The Indian Express – Panjab – In a turnaround story a Gurdwara that stepped in to help save lives

Written by Kanchan Vasdev

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 23 April 2020. Milk with turmeric, ginger soup and foods rich in Vitamin C including fruits like kiwis, pineapples and oranges, all wrapped up in neat packages, had been reaching 18 COVID-19 patients in Nawanshahr Civil Hospital for at least one month every day.

On Wednesday when all 18 patients at this hospital in the first hotspot of Punjab made to the list of recovered patients, the Gurdwara Singh Sabha, which had come forward to help the Punjab government combat this crisis by providing nutritious food to these 18 patients, has been asked to stop the supplies.

The last COVID-19 patient in the hospital, a 16-year-old, was declared cured Wednesday.

The gurdwara, having served the patients, has now asked the government to assign them duty to serve food if it required for COVID-19 patients elsewhere in Doaba.

The gurdwara has been providing a nutritious diet rich in antioxidants to the patients to help them build their strength and immunity.

While the recovery rate of Punjab remains at 19.5 per cent, the Nawanshahr Civil Hospital has reported 100 per cent recovery rate. The first patient from the district was being treated at Banga government hospital.

These 18 patients had contracted the virus from a 70-year-old resident of Pathlawa village in Banga, after his return from Italy and Germany. He had later passed away in Nawanshahr’s Banga.

When these patients, 14 family members of the deceased man and their four close contacts had tested positive in Pathlawa, Sjoon and Jhikha villages, the Nawanshahar Civil Hospital, designated as the COVID-19 hospital, did not have any arrangement for food for the patients.

That was when the gurdwara president, Makhan Singh, volunteered to provide the food to these patients.

Since then, everyday, women devotees and a cook of the gurdwara, worked with dedication to provide three meals to these patients. “We have been preparing the food with a community spirit and adding positive vibes from the house of god. They recovered fast,” he said.

Makhan Singh said, “The doctors in the hospital have been advising us on preparing food everyday. I have been buying strawberries, kiwis, pineapple, oranges, banana, apples, and whatever fruits available in the market. While cooking we have just been praying that they get treated fast.”

A Commission Agent, Makhan Singh added, “I want to make an appeal to the Panjab government that we are willing to provide food to any patient in a COVID-19 hospital in Doaba or even in any nearby area. We can manage to get the food delivered at a distance of even 60 km from here. We want the ailing to recover fast.”

He said they have been packing the food neatly in aluminium foil and delivered to the hospital, from where it was passed on to the patients by the staff.

Hospital worked on boosting patients’ confidence

Dr Harvinder Singh, senior medical Officer of the hospital, said that the first thing they did after administering treatment to COVID-19 patients in isolation wards was to try and help build their confidence.

“We realised that more than the medicine, these patients required counselling as they were panicked as they were among the first few patients to report positive in the state.

As it was not possible to keep the staff inside with them 24X7 considering the highly infectious disease, we created a WhatsApp group for these patients and kept on counselling them on that group.

The videos of patients recovering the world over were shared. Treating them was a team effort with our staff doing a commendable job. Our microbiologist Rupinderjit Singh did a great job handling this.”

The hospital also decided to keep at least 2-3 patients, especially those from the same family, in a room instead of isolating them individually. “This served a huge purpose,” said the SMO, adding, “They put up a music system where Gurbani is played throughout the day. This helped the patients to a great deal.”

Sputnik News – 130 Stranded Sikh pilgrims await Modi government’s go-ahead to enter Pakistan

Despite the near war-like situation due to the February escalation, India and Pakistan did not interrupt the Kartarpur Corridor religious infrastructure project, slated to be operationalised this year. The joint people-to-people exchange effort facilitates Indian Sikh pilgrims’ visits to the final resting place of Sikhism’s founder, Guru Nanak Dev.

Atari/Wagah border, Panjab, 14 June 2019. Around 130 Pakistan-bound Sikh pilgrims, including women, children, and elderly, with valid visas are stuck at the Attari border, as the Indian government is yet to allow them to cross over to observe the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Sikh guru.

The people have been stranded there since the early hours of the day and have so far been unable to proceed.

