Kodagu (Karnataka): A day after the Opposition BJP announced the boycott of Karnataka government’s birth anniversary celebrations of the 18th-century legendary king Tipu Sultan on Tuesday, stating that the king was a “religious bigot”, protests in the state’s Kodagu town turned violent, leading to the death of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) official.
Protests by Hindu outfits in Kodagu turned violent after stone pelting by angry mobs. In the clashes between the police and agitators, as many as three persons were reportedly injured and VHP’s Kodagu Organising Committee Secretary killed.
“It’s a total boycott on our part, no public representative from our party at any level should participate in the official function,” state BJP President Prahlad Joshi said on Monday. Describing Tipu Sultan as a “fanatic” and “anti-Kannada”, he said, “….we have 44 legislators, and it is a practice that wherever such events are organised local legislator presides over it. We have instructed our legislators that they should not preside over this event, they should not go on the dais.”
“As the party state President, I’m giving this instruction to all our party public representatives through the media. We will also be sending this instruction through all our district presidents and zonal office bearers,” he told reporters at Hubballi in north Karnataka.
Several organisations and individuals have opposed the state government’s move to celebrate ‘Tipu Sultan Jayanti’ on November 10, with a few threatening to disrupt the first-ever such government celebration.
Tipu was a ruler of the erstwhile kingdom of Mysore, who was considered an implacable enemy of the British East India Company. He was killed in May 1799 while defending his fort of Srirangapatna against the British forces.
Once again defending his government’s decision to organise ‘Tipu Jayanti’, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said RSS and “other communal forces” were opposing it. Speaking to reporters here, he said, “Tipu is a patriot, he fought against the British, in a sense freedom struggle began from three Mysore wars, he lost his life during the battle, and he had even pledged his son to British.” “RSS is unnecessarily trying to defame him, we will celebrate his Jayanti,” Siddaramaiah added.
“I have a deep interest in social justice, Catholic social teaching … and so to be part of something bigger than myself, my son and I chose to come to lunch here today to support and be a small part of a great thing."
When Pakistani immigrant Kazi Mannan came to the U.S. in 1996 as an impoverished young adult, he could only dream about success. He worked long hours in a series of tough jobs, saved money and learned everything he could about working and living in America.
His hard work paid off. After more than 20 years, he’s now a successful entrepreneur and owner of a popular Pakistani-Indian restaurant just a few blocks from the White House.
But what’s most remarkable about his story is what he’s doing in his restaurant every day.
Mannan offers free meals to the homeless and anyone else in need.
Paying it forward
He says it’s his way of heeding the principles of his Muslim faith.
“I know God is happy with me, what I do, because I do it with my pure heart, with my pure intention, to uplift others without seeking any reward, any recognition,” he says. “I don’t need any awards, I don’t need any money. I just want to please Him.”
Mannan helps the needy he says, because growing up poor in Pakistan, he knows what it’s like to be hungry.
“I have nine siblings and [we didn’t have] much to eat … when you are poor and you [don’t] have things that other people have, when you get it, you want to appreciate, you want to share with others,” he said.
His desire to share deepened as he worked as a limousine driver in the nation’s capital. He saw homeless people on the street, day and night, in all kinds of weather — looking for food in trash cans.
The experience had an impact.
“I don’t want to see another human being going through the poverty that I went through. I don’t want to see another human being going through the hunger that I went through. I want them to have that feeling that they were being accepted, so they can come and sit here and eat with respect,” he says.
Just like family
His message is simple. Come to Sakina Halal Grill, which is named after his late mother, ask for food, use the restroom, and sit for as long as you want.
“We will love you and respect you the same way we respect a paying guest. We will treat you like family,” he said.
Marchellor Lesueur, who is homeless, has been coming to the restaurant every day for the past eight months.
“I think that he’s a saint. He’s a beautiful man,” he says about Mannan. “My stomach was growling, I was looking for a blessing, then he popped up, gave me a card and invited me to a restaurant for lunch. And I was so overwhelmed and happy I couldn’t wait to get here, and ever since then I’ve been coming.”
Hegehiah Griakley is also a regular. He was finishing up a generous portion of rice and chicken, which he described as two meals in one.
“This is more than lunch,” he said. “They give you enough to feed you for the rest of the day I think. The food is great, the people are nice. I wouldn’t mind working here!”
Griakley says he once asked Mannan what he could give him in return for the free food. “Because most people expect you to give back.”
“But he said ‘no, no, no, no, no!’ He just wanted me to have a good meal,” he recalls. “I couldn’t believe that. It was so nice. I loved it.”
Mannan estimates that he’s provided more than 80,000 free meals since the restaurant opened in 2013.
And when he’s not feeding the needy in his restaurant, Mannan delivers meals to local shelters and churches, and organizes food and clothing drives at nearby parks.
“Some people tell me ‘homeless people are using drugs and you’re feeding them; that’s bad.’” To which he responds, “For you, it’s bad, for me, it’s joy. … I see a person who’s fallen to the ground. Whatever problem they went through to become homeless, it’s not my job to judge — my job is to give them respect and love.”
His paying customers are still his main business. Many of them contribute towards the free meals… and support his cause.
First time customer Geralyn Nathe-Evans was visiting from Minnesota when she read about Mannan’s mission in an article.
“I have a deep interest in social justice, Catholic social teaching … and so to be part of something bigger than myself, my son and I chose to come to lunch here today to support and be a small part of a great thing,” she said.
Mannan uses food as a way to help his fellow man, in practice of his faith. He urges others to do the same with their talents.
“If you’re a medical doctor, can you love him through your practice? If you are a lawyer, can you love him through your practice? Be kind and be compassionate to your client?” he asks.
In doing so, he believes “we will all prosper and flourish” as a society.
Meantime, he says he will continue to nourish both body and soul of all who walk through the door of his restaurant.
“Just uplifting others is a joy for me. It doesn’t matter [what] color, religion you belong to. We are all human. I am focusing on humanity. I’m bringing humanity together and this is my mission.” (VOA)