THE OLD building of Jama Masjid, in the narrow streets of Field Ganj in Old City of Ludhiana, witnessed an unusual scene this Sunday.
A Hindu priest, P D Shukla, in saffron robes and a rudraksh mala in hand, was going around the mosque premises, asking people if they have had a proper meal. So was Manpreet Singh, a church pastor, as some Sikhs served food in the mosque’s verandah. The food was prepared in the community kitchen (langar) on the rooftop of the mosque. Close to 400 people — madrasa children, some Sikhs and labourers, too — were served food.
“Hi Langar, Goodbye World Hunger,” read the banner at the entrance of the mosque, put up by Sikh Press Association (SPA) and Basics of Sikhi, who chose the mosque as the venue to celebrate International Langar Week.
We want to spread the message of communal harmony as well as give a call to fight world hunger, said the representatives of the four communities.
Among the attendees was Tanvir Singh Dhaliwal, a Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) councilor, who said he accepted the invitation as it was for a noble cause.
“It is in the teachings of our Guru that serving food to the poor is supreme. I appreciate that the event was held in a mosque and I chose to attend it not as an Akali councilor but as a Sikh. Muslims always invite us for feast on Eid. It is good that this time Sikhs offered to serve langar in a mosque,” said Dhaliwal.
He said the ‘Dadri incident’, where a Muslim man was lynched on suspicion of storing and consuming beef, was a “blot on the nation as a whole”.
“It was ridiculous. Personally, I see it as a blot on the country which will be remembered for years to come,” said Dhaliwal.
As for Akali Dal ally, BJP, supporting beef ban in various states, Dhaliwal said, “I would not like to comment on it but personally such things should not happen.”
P D Shukla and Manpreet Singh said the Dadri incident should have been “tackled better”.
“People are not fighting; politicians are making them to do so. It is all a political game in the wake of Bihar polls. Food is everyone’s right, irrespective of religions,” said Singh.
“The man should not have been killed and culprits should be punished. Cow slaughter is a sin but killing a man is insane,” said Shukla.
Shahi Imam, Punjab, Maulana Habib Ur Rahman said, “It is for the first time that such a langar by Sikhs was proposed in our mosque and we readily agreed. Someone just asked me if people from other religions can enter a mosque. I replied ‘it is not khuda ka ghar (it is not God’s home), if all cannot come’. Politicians are going all out to divide the country but people should give them a befitting reply.”
Harjinder Singh Kukreja, trustee, SPA, and the organizer of the langar, said, “There is a debate over beef versus no beef but our purpose is just to fight world hunger. We feel world hunger is bigger issue than fighting over cows and beef.”