Another Sikh community leader, Radash Singh Tony, also claimed that the woman was kidnapped, forcibly converted and married off but the police were playing the role of a “silent spectator”.
He said that when the community members met the district police officer earlier, he had assured them that Kumari would be handed over to the family, but on Sunday, the police misbehaved with the family members and did not hand her over or register their report.
Tony demanded that the government reunite Kumari to the family.
POLICE REJECT ALLEGATIONS
Buner District Police Officer (DPO) Abdur Rasheed, on the other hand, rejected the family’s allegations, saying that the police recovered the woman and produced her before a magistrate where she recorded her statement.
“She has confirmed in the court that she converted to Islam and contracted marriage of her own free will and submitted the relevant documents.”
He added that the court asked the police to move her to Darul Aman and provide her security. “The case is in the court. If the court orders of to register an FIR, the police will,” the DPO added.
SIKHS, FORCED CONVERSIONS & PAKISTAN
Sikhism in Pakistan has an extensive heritage and history, although Sikhs form a small community in the country today. Most Sikhs live in the province of Punjab, with some also residing in Peshawar and other parts of KP.
While incidents of violence against the Sikh community, like other religious minorities, are not uncommon, cases of abduction and subsequent forced conversion of young minority girls are mostly reported in Punjab and Sindh that house a large number of Christians and Hindus, respectively.
Human rights bodies have often called on minority councilors to intervene in cases of forced conversions, especially the ones involving minor girls. Leaders of minority communities are also particularly concerned by the judiciary’s handling of cases of underage marriages involving minority girls.
On Sept 17, 2020, almost two months after her disappearance, a Christian pastor’s daughter, Saneha Kinza Iqbal appeared in a Lahore court with her Muslim husband who is twice her age. The teenager claimed to have embraced Islam and got married of her free will. On the marriage certificate, her age was stated as 20, contrary to her school and baptism certificates which show her to be 16.
As per the data of census 2017, the total population of religious minorities in Pakistan in 2017 was 3.54%, however in 1998, it was 3.72%, showing a 0.18% decrease with 0.5% decrease in Christian population. Christians in Pakistan were 1.55% in 1981, increased to 1.58% in 1998, and drastically fell to 1.27% in 2017 with no concrete reason given.
In 2020, 15 cases were highlighted in the media but in 2021 some 60 cases were reported in which around 70 per cent of girls who were converted forcibly were under 18 years of age.