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4-min read

Sikhs in Kashmir claim that they are the most neglected community, attack state, Centre

Most of the Sikhs have moved away from agriculture in the last 20 years and they are now mostly into trade and commerce.

D P Satish | IBNLive.comdp_satish

Updated:December 8, 2014, 12:42 PM IST
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Sikhs in Kashmir claim that they are the most neglected community, attack state, Centre
Most of the Sikhs have moved away from agriculture in the last 20 years and they are now mostly into trade and commerce.

Srinagar: "We have never faced any problem here. No local Kashmiri Muslim troubled us or treated us like unwanted people. The 'Kashmiriyat' is very strong. But, the state government and the Centre have been very unkind to us. For them the Sikhs in Kashmir don't exist. The entire focus is on the Kashmiri Pandits and their plight. We too want to be heard. We also have other issues," says Jagmohan Singh Raina, Chairman of All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) in Kashmir.

When IBNLive visited him at his small office near Iqbal Park in Srinagar, the soft-spoken and plain speaking Raina was very candid in his observations. According to him, the Sikhs are the most neglected religious minorities in Kashmir. He said that the Kashmiri Pandits left the valley during the height of militancy and the Sikhs stayed back.

He said, "Kashmiri Pandits claim that they were forced to leave the valley by the militants and the local Muslims. But, I don't think that the local Muslims did that. Out of fear most Pandits left the valley. The agencies (referring to intelligence agencies) also created a situation for the exodus of Pandits. Sikhs also faced some problems. But we are a martial race. We are not afraid of anything. We stayed back. Local Muslims did not trouble us. Most Sikhs left their villages and moved to cities like Srinagar and Baramulla for safety. We lost our agricultural land. The land is still there. But, it is in ruins."

According to him, Jammu and Kashmir has 3.7 lakh Sikhs. Of them 80,000 are in Kashmir valley. Rest are in Jammu region. More than 30,000 Sikhs live in Srinagar. Before the militancy, the Sikhs were controlling the agriculture sector across the valley. Some of the biggest apple and saffron growers were Sikhs, not Muslims. But the Sikh migration to cities hit the agriculture hard.

He claims that no Muslim family in rural Kashmir has usurped the land which belongs to the Sikhs. Heaping praises over the Muslims, he said, "When the flood hit us in September, local Muslims first rescued Sikhs. They first gave them relief material. We have a very strong bond."

Attacking the successive governments which ruled Jammu and Kashmir and India, Raina said, "We are being discriminated against. The focus is only on the Kashmiri Pandits. We have nothing against them. But, listen to us also. We stayed back during the militancy. Respect us for that. We have too many issues. Both the state and Centre must come for our rescue."

He criticizes the state government for not holding the election to Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandak Board of the Jammu and Kashmir for the past 10 years. He also complains that Jammu and Kashmir is the only government which has not accorded the minorities' status to the Sikhs.

He also claims that he was contacted by the RSS to politicise the issues related to the Sikhs, but he told them not to communalise or politicise the socio-political issues. He feels Prime Minister Narendra Modi offers hope. But, he is against giving any communal colour to the issue.

Raina narrates an incident in which he was threatened by a local Muslim who was actually eyeing his gas distribution business. He says that the local Muslim used militants to threaten him and he had to shut his business for two years. But, the other Muslims backed him and he was able to restart his business. "Such incidents are isolated one. They keep happening. We need to stand up to such criminals. Fleeing the valley out of fear is no solution," he says.

Mr Kaul (he does not want to give his first name), a local Kashmiri Pandit in Srinagar, disagrees with Raina on his observation of the Pandits. He says that the main target of the militants was Pandits and not the Sikhs.

Sikhs in Kashmir have a very rich history. According to historical records the founder of the faith Guru Nanak Dev visited Kashmir several times and sowed the seeds of Sikhism there. Srinagar has several Gurudwaras. Gurudwara Chatti Patshahi at Kathi Darwaza in Rainawari area of Srinagar was built during the time of Mogul emperor Jahangir.

The Gurudwara still attracts a lot of devotees and some tourists. Speaking to IBNLive at the Gurudwara, Gurumukh Singh, a local Sikh expressed confidence in the PM Modi's leadership. However, he refused to buy everything the BJP is saying about Kashmir issue.

Gurumukh Singh attacked the state government and predicted that Omar Abdullah government would bite the dust in the current Assembly election. He is also equally unhappy with the Congress.

He said, "When previous prime minister Manmohan Singh came to Srinagar. He went to Hazratbal. But, he did not visit our Gurudwara. It has hurt us a lot. Being a Sikh, he should have visited our Gurudwara. We will not vote for the Congress."

Most of the Sikhs have moved away from agriculture in the last 20 years and they are now mostly into trade and commerce. Some of their children live outside Kashmir and India. But, they still have a close connection with their state and keep visiting their parents and relatives. The local Sikhs proudly claim that their relationship with the local Muslims and Kashmir is inseparable.

However, most Sikhs have not forgotten the Chittisinghpura massacre in which 36 Sikhs were shot dead by the Pakistan based terrorist organization LeT on March 20, 2000. It was coincided with the visit of the US President Bill Clinton.

Talking about this Raina says that the governments have not done anything to find out who actually did this to the Sikhs. He claims that this terrible incident has not shaken the faith of Sikhs in 'Kashmiriyat'.

Sikhs hope that the new government which takes charge after December 23 would do something concrete for them.

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