How Large is the Tent that is the Sikh Qaum?

Guru_Granth.jpgBeyond brown or white Sikhs, beyond various caste Sikhs, when and how do we come together as Sikhs? Is the jahaaz that is Guru Nanaks Naam large enough to carry us all, or with a narrow set of doxies and praxis do we restrict those that can enter.

Despite the various attacks on the Singh Sabha movement for only promoting Khalsa hegemony and other spurious slanders by neo-Sanatans, post-colonialists (I am reminded of a professor that once told me that he would only become a post-colonialist, when colonialism ends) attempting to form neo-Brahman ‘intelligentsias’, those that believe they own the Sikh identity, some Hindu chauvinist groups, and various beatniks, the movement was in fact very broad-minded and fought to enlarge the tent that is the Sikh Qaum.

They understood the difference between public and private aspects. In private, people may have their own practices, beliefs, etc. and while the Singh Sabha sought to bring these more in line with the practices and principles of Gurbani, they did allow some diversity in private. In public, we come together and stand by the Panthic rehat maryada.

For many years the Ravidasia, occupied such a place. They had distinct practices in their own places of congregation, but they were part of the larger Sikh Qaum. That was until now.

For some groups:

Now, followers of Bhagat Ravidass, who call themselves Ravidassias, are shifting out the Guru Granth Sahib from their shrines, thus making a permanent departure from the worlds fifth largest and youngest religion. In shrine after shrine, the Ravidassia sect authorities are either shifting the scriptures out or are telling the local Sikhs to take away the holy volume.[link]

While I am sure some groups will hail the decision, it really is tragic. Where it has always been the Guru Granth Sahib that unites the Sikh Qaum, the actions of some abhorrent individuals in Vienna has led some in the community to a rift with the great Guru. The repercussions will be felt in the future.

Caste continues to divide our community and without real soul-searching as occurred during the Singh Sabha Movement, we will be doomed as a community. Friends that attend the Ravidas Sabha in Pittsburgh, CA have told me on numerous occasions that members of the sangat from El Sobrante Gurdwara have vandalized various properties. While there may be differences in practices and even some beliefs, Sikhs should engage with one another as brothers and sisters to discuss points of commonalities, instead of willing to commit violence against one another on small points of difference.

I am sure many will take issue with my writing, but this is an attempt by 1 Sikh to reflect on the events occurring about him and come to turns with a Qaum that has members only to eager to begin dissolving it. I have hope that the youth can make a stand. However, it requires all of us to move beyond words and actually commit to it.


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47 Responses to “How Large is the Tent that is the Sikh Qaum?”

  1. Teg says:

    It is really a shame that CASTE- which is the product of Brahmanical cunning is still prevalent in Sikhs. We forget Guru's clear cut orders for Khalsa not to go the Brahmanical ways.

    We also need to go deeper in to Vienna incident and find out the real truth and the forces behind this. Remember there were no RAVIDASIA temples some years ago. They have suddenly sprouted up every where. Similarly Nanaksar sect has also grown exponentially in the west. The Indian intelligence agencies with huge resources specially dedicated to the policy of "divide and rule" are extremely active in destabilizing the Sikhs. They have already created more than 300 Deras in Punjab with active help from administration, police and intelligence agencies. In spite of Manmohan Singh ( who is just symbolic Sikh), we should never forget that Indian Government is the BIGGEST enemy of the Sikh nation and is bent upon our religious, political and economic oblivion.

  2. Singh Soorma says:

    I don't agree with your post for one primary reason: these so called subsets, such as Ravidas and Radhaswami, are not part of the Sikh religion. Sikhi isn't a branch religion; these groups hold the Guru Granth Sahib supplementary with other material. They should absolutely disengage from our Qaum because they should never have been there to begin with. If we as a Quam start being too lenient and begin accepting all of these groups as part of the Sikh brotherhood, then too are we doomed for failure. Sikhi is too simple of a religion for this clutter to be taking place. You either are a believer of Sikhism as preached by our gurus or you believe in some other ideology WHICH is not Sikhism – there's nothing wrong with that, but just don't bundle them in with our Quam

  3. Kanwar says:

    If these sects can so easily disengage themselves from the Guru Granth sahib after relatively minor incident like Vienna, then it was obviously little more than a prop for them in the first place.

    The obvious advantage that the Sikh quam has by uniting all these sects under the umbrella of Sikhism is the short term political/ vote advantage in India gained through greater numbers. However, is that short term gain worth the price of significantly watering down Sikhism?

  4. Singh Soorma says:

    I don’t agree with your post for one primary reason: these so called subsets, such as Ravidas and Radhaswami, are not part of the Sikh religion. Sikhi isn’t a branch religion; these groups hold the Guru Granth Sahib supplementary with other material. They should absolutely disengage from our Qaum because they should never have been there to begin with. If we as a Quam start being too lenient and begin accepting all of these groups as part of the Sikh brotherhood, then too are we doomed for failure. Sikhi is too simple of a religion for this clutter to be taking place. You either are a believer of Sikhism as preached by our gurus or you believe in some other ideology WHICH is not Sikhism – there’s nothing wrong with that, but just don’t bundle them in with our Quam

  5. Kanwar says:

    If these sects can so easily disengage themselves from the Guru Granth sahib after relatively minor incident like Vienna, then it was obviously little more than a prop for them in the first place.
    The obvious advantage that the Sikh quam has by uniting all these sects under the umbrella of Sikhism is the short term political/ vote advantage in India gained through greater numbers. However, is that short term gain worth the price of significantly watering down Sikhism?

