Sikh minority want equal rights and rapid justice

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The Sikh minority community in rural areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been struggling for their basic rights including free and quality education, right to vote and right to worship, as their places of worship are far and inaccessible.
Harmeet Singh is a resident of Chakesar, Shangla who has been struggling to get justice for his younger brother, who was allegedly murdered by his fiancee through hired killers at Peshawar. He said he was disappointed due to shortcomings in the police investigation, with the chief suspect and her brother already posting bail while he was still spending millions of rupees in the courts over the case trials.
“We are patriotic Pakistanis and love our country but since I matured the state only neglected us and deprived us of our basic rights, including religious rights, job rights. We must have equal facilities in the country as the Muslims have,” Harment Singh said, who is an anchor at a private television station.
The Sikh minority community has been living in rural areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, particularly in Swat, Shangla, Bunir for decades, even before the partition of the subcontinent.
This community are known for being tradesmen and have been running their own businesses for a long time but many of them collapsed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many members of the community still experiencing severe financial crises.
Gulzar Lal Singh, a political activist, said he had been knocking the door of every elected politician and authority regarding the issues faced in Shangla district, to no avail.
He said then Member of the National Assembly MP Bandhara had acquired land for their community center in Chakesar in 1985 which has been long occupied by the health department, and despite his repeated requests to the concerned authorities it had still not been vacated.
“I met the district health officer, Deputy commissioner, Auqaf department authorities and elected persons regarding the construction of a safety wall for our child graveyard, rebuilding Shamshangath as it is in dilapidated condition and dysfunctional since a decade but no one take practical steps for addressing our these issues,” he said.
Singh added that the community had been deprived of the right to vote by then president Pervaiz Musharaf in 2004 as a result of which they could not field their own candidate for elections but had to vote for Muslim candidates instead.
Harmeet Singh recalled that when he was in the second grade, an Islamiat book teacher used to tell him that he was a kaffir (Non Muslim) and he must convert his religion to Islam as otherwise he would go to hell.
“They did the same with us in the Pakistan Study where they presented us the worst people whose faith is Sikhism and Hinduism, but my question is why are our children even today being humiliated in schools and forced to learn Islamiat, why don’t we have alternative books for our religion,” the Sikh public TV anchor, said.
Harmeet received death threats from those who allegedly killed his brother but despite the prime minister Imran Khan’s notice, after news of the threat went viral, nothing was done for his security.
“The PM Imran Khan notice was just an attempt to make me a fool because to date neither the IG Khyber Pakhtunkhwa nor other police officers ensured my security or took any legal action against those who threatened me,” he said.
Doctor Sukh Raj Singh used to live with family in Chakesar town, Shangla for decades but had to move to another district due to a lack of facilities and job opportunities.
“Whenever the government advertised jobs, they filled the special quota positions for minorities with Muslims, because no one heard us in any government offices. They ignored us and allotted us only the sweepers posts,” he said.
According to Raj Singh, there were over 100 families from the community in Chakesar tehsil, but they had to migrate to other cities due to the inaccessibility to their places of worship and the lack of proper facilities.
The Shangla deputy commissioner, Hamid Ur Rehman, told in this regard, said that he was addressing Sikh community issues as a priority and held special meetings with them to get to know about their problems.
Replying to a question, he said the repair of Shamshangath did not fall within his domain for which he submitted a request to the provincial government as there was a lack of development funds for the district.
Wazir Zada, special assistant to chief minister, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on minority communities, said that KP government was striving to ensure all the required facilities for the Sikh community but added the government was handling COVID-19 and so there were delays.
He said the Sikh community members should meet him and added that he would take up their problems on the assembly floor and would fight for their rights, being a minority minister.

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