Advent of deras in Malaysia

These deras defy the established principles of the Sikh Rahat Maryada (SRM) - the Sikh code of conduct - which unifies us as a Panth


By Darshan Singh | Opinion

The gurdwara is one of our core institutions. It is the heart of our existence. Outside Punjab, wherever the Sikhs have settled as a community, a Gurdwara is established. While predominantly used for religious purposes, it also serves as our core social institution.

Gurdwara is a place where we gather in grief or happiness, where we learn Gurmukhi and recite Gurbani, where we learn Kirtan and play the tabla, among others. It also serves as a central meeting place for community members.

As young boy, I remember seeing members of the older generation gathering at a particular Gurdwara in the evenings to play cards as a form of leisure activity.

During earlier days, hiring a Granthi was lesser of a hassle as members of the local community were mostly Gurmukhi literate with sound religious knowledge. This has since changed.

Being Granthi is now a profession. Hiring capable individuals, especially from Punjab, is an expensive affair.

Most Gurdwaras, especially in smaller towns, are unable to pay higher salaries due to their limited income. We cannot blame them for this, which leaves them with no other option but to hire migrant labourers as Granthis, without first checking their background or capability. The mere ability to read the Path would be sufficient to pass the test.

Unfortunately, a number of these “Granthis” who have infiltrated our system have garnered enough influence to set up branches of popular deras from Punjab, promoting ritualism in the process. These deras are known to defy the established principles of the Sikh Rahat Maryada (SRM) – the Sikh code of conduct – which unifies us as a Panth.

This trend, if not immediately checked and stopped, has a potential to disastrously disunite us in the longer term. There will come a time when faith of the Malaysian Sikh sanggat will be identified based of the dera allegiance. Do we really want this to happen? We have already witnessed attempts to disunite over the Bachitar Natak issue, but establishment of deras poses an even greater treat to the Malaysian Sikh sanggat.

While there is an ongoing revolution in Punjab against deras and babas, we on the other hand are allowing them to infiltrate our own society in Malaysia. Together we can and must stop it immediately before it is too late. Deras and babas will only flourish if we empower them!



Darshan Singh Dhillon, Perak. He can be reached at +6019 358 6588

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


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