  6. Teg says:

    It is really a shame that CASTE- which is the product of Brahmanical cunning is still prevalent in Sikhs. We forget Guru’s clear cut orders for Khalsa not to go the Brahmanical ways.
    We also need to go deeper in to Vienna incident and find out the real truth and the forces behind this. Remember there were no RAVIDASIA temples some years ago. They have suddenly sprouted up every where. Similarly Nanaksar sect has also grown exponentially in the west. The Indian intelligence agencies with huge resources specially dedicated to the policy of “divide and rule” are extremely active in destabilizing the Sikhs. They have already created more than 300 Deras in Punjab with active help from administration, police and intelligence agencies. In spite of Manmohan Singh ( who is just symbolic Sikh), we should never forget that Indian Government is the BIGGEST enemy of the Sikh nation and is bent upon our religious, political and economic oblivion.

  7. Singh Soorma says:

    I agree with the previous two posts, and I think our message is clear: "we" as Sikhs are together, but the issue is removing these other groups that are sheep in the skin of lions. These are the same groups which were behind the '78 killing of 13 Sikhs peacefully protesting, same groups behind the Dera Sacha Sauda issue, and certainly the same groups behind the recent Vienna entanglement. They were never part of Sikhi, but somehow media, along with uneducated masses, integrated them within the term Sikh.

  8. Singh Soorma says:

    I agree with the previous two posts, and I think our message is clear: “we” as Sikhs are together, but the issue is removing these other groups that are sheep in the skin of lions. These are the same groups which were behind the ’78 killing of 13 Sikhs peacefully protesting, same groups behind the Dera Sacha Sauda issue, and certainly the same groups behind the recent Vienna entanglement. They were never part of Sikhi, but somehow media, along with uneducated masses, integrated them within the term Sikh.

  9. Jodha says:

    I am well-aware that there are problems with some of these groups. However all are not the same and it is intellectual laziness to equate all of them together. Ravidasia groups WERE NOT begin the killings in 1978. The Ravidasia groups ARE NOT Dera Sacha Sauda.

    Maybe or maybe not we can come to terms with some groups, but the alternative to kick all of them out and claim that they are not Sikhs is no solution either. It always seems rather ironic to me, because I have a feeling that many of the above commenters would support 'Khalistan' as well. However, how will you ever achieve this country, when you are at war with more than 60-70% of the inhabitants of Punjab?

  10. Jodha says:

    I am well-aware that there are problems with some of these groups. However all are not the same and it is intellectual laziness to equate all of them together. Ravidasia groups WERE NOT begin the killings in 1978. The Ravidasia groups ARE NOT Dera Sacha Sauda.

    Maybe or maybe not we can come to terms with some groups, but the alternative to kick all of them out and claim that they are not Sikhs is no solution either. It always seems rather ironic to me, because I have a feeling that many of the above commenters would support ‘Khalistan’ as well. However, how will you ever achieve this country, when you are at war with more than 60-70% of the inhabitants of Punjab?

  11. Singh Soorma says:

    Jodha,

    While I often admire reading your stimulating posts, I will not allow for you to have such a [edited] last word on this topic. From what I understand, you are advocating for the Sikh quam to allow groups, such as Ravidasia (which you don't equate to Nirankaris and Dera Sacha Sauda – I am sure each of those groups wouldn't equate themselves to such low regards either) to fall under the umbrella of Sikhi. Am I correct in that statement? If so, then that is an absurd comment. These groups, including Ravidasia, don't adhere to the tenants of Sikhism, ergo, they're not following Sikhi as mandated by our Gurus. Besides, if they want to fall under the "Quam" of Sikhi, then why don't they simply shed their group name and preachings and adhere to Sikhi? Why must we allow for our religion to be diluted with external groups? I don't understand how you can honestly say that it is even remotely an equitable idea to allow for these groups to be branched under the arms of Sikhi.

    Ravidasia groups WERE NOT begin the killings in 1978. The Ravidasia groups ARE NOT Dera Sacha Sauda.

    You know what they're ALSO NOT? They're ALSO NOT Sikhs! They follow their own teachings and simply utilize the SGGS as a supplementary source. And I also raise to question: Why is it not a solution to simply do away with these groups? Will they decrease "our" numbers? It's simple: a sheep cannot simply dress up in the hide of a lion and expect to be recognized in a heard of lions. I am not saying these groups are any less then Sikhs by referring to them as sheep, but the point is, they are different, yet people such as you (Jodha) are attempting to integrate them within our religion.

    In terms of Khalistan, that is simply way too polar of a topic for it to be discussed on this forum. You are making a generalization in claiming that the poster-s above are advocating for Khalistan; when you consider that Sikhs are turning into an indigenous group within their own homeland, I think one might have to look at some alternatives. Also, Sikhs are NOT at war with 60-70% of Punjab – that's such a unnecessary statement. Any issues that Sikhs have within Punjab are well warranted and often arise because they are being attacked initially.

  12. Singh Soorma says:

    Jodha,

    While I often admire reading your stimulating posts, I will not allow for you to have such a [edited] last word on this topic. From what I understand, you are advocating for the Sikh quam to allow groups, such as Ravidasia (which you don’t equate to Nirankaris and Dera Sacha Sauda – I am sure each of those groups wouldn’t equate themselves to such low regards either) to fall under the umbrella of Sikhi. Am I correct in that statement? If so, then that is an absurd comment. These groups, including Ravidasia, don’t adhere to the tenants of Sikhism, ergo, they’re not following Sikhi as mandated by our Gurus. Besides, if they want to fall under the “Quam” of Sikhi, then why don’t they simply shed their group name and preachings and adhere to Sikhi? Why must we allow for our religion to be diluted with external groups? I don’t understand how you can honestly say that it is even remotely an equitable idea to allow for these groups to be branched under the arms of Sikhi.

    Ravidasia groups WERE NOT begin the killings in 1978. The Ravidasia groups ARE NOT Dera Sacha Sauda.

