New Delhi: Muslim leaders are on the defensive mode after the forceful conversion of two Sikh girls.
In recent times, in New Delhi and other places, a narrative was being created that Sikhs and Muslims as religious minorities should stick together against the ruling BJP.
During January 2020 protests against the new citizenship law, several Sikh individuals and bodies had supported the protesting Muslim community protestors, especially women who staged a month-long sit at Shaheen Bagh, but all that now stands exposed as hollow.
A massive conversion row has been triggered in Jammu and Kashmir, with the officials and community leaders confirming that two girls from the Sikh community in Srinagar were abducted and forcibly converted to Islam and married off.
The episode has exposed a pattern of ethnic cleansing and deliberate conversion to Islam ploy from Kerala to Kashmir.
Obviously, there is tension, and the Muslim leadership is on the defensive mode.
An aggrieved Sikh leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa lamented that the Sikh community had supported the Muslim community during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of National Conference has said that "….if anyone has broken the law should be prosecuted, and necessary punishment handed out."
At least four Sikhs have been kidnapped and "forcefully converted" in the province, according to Sikh community officials.
The influential Akal Takht has come forward with the demand for an anti-conversion law in Jammu and Kashmir, in line with the similar legislation in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
In a letter to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, the religious body 'Sri Akal Takht Sahib' based in Punjab's Amritsar, the town that houses the iconic Golden Temple, has expressed its dissatisfaction. "….There is an interfaith marriage law in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh against forceful religious conversion. We want the same law should be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir for the safety of Sikh minority girls," chief of Akal Takht, Giani Harpreet Singh, said in his letter.
He further said, "There is a strong outrage among the Sikh community worldwide on such repeated incidents."
Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), also led a delegation to J&K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha, who assured them the needful to ensure the return of the girls.
“The delegation took up the matter of forced marriage of Sikh girls in Srinagar. The Lt Governor addressed our concerns related to the safety of Sikh girls in the Valley and this harmful trend of religious conversion,” the DSGMC said.
Bibi Jagir Kaur, president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), the most prominent and influential Sikh group in Punjab, also expressed sympathy for the family and the daughter, who was forcibly converted to Islam in Kashmir.
She advocated that "people in the country" should stick to the religion they are born in.
On the defensive, Muslim cleric grand mufti Nasir-ul-Islam of Jammu and Kashmir. said: “The Sikh brethren are a part and parcel of Kashmir’s society. There is no place for forcible conversion in Islam and reports of forcible conversion of Sikh girl to other religion on a gun-point can never be considered as a conversion in Islamic jurisprudence."
Reports said, teams of the Mutahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), a body of religious leaders and religious bodies, also visited the family of one Sikh girl who was allegedly forced to marry an elderly Muslim man.
Angry protests and demonstrations were held in Jammu. The community leaders said it was worse that a 60-year-old elderly Muslim with two wives married the 18-year-old girl.
One Sikh protestor said these conversions to Islam were like "part of the ethnic cleansing".
However, PDP leader Md Rashid Qurashi said his party would "never ever support" any strong anti-conversion law.
In one case (of the two fresh cases of conversion), the woman has said that she had opted for the marriage herself.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of the National Conference also cautioned that any move to drive a wedge between Sikhs and Muslims in Kashmir will cause irreparable harm to Jammu and Kashmir.
“The authorities should move quickly to investigate the recent cause of tension, and if anyone has broken the law should be prosecuted and necessary punishment handed out," he said.
Abdullah tweeted: "The two communities (Muslims and Sikhs) have supported each other through thick and thin, having withstood countless attempts to damage age-old relationships".