Already a Punjabi music legend Mohammed Sadiq has now made history by becoming the first member of a small minority community to be elected to Parliament in India.
Sadiq, is a member of the Doom community (a Scheduled Caste) and he was elected from the Faridkot reserved constituency, which is named after the much revered Sufi saint Baba Farid, whose compositions are included in the Guru Granth Sahib.
Guru Nanak Dev’s accompanying musician Bhai Mardaana also belonged to the community. And Sadiq, Congress MLA from Bhadaur reserved constituency from 2012 to 2017, is ecstatic that his elevation as MP has come in the year of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. “I consider myself very lucky that my election to Parliament has happened in the same year as the 550th anniversary of my spiritual master, Guru Nanak,” says the 77-year-old.
Sadiq’s fluid religious identity — born in a non-practising Muslim family, he admitted in court in 2012 that he had started professing Sikhism from 2006 — has not faced any trouble in Punjab. His identity among people remains that of a Muslim, especially because of his name.
In fact, the Doom community members, also known as Mirasis, have a fluid religious identity that shifts between Muslims and Sikhs. Most rabaabis, who would sing hymns in Gurdwaras, including Darbar Sahib in Amritsar, belonged to the community.
They would retain their Muslim names but follow Sikh practices. Bhai Mardaana’s descendants have been performing the recitation of hymns of the Guru Granth Sahib and others belonging to the community would often call themselves — Mardaane-ke (from Mardaana’s community). “Throughout my life, I had my Doom identity with a Muslim name but never faced any issues. This time too, I got support from people across communities. Though I professed Sikhism as my faith in 2006, people know me through my identity as Mohammad Sadiq,” he said.
“Punjab jeonda guran de naan te(Punjab is living in the name of Gurus),” Sadiq quoted noted Punjabi poet and writer Prof Puran Singh to drive home the point that he has never faced any trouble in Punjab due to his name or identity. “I think my election represents the composite culture of Punjab. My father, Vilayat Ali, would accompany Sikh Raagi Bhai Lachhman Singh Gandharav in singing Gurbani hymns in gurdwaras. Singing was our tradition and I also started getting training in classical music and then adapted singing as my profession.”
Sadiq, who has had just a year of formal schooling, defeated SAD candidate and former IAS officer Darabara Singh Guru in the 2012 assembly elections. Guru had been principal secretary to former CM Parkash Singh Badal and was among most powerful bureaucrats in the state at one time.
Guru moved court saying that Sadiq was a Muslim and could not belong to a Scheduled Caste. It was during the hearing of this petition that Sadiq told the court that he had professed Sikh faith in 2006 and was practising it. The Punjab and Haryana high court had quashed his election, but on his appeal the Supreme Court on April 29, 2016 overturned the HC decision and upheld his election.
In April, another plea on the issue was moved in the high court — the petitioner too said Sadiq was ineligible to contest as any individual born a Muslim could not be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste. He sought cancellation of Sadiq’s SC certificate. The matter will now be heard on September 12.
The Doom community, with 2,02,710 population, according to the 2011 Census, comprises just a per cent of Punjab’s 2.77 crore population. Muslims are around 2% and Malerkotla is its only Muslim-majority town.
Faridkot is a reserved constituency and seven of its nine assembly segments fall in Faridkot and Moga districts, where around 80% population is Sikh, including Scheduled Castes, and Muslims are just 0.78%. “In my constituency, there may be 20,000 people of the Doom community,” Sadiq said.
‘Will Continue Performing On Stage’
Born in Rampur Kataani village near Ludhiana, Sadiq recalled he was brought up in Kupp Kalan village. “I performed in the presence of our first PM Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961 or 62 during his last visit to the state. There, the then CM Partap Singh Kairon, after listening to me, recruited me as an artiste in public relations department. I resigned in 1966 and set up a troupe,” said Sadiq. He has been singing with his troupe for 53 years and his most prominent co-singer has been Ranjit Kaur, with whom he has recorded many popular songs.
Sadiq is the oldest of active Punjabi singers and his career now spans 58 years. The MP said he would continue to perform, like he did during his term as a legislator. “I’ve always lived on my hard-earned money and never taken money from anyone. I wish to continue living an honest life. My troupe has around a dozen people who also earn their livelihood from my performances,” he said. “Now that I have to serve a large constituency, I plan to reduce the number of my performances and increase my charges,” he said.