    You know what they’re ALSO NOT? They’re ALSO NOT Sikhs! They follow their own teachings and simply utilize the SGGS as a supplementary source. And I also raise to question: Why is it not a solution to simply do away with these groups? Will they decrease “our” numbers? It’s simple: a sheep cannot simply dress up in the hide of a lion and expect to be recognized in a heard of lions. I am not saying these groups are any less then Sikhs by referring to them as sheep, but the point is, they are different, yet people such as you (Jodha) are attempting to integrate them within our religion.

    In terms of Khalistan, that is simply way too polar of a topic for it to be discussed on this forum. You are making a generalization in claiming that the poster-s above are advocating for Khalistan; when you consider that Sikhs are turning into an indigenous group within their own homeland, I think one might have to look at some alternatives. Also, Sikhs are NOT at war with 60-70% of Punjab – that’s such a unnecessary statement. Any issues that Sikhs have within Punjab are well warranted and often arise because they are being attacked initially.

  13. Kanwar says:

    Jodha

    My belief that sects which place living Gurus over/ alongside Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji are fundamentally contrary to Sikhism does not make me a hard line Khalistani. That belief does not mean I wish any ill on them or that I celebrate the Vienna incident. But if you can stretch the boundaries of Sikhi to accommodate such a belief system, then why stop there? Lets throw in a few hundred Hindu Gods too…[edited by admin]. Seriously, where do you draw the line?

    [Let's remain respectful of all religions, I know you were joking, but that would've been perceived as offensive by followers. Thanks. -Admin]

  14. Kanwar says:

    Jodha

    My belief that sects which place living Gurus over/ alongside Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji are fundamentally contrary to Sikhism does not make me a hard line Khalistani. That belief does not mean I wish any ill on them or that I celebrate the Vienna incident. But if you can stretch the boundaries of Sikhi to accommodate such a belief system, then why stop there? Lets throw in a few hundred Hindu Gods too…[edited by admin]. Seriously, where do you draw the line?

    [Let’s remain respectful of all religions, I know you were joking, but that would’ve been perceived as offensive by followers. Thanks. -Admin]

  15. Jodha says:

    Dear Singh Soorma and Kanwar,

    I appreciate your comments and healthy criticism. The purpose was to begin a dialogue as brothers and sisters, who may at times disagree.

    I am completely aware of the slippery slope that the both of you allude to. However, the alternative of constantly being at 'war' with other groups and creating 'new' enemies even where none existed.

    We have a definition of a Sikh by the Panthic Rehat Maryada:

    Any human being who faithfully believes in

    i. One Immortal Being,

    ii. Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Sahib to Guru Gobind Singh Sahib,

    iii. The Guru Granth Sahib,

    iv. The utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus and

    v. the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru, and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion, is a Sikh

    So any group that believes it to have a living Guru, etc. would automatically be eliminated (e.g. Radha Soamis, DSS, Nirankaris, etc.). To the best of my knowledge and looking at their website, the leaders of Dera Sachkhand Ballan DO NOT call themselves Gurus, but rather Sants. This, too, may be problematic, but we can work with such groups, rather than merely saying they are not Sikhs and pushing them even farther away.

    The definition of a Sikh remains firm the in-built flexibility is its genius as it allows some diversity.

    Hoping to engage further….

  16. Jodha says:

    Dear Singh Soorma and Kanwar,

    I appreciate your comments and healthy criticism. The purpose was to begin a dialogue as brothers and sisters, who may at times disagree.

    I am completely aware of the slippery slope that the both of you allude to. However, the alternative of constantly being at ‘war’ with other groups and creating ‘new’ enemies even where none existed.

    We have a definition of a Sikh by the Panthic Rehat Maryada:

    Any human being who faithfully believes in
    i. One Immortal Being,
    ii. Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Sahib to Guru Gobind Singh Sahib,
    iii. The Guru Granth Sahib,
    iv. The utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus and
    v. the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru, and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion, is a Sikh

    So any group that believes it to have a living Guru, etc. would automatically be eliminated (e.g. Radha Soamis, DSS, Nirankaris, etc.). To the best of my knowledge and looking at their website, the leaders of Dera Sachkhand Ballan DO NOT call themselves Gurus, but rather Sants. This, too, may be problematic, but we can work with such groups, rather than merely saying they are not Sikhs and pushing them even farther away.

    The definition of a Sikh remains firm the in-built flexibility is its genius as it allows some diversity.

    Hoping to engage further….

  17. Singh Soorma says:

    Jodha,

    You asked for an engaging discussion, and my friend, I assure you that you will receive nothing short of such a request. Prior to diving deep into my points of conflict with your last post, I will like to comment on how all poster-s have come to at least some unity: there are many groups that claim to integrate Sikhi into their religion, but they clearly contradict the basic tenants of Sikhism, ergo, will NOT be considered part of the Quam.

    However, your last post has some points I want to discuss, primarily that being of your defending of Ravidasi/Dera Sachkand Ballan (they're both one and the same) as examples of orginazations which we, as Sikhs, should consider allowing into our Quam. You mentioned that you went to DSB's website, and so I am certain that you must've seen the large heading on the home page: Jo Bole So Nirbhay, Shri Guru Ravidass Maharaj Ki Jai. They follow the teachings of Bhagat Ravidas – a fact that one can't argue. Based off of that alone, their beliefs contradict the Sikh Rehat Maryada – one must have belief in the teachings of the ten Gurus and utilize the Sri Guru Granth Sahib alone as a means of taking in the word of Waheguru. Ravidasi utilize the SGGS as a supplementary source and they believe in the teachings of Bhagat Ravidas. THAT BEING SAID, I have no issue with them being an organized religion, however, that is exactly what they should remain – not become a subgroup of Sikhi. I agree with Kanwar's post

    But if you can stretch the boundaries of Sikhi to accommodate such a belief system, then why stop there?

