By Syed Ali Mujtaba
Punjab’s folk singer Mohammad Sadiq, a former MLA, has won the Faridkot (reserved) Lok Sabha election constituency. Being a folk singer, he has been a popular figure among all the communities in Punjab for the past over five decades.
It is due to Sadiq’s popularity among the Punjabi masses that the Congress leadership gave him the ticket from the Faridkot. He is best known for his duets in 1970s and 80s with singer Ranjit Kaur.
Born into a non-practicing Muslim family, Mohammad Sadiq belongs to the ‘Doam’ Scheduled Caste. He was born in Malerkotla, in 1942, the only place where Muslims survived the Partition’s ethnic cleansing. Like others, at about the age of five Sadiq too was to board the train to Pakistan. However as destiny would have it, he missed the train to Pakistan. Rest as they say is history.
Mohammad Sadiq earlier electoral victory from reserved consistency was quashed by the courts on the ground that he is a Muslim and thus does not belong to a Scheduled Caste.
While the Punjab and Haryana High Court quashed his election, the Supreme Court, on his appeal, overturned the HC decision on April 29, 2016.
The Supreme Court in a landmark verdict had noted that “a person can change his religion or faith but not the caste to which he belongs to, as caste has linkage to birth.”
Mohammad Sadiq had argued that he had grown up as a Muslim and is not a Sikh. He admitted that he converted to Sikhism only in 2006.
Sadiq said he grew up in a Muslim family and was closely involved with the Sikh faith and was being subjected to untouchability when he was a child. He openly had spoken about the caste-based discrimination practiced both in Islam and Sikhism.
“It is only in theory that Sikhs and Muslims don’t believe in caste, but in practice both the faiths do so,” Sadiq has reported to have said.
Mohammad Sadiq case throws light on caste and identity in Punjab’s Sikh society. His story is a fascinating tale how caste has polluted religions that claim not to recognize even such hierarchies.
Even those like Sadiq who is looking to free themselves from the shackles of caste by converting to other faith, have to contend with the fact that their caste identity is attached to them forever.