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Beheading of Sikhs causes gloom in the Gurdwara Panja Sahab

world Updated: Feb 24, 2010 01:56 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times
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A sense of gloom has settled in the Gurdwara Panja Sahab located in Hasan Abdal, a small town on the GT Road, an hour's drive from Islamabad.

Instead of Sikh pilgrims from India, who were expected to arrive at the Gurdwara on Tuesday, arrangements are being made for a possible exodus of Sikhs from Swat, the restive area where the community is being targeted by the local Taliban militia.

"We were hoping for festivity but instead are getting another somber reminder of the on-ground realities," said Harmain Singh, a local resident. The Sikh pilgrims from India cancelled their visit to Panja Sahab after news surfaced of the beheading of two Sikhs from Swat earlier this week.

Now arrangements are being made for a possible influx of Sikhs from the tribal areas and from Swat Valley, which is three hour's drive from the temple.

On Tuesday, the small Sikh community received another shock when it was one revealed that one more member was allegedly kidnapped by the Taliban in the Swat valley.

Unconfirmed reports said that a local Swat resident, Robin Singh, had been kidnapped by the Taliban and a ransom note had been delivered to his family. Local police officials say that the note had demanded Rs50 lakh as ransom from the family. Earlier, the kidnappers had demanded Rs1.5 crore.

This is the fourth incidence of kidnapping of Sikh community members in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. Two Sikhs were beheaded last week when their families refused to pay ransom money ranging from Rs1 crore to Rs3 crore by the Taliban. These were Jaspal Singh and Mahal Singh

A letter found with the body of Jaspal Singh warned his relatives and other Sikhs against disclosing the case to the media.

The letter also threatened the community with suicide attacks if the details of the beheading and kidnapping were revealed to the media or security forces.

Two other companions of the deceased, Gorwandar Singh and Surjeet Singh, are still being held captive by the militants, the report said.

Militants in Orakzai and Tirah Valley have been charging non-Muslim residents 'Jazia' or Islamic Tax on the pretext of providing security to them in the area. Their refusal to pay the same may have led to the kidnappings, say local observers.

Suran Singh of the Pakistan Gurdwara Parbhan-dak Committee fears that the trend of kidnapping will only drive away the Sikhs from the area.

"Most cannot pay the high ransoms that are being demanded," he says.