    1.) These groups are not asking to be integrated into the Sikh religion; we as a Quam shouldn't infer that they want to or even more – attempt to take action in an effort to do so.

    2.) Sikhi is a VERY simple religion and it was intentionally structured in such a manner to prevent such confusion! These groups are NOT following the tenants of Sikhi as mandated by the Rehat Maryada, therefore they are not to be considered Sikhs. Sure, there might be some overlaps, BUT there are many overlaps between Hinduism, Sikhi, and Islam, so why don't we just integrate into a GIANT religion?! We are distinctly Sikhs.

    Singh Soorma

  18. Singh Soorma says:

    Jodha,

    You asked for an engaging discussion, and my friend, I assure you that you will receive nothing short of such a request. Prior to diving deep into my points of conflict with your last post, I will like to comment on how all poster-s have come to at least some unity: there are many groups that claim to integrate Sikhi into their religion, but they clearly contradict the basic tenants of Sikhism, ergo, will NOT be considered part of the Quam.

    However, your last post has some points I want to discuss, primarily that being of your defending of Ravidasi/Dera Sachkand Ballan (they’re both one and the same) as examples of orginazations which we, as Sikhs, should consider allowing into our Quam. You mentioned that you went to DSB’s website, and so I am certain that you must’ve seen the large heading on the home page: Jo Bole So Nirbhay, Shri Guru Ravidass Maharaj Ki Jai. They follow the teachings of Bhagat Ravidas – a fact that one can’t argue. Based off of that alone, their beliefs contradict the Sikh Rehat Maryada – one must have belief in the teachings of the ten Gurus and utilize the Sri Guru Granth Sahib alone as a means of taking in the word of Waheguru. Ravidasi utilize the SGGS as a supplementary source and they believe in the teachings of Bhagat Ravidas. THAT BEING SAID, I have no issue with them being an organized religion, however, that is exactly what they should remain – not become a subgroup of Sikhi. I agree with Kanwar’s post

    But if you can stretch the boundaries of Sikhi to accommodate such a belief system, then why stop there?

    1.) These groups are not asking to be integrated into the Sikh religion; we as a Quam shouldn’t infer that they want to or even more – attempt to take action in an effort to do so.

    2.) Sikhi is a VERY simple religion and it was intentionally structured in such a manner to prevent such confusion! These groups are NOT following the tenants of Sikhi as mandated by the Rehat Maryada, therefore they are not to be considered Sikhs. Sure, there might be some overlaps, BUT there are many overlaps between Hinduism, Sikhi, and Islam, so why don’t we just integrate into a GIANT religion?! We are distinctly Sikhs.

    Singh Soorma

  19. Jitinder says:

    Singh Soorma,

    Have you considered the fact that the Ravidasi line emerged pretty much because of Jatt domination and discrimination in gurdwaras? I once spoke to a Ravidasi-following man who said that he didnt consider ravidas a Sikh guru, but still went to a 'ravidasi gurdwara' because he felt confomfortable going to other gurdwaras because of the discrimintation (both blatant and more insidious) that he faced at the larger gurdwara in his area. Many of these dera groups also emerge because we in the 'Asli Sikh' quam aren't following Sikhi the right way ourselves, and these other groups just retool Sikh principles and offer better social institutions and support than 'Asli Sikhs' can because of our own infighting and ego.

  20. Jitinder says:

    Singh Soorma,
    Have you considered the fact that the Ravidasi line emerged pretty much because of Jatt domination and discrimination in gurdwaras? I once spoke to a Ravidasi-following man who said that he didnt consider ravidas a Sikh guru, but still went to a ‘ravidasi gurdwara’ because he felt confomfortable going to other gurdwaras because of the discrimintation (both blatant and more insidious) that he faced at the larger gurdwara in his area. Many of these dera groups also emerge because we in the ‘Asli Sikh’ quam aren’t following Sikhi the right way ourselves, and these other groups just retool Sikh principles and offer better social institutions and support than ‘Asli Sikhs’ can because of our own infighting and ego.

  21. Singh Soorma says:

    Jitinder,

    As a Jatt, I'll be the first to admit to you that we are not the most intelligent of people; our "anakh", our pride, gets to our head too often. However, on the same token, I am very proud to be a Jatt – not in caste terms, but in cultural terms. I'll also admit that caste-ism is VERY prevalent in Sikhi – unfortunately – and that natural division among sects that comes with heavy belief in a caste system has crawled over to the US, Canada, and England. I can't argue against the notion that there is discrimination against "chamars" and other groups by certain gurdwaras where there are HUGE, and well established, Jatt populations. However, this is an issue that we as a Quam need to deal with and not simply live with. If we accept these groups – which we can somewhat claim to be groups of lower castes – then we are essentially legitimizing the schism within our religion, and allowing for our religion to OFFICIALLY be divided into caste sects.

    In terms of the discrimination on the other castes by the Jatts, let me add my own two cents. In my personal opinion, I really feel like the caste divides in the Western countries is going to die, or at least come close to ending in the very near future. Discrimination in American gurdwaras is mostly dished out by committee members who are often Punjabi-immigrants. However, when the next generation (those kids born in the western nations) comes of that age, when they're controlling the gurdwaras, discrimination among Sikhs will hopefully die out; they wont carry those discriminatory practices of their parents because it wont be relevant in these countries.

  22. Singh Soorma says:

    Jitinder,

    As a Jatt, I’ll be the first to admit to you that we are not the most intelligent of people; our “anakh”, our pride, gets to our head too often. However, on the same token, I am very proud to be a Jatt – not in caste terms, but in cultural terms. I’ll also admit that caste-ism is VERY prevalent in Sikhi – unfortunately – and that natural division among sects that comes with heavy belief in a caste system has crawled over to the US, Canada, and England. I can’t argue against the notion that there is discrimination against “chamars” and other groups by certain gurdwaras where there are HUGE, and well established, Jatt populations. However, this is an issue that we as a Quam need to deal with and not simply live with. If we accept these groups – which we can somewhat claim to be groups of lower castes – then we are essentially legitimizing the schism within our religion, and allowing for our religion to OFFICIALLY be divided into caste sects.

