Les Sikhs dans la société indienne

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The Sikhs within Indian Society. The present crisis in the Punjab can only be understood in relation to the Sikhs' historical identity. It does indeed stem from the economic, demographic and social changes which occurred in this region in the 1960s. The growing inequalities and the migratory movements which acompanied the development of agricultural capitalism shook the social fabric and encouraged the rise of political and religious extremisms ; but, far from undermining the references and symbols through which all social change is interpreted and expressed in the Punjab, they tended rather to intensify them.

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Max Weber reminds us that the sect of the Sikhs, in following the teaching of the Ten Gurus’ founding lineage, elaborated the most (vishnuite-like) hindu way to pose as a “non-Hindu”. From “fratricidal” fighting among the tribal fractions (misls) of the 18th, post-imperial, century to the “Sikh Kingdom” of Ranjit Singh ; from the late 19th-century reform movement – parallel to that of other Hindu sects, and heralding the participation into the national struggle for Independance – to the confrontations and alliances – successful or otherwise – of the Indian Union ; from Greater to Smaller Punjab : the individual quest for salvation (from) within the world of caste also served as an impulse for vigorous, fraternal rivalries – along kin lineal, as well as doctrinal or strategic lines – while allowing for the quite hierarchical statement of any pretense to orthodoxy and status.As all human beings (and probably better than most aspirant sociology “guides”) the Sikhs know how to distinguish – with their fair share of “errors” – between the various interests they very normally pursue. In their combined but distinct search for salvation within this world and for hierarchical affirmation of equalitarian status, they establish a distinction similar to the one familiar to all Hindus: the distinction between a preoccupation for one’s relation to the order of things (dharma) and a conflictual pursuit of power over people and wealth (artha). They have known until recently – and still have all the means to know – how to play the game of a factional democracy and of Hindu style secularism. A game which apparently gave way to an astonishing political coherence of the Indian Union – compared with the crumbling Empires of the Evil or of the Middle...In other words, the phenomenon of sectarianism does not lead, any more than caste hierarchy, to a confusion of genres. And “reborn” national hinduism is not necessarily the last word on the humanistic quest for modernity in the Indian sub-continent – a quest already manifest in the universalistic, moderately equalitarian, aspirations of Gandhism.
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