Chandigarh | Jagran News Desk: The postponement of Punjab assembly elections from February 14 to February 20 following the unanimous calls for it across the party lines, underscored the importance of Ravidassia community on Punjab’s political landscape. Political parties had urged Election Commission of India to postpone the elections since the previous date of polls – February 14 – would have clashed with Guru Ravidas Jayanti.

Guru Ravidas Jayanti is an annual event that holds significance for of Punjab’s Ravidassia community, in which large number of Ravidassias go for annual pilgrimage to Varanasi, the place of birth of Guru Ravidas.

Ravidassia community: Origin, significance and distribution across Punjab

The Ravidassias are a Dalit community, the followers of Guru Ravidas, a mystic saint of the Bhakti movement of 15th and 16th centuries. Guru Ravidas founded the Ravidassia movement – now sanctified in Amritbani that carries 200 hymns of Guru Ravidas – that took a religious shape over centuries. Though not one of the ten Sikh Gurus, the sacred hymns of Guru Ravidas are part of holy Guru Granth Sahib too.

Nearly 12 Lakh Ravidassias form 61 per cent of total Dalit population in Punjab’s Doaba region. Four Punjab districts, namely, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr, Jalandhar and Kapurthala form Doaba region. In 23 assembly seats across the Doaba region, political commentators assert that Ravidassia community’s vote determines the election outcomes.

Since the end of terrorism in Punjab starting early 1990s, politicians across party lines have made efforts to woo the Ravidassia community. They have done so by attempting to influence Jalandhar-based Dera Sachkhand Ballan, the most important figurehead institution for Ravidassia community.

Understanding Dera Sachkhand Ballan

Punjab has thousands of small, big deras. However, Jalandhar-based Dera Sachkhand Ballan is among the largest in the state, which reportedly has 20 Lakh followers worldwide, of which 15 Lakh are concentrated in Punjab’s Doaba region itself.

Founded by Baba Sant Pipal Das in 1895, while Dera Sachkhand Ballan has never supported any political party, politicians from across party lines have paid visits and met its head.

The visitors this time include Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and other BJP leaders.

Dalit population in Punjab

Punjab has highest proportion (32 per cent as per last Census) of Dalit population in the country. The concentration of Dalits is highest in Doaba region at 37 per cent (19.48 lakh of 52.08 lakh population in Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr, Jalandhar and Kapurthala districts).

Posted By: Mukul Sharma