Sewa amidst strife: Gurgaon gurdwaras offering namaz space to harassed Muslims is an inspiration and a lesson

Gurdwaras have risen to the occasion – once again. In the midst of a bitter and deeply troubling altercation over Muslims offering ‘jumma namaz’ at designated sites in Gurgaon, a committee overseeing five gurdwaras in the area has made it clear their doors are open to all to do ‘ibadat’, irrespective of religious denomination. Remember how various gurdwaras had swiftly set up ‘oxygen langars’ when the second wave left people gasping for breath. Or when last year’s north-east Delhi riots devastated even people with well-stocked kitchens, Sikh samaritans swiftly stepped in with cooked meals. Such examples of Sikh ‘sewa’ are spread across the world, but in India they are countless.

In its unconditional hospitality, the langar has from its very origin been an explicit rejection of inequality, whether it be of religion, caste, class or gender. The Gurgaon committee’s members reminded everyone that no one has to show their Aadhaar card to avail langar food, and neither will anybody have to show it to offer namaz on the gurdwara premises. Heartwarmingly, especially in these times, these gurdwara leaders have also said that standing alongside harassed religious minorities is about holding together the nation.

In a country where religion spills over onto the streets everyday, observance and spectacle hand in hand, upholding of public order must be equitable. Cities like Gurgaon are built by Indians from across classes and religions. Their shared public sphere has to be negotiated with mutual respect and tolerance, the state upholding everyone’s constitutional rights. But between arresting mischief-makers, withdrawing permission for holding weekly namaz from some designated areas and trying to identify alternative areas, the Khattar administration has made a mess of it. The sanctuary from bigots that the state should have provided is being offered by gurdwaras, reminding us again why India should be proud of and learn from Sikhs’ concept of sewa.


This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.



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