Friday, February 9, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

PM’s assurance to Sikhs
From T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Feb 8 — The Atal Behari Vajpayee government will have to take some innovative measures expeditiously to end the alienation of the scattered Sikh community in Jammu and Kashmir.

A concerned Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) firmly believes that if adequate security is not provided to the satisfaction of the Sikh community, they are planning to migrate to safer pastures where they do not have to live in constant fear of their life being threatened.

The delegation, which had undertaken a visit to Srinagar for an on-the-spot of the study of the situation in the aftermath of the attack on the Sikh community in which six persons were killed, impressed upon the Prime Minister to take certain decisions in the next 72 hours to redress their genuine concerns.

An anguished Mr Vajpayee assured that he would discuss the issue in its entirety with Union Home Minister, L K Advani, Union Defence Minister George Fernandes and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah so that the interests of the Sikh community were protected.

Union Chemicals and Fertiliser Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa had informed the Prime Minister that a highly insecure Sikh community in the valley was awaiting the Centre’s response at least 24 hours before their meeting on February 11 to decide on the critical issue of migrating out of Jammu and Kashmir to a place where at least their limbs and life are safe.

Mr Dhindsa also drew pointed attention to the massacre of the members of the Sikh community at Chattisinghpora in March last year and regretted that despite the state government’s assurances of ensuring their safety, there had been a fresh wave of violence against them in Srinagar and Jammu.

Mr Dhindsa and Mr Tarlochan Singh, Vice-Chairman National Commission for Minorities, had suggested a five-point action plan to infuse confidence among the Sikhs in Jammu and Kashmir and the valley in particular.

It was generally felt that Dr Abdullah should induct an influential and respected member of the Sikh community in the state government to act as a pivot and rallying point in sorting out their problems which had failed to find an echo among the National Conference leadership so far.

The safety of the Sikhs being of paramount importance, they need to be relocated so that they are not thinly spread in about 160 villages in the valley. In some villages their number is so small that they are gripped by utter helplessness.

At all these relocated places, there should be a strong picket of the central para-military forces along with a permanent police station so that at least in case of violence or any other trouble help remained close at hand.

In cities there should be mobile squads in the sensitive localities, a euphemism for residential areas of minorities, keeping a hawk’s eye aimed at warding off trouble or violent incidents.

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