Langar as an institution is so important to Sikhs that they’ve sacrificed their lives in order to maintain it.
#LangarWeek – an article by Shamsher Singh of NSYF.
On 31st October 1922 as ਸਾਕਾ ਪੰਜਾ ਸਾਹਿਬ (Saka Panja Sahib); ਸਾਕਾ (saka – historic event where rare courage and valour was displayed). This saka (demonstration) displayed the indomitable spirit of the Sikhs in a unique and explicitly Sikh way.
It personified and made tangible the sovereignty of mind and body that was bestowed upon the downtrodden people of Punjab when they became the Sikhs of the Guru; it displayed the transformation of an individual Sikh into a member of the Khalsa Panth and the price we will willingly pay for the love we bear for the Guru and his beloved Sikhs.
When the Sikhs that lived around Panja Sahib heard that the train carrying the prisoners from the morcha (protest) would be passing through the nearby town of Hassan Abdul, they gathered at the station in the early morning with langar. They were told by a colonial station officer that the train would not be stopping and that they were wasting their time. The gathered Sikhs asked the agent of the occupier if the train could be stopped briefly so that they could serve langar to the elders.
As all requests made to the oppressor, this one too fell on deaf ears. Bhai Karam Singh (in his late twenties) sat down on the tracks. It is recorded that Bhai Karam Singh said, “Guru Nanak stopped a boulder with one hand, there’s so many of us here today, we can easily stop the train“. Bhai Partaap Singh (aged 24) sat down next to him.
My parents told me that before long Sikhs were fighting to sit at the front near Bhai Karam Singh and Bhai Partaap Singh. Mothers were sitting down with their children. As the train approached the Sikhs were shouting jaikareh.
Like all machinery of the oppressor, the Train only stopped when it couldn’t get through the mangled bodies of those that resisted.
The word ਲੰਗਰ (langar) has it’s origins in the Punjabi word for anchor. Shaheed Bhai Karam Singh and Shaheed Bhai Partaap Singh realised the significance of langar; it’s what rooted them to the ground in front of that train.
Whether it was in the 18th century when Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh gave langar to Sikh jujaroos and was scalped for it, or the 20th century when Sikh families in Punjab served langar to Khalistani freedom fighters only to become targets of state terror, langar has always gone hand in hand with Sikh revolution and Sikhs have willingly embraced it’s reality as active participants within the sangharsh (struggle for liberation).