Caste groups want SEPARATE legal protection against Caste-based discrimination.
Hindutva groups and Sikh admirers of Indic civilisations want Sikhs to oppose Caste discrimination law.
Sikhi seeks elimination of the Caste System and any form of discrimination due to one’s background.
Case law and better education should be the Sikh response to Government consultation.
Once again, this column returns to the topic of the degrading Caste System which is the root cause of caste based divisions and discrimination. Due to Caste politics, there is much misunderstanding about the real issues in connection with Government consultation.
Firstly, let us be clear about the respective religious positions of Sikhi and Hinduism. Sikhi condemns the Brahmanic/Manuwadic Varan Ashram system which, at the lowest rungs, is like slavery and exploits people by branding them by caste from birth. I am reminded of a paper presented by S. Sarup Singh Narang at a Sikh Study Forum event in East London some years ago. He listed numerous quotations from Gurbani which condemned the whole idea of treating people high and low because of the incident of their birth. It is surprising that the system continues to be tolerated by civilised societies.
On the other hand, “Hinduism is a caste-based faith built painstakingly around the firm belief in human inequality and the notions of purity and pollution that attach to individuals by birth. Its rituals are grounded in the proposition to afford unlimited privilege to the ‘higher’ castes to exploit the labour and persons of castes deemed inferior. It has a hierarchical system of exploitation built into religious practises and ends up in Brahmins exploiting all other castes.” (quote from Prof. Gurtej Singh of Chandigarh)
Under Equalities legislation, any form of discrimination under any pretext is illegal. If there is discrimination due to one’s caste or background e.g. from “working class”, then such discrimination should be challenged in the law courts. So, it is not clear what exactly the Caste lobbyists are asking for, except that they would like Caste to be defined and entrenched in English law and given SEPARATE protection by law.
In recent years, when next generations are forgetting about caste, the so called “low castes” have inflicted further damage to their own cause by creating new religions and sects identified with the so called ”low castes”. They do not wish to abolish the caste system but want separate protection in law against caste discrimination. In the same way, Mahatma Gandhi, instead of totally condemning the caste system, was content to give the so-called low caste people a different label of “Hari Jan”, thus recognising and perpetuating low castes as part of Indian way of life!
Sikh organisations should give a view which is seen to be independent of both these groups. Sikh should not side Hindutva supremacist groups preaching Varan Ashram Dharma. They do not want to make “caste an aspect of race in the Equality Act 2010”. Instead, case law should be developed in the courts and by employment tribunals to protect against all types of discrimination.
Gurmukh Singh OBE