Sikhs Have Lost Their Way

Sikhs Have Lost Their Way
Former judge of the Indian Supreme Court, Markandey Katju, writes about his address to a gathering of Sikhs, in which he told them they were not true to the spirit of Sikhism.

The 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak is being observed worldwide. In this connection, I was invited by the Sikh community in the Bay Area of California, USA, to address them in a gurdwara in Milpitas.

Many of the Sikhs here had come as refugees following the events in India in the 1980s, and many are strong supporters of Khalistan and Bhindranwaale. Before the function started, some Sikhs met me and said that I had put up a Facebook post and blog some years back which was critical of Bhindranwaale, and that I should delete it. I told them that I would certainly not delete it, but I would not speak about him in the function.

At the function, attended by a large number of Sikhs, I spoke of the spirit of service – seva bhaavna – which I found in Sikhs and in no other community in the world. I referred to the recent Bihar floods and mentioned that almost the whole of Patna had become a lake. In response to the floods, Sikh youth from various places had arrived to help the victims, and I posted their photos on Facebook, showing them engaged in relief activities. In Gurgaon, Sikh youth rescued passengers whose car had gone underwater. I also referred to a viral video, which showed police sub-inspector Gagandeep Singh saving a Muslim youth from a frenzied mob angry at the fact that he was in love with a Hindu woman. I told the Sikh participants that I had not seen this spirit in any other community, and this was due to the teachings of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, who placed great emphasis on service to fellow humans.

I told the Sikhs that just like they wanted Khalistan, I too wanted it, but my concept of Khalistan was different from theirs. I told them that while they wanted a portion of Punjab to be given independence and declared Khalistan, I wanted the whole of India to be declared Khalistan; in the sense that all Indians must learn the spirit of service from their Sikh brothers and sisters, for only then can India progress and prosper.

I asked them, “If you leave us, who will be our gurus?”

The word 'Sikh' is derived from the Sanskrit word 'shishya', which means ‘disciple’. I further said to them that Sikhs were disciples of Guru Nanak, but we Indians wanted to become their disciples i.e. Sikhs of the Sikhs.

Having praised Sikhs, I then proceeded to criticise them. I said that Sikhism arose as a revolt against the inhumane caste system, and Guru Nanak taught equality of all humans. “But do you practise that?” I asked.

I told them that Jat Sikhs, who are the dominant Sikh caste, and are big landholders, look down on dalit (mazhabi) Sikhs, regard them as inferior, and do not establish marital relations with them. In the Indian army, the Sikh Regiment has Jat Sikhs, while the Sikh Light Infantry has dalit Sikhs. This indicates that Jat and dalit Sikh soldiers have to be kept apart, otherwise there would be fights among them, as Jat Sikhs regard dalit Sikhs as inferior. I asked the audience, “Is this what Guru Nanak has taught you?”

When I said this, many Sikhs in the audience disagreed with me, but I told them not to tell me lies. I remarked, “You can't bluff me. I am a real Sikh, a real disciple of Guru Nanak, because I regard everyone as equal, whereas you discriminate among yourselves on the basis of caste, and so you are fake Sikhs!”

Now, I am an old man of over 73, whereas many of those in the audience were strongly built Sikh youths. Yet, they could do me no harm, because the truth was on my side. Many even confided to me that they were ashamed because what I had said was true. Satya mein badi shakti hoti hai, and that is why it is said, 'Satyamev Jayate' - truth is ultimately victorious.

Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.