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Tuesday, 21 March, 2000, 18:04 GMT
Safety fears for Kashmir's Sikhs

Sikhs make up 2% of Indian-administered Kashmir
By South Asia analyst Alastair Lawson

Unlike thousands of Hindu and Muslim civilians who have been killed in the Kashmir conflict, the Sikh community has managed to avoid much of the violence of the past 10 years.

They have been generally considered a neutral third party in the Kashmir conflict and have not been associated with either the separatist movement or the Indian security forces.

According to the latest figures released by the Indian authorities, the Sikh population of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is around 2% of the total population of six million.



The community has been targetted for the first time
The majority of the Sikh community is located around the predominantly Hindu Jammu area. Few are based in the six Muslim majority districts of the Kashmir Valley.

Historical ties

The Sikh connection with Kashmir goes back hundreds of years - even though the Sikh population is relatively small.

It was the Sikh leader, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who is regarded by many historians as playing an instrumental role in encouraging Sikhs from what is now the Indian state of Punjab to settle in Kashmir.

It seems unlikely that the perpetrators of the latest killings - believed to be the largest of its kind since the insurgency in Kashmir began - will ever be caught.

The Indian army and security forces maintain that it was carried out by militants as a means of highlighting world attention to the Kashmir conflict during President Clinton's visit to India.

Many separatist groups, meanwhile, say that the killings were carried out by the security forces to create negative propaganda against Pakistan.

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21 Mar 00 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Outpouring of grief
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