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Christian Invasion of Punjab: Major Demographic Change Imminent

"Sikhs in Punjab have a new battle on their hands – one of the toughest in their history of valiant struggle....

     It was a bright and sunny day at Dhanoor village in Ludhiana district of Punjab. After travelling in a special bus, some 25 to 30 Christian evangelists arrived at this village. As usual, they started distributing pamphlets which stated: “Join us, we will take you on the path to God.” The missionaries offered jobs and money for converting to Christianity.  They were really astonished when Gurmail Singh and some other elderly observant Sikhs confronted them and asked them to leave the village immediately.

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     A video showing the Christian evangelists in the village had gone viral. Delhi Akali leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa shared this video with several journalists. The video was shown on Rajat Sharma’s prime show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on the night of October 13, 2021.

     The Delhi Akali Dal leader told India TV that Punjab-based Christian missionaries have been trying to lure the state’s Sikh youths by offering to arrange visas and getting them settled in the USA or Canada. He further said that such Christian evangelists are very active in most of Punjab’s districts.

     This is not the first time when Christian missionaries’ nefarious activities in Punjab have been revealed. Various newspapers and magazines have been reporting their highly objectionable functionings throughout the state since quite some time. Way back in 2011, India Today had published a very informative article titled “Wake Up Call for SGPC – Christian Missions mushroom across Punjab” in its issue dated May 9, 2011. In December 2014, The Times of India and The Indian Express reported conversions of Dalit Sikhs to Christianity in Punjab on a massive scale; these newspapers also reported that over 8,000 Christians had become Sikhs again.  Huffington Post and Tribune have also covered news regarding converts from Sikhism from time to time.  In 2017, an exhaustive Punjabi article titled “Punjab Vich Vigadde Sikh-Isaai Sambandh’  by Dr. Harbhajan Singh  was published (two instalments)  in Punjab Times (a Punjabi weekly published from USA) in their issues dated August 12, 2017 and August 19, 2017. In its July 2020 issue, Cultural and Religious Studies published Dr. Kulbir Kaur’s  scholarly article titled “Searching for a New Identity: Christianity, Conversion and Dalit Sikhs.”

Causative Factors

     Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, had said: “Those who belong to the lower of the lowest class, Nanak is with them and has nothing to do with the so-called elite. Wherever there is any effort to take care of these lowest of the lowest, The One Creator, God bestows the choicest blessings.” The Guru had preferred Bhai Lalo’s coarse bread over Malik Bhago’s sumptuous dishes.

     To rid the society of the scourge of deeply embedded casteism, Guru Amar Das had popularized Langar  (common kitchen). He gave clear instruction that anyone coming to see him must first dine with others in the common kitchen. Even Emperor Akbar had to take his food with the common people before he was permitted to have an audience with the Guru. 

     Through the creation of the Khalsa Order, Guru Gobind Singh made a frontal attack on casteism. The Panj Pyare were from different castes: Bhai Daya Singh (Khatri), Bhai Dharam Singh (Jaat), Bhai Himmat Singh (Water Carrier), Bhai Mohkam Singh (Tailor), and Bhai Sahib Singh (Barber).

     “With the virtual establishment of their sovereignty in the plains of central Punjab, Sikhs slowly reverted to their traditional village life, with farming as their main occupation, the low caste Sikhs resumed their old role of scavenging, leather craft, weaving and field labour; they were no longer the outcastes they had been. But the Sikh people really could not free themselves from the shackles of their origins and the dominance of Hindu customs and practices, including those which were in direct contravention to the teachings of their Gurus.  With the passage of time, the malpractice of ill-treating the low castes started once again. Majority of the sufferers of this cruelty were the socially weak and backward sections of the Sikh society…” (Col. Bhupinder Singh).

