INTER-RELIGIOUS marriages/ elopements have been happening and will always happen in every society. Kashmir is no exception. In majority of the cases, the families of these inter-religious couples and even the society at large, disapprove such relationships/ wedlocks particularly across South Asia and Kashmir is no exception in that.
Most of the times when such things happen, it isn’t even reported and people in general don’t know about them. The families — mostly the girl’s family — approaches the police. They look at two aspects, whether these two people are adults and whether they have married out of free will. Most of the time, the girl is produced before a court where she gives a statement and the outcome of this investigation concludes the case. If there is any force/coercion used, it becomes a case of abduction and the man faces the brunt of the law. If it is established that the marriage has taken place with mutual consent (especially the girl’s free will), the police allows the couple to go home. At times, the courts order the administration to provide security to such a couple if they face threat from the families.
In the recent case involving a Sikh girl, the facts were distorted and a politician who parachuted from Delhi created a vicious narrative by making highly objectionable remarks, targeting and demonising the entire Kashmiri Muslim community.
The girl is 19 (as per court records) had eloped with a 29 year old man. The girl’s family approached the police, who picked up the couple for investigation. The couple gave a statement before the police and subsequently, the girl was taken to a court where her statement was recorded. During her statement, she has said that she married the 29-year old out of her own free will and has faced no coercion at all. The leader, who flew from Delhi to organise a protest in Srinagar, claimed that the girl’s family were not allowed to be present inside the court when the girl was making a statement. The law is clear that whenever such a statement is recorded, the person (the girl in this case) has to be alone to avoid any pressure. No one is allowed to be present during the recording of such a statement. There is enough evidence in the media saying that in her statement, the girl has categorically said that the decision to marry was her own without any coercion/ force.
The police took the couple to the Srinagar district court to record their statements on 26 June. While the girl’s statement was being recorded, agitators gathered outside who were led by president of Budgam and Srinagar Gurudwara Committee, Santpal Singh and Jaspal Singh.
Though the girl told the Court that she had taken this step (conversion and marriage) out of her own free will, the police decided to hand her over to her parents. Local Sikh leader Jagmohan Raina has said that it was possible only after the intervention of Lt Governor Manoj Sinha’s advisor Baseer Khan. Sirsa too explained it later.
On June 29, the girl was hurriedly married again and this time to a Sikh man. This marriage took place in a Gurduwara in Pulwama.
Sirsa, who has joined Akali Dal (SAD) after quitting the BJP, came to Kashmir with a purpose and it wasn’t limited to the issue of this inter-religious marriage. The local Sikh community had complaints against the administration, especially police, saying they are not listening to them. Sirsa, however, started a venomous discourse, invoked “love jihad”, a conspiratory reference hatched by the Sangh against Indian Muslims, and accused the entire Kashmiri Muslim community to have aided what he falsely claimed to be forced conversion for marriage of Sikh girls. Sirsa also lied to make it convenient for his venomous anti-Muslim campaign. This was primarily a mission to defame and demonise the entire Kashmiri Muslim community and ride over the Sangh’s bigoted wave against Indian Muslims across India so that they can harvest petty political benefits out of it. This is clearly linked to SGPC elections and also the upcoming polls in Punjab and UP. Sirsa is falsely positioning himself as the saviour of Kashmir’s Sikh minority and demonising of Kashmiri Muslims is part of that narrative.
The fact that the Muslims of J&K and particularly Kashmiri Muslims have been crushed and completely disempowered especially after August 5, 2019, this oppressed community is now seen as a fair game by everyone. “Lie. Create a fake narrative. Further demonise Kashmiri Muslims”, is the new mantra. There are no costs for doing this.
There were few local Kashmiri Sikh leaders who understood the game behind this and tried to distance themselves from this narrative but their voices were drowned in the din.
The role of the administration and police has been extremely problematic in all this. They issue statements on every small incident but this time they maintained a strategic silence. The police too didn’t speak at all. The police investigated the case. They know the facts. Why didn’t they issue a statement? Why the silence?
The entire Kashmiri Muslim community was tainted for what was falsely termed, ‘’marriage and forced conversion of Sikh girls”. It is being asked as to why the civil society/ religious leaders of Kashmiri Muslims are silent over the issue? Such cases where a woman decides to marry/elope with a man from a different religion isn’t confined to one community alone, it happens in all societies where different communities live together. Here are extract of two complaints filed by Kashmiri Muslim parents before police this week only.
“As reported by Gh Mohd Rather s/o Gh Mohi u din r/o Chararipora Pakherpora that his daughter namely Murafat Jan, age 20 yrs, left home 25/06/2021 to be on picnic with her would be husband Muzaffer Ahmad Malla r/o Tharuna Shopion. Since then she did not came back. Reportedly she has eloped with one JCB driver namely Ankush singh r/o Ghavo Jaladhar Punjab. In this regard FIR no. 79/2021 U/S 366 IPC has been registered in PS Chf.”
“Application received PP Mirgund from one person namely Fayaz Ahmad Maglo S/o Gh Ahmad Maglo R/o Mirgund that his daughter namely Junofer fayaz (17) has been kidnapped by one Pankaj Dogal S/o Raju Dogal R/o Delhi. In this regard, Fir no 196/2021 u/a 363 Ipc registered in police station pattan.”
So, accusing an entire community of a “conspiracy” because a youngster from among them decided to marry/ elope with the girl from a different community is unfair. Although the act is well within the confines of the law, how is the entire community involved in it? There is hardly anyone other than the relatives and neighbours of these two individuals who knew about it till it was made public. But once the civil society/ religious leader of Kashmiri Muslim community came to know about the protests by members of the Sikh community in Srinagar, almost all the major groups visited or spoke to the Sikh leadership, assuring them help and solidarity.
There is hardly anybody from among the Kashmiri Muslim community who holds any important and decision making post in the police and administration. No one among Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar, DIG, central Kashmir, IGP is Kashmiri Muslim. The DGP is himself Sikh. There is no Kashmiri Muslims among the top officers of the civil administration. Thus, it is ludicrous to even think that anybody from within the administration would have stayed silent if it was a case of abduction.
Kashmiri Muslims are going through challenging times. They have been systematically demonised without getting a chance to respond to the false and concocted allegations levelled against them. They are unable to open their mouths in protest because of the oppression. A Kashmiri Muslim is jailed for saying he doesn’t have expectations from non-local bureaucracy. Kashmiri Muslims have not demanded solidarity from anybody while they face the worst kind of oppression ― individually and collectively.
The cordial relations between Muslims and Sikhs in Kashmir have survived difficult times because both communities acted wisely and compassionately each time any outside force tried to vitiate the atmosphere. In fact, Kashmiri Muslim community cherishes this relationship and has always stood up for their Sikh brothers and sisters. This is exactly why people without knowing the facts of this case or understanding the politics played around this case came out in full support of the Sikhs. In fact, there is hardly anybody who came out to support the 29-year-old from their own community. People disregarded the facts of the case to come out in support of the Sikh minority because they value the cordial relationship and are aware that there are forces who are making every effort to vitiate the atmosphere and create a wedge between the two communities. There is a need that the politics played around this issue is questioned strongly so that it doesn’t achieve its goal outside Kashmir.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer. The article was originally the author’s Facebook post and is being reproduced here with permission
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