A UK-based international NGO Khalsa Aid’s tweet responding to a woman who questioned the Sikh group for helping Rohingya Muslims at the Myanmar border has earned praise.
“I can see that you are going to Myanmar border to feed Rohingyas. Can you also go to Pakistan to save Sikhs paying jizya?” Sonam Mahajan, who has over a million followers and describes herself “politically aware Dogra Hindu”, tweeted to Khalsa Aid on Monday. Jizya is a protection tax minorities paid in Muslim-ruled states historically, but there is no evidence of it being applied now in Pakistan by the country’s government.
The group, which has been providing food and shelter to the Rohingya minority fleeing violence in Myanmar, responded: Not only Sikhs we also assisted Hindus too during the 2005 earthquake & 2009 SWAT crises. .and you (sic)?
The NGO’s volunteers had last week set up a daily langar service for 30,000 to 50,000 people in Teknaf, a border town of Myanmar and Bangladesh . Their aim was to build stable and secure shelters for the refugees after the Bangladesh government allots land for migrants.
Khalsa Aid’s retort was hailed by Twitter users, with some accusing Mahajan of ‘cheap publicity’ and others commending the NGO’s act as “humanity first”.
“We have seen people living in the camps or open ground. The wet weather is making their lives even worse… It is an international human crisis,” Amarpreet Singh, the managing director of the Indian wing of the charity organisation, told Australian radio broadcaster SBS Punjabi last week.
Stating that langar is a core part of the Sikh faith, Singh said that there was no “timeline” for their efforts and they would continue to provide care for the refugees “until the crisis is over”.
Communal violence has torn through Myanmar’s Rakhine state since August 25, leaving hundreds dead and driving more than 410,000 of the Rohingya minority from Myanmar into Bangladesh. Members of the 1.1 million minority, who identify themselves by the term Rohingya, are seen by many Myanmar Buddhists as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Mahajan online presence often includes posts with anti-Islam rhetoric. Her account has reportedly been suspended by Twitter previously for alleged racist rants.
Since the Twitter exchange on Monday, Khalsa Aid has posted a video of the NGO helping Yazidi refugees in Iraq since 2014.
Earlier this year, the Sikh community rallied to extend food, water and shelter to many tourists and others stranded after terror attacks in London, repeating the community’s widely appreciated help after the May 22 attack in Manchester.