–Protesters disperse after suspects arrested in an alleged forced conversion case are released by police
LAHORE: Protesters staged a sit-in outside Gurdwara Nankana Sahib on Friday and threatened to drive the local Sikh population out of the city if the authorities did not release the suspects arrested in an alleged forced conversion case.
They were led by the family of a man named Ehsan, who had been detained alongside several family members earlier in the day for forcibly converting a Sikh girl, Jagjit Kaur, earlier this year.
Ehsan’s sister told the media that the police had raided their home and had tortured the women and children present inside the house.
Ehsan was scheduled to appear before the court on January 9 in the case. His family alleged that the police tried to pressurise them ahead of the hearing.
Nankana Sahib District Police Officer Ismail Kharak said that the suspects were arrested on the basis of a complaint filed by a citizen regarding a dispute. He did not, however, comment on the family’s allegations regarding the police’s attempts to pressure them ahead of the hearing.
Nankana Sahib Police Station Sub Inspector (SI) Ghulam Hussain said that a dispute between two families had escalated to the point of one family protesting in public. However, he said, the protesters did not attack the holy site.
While the official said that the protesters dispersed after the police intervened, a local media outlet reported that PTI Nankana Sahib President Pir Sarwar Shah held talks with the protesters and ensured the release of the suspects.
Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Chairman Amir Ameer said that there was no attack on the Gurdwara and no damage was caused to the holy site. “This is a law and order issue which was resolved by the police,” he said.
Meena Kumari, a resident of Nankana Sahib told Pakistan Today that said she has been married to a Muslim for the past 20 years but has not faced any discrimination. Commenting on the matter, she said that the locals had created an issue out of nothing.
Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, also known as the Gurdwara Janam Asthan, is the site where the first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak, was born and is regarded as one of the holiest sites in the religion.
On August 28, a First Information Report (FIR) was filed in the Nankana police station against six people who were accused of abducting and forcefully converting the 19-year-old woman.
The police subsequently traced the suspects to Lahore and detained one of them. Later, the woman had submitted a written statement in the court, stating that she had converted to Islam and married Ehsan of her own free will. She also accused her family of “wanting to kill me”.
The woman was subsequently shifted to a Darul Aman shelter on the court’s orders after the Sikh community had demanded that the police bring her back to her parents’ house irrespective of the conversion being forced or consensual.