Sikhs want KCR government to regularise lands
The Sikh community has appealed to the newly formed Telangana government headed by K Chandrasekhar Rao to consider their long-standing demands.
The Sikh community has appealed to the newly formed Telangana government headed by K Chandrasekhar Rao to consider their long-standing demands. The main demands include, regularisation of lands under possession of about 1,000 Sikh families living at Sikh Chawni; establishment of a minority hostel for poor and needy students of the community; allotment of a separate budget for maintenance of Gurdwara and payment of salaries to the ‘Giranthi’ and extending financial aid; allotment of two acres of land for a separate ‘Shamshan Ghat’ for funeral and burial and establishment of sewing centres for the empowerment of poor women.
The AP Sikh Welfare Association had urged the erstwhile AP government to regularise lands belonging to the Sikh community at Sikh Chawni free of cost in view of the poor socio-economic conditions of Sikhs living there. Successive governments, however, failed to consider the claims of Sikhs living in chawnis. This is because Sikhs failed to produce proper documentation to support their claim as official documents were either in Farsi or Urdu. Three years ago, the AP High Court had directed the state government to look into the demands of Sikhs living in Sikh Chawniyat, Attapur.
On November 28, 2011, the High Court directed the officials to take an appropriate decision on the proposals submitted by the district collector and report it within four weeks. The officials, however, failed to initiate any action on the issue.
Origin and settlement of Sikhs
Sikhs in Hyderabad owe their presence due to the untiring efforts of Raja Chandu Lal, a powerful Prime Minister in the Nizam’s court. He sought the help of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to maintain law and order and augment revenue collection in the Nizam’s domain.
Tracing their ancestry, Sardar Pritam Singh, a retired police officer, said, “In 1832, Maharaja Ranjith Singh sent a 1,400 strong army contingent to Hyderabad. The Sikh force was stationed away from the capital near Mir Alam Tank at Attapur.”
The Nizam had then granted 200 acres of land in the present day Rajendranagar and the soldiers set up seven chawnis and built Gurdwaras in each unit. Each camp was headed by a Risaldar. It comprised Zamadars, Siladars and sepoys. It is said that salaries of the soldiers came from Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s treasury. After his death, the Nizam decided to continue the services of Sikhs by inducting them into the Army and police.
Over the years descendants of Sikhs settled in chawnis in and around Hyderabad. In Persian, chawni means cantonment. The oldest military camp was located at Kishanbagh Chawniyat.
The RR district gazette corroborates the presence of the Sikh force, stating, “Sikh battalions were stationed at two chawnis at Sikh Chawniyat, Kishan Bagh and Sikh Chawni, Uppuguda since 1832 and their descendants continue to live in these chawnis, even after 1950.”
Today, Dakkhani Sikhs are spread over Hyderabad and parts of Telangana, Marathwada and Hyderabad-Karnataka region.
S Pritam Singh said, “The revenue authorities did not show any interest to regularise the long possession of the lands belonging to Sikhs, who served the state for more than a century. During their long period of stay, the community elders built their residential homes, places of worship, educational institutions, playgrounds and community halls at Attapur.”
Sikhism is deeply entrenched in the Deccan region of India. Nanded is considered an important pilgrim centre for Sikhs as it is associated with Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. A shrine was built in memory of Guru Gobind Singh.
Sikhs settled in Deccan are sometimes referred to as Dakkhani Sikhs. They are no different from others as they follow the basic tenets of Sikhism. Interestingly, they have dropped their caste lineage and do not suffix their names with caste or community title.