Sikhs in the Indian Constitution

The contents of an email from Tarlochan Singh, a member of the Indian Parliament, to Jagpal Singh Tiwana were published in The Sikh Times recently. constitution_of_india.jpgApparently, the member of Parliament is trying to have the Indian Constitution amended so that Sikhs are no longer referred to as Hindus for the purposes of Article 25 (freedom of religion).

Dear S. Tiwana Ji,

When I became a Member of Parliament I moved a Private Members Bill for an amendment of Section 25 of the Indian Constitution such that the Sikhs are treated as an independent religion. Under the present Constitution Sikhs are regarded as part of the Hindus. So this amendment is required for getting us independent status. My bill came before the House for discussion twice but due to disturbances in the House no proceeding could take place. Now I am waiting for the next opportunity. [The Sikh Times]

Currently, freedom of religion in India’s Constitution (Article 25) reads as follows:

Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion –

(1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.

(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law –

(a) regulating or restricting any economic, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;

(b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.

Explanation I – The wearing and carrying of kirpans shall be deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion.

Explanation II – In sub-Clause (b) of clause (2), the reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly. (emphasis added) [link]

I’ve often wondered about the history behind Explanation II and why it was articulated as it was. It seems to bar caste discrimination in places of religious worship, but it could certainly have been articulated to achieve that purpose without referring to Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists AS Hindu. I also don’t know whether this reference to Sikhs as Hindus was intended to be completely limited to the purposes of Art. 25- to prevent caste discrimination in places of religious worship. If that was the original intent, the effect has been altogether different. In a 2005 ruling of the Indian Supreme Court, according to the Tribune,

[The Indian Supreme Court] said if the argument for recognising every religious group within the broad Hindu religion as separate religious minority was accepted and such tendencies were encouraged, ‘the whole country, which is already under class and social conflicts due to various divisive forces, will further face divisions on the basis of religious diversities. Such claims to minority status based on religion would increase in the fond hope of various sections of people getting special protections, privileges and treatment as part of constitutional guarantee,’ the court said adding ‘a claim by one group of citizens would lead to a similar claim by another group and conflict and strife would ensue.'” [pluralism project]

The problem with this ruling is that it assumes that Sikhs weren’t already recognized as a religious minority community – and they clearly were in the Constituent debates which framed and drafted the Constitution.

The debates of the Constituent Assembly of India (translated into English where necessary) which took place from December 1946 through Janurary 1950 are online. They shed light on many aspects of the Indian Constitution, but not on this one (*disclaimer- I haven’t read them all yet). Unless Explanation II was inserted much after the main debates regarding what freedoms of religion should be for the newly independent India, I don’t think it was part of the initial drafting (again, I haven’t read all of the debates, and please do correct me if I’m wrong). If anyone knows more about the history of this “explanation,” please do share.


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77 Responses to “Sikhs in the Indian Constitution”

  1. H Singh says:

    Dear Reema and Camille,

    I appreciate your responses and let me say that I am not equating Hindutva and Hinduism together. What I am saying is that India is a Hindu State that sponsores Hinduism's Hindu Laws.

    You say India's secularism is unique. This statement is misinformed and a false pretension of the upper-caste Hindu India. It is certainly not secularism to enforce Hindu Laws on Sikhs unless one wants to imply Hindu Secularism.

    The Hindu elite further has chosen a Hindu Name "Bharat" from Hindu Scriptures for India (a name that has never been used in history) in the Indian Constitution.The constitution of India is a dangerous document that is a tool for exploitation.

    Sikhs are legal in India but it is conditional and i.e when Sikhs are part of Hindus. Constitutionally speaking Sikhs don't have right to be Sikhs in India. The constitution of India gives right to interfere in the institutions of Sikhs. It is naive to say Sikhs are not illegal in Hindu India. There is an ideology of Hindutva i.e. to impose Hinduism on non-Hindus and the above clause has widespread support amongst the upper-caste Hindus of India.

  2. H Singh says:

    Dear Reema and Camille,

    I appreciate your responses and let me say that I am not equating Hindutva and Hinduism together. What I am saying is that India is a Hindu State that sponsores Hinduism’s Hindu Laws.

    You say India’s secularism is unique. This statement is misinformed and a false pretension of the upper-caste Hindu India. It is certainly not secularism to enforce Hindu Laws on Sikhs unless one wants to imply Hindu Secularism.

    The Hindu elite further has chosen a Hindu Name “Bharat” from Hindu Scriptures for India (a name that has never been used in history) in the Indian Constitution.The constitution of India is a dangerous document that is a tool for exploitation.

    Sikhs are legal in India but it is conditional and i.e when Sikhs are part of Hindus. Constitutionally speaking Sikhs don’t have right to be Sikhs in India. The constitution of India gives right to interfere in the institutions of Sikhs. It is naive to say Sikhs are not illegal in Hindu India. There is an ideology of Hindutva i.e. to impose Hinduism on non-Hindus and the above clause has widespread support amongst the upper-caste Hindus of India.

  3. Harinder says:

    It is silly to see India as a monothestic Hindu nation.

    It mamy have started as one but it is no more like that now.

    Dalits call themselves reborn Buddhist about 20 %

    Muslims will be what they always are 15 %

    Chritians overt and covert are about 6 %

    Sikh to have found their new autonomy.

    I GUESS we are indulging in fear mongering and hate spewing over past griveances against dead foes.

    I guess it is a natural to prey on peoples fear and keep animosities alive.

    If SIKHS were to remember all their History ( Mughals to Britishers to Indian Congress of 80 s )they will find reasons to hate every one else except themselves and this will be in direct contradiction to our basic Philosophy of "NIRVAIR" and all Loving nature of Our GOD.

