Minority panel to study condition of illiterate Sikh gypsies

September 2nd, 2008 - 11:57 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 2 (IANS) At a time when billions of rupees are being spent to provide elementary education to children, there is a group of people where the rate of literacy among children is almost zero.Known as Dakshini (southern) Sikhs, they belong to the Sikligar, Vanjara and Lubana castes and live as gypsies in various states across India.

Concerned over the poor status of the group, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has now commissioned a research study on the social, cultural, economic and educational life of Dakshini Sikhs.

“After independence, these Sikhs have been living in a very miserable condition. Their average annual income is less than Rs.30,000. They support a family of five or six with this meagre income,” NCM member Harcharan Singh Josh told IANS.

Citing the Sachar committee report on the socio-economic status of minorities in the country, Josh said: “The report mentioned that less than five percent children of the Muslim community see the doors of primary schools. The condition of these Sikhs is even worse as almost 100 percent of their children are deprived of education.”

Several teams of the NCM are working in various states to collect data about the socio-economic status of Dakshini Sikhs.

“The commission intends to publish the study report and will submit it to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the occasion of the tri-centenary celebrations of ‘Guru-Ta-Gaddi’ (the Sikh holy scripture which took the place of gurus) at Nanded in Maharashtra in October with the recommendation that these Sikhs be provided all basic facilities available to other minority communities,” Josh said.

The history of Dakshini Sikhs dates back to the time of sixth Sikh guru Hargobind in 1595. They made swords, spears and shields for the Sikh army.

Their descendents worked for the tenth Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh, and joined his army to fight against the Mughals.

In 1832, the Nizam of Hyderabad requested Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the ruler of Punjab, to send his army to ward off attacks from the neighbours. Ranjit Singh sent a force of 2,000 Sikh soldiers, mostly from these castes, many of whom stayed on in Hyderabad.

The Nizam gave jobs to these soldiers who came to be known as Dakshini Sikhs.

“About 80 percent of these Sikhs are living below the poverty line and are illiterate. It is unfortunate that the group which played an important role in fighting battles are living in miserable conditions,” Josh added.

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