Friday, March 20, 2009

Sikhs make Guinness size statement with Blood

More than three hundred years after the tenth Sikh Master, Guru Gobind Singh ji, founded the Khalsa amid the hilly terrains of Sri Anandpur Sahib, this holy town once again gift wrapped another great gift to the humanity from the Sikh community -- the world's largest ever blood donation camp.

As long serpentine queues of hundreds of donors on Hola Mohalla, March 11 2009, continued till late Tuesday night, each over enthusiastic to stress Sikhism's message of universal brotherhood and welfare of all (Sarbat Da Bhala), blood unit count crossed the figure of 20,000 and could well have touched 25,000, shattering the earlier Guinness Book record of 13,000 plus units collected in a single day.

Backed by Sri Akal Takht Sahib and other Sikh temporal seats, and enjoying patronage of more than a hundred Sikh organisations, the blood donation drive broke all barriers of age, gender, caste and economic status as young and old, poor and rich, men and women awaited patiently their turn to make a statement with blood at a time when much of it is being shed across the world in the name of religion.

At a time when rest of India was busy playing Holi with colors or cow dung, the Sikh community was making a statement with this drive. 25,000 units of blood in flat 24 hours was the target, and the organizers, led from the front by Akal Purakh Ki Fauj outfit, had made sure that all mandatory requirements of the administrators of Guinness Records are fulfilled and cameras keep a record of all donors, quality checks are stringent, medical care at its best and safe blood keeping practices are followed.

The sheer scale of logistics was mind boggling as the camp spilled over on to two lakh square feet of makeshift tents, 700 beds divided in 14 blocks of 50 beds each, and averaging 2,500 donations in one hour. All this effort was possible, thanks to an army of 8,000 volunteers, 3000 paramedical staff and 100 doctors deployed for the camp. Army personnel from Jalandhar and Chandi Mandir were among the teams collecting units.

The Holla Mohalla festival attracts lakhs of pilgrims from all over Punjab and the rest of the country and is the festival of truth, courage, bravery and service. The milling crowds of Sikhs who came to know of the camp added largely to the success of the effort, monitored for Guinness record purposes.

Sikh enthusiasts had come from, thanks to the massive mobilization campaign to ply blood donors, as far as Maharashtra, UP, Uttarkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Haryana.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

London gurdwara gutted in racist attack

One of London's most important gurdwara, housing priceless religious books, has been gutted in a suspected racist attack in Britain, a news report said on Tuesday. Eye-witnesses on Tuesday said that a man, who entered the Gurdwara Sikh Sangat in East London, managed to escape just before flames were first seen. A group of women, who had spotted the intruder, tried to put out the raging flames in one of the holiest parts of the gurdwara, which was built at Bow in 1979.

Most of the gurdwara's roof collapsed and worshipers fear all but one of its eight holy books have been destroyed, the ‘Evening Standard’ newspaper said on Tuesday. Eye-witnesses described the suspected arsonist as being black or mixed-race. A worshiper said he had noticed racist graffiti on one of the gurdwara's outer walls in the past few weeks.

A criminal investigation has been launched and police and fire investigators are treating the blaze as suspicious. The building, which dates back to 1854 was formerly a synagogue and before that a chapel. The London Fire Brigade confirmed that 75 per cent of the building and the roof had been damaged by the fire.

"Police are treating this incident as suspicious," a Metropolitan police spokesman was quoted as saying by the British daily.

More than 50 firefighters battled the flame for almost eight hours after being called just after 2 p.m. yesterday, the report said.