The government on Friday held out an assurance that Sikhs had nothing to fear in Kashmir in the wake of reported threats to the minority community from militants to convert to Islam or leave the Valley,an issue that triggered concern in Parliament.
The threat also evoked sharp condemnation from Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal,who urged Prime Minster Manmohan Singh to take remedial steps for the safety of the Sikhs in Kashmir. The 60,000-strong Sikh community is the single largest minority group in the Kashmir Valley.
Home Minister P Chidambaram,Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna while addressing concerns voiced by NDA members in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha said nobody will be allowed to harm the Sikh community and that all necessary steps will be taken in this regard.
Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said the threat was absolutely unacceptable. She asserted the community would continue to stay in the Valley.
Chidambaram said he had spoken to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah,who has assured him that every effort would be made to provide adequate protection to Sikhs.
He told the Rajya Sabha: We are aware of the so-called threat. There is nothing to fear or nothing to worry.
NDA members had vociferously demanded a statement from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the reported threat after forcing two brief adjournments of the House on the issue.
Chidambaram said nobody would will be allowed to harm the
The Chief Minister had assured him that the rights of Sikhs will be fully protected and no harm would be allowed to come to them,he said.
Sikhs in the Kashmir Valley have reportedly received anonymous letters from militants asking them to either embrace Islam and join protests against civilian killings or pack up and leave the Valley.
Earlier,Akali Dal member Rattan Singh Ajnala raised the issue of threats to Sikhs in the Lok Sabha before the Question Hour asserting that his community members may choose to die than convert to Islam.
After his emotional outburst in the House,Mirza Mehboob Beg of the National Conference termed the threat by militants as against the ethos of Kashmir.
Mukherjee assured the House that government will take all necessary steps to ensure that no harm would come to Sikhs.
He said: Not only Muslims of Kashmir but the whole of India would rise as one to stand by the Sikh community.
In the Rajya Sabha,Krishna assured the members that the government would strive to protect the minorities but members appeared dissatisfied with the statement and insisted on a response from the Prime Minister. The matter was raised by Rajiv Pratp Rudy during Zero Hour.
S S Ahluwalia,BJP,said this assurance is regarding protection to Sikh community whereas the need of the hour is to create a congenial atmosphere.
Badal,while talking to reporters in Patiala,said he has already made contact with the Prime Minister,Omar Abdullah and Chidambaram on the safety of Sikhs in the Valley.
Badal said he has told SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar to send a team for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation.