Amaan Bali: Sikhs Protest In Kashmir Against Alleged Incidents Of Forced Conversions To Islam

Revelations concerning the alleged abduction and forced marriage and conversion to Islam of Manmeet Kaur, 18, by a Muslim man, 29, sparked protests in the Sikh community of Kashmir yesterday

Amaan Bali
June 27, 2021 | 3.5 min. read | Original Reporting

Revelations concerning the alleged abduction and forced marriage and conversion to Islam of Manmeet Kaur, 18, by a 29-year-old Muslim man sparked protests in the Sikh community of Kashmir yesterday. 

The family had originally approached Jammu and Kashmir Police when Manmeet was allegedly abducted at gunpoint from a street near their home on Monday, June 21. The family shares that they were threatened by the assailants if they went to the authorities about the issue. 

The Police assured the family on Tuesday, June 22, that she would be found and returned to the family within 36 hours. However, by Thursday, June 24, Sikhs from across Kashmir began protesting when it became apparent that the Police were not moving quickly enough. 

The issue of alleged forced conversion came into full light when the family learned that Manmeet would be presented in court, without them, on the morning of Saturday, June 26. The family was told at that time that Manmeet had been married off to the Muslim man. The family shared that Manmeet is a special needs child, and has recently undergone major surgery. 

The news shocked the local Sikh Sangat and crowds started to emerge outside the High Court as it spread. 

The Police told Manmeet’s brother that she will be handed over to the family by the end of the day. However, Sikhs grew suspicious of the Police reassurance when the family was not allowed to enter the court complex. However, the man’s family was with him and could be seen by the Sikhs outside the complex.

After waiting all day, the family was told that the High Court judge declared the marriage valid and handed over custody of the Manmeet to the family of the Muslim man.

The decision triggered immediate protesting outside the courthouse, and social media posts began to go viral at which point the Akal Takht, DSGMC, and SGPC took notice of the matter. DSGMC President, Manjinder Sirsa, tweeted in support of the family and condemned the High Court’s decision.

The social media uproar assisted in getting the Police to issue a statement that Manmeet would be handed over to the family. By about 10:30 pm Manmeet’s mother and father were allowed to meet her. However, she was kept under police custody due to normal protocols around honour killings. 

The protests continued all morning into Sunday, June 27, with gatherings around Gurdwara Shaheed Bunga Srinagar. Demonstrators demanded an anti-conversion law. Locals shared with Baaz that there have been three other recent alleged cases of forced conversations in the last month, with action being demanded on all of them. 

Sirsa reached Srinagar and joined the protesting Sikhs. He addressed the community at the Gurdwara Sahib and called out the majority Muslim Kashmiri community to beak their silence on the matter. He urged the community to help stop these alleged practices against Sikhs and reminded them that Sikhs have always stood with them through difficult times.

Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh issued a statement against the alleged forced conversion as well and his statement was submitted to the Lt. Gov. of Kashmir, notifying that the Sikh seat of temporal authority was sending a delegation to address the matter under Sirsa. 

In the meeting between Sirsa and the Lt. Gov, government officials were appraised about the situation faced by the Sikhs in Kashmir. The Lt. Gov. was also told about a land grabbing case in which an influential goon has occupied Gurdwara land. 

The Lt. Gov. assured swift action will be taken in the case of Manmeet Kaur and the three other cases as well. 

The Lt. Gov. also assured that Sikh demands for a Minority Commission will be made a priority in his next meeting with the central government in Delhi. The delegation of Sikhs also demanded an anti-conversion law to protect Sikhs in Kashmir.

Last year, I had reported that more than 70 women, between 2009-2019, may have been forcibly converted in Kashmir. Their families still await their return. Those that have returned maintain that the men normally marry again within their own community, leaving them as nothing more than maids in the house. 

In the past, it was not uncommon for the Sikh community to blame women for conversions. However, after recent alleged incidents, Sikhs have begun to demonstrate for stronger minority protections. This is a voice that has often been ignored by both levels of government, until now. 

Editor’s Note: Manmeet’s age has been re-corrected to 18 as new information has been provided. The age of the Muslim man has been corrected to 29. The story has been updated to reflect new information on alleged abduction and conversion.

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Amaan Bali is born and raised in Kashmir. He is an entrepreneur and author of the upcoming book, “Growing up on the right side of Kashmir History”. You can find him on Twitter at @amaanbali.


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