Tuesday (April 27) marked the birthday of monkey God, who is deeply revered by the Hindus.
Hanuman is an integral part of the Hindu mythology. He was a companion of Lord Ram, the emperor of Ayodhya, and helped in rescuing his wife Sita who was abducted by Ravan, the king of Lanka.
The legend holds that during the fight between Ram and Ravan when the former’s brother got seriously injured, Hanuman flew far across to find the herb that saved his life.
In one of the crudest jokes, Hanuman, is often described as a Sikh who risked his life for the sake of others. The irony is that there is nothing to laugh about it really as the Sikhs have always stood for others without discrimination because that is what Sikhism teaches its disciples.
The Sikhs’ daily prayer concludes with a petition for the betterment of entire mankind. Apart from that, Sikhism was founded on the principles of equality and human rights. Sikhs are known to serve free food to all without considering one’s caste or ethnic background.
Moreover, the ninth master of the Sikhs, Guru Teg Bahadur, had actually laid down his life to save Hindus from religious persecution by the Muslim rulers.
Bhai Kanhayia, a Sikh disciple of the tenth master Guru Gobind Singh, distributed water to the injured soldiers on the battlefield from both sides, thus laying the foundation of Red Cross much earlier.
The joke that is frequently shared about the relationship of Sikhs with Hanuman is therefore meaningless when the community has a tradition of taking care of everyone.
While Hanuman has always been portrayed as a kind soul in the oral tradition, supporters of the currently ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP have reinvented his image as an angry and a militant figure to instil fear in the minds of minorities, particularly Muslims and incite Hindu youths to resort to violence.
As part of its agenda to establish Hindu theocracy, these same supporters started the process much before the BJP came to power with a majority in 2014. The attacks on religious minorities have grown since then.
Though the BJP sees Sikhs as part of the Hindu fold and denies its separate identity, the party's supporters have been spewing venom against Khalsa Aid, a Sikh humanitarian organization known for helping people in crisis across the globe.
What has made BJP upset is that Khalsa Aid had tried to help Rohingya Muslims affected by ethnic violence in Myanmar and also rescued Kashmiri Muslims from the wrath of Hindu fanatics in India. It was the thanklessness of the BJP to overlook the humanitarian work done by the group for Hindus during catastrophes. So much so, BJP apologists and right-wing media outlets tried to label Khalsa Aid volunteers as Sikh separatists. They were also accused of helping terrorists when they served langar (the community kitchen) to farmers who have been agitating for their rights in India since November.
Unfazed by such mudslinging and demonizing, Khalsa Aid volunteers have stepped in to assist the Indian citizens while the country has entered a major humanitarian crisis caused by the shortage of oxygen while COVID-19 cases continue to spike. They have launched a WhatsApp helpline as the Indian state has failed to help its people.
Khalsa Aid is doing what the Sikh Gurus expected their followers to do—and BJP supporters should be ashamed for maligning them.
Even Hanuman, who brought a lifesaving herb to the brother of Lord Ram, would be angry at the way Khalsa Aid was slandered. It is time for Hindu nationalists to do some soul searching and be thankful to Khalsa Aid. They should ask for forgiveness from Hanuman, who would probably be outraged over their sectarian politics of terrorizing minorities and remaining incapable of serving the people through good governance.
Appropriating Hindu Gods and using religion to divide people isn't the right approach. Not only is the BJP government is misinterpreting Hinduism to misguide voters, but it's also wasting public money on religious affairs and denying health care its due.
Why does the country lacks sufficient oxygen despite tall claims of development? It's mainly because the government funds are being exhausted on temple politics.
It’s time for the BJP to deliver, and if it can't, at least show some respect to Khalsa Aid, which has come to the help of a nation torn apart by those in power.