Guruphiliac: The Punjab's Dera Baba In Another Blowup

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Punjab's Dera Baba In Another Blowup

File under: Gurus Doin' Time and The Siddhi of PR

He's the sartorial wonder blunder guru, accused of rape, murder and busted a number of times on various other charges in the Punjab, his devotees killing themselves over the trouble. And now, another death, this time at the hands of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's bodyguards:
The Dera chief got into a fresh row recently after a youth was killed and two others were injured when his bodyguard opened fire on Sikh protesters in Mumbai on June 20.
We've always wondered what the whole uproar over Singh's original sin – to dress in the style of the ancient patriarchs of Sikhism – was really all about. Could the "sin" actually be rooted in a class struggle precipitated by the Dera Sacha Sauda's popularity with India's poor and disenfranchised?
Free health and educational facilities attract the poor from all sects and cast to its fold. But, most importantly it appeared to be the identity crisis among the lower strata of society that helped Dera get a huge following. The neglected, looked down upon and alienated lower classes of different religions got an identity after coming to the Dera, say experts.

β€œThe lower strata of society strive for an identity and that well explains the Dera Sacha Sauda mass base of landless laborers,” said Parmod Kumar, director of Chandigarh-based Institute of Development and Communication.
In this context, the hubbub over Singh's bad wardrobe decision makes a bit more sense. Was it about putting down the devotees as much as their leader and his org?

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At 6/25/2008 8:48 PM, Blogger Peggy Burgess said...

well, Sikhs have bumped off a few prime ministers too , so i think they are equal opportunity assassins.

At 6/26/2008 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is nothing more than a fight between upper caste and lower caste Sikhs (...well, well I know Sikhism was born as a reaction to caste stranglehold of Brahminism, but nonetheless..). In Punjab you will find upper caste Sikhs flocking to wealthy Gurudwaras and lower caste Sikhs to Deras. Technically Gurudwaras are open to everyone (even to non-Sikhs), but lower castes find it more comfortable to relate to Deras. Upper castes are more vocal, wealthy and insist that they are the inheritors of 'true' Sikhism. Presence of Dera-s is naturally resented.

That does not however make Dera chiefs as patrons of divine virtue. Law of averages tells that there will probably be as many thugs among lower castes as among upper castes (in fact, slightly more - since lower castes come from disadvantaged strata).

So folks, enjoy the show till it lasts. In the end, it is the Gurudwaras that are going to emerge as winners. Union Government, fearful of separatist tone of upper caste sikhs does not have any incentive to play fair.

-- Gurmeet


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