March 2001 News

Terrified, Kashmir Sikhs debate migration

25 March 2001
The Indian Express
PRADEEP DUTTA

Jammu: Is the honour, security and safety of the Sikhs in Kashmir secure under the prevailing circumstances? If the answer to this question is ‘NO’, in that case, what steps should be taken to ensure the desired degree or level of safeguarding their honour, safety and security? Do you think Sikhs in Kashmir should migrate from the Valley? If the answer to this question is ‘YES’, in that case suggest the methodology of migration. Also specify as to which agency should plan, control and execute the process of migration either in a phased manner or en masse? Excerpts from a questionnaire distributed among Sikhs in Kashmir. Caught in a dilemma over the issue of migration from the Valley following the recent attacks on Sikhs, the community leaders have distributed a questionnaire among Sikhs. The set of questions, mostly aimed at the intelligentsia, seek to form an opinion on migration of Sikhs from Kashmir. This move is the first of its kind initiated by the community in recent times. A grave indicator of how seriously the community members consider leaving their homeland as the last option. The underlying question is: When will the establishment wake up to the impending crisis? Besides distributing the questionnaire among prominent Sikhs of the Valley, a letter by the Kashmiri Sikh leaders has been sent to Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The letter is in response to his statement where he had said that Kashmir is not a political problem and had mentioned that Kashmiri Muslims will not ask the minorities to migrate, but if anybody wants to do so, they will not stop them either. The questionnaire is designed by Sevadar, an apolitical organisation. Earlier, the organisation had conducted a seminar on ‘‘The future of Sikhs in Kashmir.’’ The seminar was aimed at bringing the Sikh intelligentsia and other prominent citizens together so as to get their views on the subject. And now this is followed by a questionnaire which, Harbinder Singh, one of the members of the organisation, says will help in generating the positive response and invaluable inputs, that would help in arriving at likely solutions to the vital problems being faced by the Sikh community. ‘‘And help in forging a new strategy to plan and control the critical situation which has arisen after the Chittisinghpora massacre last year,’’ he adds. The Sikhs are critical of the approach shown by both the Central and state government to ensure safety of the community in the Valley. They have discarded government plans of constituting Village Defence Committees comprising Sikhs in the Valley. He said, on the one hand, the government is asking Sikhs to stay put in the Valley while on the other, they are not keeping up their promise of providing jobs to the Sikh youth. Alarmed by anti-Sikh violence and angered by the government’s failure on the security front, the Sikh community is internally trying to form a consensus on the status of the community. And this questionnaire, they feel, will act as one of the tools in this regard. ‘‘We want to live in peace and not pick up guns to enrage our Muslim brethren,’’ said S.S. Shant, a Sikh leader from Baramulla. ‘‘None of us want to leave our homes. But tomorrow if we have to migrate, the government will be responsible for that,’’ says Major Sant Singh of Budgam.

 

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