Forced Conversion Claims In Kashmir Interfaith Marriage Denied

Members of Sikh community protest against the alleged forced conversion in Srinagar.

Srinagar: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday assured action after Sikh groups in Jammu and Kashmir held protests, alleging that two young women were kidnapped, converted and married off to elderly men – charges that have been contested by authorities.

Police sources said on Monday that the allegations of forced conversion of a Sikh girl are false and that the girl has been recovered and handed over to her parents.

A section of the Sikh community protested against the alleged forced marriage and conversion of an 18-year-old Sikh woman with disabilities with a man from a different religion in Srinagar.

While the police handed over the woman to her parents and arrested the man on charges of kidnapping on Sunday, the woman in a statement before the court has said that she married him out of her own free will.

A top police official told Kashmir Observer that they received a complaint from a Sikh family of Rainawari alleging that their daughter was “abducted” by a person from Khanyar nearby locality.

“We registered cases of abduction and recovered the girl and the boy,” the officer said, wishing anonymity.

Police officer also refused the claims that the man was 60-year old and has forcefully converted the girl to Islam.

“The boy is 29-years old and is right now behind bars. There is nothing like forced conversion. The girl confessed before police as well as the court that she had willingly escaped with the boy,” he said adding that “after recording the statements, the girl was handed over her parents.”

Meanwhile speaking to the media about the reported abduction and religious conversion of two Sikh girls in Kashmir, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) president Bibi Jagir Kaur informed that one of the two, who was married off to a Muslim man, does not want to reconvert and neither does she want to come back to her family.

According to a report by The Tribune, the SGPC president, while addressing the media in Patiala said, “As Sikhs, it is the family’s duty to educate and encourage their children to follow the Sikh way of life. We, as the SGPC can only preach about the religion but no one can force a religion on someone.”

She informed that the girl’s family and relatives had approached SGPC, requesting them to try and convince their daughter to revert to Sikhism and come back home. “The girl instead did not relent and as such, we can’t force anything on her,” Jagir Kaur said.

Earlier Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa on Monday said that some vested interests were trying to hijack the “forced conversion issue” and were giving it a political colour.

Sirsa, who landed in Srinagar on Sunday after the Sikh community held a protest demonstration against the alleged “forced conversation”.

Sirsa, who is also the president of Delhi Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee, joined the protesters in Srinagar.

The incident has been given a political colour, with Sikhs demanding the introduction of anti-conversion law in Jammu and Kashmir, as has been implemented in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

However Sirsa told reporters that he has apprised his community that some vested interests were trying to hijack the incident and bring out their own agenda.

“The communal harmony among the Kashmiri Sikhs and Muslims should not be damaged. Some people will try to make it a different issue. But we had a meeting today and I have informed our people that we don’t have to allow it,” Sirsa told reporters.

He however said that the people from the majority community should stand by them as they have always come to the rescue of Kashmiri Muslims.

“It is unfortunate that the majority community is silent on the issue. We have stood behind the Kashmiris during every good and bad time,” he said.

Sirsa further said the people from other communities are taunting them for rescuing Kashmiris in distress times as the community failed to speak on the incident.

He also slammed unionist leaders, including the separatists, for not speaking out on the issue.

While slamming the court order, Sirsa alleged the order was biased and they have strongly condemned it.

“We have sought a meeting with the Chief justice of India and we will register our protest regarding the order,” he said.

Sirsa also demanded an anti-conversion law in the Valley which would mandate parents’ permission for the marriage.

“We also expressed the demand of having an anti-conversion law which would mandate parents’ permission,” Mr Sirsa said.

He added that a Sikh delegation also discussed the issue of the local gurdwara land in the meeting with LG Sinha to which he readily agreed upon.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is a Srinagar-based journalist and tweets @AuqibJaveed.

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