Religious conversion in Jammu & Kashmir: Here’s why Sikh groups are demanding anti-conversion law in Srinagar

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Shiromani Akali Dal leader Manjinder S Sirsa led protests across Srinagar and in the national capital after the alleged incident in Jammu and Kashmir

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday said that action will be taken after Sikh groups in Jammu and Kashmir conducted protests, alleging that two young women from their community were kidnapped, converted and married off to elderly men. Shiromani Akali Dal leader Manjinder S Sirsa led protests across Srinagar and in the national capital. Protesters raised slogans like “we won’t accept religious conversion”. A Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) delegation also met LG Manoj Sinha and demanded an anti-conversion law in Srinagar, just like the ones already instituted in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Here’s everything you need to know about the issue.

What is the issue that is being protested against as religious conversion?

Members of the Sikh community in Kashmir were protesting against the alleged forced marriage and conversion of an 18-year-old Sikh woman with disabilities with a man from a different religion in the valley. 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 reportedly said that she married him out of her own free will. However, the Sikh groups said that the police did not allow the parents of the woman to enter the court when her statement was recorded by the magistrate and her testimony was influenced. According to the law, however, statements recorded before the magistrate in cases like these cannot be taken in the presence of the family, police or any other party.

What are the Sikh leaders and groups alleging?

On Sunday, Akali Dal Leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa led a protest in Srinagar. He alleged that the 18-year-old Sikh women was kidnapped at gunpoint, forcibly converted, and wedded to elderly men of a different religion. There have been four such cases out of which two were reported from Jammu, he also alleged. The police, however, stated they know of only one case so far. Police sources said they tried to find out the second case after allegations by Sirsa but found that no such recent incident has happened. Also, while the Sikh groups have alleged that the man arrested on charges of kidnapping is nearly 60 years old, police sources said he is just 29. Shiromani Akali Dal President (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal also took to Twitter and expressed ‘shock’ over the abduction and marriage of a Sikh girl in Srinagar. “Shocked to learn that our Sikh daughter Manmeet Kaur was kidnapped and forcibly married to an elderly man of a different community in Srinagar. Have asked DSGMC president Manjinder Singh Sirsa ji to immediately rush there & ensure justice is delivered to the victim family,” Badal tweeted.

Sikh group met J&K Lieutenant Governor

A Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) delegation has also met with Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and sought the safe return of Sikh girls. LG Sinha addressed the committee’s concerns related to the safety of Sikh girls in the valley and the ‘harmful’ trend of religious conversion, DSGMC President Manjinder Singh Sirsa had said in a statement. “Thanking LG, Jammu Kashmir Manoj Sinha Ji for immediately issuing directions with respect to the issue of forced Nikah of Sikh daughters in Srinagar. He has assured us that the Sikh girl who was forcibly converted would be returned back to her family. He addressed our concerns related to the safety of Sikh girls in the valley and this harmful trend of religious conversion,” said Sirsa. He also demanded an anti-conversion law in Srinagar like it is there in a few other states, which would mandate parents’ permission for any marriage such as these. “We also expressed the demand of having an anti-conversion law which would mandate parents’ permission. We also handed him the letter of Giani Harpreet Singh Ji, Jathedar, Sri Akal Takht Sahib,” Sirsa added.

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