Srinagar/Jammu, Jun 28 (PTI) A Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader alleged on Tuesday that four Sikh women were forcibly married and converted to Islam in Kashmir recently and demanded that they be returned to their families as well as a law against forced conversions.
Members of the Sikh community took out marches on roads and highways across Jammu and Kashmir to protest against the alleged 'abduction and forcible conversion'.
Addressing a press conference in Srinagar, SAD leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa said they have taken up the issue with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor (LG) Manoj Sinha.
'We have been protesting for two days. Four women have been forcibly converted, including an 18-year-old who was married to a middle-aged man, and it was said that she married according to her own will,' Sirsa said.
He said it is unfortunate that even the judiciary did not do justice with the woman's family.
Sirsa, who is also the president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, landed in Srinagar on Monday and staged a protest along with a group of Sikhs.
'The parents of the woman were not allowed inside the court, while all the relatives of the man were inside the court so that they could pressure the girl and then it is justified. Our community will not tolerate it. This is not an issue of a single woman, it is a collective issue. Our community leaders from across the world have reacted strongly to it,' he said at the press conference.
The SAD leader said the Sikh community demands the return of the women to their families and a law against such forced conversions.
'Our highest temporal authority has written a letter to the LG over the issue, wherein they have demanded that the woman be returned to the family immediately and a law framed against forced conversions,' he said.
Sirsa said the community members called upon the LG and apprised him of the issue.
'Union Home Minister Amit Shah also talked to us over the phone in the morning. He told us that he is in touch with the LG since Sunday and monitoring the matter,' he said.
Sirsa said Shah has assured the Sikh community that the perpetrators of the alleged abduction of the women will be dealt with strongly and the law will take its own course.
'A delegation of the members of the Sikh community will meet him (Shah) soon. I assure the community that injustice will not be tolerated in any way,' he said.
Meanwhile, National Conference (NC) vice president Omar Abdullah said if anyone has broken the law, necessary punishment should be handed out.
'Any move to drive a wedge between Sikhs & Muslims in Kashmir will cause irreparable harm to J&K. The two communities have supported each other through thick & thin, having withstood countless attempts to damage age old relationships.
'I hope the authorities will move quickly to investigate the recent cause of tension & if anyone has broken the law the case should be prosecuted & necessary punishment handed out,' he wrote on Twitter.
People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader Naeem Akhtar said Muslims must speak up for the concerns of the Sikh community and amplify their demand for quick and decisive action.
'Notwithstanding the situation Muslims in J&K are, we can't allow our minuscule Sikh brethren to feel threatened or unsafe. We must speak up for their concerns and amplify their demand for quick n decisive action. Majority community leaders must add voice to it too (sic),' he wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Sikhs took to the streets in Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur, Reasi, Srinagar and Anantnag over the issue.
They blocked highways in Kathua and Jammu.
The officiating jathedar of the Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Giani Harpreet Singh, wrote to the LG demanding an anti-conversion law.
Some Kashmiri Pandit organisations also demanded severe punishment for the culprits and the return of the 'abducted' Sikh women to their families.
Mufti Anayatullah, the Imam of the Markazi Jamia Masjid in Jammu, said the issue has led to strong resentment among Sikhs. 'The allegation of forced conversion is serious in nature and has no place in Islamic principals. I have strong reasons to believe that these incidents are completely private but certain elements are trying to give these a religious colour,' he said. PTI SSB MIJ AB RC