Sikhs have nothing to fear in Valley: PC20 August 2010
The Daily Excelsior
NEW DELHI: Opposition NDA today expressed concern in Parliament over reported threats to Sikhs from militants to convert to Islam or vacate Kashmir, prompting Government to give an assurance that nobody would be allowed to harm the minority community. Responding to concerns over the reported threat, Home Minister P Chidambaram said he had spoken to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who has assured him that every effort would be made to provide adequate protection to Sikhs in the Valley. 'We are aware of the so-called threat. There is nothing to fear or nothing to worry,' he said in the Rajya Sabha after NDA members vociferously demanded a statement from Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh over the reported threat after forcing two brief adjournments of the House on the issue. Chidambaram said 'nobody will be allowed to harm the Sikh community.' The Chief Minister had assured him that 'rights of Sikhs will be fully protected and no harm would be allowed to come to them,' he said. Earlier, Akali Dal member Rattan Singh Ajnala raised the issue of threats to Sikhs in the Lok Sabha before the Question Hour asserting that his community members may choose to die than convert to Islam. He cited a newspaper report which said Sikhs in Kashmir have received anonymous letters from Islamic militants asking them to either embrace Islam and join the protests against civilian killings or pack up and leave the Valley. After Ajnala’s emotional statement in the House, Mirza Mehboob Beg (NC) termed the threat by militants as against the ethos of Kashmir. 'This is against Kashmiriyat. This cannot be allowed to happen in Kashmir. Every Kashmiri Muslim will stand by the Sikhs,' Beg said. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee assured the House that Government will take all necessary steps to ensure that no harm would come to Sikhs. 'Not only Muslims of Kashmir but the whole of India would rise as one to stand by the Sikh community,' he said. In the Rajya Sabha, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna assured the members that the Government would strive to protect the minorities but members appeared dissatisfied with the statement and insisted on a response from the Prime Minister. S S Ahluwalia (BJP) said the Indian civilian face in Kashmir is a Sikh face and even that was now under threat from Islamist militants. Ahluwalia said the Government’s assurance is regarding protection to Sikh community whereas the need of the hour is to create a congenial atmosphere. Balbir Punj (BJP) said it was a matter of serious concern that 5 lakh Hindus were forced to leave the Valley and were living like refugees in their own country. Unity and integrity of the country is at stake, he said. Naresh Gujral (Akali Dal) said that the Sikh community’s strength has been reduced to 50,000 from the earlier one lakh. 'Now they are living by the day,' he said. He said a delegation of Sikh community wanted to meet the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh twice earlier but was not given time. This prompted the Opposition to shout 'shame, shame.' Raising the issue during zero hour, Rajiv Pratap Rudy (BJP) said Sikhs were given three options-change the religion, become members of Stone Pelters’ Association or leave the Valley. He said the country was proud to have a Sikh as the Prime Minister but 'enough is enough...If this is going to be the approach of the Government, entire country will be forced to go and shed blood to protect each and every Sikh.' (PTI) .