The teenage Sikh girl, who was allegedly abducted and converted to Islam before being married to a Muslim man in Pakistan's Punjab province, on Saturday refused to go home despite the provincial governor's plea, fearing threat to her life, an official said.
Punjab Governor Chaudhary Muhammad Sarwar met the girl at a shelter home in Lahore and requested her to go back to her family but she refused, citing a threat to her life, he said.
The girl, who is the daughter of a Sikh priest, was on Friday sent to Darul Aman (shelter home) on a court order after she told the judge that she married Mohammad Hassan of her locality with her own free will.
Kaur's family alleged that she was converted to Islam at gunpoint and forced to marry a Muslim boy. Her family says she is 18 years of age.“On Saturday, Governor Sarwar met with the Sikh girl at Lahore’s Darul Aman and tried his best to persuade her to return her parents’ home but she declined,” an official of the Punjab government told PTI.
He said the girl told the governor that she loved Hassan and married him with her own free will. Kaur said she feared for her life if she returned to her parents’ home in Nankana Sahib, 80 km from Lahore.
An FIR was registered on Thursday against six people in the case. Police have arrested one of the suspects named Arsalan, a friend of the Hassan, who is also the prime accused in the case and currently on pre-arrest bail.
Police on Saturday detained 10 more people, including relatives and friends of Hassan, in connection with the case. The official said that the governor even told her that "her marrying a man outside her religion is becoming a religious matter and there has been tension in Nankana Sahib among Sikhs and Muslims, but she did not budge.”
The Sikh community in Nankana Sahib held protests demanding the return of the girl back to her family. Some reports also said that the Sikh community has announced a ban on the entry of Muslims in gurudwaras including Gurudwara Janamasthan, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev, until the girl is reunited with her family and action is taken against the culprits.
However, Pakistan's Gurudwara Parbhandik Committee Secretary-General Ameer Singh told PTI that the situation in Nankana Sahib has been under control and clarified that the Sikh community had not banned Muslims entry to gurudwaras in Nankana Sahib. Before the governor's meeting with the girl, a Sikh delegation called on him to discuss the matter.
Under pressure, the Punjab government constituted a high-level committee to negotiate with Sikhs angry over the abduction and forced conversion of the girl. The committee told the family of the girl and the community members that she had embraced Islam of her free will after marrying Hassan.
It also provided them with video proof of Kaur's marriage and her conversion to Islam besides copies of the documents from the National Database and Registration Authority, showing Kaur's age as 19 years.
It also told them that Kaur filed a writ petition before the Lahore High Court against the local police, accusing them of harassment. The community members were informed by the committee that the girl also submitted a written statement in the court, stating that she had converted to Islam and married Hassan of her own free will and accused her family of “plotting to kill her”.
However, the official of the Punjab government said the Sikh members rejected the video and documented evidence and maintained their earlier stance to reunite the girl with the family. They also demanded the police to bring the girl back to her parents’ house, irrespective of the conversion being forced or consensual.
Another official of the government said that efforts are being made to put pressure on Hassan to divorce Kaur so that she could be sent back to her family.
Earlier, a video of Kaur's family had gone viral on social media in which one of her family members alleged that a group of men had attacked their house and kidnapped the girl.
The person in the video also claimed that the kidnappers again approached them and threatened them with consequences if they pursued the case and did not convert to Islam. He also warned of self-immolation along with his whole family in front of the Governor House in Lahore if the girl is not reunited with the family.
India on Friday said it has raised with Pakistan the issue of a Sikh girl being abducted and forced to convert to Islam in that country. Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar in New Delhi said the ministry has received a number of representations from various quarters of civil society in India, including Sikh religious bodies, at the "reports of the incident of abduction and forced conversion of a minor Sikh girl in Pakistan". "We have shared these concerns with the government of Pakistan and asked for immediate remedial action," he said.