Living by their ‘Seva’ belief, Sikhs lately attended an alarming crisis when they came to the rescue of Kashmiri students in different parts of north India. Back home, Kashmiris have responded the Sikh gesture with love and respect.
By Adil Sofi
For three consecutive days, Saqib had been running and hiding from violent mobs in Uttrakhand. Parched and hungry, he kept changing “hideouts” during night hours. “It felt,” he says, “as if I was a runaway convict, hiding from some blood-hounding cops.”
When his SOS sent from the basement of a deserted building went unanswered, he remembers slamming his head on a concrete wall. It was a hysterical move, he avers, driven by the fear of getting caught by the “ultra-nationalists”—coming after Kashmiris in Dehradun.
On the sundown of February 14 itself, mobs had mobilised against Kashmiri students. They became soft targets, following the “deadliest” Pulwama attack that left 49 paramilitary men dead on the highway turned ‘war-torn’ patch, littered with mangled iron, craters of blasted bus and burnt human flesh.
By the time, these visuals triggered a war cry in Indian news studios, the mood on streets changed.
“The venom on the streets was brewed in some TV studios,” Mirza Waheed, Kashmir’s celebrated novelist, summed the mob frenzy against Kashmiris outside the valley. “I’ve been thinking, writing, about Kashmir, India, and Pakistan for twenty years, and I don’t remember a time when there existed such unbridled hostility towards ordinary Kashmiris.”
Meanwhile, shuddering with fear at the basement of the building in Delhradun, Saqib was still attempting to reach out to his contacts. But while everyone was trying their best to arrange some help for him, it was a group of Sikhs, who soon arrived “as a knight in shining armour” to rescue Saqib along with many other Kashmiri students from Dehradun’s dead-end.
Knight in this case was Khalsa, rescuing Kashmiri students from the Hindutva terror. These Sikh volunteers of Khalsa Aid were pressed into action soon after attacks on Kashmiri students surfaced.
Later that day, while being taken to Chandigarh, Saqib had a change of heart.
“While travelling to Chandigarh, I was burning with rage, thinking how we Kashmiris have become punching bags in India,” Saqib says, after he reaches home in Anantnag. “As a sense of vengeful huff gripped me, I looked at those Sikh brothers, who had responded to our distress calls and had come to our rescue. It made me feel how important it is to uphold humanity in trying times.”
What Sikhs did, has now become the talk of town back home.
Touched by the Sikh goodness and gesture, Kashmiris are coming forward with different offers for their turban brethren now.
“While we’re overwhelmed by the love and respect shown by our Kashmiri brothers,” Ravi Singh, founder of Khalsa Aid said in a video statement, “let’s also take a pledge to uplift the underprivileged section in the society.”
While many Sikhs maintain that they didn’t save and serve for paybacks, but to uphold their humanitarian beliefs, Kashmiris are relentlessly showing their gratitude towards Khalsa.
“It’s not about payback,” says Shakeel Bhat, an orchardist from Sopore, who lately broke down after receiving his distressed daughter back home. “We can never payback the goodness of our Sikh baradari. Thing is, we Kashmiris can at least make them feel special. They’re special. Neither them, nor us believe in hate. They beautifully demonstrated that by saving our kids from the Hindutva hate mongers.”
These emotional reactions are now fast manifesting into the heart-warming Sikh-Muslim bonhomie in Kashmir. While tuition centres are returning fees to some Sikh parents, many are offering free services to their vehicles. Others are announcing free accommodations to Sikhs in their hotels.
“Such reaction only goes on to show that Kashmiri is a humanitarian race, which is unfortunately caught in this conflict because of someone’s ego,” says Randeep Singh, a Srinagar-based Medical Representative. “See, how our Sikh community’s language of love has worked with them. It has brought the two communities together, like never before. That’s what we Kashmiris believe in. We believe in the language of love.”