use the original post as a spring board for greater discussion and activism. We understand that emotions are running high, but in our inability to have a discussion in some ways we replicate the stupidity we saw in Vienna. We, again, hope people can read the original post, reflect, and think how to create a better tomorrow. Until then, this post is closed….Admin Singh

  29. […] this time last year, in July, an attack on a dera in Austria sparked violence in Punjab. Six men have now been charged- one with murder, and five with attempted murder as accomplices […]