A New York man and his son, both of whom are Sikhs, are raising funds to purchase land for Muslims in Nadala, a mainly Sikh village of 7,000 people located in the northern Indian state of Punjab, to build their own mosque.
Nearly 300 Muslim families live in the area, but the village does not have a formal Islamic prayer space which forces families to pray in shifts in the back of a shop.
After hearing of the plight of the Muslim residents in Nadala, Darshan Singh‘s and Jagpreet Singh established a GoFundMe fundraiser on November 15, which has so far raised more than $1,600 of the total $10,000 to purchase the land.
“I thought it was a great time to use that as an example of how our communities can come together to do something good and impactful, specifically around an issue we really identify with – religion, pilgrimage, and having a place to go home,” Jagpreet Singh explained.
The region of Punjab played a central part in the inter-religious conflicts that emerged after India gained independence from the British Empire in 1947 and the subsequent partition of India and Pakistan into rival states that immediately followed.
The partition split the former British province of Punjab between India and Pakistan. The mostly Muslim western part of the province became Pakistan’s Punjab province; the mostly Hindu and Sikh eastern part became India’s East Punjab state. Many Hindus and Sikhs lived in the west, and many Muslims lived in the east, and the fears of all the minorities were so great that the partition saw many people displaced and intercommunal violence become commonplace.
Since the partition more than 70 years ago, multiple wars have been fought by the now-nuclear armed militaries of India and Pakistan and between 10–12 million people were have been displaced along religious lines, which cost the lived of up to 2 million people.
Despite the tensions, a recent historic bilateral deal was reached between New Delhi and Islamabad to open up a corridor that connects Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Punjab with the Kartarpur Gurdwara in Pakistan’s half of the Punjab which would allow Sikh pilgrims from India to visit the site where Sikhism’s founder, Baba Guru Nanak, is believed to have died.
“This project calls upon a legacy of spiritual solidarity that is not unique to the region, but a legacy that has been lost in many ways in modern history”, explained a Pakistani Muslim based in New York City who has anonymously donated to the campaign.
After the purchase of the property, the father and son duo will return to Nadala to help construct the building.