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Caste vs Sikh

I have always been a Sikh. It’s just the Indian tradition isn’t it? You are born into a religion. No decisions or make your own mind up in our culture, which is fine. I’m not complaining. I’ve always been proud of my religion and the background and history of the religion of Sikhism. Recently though, well, I say recently, but for the last few years, I have grown to lose respect for certain aspects of this so-called religion we are meant to follow. Before you all start complaining at me for badmouthing the religion and being a non-believer, calm down and read on.

As a child I had always been bought up in religion and as a believer that I was Jatt, Sikh. This was my religion. I wasn’t just a Sikh – I was a Jatt Sikh. I didn’t really know what this meant. Being a bit of a “bounty” or a “coconut” as I was called by my family and friends, you know brown on the outside but white on in the inside, I didn’t really know what a Jatt was as it wasn’t really something I’d heard at school or with my circle of friends, I just knew that’s what I was because of my surname.

Later in life, as my circle of friends became more larger and had more of a variety of people, I started learning what all this surname and caste business was all about. “Yo, what’s your surname?” “She’s fit, but nah, she’s a Chamari init” “Of course he won’t! He’s a Ramgharia!” were the types of phrases you would hear coming out of some of the lads in my family or so called circle of friends. I pretended I knew what was going on, but being the bounty I was now known as, I just nodded and laughed along.

Now, not a lot of you reading this will have the foggiest of what I’m on about. Well, basically, in Indian culture, you have a tier of class and living standard. As unfortunate as it sounds, it’s still a pretty big deal in the Indian way of life. You have high castes and low castes – which, caste specialists, as I call them, can tell by the way you look, dress or by your surname. I’m a Jatt. I’ve been told I “look like a Jatt” too, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

I’ve never really thought any different of people. I’ve always been very equal in the way I see people; my family have too. I’ve had white friends, black friends, friends of all religion and caste all through my life, so have my two siblings. I’m very fortunate to have really open-minded Indian parents.

This open-minded lifestyle doesn’t stick with most families though. It’s 2012, and I still hear horror stories of the inequality between castes in the religion of Sikhism. As a Sikh, I was bought up to be equal and have no barriers in the respect I give to people, which is something I believe I have done throughout my life.

So, why is it that I hear the words and phrases “Chammar” or “Jatts Stink” or trending topics on Twitter like “LifeOfAJatt” and “LifeOfAThurkan”? How is it possible, that I see a fully baptised Sikh man, with a Turban and Kirpan going mental over his son wanting to marry a girl who is of different caste? Why is it that we go to the Gurdwara, but only people of one caste should go there, because you know, that’s the rule. What rule? Where does it say in the Guru Granth Sahib that we have to go to separate Gurdwaras because of our caste? I didn’t choose to be Jatt. I was bought up into my caste. I’m a Jatt, which means farmer, but you don’t see me growing potatoes in my back garden and buying a tractor – I do wear a turban though, and I am a Sikh. Therefore, whatever caste you are, whatever religion you are or whether you are black, white, gay, lesbian or don’t even believe in God, as a Sikh, I respect you, and so should other Sikhs.

I’ve had enough of culture and tradition ruining the teachings of Sikhism. I’m fully aware that I am not a “proper” Sikh, I know that. I’m not the poster boy for Sikhism in 2012, but I do think I’m quite religious. I might not go to the Gurdwara every day and I might drink and eat meat, but that does not mean I have turned my back on my religion and faith. I know a lot of baptised Sikhs, some whom I have a lot of respect for, and some I don’t, simply because of their thoughts on the caste system and the way they live.

It’s simple. You are either Sikh, or your caste. You cannot be both.

Sikhism is all about equality, this is why you go to the Gurdwara and eat Langar. It’s not just a free meal for you to enjoy. It’s a symbol of equality and respect of all faiths and backgrounds. We sit on the floor to eat the same meal, at the same level. No one is better than anyone else – so why are these values thrown out of the window the minute we walk out the Langar hall? Tell me that one. It’s ridiculous.

I’m a Sikh. Done.

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