Kashmir: Sikh Girl, Separated from Muslim Husband by Force, Married to A Sikh

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Leader from Delhi criticised for indulging in ‘dirty politics’

Muhammad Raafi | Clarion India

SRINAGAR— It all started with a marriage that took place in north Kashmir’s Baramulla away from public gaze. Before tying the knot, Shahid Bhat and Manmeet Kaur, were in love. Kaur converted to Islam, took Zoya as her new name and married Bhat on June 5 in accordance with Islamic traditions.

The marriage angered Zoya’s family and on June 26, both wife and the husband, 19 and 28 respectively as per affidavit seen by Clarion India, were taken to a local court to record their statements.

As the proceedings were going on inside the court room, dozens of Sikhs, led by two Sikh leaders Santpal Singh, President District Gurduwara Committee, Budgam, and Jaspal Singh, president, Srinagar District Gurudwara Committee, assembled outside the court complex.

The agitating Sikhs raised slogans alleging that the girl was forcibly converted to Islam and lured into the marriage.

Inside the court, Zoya said she has changed her faith out of free will. A police officer dealing with the case said that Zoya’s statement testified that there was no forced conversion.

The Sikh agitators rejected Zoya’s statement alleging that she was “mentally unstable”. Although the court gave the custody of Zoya to her husband, the agitators reportedly mobbed and  bundled her in a vehicle and fled from the spot.

On Tuesday, Zoya was “married” to a Sikh man at a ceremony in a Gurudwara in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Before the local Sikh organisations could react to the situation, a Sikh politician from New Delhi Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who also heads Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), termed the marriage a case of “love jihad”.

On Sunday rightwing news website OpIndia jumped in and started a vile propaganda by trying to pitch the minority community against the majority community in Kashmir.
Sirsa claimed that Zoya was “abducted” at gunpoint and married to a 60-year-old [Muslim] man.”

However, police officials investigating the case rebutted Sirsa’s comments and said that Shahid was 28 years old.

In a marriage agreement drafted at Baramulla district court, Zoya and Bhat have stated that they have married with determination and do not fear the might of their parents “who do not want to see the parties to be married despite the fact that they are majors” and have every right to marry out of their will.

In an undertaking dated June 22, seen by Clarion India,  Zoya has also stated that she has “reverted” to Islam “out of my free will, consent, choice, and without any fraud or force from any quarter and in sound disposition of my mind”.

The day Zoya was married to a Sikh man, Sirsa said that she along with her husband was flown to New Delhi.

However, Sirsa did not reveal what happened to the marriage of Zoya with Shahid putting a question mark at the legality of Zoya’s marriage with the Sikh man.

Manjinder Singh Sirsa, President Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee addressing a press conference in Srinagar on Sunday. Picture By Kamran Yousuf

On Wednesday, June 30, addressing a press conference at Kashmir Press Club in Srinagar, Jagmohan Raina, president of All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee, dodged questions about the legality of Zoya’s marriage with the Sikh man. However, he ruled out the allegations of “forced conversion” of Zoya.

Raina blamed Sirsa of Delhi Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee, for communalising the issue.
“They want to play the politics of Punjab and Delhi using the shoulders of Kashmiri Sikhs,” he said, “We will not allow this to happen.”

Former president of Delhi Gurdwara Committee and president of Shiromani Akali Dal Paramjeet Singh Sarna also disowned the people who arrived in Srinagar from Delhi to “instigate the violence”.

Condemning Sirsa, Sarna said, “I want to apologise to the people of Kashmir if they were hurt by the comments made by such people.”

Although Sirsa had claimed that four Sikh girls had been “forcibly converted and married” in Jammu and Kashmir, Raina said that the community is aware of two cases of conversion. But in one case, the girl has a valid conversion and marriage certificate.

Earlier on June 29, Mutahida Majlis-e-Ulema J&K, an amalgam of various Kashmiri religious organisation headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, also refuted the claims that two local Sikh girls had been forcibly converted to Islam for marriage. A delegation of MMU met with members of the local Sikh community.

Majlis-e-Ulema, in a statement, made it clear that Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and harmony; and that there is absolutely no room for coercion or force in Islam.
The MMU said that there is a need to be wary and cautious as some outside elements deliberately want to undermine the centuries-old atmosphere of religious tolerance and harmony that exists in Kashmir; and create a rift among communities living here, which should not be allowed at all.

Police officials have said that there was no “forced conversion”. Still, Bhat has been booked and is under detention in a local police station in Srinagar.
A police official said that Bhat was booked under sections 366 and 506 of Indian Penal Code for kidnapping and criminal intimidation after a complaint by the father of the girl, Zoya.
Anas Tanwir, a Supreme Court Lawyer, while questioning Bhat’s detention asked, “What crime did he commit?”

“From what I understand, even the Courts held his marriage to be valid. The girl is neither underage nor of unsound mind,” he tweeted.

Later, while speaking to Clarion India, Tanwir said that if the girl who is considered a victim in this case has given a statement under section 164 CRPC before the magistrate stating that she was not kidnapped and she was living with the accused with her own free will and is happily married, then no case of kidnapping or intimidation is made out.

Meanwhile, the family of Bhat said that they have applied for bail through a lawyer and the bail order is pending.

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