Casteism in Punjab – Part 3: Economic inequality is at the root of caste discrimination in Punjab, but there has been a big change in the last 10-12 years
When you have gone to a gurudwara, you must have felt a great deal of equality from keeping shoes to washing feet and tasting langar to taking pudding offerings. The richest of the rich stand in the service of the poorest of the poor, regardless of caste, creed, religion, country. Then why is it that in the village of Punjab, the land of Guru Nanak, there is a lot of discrimination on the basis of caste even in the year 2021? We talked to researchers, scholars working on the castes of Punjab and tried to understand this.
Author: Vaibhav Palnitkar
These veterans, who have a deep hold on the history, society, politics, caste of Punjab, also believe that the caste gap in Punjab is very deep. If one section of the society has economic resources and one section has nothing, it is natural to have conflict. Different areas on the basis of caste, gurdwaras, dharamshalas, crematoriums, all these things are the reality of today’s Punjab, it cannot be turned away, but in the last 10-12 years, in the SC section of Punjab, proud of their Dalit identity. There has been awakening and this is the reason why Dalit-Jatt conflicts have also been seen in Punjab.
In the first report of casteism in Punjab we showed you the ground reality of 5 villages in 5 districts, in the second report we talked about the representation of dalits and now in the third report we will understand the casteism of Punjab through experts. On the stigma of caste in Punjab, we spoke to Manjit Singh, Retired Professor, Department of Sociology, Panjab University, Professor Rajeev Lochan, Department of History, and Professor Darbari Lal, former Education Minister of Punjab. We asked these experts what is the history of casteism in Punjab? Is the casteism of Punjab the same as the rest of the country, is there anything different here? Where are the lines of division and discrimination in Punjab’s casteism the most and what are the reasons for it? And the most important question is why do gurdwaras, crematoriums, localities, utensils, dharamshalas differ at the village level even in 2021?
‘Many Sikh Dalits go abroad to earn money, but the sting of caste does not leave the chase’
“There is caste division in Punjab like the rest of the country. Since the last 20-25 years, youth from the Dalit class have also started going abroad, they are kept away by the Jat Sikh people even in foreign countries. To get rid of the caste discrimination of Punjab. For the Dalits who go abroad, but even there the caste stigma is not left behind. Many people of the Dalit community by going abroad earned a lot of money and then got a house built in their Punjab village. Pucca to their kutcha house in Punjab. By getting them done, a confidence awakens in them, so they also do this.In the 80s and 90s, people belonging to the Scheduled Castes of Punjab got their pucca houses built.
The people of the Depressed Classes have started feeling proud of their identity in the last 10-12 years. When the pride about their identity started increasing among the Dalits, there were conflicts between Jats and Dalits in Punjab at many places like Jhallur, Talhan. There used to be a Ravidasi temple in Talhan, but during the period of terrorism in Punjab, this temple was converted into a gurudwara, local Jat people took control over it. About 15 years ago, the local communities raised their voice that if this is a gurdwara, then elections should be held in it and after that the physical fight started. After this, the boys of the Dalit class beat up the Jat class here.
Recently, the Congress high command made Charanjit Singh Channi the CM of Punjab, but it was an appointment made from above. On the other hand, the other side of Channi is that he is a very successful businessman, politician, excellent student leader, educated leader. So even though he is the CM appointed from above, but his ability is also not less. Channi becoming the Chief Minister will send a message to the downtrodden that a person coming from his section can reach the highest office in the state.
‘Punjab society fails in the litmus test of caste’
About 39 castes come in the Scheduled Castes in Punjab. The village of Punjab has 37% Dalit population, but most of the SC people do not have land. Many people do not even have their own homes. It is very strange that 37% of the population has only 2-3% of the cultivable land. The rest of the land is with the Jatt Sikhs, Thakurs, Rajputs, Gujjars, Saini, Kambojs.
When we go to any village, we see that all the Dalits live in one corner of the village. For this reason the places of worship, gurudwaras, cremation grounds also went on becoming different. My analysis in this is that one of the reasons is that when there was discrimination against the Depressed Classes for many years, it came to their mind that why should not we make our own separate Gurudwara. Apart from this, the second reason is that when people from the SC community of religious Sikh, adharmi, Ravidasi, Valmiki community went abroad and they returned after earning money, then the competition to build this separate gurdwara also got financial strength.
Just as there is caste division in the whole country, in the same way division on the basis of caste is seen in Punjab too. However, at the level of hatred, violence, division, discrimination among castes in the rest of the country, there are reports that ‘Dalit cannot take his procession on a horse’, thus seeing caste hatred in Punjab. does not get. The big reason for this is that Sikhism has a lot of influence in Punjab and Sikhism was a movement related to social change. Yet, the litmus test of measuring the impact of caste is whether people are able to transcend their caste identities and get married? The answer is no. Sikhism did reduce caste hatred, but it could not eliminate caste.
‘This division at the economic level gets bigger at the caste level’
If we compare the whole of India with Punjab, then the effect of caste is less in Punjab. However, there are many occasions when the layers of casteism begin to unfold. The most valuable thing in the village of Punjab is the agricultural land and most of the land in the village is with the Jatt Sikhs. Dalits have very little, no land. In such a situation, this division at the economic level gets bigger at the caste level. The economic difference between the bourgeoisie and the worker becomes visible at the social level in the form of upper caste and lower caste.
Apart from Punjab, the way caste violence, hatred, discrimination happens in the rest of the country, it is not like this in Punjab. The reason for this was the social movement of Guru Nanak. When Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, the 10th Guru of Sikhism, founded the Khalsa Panth, he envisioned a casteless society. All castes and communities were included in the army of Guru Gobind Singh. Sikhism has a tradition of Sangat and Pangat, whose aim was to end discrimination and inequality in the society. Long ago people realized that caste and caste had done a lot of damage to the society of Punjab.
Note: This news piece was originally published in dainikbhaskar.com and used purely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes exclusively for Human Rights objectives.