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Looking Into The Lives Of Sikhs As A Religious Minority In Kashmir

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By Ashish Kumar Singh and Wakar Amin:

While the status of Jammu and Kashmir has been changed, there remain various issues yet to be redressed by the current Modi-led NDA government. One among them is to maintain the peaceful co-existence of different religious communities in the state. As per the 2011 census data, Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim majority state in India, with about 68.31 percent of state population following Islam as their religion. Hinduism is the second most popular religion in the state, with approximately 28.44 percent of followers, while Sikhism is followed by 1.87 percent, Buddhism by 0.90 percent, Christianity by 0.28 percent and Jainism by 0.02 percent. The percent of Sikhs in the valley is a mere 1 percent. New data about the population post-August 5 decision of abrogation of Article 370 is currently not available.

The post-1989 period in Jammu and Kashmir saw an abrupt massive sociopolitical change. This has been the phase of an armed insurgency, especially in the Kashmir valley which was supported by Pakistan. In this situation, the religious minorities, such as Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus), Sikhs, and Christians, felt insecure and started leaving the valley. This period has witnessed a large scale exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley. This onset of the armed insurgency also witnessed the migration of some Sikhs and Muslim families from the valley. But by and large, it is reported that most of the Sikh families had stayed back in the valley despite the turmoil. The mainstream media, political narratives, and academic research have been mainly focused around forced migration of Kashmiri Pandits, not the other affected communities. This issue has also been mostly untouched by civil society organisations.

Largely, Kashmir did not see a wave of friction between Muslims and Sikhs. However, there were events such as Chittisinghpora massacre, (20 March 2000- in which 35 Sikhs were killed by Pak-supported extremists) and Mehjoor Nagar killings, (Feb 2, 2001- 7 people were killed, 16 wounded) that shook the inter-community bonding. There were other individual events in which one or a few Sikhs were killed; warnings were issued against Sikhs to leave the valley, (2008 and 2010) and discrimination against Sikhs was on the rise. To date, there have been very few studies trying to show the life of Sikhs as a religious minority group in Kashmir.

In a study, conducted by the scholars of the University of Kashmir (supported by Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR)), we looked into the lives of Sikhs staying in all ten districts of the Kashmir valley, i.e., Srinagar, Baramulla, Kupwara, Budgam, Bandipora, Ganderbal, Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian and Kulgam. We tried to understand the sense of alienation among Sikhs after the emergence of armed insurgency post-1989, to check existing policies addressing Sikhs as a religious minority and to recommend policy interventions. Sikhs as compared to Pandits, have shown their firm resistance to leave the valley. They have faced multiple economic, as well as psychological challenges, resulting from the conflict.

The conflict has affected their earnings and psycho-social well-being. Lack of information about government policy interventions has also been reported. Though there were promises by the successive governments after the Chittisinghpora massacre, and Mehjoor Nagar killings, on the ground, not much has been done leaving the community to survive on its own.

We would be able to share the detailed findings in our upcoming research article, though we felt necessary to give a glimpse of the situation, as any such discourse on Kashmir will be looked through the lenses of ‘unity in diversity’ and ‘Kashmiriyat’. It has become even more important after the recent status change of Jammu and Kashmir.

About the authors:

Dr. Wakar Amin is an Asst. Professor at the Dept. of Social Work, University of Kashmir, Srinagar, headed this study.

Ashish Kumar Singh is a doctoral candidate at National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow worked as a research consultant.)

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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