Influence of Dera Sach Khand Ballan in Punjab Assembly Elections 2022

 - Sakshi Post

There are a numbers of Deras in Punjab. According to a study of 2006-2007, done by Ronki Ram, there were more than 9,000 Sikh and non-Sikh deras in the rural areas of Punjab. The distinguished nature of Deras in Punjab, established during the 19 century is that they acted as centres of dalit mobilization because the majority of the followers of these deras were people from dalit and marginalised section of the society. The importance of such deras increased in the poll seasons. Apart from the announcements of their agendas and criticize their rival parties’ policy, leaders from across the parties visit these dears also to influence the section associated with these deras. In these days Dera Sach Khand Ballan has become an epicentre of political parties of Punjab to attract the dalit voters of Doaba region of Punjab.

A day before the Republic day, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjeet Channi spent his night in Dera Sach Khand Ballan, in the personal room of present head of dera, Sant Niranjan Singh and slept on the floor. [26 November, Times of India]. After becoming CM, Channi also visited the same dera at 31st December and announced the establishment of Guru Ravidas Bani Adhiyan (Research) Centre at ballan village of 50 crores worth and handed over the cheque of 25 crore for this purpose. He also made an announcement to establish Guru Ravidas Bani Adhiyan Centre Management Committee with the headship of the head of Sachkhand Ballan to manage the overall affairs of Centre while the CM, Secretary of tourism and local Deputy Commissioner as a member of government representatives. Following this, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal and Bharatiya Janata Party’s Punjab in charge Gajendra Singh Shekhawat also visit the Sachkhand Ballan dera and met to its head.

Background of Dera Sachkhand Ballan

 Dera Sachkhand Ballan is considered as the ‘Mecca’ of the Punjab’s Dalit people, especially of the Ad-dharmi community (followers of Guru Ravidass), in Ballan village of Jalandhar district. It was established by Sant Pipal Das around a century ago. Sant Pipal Das was worked of leather. The Doaba region of Punjab and specially Jalandhar considered being the main centre of leather industry and business since the colonial period. The devotees of Dera Sachkhand Ballan mainly worship Sant Ravidas as a Guru, a 15th century Bhakati poet, who was belonged to the Revidassia community of Varanasi. In 1965, with the efforts of dera, the then head of dera Sant Sarwan Das laid the foundation of the memorial of Guru Ravidas at Varanasi near the Hindu Banaras University in UP. It was completed in 1970 under the supervision of dera and NRI’s from dalit community of doaba made a significant financial contribution in it. Since then it became the practice of Ravidassia community of Punjab to visit the Varanasi temple on the occasion of Bhagat Ravidas Jyanti every year. Dera Sachkhan Ballan runs the trust to take care of the Varanasi temple and every year it also organises a Special Begampura Express that carries devotees to Varanasi to the Janam Asthan of Guru Ravidas to mark Ravidas Jayanti. Almost all the major political parties of Punjab wrote to the election commission to postponement the date of Punjab polls date as the earliest date of February 14 was clashed with the Ravidas Jyanti. The acceptance of election commission to change the date of Punjab polls has once again underlined the power of the votes of Ravidassia community in the State.

Ravdassia community has been very assertive since the Vienna attack of May 2009. Sikhs fundamentalists attacked the members of Dera Sachkhand Balla with a gun and knives, at a Gurdwara in Vienna, Austria. The Dera head Sant Niranjan Das, who was visiting the Gurdwara built by the Dera members, was seriously wounded in the attack. Two people died in the attack, including dera’s second in command Sant Rama Nand. The incident led to clashes, violence and roits in Doaba especially in the Jalandhar. The episode had caused bitterness in the relations between Sikhs and Ravidassias. CM Channi recently announced the withdrawal of all remaining cases registered in Punjab during the 2009 riots.

Dera Sachkhand Ballan had then severed it’s as its belief in Sikhism. But after the Vienna attack, it announced a separate religion called “Ravidassia religion” in early 2010 in Banaras on Guru Ravidas Jayanti. They started worshiping and reading their own new Granth “Amritbani” carrying 200 hymns of Guru Ravidas in Ravidassia temples and gurudwaras, instead of Guru Granth Sahib (the Spiritual book of sikhs), which led to several clashes between Sikhs and Ravidassias. Dera also led the demands of separate identity to the Ravidassia community in the 2021 census.

Political Importance of Dera Sachkhand Ballan

Punjab is the only State of India with the largest Population of Schedule Castes i.e. around 37 percent. According to the 2011 Census, of Doaba’s total 52.08 lakh population,19.48 lakh (around 37%) are Dalits. Doaba comprises of Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr and Kapurthala districts. Of Doaba’s Dalit pollution, about 11.88 lakh people (around 61%) belong to the Ravidassia community.  In overall the world there are around 20 lakh followers of dera and 15 lakh only from the Doaba. Out of the total 117 legislative constituency, 23 fall under Doaba. From these 23 constituencies, 15 constituencies located in three Districts namely Jalandhar, Hosharpur anf Nawashar are with 35-50 percent of dalit electorates.

In a nut shell, Dera Sachkhand Ballan had become en epicenter of Ravdassia Community in Doaba region with large population. However, dera had never openly announced its support to any political party in Punjab but all the parties visit this dera time to time. Not even a single party affords to ignore the sentiments of dera devotees at any cost especially in the election days. It will play an important role in deciding the fortune of political parties in the forth coming assembly elections in February in the Doaba region of Punjab.   

By Jaspreet Kaur
The author is Research Scholar,from Punjabi University, Patiala, 
associated with Peoples Pulse, Research Organization on Electoral politics. She can be reached on


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