In the very recent past, two things have happened, that impact the way i view this religion and an association with it.
1. The Vienna Attack: In short, the story was that in a Gurudwara in Vienna, some people killed a priest and wounded another badly. The causes were one or more of the following:
A. The growing power of the Dalit Sikhs.
B. The collections being divided and diverted from one Gurudwara(allegedly, the Pro Khalistan one) to another (the pro Dalit Sikh one)
This led to more riots in Punjab and Haryana, principally among the Dalit and non Dalit Sikhs.
2. The high court ruled that a Sikh girl who does not have unshorn hair cannot be allowed admission as a Sikh into a Sikh institution. This is because the SGPC thinks that a girl with hair shorn is not a Sikh.
On the first, my feelings are expressed better by a reader called Dalbir Singh, and i reproduce his text below:
Tuesday May 26, 2009 Sikhs around the world are expressing dismay over the confusing and unfortunate events which took place in Vienna Austria and have spread to Jalandar India. Confusing because many components of the incident are completely contradictory to Sikhism and yet Sikhs are implicated. It has been suggested the outbreak of violence occurred in a Sikh temple, or Sikh gurdwara, in a clash between caste members, when there is no caste in Sikhism.
The temple in question, by all accounts, belongs to the Siri Guru Ravi Daas Society, a faction thought possibly to have splintered from Sikhism sometime during the 14th century, which is loosely associated with Sikhism in that it focuses on the writings of Ravi Daas whose compositions are included in the Guru Granth Sahib. It has been reported that a Sikh guru died, when no embodied guru in Sikhism exists. The Guru of Sikhism is the scripture known as Guru Granth Sahib. The incident, which apparently occurred over a slur to the Guru Granth Sahib, is reported to have been an offensive attack, when Sikhism permits only defensive action on behalf of the weak or innocent.
The perpetuators of the crime, while supposedly upholding the honor of Sikhism, acted in a completely reprehensible manner and un-Sikh-like fashion contradictory to the principals of Sikhism. Sikhism supports the right of all people to worship as per their understanding of the divine. Sikhism is about tolerance. In Sikhism there is no forced conversion. Sikhism is voluntary. It takes more than a beard and turban to make someone a Sikh. Respect for the Guru Granth Sahib and the principals of Sikhism cannot be expressed through murderous intent. One who resorts to slander may be called to account through a legal process. Protest may take the form of peaceful demonstration. There is no excuse for unjustifiable behavior.
The so called Sikh miscreants should be held accountable not only to the peaceful people they subjected to violence, they should be made to answer to the Global Sikh community for their misdeeds.
On the second, i have a lot to say. Most of it being derogatory and in unparliamentary language. But here it is in brief:
A. You cannot interpret a religion for me. Not when the head of SGPC goes with the name of A S Makkar. When did it become OK to add your caste based surname if you are a Sikh? (if you know me and know the kind of Punjabi galis i am capable of, insert them here)
B. You cannot decide what the rahat maryada of a religion is. Rahat is a model code of conduct, not a mandatory code of conduct.
C. Most importantly, Sikhism is about accepting people as they are, is about the absence of mandates. No priests are required to celebrate auspicious occasions, no priests are required even for final rites or for Pagdi Bandhai.. the prayer book, and faith in it, is all that one needs. Nor is Sikhism an exclusive religion. You can belong to any religion and pray in the Sikh Gurudwara, if you want to.
In short, as i know it, its a religion that is more abt personal spiritual quest with guidance from the Guru Granth Sahib, than about rituals and conduct. When the 10th Guru made some of his followers the Khalsa, he did not say that the others are NOT his disciples. What right does the SGPC have to say that?
My family taught me that there is only one Rahat for the Sikh "man neeva te matt uchhi" (Humility in the heart and high intellect/moral standards). Its a 5 word principle. Maybe the SGPC chief and others will want to reflect on that.
In short, do not be so blinded by power that you create opposition where none existed. The political parties of India have learnt that lesson very recently. Maybe Sikhism should too.