Chandigarh, August 12: A new dimension has been added to the Kashmir issue with the Sikhs settled there complaining of harassment by the those spearheading the struggle. It is the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee that has been taking up the problems being faced by the Sikhs all over the world, not just in any part of India. The Akali Dal might have stopped articulating the Sikh aspirations under the present leadership but the fact remains that the members of the community settled outside Punjab look upto this party and the SGPC.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today said the party MPs would take up the plight of the Kashmiri Sikhs with the Narendra Modi government. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee have also taken up the issue.
Kashmir has been part of the Sikh empire under Maharaja Ranjit Singh before the territory was purchased by the Dogras from the East India Company after the Sikhs lost in the first Anglo-Sikh War in 1846. That is how this region came under the Dogra dynasty. The Sikhs are settled in about 70 villages in Southern Kashmir and they have been living their undisturbed.
The only time the Sikhs became the target was on March 20, 2000 when which 35 members of the community were gunned down. Radical leaders in Punjab had then suspected it to be some agency operation. The Sikhs did not migrate.
After the Chitti Singhpura massacre, this is perhaps for the first time that the Sikhs have reported harassment. The Sikhs are perhaps the only minority community left in the valley. There is demand to accord them minority status there.
It is pertinent to mention that at one time, the radicals in both Punjab and Kashmir held parleys to join hands in their struggle against India. However, militancy in Punjab was wiped out more due to internal contradictions, a situation that was fully exploited by the security forces.
The basic issue is can any intervention by the centre be of any help under the given situation when there virtually is no government. The PDP-BJP alliance government headed by Mehbooba Mufti has lost legitimacy whatever it had. The Mehbooba government has not issued any statement on the plight of the Sikhs. Even if there is one, that would not have any meaning.
At one level, seeking intervention of the centre to provide relief to the Sikhs in the valley on the contrary could be cause of provocation. The issue is not that of radicals leading the struggle in the valley. It is even the kids who are on the streets. It is mass struggle and the plight of the Sikhs has to be seen in that context.
It would be better in case a delegation of the Sikh leaders representing various shades including the radicals is deputed to Srinagar headed by the SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar or Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal but not in his capacity as the Deputy Chief Minister. They should take up the issue with the leaders who presently matter, say Hurriyat Conference.
Hurriyat Sikh leader Devinder Singh maintains that the Sikhs in in Jammu and Kashmir are “secure and safe”. He claimed that the Sikh organisations have been active organising relief for the needy in the hospitals in the valley.
He has extended the assurance on behalf of Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Geelani about the safety of the Sikhs.
Over the years, Dal Khalsa has been in touch with the Hurriyat leaders. The organisation has sought details about the situation of the Sikhs including from All Party Sikh Coordination Committee chairman Jagmohan Singh Raina who too has conveyed that there might be some mischief at the local level but this could happen under such tension.
Dal Khalsa spokesman Kanwarpal singh said both Devinder and Raina had conveyed that the Kashmiri Sikhs supported the present struggle.
These leaders are learnt to have made it clear to the leaders who matter that Sikhs should not be forced to raise pro-Pakistan slogans. They have conceded that the Sikhs were being persuaded to actively join the struggle. However, they have made their position clear to them.
Dal Khalsa’s apprehension is that the harassment of Sikhs could be part of some design.
The basic issue is in case the Sikhs are feeling insecure, the issue must be taken up. However, Delhi would not only be of little help but it could lead to further provocation.
Badal should organise a representative Sikh delegation including various shades that should first visit the Sikhs in Kashmir to know their problems and then take up the same with the people who matter.