SIKHS BESIEGED IN KASHMIR VALLEY
In January 1990, at the height of militancy in Kashmir, the miniscule community of Kashmiri Hindus migrated from the valley to Jammu and other parts of the country, including Delhi. Forced to abandon their homes and hearths, the Pandits have become refugees in their own land. Confronted with the difficult choice of making common cause with the separatists or face certain death, the minority Hindu community's only recourse was to quit the valley. But not before the community had suffered extreme barbarity, persecution and rights violations, at the hands of the and separatists.
According to one estimate, more than three lakh Kashmiri Hindus migrated from the valley. The worst aspect of their traumatic situation was that New Delhi remained a mute spectator to the hate-campaign that was unleashed against them, 1987 onwards, by Pakistan-supported and indoctrinated Kashmiri separatists.
New Delhi did not intervene to rein in and punish the fanatics or create conditions conducive for the promotion of democratic and liberal ethos in the valley in which all the communities could enjoy a peaceful and dignified existence and work for larger national interests.
In fact, New Delhi abandoned the Hindus in the valley and allowed the radical Islamists to conduct their anti-India and anti-minority operations with impunity. The Islamists ruthlessly and swiftly purged the region of almost all the Kashmiri Hindus. Reversal of the sinister process of genocide should have been a matter of grave importance, but the powers-that-be in New Delhi thought otherwise. The result: Kashmir today is virtually a one-community region.
It was not only the Kashmiri Pandits, but thousands of Sikh too migrated from Kashmir to Jammu and other places in the country, especially Punjab, in 1990. However, over 50,000 Sikhs stayed put in the valley, braving all odds, including the threat that their non-participation in the anti-India separatist movement would be construed as an ‘obstruction' and will not be tolerated.
The credit goes to the Sikhs, who constitute a microscopic minority in Kashmir, who stoutly faced all kinds of problems created by the regressive forces during these more than 22 years of secessionist and communal violence in the valley. They withstood the onslaughts with courage, and did not compromise on their faith, culture and Indian identity. However, things in Kashmir have now worsened to such an extent that there is the possibility of the Sikh community quitting Kashmir and seeking safer places outside the restive, separatist-infested valley.
The past few months in Kashmir have seen the creation of a situation similar to what Kashmir witnessed between 1987 and 1990s, that left the Pandits with no option but to leave their ancient habitat.
The difference this time is that the Islamist forces in Kashmir have launched a movement to induce Sikhs to renounce their religion and culture and embrace the religion of the separatists and jihadis.
Also, young girls and womenfolk of the Sikh community are being targeted, a development that has shaken and forced community leaders to lodge a strong protest. They have issued a threat that their community will retaliate in case the Muslim religious leadership, which is an integral part of the ongoing secessionist movement in the valley, continued with its conversion activities and target the Sikh girls. In fact, the All-Party Sikh Coordination Committee chairman, S Jagmohan Singh Raina, on May 4, described the nature of threat facing his community as a whole. Taking strong exception to the ‘process of conversion' started by the Muslim clergy, he urged it to “stop such activities…failing which the situation may get out of their hands”.
Mr Raina made a startling revelation that “more than 30 Sikh girls have eloped and some have been kidnapped and later converted to other religion. Sikhs in the past have rendered innumerable sacrifices in Kashmir and have maintained the age-old tradition of communal harmony. But the minorities won't tolerate religious aggression. And any attempts at conversion by offering inducements like money, job or admission in charity institutions would be opposed strongly”, the angry APSCC chairman said.