By Gurmukh Singh OBE | OPINION |
Is it possible to predict the extinction of a religio-political vibrant community like the Sikhs?
Repeated predictions about the demise of the Sikhs go back over the centuries to the decades of the ghalugharas (genocides) in the 18th Century. In 1953, late S. Khushwant Singh predicted: By the end of the century, the Sikhs themselves will have passed into oblivion. (Preface to The Sikhs). He was wrong. The fact is that, despite the setbacks in Indian Punjab, globally, the Sikhs are a prosperous and flourishing community ash even in the non-Punjab part of India.
This time the extinction possibility of Sikhs and Sikhism is predicted by the pundits from evidence of falling Total Fertility Rate amongst the Sikhs in Punjab. The Total Fertility Rate of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime. It is a complicated snapshot statistical calculation and such calculations can be wrong. Nevertheless, like other prosperous communities, Sikhs always tend to have smaller families. By contrast, poorer people tend to have large families in India and abroad. Sikhs cannot possibly compete in the numbers game in India or even in Punjab.
The social statisticians and scientists ask if Sikhism is dying! (ref. news report of 30 June by Satinder Bains, editor, Punjab News Express.) In addition to the alarm bells about falling fertility rate, they point to worrying evidence based on the drugs problem, farming crisis, unemployment, migration of Sikh youth to other countries and the ageing Sikh population (partly, as a result), the divisive derawadi influence, lack of interest in Sikh identity, weak politicised Sikh institutions and some other such negatives.
On the face of it, any community facing such dire predictions should be seriously concerned. The population of the Sikhs in Punjab may be falling for various reasons as listed above. However, what I find sadly amusing is the conclusion that because Sikh population & percentage is falling in Punjab, therefore Sikhism is dying! There is almost a Freudian logic mix-up in this prediction which would please the Hindutva boa which sees Sikhism as no more than a sect of Hinduism. It is time that Sikhs allow themselves to be embraced and swallowed by the Hindutva boa. The more imminent threat to the Sikhs of Punjab is not from the ping Sikh fertility rate but from the Hindutva agenda for the minorities in India. More specifically, from the Sikh/Punjab policy of the administrations at Delhi since the partition of the sub-continent in 1947.
The fact is that due to external as well as internal ideological challenges, the global Sikh reaction is to re-discover the founding principles of Sikhi. Next generations in the diaspora are searching for the essence of true Sikhi.
While it is not possible to predict the extinction of a religio-politically vibrant community like the Sikhs,the ongoing challenges to minority communities in India, including the Sikhs, cannot be ignored. Sikhs need to become aware of, educate themselves, accept and own their unique identity as Sikhs. For the proud lions, their sovereign identity is more important than their numbers!
This article first appeared in Punjab Times recently. See here.
Gurmukh Singh OBE, a retired UK senior civil servant, chairs the Advisory Board of The Sikh Missionary Society UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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