Protests against ‘conversion’ of 18-year-old in Srinagar intensify

Updated on Jun 29, 2021 01:24 AM IST

The stir began on Sunday after police said that the Sikh woman, a resident of Srinagar, was allegedly abducted by a 29-year-old Muslim man. There was, however, no clarity on whether the woman had converted to Islam of her free will or if the abduction charges were genuine.

People hold a protest against the alleged forced conversion of a woman in Srinagar, in New Delhi. (Ajay Aggarwal/HT Photo)
People hold a protest against the alleged forced conversion of a woman in Srinagar, in New Delhi. (Ajay Aggarwal/HT Photo)
By, Hindustan Times, Srinagar

Protests over the alleged abduction of an 18-year-old Sikh woman intensified in Srinagar on Monday with the leaders of the agitation demanding an anti-conversion law in the Union Territory and prominent Kashmiri politicians calling for a thorough probe and appealing for calm.

The stir began on Sunday after police said that the Sikh woman, a resident of Srinagar, was allegedly abducted by a 29-year-old Muslim man. There was, however, no clarity on whether the woman had converted to Islam of her free will or if the abduction charges were genuine.

Police said the man was arrested on kidnapping charges on Saturday, days after the woman’s parents filed kidnapping charges against the man. They also denied charges of conversion, a charge levelled by the protesters.

“The accused is under police remand. The girl was presented before court and she went with her family members,” said North Srinagar superintendent of police Mubasher Hussain. It wasn’t clear how the police narrowed down on the couple and the man’s relatives couldn’t be reached for a comment.

But the protesters weren’t satisfied, alleging that another Sikh woman was allegedly abducted by an older Muslim man and forcibly married off. Police didn’t confirm this allegation amid reports that a second woman had come forward and claimed to have converted to Islam of her own volition.

“ We will not tolerate forced bikah and conversions of Sikh daughters living in Kashmir who are forced to marry elderly of different religion Sikhs living in J&K urge for a law that mandates permission of parents in inter-religion marriages,” said Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president of the Delhi Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee and a Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader.

Sirsa also said he spoke to Union home minister Amit Shah. “Amit Shah ji has assured us about the safety of minority Sikh girls in the Valley & that the girls would be soon returned to their families. He has given time to meet Jammu & Kashmir Sikh delegation soon to discuss the ground issues and address the minority’s concerns,” he tweeted. On Sunday, Sirsa met UT lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha.

Leaders in Kashmir urged the J&K administration to allay the concerns of the Sikh community.

“Any move to drive a wedge between Sikhs & Muslims in Kashmir will cause irreparable harm to J&K. The two communities have supported each other through thick & thin, having withstood countless attempts to damage age-old relationships,” National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah said.

“I hope the authorities will move quickly to investigate the recent cause of tension & if anyone has broken the law the case should be prosecuted & necessary punishment handed out,” he said.

Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti asked the authorities to get to the bottom of the issue. “Disturbed to hear reports about the incident involving two Sikh girls in Kashmir. Muslims & Sikhs in J&K have co-existed peacefully in the worst of times. Hope the investigative agencies swiftly get to the bottom of this issue,” she said.

Srinagar senior superintendent of police Sandeep Chaudhary did not respond to calls. Kashmir divisional commissioner Pandurang K Pole couldn’t be reached for a comment.

Sirsa said he also met J&K director general of police Dilbag Singh who assured them that Sikh girls’ safety would be given utmost priority and stern action would be taken against culprits. “He reiterated that the Sikh girl would be returned to her family soon,” he said.

Sikhs form roughly 2% of the population of Jammu and Kashmir.

Bibi Jagir Kaur, president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) -- a top Sikh body -- said she was giving all support to the family. “I have asked families to bring both the girls to Darbar Sahib for counselling and moral support. I also plan to visit Srinagar to be in touch with the families,” she added.

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