New Delhi: An overwhelming majority of Sikh youth are highly religious, so much so that just 1 per cent of them have never prayed, a survey released last week has found.
The survey, titled ‘Indian Youth: Aspirations and Vision for the Future’, was conducted in July-August this year by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) under its research programme ‘Lokniti’, in collaboration with German think tank ‘Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’ (KAS).
A total of 6,277 respondents from 18 states, aged between 18 and 34 years, participated in the survey.
Compared to other communities, Sikh youth were most likely to pray or visit a place of worship even when there’s no festival, the data showed. However, most Sikhs aren’t as regular as Hindus or Muslims on this count.
The share of respondents ‘never praying’ or ‘never visiting the place of worship’ was the lowest among Sikhs.
Only 1 per cent Sikh youth said they had never prayed, compared to 7 per cent Christians, 8 per cent Muslims and 9 per cent Hindus. If those who pray sometimes and not only around festivals are clubbed together, the number of Sikhs performing religious activities shoots up to as high as 80 per cent.
Over 80 per cent of the Sikh respondents also supported a ban on comedy relating to religious matters — the highest among all major religious groups surveyed.
The study also found that the average Indian youngster supported a ban on both, the making of comedy movies on religious leaders, and stand-up comedy on any religion.
“In the context of growing intolerance towards comedy on religion and religious leaders, we decided to find opinions of young Indians on this issue, especially since many of the protests in the recent past against what is perceived as ‘objectionable’ content have featured young participants,” the survey report said.
“The answers were quite revealing. In response to each of these questions, around half of all young respondents answered in the affirmative, that is, they favoured the banning of humorous content on religion,” it added.
High religiosity among Sikhs
Around 82 per cent Sikh youngsters pray regularly or sometimes even if there is no festival being celebrated. The corresponding figure was 74 per cent for Christians, 72 per cent for Muslims, 69 per cent for Hindus and 46 per cent for others.
Around 86 per cent Sikh youngsters visited a place of worship (gurudwara) even when there was no festival, compared to 57 per cent each for Hindus and Christians and 56 per cent for Muslims.
The share of Sikh youth drawn towards TV channels showing religious programming has gone up from the previous round of the survey, which is opposite to the trend observed across all other communities. In 2016, 73 per cent Sikhs reported watching religious shows on TV, which has risen to 82 per cent this year.
The share of youth drawn towards religious shows on TV has fallen by 3 per cent among Hindus (60 from 63), 13 per cent among Muslims (49 from 62) and 1 per cent among Christians (51 from 52).
“The proliferation of Shabad Kirtan Gurbani channels (religious TV channels) in Punjab during the last few years may account for the relatively higher tendency among Sikhs to watch religious programmes on TV, although the trend towards an increase in religious programmes on TV and launch of channels exclusively dedicated to religious discourse is not limited to Punjab alone,” the report said.
50% supported ban on stand-up comedy on any religion
The survey data showed that around 50 per cent of the overall respondents supported a ban on stand-up comedy on any religion, while only a third (32 per cent) opposed it and 18 per cent had no response.
Around 48 per cent youngsters supported a ban on comedy movies on religious leaders.
The share of youngsters from the Sikh community supporting a ban on stand-up comedy about religion was overwhelmingly high at 86 per cent, while only 13 per cent opposed it and 2 per cent gave no response.
Among Christian respondents, 62 per cent supported a ban on comedy relating to religious matters.
A little over half (51 per cent) of the Hindu respondents were in favour of banning stand-up comedy on any religion.
Among Muslims, slightly more youth opposed bans (39 per cent) on such stand-up comedy shows than those who supported it (38 per cent), while 23 per cent gave no response.
On comedy movies on religious leaders, 85 per cent Sikhs supported a ban, followed by 65 per cent Christians, 49 per cent Hindus and 36 per cent Muslims. Here too, more Muslims opposed (46 per cent) such a ban than those who supported it.
Why religion is a serious matter
Comedians have often come under the radar of Sikhs for hurting religious sentiments.
In 2016, Kiku Sharda, a popular comedian who appears on The Kapil Sharma Show, was arrested for mimicking Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
“When it comes to religion, people do not take satire in a very sporting way,” said Sanjay Kumar, professor and co-director of Lokniti, the research programme at the CSDS.
“People in smaller numbers exhibit a higher desire to protect their religion. They engage in more religious activities. And when they see some kind of attack on their faith, they become aggressively defensive. What we saw in Amritsar (alleged sacrilege and lynching) is a manifestation of that,” said Kumar.
Though most of the movies recently released in Punjabi cinema are of the comedy genre, religion is a topic they steer clear of.
There are Sikh stand-up comedians like Jasmeet Singh Bhatia, Jaspreet Singh and Angad Singh Ranyal who have garnered millions of views on their YouTube stand-up comedy shows, but they too do not crack jokes on religion.
“It is mostly because the volume of respect towards religion and religious matters is extremely high among the Sikhs — this is their cultural heritage. They consider their Gurus as their role models because of the numerous sacrifices they made and any disrespect to them is followed by strong resistance,” said Pali Bhupinder Singh, a playwright and expert on cultural matters in Punjab.
“And it is not just for the Gurus. We have peers, dargahs, so many Punjabis visit the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, and they have tremendous respect for all of them. The high volume of respect makes religion a less talked issue in their conversations, mainly because they know that any controversy on the subject might lead to undesired consequences, which is why it is natural that most artists in Punjab do not mock any religion or religious leader,” Pali added.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)