Srinagar: A case of alleged conversion and inter-religious marriage is snowballing into a big controversy in the Kashmir valley. Three girls from the Sikh community had gone missing after they eloped with Muslim men. One of the girls has been traced by the police and handed over to the family.
The Sikh community took out many protests in Srinagar demanding the other two girls to be traced and handed over to the families. They also demanded for a change in conversion laws. The issue is also in the notice of the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu Kashmir and the home ministry.
The family of a Sikh girl in Srinagar's Rainawari area of downtown filed a report with the police saying their daughter was abducted. The police later arrested both the daughter and her husband.
When produced in the court, the judge said that the girl is an adult and has the right to go wherever she wishes to. However, the man was taken into custody and the girl was taken by her parents.
Soon after the judge's direction, the Sikh community took out protests in Srinagar alleging that the decision was biased. They also alleged that the parents of the girl were not allowed inside the courtroom while the man's family was. The police have said that the matter is being investigated.
The father of the girl said that they are under a lot of stress and there is no one to listen to their problems. He said the government should provide them security.
''This girl is a minor, she just turned 18 two months ago. Last year, she had brain surgery after she developed a clot. We had repair work going on, and he was working as a laborer here renovating my house. He knocked on my door, pushed and kicked me and took my girl away. He said if you shout I will kill you with my pistol. There was a car waiting outside and he took my girl away. We went to the police in the early morning. And later police said we have traced the girl from the jungle and took her to the women police station. They didn't allow us to meet until they took us to court. They didn't even allow us to enter the courtroom. They gave us the girl at 11:30 pm. We don't feel safe and no one listens to us,” said Rajinder Singh Bali, father of the girl.
However Akali Dal leader and Delhi Gurdwara committee president, M S Sirsa flew down to Srinagar to take stock of the situation. While speaking to the media, he said, “Four girls have been forcefully converted, an 18-year-old girl was married to a middle-aged man and we were told that she married of her own choice. The district judiciary also did not give any justice, he didn't even allow the parents of the girls to come inside the courtroom. The middle-aged man's whole relatives were inside the courtroom so that the girl under pressure could give her statement against the parents. Leaders of our community worldwide have condemned this act. We have written to the Governor also, not only asking the government to hand over these girls back to their families but also bring in changes in the law. We are sad that the majority community is not standing with us right now.”
While the Sikh community leaders and members said that if the government doesn't take action in these cases, the youth of the community will tackle the situation themselves.
''Two girls were taken to court after their statement, they were converted. One is an 18-year-old girl who was taken by a 45-year-old man, who had twice married before. We want this to stop. We have a very small population of around 60 thousand. The brotherhood between the majority committee has always been there and we want them to intervene and return our daughters. We want conversion laws to be made here too. We appeal to the leaders here also to come forward to stop these things. If the government doesn't do anything our youth are ready to tackle the situation,” said Baldev Singh, President Sikh Committee, Srinagar.
The members of the majority community also came forward and were seen protesting and asking the government to hand over the girls to their parents as soon as possible.
''We are protesting here even if I am alone with my daughter here. We will protest even if there are not many people. We want that Sikh girl back at any cost. Sikh Brothers have stayed with us through thick and thin and we will too. I am a common citizen and I couldn't see my Sikh brothers and sisters protesting alone. We all should protest against this. These Sikhs are the same who came to our rescue during floods,” said a local citizen.