This presentation explores the protean stances on the idea of caste among the Sikh reformers of the Lahore Singh Sabha in the late nineteenth century through reading the life and writing of Sant Ditta Ram, later Giani Ditt Singh. Though Singh was from a Ravidasi background, and his career reflected his desire to overcome the debilitations associated with it, he could not advocate an unequivocal stand on caste. Looking at his changeable discourse on caste the presentation discusses his different readings of the institution and the reasons for such vacillations. In the context of the contemporary debate on caste among Sikhs, and as dalit assertion takes place in the Indian Punjab, the ideas of a dalit Sikh will illuminate the period of history when caste and community identities were being reformulated.
Dr. Anshu Malhotra teaches in the Department of History, University of Delhi, Delhi and is currently a Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.