Punjab Research Group

Dalits and the Emancipatory Sikh Religion by Raj Kumar Hans

Posted in Articles by Pippa on January 15, 2009

Presented at the University of Pennsylvania Dec 3-5, 2008 Conference
Dalit Challenges to Academic Knowledge: The Great Paradoxes


Dalits constitute about 30 per cent of Punjab population that happens to be largest propor­tion in the country, when compared with other provinces, but they occupy the lowest share in the ownership of land (2.34 per cent of the cultivated area). Mazhbis and Ramdasias, the two dalit castes among the Sikhs, particularly the Mazhbis, remain the most deprived. Evidence of untouchability against dalit Sikhs is well established. They have been forced to live in separate settlements, contemptuously called thhattis or chamarhlees, located on the western side and away from the main body of the villages. All the Sikh organisations from Sikh temples to the political party are under the control of the Jatt Sikhs. The Jatt Sikhs refuse to consider them equals even after death, by disallowing cremation of their dead in the main cremation ground of the village. Over the years such harsh caste attitude has forced the dalits to es­tablish separate gurdwaras, marriage places and cremation grounds. This seems to be the biggest paradox of Sikhism which theoretically and theologically has been characterized as ‘emancipatory’ and even sociologically as ‘revolutionary’.

Please find attached the full paper: dalits-and-the-emancipatory-sikhism-rajkumarhans-2008

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One Response

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  1. Shukra said, on February 23, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Raj Kumar Hans’s paper is excellent. More research is needed to address the question of why Dalits participated at certain junctures in Sikh history and why they did not join earlier on. Also how was it possible for Brahminical ideology to make a startling comeback.

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