     Jat Sikhs, the land owning class in Punjab, have been humiliating and suppressing Dalit Sikhs in all possible ways. They are not allowed to enter several gurdwaras which are controlled by Jat Sikhs.  Sometimes, Dalit Sikhs  are not allowed to  take Guru Granth Sahib for marriages of their relatives. Similarly, their requests to use gurdwaras’ utensils and bed sheets for their functions are often denied. In some villages, Dalit Sikhs are not allowed to use the Shamshan Ghats (Cremation Ghats) which are used by Sikhs of upper castes.

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     Sikh political and religious leaders of Punjab have miserably failed to come to the aid of Dalit Sikhs. Very cunning and shrewd Christian missionaries approach Dalit Sikhs and offer them money if they convert. Some Dalit Sikhs are extremely poor and they are also in need of some money very urgently; they don’t mind converting  if they can get a good amount of money immediately. Christian missionaries  also promise to cure them from their chronic illnesses, protect them from evil spirits, and save their souls from the fires of hell. They also promise to take care of their children’s education.

     Due to the absence of proper Dharam Parchar by SGPC, there is wide-spread apostasy amongst young Sikhs of Punjab. According to one estimate, about 70 percent of Sikh youths in Punjab are Patit. Many of these Patit Sikhs get easily convinced to adopt Christianity.

     There is no dearth of fake Babas and Sants throughout Punjab. Due to their widespread reach, Sikhs’ faith in their own religion has weakened. Hence, Christian preachers usually find it easy to motivate Sikh followers of different Deras to convert.

     There is a craze among young Sikhs of Punjab to go to the Western countries like the USA, Canada and the UK. Many Christian missionaries promise to arrange the visas for them if they convert.

     The male- female ratio in Punjab is so bad that many Sikh men of marriageable age find it very hard to get suitable brides. Christian evangelists sometimes promise to find suitable brides for such Sikh men if they embrace Christianity.

Deceptive, Immoral & Objectionable Methods

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     Crafty Christian missionaries have been using very deceptive, immoral and objectionable methods to get new converts. Churches are being built in rural areas of Punjab which outwardly look like gurdwaras. The Sikh words ‘Satguru’ and ‘Waheguru’ are being used for Jesus Christ.  The Sikh terminology is shamelessly used by them to confuse poor and uneducated Dalit Sikhs. The words like ‘Gurbani,’  ‘Khalsa,’ ‘Satsang,’ ‘Sangat,’ ‘Simran,’  ‘Kirtan,’ and ‘Ardas’  are regularly used by Punjab-based Christian missionaries.  Christian hymns are being sung like Gurbani Kirtan. The symbols of Sikhism are used to confuse and convert rural Sikhs

     Converted men and women are no longer called John, David, Edward, Mary, Helen or Alice; now they are allowed to keep Sikh Names ending with ‘Singh’ or ‘Kaur.’ Even some Christian missionaries use ‘Singh’ or ‘Kaur’ in their names. 

     To confuse poor and illiterate Sikhs, a religious body has been formed by the name of Shiromani Church Parbandhak Committee.

    Words and lines from the Sikh scriptures are frequently misquoted to influence prospective converts. Films and videos are produced to degrade Sikhism and show Christianity as a superior religion. ‘Sikh Contextual Gathering’ and ‘Sikh Punjabi Music’ are two such films.

     Christian missionaries bring hundreds of poor and illiterate Dalit Sikhs to their prayer meetings on the false promise of curing all kinds of ailments including infertility and cancer. The paid actors talk about how they were cured after embracing Christianity. Innocent and simple-minded Sikhs then donate generously for prayers to Jesus for getting cured. Also, they get mentally prepared for adopting Christianity.

     Sabu Mathai Kathettu, a Christian evangelist, wrote a book assessing Christian evangelical work in Punjab. The book was published by one of the apex protestant institutions in India with global connectivity, the Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (ISPCK). This book provides not just a historical account but also the theological position and methodology for conversion of Sikhs to Christianity.

