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Punjabi  Sikh Diaspora (Latin America)


and hence the information available with them is somewhat rudimentary. Visa Issuing Embassies required confirmed tickets and hotel reservations at the time of putting in visa application. Considerable time and financial resources are needed to just get started. Let’s face it, “No one wants the Indians”. He must struggle at each step. This experience, however, did give me a glimpse of the plight of migrants who traveled with no language skills and ‘meagre’ funds in the pocket and with nothing to fall back on. This study is, in a small measure, a salute to these heroes.

Initial plan was to have a broader canvas of studying the Punjabis. An issue regarding the Pakistani Punjabi cropped up as it was felt that their exclusion would be somewhat unfair.It was therefore decided to focus on Sikhs. In any case, it so transpires that a vast majority of immigrants in these countries except perhaps Panama (which has large Gujarati community) were Sikhs. Defining a Sikh is not easy because there are various definitions by scholars, SGPC and Government Bodies. The issue of defining a Sikh can become an emotional issue. It was decided to include all persons of Sikh parentage at any level and those who had some affinity with Sikhism and Sikhs, now or in the past. It was decided not to get too much concerned with the number count as the idea is to introduce to the readers the historical and other aspects of the migrant stories. It was a help that earlier migrants used ‘Singh’ as their surname which made scanning of records including telephone directories somewhat easy. It is interesting that in several instances, Singhs whose one parent or grandparent was a Sikh had no clue as to why they were Singh as they had only a vague knowledge of their connection to Punjab and India.
In the countries visited, most of the Sikhs do not wear turbans. However, the most impressive sight was that of Yogi Bhajan’s followers with full Sikh identity symbols. They are the local converts to Sikhism. These Sikhs generally have a surname of ‘Khalsa’ and keep the five K’s. The 3HO (Holy, Healthy, Happy Organization) members are a study in itself. Their devotion to Sikhism against heavy personal, family and social odds is very admirable. The 3HO followers form a significant part of Sikhs in Latin America.

Sikh websites give slightly exaggerated presence of Gurdwaras globally and at time include Gurdwaras in devout Sikhs’ homes. These also include rented premises where Sikhs gather on Sundays/Holidays and important religious days. The Gurdwara and the so called Khalistan Head Quarters in Quito, Ecuador do not exist. In some countries.....

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