India's Sikhs offer help to Muslim victims of New Delhi ethnic violence

Sikhs organising langars – distributions of free food. Photo credit: DSGMC
Sikhs organising langars – distributions of free food. Photo credit: DSGMC

In New Delhi, Sikh religious groups have been coming to the aid of victims of the sectarian violence that sprung up between Hindus and Muslims on February 23, killing at least 40 people and injuring hundreds.

Some majority-Muslim areas in the northeast of the Indian capital were targeted by Hindu nationalists between February 23 and 25. Residents were lynched and their homes and mosques were set on fire. The violence stemmed from a citizenship bill that came into law in December 2019. It has been criticised for being discriminatory towards Muslims and has triggered huge protests across the country.

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS: Who are India’s RSS, the Hindu nationalists accused of violence towards Muslims?

Many residents decided to flee their homes to escape the violence.

Faced with the lack of a response from the authorities, the Sikh community in the country came together to help victims of rioting.

Since February 25, gurdwaras – Sikh places of worship – in India were declared open to people of all faiths seeking to flee the violence.

The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) organised food handouts in areas affected by the riots, as well as outside hospitals, where victims' families and loved ones were waiting.

"We offer help regardless of religion"

For Sikh religious leaders, these actions are part of the Sikh custom of the 'langar', or communal kitchen. Each gurdwara has one, where Sikhs and non-Sikhs can come and eat free vegetarian meals.

The New Delhi authorities didn't create any emergency humanitarian camp. We simply wanted to be a light in these dark hours of ethnic attacks. All of the langars are open to everyone, regardless of religion or caste.

We go into the areas affected by the riots in order to help them, but also to show our concern about the situation.

In November 1984, anti-Sikh riots in New Delhi resulted in 3,000 deaths, after the prime minister at the time, Indira Gandhi, was murdered by her Sikh bodyguards.

Article by Pierre Hamdi (@PierreHamdi).