Sikhs acquiring new global identity by serving the needy in extreme situations

Jagtar singh

Chandigarh, September 15: From conflict zones of Syria and Iraq to flooded Houston and now Rohingya refugee camps in Teknaf in Bangladesh. The Sikhs can be seen everywhere organising humanitarian aid to the needy. The Sikhs are acquiring a new global identity in the process through this tradition that is rooted in the Langar doctrine of this Faith. They were there to organise massive relief camps when earthquake rocked Bhuj in Gujarat years back.

The London based NGO  Khalsa Aid and some other Sikh bodies have taken upon this role of serving the humanity by organising relief camps in the stressed areas all over the globe and are getting due recognition in these efforts. The turbaned Sikhs are now invariably the first to reach the calamity area, from Aleppo to Houston and Bangladesh.

For years, the Sikhs in USA and European countries have been confused with Muslims due to turban despite the fact that they have been there in USA, Canada, UK and South Asian countries for more than a century.

Sikhs in Canada and UK organise mega events associated with their religion like taking out processions but it is through humanitarian aid that they are getting recognised and thereby acquiring this new identity. These bodies arrange food, drinking water, blankets, nappies, baby milk and even toys for  children.

The Sikh gurdwaras opened their gates when terrorists struck London Bridge a few weeks back. The Sikh bodies tweeted addresses of the nearest gurdwaras and offered every help to the affected people. The names and addresses of gurdwaras in central London and nearby areas were tweeted and shared extensively on social media. Thousands of people could not reach home after nearby tube stations were closed after the attack.

The gurdwaras were there to provide relief to the people when heavy rains lashed Mumbai recently flooding the commercial capital of the country.

Providing free food is part of the Langar doctrine introduced by the founder of the Faith Guru Nanak in his endeavour to lay the foundation of casteless and classless society in the region where people were deeply divided on caste lines thereby denigrating human dignity itself. Under the Varna system, the people pushed to lower castes are treated worse than animals. Even the Sikh society continues to be deeply divided on caste lines despite the egalitarian set up envisaged by Guru Nanak.

At one level, the Sikhs have started implementing the ideals of Guru Nanak once again by organising relief to the needy in every corner of the world. This concept is unique to Sikhism in the context of the Langar doctrine. Free kitchen is just one part of the doctrine of Langar as the concept was started to accord respect to every human being irrespective of status.

The Khalsa Aid has organised relief operations in Serbia, Greece and Croatia too. This body had also set up a school in a refugee camps in Lebanon earlier.

Yet another Sikh body serving the people is Midland Langar Sewa Society that is also based in UK.

The Sikhs have been active in providing relief to the refugees from the conflict zones like Syria who managed to reach the shores of Greece and some other countries in Europe.

It may be mentioned that the Sikhs abroad have been hitting the headlines mainly due to clashes in gurdwaras but here is another section of the Sikhs that is  practising the basic doctrine of humanism for which this religion has been known.

This real face of the Sikh society is getting projected at the time when the Right is aggressive, not only in India but also in countries like USA. Racism and divisive society are against the basic concept of Sikh doctrine. The emerging Sikh identity is significant in this changing political dynamics.

This push has come from global Sikh societies. It is the established institutions like Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee that should shed their tunnel vision and propagate the Sikh doctrine through practice by joining what can be described as the Sikh movement in aid of humanity.


Jagtar Singh


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