By Gurcharan Singh, London
The growth of Sikhism is renewing in Pakistan with great enthusiasm.Greater good deeds by Sikhs at international level , the success of Sikhs in other countries , the growing numbers of Sikh converts in the west is influencing the suppressed Hindu communities in Pakistan.
That aside, the negative activities of detractors and their fake books, and increasing violent dramas in Gurduaras has not yet dampened the would be Sikhs in Pakistan.The Pakistani Sikh converts are influenced more by the positive message of Guru Granth sahib, thus find it regenerates their confidence and image in Pakistan, as a Sikh. They found that being Sikhs it gave them multiple preaxis to dignity, esteem and empowers them as individuals and as Sikhs.
Hinduism is looked upon negatively,in Pakistan because when the fanatical Hindu right wingers – RSS create issues of divide and rule among minorities and take their anger out on Muslims and Dalits,in India,there is a reaction among the Moslem nations towards such atrocities being committed upon the minorities.
It is no different in Pakistan, as the Muslims do react towards the Hindus in Pakistan.The Hindu society does not feel safe within Pakistan, in most circumstances, but especially so,when they are harassed as the result of RSS activities in India.
There are many instances and reports of young Hindu girls being abducted and forcefully indulged into nikkah. There are countless instances that attacks upon hindus have taken place.
But such has not taken place against Sikhs, bar a few cases from the tribal Taliban infested areas, where some Sikh victims have been reported, too, along with thousands of Muslim victims.The tribal areas generally have no Hindu population.
The Muslim brotherhood regards the Sikhs as people of the Book and believers of One God, like themselves.They recognise Sikhi demands goodwill and respect towards all humanity both in words and actions.They also understand that the philosophy of Guru Granth Sahib is very much closer to the Koran. They have much respect for Sikhs and regard them very disciplined and honourable society of people.
Thus, such conditions, has created a beeline for many Hindus to adopt Sikhism readily. A recent BBC report [See: Pakistani Hindus who adopted Sikhism – BBC News Punjabi, 5 Oct 2017] investigation into the religions of Pakistan 2017 confirmed the rising conversion of Hindus into Sikhism, not only in Sindh, but Khairpur and Balochistan.
In 1947, the entire Sikh population had left Sind. But now, in a Karachi suburb of Oop Ngri lives Srd Krishan Singh who previously was a Hindu, and worshipper of Ram Chander and various gods like Mahakaal and Durga Devi.
Not too long back, about 10 years, he along with his two sons, four brothers and two nephews, were initiated into the Sikh religion.
Krishna admits that since they adopted Sikhism, their relations with the local authorities and the surrounding Muslim society has improved tremendously, and they are very respectfully addressed as ‘Sardar Sahib’, and looked upon with great awe and not with contempt or opposition.
It does not stop there. Socially they have cordial relationship with Muslims and they are invited to intermingle in Muslim marriages, and get togethers, where vegetarian foods are prepared for them, specially.
Krishan says: “When we were Hindus, we were never regarded with much respect, often sent to coventry, in our presence.”
The population of Krishan’s surburb was initially all Hindu but currently there are 40 Sikh families, who have all adopted Sikhism from Hinduism. Most of the people are from Baghrri sub castes. The building of a large Gurduara is taking place, currently, supported by funding from expatriate Sikhs. The Gurduara will be able to seat 500 people.
Duruu Singh is the jathedar of this Gurduara and locality. Duruu Singh says that whenever Hindus go in jathas to Nankana Sahib and meet the foreign Sikhs who have arrived; they get influenced by the love shown by these foreign Sikhs, that many on return decide to also adopt Sikh faith.
He goes on to say, that often, stones and garbage are thrown at the statues of devis and devtas by the local Muslim population. Often, abuse also takes place of the statues, and individual persons of Hindu community. But such actions are NOT committed against Gurduaras or the visible Sikhs.
This why Hindus and Dalits in Pakistan are increasingly adopting the Sikh faith. During recent gurpurab of Guru Gobind Singh, the police was made available to ensure Sikhs could celebrate the nager kirtan (kirtan procession) without any issue. No issues even rose as the local Muslims joined together with Sikhs in the celebration. Hindu festivals cannot be celebrated openly.
Karachi’s Aram Bagh Gurduara has been now opened after 24 year long legal case and Sikhs have started thronging that Gurduara. Before 1947, there were over seven Gurduaras in Karachi, but have been run down due to lack of care. Duruu says if all these Gurduaras are reopened, Sikh numbers will certainly increase.
A Srd Hira Singh, an advocate in the High Court of Sind, converted to Sikhism long time ago. In the BBC interview, he says that about 1,100 people from the Dalit brotherhood have converted to Sikhism through his own private efforts in the last five years. He teaches them the messages of Guru Granth sahib, care and love for humanity and hard work -thus 1,100 have become Sardars. These were people who even the Hindus rejected and would not offer their glasses to drink water from. Now everybody refers to them as SARDAR JI or Sardar sahib.
There is a substantial Hindu minority in Sind, who believes in Guru Nanak Ji. There is a Guru Granth in many mandirs along with the statues of Mahakal, Durga Devi or Ram Chander.
Now, as the increasing Sikh population is building their separate Gurduaras, there is no such pooja or duality of worshipping mythology or puranic verses. Hira says that he preaches Sikhs do not worship idols or puranic teachings. New converts take that seriously, and concentrate upon the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib.
NOT ORGANISED CONVERSION
The leader of Pakistan Hindu Council Mangla Sharma grudgingly accepts that there is a substantial scale conversion going on among Hindus into Sikhism. He also admits that this is not an organised conversion, but people initiating into Sikhism on their own free will. He says that 20-25 years ago, there was NOT a single VISIBLE Sikh to be seen in SIND, nor there was even a seat for Sikhs in the National Assembly of Sind, all this has changed now.
He goes on to say that since from 2000, many good Sikh deeds hit the news headlines. People started taking notice of the Sikh religion. The people who adopted the Sikh religion soon found it was to their advantage to be Sikhs, both in community and also politically in government, and as said already it offered them multiple opportunities to enrich and enhance their own standing and quality of life in Pakistan.
Mangal goes on to say that the teachings of Sikhism are universal and it can be seen the Sikhs are a very cohesive community and support each other closely both in business and other aspects of life.They are on a positive financial footing and well respected among Muslims and government.
Also, in recent times, the Sikhs took a leading role in a case in Sind high court against alcohol prohibition with great success, and earning respect among Muslims. Secondly, there was census box for Sikhs in the National Census, now they have won that right too, which has boosted the Sikhs.
Mangal says the success of Sikhs in foreign western and other countries has filtered through, which has created an impressive image of being Sikhs, has persuaded many to convert to Sikhism in Pakistan.
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