RSS respects Sikhism, not trying to merge it with Hinduism: Rashtriya Sikh Sangat chief
The Rashtriya Sikh Sangat has rejected allegations that the RSS is involved in a subversive campaign to merge the Sikh identity with Hinduism.
“We do not shy away from accepting our connection with the RSS. They support and nurture us, but also respect our gurus and our faith as a separate religion,” GS Gill, national president of the Sangat, told HT on Tuesday. It also criticised the Akal Takht, which has called for the boycott of an event being held by the RSS affiliate to mark the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh (the tenth Sikh saint), in New Delhi on Wednesday.
RSS leader Mohan Bhagwat will be the main speaker at the event. Leaders of various sects, including Namdhari, Nirankari and Nirmal saints, are expected to attend.
The Sangat works in Punjab, Haryana and parts of Rajasthan to consolidate the RSS ideology. It also shares the Sangh’s concerns over “forced conversions” being carried out by missionaries in far-flung areas of Punjab and Rajasthan.
However, hardline Sikh groups such as the Dal Khalsa have accused the Sangat of colluding with the RSS in attempts to blur the line between Hindus and Sikhs. They also claim that the RSS is trying to gain control of their religious bodies through the Sangat.
Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh had referred to an earlier decree that prohibits Sikhs from associating with the RSS to make the boycott call. “No one can be allowed to distort Sikh history, and this kind of act cannot be tolerated. Sikhs are a separate qaum (ethnic group), and they have a distinct identity and a unique history. When they don’t interfere in the rituals, beliefs and code of ethics of any other religion, how can they tolerate interference from others in their own?” he asserted.
The accusation is vehemently denied by the Sangat, which runs as many as 500 ekais (branches similar to RSS shakhas) across country. “This is a deliberate attempt to create confusion, and portray the Sangat in a poor light,” Gill alleged.
He said the Sangat was aided by the RSS in clearing misconceptions regarding the community in the aftermath of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. “It had become impossible for Sikhs to travel outside Punjab. There was distrust, and Sikhs – who have a glorious history – were viewed with suspicion. It was on the Prakash Utsav of Guru Nanak in 1986 that the Sangat was formed, and has since received support from the RSS.”
Gill asserted that the Sangat follows all the tenets of Sikhism. “I don’t want to comment on what the RSS feels about other minorities, but it respects our faith,” he added.
The Punjab RSS unit also issued a statement reiterating that it considers Sikhism a separate religion, akin to Buddhism and Jainism.