The recent call from the head of the Akal Takhat—the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs—for the community to bear four children per family shows that he has lost his mind.
Gurbachan Singh issued the recommendation to Sikhs during the traditional Holla Mohalla Festival in Punjab.
He said that each family should give birth to at least four kids to increase the strength of the minority Sikh community, which makes up two percent of the Indian population.
He rejected the family planning policy of the Indian government that aims to cut down ballooning population of the country.
Singh categorically denounced the government's small-family slogan, “We two, ours two,” and asked the Sikhs to rather adopt a “We Two and Our Four” approach to ensure the growth of Sikh population.
To be fair to Singh, one also needs to acknowledge that earlier this year, the ultra-right-wing Hindu nationalist leader Ashok Singhal advised Hindu families to produce five children. This would be to outdo the “growing” Muslim population in India.
This is despite the fact that the Hindu majority is dominant in a country known as the world’s largest secular democracy.
Singhal’s organization Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is a reactionary group explicitly involved in anti-Christian and anti-Muslim violence.
Whether Singh gave his statement about four children in response to the VHP leader remains unknown, but the two men have certainly waded into low-level identity politics.
Religious conservatives of all faiths are alike and feed into each other. Who mimicked whom does not mean much, as both statements carry potential to vitiate social harmony and create a fear about so-called “others”.
If these spiritual leaders are so concerned about the numbers, then they should first encourage their own relatives to produce more children and see the bad effects of big families within their own homes, rather than forcing others to produce more kids and bleed financially.
Interestingly, Singhal's group is also opposed to Valentine's Day—an occasion that brings young lovers together.
Often boys and girls dating that day in India are harassed by Hindu fundamentalists. If Singhal really cares for the declining population he should let people make love to produce more babies.
Not only are these statements are inflammatory, but they also contradict what the faiths of these two men supposedly preach.
After all, Hindus claim that their philosophy considers this whole earth as one single family; Sikhs seek the well-being of all of humanity in their daily prayer.
If that is the case, then why need to increase the strength of Hindu and Sikh kids? Why not treat kids of other communities as our own?
It is well-known that the Indian population is growing at an alarming level. Thanks to their narrow tunnel of vision, these so-called spiritual leaders are indirectly advising people to push their homeland into crisis.
This principle also applies to leaders of other religions, such as Islam, Christianity or Judaism, who time and again have made similar rhetorical declarations against birth control in spite of growing pressure on our natural resources.
Instead of asking community members to produce more children, if these leaders were wise enough, they would have urged them to adopt orphaned kids.
But this can only be expected from those who have compassion and wisdom. Apparently the two men lack both qualities.
Though Singhal represents a fanatic group, Singh is the custodian of an inclusive religious space. How come he has stooped to the level of copying a fundamentalist leader?
It is pertinent to mention here that the Sikh faith is far more liberal and progressive than Hinduism because it opposes the caste system, female infanticide, gender inequality, and also social injustice.
Yet Singh’s statement reflects emerging regressive tendencies in the Sikh leadership. The Sikh clergy, rather than getting involved in moral policing, should first set its house in order.
Instead of telling Sikhs how to procreate or eat meals in community kitchen halls—Sikh clergy have, in the past, ostracized several Sikhs in Vancouver for denouncing an edict to serve meals in Sikh temples to those sitting cross legged on the floor—these leaders should first set high standards for themselves.
Only recently, Ajay Singh, a visiting priest and the son of a former head of the Akal Takhat, was convicted for sexual interference with a youth by a Canadian court.
But the Sikh clergy has remained mum on this matter and no punitive action has been initiated.
It is high time that Singh and company should show leadership on real pressing issues instead of intruding into the bedrooms of community members.