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Hindu-Punjabis or Sikhs? It does not matter.

March 15, 2008

Reading all the reports of female-feticide in Punjab has got me concerned for many reasons. First, I find this practice horrible and disgusting. It is evil and it must be stopped wherever it is happening. Second, I have my connections with Punjab. My parents hail from Punjab. Third, there is a large population of Sikhs in Punjab. As a Sikh, I know that Sikhism strongly forbids discrimination of any kind against women. On the issue of female infanticide, there is even an edict to not commit this evil practice and also to not socialize with those who commit this practice.

As a Sikh with ties to Punjab, I am ashamed and alarmed at these reports.

My shame is heightened by my understanding that Sikhs like to pride themselves on gender equality, and on their history of fighting for others’ rights. Sikhs have made countless sacrifices to ‘protect’ the weak, to give a voice to the voiceless, and to ensure that individuals’ fundamental human rights are not violated. When such valiant and proud people turn on the helpless, defenseless fetuses and infants, their fall from glory is a big fall indeed. My pride in my community has taken a big fall.

Reading other blogs, I have noticed that some Sikhs are protesting that Sikhs are not the only people living in Punjab. Hindus in Punjab – Hindu-Punjabis – form an equal if not greater share of the state’s population. That means, all those cases of sex-selective abortions and female infanticide in Punjab should not be attributed to Sikhs alone. [For example, here is a section from Dr. Baldev Singh’s rebuttal to Dr. Doris Jakobsh’s thesis on gender in Sikhism.]

I too am aware that not all people in Punjab are Sikhs. However, I do not want the finger pointing at Sikhs to be stopped. So what if fellow Hindu-Punjabis too are committing kudimaari? Should Sikhs then take solace in the numbers? As a Sikh, I find even one case of kudimaari by a fellow Sikh appalling. Each incident is a blot on what Sikhism stands for, on the sacrifices that Sikhs have made, and on the pride we claim as a community.

Rather than getting into this blame-game, as Sikhs, we should be more concerned about eradicating this evil from our community and setting an example for others in the world. Sikhism stands for equality – gender, racial, religional, regional. It doesn’t help the community when the doctor, Pritam Singh, who ran the clinic for sex-determination and was arrested on the discovery of more than 50 fetuses in a well at the backyard of the clinic, is pictured on the BBC and the report shows him as a Sikh.

This doctor should be excommunicated by the SGPC. Sikhs should ostracize him. Perhaps this is one way that my fellow Sikh bloggers seeking to distance themselves from Hindu-Punjabis on this issue can do so.

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