Vivek Vihar and Greater Kailash are discussing strategy with their supporters for an upcoming Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee election. As perplexing as it sounds, Vivek Vihar and Greater Kailash are a part of the names of known Sikh leaders in Delhi.
When two known Sikh leaders of the capital meet, they do not address each other by their names. Instead, they use their appended names. It can range from Rohini to Paharganj, from Vivek Vihar to Greater Kailash (GK).
Welcome to the brand new world of Sikh leaders of the capital, who are in a tearing hurry to append the name of their area with their real names.
A Sikh’s quest to be different
Balbir Singh Vivek Vihar, who is on the boards of many governing bodies of Sikh colleges and schools, says that he appended Vivek Vihar to his name a couple of years ago to be different.
“There were close to ten Balbir Singhs in my area. They all have known me for ages. As I have been doing the politics of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), I thought I must do something to be different. After discussing the issue with my family and friends, I decided that I should add ‘Vivek Vihar’ to my name. I have been staying here for a long time and now people easily recognise me with my new name,” he tells me. Vivek Vihar was mentioned even in his children’s marriage cards. He is happy that he is now easily recognised in Delhi.
Kuldeep Singh Bhogal was perhaps the first Sikh leader in the capital to append his name with that of his area. His claim was not challenged by anybody, he says, recalling the story behind his new name even though it has been a long time since he added ‘Bhogal’.
“It was at the behest of Sant Harcharan Singh Longowal that I added Bhogal to my name. We gave him a rousing welcome at Bhogal in 1985 when he came to meet the victims of the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 in Delhi. Santji had never imagined that he would get such a great reception. Before leaving Delhi, he asked me to add Bhogal to my name,” he says. “I am more popular as Bhogal than my original name in the political circles of the capital.” Bhogal is a senior leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal led by Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Meanwhile, Greater Kailash resident Manjit Singh has settled for Manjit Singh GK. He is an old hand of Sikh politics in Delhi. Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who is a veteran of Delhi politics, is also happy to add ‘Sirsa’ to his name, it is the city in Haryana from where he hails.
A Sikh social activist and businessman, Avtar Singh is now Avtar Singh Jhilmil Colony. “My life has changed for good since I became Avtar Singh Jhilmil Colony,” he tells me. His close friend suggested that he add ‘Jhilmil Colony’ to his name to stand out from the crowd. “Now, my friends and other business partners call me Jhilmil veer ji rather than Avtar ji or Avtar paaji.” Avtar Singh has also shown the way for others. “Two, three friends followed me — they became Hardeep Singh Shahdara and Kirpal Singh Janakpuri.”
Old practice in New Delhi
It is an old practice among Jat Sikhs in Punjab to append the name of their village to their names. Who has not heard the names of Sikh leaders like Kairon, Barnala, Badal and Ajnala? But what about leaders like GK, Vivek Vihar, Rohini, Kalka and Govindpuri Sahib? It does not matter if their “pind” is left behind in Punjab — many well-known Sikhs of Delhi have solved their identity crisis by substituting their old village surname with that of their current residential area.
Punjabi poet Dr Harmit Singh has appended Paharganj with his name for the last couple of years. He says, “Sikhism and the followers of Guru Gobind Singhji do not believe in caste system at all. I feel that by discarding their traditional surnames and adding their locality names, the Sikh leaders are doing a kind of service to make our society free from the scourge of caste.”
Manjit Singh Calcutta is another prominent Sikh from the capital. A Delhiite since 1976, he is probably the only Sikh in India to be called “Calcutta”. He was also a member of the DSGMC.
Another person to change their name is Manjit Singh Govindpuri. With a smile on his face, Manjit Singh, who runs an air-conditioning business, says the people of his area now call him by his adopted surname — Govindpuri.
Rajinder Singh Techno TV is an innovative gentleman. Unlike Messrs Bhogal, Tagore Garden or Rohini, he has been using the name of his Techno TV manufacturing company. “Because I am well-known in West Delhi as the owner of Techno TV, I thought I should include this with my real name”, he says.
It goes without saying that those who are doing politics among Sikhs in the capital are appending names of their areas, want to be different from others. Almost all of them admit that with their brand new names, they are creating a niche for themselves.
Vivek Shukla is a veteran bilingual journalist with over three decades of experience. He loves to read and write on Delhi, South Asia, Indian diaspora and architecture. He is also the author of the book ‘Gandhi’s Delhi: April 12, 1915-January 30, 1948 and Beyond’. Views are personal.
(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)