By: Afshan Rashid
Living by the concept of “Humanity is above all religions”, Sikhs lately responded to the ‘unnatural route’ induced crisis at Jammu where some stranded Kashmiri passengers came under attack. Their community services at the distressed hour won hearts and reaffirmed faith in JK’s age old spirit of communal harmony.
Sudharshan Singh Wazir was in the middle of his routine work on February 11, when news — attack on stranded Kashmiri passengers at Jammu — spread. As J&K Sikh United Front’s chairman, he along with his community members instantly decided to throw open their Langars for the aid of anxious Kashmiris — some of whom were sending disturbing dispatches back home, including the “unfair and fleecing” treatment.
“We knew our Kashmiri brethren need us in this distressed time,” Wazir says, taking stock of Langar activities inside Digiana Gurdwara, Jammu. “We will always stand by them, and won’t let anyone harass them.”
Inside the Gurudwara, some tractors have been put on stand. Wazir says they’ll be soon transporting food to different places in Jammu, for stranded Kashmiri passengers.
Jammu’s Sikh community responded after the weather-battered pony track of Srinagar-Jammu lately held hundreds of Kashmiri passengers captive in the state’s winter capital.
Despite relentless cries emanating from the valley for the opening of ‘natural routes’, the unnatural highway often creates a weather-hostage crisis situation in Kashmir.
Irked by Raj Bhavan’s “blatant indifference” over the present crisis, the passengers lately demanded homecoming, but ended up facing a ‘student mob’ of Jammu Science College. As per the visual proof, the situation turned ugly when students hurled stones at passengers, abused them, and reminded them: “Hindustan mein rehna hoga, Vande Mataram keh na hoga…”
While the ‘berserk’ visuals heightened concerns on social media, Wazir along with his Jammu Sikh brothers decided to aid the stranded Kashmiri passengers in their hour of need.
Inside Digiana’s Gurdawara, cooks Rajindra Singh and Indra Pal Singh—who go by their nicknames of Ratta and Taya—are busy cooking at the community kitchen. They’re putting up extra hours and efforts since yesterday, by cooking for the highway hostages.
With beaming faces and a friendly attitude, the Sikh cooks take one on a Langar tour, saying: “Today, we’ve prepared Daal, Matter paneer, achar and especially rice for stranded passengers from Kashmir Valley.”
Before the recent highway crisis, the Sikh community had been at the welfare front from many years now. From 2005 Earthquake to 2014 Floods, they’ve worked tirelessly to feed people in need. In recent times, Sikh Samaritans of Khalsa Aid even showed up at deluged Kerala and in war-torn Syria.
“The belief of Langar dates back to late 1400s when our first Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj was asked to seek profit by his father in an effort to teach him entrepreneurial skills,” says cook Rajindra Singh. “As such, young Guru Nanak Ji was given Rs 20 to go and buy something to trade. On his way to the market, Guru Nanak Ji saw hungry holy men and fed them. Later, our Guru would tell his angry father that feeding the needy was his best investment.”
Such tales only make Langar system a way of life for Sikhs.
“As per our religious belief, we share 10 percent of our income for running these Langars,” Wazir says.
But the recent situation at Jammu demanded an extra effort and immediate response. This is when the community members swiftly mobilised and dispersed to different parts of Jammu, offering food and shelter to the stranded passengers.
“The ones in distress need to be helped first,” cook Indrapal Singh says. “Our yesterday’s community service was an effort to help our distressed Kashmir brothers.”
One can see many homeless people from different communities having food inside Gurdawara Digiana’s Langar. Besides a normal Langar, a special one has been set up for the stranded passengers.
Apart from the free kitchen, the minority community of Sikhs in the state of Jammu and Kashmir has always been an extraordinary example of communal harmony.
“Our religion teaches us universal brotherhood and we will always live with that principle,” Wazir says. “And during this distressed time, we won’t allow anyone to exploit Kashmiris.”