It seems to many that Sikhs in politics is a brand new development a product of the 21st century, with our recent migration to the west. I frankly disagree with that assessment. We are Sikhs, to the word Sikh means to learn, and only the way to learn is to question, to question those in power and their beliefs is very a political act. Sikhism from its very foundation with Guru Nanak in questioned the logic of the caste system when in his eyes all humans were the same, the idea that women are equal and that money should be earned honestly or not at all, ideas radical then and in many ways still are now. These challenges to power formalized after the execution of the Fifth Guru Arjan, his son Guru Hargobind set aside the seli topi (caps of holy men) asked for a sword i and the kalgi of a king instead. He was given one but it was put on the wrong side, so he asked for another as well. Those two swords would represent Miri and Piri, the need to be powerful in the spiritual world so as to know injustice, and the physical world so as to have the means to actively oppose it. With that Sikhism challenged the might of the Mughal empire and opposed the religious intolerance of it. Time and time again our faith challenged those that sought to oppress whether they were the Afghan kings or the British empire. To say being political is in conflict with our beliefs would ignore that long history of active opposition to injustice and oppression. No, to be political is a consequence of who we are, where we come from and what we believe.

Throughout human history there is there was an element of untouchability that we applied to our fellow human beings, the belief that certain people were beneath others the fact their mere touch would be polluting. Such a system existed in India through caste, in japan as Burakumin, and often was culturally socially and religiously enforced. While this system was wrong, that is not to say untouchables do not exist. The true untouchable is not born as such, nor made to be. The true untouchable pollutes not with his body but with his mind his surroundings, he who chooses to divide our beautiful humanity, defiles the ideologies of unity to ones of division. The true untouchable is a product of choice, for he who is the one who chooses to hate.