The highest-ranking Sikh priest has kicked off a row after calling for Sikh couples to have at least three to four children each. Giani Gurbachan Singh, the chief of the Akal Takht (the highest temporal seat of Sikhs), defended his remarks, saying it was the only way to “correct the community’s dwindling population”. He reportedly made the comments during a recent press conference at Patiala.
On Tuesday, the Akal Takht chief remained defiant and even invoked vote-bank politics as he attempted to drive home his point. “On one hand, you have a family of two and on the other, a family of 10. It is anybody’s guess who has more votes and who will win. This is one of the reasons I ask Sikhs to produce more children. In Islam, families have more children and hence they call the shots in politics. Politics is votes based and Muslims are a big votebank,” Singh said.
“This is not for the first time that I have asked Sikhs to have three to four children. I have said this in the past too. Only one percent are opposed to the idea while remaining 99 per cent agree with what I say,” he added.
He then attempted to justify his remarks on various other levels. “People earlier used to have a number of children and would scold and even slap them to stop them from doing something wrong. Today, parents are afraid to even warn their only children as they are afraid that they can take some extreme step if they tell them (child or children) to stop keeping bad company. So, Sikh families should have more children as they can exercise their authority on children, who could then be kept away from menaces like drugs,” he said. He also cited the economic factor behind his appeal. “More children are likely to take better care of family business,” he added.
That wasn’t the end of it. The Akal Takht chief then went to name prominent people in the community with three or more children, including himself, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal and SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar.
He, however, did assert that his views were personal but maintained that the issue could be discussed in a Sikh clergy meeting for a formal directive from the Akal Takht.
The appeal has, meanwhile, come under sharp criticism from various quarters. Former SGPC secretary Manjit Singh Calcutta slammed the Akal Takht chief.
“Sikh religion is not based on numerics, but on qualities. Already, they are finding it difficult to ensure that children nowadays follow Sikh tenets. How will the Akal Takht chief get the children he is talking about to follow Sikh tenets. And who will bear the expenses of their upbringing and education. How can a woman be asked to give birth to more children?” Calcutta said.