Clean Shaven Jatt Sikh Becomes New Symbol Of Consumerism And Westernization Among Punjabis

By Dr. Sawraj Singh

Clean shaven Jatt Sikh becomes new symbol of consumerism and westernization among Punjabis                                                                                                  Term clean shaven Jatt Sikh has been popularized by the marriage ads in the newspapers where girl’s parents advertise that they are only looking for a clean shaven Jatt Sikh match for their daughter. Conservative estimates are that 90-95% of the Jatt Sikh youth of Punjab are now clean shaven. In the last two decades, there has been a tremendous change in the attitude towards this phenomenon, being clean shaven has changed from a liability to an asset. There appears to be a broad consensus in the Jatt Sikh community that their children’s future is more secure and better in the western countries than in Punjab.

There are many factors which are responsible for this change of the attitude. There are both pushing and pulling factors, lack of proper employment, increase in the cost of living, decrease in the land ownerships(the vast majority of Jatt Sikhs, for practical purpose, has become landless), agriculture no longer can sustain a large  proportion of the families. They have to adopt some alternative or supplementary means to survive and a feeling of a being alienated from their land or culture, all these are pushing people out of Punjab to the foreign countries.

There are many pulling factors also such as better employment opportunity, better quality of life, more security of life which includes unemployment benefits, welfare benefits, affordable and better education and healthcare, old age pensions’ and the abundance of consumer goods. In short, an opportunity to earn more and enjoy more your money plays a big role in the decision making to migrate from Punjab to the foreign lands.

The Punjabi youth, consciously or subconsciously, is preparing itself to integrate into the bigger western` market. In the process it starts seeing the turban and the Sikh form as a big obstacle in its goal.

There is still another dimension of this phenomenon. This is not an isolated happening in Punjab but is a part of the global problem. The material part of life has become stronger and dominant whereas the spiritual aspect of life has become weaker and recessive. The two components of Jatt-Sikh represent both the material and the spiritual aspect. The word Jatt is associated with land is therefore the material aspect whereas the Sikh reflects the spiritual aspect of life. The Sikh philosophy recognizes both the material and the spiritual aspects of life. However, it emphasizes that the spiritual aspect of life should be the dominant.

Punjab has become the epicenter of consumerism and westernization in India or perhaps in the world. Therefore, in the equation between the Jatt and the Sikh, the Jatt has become the dominant and the Sikh has become the recessive. It is completely opposite to the Sikh philosophy, which talks of both Shiv and Shakti. Shiv represents universal welfare aspect of God (Spiritual aspect) whereas Shakti represents the material aspect of life. Those people who tilt towards the material aspect of life (worship Shakti) are called ( Sakats), are thoroughly condemned in Sri Guru Granth Shaib.

Even though on a superficial analysis, the present attitude of Jatt-Sikhs appears to be justified, yet a deeper and more thorough analysis will prove it to be wrong. A deeper analysis should include the historical evolution of the community as well as the emerging global trends. An analysis based upon these is more likely to be closer to reality.

A very brief over view of the history of the Jatts of Punjab takes us back to the west bank of the river Indus in the eighth century. The earliest historical accounts tell us of a rather   poor and a backward Aryan tribe settled there. In the year 712 AD, there is an Arab invasion under the leadership of a very young and zealot Muslim, Mohammad Bin Qasim. This tribe comes in his way. It is completely beaten and uprooted. They try to escape the ruthless Arabs by crossing the river Indus. The ones who directly enter Punjab are called the Jatts of Majha. The others cross the Indus River and enter Rajasthan. This group wanders in Rajasthan  (Barmer ,Jaisalmer and Bikaner) to finally enter Punjab though Bathinda. They are called the Jatts of Malwa .At the time of fifth guru (Guru Arjun dev ji) all the Jatts of Majha had been converted to the Sikh religion. The sixth guru (Guru Hargobind ji ) moved to the Malwa region because the center  of Sikh activities had moved to this region. Till the time of 10th guru (Guru Gobind Singh ji) all the Jatts of the Malwa had embraced the Sikh religion. What happened to the Jatts of Punjab can be considered one of the greatest achievements of the Sikh revolution, from a poor, a backward, the beaten and the uprooted people they became the rulers and the masters of Punjab. This is nothing short of a miracle. The status achieved by the Jatts in Punjab is unique to the Sikhs. The Hindu Jat or the Muslim Jatt could not achieve that status in their respective religions. The Tenth Guru made it absolutely clear that as long as the Sikhs will follow the principles of the Sikh religion, he will be there to protect them and guide them. However, if they will betray those principles then Guru will no longer protect them or guide them. The most fundamental principle of Sikh religion is that even though both aspects of life, the material and the spiritual, need to be addressed, the spiritual will remain the dominant aspect.

There is a real danger of becoming an over-zealous convert to consumerism and westernization. When you start looking down at the Sikh form like the matrimonial ads by Sikh parents, and incidences of bullying of Sikh children in the Sikh form by the clean shaven Sikh children (A very well respected Sikh leader in Surrey, Canada, told me that the Sikh children in traditional form are bullied by the Sikh clean-shaven children more than by the children of the other communities), certainly shows that we are becoming overzealous converts.

We should also remember that the superiority and the benefits offered by the western society are a very transitory phase because in reality this is a society in decline, where as the principles of the Sikh Religion are universal and timeless. Our Jatt values are after all the values of a tribe where as the Sikh values are truly universal. One should strive to elevate oneself from a tribal level to the universal level. Reverting from the universal level to a tribal level cannot be considered a very smart move even though it may be very much popularized by our popular singers, TV or movies.

Becoming clean-shaven can be considered a necessary compromise at best. It should not become an ideal.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at sawrajsingh@hotmail.com.

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