After being forcefully separated from Muslim husband, woman hurriedly married into Sikh community

Srinagar: Amid opposition by various Sikh groups in Jammu and Kashmir alleging that two women of their community were “kidnapped, converted and married” to men from a different religion in Srinagar, one of the Sikh women, was “separated” from her Muslim husband and “married” to a Sikh man at a ceremony in a Gurudwara in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

The woman Manmeet Kaur before tying the knot with a Sikh man was married to a Muslim man Shahid, as they both were in love. Kaur converted to Islam, took Zoya as her new name, and married Bhat on June 5 in accordance with Islamic traditions, Clarion India reported.

The marriage angered Zoya’s family and on June 26, the wife and the husband, 19 and 28 respectively as per affidavit quoted 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 report said.

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

However, the report said Zoya, inside the court, 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, it said.

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”.

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 be married despite the fact that they are majors” and have every right to marry out of their will, Clarion India reported.

In an undertaking dated June 22, quoted in the report, 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 the 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 on the legality of Zoya’s marriage with the Sikh man.

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 JK, 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.

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

On Tuesday, President of Shiromani Akali Dal, S Paramjit Singh said that some people have been trying to harm the brotherhood between Sikhs and Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir, adding that the society has to play a role in defeating such designs.

Addressing a press conference along with other members, S Paramjit Singh thanked the administration for supporting the community.

He said that they also met the members from Mirwaiz Umar Farooq group and some religious clerics as well, adding that they cannot forget the support extended by them.

“There was no forcible conversion or marriage, which is being spread by some people here. The brotherhood between Muslims and Sikhs has been there for the last 500 years. We won’t allow anyone to harm it,” he said.


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