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India: Information on the history and development of the Nirankari religion and on whether its members face political problems in Punjab in particular, or in India in general

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 January 1997
Citation / Document Symbol IND26046.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, India: Information on the history and development of the Nirankari religion and on whether its members face political problems in Punjab in particular, or in India in general, 1 January 1997, IND26046.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ad0954.html [accessed 22 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

 

Information on the Nirankaris is scarce among the sources consulted by the DIRB.

Sikhism believes in ten historical gurus, and upon the death of the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, "the authority of the guru went to two directions. On one hand, it went to the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book, so the word itself became the authority of guru. And the other part of it went to Guru Panth which means the whole Sikh community" (Mahmood 28 June 1995, 14). The Nirankari sect broke away from Sikhism because of its belief in a living guru and was labelled heretical in 1973 by the priests of the Golden Temple in Amritsar (Mulgrew 1988, 38, 60; Mahmood 28 June 1995, 14). Although Nirankari men, like Sikh men, wear turbans, wear their beards and hair unshorn and adopt the name "Singh" (lion), the Nirankaris are vegetarians and wear white (UPI 27 Mar. 1993).

According to Mulgrew, the militant Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale "virulently attacked the Nirankaris" (1988, 60). Some orthodox Sikhs claim the Nirankaris were "agents of the Indian government, that they were put there to destabilize Sikhs" (Mahmood 28 June 1995, 14).

A 1978 clash between the Sikhs and Nirankaris resulted in 13 Sikh deaths and 2 Nirankari fatalities. Approximately 62 Nirankaris were charged but acquitted by a Haryana court, a decision that angered orthodox Sikhs (ibid.; Dharam 1984, 96; MRG Sept. 1984, 11).

In 1980 Baba Gurbachan Singh, the Sant Nirankari living guru, was killed by some orthodox Sikhs (Dharam 1984, 97; Mahmood 28 June 1995, 17; MRG Sept. 1984, 11). Bhindranwale was "widely believed to be implicated" in the murder (ibid.). On 27 March 1993 Bhai Ranjeet Singh, the head priest of the Akal Takht, Sikhism's "supreme temporal and political seat" in the Golden Temple, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the Gurbachan Singh assassination (UPI 27 Mar. 1993; BBC Summary 29 Mar. 1993).

Sikh militants killed a Nirankari from Mudsabab village east of Amritsar on 27 April 1988 (UPI 27 Apr. 1988) and nine Nirankaris on 6 May 1988 (ibid. 6 May 1988).

The Singh attachment provides information on the historical development of the Nirankaris.

Additional information on the Nirankaris can be found in the attachment from Contemporary Religions and in Response to Information Request IND11717 of 23 September 1992, which describes the differences between Sikhism and the Nirankaris, and IND4739 of 29 March 1990, which briefly refers to the 1978 clash between the Nirankaris and the orthodox Sikhs. Both Responses are available at Regional Documentation Centres.

Information on the current situation of the Nirankaris could not be found among the sources consulted by the DIRB.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

BBC Summary. 29 March 1993. "Life Imprisonment for Sikh Head Priest." (NEXIS)

Dharam, Santokh Singh. 1984. The Only Option for Sikhs. Vancouver: S.S. Dharam. (self-published)

Mahmood, Cynthia. 28 June 1995. Transcript of a presentation on the Sikhs (given to the Immigration and Refugee Board in Toronto) (Dr. Mahmood is a specialist on militant Sikhs)

Minority Rights Group. September 1984. No. 65. Dr. Christopher Shackle. The Sikhs. London: Minority Rights Group.

Mulgrew, Ian. 1988. Unholy Terror: The Sikhs and International Terrorism. Toronto: Key Porter Books.

The United Press International (UPI). 27 March 1993. BC Cycle. "Sikh Head Priest Sentenced to Life Imprisonment for Murdering Guru." (NEXIS)

_____. 6 May 1988. BC Cycle. Surinder Khullar. "Sikh Militants Kill 12 in Punjab." (NEXIS)

_____. 27 April 1988. BC Cycle. Ravi Sharma. "Sikh Militants Kill Five in Punjab." (NEXIS)

Attachments

Contemporary Religions: A World Guide. 1992. Edited by Ian Harris et al. The High, Harlow, Essex: Longman Group UK, p. 256.

Dharam, Santokh Singh. 1984. The Only Option for Sikhs. Vancouver: S.S. Dharam, pp. 93-98.

The Economist [London]. 11 November 1978. "India; Trouble in Turbans." (NEXIS)

Mulgrew, Ian. 1988. Unholy Terror: The Sikhs and International Terrorism. Toronto: Key Porter Books, p. 38.

Singh, Khushwant. 1966. A History of the Sikhs, Vol. 2: 1839-1964. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 123-25.

United Press International (UPI). 27 March 1993. BC Cycle. "Sikh Head Priest Sentenced to Life Imprisonment For Murdering Guru." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Encyclopedia of Religion. Various dates.

L'État des religions dans le monde. 1987. Michel Cléverot (ed.).

The Far East and Australasia 1996. 1996.

FBIS Internet search.

Internet search.

IRBDC. April 1990. India: Country Profile.

     _____. April 1990. Punjab: Issue Paper.

     _____. January 1989. Information Package on India.

     Mahmood, Cynthia Keppley. n.d. "Why Sikhs Fight," Anthropological Contributions to Conflict Resolution.

Minority Rights Group. 1977. World Minorities.

     _____. 1980. World Minorities in the Eighties.

Minority Rights Group International. 1990. World Directory of Minorities.

     The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. Various dates.

New Religious Movements and Rapid Social Change. 1986. James A. Beckford (ed.)

Office fédéral des réfugiés. August 1988. Inde.

Revolutionary and Dissident Movements of the World: An International Guide. 1991.

ShareNet database.

Singh, Principal Teja. n.d. An Outline of Sikh Doctrines.

     World Sikh Organization. n.d. Introduction to Sikhism.

     On-line search of media sources.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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