186-member jatha arrives in Amritsar
Makhan Singh has been listening to tales of his ancestral village,Sarobar near Adampur in Jalandhar,since childhood. But for the first time in his life,the 25-year-old from Lanka,near Guwahati,is on a visit to the land his forefathers left in 1820 to settle in faraway Assam.
The fifth generation of the Sikh soldiers of Maharaja Ranjit Singhs army,despatched by the Maharaja in response to a request by Assam king Chandrakanta Simha,Makhan is at the Golden Temple as part of the 186-member jatha,praying to find his distant cousins and uncles left behind almost two centuries ago.
The soldiers had been sent to help the Assam king quell Burmese invaders. Some of them stayed back,married locals and gave birth to the community called Assamese Sikhs.
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief Avtar Singh Makkar had visited Assam two months back and facilitated the visit. The jatha,which was given a warm welcome by the SGPC today. is now faced with the herculean task of finding their relatives.
We will help them find their relatives in the state. Some of them have their origins in Pakistani Punjab,too. We will try and help them reach them as well, said Makkar.
Some,meanwhile,have already found their relatives. I have established contact with my distant uncle Naseeb Singh,who lives in a village nearby. I will soon leave to meet him, says Makhan.
Rajendra Singh of Borkala,near Guwahati,has a cousin in Baba Bakala. Her son visited me in Assam recently and now I want to reciprocate, he said.
A member of the group,Kamaljit Singh,said the community,which has swelled to over 50,000 in number,has its own gurdwaras and follows the religion as it should be.
Most of Assamese Sikhs are in the police or the Army,while some have taken to agriculture and trade. Rajbir Singh,a retired ASP,who heads the Sikh Kalyan Parishad,an association of Assamese Sikhs,said the first group of Sikhs settled down in a village near Chaparmukh in 1825 and the community now inhibits Barkola,Raha,Lanka,Hatipara,Hojai,Lumding and Kampur villages.