    In terms of the discrimination on the other castes by the Jatts, let me add my own two cents. In my personal opinion, I really feel like the caste divides in the Western countries is going to die, or at least come close to ending in the very near future. Discrimination in American gurdwaras is mostly dished out by committee members who are often Punjabi-immigrants. However, when the next generation (those kids born in the western nations) comes of that age, when they’re controlling the gurdwaras, discrimination among Sikhs will hopefully die out; they wont carry those discriminatory practices of their parents because it wont be relevant in these countries.

  23. Jodha says:

    Singh Soorma and Jitinder,

    Let's continue the fun.

    Singh Soorma – First off, I have to correct your premise. Ravidasias DO NOT all follow Dera Sachkhand Ballan. This is a common fallacy by many Sikhs that do not understand their internal politics. It is important to categorically state from the get go that they are NOT the same thing.

    The fact remains at most Ravidasia centers they DO follow the teachings of the ten Gurus and the Guru Granth Sahib is/was (until recently) the center of spiritual worship. Granted the emphasized the Bani of Ravidas, but that bani is also Gurbani and central to the Guru Granth Sahib. It would be incorrect to state that it is 'supplementary' material.

    The Ravidasia community has always been an integral part of the Sikh community. It was a Ravidasia Singh that was called the 'fifth sahibzada' and Guru Gobind Singh himself called the 'Rangretas, Guru Ka Betas.'

    As far as not wanting to be part of the Sikh Qaum, such a development has largely been due to the casteist Sikhs that dominate all parts of Sikh life. It should be no surprise that they no longer seek to be part of the revolutionary dharam, started by the Gurus, but betrayed by the Sikhs of today that would rather preserve their caste hegemony. The shame is ours.

    The definition of a Sikh has been set by the Panth. I provided it in a previous comment. It is not for you or I to define who is a Sikh and who is not. Unfortunately, we and many others in our community continue to play this game. We are still stuck in the 19th century and still arguing for Kahn Singh Nabha. We are a great community. Let us have confidence in ourselves and walk forward without always having to argue about who is and who is not a Sikh.

    Unfortunately, Singh Soorma, this is our dilemma as well. I do not question your Sikh feelings. However, despite the fact that YOU know asserting caste is against Sikhi, yet even one with as strong feelings as you will assert it in conversation as well. I hope your future vision plays out. It still remains to be seen.

    Jitinder – well said!

  24. Jodha says:

    Singh Soorma and Jitinder,

    Let’s continue the fun.

    Singh Soorma – First off, I have to correct your premise. Ravidasias DO NOT all follow Dera Sachkhand Ballan. This is a common fallacy by many Sikhs that do not understand their internal politics. It is important to categorically state from the get go that they are NOT the same thing.

    The fact remains at most Ravidasia centers they DO follow the teachings of the ten Gurus and the Guru Granth Sahib is/was (until recently) the center of spiritual worship. Granted the emphasized the Bani of Ravidas, but that bani is also Gurbani and central to the Guru Granth Sahib. It would be incorrect to state that it is ‘supplementary’ material.

    The Ravidasia community has always been an integral part of the Sikh community. It was a Ravidasia Singh that was called the ‘fifth sahibzada’ and Guru Gobind Singh himself called the ‘Rangretas, Guru Ka Betas.’

    As far as not wanting to be part of the Sikh Qaum, such a development has largely been due to the casteist Sikhs that dominate all parts of Sikh life. It should be no surprise that they no longer seek to be part of the revolutionary dharam, started by the Gurus, but betrayed by the Sikhs of today that would rather preserve their caste hegemony. The shame is ours.

    The definition of a Sikh has been set by the Panth. I provided it in a previous comment. It is not for you or I to define who is a Sikh and who is not. Unfortunately, we and many others in our community continue to play this game. We are still stuck in the 19th century and still arguing for Kahn Singh Nabha. We are a great community. Let us have confidence in ourselves and walk forward without always having to argue about who is and who is not a Sikh.

    Unfortunately, Singh Soorma, this is our dilemma as well. I do not question your Sikh feelings. However, despite the fact that YOU know asserting caste is against Sikhi, yet even one with as strong feelings as you will assert it in conversation as well. I hope your future vision plays out. It still remains to be seen.

    Jitinder – well said!

  25. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa,

    Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh !

    I have been reading the posts with great interest, i fully agree with Jitinder Singh.

    Please visit some of the Ravidassi forums to see what they think of the "Sikhs ".

    Below is an interesting link:

    http://www.ravidassiauk.co.uk

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa,

    Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh !

  26. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa,
    Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh !

    I have been reading the posts with great interest, i fully agree with Jitinder Singh.
    Please visit some of the Ravidassi forums to see what they think of the “Sikhs “.
    Below is an interesting link:

    http://www.ravidassiauk.co.uk

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa,
    Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh !

  27. Singh Soorma says:

    Jodha,

    If I made a fallacious argument, can you so kindly explain as to HOW the two entities are so vastly different? If you want to catch me on some minor details, then I lose respect in your ability to argue, as you felt the need to make it your initial point as if I had made a giant mistake. So please, enlighten me, as well as those who commit these fallacies, in what the difference between the two is.

    If these groups are Sikhs to begin with, then why must they create there own recognized religions? If caste is an issue, why attempt to deviate from the issue rather then be the change? The point is simple: If these people would like to be considered Sikhs, then they need to shed their title of X or Y and join the Panth as Sikhs. Sikhi doesn't have room to harbor other groups who claim to be Sikhs yet engage in idolism.

