Balodabazar protests: Satnami community's historical, political dynamics | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Balodabazar protests: Satnami community's historical, political dynamics

Jun 14, 2024 04:07 PM IST

The incident shines a light on the Satnami community, which constitutes nearly 12% of the SC population in Chhattisgarh

At around 3.30 pm on June 10 in Balodabazar district of Chhattisgarh, thousands of people of from the Scheduled Caste Satnami community barged into the collector's office premises, pelted stones and burnt around 150 vehicles.

Over 150 vehicles were set ablaze in Chhattisgarh’s Balodabazar city during violence on Monday(File 'photo) PREMIUM
Over 150 vehicles were set ablaze in Chhattisgarh’s Balodabazar city during violence on Monday(File 'photo)

They were protesting against unidentified persons who vandalised 'jaitkham' or the 'victory pillar', a sacred symbol worshipped by the community, near the holy Amar Gufa at Giroudpuri Dham in the Balodabazar-Bhatapara district on May 15. The protests occurred even though police had arrested three persons in connection with the incident.

On Monday, Chhattisgarh food and civil supplies minister Dayaldas Baghel and state revenue minister Tank Ram Verma accused Congress leaders of instigating the crowd during the protest. “Congress leaders directly or indirectly encouraged the incident of arson and loot. The incident was the result of a well-planned conspiracy of the Congress,” Baghel alleged. Meanwhile, the Congress claimed that it is a failure of the state administration and BJP is trying to hide it.

The incident shines a light on the Satnami community, which constitutes a significant portion of the nearly 12% SC population in Chhattisgarh. The sect was founded by medieval-era social reformer Baba Guru Ghasidas, who was born in Balodabazar district on 18 December 1756.

Guru Ghasidas

Guru Ghasidas, an 18th century saint, founded the Satnam sect against caste discrimination and superstitions, and to spread the message of social justice and equality. The most famous message of Guru Ghasidas is "Manke-Manke Ek Saman" which means that all human beings are equal, whatever their caste, religion, gender or social status. This message is still popular in northern parts of Chhattisgarh.

Guru Ghasidas was born a village called Girodpuri in Balodabazar district to Amarotin and Manhgudas. After his mother died in childhood, he was brought up by Manhgudas. In the saint tradition of Chhattisgarh, Guru Ghasidas is foremost among the great thinkers and social promoters of the state. Since childhood, the feeling of social change had blossomed in the heart of Ghasidas, members of the community believe. He opposed casteism, untouchability, inequality and other evil practices prevalent in the society since childhood.

The Satnami sect, a monotheistic community who followed neither Hinduism or Islam, is said to be offshoot of a religious community known as Ravidaas, which was formed by a saint named "Birbhan" in Narnaul in 1657. Satnamis were mostly farmers, artisans and people from the lower castes. As they believed in truth and God, they called themselves Satnamis.

History of Satnami sect

The Satnami revolt in 1672 took place when a Mughal soldier killed a member of the community. The Satnamis took revenge, leading to a rampage amongst both the communities. About 5,000 Satnamis fought the Mughals and routed their camp in the town, drove away the Mughal administrators and set up their own administration in what is today Narnaul in Haryana. Later, in a conflict with the Mughals, the emperor Aurangzeb took charge, sending 10,000 troops with artillery and defeated the Satnamis.

On the basis of this revolt, the people of Satnami sect consider Narnaul as their place of origin.

According to historians, during the British rule, Baba Balak Das. a leader in the Satnam movement was killed in mysterious circumstances. Satnamis blamed the British and religious fundamentalists for the killing. Describing the oldest settlement of the sect in Chhattisgarh, Raipur Gazetteer 1869, mentions that the Satnamis are among the ancient inhabitants of the district.

“Certainly, the earlier people were not educated, whatever knowledge they had from their ancestors. According to this they used to say that our ancestors are residents of 'Bhuruha Kat ' in Chhattisgarh land,” the Gazetteer claimed.

Prominent Satnami leaders

The influential leaders of Satnami community were mainly from the descendants of Guru Ghasidas.

Minimata Agam Das Guru represented Janjgir-Champa Lok Sabha in the undivided Madhya Pradesh from the first Lok Sabha in 1952 to the fifth Lok Sabha, and died in a flight crash while traveling to Delhi from Raipur. She was associated with the Congress party.

Later, her son, Vijay Guru joined BJP and his son, Guru Rudra Kumar, is an active member of the Congress. Guru is considered as one of the most influential leaders from the community in the last decade.

Guru fought several state assembly elections and was minister in the Bhupesh Baghel government from 2018-23. In the last assembly election, he lost his seat to Dayaldas Baghel (BJP) from Nawagarh assembly seat.

Another leader from the Satnami community is Guru Bal Das, who declared support to the BJP in the 2023 assembly election. His son, Guru Khushwant Sahab, got the BJP ticket from the Arang assembly seat and won, defeating another leader from Satnami community, Dr Shiv Kumar Dahariya, a former minister in Baghel's cabinet.

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