September 2001 News

Dress code Diktat: Valley Sikhs rally against it

10 September 2001
The Indian Express
Pradeep Dutta

Srinagar: Former Hurriyat Chairman and hardline Islamist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Monday came down heavily on the dress code diktat for non- Muslims in Kashmir by Lashkar-e-Jabbar. However, even as Geelani''s comments are bound to allay fears among the minorities, the diktat is being read between the lines too. ''Nobody can impose a dress code on non-Muslims,'' Geelani said, reacting to Jabbar''s recent statement urging Sikh women to wear a kesri (saffron) dupatta (cloth covering head) and Hindu girls to apply bindi to distinguish themselves from Muslim women. Geelani said, purdah is good, but the means adopted by the outfit to enforce it is not welcome. ''Such things can be done by persuasion and not force. But we cannot and should not make Sikhs or other non-Muslim communities to follow it. They have their own religious code of conduct,'' he says. The Sikh leadership too is confused about the diktat. ''Kashmir never believed in any regimentation on the basis of caste or religion. Sikhs have been living here for centuries and they never felt a need for separate identity. Why now?'' asks Prof Prem Singh, a noted Sikh scholar. Some of the Sikh leaders feel this move a is a ''veiled'' conspiracy by mischievous elements to generate insecurity among the minorities so that they migrate from the Valley. ''These are the same elements who killed Sikhs in Chitti Sighpora and Mehjoor Nagar to create wedge between the Muslims and the Sikhs in Valley,'' says Indumeet Singh, a leader of All India Sikh Students Federation. ''They will not be allowed to succeed in their designs,'' he adds. Some believe this diktat is a step towards Talibanisation of Kashmir. Few months ago, similar dress code was imposed on non-Muslims in Afghanistan by Taliban leader, Mullah Omar. And like LeJ, Omar too had justified the move as was necessary to distinguish non-Muslim women. ''Already we Kashmiris are living in such a tense situation. By issuing a diktat for non-Muslims they are adding to this tension,'' says Charan Singh Bali, president, Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), Kashmir. The Sikh women are outrightly against the new dress code imposed on them. ''There are many other issues which the militants should try to take up rather than adopting a role of ''moral police''. Nobody can thrust things on us,'' says Kultar Kour of Sikh Istri Sabha. Sikh leaders are meet soon in this regard. The intend to meet Muslim representatives of various political and social organisations to reach a common concensus against this fresh diktat. Geelani had earlier criticised the LeJ for threatening Muslim women and deplored acid attacks for violating the dress code. He said, the biggest problem before them (the leadership) was that nobody knew anything about LeJ, so that they could not take up the issue with them. However Geelani does not rule out the involvement of security agencies in this episode. ''I cannot even rule out that. Earlier, we had something like Al Faran, which vanished after the abduction of a few foreign tourists. Nobody has seen them or heard of them since,'' says Geelani.


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