Karachi: Sikh community in Sindh has rejected the recently passed Hindu Marriage Law by Sindh Assembly for registration of marriages of religious minorities.

For the first time in Pakistan, the provincial assembly of Sindh has passed a bill in February 2016 to register the marriages of religious minorities in the province. The bill was welcomed by the Hindus; the largest religious minority of Pakistan. However, it was opposed by the Sikhs on the grounds that they have a different faith, and this bill is asking them to register under the Hindu Marriage Laws.

According to the 1998 census, 93 percent of the total population of Pakistan consists of Muslims while religious minorities including Hindu, Christians and Sikhs constitute the remaining seven percent. In Southern Sindh, nine percent of the population consists of religious minorities.

The Sikh Council of Pakistan represents the Sikh community. According to its leaders, there are around 20 thousand Sikhs in Pakistan, most of whom are living in Sindh.

They have raised serious concerns regarding the recent legislation in Sindh for marriage registration. The contents of the Bill outline that the Hindu marriage rituals are applicable to Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.

“Through this Hindu Marriage Bill, the government has placed Sikhs under the label of Hinduism. We strongly oppose this bill as we are Sikhs, not Hindus,” President of the Sikh Council of Pakistan, Ramesh Singh, told News Lens Pakistan. “We support marriage registration in Pakistan, but our community has serious concerns regarding our inclusion with the Hindus,” he added.

“Our delegation met the minority representatives in the Sindh Assembly to lodge our complaint and received a positive response.” If the government fails to amend the bill, Sikhs will launch a series of protests to show their disapproval of the legislation, said Singh.

He warned that the Sikh community in Pakistan would raise the issue at international forums if the Parliament failed to solve it.

“We will observe hunger strikes in front of Karachi Press Club on June 26, and then protest outside the assembly which has made this controversial legislation,” said Singh.

Sindh Minister Dr. Sikander Ali Mendhro told News Lens Pakistan, “If there are any apprehensions regarding the legislations, they must be brought forth so that the parliament may amend them.” The Sindh Assembly would consider amending the bill than rather than having the Sikh community protest on the streets.

He said that the Government of Sindh, before passing the bill, had given a mandate to the minorities’ representatives to propose amendments to the draft. The bill was passed unanimously, after everyone’s joint approval, he added.

Diwan Chand Chawla, a member of the Sindh Assembly on a reserved seat for minorities, was amongst those legislators who reviewed the draft of the ‘Hindu Marriage bill’ before it was tabled in the assembly. Chawla, who is also a member of standing committee on minorities’ affairs, agreed to the Sikh Council’s suggestions for the ‘Hindu Marriage bill’.

While talking to News Lens Pakistan over the phone, he said, “The objections came a while later by the Sikh Council of Pakistan. Meanwhile, the bill was passed and had been included in the gazette.”

He suggested an amendment to the name of the act and its contents in the assembly. “It will be worked out soon and we will be taking all stakeholders involved into consideration. The rest of the legislators will be duly informed,” said Chawla.

On the other hand, the bill has brought joy to the Hindu community. Dr Jai Ram married Dr Seeta Kumar four years ago. “We went to Murree near Islamabad for our honeymoon and during our stay, the hotel did not allow us to rent a room as my wife’s identity card had her father’s name, and not mine as I could not be listed as her husband,” said Dr Jai Ram. He praised the bill, saying that it is a step in the right direction.

Another member of Sindh Assembly, Nand Kumar Goklani, also reassured the Sikhs that their demands will be settled. “We have received their complaints and we will do everything to resolve them,” he said.



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