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North America Sikhs blame declining population on conversions, drugs

Sikh leaders in North America blamed conversions, drugs and migration for the decline in the growth rate of Sikh population in India from 1.9 percent to 1.7 percent as per the 2011 census.

punjab Updated: Aug 30, 2015 18:45 IST
Sikh leaders,Sikh population,conversions

Sikh leaders in North America blamed conversions, drugs and migration for the decline in the growth rate of Sikh population in India from 1.9 percent to 1.7 percent as per the 2011 census.

"While Punjab leaders are promoting their family businesses, the youth has sunk into drugs. What can one expect from drug addicts?" asked Toronto-based Sikh leader Nachhattar Singh Chohan.

Chohan, who heads the Indian Trucking Association in Canada, said: "Yes, migration from Punjab to the West is one reason. But the bigger factor is that people are abandoning Sikhism and joining various 'deras' in Punjab. The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee has failed the Sikhs."

Vancouver-based community activist Balwant Sanghera said: "The first and foremost reason for the declining Sikh population is the migration from Punjab to the West and the second is the growing awareness to have smaller families."

Shrinking land holdings in Punjab are also forcing people to have fewer children to avoid further division of land among siblings.

"Finally, drugs are taking their toll on the youth of Punjab. The drugs are reported to be causing impotence amongst boys, resulting in fewer births," Sanghera told IANS.

Los Angeles-based Bhai Satpal Singh Kohli, the ambassador of Sikh Dharma in the western hemisphere, said the Sikh population is declining because people are "not adhering to the Sikh code of conduct and leaving Sikhism to join various 'deras' due to poor leadership and discrimination against Dalits and poor Sikhs in the Punjab."

He also said Sikhs were migrating for better opportunities. "Moreover, the trend is that Sikhs are increasingly marrying out of their religion. So the majority of their children now end up not being Sikhs."

Kohli welcomes the directive of the Akal Takht jathedar to each Sikh family to have four children. "But more importantly, Sikhs need not select family planning for a male child and stop female foeticide."

Yuba City-based Jasbir Kang blames the destruction of the economy of rural Punjab for the migration of Sikhs to foreign lands. "Events and after-affects of 1984 had a serious impact on the Sikh psyche... Sikhs never committed suicides until the last two decades. People have lost their pride and self-respect," Kang told IANS.

Kang said Sikhs are converting to other religions as the clergy has failed to address the 'issues of caste divisions and drug abuse.'

"If moms lose respect for faith, then children will not follow it either. We are at crossroads."

Washington-based Sikh leader Rajwant Singh, who heads the Sikh Council on religion and education, said, "The turbulence of the 80s had an adverse impact on the average Sikh family dependent on agrarian economy."

"Political mishandling of economic and social issues, and militancy in the 80s and its subsequent suppression by security forces adding to woes of Punjab. These have had a direct impact on the average Sikh family."

Singh says the lack of opportunities have also pushed young Sikhs to try their luck elsewhere in the world, even if it means selling off valuable assets and facing migratory restrictions in western countries.

Read:Falling Sikh community numbers in country worrying leaders

First Published: Aug 30, 2015 17:20 IST