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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Sikh girl ‘forcibly converted to Islam’ in Pak, probe ordered as row erupts

Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar ordered the inquiry to determine whether the girl was in any way forced to convert.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2019 00:34 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad and Ravinder Vasudeva
Imtiaz Ahmad and Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Islamabad/Chandigarh
The inquiry followed reports that the girl was kidnapped by a group of Muslim men and then made to marry a Muslim man at Nankana Sahib near Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.
The inquiry followed reports that the girl was kidnapped by a group of Muslim men and then made to marry a Muslim man at Nankana Sahib near Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.(HT FILE)
         

Pakistani authorities on Friday ordered a probe into reports that a teenage Sikh girl was allegedly kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam before being married to a Muslim man, with the incident sparking outrage on social media.

Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar ordered the inquiry to determine whether the girl was in any way forced to convert. The inquiry followed reports that the girl was kidnapped by a group of Muslim men and then made to marry a Muslim man at Nankana Sahib near Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.

A local cleric reportedly arranged her marriage. The girl, Jagjit Kaur, aged around 17 years, is the daughter of a priest at a gurdwara in Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion.

Kaur had been missing for several days before a video emerged of her being converted to Islam and married to the Muslim man. She was renamed Ayesha, according to the video. In the video, the girl, seen sitting beside the Muslim man, says she was getting married without any pressure.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in New Delhi that Indian authorities had received a number of representations from various quarters of civil society, including Sikh religious bodies, on the reports of the abduction and forced conversion of the minor Sikh girl.

“We have shared these concerns with the government of Pakistan and asked for immediate remedial action,” he said.

Amarinder Singh, chief minister of India’s Punjab state, demanded firm action against those involved in the abduction and forced conversion of Kaur. He urged external affairs minister S Jaishankar to take up the issue with his Pakistani counterpart and called on Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to take stern action.

“Shocking incident of a Sikh girl being kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam in Nankana Sahib, Pakistan,” Singh tweeted.

Kaur’s brother, Surinder Singh, issued a video along with other members of his family in which he sought Prime Minister Imran Khan’s intervention for the return of his sister. He said some men had come to their home at night and forcibly taken away his sister.

Singh said his sister was tortured and forced to convert to Islam. He said the family had lodged a formal complaint with police but officials had not helped them. He said the men who kidnapped his sister had again come to their home and warned them that the whole family would be forced to convert to Islam if they didn’t withdraw the police complaint.

He said if Pakistani authorities failed to act, all members of the family would commit self-immolation outside the Punjab governor’s residence in Lahore on August 31.

The government of Pakistani Punjab has formed a committee to negotiate with a panel formed by the Sikh minority on the issue, Dawn newspaper reported on Friday.

The report said the complaint filed by Kaur’s family accused six men of abducting and forcibly converting her. Police had traced the men to Lahore and detained one of them.

Sheikh Sultan, who contended he was Kaur’s lawyer, said she had converted to Islam and married Mohammad Hassan – one of the six men named in the complaint – of her own will. Sultan said he had filed a petition in the Lahore high court on Kaur’s behalf that accused her family and the police of “illegal harassment”. Despite the girl’s statement, the Sikh community has demanded that police should bring her back to her parents.

First Published: Aug 30, 2019 23:42 IST

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