  28. Singh Soorma says:

    Jodha,

    If I made a fallacious argument, can you so kindly explain as to HOW the two entities are so vastly different? If you want to catch me on some minor details, then I lose respect in your ability to argue, as you felt the need to make it your initial point as if I had made a giant mistake. So please, enlighten me, as well as those who commit these fallacies, in what the difference between the two is.

    If these groups are Sikhs to begin with, then why must they create there own recognized religions? If caste is an issue, why attempt to deviate from the issue rather then be the change? The point is simple: If these people would like to be considered Sikhs, then they need to shed their title of X or Y and join the Panth as Sikhs. Sikhi doesn’t have room to harbor other groups who claim to be Sikhs yet engage in idolism.

  29. Jodha says:

    Singh Soorma,

    Ask you and shall receive. The Dera Sachkhand Ballan is relatively new and gives prestige to a particular Sant. Not all Ravidasias give the same deference to this Sant. The Ravidasia movement is largely the result of the long-standing attitudes of casteism that plagues not only discussion on the issue but the community in general. In almost every Punjabi village even today, including my own, Mazhbi Sikhs are forced to have separate cremation grounds than the Jatts. Even in death, casteist mentalities pervades and we are not equal. The distinction between Ravidasias and those that are part of the Dera Sachkhand Ballan isn’t a minor detail. One needs to understand the phenomenon and the issue that we are discussing to have an informed opinion. Generally all followers of Dera Sachkhand Ballan tend to be Ravidasia; however not all Ravidasia belong to the Dera Sachkhand Ballan.

    As per your question as to why they must create their own recognized religions, why not turn the mirror on ourselves and ask the same question. What do we and our casteist ways do to push others away? While whites in the US may wonder the seeds of black separatism, it would also be worthwhile for them to look at their own actions that may contribute to such a movement. Instead of only calling upon them for change, why not provide a clarion call to Sikhs to act as Sikhs, instead of calling themselves Sikhs but being far more proud of their caste identities?

  30. Jodha says:

    Singh Soorma,

    Ask you and shall receive. The Dera Sachkhand Ballan is relatively new and gives prestige to a particular Sant. Not all Ravidasias give the same deference to this Sant. The Ravidasia movement is largely the result of the long-standing attitudes of casteism that plagues not only discussion on the issue but the community in general. In almost every Punjabi village even today, including my own, Mazhbi Sikhs are forced to have separate cremation grounds than the Jatts. Even in death, casteist mentalities pervades and we are not equal. The distinction between Ravidasias and those that are part of the Dera Sachkhand Ballan isnt a minor detail. One needs to understand the phenomenon and the issue that we are discussing to have an informed opinion. Generally all followers of Dera Sachkhand Ballan tend to be Ravidasia; however not all Ravidasia belong to the Dera Sachkhand Ballan.

    As per your question as to why they must create their own recognized religions, why not turn the mirror on ourselves and ask the same question. What do we and our casteist ways do to push others away? While whites in the US may wonder the seeds of black separatism, it would also be worthwhile for them to look at their own actions that may contribute to such a movement. Instead of only calling upon them for change, why not provide a clarion call to Sikhs to act as Sikhs, instead of calling themselves Sikhs but being far more proud of their caste identities?

  31. Sanehwal says:

    Singh Soorma,

    You didn't respond to the jist of Jitinder's post. He is saying very specifically that these groups that we are speaking of are not historical and instead emerge only recently because of case-based politics. Simple as that. And I would submit that it is only a more insidious form of cased-based discrimination that is fueling current debates.

    I am puzzeled by some of the things you wrote; "certain gurdwaras where there are HUGE, and well established, Jatt populations." Remember that roughly speaking, 50% of the quam comes from a Jatt background. Meaning that unless you are going to a gurdwara that is not already fractured along caste lines then you are most likely going to be in the presence of a HUGE well established Jatt population and possible discrimination. I similarly don't understand your next point: "If we accept these groups – which we can somewhat claim to be groups of lower castes – then we are essentially legitimizing the schism within our religion, and allowing for our religion to OFFICIALLY be divided into caste sects." I dont think anyone is necessarily in favor of blindly accepting anti-Sikh practices under the umbrella of Sikhi, but I firmly believe that starting a process of accepting these groups, opening dialogue and working together (instead of vandalizing other gurdwaras as we have seen in the bay area) will do nothing but heal the wounds and begin the complex process of stitching together a fabric that we ourselves have torn apart.

    And as far as your beliefs on caste in the diaspora go, you're sorely mistaken. I am an undergraduate at a large research university in California, and though caste-based discrimination isn't as nefarious as it is among perhaps my parents and grandparents generations, it is still present and so easy to fall trap to even though caste has nothing to do with my peer's lives. It will continue that as long as there is an influx of immigrants to re-enculturate diasporic subjects about their "glorious Jatt/Chumar/Tharkan." heritage, and these problems will continue to rear their ugly heads. Can you seriously imagine your local Jatt-run gurdwara even engaging in dialogue with the Saini gurdwara down the street to combine resources and make a better Guru Ghar for the sangat? We can't even get our Sunday Schools straight.

  32. Sanehwal says:

    Singh Soorma,

    You didn’t respond to the jist of Jitinder’s post. He is saying very specifically that these groups that we are speaking of are not historical and instead emerge only recently because of case-based politics. Simple as that. And I would submit that it is only a more insidious form of cased-based discrimination that is fueling current debates.

