Scores of protesters surrounded the Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, located in its namesake city, on Friday afternoon, threatening to overrun the holy site if their demands for the release of suspects in an alleged forced conversion case were not met.
However, the protesters dispersed after several hours in the evening following successful negotiations between them and government representatives, which led to the release of the arrested persons.
Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, also known as the Gurdwara Janam Asthan, is the site where the first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak, was born and is regarded as one of the holiest sites in the religion.
On Friday evening, scores of charged protesters staged a sit-in outside the Gurdwara. They were led by the family of a man, Ehsan, who was accused of forcibly converting a Sikh woman, Jagjit Kaur, in 2019.
On August 28, a First Information Report (FIR) was filed in the Nankana police station against six people who were accused of abducting and forcefully converting the 19-year-old woman.
The police subsequently traced the suspects to Lahore and detained one of them. Later, the woman had submitted a written statement in the court, stating that she had converted to Islam and married Ehsan of her own free will. She also accused her family of "wanting to kill me".
The woman was subsequently shifted to a Darul Aman shelter on the court’s orders, after the Sikh community had demanded that the police bring her back to her parents' house irrespective of the conversion being forced or consensual.
On Friday, Ehsan's family alleged that police had raided their home and detained several family members, including Ehsan, ahead of the next court hearing scheduled for January 9. “Today, police personnel raided our home and arrested my brother and relatives after torturing them,” Ehsan’s sister told the media outside the Gurdwara, claiming that the police also tortured women and children present in the house.
Ehsan’s family also alleged that the police were trying to pressure them ahead of the court hearing.
For his part, the District Police Officer of Nankana Sahib, Ismail Kharak, said that the suspects were arrested on the basis of a complaint filed by a citizen regarding a dispute. He did not, however, comment on the family’s allegations regarding the police’s attempts to pressure them ahead of the hearing.
In the evening, successful talks were held between the protesters and the PTI Nankana Sahib president Pir Sarwar Shah. Police subsequently released all arrested persons, following which the protesters ended their protest and dispersed from the site.