APSCC calls for focused attention for upliftment of Sikhs in J&K

JAMMU: The All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) -- a representative body of Sikhs in the Kashmir Valley-- Friday accused the Centre of ignoring their plight over the years and demanded a focussed attention for their upliftment.

It also expressed displeasure over the way the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was taken away and the erstwhile state bifurcated into two Union territories with complete shutdown of the internet service.

"We have come here to raise our genuine issues which are hanging fire for the last many decades...The government must make its stand clear on the National Commission for Minorities Act (NCMA)," APSCC chairman Jagmohan Singh Raina told reporters here.

Raina, who was flanked by nearly a dozen Sikh leaders from the valley and the Jammu region, said the Centre is claiming that the benefits of the central schemes would trickle down to the people of Jammu and Kashmir under the new arrangement but "we do not see it happening on the ground".

He said all the governments have in the past remained silent on the issue and as such the Sikh community has been deprived of all the benefits that were due to them under the NCMA.

"Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu should come out and explain the broader contours of the NCMA so that Sikhs are not deprived of the benefits," he said.

Article 146 of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state Constitution guaranteed the promotion of regional languages including Punjabi but after the nullification of Article 370, the oldest language is missing from the "new formula of languages", Raina said.

"This is despite the fact that the Punjabi language is being taught at the primary, secondary and higher levels of education in J and K. The language belongs to many but it''s the mother tongue of Sikhs. The APSCC will not tolerate discrimination with it," he said.

Raina appealed to the central government and the local administration to inform the Sikh community about the policy on regional languages.

"Sikhs are in every part of the Union Territory and will not hesitate to carry out an agitation if the language is not included," he said.

He said Sikh delegations have met then Home Minister Rajnath Singh five times over their issues but got "only assurances which remained unfulfilled so far".

He said 80 per cent of Sikhs, living in villages in the valley, had to leave their homes and migrate to cities for their safety and security after the eruption of militancy in early 1990.

"It is highly unfortunate that the central government exclusively sanctioned packages for Kashmiri Pandits but ignored the Sikhs who also faced huge economic losses," he said.

On the abrogation of Article 370 provisions, Raina said the Centre should have taken the people of the erstwhile state into confidence before taking such a big decision.

"The people of Jammu and Kashmir rejected the two-nation theory to be part of India," he said, adding the continuous ban on the internet service in the valley was the reason for their moving to Jammu to raise their issues.

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PTI