New Delhi, June 1(UNI) About two million Sikhs, most of them living below poverty line and spread in several states outside Punjab, have almost been forgotten as a minority.
The National Commission for Minorities(NCM) would now undertake a Sachar-type survey of these groups.
Drawn from various castes of the country, these people came to the fold of sixth Sikh Guru Hargobindji who engaged them for manufacturing weapons like swords, spears, shields, because of which they have earned the name of Sikligar (manufacturer of sword).
The 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh had also utilised their services for the supply of weapons, and later they became part of his army.
They are still following all Sikh traditions and culture but have not been given the minority status in certain states.
Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh recongnised them as a minority only last month.
The various studies conducted by the different government agencies for ascertaining the socio-economic status of various minorities have failed to take note of these Sikhs who were living in extreme poverty in a number of states.
The National Commission for Minorities recently brought out a report on four minority communities other than Muslims, the coverage about the Sikhs in states other than Punjab was found to be inadequate, so a proposal for a separate study has been approved and work started on it, NCM member Harcharan Josh told UNI.
The various castes of the Sikhs like Lubanas, Sikligar, Vanzara and Dakshini Sikhs are distributed over Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
In the southern states they are called Dakshini Sikhs. They have married the locals and their present descendants speak the language of those states, but they follow all the practices of their religion.
The community has a sizeable number in Maharashtra, especially in Nanded, where the last Guru breathed his last. Present members of the community are the descendants of those soldiers who accompanied the Guru to Nanded from Punjab.
The Sikhs found in Andhra Pradesh have descended from the 2000 soldiers who were sent to Hyderabad by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1830 on the request of the Nizam for helping him fight the aggressive rulers surrounding his territory and streamlining the revenue administration.
After these soldiers had done their job, they wanted to return, but the Nizam wanted to retain them, and made a request to Maharaja Ranjit Singh in this purpose. The Maharaja left it to the choice of the soldiers, who were later persuaded by the Nizam to stay.
Mr Josh said the study being done by the Commission would be very helpful in planning and undertaking measures for their socio-economic uplift.
UNI NAZ SW PM1350