    I am puzzeled by some of the things you wrote; “certain gurdwaras where there are HUGE, and well established, Jatt populations.” Remember that roughly speaking, 50% of the quam comes from a Jatt background. Meaning that unless you are going to a gurdwara that is not already fractured along caste lines then you are most likely going to be in the presence of a HUGE well established Jatt population and possible discrimination. I similarly don’t understand your next point: “If we accept these groups which we can somewhat claim to be groups of lower castes then we are essentially legitimizing the schism within our religion, and allowing for our religion to OFFICIALLY be divided into caste sects.” I dont think anyone is necessarily in favor of blindly accepting anti-Sikh practices under the umbrella of Sikhi, but I firmly believe that starting a process of accepting these groups, opening dialogue and working together (instead of vandalizing other gurdwaras as we have seen in the bay area) will do nothing but heal the wounds and begin the complex process of stitching together a fabric that we ourselves have torn apart.

    And as far as your beliefs on caste in the diaspora go, you’re sorely mistaken. I am an undergraduate at a large research university in California, and though caste-based discrimination isn’t as nefarious as it is among perhaps my parents and grandparents generations, it is still present and so easy to fall trap to even though caste has nothing to do with my peer’s lives. It will continue that as long as there is an influx of immigrants to re-enculturate diasporic subjects about their “glorious Jatt/Chumar/Tharkan.” heritage, and these problems will continue to rear their ugly heads. Can you seriously imagine your local Jatt-run gurdwara even engaging in dialogue with the Saini gurdwara down the street to combine resources and make a better Guru Ghar for the sangat? We can’t even get our Sunday Schools straight.

  33. Rajinder Singh says:

    Tent ? What Tent. Guru Nanaks tent stretches from one corner of the Universe to the Other.

  34. Rajinder Singh says:

    Tent ? What Tent. Guru Nanaks tent stretches from one corner of the Universe to the Other.

  35. Singh Soorma says:

    Sanehwal,

    Thank for you informing me that you are an undergrad at a large research university – it really added to to your overall post. I guess I should mention that I am an undergrad at a large research university in Virginia. Both you, as well as Jodha, are missing the fundamental aspect of my postings. I am in no way arguing that there isn't castism in Sikhi – these Brahamin values have been instilled within our Quam; I am also not arguing that we should not be accepting of the people within these groups – NOT AT ALL! My ONLY point of argument is: If these people want to be accepted as Sikhs, which they rightfully should, then they should enter as Sikhs and not as members of their respective groups. For example, the Sikh Quam shouldn't have members who are titled as Ravidasi Sikhs or Ramgarhia Sikhs – THAT is my point. That is not something that we as the Sikh Quam need to work on, but rather something the members of these groups need to consider. Do they want to join Sikhism as truly Sikhs or still be regarded as hyphenated group (ie. Ravidasi-Sikh)?

    And another point of interest from your post Sanehwal:

    Remember that roughly speaking, 50% of the quam comes from a Jatt background. Meaning that unless you are going to a gurdwara that is not already fractured along caste lines then you are most likely going to be in the presence of a HUGE well established Jatt population and possible discrimination.

    1.) I have no idea where the hell you pulled that stat from, so please provide at least some credible source. 2.) There are gurdwaras outside of California, New York/NJ, Toronto, and Vancouver – the areas of highest Sikh density – which don't adhere to your notion of there being large Jatt populations there…as in most gurdwaras outside of those main areas. I live in central PA, and my local gurdwara has a very diverse sangat which is in no way dominated by Jatts.

    So while I truly respect what you and Jodha have to say – you are adding nothing new to the conversation. As a true Sikh, you cannot counter what you two are saying, as it doesn't correlate with Sikh tenants. However, on the same token, I am not bringing up the points you too are attempting to counter. I am not ignorant to the extent where I am lobbying for Jatt-only Sikhi and saying that we should do away with these low-caste groups. Just the fact that they recognize themselves as low-caste groups and are built out of that common bond is what is further perpetuating the problem of castism in our Quam. I understand that Jatts are very prideful and backwards in their thinking, but these groups are in no way aiding a potential resolution. MY ONLY POINT IS: members of these groups should enter the Quam as SIKHS and not sub-branched members (ie Ravidasi-Sikh).

    Singh Soorma

  36. Singh Soorma says:

    Sanehwal,

    Thank for you informing me that you are an undergrad at a large research university – it really added to to your overall post. I guess I should mention that I am an undergrad at a large research university in Virginia. Both you, as well as Jodha, are missing the fundamental aspect of my postings. I am in no way arguing that there isn’t castism in Sikhi – these Brahamin values have been instilled within our Quam; I am also not arguing that we should not be accepting of the people within these groups – NOT AT ALL! My ONLY point of argument is: If these people want to be accepted as Sikhs, which they rightfully should, then they should enter as Sikhs and not as members of their respective groups. For example, the Sikh Quam shouldn’t have members who are titled as Ravidasi Sikhs or Ramgarhia Sikhs – THAT is my point. That is not something that we as the Sikh Quam need to work on, but rather something the members of these groups need to consider. Do they want to join Sikhism as truly Sikhs or still be regarded as hyphenated group (ie. Ravidasi-Sikh)?

    And another point of interest from your post Sanehwal:
    Remember that roughly speaking, 50% of the quam comes from a Jatt background. Meaning that unless you are going to a gurdwara that is not already fractured along caste lines then you are most likely going to be in the presence of a HUGE well established Jatt population and possible discrimination.

    1.) I have no idea where the hell you pulled that stat from, so please provide at least some credible source. 2.) There are gurdwaras outside of California, New York/NJ, Toronto, and Vancouver – the areas of highest Sikh density – which don’t adhere to your notion of there being large Jatt populations there…as in most gurdwaras outside of those main areas. I live in central PA, and my local gurdwara has a very diverse sangat which is in no way dominated by Jatts.

