India: Sikh Leaders Demand Law to Protect Girls in Kashmir from ‘Love Jihad’

An Indian Muslim bride (C) answers questions by religious leaders during the 'Nikah Kabool

A coalition of Indian Sikh leaders demanded the Indian federal territory of Jammu and Kashmir enact laws against “love jihad,” or the alleged forced conversion of non-Muslim women to Islam by Muslim men, this week after unconfirmed reports emerged that Muslim men had “forced” Sikh women to convert to Islam, the Quint reported on Wednesday.

“A delegation of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) led by its president Manjinder Singh Sirsa, arrived in [the Jammu and Kashmir city of] Srinagar on Sunday, 27 June, and staged a protest in the city,” the Quint reported on June 30. The group of Sikh leaders from India’s National Capital Territory, Delhi — which administers Jammu and Kashmir — urged Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to promote a new law that would ban forced religious conversions as a pretext for inter-faith marriages.

“The delegation later met the Lieutenant Governor of J&K [Jammu and Kashmir], Manoj Sinha, who ‘assured constituting a minority commission’ on such a law,” according to the Quint.

“A law will be implemented to stop forcible conversions,” Lieutenant Gov. Sinha assured the Sikh delegation from Delhi, according to a statement issued by the group after their meeting in Srinagar.

A Sikh leader from the northern Indian state of Punjab named Giani Harpreet Singh “wrote to lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha, demanding a halt to allegedly forcible conversion of Sikh girls in the Valley [Jammu and Kashmir],” the Times of India reported on June 30, though the newspaper did not specify when Singh sent the letter.

“In the last month alone, four Sikh girls have been kidnapped and forcibly converted,” Singh alleged in his letter.

Sikh groups across India began campaigning for “love jihad” laws in Jammu and Kashmir in response to unconfirmed reports that at least two Sikh women were allegedly forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim husbands. The alleged incidents purportedly took place years ago, but recent events brought them to the Indian media’s attention over the past week. The two main incidents involve Srinagar resident Manmeet Kaur, 18, and another Jammu and Kashmir woman identified only as Danmeet, 28.

“In Manmeet’s case, 29-year-old Shahid Nazir Bhat has been arrested as the main culprit. It was not known immediately whether Manmeet had married Shahid, also a resident of Srinagar, who is presently in police custody,” the Quint reported on June 30.

“There were rumours earlier that Shahid is a 60-year-old man with two kids but the police dismissed them as ‘baseless,'” the Indian news site noted.

“The J&K [Jammu and Kashmir] Police had handed over Manmeet to her parents on Saturday, 26 June, after she recorded a statement before a court in Srinagar, the details of which are not known. Two days later, in a hushed ceremony attended by the elders of the community, she was reportedly married to a Sikh man,” the Quint revealed.

“Officials said Danmeet got married to a Srinagar resident identified as Muzaffar Ahmad (30) in 2014,” according to the news outlet. Jammu and Kashmir police recently arrested Ahmad “on the complaint of abduction filed by Danmeet’s parents.”

“A senior police officer said Muzaffar, Danmeet’s husband, is presently lodged in Srinagar’s Central Jail,” the Quint reported on June 30.

Danmeet has allegedly released at least one self-recorded video via social media in recent days in which she denies allegations that she was “abducted” by her husband and forced to marry him against her will.

“I am an adult and an educated girl. I know my rights and I can differentiate between right and wrong. I converted (to Islam) in 2012 and got married in [Jammu and Kashmir] high court to my batch-mate Muzaffar in 2014 [sic]. I have all the documents to prove this,” Danmeet says in the video clip, as quoted by the Quint.

The Indian states of Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh have passed laws banning people from using marriage to force someone to convert religions. Other states including Haryana and Karnataka have recently announced plans to introduce similar legislation. The northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh punishes any individual found guilty of breaking the so-called “love jihad” law with up to ten years in prison.

Some observers criticize India’s “love jihad” laws as discouraging inter-faith marriages. According to India’s latest census in 2011, the South Asian nation is roughly 79.8 percent Hindu, 14.2 percent Muslim, 2.3 percent Christian, and 1.72 percent Sikh. Muslims are expected to account for roughly 18 percent of India’s population by 2050, “while Hindus figure to remain a majority (about 77 percent),” the Pew Research Center estimated in 2018. India’s current population is estimated at nearly 1.4 billion.


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