At the crossroads: Dera Sacha Sauda devotees disillusioned, but wary of Sikh clergy’s call
“A Dalit remains a Dalit. You see Mazhabi Sikhs and Balmikis have separate gurdwaras.”punjab Updated: Sep 15, 2017 16:27 IST
Six-feet tall Jaskaran, a farm labourer of Deon village in the district, stands disillusioned with the Dera Sacha Sauda cult. But he is equally wary of the Sikh clergy’s clarion call to the beleaguered dera devotees to embrace Sikhism.
Though he does not explain his reservations over Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh’s appeal for ‘ghar wapsi’ into the Sikh fold, 60-year-old Buta Singh, a Dalit Sikh, comes straight to the point. “A Dalit remains a Dalit. You see Mazhabi Sikhs and Balmikis have separate gurdwaras.”
He adds, “I remember how the granthi of a gurdwara of zamindaars (Jat Sikh landlords) used to call us ‘Mazhabi’ and kept a separate old copy of Guru Granth Sahib for Dalits whenever they needed the holy book for ‘path’ (recitation) at home (for a ritual).”
Discrimination in gurdwaras
Interestingly, Deon has four gurdwaras meant for different castes. The village has some 1,200 families, with dera followers constituting one-fourth of the population.
Most of the devotee families, however, have now removed the lockets of the dera faith from their necks. But they have no other faith or religion to follow now.
At the salon of Jaskaran alias Bittu, a barber, the HT team interacts with more villagers to get their views on the issue.
‘Will getting a siropa make a difference’
Gurmeet Singh, a young matriculate, points out the need for the media to explore the “hard realities of the daily lives” of the Dalits, including the premis. “Is the life of a Dalit going to improve after getting a ‘siropa’ (Sikh religious robe of honour) from the ‘granthi’ in the Gurdwara?” he asks.
“I remember how the granthi of a gurdwara of zamindaars (Jat Sikh landlords) used to call us ‘mazhabi’ and kept a separate old copy of Guru Granth Sahib for Dalits whenever they needed the holy book for ‘path’ (recitation) at home (for a ritual).”
Farm labourer Karamjit Kaur also seems to be in two minds over embracing Sikhism after her disenchantment with dera. “Gurdware javange….hmm…. par pataa nahi ji (We will go to Gurdwara...hmm... but it is still uncertain),” she murmurs.
The message was clear, though not loud, among dera followers not only in Deon, but several other villages across Talwandi Sabo, Rampura Phul, Bhucho, Maur and Bathinda blocks of Bathinda district, which have a considerable population of premis.
Premis at Naseebpura pointed out how the Akal Takht edict calling up the Sikhs to boycott them had led to their hardships during the Dera-Sikh clashes in 2007.
“They (Sikhs) refuse to give us utensils and beddings from the local gurdwara, when these are needed for marriages or other family functions. Hence, our ‘bhaichara’ (dera community) has to make its own arrangements of such necessities now,” says Nacchhattar Insan, a local dera leader in the village.
Similarly, premis of Kot Shamir, Bhagi Vandar and Rama villages also sounded disturbed, but were critical of the Sikh clergy.