In gratitude, Kashmir market showers discounts to Sikh brethern

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by Umar Khurshid

SRINAGAR: In a bid to acknowledge the exemplary human spirit that the population and groups in Punjab exhibited in the aftermath of Lethpora attack, snowmobile operators have announced sixty per cent discount to the Sikh visitors in Gulmarg.

A group of Sikhs riding the snowmobile at Gulmarg on Feb 20, 2019

The move was announced through a short video clip that went viral on social media on Wednesday.

The video shows on social media, a few Sikh families getting into the snowmobile and a man behind the camera talks about the concession given to them. “The ride costs in thousands, but we are taking just Rs 400, which is the cost of the petrol,” the commentator says.

The video came days after various groups in Punjab and even in Jammu opened their wallets, resources, homes and gurdwaras for the Kashmiri students and traders who were being pushed home from various states including Uttrakhand.

Stranded Kashmiris heading back home in a bus arranged by Khalsa Aid. (Photo Courtesy Khalsa Aid)

In the aftermath of the car bomb attack on Thursday last in which 49 CRPF personnel lost their lives, be it a trader, student, businessmen or the employees working in private companies outside were chased by the mobs in various states. In certain cases, the educational institutions locked their hostels and sent the students home and assured the attacking mobs that they will never admit Kashmiri students in future. The hate attacks were reported from Jammu (part of the state where curfew was imposed), Uttrakhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar and, more recently in West Bengal.

It was a key Sikh NGO that ensured that all the students from the neighbouring states are transported to their safe locations in Punjab wherefrom they were driven to Jammu and Kashmir. These included a number of girl students also. The effort put in by the community has been widely hailed by the people in Kashmir. The Gulmarg discount is being seen as a gentle acknowledgement of the efforts that the volunteers and the people put in regardless of the politics that started in the aftermath of the attack.

Kashmir’s leading newspaper used a cartoon showing a Sikh man helping a Kashmiri from drowning. It was viral on social media.

BJP leader Prakash Javedkar has told media: “There is no threat to Kashmiri students as it is being made out to be. Countrymen are angry because of Pulwama attack, but no Kashmiri student has been assaulted (as a result).”

But the commentator in the viral video makes it clear that how “these Sardar families” saved “our children, our boys, our daughters” when some people who say Kashmir is part of India were “slaying it”.

Gulmarg remains busy during winters. Winter sports lovers from across the globe arrive for skiing and snowboarding as the winter sets in. Surrounded by the western Himalayas, Gulmarg is dotted with skiers from across the globe. The place known for the powdery snow outside the Alps is also being called the Heartland of winter sport.

A team of Khalsa Aid volunteers in Dehradun made arrangements for the groups of students to reach Mohali safely. On arrival, they were provided with fresh hot meals and accommodation to stay. 

One of the members from Snow Mobile Association Gulmarg (SMAG) and Guide Association Gulmarg (GAG) told this reporter that amid the reports of violence and riots, Kashmir is being portrayed in a negative way, despite the fact that Kashmir is known for the hospitality over the world.

Both the associations in collaboration have started the fare concession to the visitors from outside the valley. “There is no discrimination in proving the facilities to the visitors, be it a Muslim, Hindu or Sikh, the facilities we provide is for everybody,” one of the employees belonging to the association said.

“Apart from the fair concession, the associations have provided them free transport and also offered iron chains for the tyres, to avoid the slip on the Tangmarg-Gulmarg road,” he said. “It is a new stand from us from today, and we will hopefully continue to serve our guests well.”

Talking about the biased media that has portrayed Kashmir negatively, he said people of Kashmir are very sensitive towards the hospitality sector and will do anything to ensure their safety.

Days after Sikhs showed their gratitude, the social media is jammed with the gratitude and offers by the Kashmiris to Sikh families. From discounts on shopping to free coaching and medical treatment offers, Kashmiri Muslims are showering their affection on Sikh brethren for their bravery.

A group of Sikh men from Khalsa Aid  helping the students in Uttrakhand, Image source: Facebook

Across social media platforms, the Sikh community is being hailed for sheltering and helping Kashmiri Muslims under attack from mobs in Jammu and other states of the country.

In south Kashmir, a number of pharmacies and coaching centres have offered the special discount to Sikh families, while some of them have offered free coaching to the Sikh wards.

In Anantnag district of south Kashmir, a number of readymade garments shops, photo studios, hotels, mobile accessories shops and other provisional stores and diagnostic centres rained special offers on them.

Apart from the offers and discounts, several Kashmiri Muslims appealed for donations to a Sikh organization like Khalsa Aid International.

Pertinently, the Khalsa Aid, a UK based International humanitarian relief organisation has helped Kashmiris reach their homes apart from providing them shelter and food as frenzied mobs went on a rampage in Jammu, Uttrakhand, Bihar and other states of India and targeted Kashmiri students and businessmen.

Apart from the common masses, the Sikh community was hailed by the politicians as well. The former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and National conference Vice president Omar Abdullah appreciated the community for ensuring the safety of Kashmiris and said; “The Sikh Sangat has gone above & beyond the call of duty in reaching out & helping Kashmiris in distress, whether in Jammu or outside the state. A special thanks to @capt_amarinder Sahib for his statesmanship in ensuring security & safety for Kashmiris.”

A cartoon by the senior Cartoonist showing a Sikh man helping the another person from drowning

The PDP president and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti said she was surprised to receive screenshots of Kashmiris expressing gratitude to Sikh community for helping frantic students, adding that the “media will turn a blind eye” into it.

“I salute our Sikh brethren who came to the aid of young Kashmiris all over the country. Admire their exemplary spirit to serve with utmost dignity & fortitude.” Mehbooba wrote on her twitter handle.

The senior separatist leader and Hurriyat (g) chairman Syed Ali Geelani thanked the Sikh community for their moral, physical, financial and timely support. He said that this gesture of humanity and universal brotherhood by Sikh community will be remembered by every conscious soul especially Kashmiris and we as a nation are indebted to it.

Meanwhile, All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) has asked the people to maintain communal harmony and brotherhood all over the country.

“People who visited Kashmir in the recent past as tourists should take the initiative and come up as ambassadors of peace,” APSCC Chairman Jagmohan Singh Raina said, adding that it is highly unfortunate that Kashmiris are being targeted in different parts of the country for no fault of theirs.

Raina said that as elections are approaching political parties would try their best to exploit the emotions of commoners thus leading to hardships to people of Kashmir putting up in various areas of India for different reasons. “No sane person would be happy with death and gore but that doesn’t mean that innocent people are targeted in reaction to any blast or similar action carried out by militants,” Raina said.

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