The darker times of starvation have once again begun to devour millions of poor children across the globe. With rising levels of poverty, hunger pangs are killing the poor humans at large. Did you see how 11-year-old Santoshi Kumari died of severe starvation in Jharkhand. After pleading for rice grains for five days, she lay dead! Did you see those shots of 30-days-old Syrian baby Sahar Dofdaa who died of absolute malnutrition in war-ravaged Syria; nothing to her except bones writ large in her starved skeleton frame, her ribs sticking out ever so pathetically! Did you see thousands of Rohingyas queuing up for food and water in refugee camps in Bangladesh? Didn’t their helplessness somewhat frighten you; after all, today, it’s them, tomorrow it could be one of us!
Yes, going by the ‘breaking news’ statistics, the numbers of the internally displaced people for the year 2016 were highest in our country. Getting displaced, forced to flee from one place to another, has resulted in shelter-less status in just a matter of a few minutes for these people, who huddle together in some corner with the refugee tag pinned on their shrunken frames.
In fact, as one image after another of children dying of starvation surfaced, I sat back with hopelessness, hovering around as it hit me so persistently. That night as I switched on the television, only to see a group of Rohingya children in a refugee camp in Bangladesh being fed by turbaned Sikh volunteers, I stood up, somewhat taken aback, as in these dark times it is one of the rare sights to see young volunteers reaching out with such spontaneity and warmth.
Intrigued, I tried to find out the backgrounders to this rarity of sorts, and was told that Khalsa Aid volunteers are reaching out to many human beings, irrespective of community, creed, caste or country. The minute they are told of a human being in want of food and shelter, medicines and clothing, they set out with the needed relief material, reaching out, trying their utmost to save those in distress.
The New Delhi-based Khalsa Aid volunteer Manpreet Singh said, “Whenever we come across any report of a crisis
situation, where hapless people are caught in severe distress and cannot fend for themselves in terms of food and clothing and other basics, our volunteers set off to help them out and yes, they could be from any country or community. Our holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, teaches us that humanity is the highest religion to serve and to look after the human being is the ultimate work for us. To be human is the very crux.”
I was left dumbfounded to hear him. Even in today’s time, there is this band of young Sikh volunteers who are trying to reach out to the needy. In fact, Manpreet had just got back from Bangladesh and detailed some of the absolutely hitting facts. “Going by the official estimates there are over fifty thousand Rohingya orphans and around thirty thousand pregnant Rohingya women in those refugee camps in an absolutely grim situation. I was stationed there with my Khalsa Aid colleagues — Kulbeer Singh, Jeewan Jyot, Amarpreet Singh. Though we are back, several of our volunteers are still there, providing the basics to the refugees,” he said.
One cannot imagine the extent of the human tragedy on such people languishing in such refugee camps. A few days back a seven-year-old girl from Myanmar reached one of these camps in Bangladesh holding her two-year-old semi-burnt baby brother. In Myanmar, she had seen her mother being raped before getting killed, her father was shot dead and her brother was thrown into a furnace but this little girl pulled him out and got him in that semi-burnt condition to Bangladesh. Her image is in front of my eyes. It remains unmoving!
As Manpreet detailed about the traumatic situations, he got a call from a Hindu family of New Delhi whose little daughter was battling with a severe medical condition. Immediately, Khalsa Aid volunteers swung into action and put the details on one of the social sites, and soon cricketer Harbhajan Singh responded. He went to the particular New Delhi hospital where this child was admitted and paid the medical bills.
It is a well co-ordinated team effort when Khalsa Aid volunteers reach out. They had earlier reached out to the Muzaffarnagar riot victims; they had also rushed aid when the flood fury hit Srinagar and now, they are reaching out to the refugees and all those in distress. This dedicated team is headed by Ravi Singh from UK. Amarpreet Singh is looking after Asia, Manpreet Singh is stationed in New Delhi and Kulbeer Singh is based in Punjab. Also, hundreds of volunteers come forth to help and travel to any given locale.
It is such a relief to know that even in these dark times such level of humanity still persists. It’s about time that we get out of the divisions inflicted on us by the various political brigades. Let sense prevail. Haven’t we had enough of Hindu–Muslim-Sikh divisions heaped on us, first by the British and then by the ruling fascist forces.
In fact, during one of the very last conversations with Khushwant Singh he had told me, “I am worried by what harm these fascist forces can do to the country and to us and to the minority communities who are on their hit list. I always wanted all communities to unite and defeat these destructive forces which are hell-bent on destroying this land. I always wanted to get Sikhs and Muslims to come closer after those gaps that partition had brought along. In fact, when I had got the grant from the Rockefeller Foundation for two volumes ‘History of the Sikhs’ I decided to undertake the writing project at the Aligarh Muslim University. I could have easily chosen Delhi University but I decided to do it from AMU, because I wanted to lessen the gaps that had come between our communities. Writers should write fearlessly on what’s been happening. Write and speak out without fear and see those communities of this land bond with each other and defeat the fascist forces.”