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Sikh teen's 'forced' conversion: Pakistan claims issue 'amicably' resolved; community leaders accuse it of engaging in propaganda

  • According to sources, Jagjit Kaur, the 19-year-old Sikh woman who was allegedly abducted and forcefully converted, refused to go with her parents.

  • Representatives of Sikh organisations in India believe that the neighbouring country was involved in propaganda.

  • Many members of the community have also raised questions on whether the conversion was voluntary.

After Pakistan’s Punjab Governor announced that a settlement has been reached on the incident of alleged forced conversion of a Sikh woman in Nankana Sahib near Lahore, representatives of Sikh organisations in India believe that the neighbouring country was involved in propaganda to instigate the Sikh community for its own benefit.

On Monday, Governor Chaudhary Mohammad Sarwar took to Twitter and said, “Great news for Pakistani and Sikh communities across the world. Issue of Nankana girl was amicably resolved to the satisfaction of the concerned families. The girl is safe and in touch with her family. We shall continue to ensure the rights of minorities in Pakistan.”

According to sources, Jagjit Kaur, the 19-year-old Sikh woman who was allegedly abducted and forcefully converted, refused to go with her parents and was still in government custody. She has also been consulting a psychologist, provided by Pakistan’s Punjab government, to deal with insomnia and stress. A senior Pakistan government official said that Jagjit is in touch with her family and would be reunited with them in a couple of days.

Gurdeep Singh, chairman of Daswand Sewa Society (a Ludhiana-based Sikh NGO), stated that Pakistan, through sustained propaganda, is trying to instigate Sikhs against India. He highlighted that the population of Sikhs in Pakistan has fallen sharply over the past few years.

 Sikh teens forced conversion: Pakistan claims issue amicably resolved; community leaders accuse it of engaging in propaganda

A Sikh gilr in Pakistan's Punjab was allegedly forcibly converted and married to a Muslim man, leading to furore in the community. ANI

He added that Pakistan had no intention of reuniting the victim with her family and did it only under pressure. He said that it was only after Pakistan was criticised over the incident by the Sikh community across the world that the government entered the scene and decided to make amends. “Forceful conversions and marriages are not new in Pakistan and (have been) going on for decades as a weapon against minorities of the country," he remarked.

Many members of the community have also raised questions on whether the conversion was voluntary.

Kanwarpal Singh, a spokesperson of Dal Khalsa (a hardliner Sikh body), said, “Some accounts say that the Sikh girl and Muslim boy were in a relationship and she converted (out of) her own will. However, we are concerned if it is a matter of forced conversion.”

On 2 September, chief minister of India’s Punjab state Captain Amarinder Singh tweeted, “Even after so many days, @ImranKhanPTI has failed to help out Jagjit Kaur, forcibly converted and married against her wishes. I would like to extend my full support to the young girl & will be happy to have her & her family settle down in Punjab along with any help needed.”

Kishwar Naheed, an Islamabad-based noted poet, expressed concern over Jagjit’s alleged forced conversion and urged the government to frame legislation to prevent the forced conversion of minorities in the future. “Jagjit Kaur’s case has disturbed us all. Forced conversion of girls from minority communities isn’t acceptable at all,” she said.

However, Pakistan-based pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla said, “The government has won our hearts by swiftly responding to Jagjit’s case. It’s a sign that the government takes care of minorities.” However, several Sikhs associated with religious, social and political organisations have come out openly against Pakistan and have criticised the administration for not taking action in the case.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the organisation responsible for the maintenance of gurudwaras in some states of India, had already stated that it would take up the matter of alleged forced conversion of the Sikh girl with the United Nations.

Incident shook the confidence of Sikhs

India's central intelligence agencies have expressed concerns about the Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) association with pro-Khalistan elements. According to reports, these separatist elements are trying to radicalise Sikh youth in the Indian state of Punjab through sustained campaigns on social media run from countries like Canada, United Kingdom and Germany. Khalistani supporters have also organised rallies against India in connivance with the ISI in the United Kingdom.

The recent case of Jagjit Kaur hasn’t gone down well with Sikhs across the world, who earlier believed that Pakistan was making genuine efforts to reach out to minorities by agreeing to construct the Kartarpur corridor. A 500-year-old Sikh shrine in Sialkot was also opened for Indian Sikhs by Pakistan this year. However, the recent case has now infuriated the Sikhs who say that Pakistan cannot be trusted.

Amarjit Singh Tikka, the Indian coordinator for United Sikh Mission (a US-based Sikh NGO), stated that the Pakistani government had given an impression that it was serious about Sikhs, not only in its own country but even across the world, but the incident of alleged forced conversion has shaken the confidence of Sikhs, who now demand an answer from Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Even Pakistan’s legislators have expressed shock at the incident.

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly and a close aide of Imran Khan, said that forced conversion of girls from minorities haunts the members of the community like nightmares and needs to be stopped at any cost.

He highlighted that the government needs to frame legislation on a priority basis to put an end to such practices.

The authors are freelance writers and members of 101Reporters.com

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Updated Date: Sep 04, 2019 21:33:19 IST