    So while I truly respect what you and Jodha have to say – you are adding nothing new to the conversation. As a true Sikh, you cannot counter what you two are saying, as it doesn’t correlate with Sikh tenants. However, on the same token, I am not bringing up the points you too are attempting to counter. I am not ignorant to the extent where I am lobbying for Jatt-only Sikhi and saying that we should do away with these low-caste groups. Just the fact that they recognize themselves as low-caste groups and are built out of that common bond is what is further perpetuating the problem of castism in our Quam. I understand that Jatts are very prideful and backwards in their thinking, but these groups are in no way aiding a potential resolution. MY ONLY POINT IS: members of these groups should enter the Quam as SIKHS and not sub-branched members (ie Ravidasi-Sikh).

    Singh Soorma

  37. Jodha says:

    I am very proud to be a Jatt – not in caste terms, but in cultural terms.

    So are they. So what is the difference? Why are you calling on them to change, before you are ready?

  38. Jodha says:

    I am very proud to be a Jatt not in caste terms, but in cultural terms.

    So are they. So what is the difference? Why are you calling on them to change, before you are ready?

  39. Singh Soorma says:

    I don't see what relevance your question has. Are you saying they are proud to be whatever caste society has labeled them as? If so, then I in no way disagree with you because each caste – despite how unfortunate the caste system is, we can't alter what history has left us – has its own cultural input that people should have pride in. In terms of why I shouldn't change – NEVER have I mentioned that I walk into the realm of Sikhi as a JATT SIKH – no! When it comes to Sikhi, I am only a Sikh of Akhal Purak. When I said I am proud of being a Jatt, that is in terms of cultural relevance only; part of my PUNJABI culture – nothing in reference to my interaction with Sikhi. There are plenty of Hindus in Punjab that are Jatts (farmers).

    Why are you calling on them to change, before you are ready?

    I am not calling on them to change their cultural identity as whatever caste they choose to be associated with; I am SIMPLY saying that if they want to be part of the SIKH QUAM, they should drop their previous RELIGIOUS affiliation; so to make it even more simpler for you, I am saying that Sikhi should not start recognizing people as Ravidasi-Sikh or whatever group, but rather simply as Sikh. In order for that to occur, those followers will need to accept only Sikhi as their religion. THEREFORE: Religion DOES NOT EQUAL Culture.

  40. Singh Soorma says:

    I don’t see what relevance your question has. Are you saying they are proud to be whatever caste society has labeled them as? If so, then I in no way disagree with you because each caste – despite how unfortunate the caste system is, we can’t alter what history has left us – has its own cultural input that people should have pride in. In terms of why I shouldn’t change – NEVER have I mentioned that I walk into the realm of Sikhi as a JATT SIKH – no! When it comes to Sikhi, I am only a Sikh of Akhal Purak. When I said I am proud of being a Jatt, that is in terms of cultural relevance only; part of my PUNJABI culture – nothing in reference to my interaction with Sikhi. There are plenty of Hindus in Punjab that are Jatts (farmers).
    Why are you calling on them to change, before you are ready?
    I am not calling on them to change their cultural identity as whatever caste they choose to be associated with; I am SIMPLY saying that if they want to be part of the SIKH QUAM, they should drop their previous RELIGIOUS affiliation; so to make it even more simpler for you, I am saying that Sikhi should not start recognizing people as Ravidasi-Sikh or whatever group, but rather simply as Sikh. In order for that to occur, those followers will need to accept only Sikhi as their religion. THEREFORE: Religion DOES NOT EQUAL Culture.

  41. Harinder says:

    One group view point of view is :-

    It is against tenents of Sikhi to practise casteism especailly when it is written in holy "Guru Granth sahib" still many Sikhs practise it.

    Second group view point is :–

    If you can disobey one tenant of Sikhi then they too have the right to disobey some other tenents of Sikhi like sittng at the same vertical height as the holy "Guru Granth sahib" even when no such instructions exists in holy "Guru Granth sahib" .

    Two conclusion I can draw are :-

    1 ) Death is a punishment even Guruji did not order for the 40 Muktas .So Killng is wrong and if may add is sinful as the most severe puishment orderd by Akal takth is cleaning of shoes and utensils.

    Let us not try to emulate Taliban ,ALquida or killers of Dr. George Tiller (http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-06/01/cont… .Killing has never been part of our faith and we should not copy wrong examples.

    2) We must accept our differences with grace and without trying to indulge in violence or trying to show superiority of one group over the others. If some group feels superior then

    actions will speaks louder than words.

  42. Harinder says:

    One group view point of view is :-

    It is against tenents of Sikhi to practise casteism especailly when it is written in holy "Guru Granth sahib" still many Sikhs practise it.

    Second group view point is :–

    If you can disobey one tenant of Sikhi then they too have the right to disobey some other tenents of Sikhi like sittng at the same vertical height as the holy "Guru Granth sahib" even when no such instructions exists in holy "Guru Granth sahib" .

    Two conclusion I can draw are :-

    1 ) Death is a punishment even Guruji did not order for the 40 Muktas .So Killng is wrong and if may add is sinful as the most severe puishment orderd by Akal takth is cleaning of shoes and utensils.

    Let us not try to emulate Taliban ,ALquida or killers of Dr. George Tiller (http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-06/01/content_11467218.htm) .Killing has never been part of our faith and we should not copy wrong examples.

    2) We must accept our differences with grace and without trying to indulge in violence or trying to show superiority of one group over the others. If some group feels superior then

    actions will speaks louder than words.

  43. […] In some ways with even greater repercussions has been the announcement by members of Dera Sach Khand Ballan of the removal of the Guru Granth Sahib from their places of worship. It is key to point out that NOT all people that identify themselves as Ravidasia are part of Dera Sach Khand Ballan and many vehemently oppose some of their policies and tenants. Still their following is significant and important. Talk of the removal of the Guru Granth Sahib had been in the works since the unfortunate events in Vienna last year. Even at that time, I had asked the question, How large is the tent that is the Sikh Qaum? […]