A non-discrete village in Punjab’s Gurdaspur has discontinued daily prayers in the three Sikh shrines that were segregated based on caste lines and have existed in the village for decades as places of worship.
The move is seen as an attempt to ebb discrimination on caste lines amid the presence of scores of Sikh shrines across the state where devotees would visit Gurdwaras on the basis of their caste.
Until recently, there were three Sikh shrines in the village of Sarafkot— one each for Jat Sikhs, Dalit Sikhs and the OBC Sikhs.
The village natives are now building a single Sikh shrine where all Sikhs irrespective of their caste can together pay obeisance. The village has a population of over 1,150.
Separate Sikh shrines based on caste lines have been a part of the prevalent norm for long in villages.
Sikh high priests have been critical of such divisions within the same faith. They have been advocating the use of one Sikh shrine sans divisions on caste lines. This one decision by the village has blurred caste lines and cemented the bond among natives.
The new Sikh shrine now witnesses a sizable number of devotees during morning and evening prayers.
SGPC member AS Shahpur played a crucial part in orchestrating this initiative.
He said it took time to convince the villagers, but they were never averse to the idea, which is what resulted in the change. The upcoming Sikh shrine is being funded by a non-resident Indian.
Punjab has country’s highest per capita population of Dalits, many of them turbaned Sikhs (Ramgarhia and Majbhi).
Separate Gurdwaras catering to devotees on caste lines within the same faith have often brewed discontent and emboldened segregation on caste lines.
Shahpur said he hopes the example of this village will be emulated in other parts of Punjab as well.