Sunday, May 6, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Migrants who fell in love with Sikhism
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 5
Employment avenues in the state have always been attracting migrant labourers from states like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, but for many what may seem unusual is that scores of them have fallen in love with the Punjabi culture and ultimately embraced Sikhism.

The spontaneous process of assimilation and the bond between the two cultures have got so strong that you might come across scores of migrant “amritdharis” and “sehajdharis” in all parts of the Doaba countryside — speaking a mixture of Punjabi-Hindi and Bihari languages and proudly asserting that they are “Punjabis” now.

What is more interesting is that if you talk about their children, though they are aware about their past, they speak chaste Punjabi, have Punjabi names, wear Punjabi dresses, study in ordinary Punjabi schools, and at psychological level don’t differentiate themselves from the rest of the lot as for them no racial discrimination exists in villages.

Most of the migrant labourers, who have doused themselves completely in Punjabi colour, go to gurdwaras and recite “path”.

Mukesh Yadav (20), now Tara Singh has been serving as a “sevadar” at the Nanaksar Gurdwara near Nakodar since he was five and had come to Punjab from his native Muthari village in Bihar along with some relatives. Tara Singh can now be called a complete “gursikh”.

Tara Singh, who is now married, said he was feeling isolated when he had come to the gurdwara, where all “sevadars” used to wear “cholas”, turbans and spoke Punjabi. “Moreover, I was impressed by the macho image of Punjabis and then I liked the way of living of the people around me and ultimately partook “amrit” and started serving here,” he said.

Besides having been impressed, most of the people have become part of the Punjabi culture for they were looked down upon as “bhaiyas”, he added.

Babu Ram, now Babu Singh, also a tribal from Lal Mutiah village in Dumka district of Bihar, who was engaged by the gurdwara authorities became a source of inspiration for Tara Singh. Babu Singh (36) belongs to a well-to-do family and his father was the village sarpanch, but after leaving home for Punjab and settling in Nakodar he has never looked back. From a labourer he has risen to a leading marble contractor, has his own house, flaunts a mobile and is going to tie nuptial knot with a Punjabi girl soon. Right for childhood it was my dream to marry a Punjabi girl. This dream is going to be fulfilled soon, says Babu Singh, who is an “amritdhari” Sikh now and has a passion for animals and birds and keeps a number of them in his Nakodar house.

Ram Balak, working as a peon in a school at Bulanda village near Mehatpur, is another migrant from Bihar who has embraced Sikhism, renamed himself as Ram Balak Singh.

Shiv Nath (now Shiv Singh), running a marble shop at Noormahal, is a devout Sikh, though he has not partaken “amrit”. From the way he speaks Punjabi nobody can even judge that originally he is not a Punjabi. So is Bittu Singh, another marble shop owner in Nakodar township.

A visit by the correspondent to their house was seemingly a pleasant surprise for four children of Kewal Singh of Shor village. Kewal Singh, whose family has permanently settled at the village for the past 45 years is working as a tractor driver. All of his children, one girl and three sons, have embraced Sikhism. “None has ever made us think that we are different from others. Village people treat us as Punjabis and we are happy here,” the children said.

Though these migrants are happy over the way they are being treated in the state, but they are sore over the fact that some politicians and “vested” interests occasionally seek their ouster from the state on one or the other pretext. “Have anything wrong been done by us? Have we not put our hearts in agriculture and industry here?” are the two questions they ask.

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