Shikarpur’s Sikhs serve humanity beyond religion

Community providing aid to poor finding survival hard in lockdown, PPE to doctors

PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI:
Setting an example of humanity transcending religion, the Sikh community in Shikarpur has proactively participated in relief efforts initiated in the wake of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, to aid the needy and destitute.

With multiple calls for providing assistance to the poor in these trying times, a group of Sikh activists took it upon itself to distribute rations, masks and sanitisers, make arrangements for the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers and raise awareness about the hazardous effects of the coronavirus among the masses.

"The relief campaign was planned at the house of one of our members in Shikarpur and it has been two months since then," Pakistan Sikh Sewa Society founder and chairperson Sardar Ram Singh told The Express Tribune.

PHOTO: EXPRESS


According to Singh, they had begun with distributing 5,000 sanitiser bottles, 3,000 masks and countless ration bags. However, he estimates that around 200 families of daily-wage workers, who were home-bound and out of work during the lockdown, were provided ration in Ramazan alone.

He said that local businessmen, including even Hindus and Muslims, had responded to their calls for donations and contributed generously for the cause, and hence, they were able to continue to distribute rations.

The activists have now expanded relief activities to cover Jacobabad, Kandhkot, Khanpur, Sultan Kot, Lakhi Wazirabad and other areas near Shikarpur.

"We have formed a committee to list down the poor [in each area], and those identified before Eid were approached and provided Eid gifts comprising kitchen utensils," said Dr Sagarjeet Singh, another prominent member of the campaign.

However, their relief activities did not stop at aiding daily-wage workers.


PHOTO: EXPRESS


"When doctors began protesting the shortage of PPE, we bought around 200 kits consisting of gowns, face shields, surgical masks and gloves," said Dr Sagarjeet, adding that of the procured PPE, 100 kits were distributed among district administrations to be delivered to doctors at public hospitals and the rest were supplied to local doctors practicing privately.

But this religious harmony is not new to Sindh.

According to Ram, there are around 50,000 Sikhs living in Pakistan, with 10,000 in Sindh and approximately 250 in Shikarpur, all living in harmony with Muslims for years.

"I and my entire family buy new clothes on every Eid to celebrate the festive occasion with Muslims and in Muharram we don black clothes to mourn the demise of Hussain (RA)," said Ram. "Likewise, Muslims celebrate Holi and Diwali wholeheartedly."

"This brotherhood and harmony is also witnessed when, while travelling via local transport, we vacate our seats for one other and it is nothing out of the ordinary," he added.

Besides engaging in relief efforts, the Sikh community in the region, under the banner of the Pakistan Sikh Sewa Society, has for years been working on promoting education and providing drinking water, sanitation facilities and furniture to schools, in addition to distributing books, pencils, bags and other items among students from low-income backgrounds.

PHOTO: EXPRESS


"This [the coronavirus pandemic] is a national emergency, a war-like situation. We realise that we have to fight it putting religious differences, caste and creed aside," underlined Ram, adding that three people among the Sikh community in Shikarpur had tested positive for the virus so far.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2020.
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