Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
I write to you today because like so many of my fellow Sikhs from Kashmir, I am both rejected and dejected. No one can deny the stark truth that the Sikhs in Kashmir – a prominent community that remained very much upright at every peril in the past is passing through trying times. Sikhs in Kashmir have been treated very shabbily under each and every Government in Jammu & Kashmir.
During the upheaval of 1947 Sikhs in Kashmir took an exemplary step of favouring ‘plight’ than ‘flight’ which resulted in blood bath of Sikhs. But Sikh community the last microscopic minority community in Kashmir, at present juncture feels totally disillusioned from the democratic Government. There are no minority rights for this ethnic group, and are feeling neglected and facing acute prejudice in all spheres.
People at the helm of affairs in Jammu & Kashmir should bear in mind that Jammu & Kashmir State should be compared to a huge ship cruising through turbulent waters to a golden destination. For this voyage every section of the Society must be galvanized together firmly as one section. One little crack i.e. a disgruntled minority can force the huge ship to halt in the midst of the deep till the crack is repaired. Hence, the protection of the rights of minorities is sine qua non for a healthy democracy.
Historically Sikhs in Kashmir have suffered both economically and politically at the hands of different regimes. Agriculture and transport sector traditionally have been the main stay of the Sikhs in Kashmir. With the promulgation of big landed estates abolition act and introduction of Agrarian Reforms Act, excess land beyond prescribed limit was either escheated to State or given to tillers and land that which was cultivated by tenants was transferred to them. This resulted in migration of Sikh youth from villages to cities in search of jobs and being in minority & without any political patronage they suffered on job front too.
With the advent of militancy in Kashmir the survival for the hapless community has become more difficult and unfortunate incidents of Chitti Singhpura and Mehjoor Nagar killings of Sikhs further jolted the confidence of Sikhs but Sikhs in Kashmir stood like a rock and did not migrate. Rubbing salt to the wound the State Governments apathy towards the suffering of the community has aggravated the problem manifold resulting in frustration in the youth and their families. For so many years the Sikhs of Kashmir have been deprived of any representation in the democratic set up of the State. The community being scattered all over the valley in small hamlets, cannot be expected to provide any representation on its own. The State constitution does provide solutions under such circumstances by nominations for the deprived communities to the democratic institution. Unfortunately power circles have ignored these facts; as a result Sikh community remains unrepresented and deprived.
Numbers of technically qualified Sikh youth are without jobs for last many years. The State Government has not taken any steps to mitigate their sufferings and as a result these youth who are without any means of livelihood have no choice but to leave valley for other parts of country in search of jobs. It has been found sometimes the deserving students of the community who aspire to get technically qualified are denied admissions to the technical institutions, because of the fact that Sikhs remain clubbed with the Open/General Category. As a result of which they fail to make the grades and are forced to discontinue their studies.
Transport Industry since long time has been major source of livelihood for the Sikh community in J&K. Transport industry now a day is being completely ignored which has led to the deterioration of transport sector and loss of income to the Sikhs who were owners and drivers.
Under such compelling circumstances the Sikhs in Kashmir feel deprived and isolated, and day is not far when the last microscopic minority shall have to think to leave Kashmir and migrate to other parts of the country for sustenance. For the all round development of the State, Sikhs in Kashmir should be cajoled and nurtured and some needful steps should be taken in this regard:-
- Sikhs should be given constitutional guarantee for the safeguard of their rights and future.
- As per the provisions of the State Constitution under Section 50 Sub-Section 6 a political representation should be given to the Sikh community.
- Qualified Sikh Youth should be recruited to the Central & State Govt. Services on special Quota basis as has been done for other communities.
- Aspiring students of community who want to go for higher studies should be given preferential treatment as is being done in case of Kashmiri Pandit Migrants.
- Transport Sector should be declared as an industry.
- Chitti Singh Pura & Mehjoor Nagar massacres of Sikhs should be thoroughly investigated & guilty should be punished.
Hope Sikhs of Kashmir are rescued from their present predicament of woeful distress and writhing agony. Life should be put on wheels again without fear and fright.
“Umeed Waqt Ka Sabse Bada Sahara Hai,
Ghr Honsala Hai Tau Har Mauj Mein Kinara Hai”
Dr Raminder Jit Singh is Freelance Columnist & Founder of Non-Profit Organization ‘THE – SARA’ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org