South Asia

Abduction of Pakistani Sikh Woman: India Calls for 'Immediate Remedial Action'

Political leaders from India's Punjab expressed concern over the safety of Sikhs in Pakistan after reports of a girl being forced to convert emerged.

New Delhi: After rival politicians in Punjab raised concerns, India on Friday asked Pakistan to take “immediate remedial action” about the alleged abduction and forced conversion of a Sikh girl at Nankana Sahib.

As per Pakistani media reports, a police report was filed with Nankana police station on August 28 against six people for kidnapping and forceful conversion of a girl from Pakistan’s minority Sikh community. The girl, identified as 19-year-old Jagit Kaur in those reports, was the younger daughter of a family which was the caretaker of the Gurudwara.

A day after these media reports were published, chief minister of India’s Punjab state Captain Amarinder Singh tweeted that it was a “shocking incident”. He tagged Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in his tweet to demand “firm and immediate action against the perpetrators”.

The Punjab chief minister also asked Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar to “strongly take up the issue with his counterpart at the earliest”.

He had also attached a video that showed the girl’s family saying that their youngest daughter had been dragged away from her house and demanded her return. The brother claimed that he had been threatened by the accused to withdraw the police report. He also warned that if they didn’t get security or get justice, he would immolate himself with his family before the Punjab governor’s house on August 31.

Later, president of Indian Punjab’s chief opposition party, Sukbhir Singh Badal also came out and criticised Pakistan’s record for safeguarding minorities. “Minorities are not feeling safe in Pakistan, especially Sikhs. The incident of abducting and forcibly converting a Sikh girl is atrocious. Strict action should be taken against those who are involved,” he said.

Also Read: Pakistan Forced Conversions: Loopholes in Legislation, Probe Panel With No Hindus

His daughter-in-law, Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal also called on Khan to take action on this case.

The case of Jagjit Kaur is certainly similar to other documented instances of minority women and girls being abducted, forced to convert and marry their kidnappers in Pakistan.

But, Badal also trained her political guns on the Congress’s state leader Navjot Singh Sidhu for not condemning the incident. The Badals and Sidhu have sniped at each other since the latter had claimed credit for starting the Kartarpur corridor due to his personal rapport with Imran Khan.

Navjot Singh Sidhu. Credit: PTI

Navjot Singh Sidhu. Photo: PTI

‘Concerns shared with Pakistan’

After a day of statements from Punjab politicos, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Friday night that the ministry had “received a number of representations from various quarters of civil society in India, including Sikh religious bodies in India, at the reports of the incident of abduction and forced conversion of a minor Sikh girl in Pakistan”.

He added that India has “shared these concerns with the Government of Pakistan and asked for immediate remedial action”.

The statement came on the same day that India and Pakistan held their technical meeting on the Kartarpur corridor at the Zero Point. Despite their differences, both countries have agreed to implement the proposal to open a visa-free, transborder pilgrim corridor to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak this year.

The latest incident of alleged abduction complicates the Pakistan government’s vocal stance of support for the Sikh community, which is also entangled with its patronage of Khalistani elements.

Pak Punjab minister chairs meet

This was the reason that the Pakistan Punjab government’s law minister Raja Basharat is now chairing a panel to negotiate with a 30-member committee formed by the Pakistani Sikh community over the case of the alleged conversion, Dawn reported on Friday.

The local Sikh community had banded together to talk to the government, after a lawyer, claiming to be an advocate for Jagjit Kaur, filed a written statement to the Lahore high court that her family was attempting to “kill her”.

Also Read: Pakistan’s Hindus Want Law to Ban, Penalise Forced Conversions

She also claimed, through the lawyer, to have converted to Islam and married one of the accused, Mohammad Hassan, on her own will. She is currently lodged in a women’s shelter home in Lahore.

The report of the district police officer (DPO) to the provincial police chief apparently includes a marriage certificate and Kaur’s national identification documents showing her to be past majority age.

The DPO noted in his report that the Sikh community is ready to protest if their concerns are not taken on board. “It is pertinent to mention here that in the backdrop of Indo-Pak tension vis-a-vis [occupied] Kashmir, any such protest could damage image of the country internationally,” he wrote, as reported by Dawn.