Whether the protest at the Gurdwara in Nankana Sahib was a result of police action taken against a suspected accused in a forced conversion case, or if an altercation between two Muslim groups resulted in a large number of protesters gathered outside the place of worship is inconsequential. What matters is that this should never have happened. A large number of people in the city thought it acceptable to settle personal disputes or those with the state by holding minority rights hostage, which is simply not acceptable. In both (conflicting) versions of the story, the only thing that is certain is that the Sikh community had no part to play.

Instead of looking to deflect from the situation or appeasing the protestors, the government should take stock of what really happened. The protestors used the government’s well-intentioned efforts and twisted them around to secure the release of a suspect in a forced conversion case. Ensuring that the protestors did not endanger the corridor was essential, but a no-tolerance policy and refusing to negotiate with protestors that needlessly put minorities and their rights under risk might have set a better precedent on this occasion.

The case itself was very well-publicised and the Punjab Governor himself tweeted out that the matter had been amicably resolved between the two parties. Clearly, this was not the case, and perhaps therein lies the problem; the issue of forced conversions needs to be treated with more seriousness and the criminals involved should not be offered any leeway in order to deter others from committing the same crime.

Opening up the Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh pilgrims to travel across the border was seen as a symbol of the government’s commitment to protecting the rights of minorities in Pakistan. Juxtaposed next to the Modi government’s oppression in Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOC), the optics of promoting tolerance in Pakistan at a time when the neighbour was advocating a dangerous brand of religious nationalism worked well for us in the eyes of the international community as well. This was of benefit to the Kashmir cause, and Pakistan’s continued protection of the right to practice one’s religion freely would have suited our narrative of legitimately raising our voice against injustice in India. But this argument gets tarnished when such incidents happen on our own soil as well.

The state has often stated that it sees no difference between citizens of different faiths. It is quite obvious however, that this is not always the case among the general public as well. The government however, has the power to ensure that members of the majority do not flout the laws of the country and subvert minority rights whenever they see fit.