image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Guru Nanak Parkash 550 series : Sikhi, the Best Option for Dalits and the Oppressed Groups

* The casteless and classless Sikhi can secure their rights and human dignity


Much will be written this week about the November 1984 Delhi and nationwide Sikh genocide. However, it will also be remembered that despite experiencing Ghalugharas, the Panth of Guru Nanak (established between 1469 and 1708), always rises again, stronger than ever before, to defy the oppressing power. This year, Guru Nanak 550th Parkash celebrations in India and worldwide bear witness to that historical truth

Author Nand Kishore*, having studied Sikh ideology and tradition, is convinced that Sikhi is the right path for the oppressed classes of India. This week, I am repeating much of what I wrote in February 2018 because it continues to be highly relevant. The question posed by this column was: When Dr Ambedkar finally opted for Buddhism, was he driven by desperation or enlightenment?

Ongoing discussions about the plight of the Dalits and other disadvantaged classes in India have also prompted a review of what happened in the years 1935 to 1939 when Dr Ambedkar was seriously thinking of recommending Sikhi (Sikhism) as the alternative for the Dalits of India.

In April 1936 Ambedkar prepared a speech Annihilation of Caste but he was prevented from delivering that speech at Amritsar at the conference of the Sikh Mission. In the draft of his speech, he had rejected the Vedas and recommended revolutionary Sikhi of Guru Nanak as offering the best future for the Dalits. This is a story of intrigue and missed opportunities.

Late Sirdar Kapur Singh and other writers agree that Dr Ambedkar also had personal ambition to lead the Sikhs. He missed the opportunity due, partly, to his own miscalculation of how the egalitarian Sikhi institutions and processes work. If millions had followed him into Sikhi, he would have been in a good position to lead the Sikhs. That is, if he had used the same numbers logic as those Sikh leaders who were allegedly concerned about their own positions if millions of Dalits became Sikhs. In any case, from the evidence available, it is unlikely that they ever discouraged him. After all Sikhs like Giani Ditt Singh (1850-1901) and others from so called lower caste backgrounds had made it to highly respected positions amongst the Sikhs.

It is more likely that Ambedkar succumbed to the pressure put on him by Mahatma Gandhi keen to resurrect the ancient Hindu glory. While Gandhi counted Sikhs as Hindus, he rejected Sikh tradition of armed defence as a last resort. According to Prof Gurtej Singh, Gandhi had put his entire weight in the balance on the non-conversation plan and that this proved too formidable even for Ambedkar. The Mahatma sought to replace British imperialism with a peculiar kind of tyranny of the permanent cultural majority in the garb of secular, democratic, republican pretensions.

Privileged communications between Ambedkar and leaders like Dr Moonje of Hindu Mahasabha and others like Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, Jugal Kishore Birla were passed on to Gandhi for information only. The Mahatma was incensed and leaked these in Harijan with a strong recommendation against the Dalits converting to Sikhi.

The rest is the sad history of a missed opportunity by the Dalits of India.

(*Nand Kishore, author of: Bharat de Pachhray Vargo! &ndash available at The Sikh Missionary Society UK)


Gurmukh Singh OBE