A group of Muslims from Malerkotla in Punjab has set up a langar that is attracting big crowds
Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India
SINGHU BORDER, New Delhi – Symbolism has its own value. It’s especially important when viewing everything from a communal angle has become the official policy. Agitating farmers from Punjab who have been stopped at Delhi’s Singhu border for the last 15 days are mainly Sikhs.
They are getting support from every corner irrespective of religion. Among them are a group of Muslims from Malerkotla in Punjab.
They have also set up a langar (community free kitchen), along with hundred-plus langars set up by the agitating farmers. They are offering zarda, a traditional boiled sweet rice dish cooked with food colouring, milk and sugar, and flavoured with cardamoms, raisins, saffron and almonds.
“We are with our Sikh brothers and sisters. It’s our way of expressing solidarity with the farmers who are demanding repeal of the controversial farm laws,” said Mobin Farooqui, who is heading the group of 25 people. He is getting support from Muslims of Narela in Delhi. Local volunteers have added to their strength.
“Though we live and work in Delhi, our family does farming back in our villages in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The anti-farmer legislations are going to affect us all. It’s everyone’s fight,” said Muhammad. According to him, up to 25 local Muslims have put themselves at the disposal of Farooqui and his team.
Some pro-government television channels tried to link the agitating farmers from Punjab with the Khalistan separatist movement. The charge has strongly been refuted by Sikhs and everyone watching the agitation. Farooqui says it’s all about creating division. “That’s how they operate. Raising religious passion is part of their politics. They can’t survive without creating a gulf between communities,” he said.
Malerkotla is the only Muslim-majority area in Punjab. Muslims constitute over 60% of the population with Hindus and Sikhs comprising the rest. There is a small presence of Jains and Christians as well. The city has been free from communal riots since Independence.
“We in Malerkotla maintain excellent communal harmony. We are proud of our heritage. The Sikhs have never forgotten the gesture of the Nawab of Malerkotla, Sher Mohammad Khan, who had given protection to the sons of Guru Gobind Singh. We are maintaining that tradition and never miss an opportunity to celebrate it,” Farooqui added.
Farooqui is an advocate by profession and associated with the Muslim Federation of Punjab, an organisation engaged in social work. According to him, his organisation undertakes relief work. After lockdown was declared earlier this year, the Federation distributed cooked food among migrant workers who were rendered jobless and had no means to earn a living. They also set up langars in Malerkotla when farmers’ agitation started in September.
While this journalist was talking to Farooqui, a Sikh spiritual leader flanked by a Hindu priest visited his stall and tasted zarda. A small crowd was following them. The visit was captured on video cameras by television channels. Farooqui was speaking to accompanying journalists in Punjabi and drawing home his point that this was his way of showing solidarity with the agitating farmers.
He was repeating the same things he had said a little while ago to this journalist: that he considers himself part and parcel of the Sikh community; that he views their present fight as his own; that he and his team would stay at Singh border as long as it is required.
The Sikh and the Hindu preachers were nodding in agreement while camerapersons were recording Farooqui’s sentiments, thus spreading the message throughout Punjab and beyond.
This is no mean achievement considering the kind of atmosphere that certain government-backed media and saffron brigades sitting in the government are seeking to create.