Mirwaiz, Shabir appeal to Sikhs not to leave Valley
28 March 2000
Times of India
Srinagar: Separatist leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Shabir Shah, have appealed to Sikhs in the Valley not to leave Kashmir and promised the full support of Muslims for their safety. The two leaders visited Chhatisinghpora in Anantnag district, where 35 Sikhs were killed by militants last week, and regretted the Sikhs'' intention to leave the Valley after March 31. The Mirwaiz, who is the acting chairman of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference, visited the village on Tuesday and went to each Sikh household to request them not to migrate from Kashmir. Shabir, who also went to the village, said : ''You (Sikhs) can leave the Valley over our dead bodies. You will not be allowed to leave beyond Jawahar tunnel in Banihal.'' Shabir, who addressed a gathering at the Chhatisinghpora gurdwara, said Kashmiri Muslims were already feeling hurt as the Pandits had not been able to return to the Valley. The decision of the Sikhs would further aggravate the wounds of the Kashmiri Muslims. Shabir, who head the J&K Democratic Freedom Party, admitted that the Sikhs were feeling terrorised, particularly in the rural areas. There was tension in Tral and Baramulla, he said, and claimed that he toured the Muslim-dominated villages and asked the residents to ensure the safety of the Sikhs. He visited gurdwaras at Anantipora, Burzulla and Jawaharnagar and requested the Sikhs to trust the Muslims and not to leave Kashmir. According to Shabir, the role of the Muslims was now more important in view of the Sikhs'' intention to migrate. The two leaders would visit Chhatisinghpora again on March 31 and request visiting Sikh leaders to persuade the Valley Sikhs not to leave. The Sikhs had told Union home minister L.K. Advani on Sunday about their decision to leave the Valley and rejected the security cover for villages inhabited by them. At many places, they asked the security forces to withdraw from the villages. Meanwhile, the Jamat-e-Islami, at its extraordinary general body meeting here under the chairmanship of Ghulam Mohammed Bhat, expressed solidarity with the Sikhs and appreciated the ''exemplary restraint'' shown by them. The Jamat appealed to the Sikhs not to take any hasty decision which might harm communal amity and peace in the state. Local newspapers, too, in their lead articles have suggested that the Sikhs should not leave the Valley and hoped that the Muslims would restore the confidence of the Sikh community.