RSS and Sikhs: defining a religion, and how their relationship has evolved

The Rashtriya Sikh Sangat has of late been taking over points on which the SGPC was once the only real voice earlier, equivalent to Sikh prisoners, Sikhs on a authorities blacklist, or justice for the 1984 riots.

Following RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s speech on Dussehra, throughout which he stated India is a Hindu nation, Sikh group leaders equivalent to Akal Takht jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh and SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee) president Gobind Singh Longowal have reacted sharply. A have a look at the RSS view of Sikhism, and its relationship with the group over time:

Arya Samaj, Sikhs and RSS

“The Hindu-Sikh tension… was a thing unknown during the Sikh rule up to middle of the last [19th] century,” historian Dr Ganda Singh wrote in his paper ‘The origin of the Hindu-Sikh Tension in the Punjab’.

In 1875, the Arya Samaj revealed the guide Satyarth Prakash which, Sikhs held, made defamatory references to Sikh gurus. It was adopted by the Singh Sabha motion which, whereas countering these references, targeted on a bigger goal of asserting the Sikh identification as distinctive.

The SGPC, fashioned in 1920, adopted the Sikh Rehat Maryada code of conduct, outlined “who is a Sikh” and additionally underlined that Sikhism is an unbiased faith.

The RSS has had variations with the Arya Samaj, which exhibits in their relationship with Sikhs too. The RSS and late V D Savarkar have typically praised the Sikh gurus; the RSS additionally celebrates their delivery anniversaries.

How RSS defines Sikhism

In the RSS understanding, all religions originating in India are a part of a Hindu Rashtra, an concept that the Akal Takht finds problematic.

G S Gill, president of RSS affiliate Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, stated: “Mohan Bhagwat has said nothing new or objectionable. It is the basic concept of the RSS that India is a Hindu nation. But the RSS chief has explained what ‘Hindu nation’ means: it means all communities who have been participating in the development of the nation. Also Bhagwat has widened the vision of Hindu Rashtra by saying that all indigenous religions are part of it.”

Dr Sukhpreet Singh Udoke, a author who has formally suggested the Akal Takht on RSS points prior to now, defined the RSS view. “The RSS thinks that Sikhs fought Mughal invaders and saved the indigenous ideology,” he stated. “The RSS treats Sikhs as part of a Hindu nation like Jains and Buddhists, and unlike Christians and Muslims. Sikhs oppose this RSS idea about them; they believe their history is not about fighting Muslims… Sikhs also see themselves as an independent religion and with a unique identity. They fear the RSS wants them to assimilate into Hinduism.”

“Unlike the Arya Samaj, the RSS has respect for Sikh gurus. But the problem is that most of the RSS and BJP leadership in Punjab came from Arya Samaj and Congress backgrounds. The local leadership didn’t understand that the RSS approach to Sikh gurus is different from the Arya Samaj approach. So there is a problem within RSS about how they want to see Sikhs, which is complicating the relationship with the Akal Takht,” stated a professor of faith with Guru Nanak Dev University.


Beyond the RSS management, stands taken by the Jana Sangh and the BJP management on key points have contributed to creating variations between the RSS and Sikhs.

In Jalandhar in 1960, then RSS chief Guru Golwalkar stated Punjabi is the mom tongue of each Punjabi. RSS affiliate Jana Sangh, nonetheless, had joined the “Save Hindi agitation” launched by the Arya Paritinidhi Sabha in 1956. Its members sought to persuade Punjabi Hindus to say Hindi as their mom tongue within the 1961 Census.

In 1984, the BJP prolonged help to Operation Blue Star on the Golden Temple advanced. In 2009, the occasion revised its stand and the late Arun Jaitley described the operation as a ‘historical blunder’ of the Congress.

In 1999, then RSS chief K S Sudarshan visited the headquarters of the Damdami Taksal, which was as soon as headed by the militant chief Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The Akali Dal was already in alliance with the BJP then.

On July 13, 2004, the Akal Takht issued a directive cautioning Sikhs about actions of the RSS and Rashtriya Sikh Sangat. Both organisations had taken up celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the set up of the Guru Granth Sahib, and revealed literature that the Akal Takht learn as an RSS interpretation of Sikh beliefs.

Rulda Singh, former Rashtriya Sikh Sangat president who performed a key function in organising Sudarshan’s 1999 go to, was shot useless in 2009. In 2016, when RSS state vice chairman Brig Jagdish Gagneja was killed, police stated Sikh militants had been accountable. In 2017, when RSS chief Ravinder Gosain was murdered in Ludhiana, the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat stated misconceptions amongst a part of Sikhs, allegedly created within the title of an Akal Takht decree, may very well be a purpose behind the homicide.

Rashtriya Sikh Sangat spokesperson Avtar Singh had stated: “The RSS is always open to dialogue and discussing the misconceptions with Akal Takht.”

Greater activism

The Rashtriya Sikh Sangat has of late been taking over points on which the SGPC was once the only real voice earlier, equivalent to Sikh prisoners, Sikhs on a authorities blacklist, or justice for the 1984 riots. The RSS has been staking declare to campaigns equivalent to ending the blacklisting and celebrating Guru Nanak Dev’s delivery anniversary in Indian embassies. The Sikh Sangat has additionally been criticising the SGPC over a vary of points.

Meanwhile, the BJP authorities on the Centre has been negotiating with former Sikh militants. One of them, Jaswant Singh Thekedar, again in India after many years, has stated on document: “It is not the Akali Dal that has ended the blacklisting; it is the Narendra Modi government…”

Giani Harpreet Singh, the Akal Takht jathedar who has objected to Bhagwat’s comment, stated: “When we oppose the RSS, then it is not opposition of Hindus; it should be clearly understood. The RSS can preach Hinduism; we have no problem with that. But they should stop defining Sikhism. Sikhs have many institutions to decide who they are. We don’t want outsiders to tell us who we are… We are not part of the Hindu nation of the RSS.”


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