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The Politics Of Sikhs - Book By Jitinder Kaur

Preface Of The Book 'The Politics Of Sikhs' By Jitinder Kaur

This book on the politics of Delhi Sikhs has grown out of my doctoral dissertation approved by the Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1983. I wish to share my observations and under­standing of the political responses of Delhi Sikhs with the readers for two main reasons: one, there are a lot of publications on the Punjab Sikhs but there is hardly any worthwhile study on the Delhi Sikhs; and, two, there is a need to clearly identify the differences between the political outlook of the Sikhs of the two places, so that a jaundiced or a motivated eye may not see the Sikh community in the country as a monolithic entity and hold it responsible for the omissions and commissions of any one section of it, however insignificant and unacceptable to the community itself. Thus, the study has both academic and practical interest.

As a representative body of the Sikhs of Delhi, the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) takes up not only religious but also political issues, for in the dominant Sikh psyche religion and politics are still intimately interlinked. Therefore, the DSGMC is not merely a religious organisation but a quasi-political one as well, and the positions it takes on various political and religious issues are fairly representative of those of the Sikhs of Delhi. This study is based on the responses of 46 members of the DSGMC elected in 1974, which were obtained on a structured scale, as well as on the reactions of another 24 ex-members of the DSG MC, to a questionnaire submitted to them. The scale and the questionnaire-framed in English but translated into Punjabi for the convenience of respondents-were fairly comprehensive to elicit the views of leaders on such questions as the structure of DSGMC, its mode of functioning, its methods of decision-making, the elections to it, the socio-economic status and age of its leaders, issues it takes up, methods of struggle, the degree of success it achieves, etc. Besides, the author attended the formal as well as informal meetings of the various groups in the DSG MC and adopted the observation technique to have a first-hand experience of the functioning of the organisation, its decision-making process and the style of working of its leaders. Most of the interviews with the leaders lasted about three hours each, and those respondents who could not give this much of time in a single sitting were kind enough to agree to a second sitting. The depth-interviews lasted ten to twelve hours and were spread over five to six sittings. However, one respondent refused to formally answer the questionnaire and insisted on giving oral replies to the questions put to him. Some respondents were very conscious of being important leaders ; they discouraged the author by not keeping the appointment : some of them gave as many as a dozen appointments but failed to keep even one. Besides, their replies were evasive. Some respondents were even contemptuous of the whole study and were in a hurry to finish the interview. But a majority of the leaders appreciated the study and were sympathetic.

The main argument of this book is that, owing to identifiable reasons such as economic affluence and their microscopic minority, the Delhi Sikhs are gradually developing an ethos and political outlook which are markedly different from those of the Punjab Sikhs. No doubt, they continue to subscribe to panthic unity and religious solidarity of all Sikhs, but they are no more ready to take dictates from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) or the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) in Punjab. In fact, unlike the Punjab Sikhs, they do not entertain political ambitions and. do not make confrontation with the government a policy. On the contrary, despite their experience that an agitational approach is more effective than the representational one, they consciously eschew the former and adhere to the latter ; of course, without surrendering their right to adopt militant methods of struggle as and when their vital interests are at stake. This dominant stress of Delhi Sikhs on the pacifist approach reflects their tendency to co-operate with and accommodate themselves to the viewpoint of the Government of India. In this sense, the Delhi Sikhs represent a new trend in the Sikh politics in the country.

I take this opportunity to express my sense of gratitude to all those who have helped me in various ways in this intellectual enterprise. The members and office-bearers of the DSGMC spared their valuable time and freely and frankly shared their views with me on various issues. Some of them very kindly provided me access to their personal files thus enabling me to gain an insight into the dynamics of relationships among the leaders. Needless to say, I would not have been able to complete this work but for the generous help and support of my respondents. It is not possible to acknowledge them individually but I am grateful to all of them. I am also thankful to the Indian Council of Social Science Research for partly financing the publication of this book. In the end, I must express my sincere thanks to many friends whose timely encouragement gave me strength. However, the responsibility for the facts stated, opinions expressed and conclusions reached is entirely that of the author and none of them is to be held responsible for them.

                                                                                                         JITINDER KAUR

New Delhi

January 17, 1986



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