image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Ideology Behind Crimes Against Women and Low Castes in India?

ਜੇ ਓਹੁ ਗ੍ਰਹਨ ਕਰੈ ਕੁਲਖੇਤਿ  ਅਰਪੈ ਨਾਰਿ ਸੀਗਾਰ ਸਮੇਤਿ 

[]]Brahmanic practice is that] Someone may bathe at Kurukshaytra during a solar eclipse, and give his decorated wife in offering. (SGGS Ang 875)

ਹਮਰੇ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਕਹਿ ਉਬਰੇ ਬੇਦ ਭਰੋਸੇ ਪਾਂਡੇ ਡੂਬਿ ਮਰਹਿ 

Chanting the Lord's Name, I have been saved relying on the Vedas, O Brahmin, you shall drown and die. || (SGGS Ang 970

Ideologies of Eastern and Western religions, as interpreted by vested interests, have been behind mistreatment of women and fellow human beings at the lowest rung of the social ladder. These outdated ideologies, have been behind slavery, mistreatment of women and the degrading caste system justified by Vedic texts. Women were treated as chattels, who could be given away as offering at Indian sacred places as referenced in the above Pankti from Guru Granth Sahib.

Once again, crimes against women are making Indian news headlines. A mob gang raped two women after parading them naked through the streets in Manipur. This time the background was clashes between majority Meitei and the Kuki communities. A poll by the Reuters Foundation in 2018 showed that India was the most dangerous country to be a woman in. An earlier report by Indian National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed that there was a 45% rise in reported rapes of Dalit women between 2015 and 2020. However, this is hardly the tip of ice-berg because, (to quote a source) the true extent of the sexual violence against women and girls in India is thought to be far greater than the figures show, especially among the Dalit community where there is widespread under-reporting of rape. One estimate, based on government data, concluded that 99% of sexual violence cases went unreported.

Over 500 years ago Guru Nanak Sahib openly rebelled against the caste system and gender based discrimination in the Indian society. The lowest in the society, created through the Laws of Manu (Manav Dharmsastra), were treated worse than animals and women were treated like personal property by men. Women were not treated much better by the Abrahamic religions including Islam and Christianity.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948, sets out fundamental human rights. It was drafted by experts from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. The Declaration reminds us that disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind&hellipand, it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.

Generally, religious ideologies are regarded as sacrosanct and ring-fenced against even the rule of law! However, in view of the crimes against women and the so called lower castes which continue to be committed in India, one wonders if there should be an international review through the United Nations to test such religious practices against Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Sikhs and others in the interfaith area should follow in the footsteps of Guru Nanak Sahib and the bhagats of India like Kabir and have the courage to name, shame and prevent barbaric practices in the name of religion. Need for interfaith harmony should not equate to interfaith compromises.

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant retd (UK)