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Amaan Bali: Hemkunt Foundation Is Now The Target Of The Indian Right
While Hemkunt’s work has received international acclaim, including from Forbes and Time, it has also been the target of violence and misinformation campaigns by Hindutva forces
June 4, 2021 | 2.5 min. read | Opinion
Gurgaon-based Hemkunt Foundation has been in news for all the right reasons in the past six months. From providing nationally recognized oxygen aid to a gasping Delhi to building the largest tent cities at the Farmers’ Protest.
However, while Hemkunt’s work has received international acclaim, including from Forbes and Time, it has also been the target of violence and misinformation campaigns by Hindutva forces.
The recent goon attack on its facility may come as a shock to many - “why would anyone attack an organization saving lives?” - but not to Sikhs who have been watching baseless right-wing vitriol being thrown at its organizations over the last year. For example, Zee TV has accused the Noble Peace Prize-nominated Khalsa Aid of being a terrorist organization.
Following the goon attack, Harteerath Singh, Community Development Director at Hemkunt Foundation, told NDTV that he feels threatened.
The right-wing anger against Hemkunt Foundation was first seen when Indian cricketer Rohit Sharma donated to the organization. Because Hemkunt Foundation is supporting the Farmers’ Protest they are also “anti-nationals” goes the argument.
In my conversation with Harteerath Singh about the recent hate directed to the organization, he told me that the whole issue is politically motivated due to their relief work for the farmers.
It is alleged that there are individuals in the BJP who are close to the owner of the land on which Hemkunt Foundation has subleased for its central COVID-19 facility. Goons used to ransack the facility and threaten volunteers as well as Harteerath Singh of dire consequences if they did not stop providing aid. After the attack, right-wing social media accounts - some of which are followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself - began spreading misinformation about Hemkunt.
For example, this Twitter thread has made baseless accusations, some of which are commonly made against other Sikh aid organizations too.
First, it is alleged that there are no patients at this facility. That is because it was not supposed to be a hospital, but rather at a transitory COVID care facility to bridge the gap between hospital care and home care.
Second, it is alleged that the facility was being used to store food. While storing food is not a crime, and not contrary to any lease agreement, Hemkunt Foundation has been serving food aid packets in 12 different states through sister organizations, or state-led organizations, as India fights issues of food security during the pandemic.
Third, the allegation that there are luxury vehicles with MH numbers parked at the site is also baselessly inflammatory. Manufacturers have lent the vehicles for the purpose of humanitarian work and food transportation, as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives. This is all documented with Mahindra and Mercedes.
Fourth, there have been no complaints by the SDM or police, in fact, they have visited many times since the facility has been up and running.
It is unfortunate that during these trying times Sikh organizations leading the charge in providing aid across India, like Hemkunt Foundation, have been targeted because of aiding farmers exercising what would be basic democratic rights anywhere else in the world. After the intervention from the DC, Hemkunt has withdrawn from the site, and Harteerath Singh is seeking security as he has identified the people that threatened him.
It is encouraging, however, that Sikh institutions and leaders, including the SGPC, have stood with Hemkunt Foundation in seeking justice for the attacks they have faced and highlighting the double standards Sikhs continue to face in India.
Amaan Bali is born and raised in Kashmir. He is an entrepreneur and author of the upcoming book, “Growing up on the right side of Kashmir History”. You can find him on Twitter at @amaanbali.
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