Preaching Christianity at Darbar Sahib Complex

     Many foreigners visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar from time to time. It is generally believed that they come to the holy Sikh shrine to pay their obeisance. But unfortunately that’s not always the case.

     In July 2017, three very beautiful and fair-skinned South Korean women were seen in the Darbar Sahib Complex. They approached a Sikh woman and asked her name and age. Thereafter, they shamelessly asked her if she would like to embrace Christianity; they also offered to pay a good amount of money if she agreed to convert. When the Sikh woman tried to see the book which one of the three South Korean women was carrying, one of them slapped her and snatched back the book.

     When some SGPC staff members and police arrived there, the South Korean women wrote an apology letter and promised not to come again to Darbar Sahib Complex to seek converts.

     It is quite possible that young and beautiful foreign women still visit Darbar Sahib Complex and approach young Sikh men and women,  offering them cash and other inducements like getting attractive foreign brides or grooms for them, and arranging to get the visas for them for USA, Canada or UK, and  then getting them settled in the concerned country. Many young Sikhs, particularly Patit Sikhs, may easily fall into their traps and thus get converted to Christianity.

     Besides Darbar Sahib Complex, young and attractive Christian women evangelists may also be visiting other important gurdwaras of Punjab for their nefarious designs. SGPC as well as gurdwara managing committees of other important gurdwaras located in Punjab, therefore, need to be very vigilant.

Rapid Christianization in Punjab

     In recent times, churches have mushroomed in villages across Punjab. The number of Christians is growing at an alarming rate in the state. In fact, the Christian population in the state is increasing on a daily basis.

     Harbhajan Singh had converted from Sikhism to Christianity in 1986. Now, he is the Pastor of Open Door Church which is one of the largest buildings in the small village of Khojewala.  This church has baptized more than 2,800 persons so far and many others are awaiting baptism.

     ‘Apostle’ Ankur Narula started with only 3 followers in 2008. By 2018, the number of his followers increased to 1.2 lakh. He claims that his followers now number about 4 lakhs.

     John Dayal, Secretary General of the All India Christian Council, says that there is a new openness to Christ in Punjab. He further says: “Punjab has had a traumatic 20 years. Currently there is … joblessness, drug addiction, easy money, and division between Hindus and Sikhs. In search of a path, people are turning to Christ…”

     Dozens of ‘pastors,’ ‘prophets,’ and ‘apostles’ are running the conversion business in Punjab without any fear. Some of them have thousands to lakhs of followers, thus making crores of Rupees. They sometimes grant franchises to others for their conversion business. Many peddlers enter the fray every month because this is probably the most lucrative business in Punjab today!

Targeting Sikhs Outside Punjab

     It’s not correct to say that Christian missionaries target Sikhs only in Punjab. Several incidents have come to light where Christian missionaries succeeded in converting Sikhs in other provinces also. 

     In MP, a turbaned and bearded person (who appeared to be an observant Sikh) , joined Bhopal’s Telephone Department sometime back. He was a senior officer who was originally from Amritsar area. Acting as a Christian missionary, he used to ask the Department’s other Sikh employees to go to the church with him on every Sunday. When some eminent Sikhs of Bhopal confronted him, he initially said that Jesus Christ had sacrificed his life for the sake of humanity. When Bhopal Sikhs told him about the sacrifices of the Sikh Gurus and other Sikh martyrs, he just could not say anything.

     According to some unconfirmed reports, a few Sikhs of UP came under the influence of some Christian missionaries and then accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.

Ghar Wapsi Functions in Punjab

     Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) , its affiliate Dharma Jagran Manch (DJM) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)  have successfully organized numerous special ceremonies all over India to get back the Hindus who had earlier converted to Islam or Christianity.

     While their primary focus has been to get back Hindu converts, they have also reconverted many Dalit people in Punjab, including women and children, from Christianity to Sikhism.

     It is a fact that many Dalit Sikhs were lured into Christianity due to various temptations, but now they are keen to come back to their original faith i.e. Sikhism.