  4. Harinder says:

    It is silly to see India as a monothestic Hindu nation.
    It mamy have started as one but it is no more like that now.
    Dalits call themselves reborn Buddhist about 20 %
    Muslims will be what they always are 15 %
    Chritians overt and covert are about 6 %
    Sikh to have found their new autonomy.
    I GUESS we are indulging in fear mongering and hate spewing over past griveances against dead foes.
    I guess it is a natural to prey on peoples fear and keep animosities alive.
    If SIKHS were to remember all their History ( Mughals to Britishers to Indian Congress of 80 s )they will find reasons to hate every one else except themselves and this will be in direct contradiction to our basic Philosophy of “NIRVAIR” and all Loving nature of Our GOD.

  5. H Singh says:

    Harinder,

    That is very good attempt to disguise the reality of upper-caste Hindu Dominism on Sikhs. Time after time the history has shown it and still we refuse to admit in front of own eyes who is behind the political might of India.

  6. H Singh says:

    Harinder,

    That is very good attempt to disguise the reality of upper-caste Hindu Dominism on Sikhs. Time after time the history has shown it and still we refuse to admit in front of own eyes who is behind the political might of India.

  7. Harinder says:

    Dear SINGH

    With 2 % you cannot have a claim to be the might.

    It only seem to be power centric statement.

    And in any event what do the SIKH do In India besides farming 2 % land and 10 % soldiering and 10 % Trucking.

    Other minorities such as Christians run more educational institutes and Muslims do more labour work than most of the Sikhs boys.

    Bulk of our boys are drug sddicts and are only wanting to escape to West rather than making their own Punjab Great.

    We need a Renniance in Punjab.

  8. Harinder says:

    Dear SINGH
    With 2 % you cannot have a claim to be the might.
    It only seem to be power centric statement.
    And in any event what do the SIKH do In India besides farming 2 % land and 10 % soldiering and 10 % Trucking.
    Other minorities such as Christians run more educational institutes and Muslims do more labour work than most of the Sikhs boys.
    Bulk of our boys are drug sddicts and are only wanting to escape to West rather than making their own Punjab Great.
    We need a Renniance in Punjab.

  9. H Singh says:

    [Deleted. That has nothing to do with this post. -Admin.]

  10. H Singh says:

    [Deleted. That has nothing to do with this post. -Admin.]

  11. […] Originally Posted by Tango25 Yeah. Please continue the bs. When I became a Member of Parliament I moved a Private Members Bill for an amendment of Section 25 of the Indian Constitution such that the Sikhs are treated as an independent religion. Under the present Constitution Sikhs are regarded as part of the Hindus. So this amendment is required for getting us independent status. My bill came before the House for discussion twice but due to disturbances in the House no proceeding could take place. Now I am waiting for the next opportunity. Secondly, I moved another proposal such that a registration clause be added to the Anand Marriage Act of 1908. As present, Sikh marriages can be solemnized as per Sikh rites but the registration of Sikh marriages must occur under the Hindu Marriage Act. I succeeded in getting this proposal approved by the Parliamentary Committee for Law & Justice. The Law Minister has already announced in the House that the amendment Bill will be moved very soon. I am following this closely and am having frequent meetings on this topic with the Minister. Tarlochan Singh, M.P. India The Sikh Times – News and Analysis – Tarlochan Singh Makes Historic Push for Sikh Rights More info Sikhs in the Indian Constitution | The Langar Hall. […]

  12. pencil says:

    Not all religions are compatible with freedom. That is a hard lesson many nations are going to have to learn. You may not find that all members of such a religion support that particular aspect of it, but such a creed can nevertheless exist within a holy book. Not all people care about the rights of others. Neither do all religions. You could not convince a modern republic to sanction human sacrifice, but this was practiced by people in the Amazon as well as old Native America.

  13. pencil says:

    Not all religions are compatible with freedom. That is a hard lesson many nations are going to have to learn. You may not find that all members of such a religion support that particular aspect of it, but such a creed can nevertheless exist within a holy book. Not all people care about the rights of others. Neither do all religions. You could not convince a modern republic to sanction human sacrifice, but this was practiced by people in the Amazon as well as old Native America.

  14. Singh says:

    So long Khalsa preserves its identity

    I Shall bless it with all my power

    But, when it adopts Brahminic (Hindu) ways

    I shall not protect them.
    (Guru Gobind Singh)

    A sikh is not allowed to follow Brahmin law or even go to Brahmins but however Guru Nanak's universilitc message is one of peace and love for all religions, as well as Guru tegh bahadur shaheedi / martyrdom for freedom of religion maintains Sikhism to love all and see God in all. A sikh should be a proper sikh and hindu proper hindu, muslim a proper muslim. sikhs fought tyranny and oppression and for other religions. The khalsa amrit bhata is for all as a root to sachkhand but respect is for all. sikhism can not be brushed under a carpet of brahminism like other branches of hinduism were.

  15. […] according to Article 25 of the Constitution of India, Sikhs (as well as Buddhists and Jains) are ironically defined as Hindus in a statement that guaranteesfreedom of religion. Sikhs have objected to this definition since […]

  16. article 25 freedom to religion.
    clause[b] explanaton 2.which explains that sikhs,jainas and buddhist shall be under hindu references
    please explain me if applicablity content was so secular why muslims,christians,parsi were kept out.
    constitution review commission in year 2002.said clause[b] and explanation 2. denies sikhism independent identity.recomended reword clause[b] and delete explanation 2. http://www.lawmin.nic.in/ncrwc/finalreport.htm
    as of today sikhs,jainas and buddhist are kept under the jackboot of hindu defination hindu code hindu family laws.refusing to amend article 25. this is india goverment
    fascist policies and anti sikh attitude.
    regards
    harbans singh aujla