“We have arranged the safe travel of over 300 Kashmiri students back home so far,” says Gagan Singh, a Jammu resident and a volunteer with Jammu chapter of Khalsa Aid.
Singh added, “after we started receiving distress calls from Ambala and Dehradun, our volunteers arranged their travel in six vehicles including a bus. Two more Tata Wingers are on way to Jammu from Punjab and are likely to reach on Thursday evening. We have arranged their accommodation and food in Jammu.”
Grateful Kashmiris are reciprocating in kind. On social media, several Kashmiri businessmen are offering free or heavy discount on commodities and services to the Sikh community.
The offers include free medicines, legal aid, pickup-and-drop from Srinagar airport, car maintenance, coaching classes, school uniforms and even free gym membership.
Interestingly, some hotel owners are even offering free accommodation to members of Sikh community. The snow bike riders in Gulmarg have decided to give 60 percent discounts to Sikh tourists.
While a renowned dental surgeon, Dr Adil Wani, has announced a “one- month free dental service for Sikh patients” at his clinic in Achabal Adda Anantnag, Mudasir Motors announced free car service repair for “any Sikh brother.”
Many Kashmiri drivers have also thanked Sikh youths for rescuing them during target attacks on them on Jammu-Srinagar Highway.
A day after the Pulwama attack, Jammu, the winter capital city of Jammu and Kashmir, witnessed violent protests wherein rioters targeted Kashmiri Muslims and students. The local Sikhs took a lead and came to the rescue of Kashmiris in distress.
RTI activist Balvinder Singh and a Jammu resident told the National Herald, “Whenever there is some crisis, we help people without considering their caste, religion or country. Much to the surprise of many people, our local community members had provided humanitarian aid even in Syria. Kashmiris are our own people.”
“There are always some trouble-mongers in every community. We should never target an entire community for their misadventures,” he said, adding that “we have been providing food and shelter to the stranded passengers at local Gurudwaras besides arranging transportation in emergency cases.”
While the Supreme Court will hear on Friday a plea seeking a direction to authorities to protect Kashmiri students in the wake of threats following the Pulwama terror attack, Kashmiri Muslims feel that they can’t thank their Sikh brethren enough for reaching their humanitarian assistance in the wake of Pulwama backlash in many parts of the country.
Taking to Twitter, the former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday shared an illustration published by Greater Kashmir. The cartoon by Suhail Naqshbandi shows a Sikh offering a helping hand to a drowning Kashmiri.
Both Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah profusely thanked the community members for helping Kashmiri Muslims in the wake of violent protests in Jammu and harassment of in several other places in the country.
Across the social media, Sikhs are being hailed for helping Kashmiris in distress and protecting them from mob frenzy in Jammu and other parts of the country.
Soon after rioters in Jammu started targeting stranded Kashmiri passengers and students, the Sikh community had set up free kitchens and accommodation in Gurudwaras on the National Highway.
Incidentally, as many as 35 Sikhs who had won local rural body elections in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district had resigned en-masse following the killing of a Sikh youth in Tral area last month. The slain youth, Simranjeet Singh, was the brother of a newly elected Sarpanch.
Significantly, Sikhs didn’t leave Kashmir during mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits and even after the massacre of 35 Sikhs in Chattisinghpora in March 2000 during US President Bill Clinton’s visit to India.
Jammu and Kashmir has about 3.7 lakh Sikhs. Of them 80,000 are in Kashmir valley. The summer capital city, Srinagar is home to more than 30,000 Sikhs.
However, some feathers seem to have been ruffled. While Sikh volunteers have escaped threats and physical attacks, they have been abused online and threatened for “harbouring Jihadis in their gurdwaras” and for allegedly “feeding milk to snakes”. NH is not publishing the tweets but have links to them.