     At a Ghar Wapsi function organized at a gurdwara in Guru Ki  Wadali near Amritsar, 40 Mazhabi people reconverted to Sikhism.  Many such Ghar Wapsi functions were held at different places in Punjab. According to an Indian Express report, Hoshiarpur district has seen the most Ghar Wapsis followed by Amritsar and Batala. More than 8,000 new Christians have returned to the fold of Sikhism.

     Kinder Kaur, a widow who reconverted to Sikhism, said: “We converted (to Christianity) because we were told that my husband would be cured of his illness. He died in 2011. Three months ago, the RSS motivated us to become Sikhs again. I have also changed the names of my children from Thomas and Rebecca to Sumeet and Kuljit."

     SGPC member Kiranjot Kaur, who helped with the re-conversions, said that Christianity was now posing a serious threat to Sikhism in Punjab. Unfortunately Shiromani Akali Dal and SGPC have not openly supported these re-conversions... it appears that some Punjab Congress leaders are keen to get Dalit Christians’ votes in the forthcoming elections in Punjab.

     Christians in Punjab are in sufficient numbers now. Due to their present numerical strength, they may start demanding political favours soon. In fact, Rehmat Masih, a Christian leader of Punjab, has already started demanding representation of Punjab’s Christian community in the state’s Legislative Assembly. He has also pleaded for easier methods for obtaining Conversion Certificates.

     It seems that many Sikh political and religious leaders of Punjab are indirectly helping Christian missionaries to carry on their missionary activities without any hindrance.

     We should not forget that many Sikh political leaders were once openly supporting Ram Rahim  (the founder of Dera Sacha Sauda who is currently undergoing life imprisonment as he has been convicted for a murder and two counts of rape) for their political benefits.

A Proselytizing Religion

     Surprisingly, many Sikh political and religious leaders as well as many Sikh writers and intellectuals consider Sikhism as a non-proselytizing religion. This is just not true.

     Like Christianity and Islam, Sikhism has always been a proselytizing religion. But the Sikh Gurus and other Sikh preachers never used force to get converts. Like several Muslim and Christian rulers, Maharaja Ranjit Singh could also use force to increase the numerical strength of Sikhs in his kingdom but he never favoured the use of force to get converts.

     Also, unlike many Maulvis and Christian missionaries, Sikh preachers have never used unethical and immoral methods for the purpose of conversion. Deeply impressed by the lofty teachings of the Sikh Gurus, thousands and thousands of Hindus (many of them from low castes) had come forward to embrace Sikhism voluntarily.

     Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, one of the most knowledgeable and educated persons of independent India, was quite impressed by the total rejection of casteism in the Sikh religion. He wanted to convert to Sikhism along with crores of his Hindu followers from low castes who had been relegated to the lowest despicable level in the society. Why Ambedkar and his followers (almost 35% of India’s population at that time) could not embrace Sikhism is really a very sad story, particularly from the Sikh perspective.

     Due to the sustained and laudable efforts of Yogi Harbhajan Singh, thousands of White Sikhs in the Western hemisphere had happily converted to Sikhism.

     Thus, Sikhism was, is and will always be a proselytizing religion. Instead of wrongly describing Sikhism as a non-proselytizing faith, the Sikh religious leaders should plan vigorous conversion campaigns all over India and also in foreign countries without any further delay.

Joshua Document

     Joshua Document was published in 2000 or sometime before that. It is a very exhaustive document which is being regularly used by top Christian missionaries of India. It contains separate population figures for Indians from different castes, communities, religions etc. It also contains details about Indians’ different cultures, languages and rituals.

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     Who was Joshua? He was Jews’ prophet after Moses. Moses had brought Jews from Egypt to the area around the Jordan river. He asked 12 heads of different Jewish tribes to go to Palestine and find out if the Jews could defeat Palestinians. All tribal heads returned after 40 days. 10 tribal heads told Moses that the Palestinians were very strong and, therefore, the Jews were not in a position to defeat them. But the other two tribal heads, Joshua and Saleb, said that if Jews could fight bravely then they could defeat the people of Palestine. 