Footage from the location showed that most of the pilgrims are elderly citizens who arrived at the station from different parts of the Indian state of Punjab.

The stranded pilgrims expressed their anger, saying bilateral issues should not be allowed to come in the way of religion.

Local authorities in Punjab said that a special train from Pakistan will have to take the pilgrims beyond the Wagah border into the country. The train requires a nod from India to enter its territory, but it has not been allowed to enter Attari, located on Indian side of the border.

“The moment we will get the permission, we will allow the train to enter Attari”, M.L. Rai, the Attari Railway Station master, told reporters as pilgrims raised slogan against the government for the delay.

The pilgrims said that Pakistan had issued them a visa on 4 June and that their passports were handed over to Pakistan on 12 June. The visa is valid from 12 to 23 June.

Hundreds of Sikh pilgrims from India visit Pakistan for religious festivals every year under the framework of the India-Pakistan Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines 1974.

Earlier, this past April, Pakistan issued visas to 2,200 Indian Sikh pilgrims to allow them to participate in the annual Baisakhi celebrations from 12 to 21 April at the peak of tensions in the wake of the Balakot air strike.

The two countries have also been working on the construction of the Kartarpur Corridor. The corridor is expected to provide visa-free access to Indian Sikh pilgrims to worship at the Gurdwara (Sikh worship place) in Kartarpur Sahib ahead of the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, which will be celebrated in November this year.

523. The Man in Blue – Lieutenant General (retired) Kuldip Singh Brar

As I am now in the Amsterdam Guru Nanak Gurdwara and am not rushing from one meeting to the other, I have time to write a Man in Blue Column about the ‘assault’ on Lieutenant General (retired) Kuldip Singh Brar.

In writing this I have put myself in the position of one of the accused and assumed that this person was both guilty and intelligent.

“I stand here accused of assaulting lieutenant general (retired) Kuldip Singh Brar and I admit that I am guilty and should undergo the appropriate punishment.

This statement explains why I assaulted an old man on holiday in the UK. It is not a plea for clemency, which would be unworthy for a Sikh.

In June 1984 the general was ordered by the Indira Gandhi government to attack the Harmandr Sahib complex. I do not know the specifics of his order but the explanation given at the time was that there were about 50 terrorists in the complex. Whether his orders were to eliminate these terrorists, or whether he had to try and arrest them and bring them to justice I do not know.

The known fact is that the Harmandr Sahib complex was attacked on the day when many Sikhs went there from the early morning to commemorate the martyrdom of Guru Arjan on the 30th of May 1606. The result was that at least 1000 people were killed and not just the 50 alleged terrorists.

I am willing to concede that there were not 50 but maybe up to 100 alleged terrorists in the Harmandr Sahib complex. I also understand that during an operation on this scale some civilians are bound to find themselves in the line of fire, and become what are sometimes called collateral victims.

But the general and his men killed at least one thousand people during the operation, and he was never held responsible for killing 900 innocent visitors to Harmandr Sahib on the 6th of June 1984.

The general said that he acted on orders, but if you carry out criminal orders you are a criminal yourself, as the post World War II Nurnberg trials made clear.

The general is guilty of ‘war crimes’, but he never appeared in court. The Indira Gandhi government ordered the general to commit ‘war crimes’ and did not appear in court either.

Those that were responsible for the mass killings of Sikhs at the end of October and beginning of November 1984 are still walking free, and some of these are even part of the present Indian government, which has a Sikh prime minister.

But I will be tried and receive my due punishment, as I should.

A statement like this would make headlines. But will these assaulters of the retired lieutenant general be mice or men ? Will they be ruled by anger or by wisdom ?

428.Man in Blue – Honour Killings

jaisá bálak bhái subháí lakh aparádh kamávai |
A child, who out of a desire to please makes hundreds of thousands of mistakes,

kar upadés jhirraké bahu bhátí bahurr pithá gal lávai |
its father does teach and scold it in many ways, but will still embrace it.

pichhalé augun bakhas lé prabh ágai márag pávai |2|
Forgive my past misdeeds God, and in future keep me on Your path ||2||
Sorath, M 5, 2nd pauri, pana 624

My British readers will remember the case of Surjit Kaur, who was taken to Panjab and murdered by her in-laws. Recently here in Belgium a young woman wanted to marry somebody her parents did not like. This young man was from a ‘lower’ caste, had no job and allegedly used drugs. She was taken to Panjab and died shortly after arrival in Amritsar.

