Without intended exaggeration, I dare to submit that the letter of Manjot Kaur Pannu in the May 24, 85 issue of WSN offers, unquestionably some of the most enlightening reading in the columns of you twenty odd issues. It is an eye opener.
Reverting to your editorial of May 3, 1985 that prompted Ms. Pannu to shed light on the status of the Amritdhari Khalsa and the balance of the Sikh populace, to wit, the Non Status Sikhs. I would like to quote from it for the benefit of those who may not have it handy.
“Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale launched a massive campaign to administer Amrit to the maximum number of Sikhs in order to arrest the trends that were slowly diluting the essence of Sikhism. The clever Brahmin has found this most desirable and laudable mission of Sant Bhindranwale a handy instrument for effecting division among the Sikhs. The idea of enjoying Amrit upon a Sikh to be eligible for any office in social or political organization seems to have been successfully planted in the minds of some overzealous Sikhs. These zealots have suddenly awakened to the importance of Amrit and they are furiously and doggedly advocating that only Amritdhari Sikhs should be allowed to hold elected or nominated offices.”
In the above text substitute Ms. Pannu in place of “The clever Brahmin” and see if it does not make better sense, using the clever Brahmin as a target for laying the blame for the discretion of the Golden Temple or for the massacre of the Sikhs subsequent to the Indira assassination is one thing but to hold “the clever Brahmin” responsible for the status lessens of the non amritdhari Sikhs in Sikh institutions is totally another. Your ‘‘clever Brahmin” is analogous to the Government of India’s “foreign hand” that comes in handy to blame for any and every antisocial activity in India.
“Sikhism is fundamentally opposed to the retrograde Brahmin concept of castism” as suggested by you in the said editorial. Conceded. But Sikhs definitely are not ‘opposed to the retrograde . Brahmin . concept of castism.
It is just coincidence that Jat Sikhs marry Jat Sikhs and Mazhabi Sikhs marry Mazhabi Sikhs. Enlighten me with the number of Jat Sikh Akali Jathedars married to non Jat Sikhs. Inter caste marriages are as insignificant numerically among the Sikhs as they are among the Hindus. Sikhs are not “being mischievously categorized and distinguished from one another on the basis of artificial caste and class divisions.” Jatnon Jat is no less a caste barrier among the Sikhs than Brahmin on Brahmin is among the Hindus. Of course, the Sikhs inherited the caste system from the culturally dominant Hindu society. The fact remains that Sikhs are as badly afflicted with the caste system as the Hindus are. If I am sneezing my head off then I have a cold, irrespective of where I contracted it. I cannot take the attitude that it is not my malady, as if I were holding it in trust for the person who “gave” it to me and intend to return it.
In the villages of Punjab, the so called untouchable Sikhs did not drop from heavens into restricted localities called ‘“Chamaran da Vehra” (courtyard of the Chamars) and ‘“Chuhrian da Vehra,” (courtyard of the Chuhras). What Ms. Pannu is trying to do is to add just another storey at the top of our multistory caste structure that admits various grades and levels on each story. I hope she is not proposing an “Amritdhari da Vehra.”
I cannot but congratulate Ms. Pannu for her clarity of thought and perception. She has no doubts in her mind in relation to “Khalsa Raj” and the role of the Khalsa in her vision of a Khalsa state. She is also crystal clear in her mind about the status of non Amritdhari Sikhs and that of the non-Sikhs in the land of her dreams, for whatever is this status worth. There are, to put precisely, no grey areas of confusion.
‘Those of us who are not at that level of strengths understanding or discipline (as the Khalsa who have received Guru’s Amrit) have no business saying that we are equal to them. This is not an opinion but a fact,” declares Ms. Pannu and has thus recorded to guard against possible misunderstanding. “Her Khalistan” is not here but your social status in such a state ‘has been predetermined and “well defined.” tell me” about. The Sikhs being second class citizens of India? a country where they started with assurances of privileges and glow of freedom. But there are no such illusions in regard to Ms. Pannu’s Khalistan. It is the exclusive domain of the Amritdhari Khalsa. Equality to the non Khalsa is neither intended nor promised.
But Ms. Pannu offers a way. “The only way for us to have the equality and unity we yearn for is being blessed by the Guru with the dedication and wisdom that we may all number among the Khalsa.”
If you find Ms. Pannu tone familiar, let me recall for you Auarangzeb offered exactly the same option to non-Muslims as Ms. Pannu is offering the Non Khalsa as price of equality.
Thus Ms. Pannu taunts the Editor. “The mission that you quote (Raj Karega Khalsa) is the destiny of the Khalsa. It is the Khalsa, not the non Khalsa Sikh that is mentioned in our prayers, greetings and blessings.”
One is left wondering who is greeting whom when two ‘non Khalsa Sikhs” say to each other. “Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji Ki Fateh.”
If we follow Ms. Pannu’s logic religiously then all non Khalsa have lived and died without cause, and since one cannot die without a cause and still be ranked as a martyr there has never been a non Khalsa martyr ever. Do not expect me to provide for scrutiny a list of the non Khalsa Sikh Gurus and thousands of other lesser non Khalsa Sikhs and non-Sikhs who have been acclaimed, historically and in the present context, as martyrs by the Sikhs. But Ms. Pannu makes no compromise. “Thus without Amrit there is no Khalsa and without Khalsa there is no cause.”
By way of an official stamp on her expositions. Ms. Pannu quotes Bhai Gurdas:
Would it not be interesting to know how Bhai Gurdas, who was Guru Arjan Devji’s uncle received “ordination from the Guru? Amrit was introduced much, much later.
Bear with me, I have a mini story.
A Jat Sikh landlord working on his tract of land, shoulder to shoulder with his low caste hired hand presents a familiar pastoral Punjab scene. The devotion of the hired hand developed through roughing it together over the years is so great for the landlord that he offers to lay down his own life first if due to, say, a family fued his master friend’s life is in danger. After the day’s toil at the farm the duo carry home an equal load of fodder on their heads. Together they shared the fodder for the cattle and then in the outhouse, maybe, a glass or two of the home brew are passed back and forth. Then they head for home for supper which they shall not share.
The Jat draws the line here. The day’s shoulder rubbing is behind him. Now he is in his home, his castle, and no untouchable is getting near his kitchen or eating area. The hired hand is put in his proper place in a corner of the yard where he squats, bowl in hand and eats whatever is bestowed on him, but not without the routinely renewed awareness: of his lack of status in the household.
This is the kind of relationship Ms. Pannu is offering the “non Khalsa” Sikhs and non-Sikhs in her “home of the Khalsa.” And since “Without the Khalsa there is no cause,” the non Khalsa Sikhs today are making supreme sacrifices for a non-cause, just for the kicks of trading one set of shackles for another.
Sincerely, M. Singh Canada