Now Jihadi’s target Sikhs in Kashmir

published on July 29, 2010

Sikhs protest in Kashmir

Khursheed Wani | Srinagar

Hundreds of people belonging to the Sikh minority staged demonstrations in Kashmir on Thursday, to protest against the forcible trimming of a youngster’s hair, allegedly by a group of Muslim youth who were enforcing shutdown in a south Kashmir village.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has assured the community that elements with nefarious designs to disturb the communal harmony of the State would be dealt with sternly. Police have registered a case and arrested two suspects for their involvement in the act.

Sources said 18-year-old Mithun Singh, a resident of Deever village in Tral pocket, complained to his community elders that he was beaten up by a group of youngsters at his workplace Malangpora on Wednesday. He carried a tuft of hair in a polythene bag, saying it was pulled out. Singh works with Military Engineering Service as a casual labourer.

His claims sent shockwaves through the community, which lives in around 100 villages in the Valley under special police protection. On Thursday morning, around 500 Sikhs, mostly youngsters, assembled at Tral and blocked movement of vehicles. They later marched towards Awantipora and sat on dharna in front of a police station and blocked the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway. The protesters were demanding immediate arrest of the culprits.

“Some unscrupulous elements are trying to stoke communal tension in the Valley. We demand immediate arrest of the culprits so that communal harmony is restored,” Joginder Singh Shan, President of All India Shiromani Akali Dal Kashmir, told The Pioneer.

South Kashmir Deputy Inspector General of Police Shafqat Watali later pacified the demonstrators and assured them that the culprits would be arrested within a couple of days. The demonstrators dispersed peacefully.

Prominent religious scholar Molvi Noor Ahmad spoke to the aggrieved Sikhs at Tral and asked them to exercise restraint to frustrate the designs of evil forces bent upon disturbing communal harmony in the Valley.

The community also held demonstrations at Press Enclave and Barzalla pockets of Srinagar. A Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee delegation met Abdullah, who ensured that the Government would take all steps for the security and welfare of the community. “The majority community in Kashmir has always respected the sentiments of the Sikh community and continues to do so even today,” he added.

An official spokesman said the delegation reposed full faith in the Chief Minister and assured him that the Sikh community would continue to strengthen communal harmony in Kashmir.

A separate delegation of Sikh Coordination Committee met with leaders of separatist Hurriyat Conference and lodged a protest against the sacrilegious act. “The condemnable incident is a ploy against the unity of Kashmiris and a conspiracy against the ongoing movement,” according to a statement of Hurriyat Conference.

The separatist amalgam asked the members of both communities to exercise restraint and desist from issuing inflammatory and sacrilegious statements.

Unlike Kashmir Pandits — who fled the Valley en masse in the early 1990s after the eruption of militancy in the Valley — the Sikhs stayed put. The community received a major setback when unidentified killers shot dead 35 of their members in Chattisinghpora village in March 2000.

Even though the Government blamed separatist militants for the massacre, no formal probe has been carried out to identify the killers. Five foreign mercenaries — who were claimed to have been involved in the massacre and killed by the Army and police in the aftermath of the carnage — turned out to be local civilians who were abducted and killed in a staged encounter at Panchalthan. The Valley’s Sikhs are demanding an impartial probe into the Chattisinghpora killings.

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