Ground Report: Forced Conversions in Kashmir have sparked protests by Sikh community in Kashmir.

Srinagar: The news of forced conversion of 18year old Manmeet kaur sparked angry protests by the family and Sikh community of Kashmir. Sikhs took to social media to convey the message to broader Sikh community and representatives of the Panth in Punjab and Delhi Gurdwara Prabhandak committee.

The incident came to light when the family of the girl found out that the girl will be presented in the court on Saturday morning. The family had protested when the girl went missing on Monday. Jammu and Kashmir Police assured the family on Tuesday that girl will be returned to the family within 36hrs.

As per the family of Manmeet kaur, Manmeet is a special child and had also undergone a major surgery very recently. The family says that Manmeet was abducted at gun point from the street near her home and her family was threatened if they opposed or went to authorities about the abduction. This sparked off angry protests by the family who were joined in by Sikhs from all over Kashmir. The Sikhs protested by setting up tents on Thursday when police failed to bring the girl home.

On Saturday Manmeet kaur was brought to the High court along with the family of 29yr old man. The family of the girl was told that she has been married off to the 29yr old man. The shocking revelation sent shivers down the Sikh Sangat and crowds started to emerge outside the High court. The Police told the brother of the girl that she will be handed over to the family by the end of the day. The suspicions grew louder when the family of Sikh girl was not allowed to enter the court complexes by the police. The family of old man was with him in the court complex and could be seen by the Sikhs outside the complex.

The family of Manmeet kaur waited outside the court complex from 07:30am in the morning to 08:30pm in the evening. The family was then told that the High Court Judge has announced his decision declaring the marriage valid and has handed over the custody of the girl to the family of old man.

This angered the Sikhs protestingoutside the court complex and social media posts of Sikhs protesting outside started going viral. It was then that DSGMC and SGPC took the notice of the matter and DSGMC President Manjinder singh Sirsa tweeted in support of the family condemning the action of High court.

The social media uproar and news across the nation helped in getting a statement from the Police that girl would be handed over to the family in sometime. By about 10:30pm the mother and father of the girl were allowed to meet her. The girl was however kept under police custody due to fears of ‘Honour killing’ (This is normal protocol).

The protests continued all morning on Sunday. The angry Sikhs gathered in and around Gurdwara Shaheed Bunga Srinagar demanding an anti Conversion law to stop further conversions. In my conversation with the fellow protesting Sikhs I was told that four recent cases of forced conversions have taken place in last one month. The protesting Sikhs demanded action on all the cases.

Manjinder singh Sirsa reached Srinagar and joined the protesting Sikhs. Sirsa addressed the community in the Gurdwara Sahib and called out the majority community to beak their silence on the matter. He urged the community to stop these practices against the Sikhs and reminded the majority community of Kashmir that Sikhs have always stood with them in thick and thin.

Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet singh ji issued a statement against the conversion and this statement was submitted to the Lt Gov of Kashmir. In the meeting between Manjinder singh Sirsa and the Lt. Gov, the governor was appraised about the situation faced by the Sikhs in kashmir. He was also told about the case of land grabbing in which an influential goon has occupied the Gurdwara land. The governor assured that swift action will be taken in the case of Manmeet kaur and three other cases. The governor also assured that the demand of Minority commission for Sikhs will be kept as a priority in his meet with centre. The delegation of Sikhs also demanded an anti conversion law for Sikhs in Kashmir.

Last year I had reported that more than 70+ girls have been forcibly converted in Kashmir from the year 2009-2019. The data cannot be challenged as the families of the girls still await for their return. The General course followed in these cases is found when the girls make efforts to return back to their homes after many years. The Sikh girls who have returned maintain that the men normally marry again in their own community leaving them nothing more than maids in the house. The situation has been reported by many girls in the past as well. There exists a crisis in Kashmir which was hidden till now because the Sikh community normally blamed the girls for conversion and never blamed majority community. This incident has brought up the voices of Kashmir that have been ignored by both the governments at the centre and the state ones as well. I will keep updating on this developing story.

Note- The age of man is 28 and that of Manmeet kaur is 18. I stand corrected on the earlier reference of 60yr old which was the claim of protestors. The error has been edited

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