     Before Moses passed away, he appointed Joshua as the new Jewish leader. He asked the Jews to conquer Palestine under the leadership of Joshua.  Joshua proved himself to be a very brave and ruthless Jewish leader; he defeated the Palestinians who were earlier regarded as unconquerable. 

     Joshua Document thus signifies victory over an undefeatable people. In the Indian context, the Document means that Christian missionaries should work tirelessly like Joshua to convert Indians (who may be very difficult to convert) to Christianity.

Sensitive Border State

     Punjab is a sensitive border state. Any major demographic change in this province has security implications. “The implications for the border state Punjab and the Sikhs, who have traditionally stood as a barrier between expansionist mono-cultures and the rest of India, becoming evangelized will be severe. This situation will have a critical spill-over effect on India as a nation and as a civilization. Sikhs in Punjab have a new battle on their hands – one of the toughest in their history of valiant struggle. Both the state government and Sikh religious bodies should recognize this and work towards curbing such activities.” (Paramjeet Singh).

     Huge funds are flowing in from various Christian missions based in Western countries like USA, Canada and UK. Akal Takhat Jathedar Harpreet Singh has rightly said that the religious conversion drive is being carried out by Christian missionaries in Punjab with funds arriving from foreign countries.

     It is believed that over Rs. 10,000 crores in foreign contributions come to India every year. This huge amount is mostly for Christian missionary activities. Gospel for Asia (GFA), which is an Oriental Orthodox Christian Mission based in Texas, USA, had donated about Rs. 600 crores for various church movements in India. GFA regularly seeks donations from Americans  for the church programs in India. This basically means getting new converts. One of its brochures says: “India’s over one billion people are …  responding to Jesus in record numbers…”

     It is not clear whether all the funds reaching Christian missions in Punjab are coming through regular banking channels. If huge funds from the Western countries  are coming through surreptitious methods, then Central agencies like CBI and Enforcement Directorate should start their investigations.

Non-Punjabi Missionaries in Punjab

     Almost all Christian missionaries working in Punjab are Indians but all of them are not Punjabis. There are some missionaries in Punjab from Kerala as well as from some other states.

     Sometime back, Kerala’s five Christian missionaries arrived in Delhi. To gain some elementary knowledge of Punjabi language and the Sikh religion, they took admission in Delhi’s Gurmat College without revealing their ulterior motives. After completing their course in Delhi, they moved to Punjab to spread Christianity. Like the Christian missionaries from Kerala, it is quite likely that Christian missionaries from other Indian states also first learn some basic Punjabi and also get some fundamental knowledge of Sikhism before moving to Punjab to get new converts.

A Major Demographic Change in Offing

     The Christian population of Punjab in 2001 was 2,92,800 which marginally increased to 3,48,230 in 2011. It means that their population increased from 1.20 per cent to 1.26 per cent .

     The following table shows the percentage of Christians in different districts of Punjab in 2011.

Sr. No.             District                         Christians (Percentage)

1                    Amritsar                                  2.18

2                    Barnala                                     0.10 

3                    Bathinda                                    0.18

4                    Faridkot                                      0.20

5                    Fatehgarh Sahib                        0.28

6                    Firozpur                                       0.95

7                    Gurdaspur                                   7.68

8                    Hoshiarpur                                   0.94

9                    Jalandhar                                      1.19

10                   Kapurthala                                   0.67

11                   Ludhiana                                       0.47

12                   Mansa                                            0.12

13                   Moga                                              0.33

14.                   Muktsar                                           0.19

15                   Patiala                                               0.30

16                   Rupnagar                                           0.31

17                   Mohali                                                0.54

18                   Sangrur                                               0.15

19                   Nawanshehar                                     0.24

20                   Tarn Taran                                           0.54

Punjab   (Total)                                                           1.26

     A perusal of the above table reveals that the percentage-wise Christian population in Punjab was second highest in Amritsar district. It is really ironic that Christians were in such large numbers in a district where premier Sikh institutions like Akal Takhat, SGPC and Chief Khalsa Dewan are located. 

