Sikh political and religious leaders are worried by data from Census 2011 showing a drop in the community’s population, with some even calling on families to have more children.
The Sikh share of the national population, down from 1.9% in 2001 to 1.7% in 2011 according to the Census figures, has been described by leaders as a “cause for worry”.
But sociologists and demographers see it as a positive trend, although requiring introspection and an in-depth analysis of numbers. They want Sikh leaders to act on the community’s skewed sex ratio, growing inequality, migration to other countries, religious conversion and influx of non-Sikhs into Punjab.
The population share of Sikhs in Punjab has dipped too, from 59.9% in 2001 to 57.7% in 2011. The state’s Sikh population is 1.6 crore, according to the data released by the Centre on Tuesday.
Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbhachan Singh told Hindustan Times it was vindication of his stand that Sikh families should have at least four children each.
“I again appeal to Sikhs living in India and also the foreign countries to be careful about their falling population,” he said.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) should run a campaign asking Sikhs to be cautious about their falling numbers and “selective family planning” when they try to have male children, Singh said.
“The SGPC has a big role to play in educating Sikhs, and I expect its president, Avtar Singh Makkar, to fulfil the aspirations of the Takht,” the jathedar said.
He called on Sikh bodies to include Sikligar and Vanjara communities, which have a huge population in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, into the Sikh fold to check religious conversion.
Makkar declined to react to the jathedar’s remarks, but said the slowing of the growth rate couldn’t be ignored and most Sikh families must keep the trend in mind. “To have smaller families is good from the economic aspect but bad from the political angle, since politics in India is about numbers game,” he said.
Makkar expressed concern about trans-migration, conversion, and sex selection. “People who can afford (it) can have bigger families but without discriminating between son and daughter,” he suggested.
Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee chiefManjit Singh GK said Sikhs, already a minority, couldn’t afford to go down further in numbers when they are just 1.7% of the country’s population.
He suggested Sikhs should be careful about their falling numbers and the fallout of social evils such as caste inequality (a reason for conversions) and sex selection.
Former Rajya Sabha member Tarlochan Singh said the migration of 3 million Sikhs to foreign countries had depleted their population in India.
“That doesn’t mean we are a negligible community in our native land,” he said.
Prem Singh Chandumajra, the Shiromani Akali Dal MP from Anandpur Sahib, suggested making the four-child policy of the Akal Takht jathedar a norm for every Sikh couple.
Panjab University’s sociology professor Rajesh Gill called for introspection into why people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were migrating to Punjab and its Sikh youngsters were abandoning India. “If the trend continues, Sikhs would be in minority in Punjab,” she said.
“Politicians and religious leaders make an issue out of everything,” Guru Nanak Dev University sociology department head Jasmeet Sandhu said in Amritsar. According to her, Sikhs are a progressive community that has adopted family planning and contraceptive methods, “and the benefits and the results are visible”. She added: “Sex discrimination, however, needs to be checked.”