Langar is one word that is being heard across the Delhi borders ever since the farmers started occupying them to protest the three anti-farmer laws of the Narendra Modi-led central government.
Langar is the community kitchen of the Sikh community, where the members of the community come together to cook food and feed the visitors for free of cost in gurudwaras. This community service is provided to every single visitor irrespective of their caste, class, gender, racial and ethnic identities. Equality is the nerve of langars. Everyone sits together to eat. The mission behind langars is, no one should go hungry. Many from the Sikh community volunteer to serve food in these vegetarian communal dining halls. Langars have a history of thousand five hundred years.
The service of langar is been in practice ever since the time of Guru Nanak the founder of Sikhism. The protesting farmers informed us of the history of this practice in Punjab. While the second guru, Angad was the one who started langar in Gurudwaras, the third guru of Sikhism, Guru Amar Das, gave langars form of a collective. He propagated that those starving even beyond the boundaries of Gurudwara should be fed. Devotees who came to visit Guru Amar Das had to eat before meeting him. This tradition of feeding those starving is still an integral part of the Sikh community.
A practice with such a novel and a rich history has had a very important role to play in the ongoing farmers’ protest. We have examples of many movements that have collapsed because they could not provide the protesters with food. Health-related emergencies at protest sites this large are common and in many cases, these emergencies harm the movements. Langars are helping this farmers’ movement to escape that danger. These langars announce every day and invite the protesters to eat. Food and tea provided at these langars have helped the farmers protesting to keep their struggle strong and going even in the harsh winters. Langars through providing food are not only taking care of the hungry stomachs but are also keeping up the spirits of the protesters.
Those visiting the protest sites are first guided towards the langars. This has been the case ever since November 26, 2020, when the farmers from Punjab gave a call for Delhi Chalo (let us go to Delhi). The numbers of langar have also gone up along with the numbers of the protesters. There are thousands of langars as of today feeding lakhs of protesters in the Singhu, Tikri, Shahajanpur, Gazipur, Chilla, Palval, Indraprastha borders of Delhi. Every Sikh adherent to the tenets of Sikhism provides ten percent of their salaries to langars and this is helping the langars at the protest site as well. The langars across the world are contributing to those being organised at the protest sites.
These langars are operational twenty-four hours, feeding those who are visiting the protest sites. They start functioning at four in the morning and go on till ten in the night. They don’t say no to anyone who is approaching them for food at any point- even post ten in the night. One finds several changes in these langars. Originally they were supposed to be community kitchens providing simple and basic food. There are unique langars at the protest sites: there are chai langar (tea langar), kheer ki langar (langar serving porridge), breakfast langar, lunch langar, evening snacks langar, burger langar, pizza langar, sweets langar, halwa and jalebi langar and many more. There are family langars as well. Family members of two or three families in villages have come together to run these langars.
The langars at the protest sites are not providing with just the food. They are also providing the protestors with toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shoe, slippers, clothes, cold cream, sanitary napkins, undergarments, and many such everyday necessities.
Translated by Yogesh S