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Sikh leaders protest over ‘forced conversions, marriages’ in Valley

Even as Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa and some other Sikh leaders reached Srinagar Monday, local Sikh leaders warned against “people from outside exploiting the situation for their political interests”.

Written by Bashaarat Masood | Srinagar |
Updated: June 29, 2021 7:51:56 am
religious conversion, religious conversion kashmir, religious conversion jammu protest, J&K religious conversion protest, sikh protest religious conversion, anti conversion, religious conversion law, Indian expressJago Party protested outside J&K House in Delhi Monday. (Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

FOLLOWING AN alleged forced interfaith marriage of a Sikh girl, which triggered local protests last week, Sikh leaders from outside Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) arrived here on Monday to protest against what they called “forced conversions and marriages” of girls from their community.

Even as Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa and some other Sikh leaders reached Srinagar Monday, local Sikh leaders warned against “people from outside exploiting the situation for their political interests”.

On Saturday, the local Sikh community had alleged that an 18-year-old Sikh girl was “forcibly married” to a Muslim man in Srinagar earlier this month. While the girl was inside a court here, her family and other members of the community staged a protest outside. The girl was later handed over to her parents.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Jagmohan Singh Raina, president of the All Party Sikh Coordination Committee in Kashmir, said police did not allow the girl’s parents to enter the court. “They (the girl’s parents) called some of their relatives and friends; other members of the Sikh community also arrived outside the court and started protesting,” he said.

“When I was informed, I called the Advisor to LG (Baseer Ahmad Khan, Advisor to Lt Governor Manoj Sinha). It was late in the evening. I also went to the court. The police officer there said the girl would be returned to the family, if the protesters dispersed… I convinced them (protesters) and the police returned the girl,” he said.

While police haven’t made an official comment on the issue, police sources said the girl was presented before the court to record her statement, and she told the magistrate that she had married of her own free will. The family members of the girl and the man were not available for comment on Monday.

Meanwhile, addressing a press conference in Srinagar, Sirsa alleged that four Sikh girls had been “forcibly converted and married” in Jammu and Kashmir, and demanded an “anti-conversion law”.

But local Sikh leaders said they were aware of only two such cases – last week’s incident, and an old case. “What can we do in that (old) case… They have valid conversion and marriage certificate,” said Raina.

A purported video clip of the old case was circulated on social media on Monday. In the clip, the woman, identifying herself as Dahmneet, said she converted in 2012 and married of her own free will in 2014.

Warning against “interference of outsiders”, Raina said: “The people from outside are exploiting the situation for their political interests. They want to worsen the situation here… The RSS people have already arrived here… We will not allow them to fan the situation. We have a strong bond with the majority community here.”

Meanwhile, a delegation of the Ulema Council met Sikh leaders at a gurdwara here. “On the direction of Mirwaiz (Umar Farooq) Sahib, we went to meet the Sikh leaders, including Sirsa. They were in a hurry as they had some other meeting,” said Syed Rehamn Shams, Secretary of the Muttahida Majlis Ulema (MMU). “We assured them a proper investigation into the incident and every effort to correct any wrong,” he said.

Raina said the Muslim leaders had delayed their response. “Why were they silent? They responded late. Their silence allowed the outsiders to exploit the situation,” he said. “Today, several leaders, including Mirwaiz (Umar Farooq) Sahib and Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam called me up,” he said.

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