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How Bangla Sahib Gurdwara Feeds Hungry Protesters From Across India

Bangla Sahib, a shrine known for its association with Guru Har Krishan, the eighth Sikh Guru, is always open for the hungry and doesn’t discriminate between a pilgrim and a protestor.

Uday Singh Rana | News18.com

Updated:May 1, 2017, 4:58 PM IST
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How Bangla Sahib Gurdwara Feeds Hungry Protesters From Across India
Bangla Sahib is always open for the hungry and doesn’t discriminate between a pilgrim and a protestor. (Photo - Uday Singh Rana)
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New Delhi: History has been written and rewritten at the national capital’s Jantar Mantar because of the agitations that it has played host to. Some of these protests go on for days and weeks.

As they fight for a myriad causes, protesters, over the years, have turned to an iconic gurdwara near Jantar Mantar to help them survive these days and weeks.

Bangla Sahib, a shrine known for its association with Guru Har Krishan, the eighth Sikh Guru, is always open for the hungry and doesn’t discriminate between a pilgrim and a protestor.

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'In 1986, We served thousands of supporters of the Bharat Jodo movement'

‘From Baba Amte to Tikait, they all ate here’

Manjit Singh GK, president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), said both Bangla Sahib and Rakab Ganj Sahib gurdwaras have become the lifeline of protesters owing to their locations in Central Delhi.
In 1986, social activist Baba Amte led a ‘Bharat Jodo’ march all over the country. For two days, thousands of his supporters were camped out at Amar Jawan Jyoti. By the second day, they were running out of food, which is when they turned to us. Even back then, we were equipped to feed all his supporters.”

He added, “Two years later, Mahendra Singh Tikait of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) marched to Delhi with five lakh farmers. By evening, thousands of farmers used to throng both gurdwaras and go back to sleep at night. Some would even sleep in the courtyard. We are always more than willing to help.”

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'We are very proud of the cooks, who managed to hold their own and serve everybody'

‘Anna movement, a high point’

If there was ever a protest in recent times that brought the national capital to a standstill, it was Anna Hazare’s ‘India Against Corruption’ movement that lasted nine months, from April to December 2011. For Bangla Sahib, it was a busy few months. “There were protests happening almost every day. Thousands would come to eat just from the protests, in addition to the usual crowd that we get. I am very proud of the cooks that they managed to hold their own and serve everybody who came. Service is above everything else for us,” said GK.

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'Political affiliation ends at the entrance of the gurdwara; There’s no hatred here'

When Congress leader Ajay Maken hesitated to ask for help

“Whenever any political party holds a rally, all they have to do is give us a call and we will help them free of cost. From Nitish Kumar to Mayawati, we have worked to feed workers of every leader. Last year, Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken called me to ask for help. He said 4,000 women Congress workers would be marching near Jantar Mantar and he needed to feed them. He said he could only trust me but was hesitant to ask for help. When prodded, he confessed it had to do with the 1984. After all, we all know Congress’s role in the riots. I assured him that political affiliation ends at the entrance of the gurdwara. There’s no hatred.”

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'The Gurudwara was godsend for us'

‘Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, a godsend for us’

During the recent 40-day long protest by the drought-hit farmers from Tamil Nadu, the gurdwara was an unexpected ally. “In the first ten days of the protest, we would have died of starvation had it not been for the kind people at Bangla Sahib. When public toilets were getting overcrowded, some of us walked for 15 minutes to the gurdwara and used the toilets there. When there was no food, we would eat at the langar. It was godsend for us. It kept us alive in those days,” said 63-year-old S Jayaraman, who has a loan of Rs 8 lakh to repay.

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'We work ten-hour shifts and feed 8,000 people in a day from this kitchen'

‘We feed 8,000 people a day’

Meet 40-year-old Gurbhajan Singh, one of the Langris (cooks) at Bangla Sahib. For ten hours every day, he does not get a spare minute. “I have dedicated my life to this gurdwara. We work ten-hour shifts and feed 8,000 people in a day from this kitchen. There are 35 mulazims (employees) here but most of the work is done by volunteers. On Sunday, the number of volunteers can go up to 200.”

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'We have even managed to accommodate 10,000 people at a time'

‘From lodging to toilets, Bangla Sahib has it all’

“Many protesters are here for days. We have rooms and dormitories on rent for a nominal price but for those who can’t even afford to pay Rs 100 a night, we lay out mattresses in the halls. We have even managed to accommodate 10,000 people at a time,” said GK.

ALSO READ | 1,000-Hour Protest: How Tamil Nadu Farmers Shook Conscience of New Delhi

As protesting farmers from Tamil Nadu pointed out, the gurdwara was also their savior, owing to the lack of public toilets. Lahkbir Singh, in-charge of cleaning the toilets said, “I head a team of eight people here. We work in shifts of ten hours and I supervise the work. Apart from the toilets, we have a bathing area upstairs. It is for everyone to use.”

| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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