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‘Indian leadership united in denying Sikhs of their separate identity and fundamental rights’

September 11, 2011 | By

An open letter to the Prime Minister,

Government of India
Respected Manmohan Singh,

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa||  Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh||

We, the Sikhs, over the years, have been facing the challenges posed by the strident anti-Sikh lobby and more specifically by the Hindutva elements questioning our unique and distinct identity. The Sikhs have expressed their concern and agony on the issue to all successive governments in the past but none has come forward to correct the constitutional wrong.

Three days back, the Law Minister Shri Salman Khursheed in your cabinet answering a query by Akali MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa in the Rajya Sabha dropped a bombshell on the Sikh community by rejecting the long pending demand to implement the provisions of the Anand Marriage Act enacted in 1909 but lying dormant ever since India framed its Constitution in 1950.

The rejection of the demand by the law ministry was not only illogical but also against all cannons of justice. The law minister has reportedly said seclusion of Sikhs from Hindu Marriage Act 1955 would invite similar demands from others including Jains, Buddhists. Also, seclusion of one community is against the directive principles contained in Article 44 of the Constitution which aims at bringing in a uniform civil code. Regrettably, the minister has forgotten deliberately or otherwise that there exist separate laws for Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

Earlier, the RSS was in the forefront in painting the Sikh identity with a Hindu brush. Now such anti-Sikh forces have found a friend in the Prime Minister who happens to be a Sikh. Since the formation of the Constitution, 61 years have passed but there has been no change in the mindset of Indian leadership, irrespective of their party affiliation they are united to deny the Sikhs of their separate identity. By refusing to accept the exclusive and separate Sikh identity, the Indian state has rubbed salt on the festering wounds of the Sikhs. While continuing with its discriminatory policies against the Sikhs, the state has once again given the impression that the decision makers in North and South Block had learnt no lessons from the tragic events of the recent past.

On one hand, your government though reluctantly had bowed before the crowd of 50,000 thousand people gathered around social activist Anna Hazare who was on hunger strike at Ramlilla ground. On the other, same number of people (app. 50,000) got perished in Punjab since 1978 while fighting for their just rights and against injustices, not a single contentious issue of Punjab has been resolved till date.

With your elevation to the exalted office of the prime minister, the identity of Sikhs might have got the exposure worldwide but it is ironic that within India itself the constitution is ambiguous on their distinct identity. Earlier, we had a President and now a prime minister from the Sikh community but even then the Constitutional discrimination continues. During Gaini Zail Singh’s tenure, the Indian state sent its army to storm Darbar Sahib in 1984 and now with you as political head of the country, the Indian state has dealt yet another blow to Sikh aspirations.

This rejection of Anand Marriage Act will surely awaken those who were in an illusion that “A Sikh Prime Minister will address the problems and challenges being faced by the community”. For Sikhs nothing has changed: the same discriminative attitude and biased mindset still persists in the corridors of power.

For the past 60 years of Indian republic, the Sikhs have strived to find an independent and dignified place in the constitutional framework so as to uphold their exclusive and distinct identity.

BACKGROUND: It has been established beyond doubt that Sikhism is a separate religion and Sikhs are a distinct people. However, the framers of the constitution dealt a severe blow to the Sikhs by not according de jure recognition to this reality.

Article 25 of the Indian constitution gives Sikhs the right to wear the Kirpan, but Explanation II of Article 25 (2) (b) of the constitution still continues to classify Sikhs as Hindus. This is contrary to the recommendation of the Constitutional Review Committee in 1999.

The registration of marriage, adoption, succession, formation of a family business (as is possible for Hindu Undivided Family) -for all these Sikhs have to adopt a set of procedures incompatible with their belief systems. Indian Parliament has amended the Constitution at least 72 times. But not once did it consider amending it to grant the Sikh community its due status.

You are well aware that the Sikhs are a separate community having their own scriptures, history, culture, traditions, language, calendar, script and all that defines a ‘Nation’. The Sikh struggle to attain Sovereign self-rule is also based on the realization that ‘we as a ‘complete nation’ have a right to decide our own destiny’.

History and events have taken the Sikhs beyond the boundaries of the Indian Constitution to which the world is a witness. The Sikhs are recognized by the international community as a people striving for political independence. And this happened because of the struggle the Sikhs waged during the past three decades.

You may also be aware that the Pakistan has enacted a full-fledged Sikh Marriage Law since January, 2008, although Sikh population over there is less than 50,000. It may also interest you to know that they asked the Sikhs to propose the law and then adopted it verbatim without changing even a comma or full stop.

We are proud of our distinct and separate identity. The Sikhs need their own Personal law and the Anand Marriage Act. These issues are Constitutional matters that relate to our distinct identity and to get them implemented a Constitutional amendment to the Article 25 (b) (2) is required.

May I remind you that the demand to amend the Article 25 was included in the charter of demands, which became basis for the launch of Dharam Yudh Morcha in 1982 by the Shiromani Akali Dal, the party that is in power in Punjab today?

We seek your intervention in this case as the Sikhs have been struggling for long time against injustice, tyranny and state’s discrimination and will continue with the struggle till they achieve their rights and justice. Serious efforts need to be initiated by you in this regard.

Guru Rakha
Kanwar Pal Singh
Secretary for Political Affairs,
Copy to: Law Minister, Home Minister, Foreign Minister, Minority Affairs Minister and CM, Punjab


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