     Analysis of the 2011 Census data shows that the people from Scheduled Castes make about one-third of the total Sikh population in Punjab and there are more SC Sikhs than SC Hindus in the state.  Among them, the highest population is that of Mazhabi Sikhs who come from the lowest step of the caste ladder. They make the largest component of SCs among Sikhs and also among all SCs in Punjab. 

     The concept of Dalit/Mazhabi Sikh is contradictory because Sikhism is supposed to be a casteless religion. Yet it is a fact that Sikhs today are divided between many castes. 

     More than 100 years ago, on October 12, 1920, Dalit Sikhs were allowed uninterrupted entry and offering of ‘Karah Prasad’ at the Golden Temple and Akal Takhat. That historic event is believed to have played a major role in the formation of SGPC.

     According to eminent author Gurtej Singh, Sikh leader Master Tara Singh got certain castes among Sikhs included in the Scheduled Caste list in the 1950s because those who had joined the Sikh-fold from the Hindu ‘lower castes’ were still largely economically deprived and hence they deserved the benefit of reservation for their economic uplift. Master Tara Singh might have felt that if, as Sikhs, they could not get SC benefits, then they might revert to Hinduism to get the benefits.

Eminent Sikhs from ‘Lower Castes’

     Akal Takhat Jathedar Harpreet Singh comes from Scheduled Caste background. Punjab’s current Chief Minister Gurcharan Singh Channi  is a Dalit Sikh from Ramdasia community. SGPC President Bibi Jagir Kaur is from Backward Class background. The leader of Opposition in Punjab, Aam Aadmi Party’s Harpal Singh Cheema, is an SC Sikh.

     As mentioned above, some Sikhs from SC background are presently occupying important posts. But it has not always been like that. Nirmal Singh, who was a very pious and erudite person, was refused the post of Jathedar in the Golden Temple only because he was a Mazhabi Sikh.

Concluding Remarks

     Only when a hue and cry was raised by Sikhs against conversions by Christian missionaries in Punjab on a massive scale did SGPC woke up from its slumber. SGPC President Bibi Jagir Kaur has announced that about 150 teams of Sikh preachers (seven preachers in each team) have been sent to Majha, Malwa and Doaba regions of Punjab. The SGPC drive is named ‘Ghar Ghar Andar Dharamsaal’ which means ‘sacred shrine inside every home.’ Akal Takhat Jathedar asked Sikhs to come forward and fight the menace with full might.

     Poor and illiterate Dalit Sikhs of Punjab have suffered for too long. Their poverty and illiteracy make them easy targets for conversion, particularly because Jat Sikhs have humiliated and exploited them for too long. All efforts should be made to convince Jat Sikhs to change their ways and to treat Dalit Sikhs with dignity and respect.

     Dr. Kashmir Singh, the head of Dalits and Minorities Organisation of Punjab, said: “We need SGPC preachers from the Dalit community, and more Dalit representation in the SGPC and its institutions to stop such conversions.” He further said: “Strict orders should be issued from Akal Takhat against any discrimination. They (Dalit Sikhs) should also receive free education in all educational and professional institutions under the SGPC.”

     Successive governments in Punjab have miserably failed to address the issues of social discrimination and equality in justice, particularly in the context of Dalit Sikhs. Can we hope for a better response from the Government of Punjab now when we have a Dalit Sikh as Punjab’s Chief Minister?

     Many Sikh activists and intellectuals feel that Anti-Conversion Law (as being implemented in UP) should be promulgated in Punjab also without any further delay. This measure may prove to be very helpful in checking Dalit Sikhs’ conversion to Christianity on a massive scale.

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