Hunger strike for a separate identity

Near the side lane of the Parliament Street,it is hard to miss the colourful quilts and a group of Sikh men,who sit under a tarpaulin tent,urging passersby to pick up their pamphlets.

Written by Chinki Sinha | New Delhi | Published: February 18, 2009 3:00:04 am

Near the side lane of the Parliament Street,it is hard to miss the colourful quilts and a group of Sikh men,who sit under a tarpaulin tent,urging passersby to pick up their pamphlets.

Hardev Singh (65) is on a mission. Since July 19,2008,the member of the Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar (Presidium) has been on a dharna,urging the government to recognise Sikhism as a separate religion.

In Article 25 of the Constitution,Sikhism is put as a part of Hinduism. But Hardev disgrees: “Sikhism is not an offshoot of Hinduism.”

Hardev is one of the protesters,who take turn to continue a relay hunger strike — two-day at a time. At least five people are present at the dharna at all time,including teenagers.

For the party members,the agitation for a separate identity began as early as 1947,when there were numerous protests in Punjab,“but nothing came out of it”.

Daljit Singh,the chairman of the party,says their protest was brought to Jantar Mantar to present their case to the people of India and press the Central government to look into their demands.

“This is a genuine demand. We are a separate religion. Why doesn’t the state accept it? Identity is dear to everyone,” he says.

Despite the seven months the party has been on dharna,precious little has been achieved. An assurance or even a hope that their demands will be met is unlikely,but the group say the protest will continue.

“As long as the government doesn’t concede,the dharna will go on and young men and old men of the Sikh community will keep coming here to contribute 48 hours to the hunger strike,” Daljit says,his voice stiff with determination.

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