Bengaluru, July 2— “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history,” Mahatma Gandhi had once said. Some individuals from different faiths recently joined hands to present a good example of how India’s Unity in Diversity can work in a crisis.
The cost of India’s Coronavirus-enforced lockdown was borne by millions of the poor. Tens of thousands of migrant workers in big cities had no option but to trek hundreds of kilometres back to their villages in rural India. A month later when the trains started, thousands of others rushed to go back home and on this arduous journey they were helped by people of different faiths.
Here is a story of India’s unity in diversity – of all faiths standing together in a crisis.
This documentary by Pluc TV/South Asia Monitor with support of Frank Islam Foundation highlights how Unity in Diversity worked best in Bengaluru when people from different faiths joined hands to help distressed migrant workers.
While countless stories have emerged of hunger and misery of the migrant workers across the country, there are many who sought to make a difference to ensure migrant workers have enough food and water for the journey. They were teams of voluntary groups who were working at railway stations. All these voluntary groups from different faiths came together to help those in distress.
Meet Musadiq Saab, a 69-year-old volunteer with Mercy Mission – a group of 20 NGOs in India’s IT hub of Bengaluru. The mission has been working with the state government, running a migrant helpline and supplying food at the Bengaluru railway station. Musadiq Saab has been volunteering daily but also tries to do a little extra. From his own savings, he buys milk and juice packets for the women and children.
Musadiq Saab, volunteer with Mercy Mission, says: “To help a person in need is like helping oneself. We are all happy and proud of this. They are like my children. In fact, they are my children.”
Inspired by his spirit and determination, more volunteers decided to pitch in.
United Sikhs, a Sikh voluntary group, rolled up their sleeves to help. The group started distribution of dry rations and snack kits to the migrants as cooked food might get spoiled on the long journeys back to their villages.
M J Singh, a volunteer with the United Sikhs, says: “There are five to ten thousand migrants who are coming in daily. And they are in a sorry state. There are children as young as five days, pregnant women and other vulnerable people travelling. For them our team at United Sikhs made care packages with sanitary pads, milk for children, dry fruits and dry rations are also included. We pack food that lasts a while so that they can have it till they reach home.”
Akshaya Patra, a voluntary service organisation supported by The Hare Krishna Movement, also pitched in with snack kits and cookies for these migrant workers.
These groups also supplied the migrant trains with sanitizers, soaps and masks.
Heena Jain, a volunteer with Akshaya Patra, says: “During this pandemic, we can at least ensure that all the passengers travelling are getting food that can satiate their hunger. It gives me inner pleasure when I walk back home after doing this work. And I look forward to doing it again the next day.”
Others were also moved by the plight of migrant workers and decided to do something about it.
Rahul George and his friends set up a WhatsApp group called ‘Loving The Migrant Worker’. In just one week, Christians from over 50 different cities in India joined the group. They reached out to other groups working on the ground and started distributing food and relief to migrant workers in a coordinated manner.
Rahul George of the Loving The Migrant Worker, says: “One of the greatest learnings is to work with a spirit of unity with other faiths. Generally, we do things within our own faith but this is a huge learning experience for us. We have seen some great examples amongst Sikhs, Muslims, Jains and Hindus. To learn from them has been a wonderful thing.”
Coronavirus may have set off an economic and humanitarian crisis but thanks to the united spirit of India, visible at places like railway stations, highways and bus terminals, thousands of poor people were offered food and succour that went a long way in mitigating their woes and no one cared if they were Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists or Dalits.