In the debate in England about Surjit Kaur some kept arguing that she was not a Gursikh and behaved badly. This I suppose made the crime understandable or excusable. In the recent Belgian case the father of the victim has been arrested, but has not yet been tried. We have no proof that he is guilty, but all known facts fit in with it being an honour killing.

Some people in the Belgian sangat argue that because the girl was disobedient to her parents they could understand why she was killed.

Obedience can never be unquestioning and respect has to be earned. If parents do not follow Guru’s teachings what should a child do ? If the parents want to marry you off according to caste, and Guru and the Rahit Maryada tell you that this is wrong, what should a child do ?

And even if your daughter has been wilful and disobedient for no good reason, even if the man she wants to marry is a lazy layabout, a drunk, a druggie or whatever, should you then kill her ?

This is where Gurmat comes in. We are taught that God is Father and Mother to us all. A Father and Mother who in spite of our mistakes or misdeeds, will hug us and receive us in Her/His house of which the doors are always open. Just read the shabad above the column.

Should we not try and follow this Godly example ? Or should we justify premeditated murder as punishment for disobedience ? The girls were taken to Panjab under some pretext and killed there. Surjit Kaur’s killers were finally convicted in the UK, due to a brave and persevering brother.

If the Belgian case is indeed an honour killing, I sincerely hope that the murderer(s) will receive their well deserved punishment. Let it be a warning to all that honour killings are not acceptable in India either !

398.The Man in Blue – Ashutosh Maharaj, Sant Rama Nand, Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh

With great sadness have I heard about the Sikhs in Panjab being involved in yet another row with a bogus ‘God-man’. It shows that the Sikhs are part of the problems of Panjab, and not part of the solution.

The worst of it is that many think that this is the Guru’s way, that getting into fights with followers of Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh, Sant Rama Nand or of Ashutosh Maharaj is similar to Guru’s struggle for freedom against the Mughal authorities of his day.

Why do Sikhs get excited when some idiot says that he is the incarnation of Guru Gobind Singh and/or Jesus Christ ? Why not concentrate on teaching Sikhí to the Sikhs and to all others who are interested ? Why not teach that we should follow ‘The One’ and our ‘Eternal Guru’, the Guru Granth Sahib ?

Why do we not break our links with the self appointed holy men of the ‘sant samaj’ ? Why do we not formulate a policy that will finally implement a practical model of ‘Guru Granth – Guru Panth’ ? Why do we not abolish the present rule by politicians, pradhans, jathedars and babe ?

Why do we not explain to the world-wide panth that Guru never waged war on dodgy god-men and that Guru would condemn useless practices anywhere ? Guru would condemn our present rituals and rules that are neither based on the Guru Granth Sahib nor on the Sikh Rehat Maryada.

Why do we not explain that the Guru Granth Sahib says that ultimately the test is whether a person has Godly behaviour, and that running amok in the streets of Panjab, forcing shops to close like a bunch of hooligans is neither Godly nor Sikhí behaviour.

Of course the Panjab Police was totally out of order firing on the demonstration, even in India there is no death penalty on being in a demo. But I do not understand why the people killed are called shahíds.

Was the demonstration about protecting the oppressed ? Were the demonstrators fighting against injustice ? The answer to both questions is no. Being killed, even being killed unjustly, does not make you a shahíd. This is what ‘Baba Dhumma’ had to say : “We are against Ashutosh as his followers popularise him as a reincarnation of Guru Nanak Dev, Lord Rama and Jesus Christ. We cannot buy this.”

Well ‘Baba Dhumma’, you do not have to buy this, nobody is forced to follow any of these idiotic sant-babas. The fact that so many people, Sikh and Hindu, follow these idiotic ‘religious leaders’ shows you the poor state of both the Sikh and the Hindu dharm in Panjab.