Wearing a dastaar or a turban has its uses. That distinct Sikh identity, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) is telling young Sikhs in schools across the state, will help them stay away from drugs, earn them “respect” in society every time they are addressed as “Mr Singh”, increase their height and keep them away from “infectious diseases” that spread through visits to the hairdresser.
Since December 2014, more than 100 preachers of the Amritsar-headquartered SGPC, the apex representative body of Sikhs that is dominated by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), have visited at least 1,000 schools across the state, “counselling” the patit or “fallen” Sikhs to start following Sikhism’s tenets and stop cutting their hair. As part of an ongoing drive called Sikhi Saroop Mera Asli Roop (Being Sikh is my real identity), SGPC preachers say they have identified 14,000 Sikh youths in Punjab who have cut their hair and who, they believe, need to be counselled against this deviation from faith.
“We go to schools, identify Sikh students who have cut their hair, separate them for a lecture, and tell them that being Sikh will bring them more respect in society. We also pick two students, one with a turban and another without, and give a spot demo on how wearing a turban increases height and makes them more handsome. Students are also told that this is a way to stay healthy as going to the hairdresser can give them infectious diseases that spread through scissors,” says Jagdev Singh, head preacher of the drive that’s being conducted by the SGPC’s Dharam Prachar Committee.
He says students willing to grow their hair again were made to give an undertaking saying they would “never go patit again”. SGPC now plans to honour these students during its three-day celebrations, starting June 17, to mark the 350th Foundation Day of Anandpur Sahib.
“The first phase of the drive is approaching the end. As many as 14,000 students signed the undertaking to grow their hair and follow the tenets of Sikhism. SGPC may soon start another leg of the drive,” said Balwinder Singh Jaura Singha, secretary of the Dharam Parchar Committee.
But the education department in Amritsar says it isn’t aware of the SGPC campaign, which is going on in both public and private schools. “This hasn’t come to my notice,” said District Education Officer (Secondary Education) Satinderbir Singh. “If SGPC is only asking Sikh students to start following the tenets of their religion, it is just a kind of moral education, but if the preachers are asking students of other religions to start following Sikhism, that is wrong. Ideally, however, such an exercise should not be held in schools. Schools are secular in nature.”