“Nanak Naam Chardi Kala, Tere Bhane Sarbat Da Bhala” – the last line in the Sikh Ardas or prayer – calls for peace and prosperity for all humanity. In the past few days, many Sikhs in North India embodied this concept by helping Kashmiri Muslims who were trying to escape vigilante mobs following the Pulwama attack on 14 February.
International humanitarian organisation Khalsa Aid, local gurdwaras, and many individual Sikhs gave protection, food and shelter to the stranded Kashmiris and helped them reach their homes in Kashmir.
Several Kashmiris – those who were stranded as well as journalists and political leaders – expressed their love for the Sikh community for helping them in this difficult time. As a mark of their gratitude, Kashmiris have now offered all kinds of free services for Sikhs - from free medical treatment and education to free snow-bike rides in Gulmarg.
A cartoon by Greater Kashmir cartoonist Suhail Naqshbandi, which depicted a Sikh offering a helping hand to a drowning Kashmiri, went viral on social media.
The cartoon was shared by former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti of the People’s Democratic Party and Omar Abdullah of the National Conference.
However, Khalsa Aid CEO Ravinder Singh corrected Abdullah for giving credit to Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and said that the initiative was taken by gurdwaras.
Srinagar-based restaurant owner Javid Parsa, who volunteered to help the stranded students, recounted his experience at a gurdwara in Chandigarh.
He wrote on Twitter that the kindness showed by Sikhs, “fixed my heart, restored my faith in humanity”.
Speaking to a local channel, Saqib, a stranded Kashmiri student said that he was treated like an alien but Sikhs made him feel that there’s someone who Kashmiris can call their own in India.
“I felt like an alien, even though this is our country and we are Indians. But now because of them (Sikhs) we feel that we have someone in this country who we can call our own”.Saqib, stranded Kashmiri student
A few Kashmiris recounted how local Sikhs stood guard outside universities and colleges to prevent vigilante mobs from entering and also offered help to Kashmiri students individually.
Several other Kashmiris took to Twitter to thank Sikhs for their help.
One Kashmiri journalist even put up a picture of Guru Nanak as a mark of respect for Sikh people and the Sikh faith.
Praise for Khalsa Aid’s Efforts
Khalsa Aid in particular received a lot of praise for the help they provided to stranded Kashmiris.
Some specifically thanked Khalsa Aid founder and CEO Ravinder Singh as well as the organisation’s Asia-Pacific head Amarpreet Singh. The latter was on the ground, helping out Kashmiris himself and co-ordinating Khalsa Aid’s efforts.
Huge Discounts for Sikh Tourists In Gulmarg
As a mark of respect for the Sikh community, Kashmiris have been offering all kinds of free services for Sikhs.
It began with snow bike riders in Gulmarg who decided to give massive discounts to Sikh tourists.
“We cannot do anything much, but as a union we have decided to give concessional rides to Sikh tourists. Instead of Rs 1000, they will have to pay only Rs 400 to cover for the cost of petrol. We will also give them free food. They stood by Kashmiri students who were being beaten up,” said one of the members of the riders’ union.
Soon, grateful Kashmiris came up with a variety of offers for Sikhs. At least two schools - one in Khansahib in Budgam district and the other in Baramulla district’s Kanispora - has offered free education for Sikh students. A hotel in Srinagar has offered free accommodation for Sikhs.
Other free services for Sikhs include free medicines, legal aid, pickup-and-drop from Srinagar airport, car maintenance, school uniforms and even free gym membership.
One Kashmiri even offered to donate his kidney to Khalsa Aid.
Sikhs Facing Threats and Abuse
However, the help given by Sikhs to Kashmiris has angered right-wing trolls, who began abusing the community. Some of the hate comments included “Sikhs are harbouring Jihadis in their gurdwaras” and “they are feeding milk to snakes”.
What’s more disturbing, some have even threatened to attack Sikhs.
One person even said that such gurdwaras that were providing shelter to Kashmiris “should be identified, surrounded and set on fire”. Another person threatened that “Sikhs will have to pay a price” for helping Kashmiris.