Why Article 25 offends the Sikhs

Sikhs have an issue with Section 25 of the Indian constitution. GURMUKH SINGH takes a quick look

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By Gurmukh Singh OBE | OPINION |

In 1949, Sardar Hukam Singh, member of the Indian Constituent Assembly, concluded in his final speechthe Sikhs feel utterly disappointed and frustrated. They feel that they have been discriminated agains. My community can not subscribe its assent to this historic document.

On 8 August 2005, the Supreme Court of India noted: The so-called minority communities like Sikhs and Jains were not treated as national minorities at the time of framing the Constitution. Sikhs and Jains, in fact, have throughout been treated as part of the wider Hindu community – definition of ‘Hindu’ included all sects, sub-sects of Hindu religions including Sikhs and Jains. The minorities initially recognized were based on religion and on national level e.g. Muslims, Christians, Anglo-Indian and Parsis.

In July 2000, Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal, discussed in New Delhi the memorandum to be presented to the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution. The Sikh Core Group, Chandigarh, submitted a supporting paper which expressed Sikh concerns that the Indian Constitution allowed the central government to usurp greater power of governments to itself regarding law and order, education, health and fiscal aspects etc. That Article 25 clubs Sikhs with Hindus, Jains and Buddhists so that it negates the growth of the Sikhs and the identity of Sikhism.That the resolution adopted in 1973 by SAD at Anandpur projected the concept for future centre state relations. Instead the promoters were projected as communal and secessionists.

Sikhs in the diaspora need to understand why inclusion of Sikh in Article 25 has the potential of misleading the people regarding the real status of Sikhism as an independent, original and revealed religion. Bearing in mind that Sikhs are not Hindus and the character of Sikh institutions has nothing in common with Hindu institutions, the relevant wording of Article 25 which offends Sikh sentiments is as follows:

Article 25: Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion: (2)Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law (b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus. Explanation II: In sub clause (b) reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.

The Sikhs argue that Explanation II above shows the ignorance of the members of the Constituent Assembly about egalitarian Sikhi principles and traditions. The Sikh Core Group argued that this provision is not only redundant in the case of Sikhs but inadvertently introduces an element of sacrilege for Sikhism as if Sikh tenet of universal brotherhood is deficient in this regard and requires supplement of a constitutional provision. It is therefore obnoxious discrimination that Sikhs should require such an injunction through constitutional proviso while Muslims, Christiams and Parsees (which are far less numerically) are treated separately.
The Sikh Core Group recommended that the word, Sikh should be deleted from explanation II of Article 25. Sikhism should be described as one among many religions of India, not as one part among the many parts of Hinduism.
Gurmukh Singh OBE, a retired UK senior civil servant, chairs the Advisory Board of The Sikh Missionary Society UK. Email: sewauk2005@yahoo.co.uk. The article first appeared  at The Panjab Times, UK. See here.

* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.

 

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