COMMUNITY WITHIN COMMUNITY: POLITICS OF EXCLUSION IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF SIKH IDENTITY
The article examines the construction of religious identity among the Sikhs from the socio-historical perspective. It has been argued that the Sikh identity was constructed as a result of the colonial intervention in which the emphasis turned to the appearance instead of faith as such. The new identity was a product of the politics of the times and it was perpetuated in order to maintain the hegemonic domination. Sikhism, despite its egalitarian ideology, failed to create a casteless community. Discrimination and exclusion of lower castes continued. An empirical investigation into the conditions and perceptions of the lowest caste, namely Mazhabi clearly demonstrated their exclusion, whereas discourse of equality among the Sikhs is used to create a moral community. Despite the equality of worship among the Sikhs, the Mazhabis at the local level are denied the equal religious rights in the gurdwaras (Sikh temple) owned and controlled by the upper dominant castes. Roots of the exclusion have to be located in the history of the making of the religious community and the way a few castes after benefiting from religious conversion perpetuated the caste-based exclusions.
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