Sanatan outlook and beliefs, when read , do not initially give cause for concern and can seem quite acceptable to most open minded people. While i am sure there are genuine Sanatan Sikhs out there unfortunately there is a darker side to the current resurgence within the UK.
It all sounds great on paper, but in actual practice there are some problems with the rehni behni (lifestyle) of the sanatan groups within the UK, which has caused great concern amongst the rest of the sangat. I have spent a great deal of time amongst some of the fringe members so have a good understanding of how things work. I have also had the pleasure to sit and talk with many of his ex-students who have given us a very good understanding of Nidars practices.
Some Sanatan followers use of alcohol and casual use of drugs has caused a lot of cause for concern in the UK and some Sikhs think that it is better to confront and curb the growth of these practices by educating young sikhs who are potential recruits for the sanatan Cults. Sanatan students also tend to avoid contact with normal sikhs choosing to distance themselves and claim superiority over them.
their main preachers within the UK are Jagdeep Notay (Nihang Teja Singh) and Surjeet Singh Bains (Nidar Singh), a controversial Martial Arts teacher who claims to be the last and only living master of the art of shastarvidiya. His bold claims have been proven to be false, as baba pritam singh an elder generation student of Baba Giana Singh(nidars grandmaster) still teaches in Patiala. Nidars master also did not spend much time with the grandmaster – Baba Giana Singh lived and taught amongst the Nihang dals for a majority of his life. Therefore it is very unlikely that there are were not other practitioners of Shastarvidiya. A more plausible scenario is that Nidar was the first to market the art to the west by embellishing it with various other martial arts and a tempting origin story. An attempt to make it more palatable to a western audience.
Surjeet Bains first came to fame 12 years ago when he very egotistically offered to challenge all other Gatka ustads. A challenge that was neither legally possible nor the rules enforceable by any judge or martial arts body meaning he could claim himself unchallenged.
Surjeet Bains cleverly claimed himself to be a Nihang and sold the sanatan ideology as the way of the Nihangs philosophy. News of his exploits soon reached back to india and the Nihangs rejected his ideology and do not accept him as one of their own. The Nihang groups in India wrote a letter disowning him and called for him to be reprimanded by the Akaal Takht Sahib. The letter was confirmed with 4 of the 5 jathedars who signed the letter.
Surjeet Bains also upset a majority of the Sikh Sangat by ridiculing and insulting their traditions and beliefs therefore ruling out 95% of the sikh population from ever learning his martial art. His criticism of well known and respected shaheed Singhs such as Bhai Fauja Singh and Sant Jarnail Singh has further offended a majority of Sikhs who celebrate and respect their sacrifice. This has distanced them from from the wider sangat and caused many Sikhs to actively campaign against their movement. to this day they refuse to take down these offensive comments.
He has been known to make spurious claims that Sikhs are not a separate faith but a part of the wider Hindu religion. He even named his martial arts school”Hindu-Sikh Shastarvidiya”. His previous Shastarvidiya website took many quotes from gurbani out of context and even changed some meanings to claim the Sikh gurus where in fact worshipping hindu deities. Once these were brought to light his classes were banned from various sikh Gurdwaras. As he realised he was losing support and students he proceeded to drop the “Hindu” description from his name and then replaced his website with one containing content that would be more acceptable to the sikh audience, in a bid to regroup lost numbers.
They seem to place a large emphasis on the physical and are very sceptical of spirituality and mysticism, which is why they cling to history and are obsessed with what some people might have practised in 1800’s rather then what the Guru prescribed within Gurbani or Rehitnamas. They have been known to reject spiritual practices altogether stating that they are unnecessary for a soldier.
These type of Sanatan group are very small in number but they are supported by organisations such as UKPHA, Kashi House and GT1588, which are 3 diferent names for the same organisation, who promote sanatan ideology by covertly implanting it in their books, publications and exhibitions. They recently won £430,000 worth of Lottery funding to do a project on Sikhs in the World Wars.
Essentially anyone that believes in the timelessness and universality of Truth can claim to be sanatan. I believe as per gurbani that the devtey and rakhsish existed and Gurus wrote about them in gurbani as examples. But we do not worship them we only worship akaal purkh who is aad sach jugaad sach habhi sach nanak hosi bhi sach. I believe that truth has always been but it is named different in all ages, so there is no Hindu or Musalmaan or Sikh in Gods eyes. I believe that every form has Gods light including the prophets, devtey and all people and beings that have existed. I am quite open minded and liberal in my views, so in a way I could call myself sanatan aswell.
The flavour of snatan ideology taught by nidar, seems to be more of a ploy by Nidar to mislead the youth and grow the ranks of his personal cult which opens up reht maryada to an epic level of looseness – virtually no rules whatsoever. Further evidence of this is that he is only surrounded by young people as there are no respected elders who join his group or who endorse him.
we still have no hatred for Nidar and his students we just hope they will see sense and take heed of gurbani and work for the support of the sangat and betterment of the panth rather then being so narrow minded and only serving their own gain through martial arts.
More detailed information can be found here www.shastervidiya.org.
this website was setup to counter Nidars views from his website – nidar and his students often claiming to be universal and against fanaticism or fanatical Sikhs, but we received the same sort of fanatical threats and offers of duels and fights to the death to prove ourself from his own group. When asked what the parameters of the challenge would be we received no reply. various underhand tactics have been used by nidars group such as reporting us to counter terrorism unit and calling the workplace of a fellow researcher claiming him to be a gang member.