The Plight Of Hindus In Pakistan
Needless to say, the condition of Hindus in Pakistan is miserable not only because they are economically poor or in minority, but also their life, property, daughters and temples are not safe
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”
Thus said Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his first Presidential Address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947.
The man who forced the partition of the sub-continent on religious ground in 1947, probably realised the lacuna in his ill-conceived idea immediately after creation of Pakistan. This is possibly the main reason why a hard core nationalist Hindu leader like L K Advani had to call Jinnah a secular leader. Unfortunately Jinnah’s own follower at home in Pakistan are not willing to ensure freedom of faith and security to those who do not believe in Islam.
The Hindus of Pakistan are not only maltreated, deprived and secluded both economically and otherwise, their honour and dignity are at stake. The condition of the Hindus living in Pakistan is miserable not only because they are economically deprived and are in minority, but more as their life, property, daughters and temples are not safe. There are places where cemeteries are not available for the cremation of their kith and kin as per the traditional Hindu practices. Some of them are forced to even bury the dead bodies of their near and dear ones which is not a Hindu practice.
The reasons for their deprivation and plight will remain unexplored unless it is understood in proper historical perspective. We must admit that due to the acrimony over partition and subsequently three wars between India and Pakistan, internal development in one country influences the development in the other. For example, in the aftermath of Ayodhya disaster in 1992, or the controversial Gujarat riots of 2002 in India, the Hindus of Pakistan had to face the Muslims’ outburst.
Similarly, if there is an attack on the Hindu temples in Pakistan or forced conversion of Hindu girl, there is sharp reaction from the Hindu organisation and condemnation by others in India. The difference between the two countries lies in the fact that while in India where the state is secular there is intervention from independent Judiciary and sharp reaction from the press and secular forces whenever there is any encroachment over the minority rights, in Pakistan similar secular and independents initiatives are mssing. We may mention about initiative taken by Rajinder Sachar committee report, and of late by repeated interventions of the Justice Markandey Katju, chairman Press Council of India. If something uncalled for happens with the Hindu minority in Pakistan, neither the weak and negligible Pakistani Hindu Council nor even the political leadership of the country is in a position to take a stand vis-à-vis the dominant Islamic forces.
According to the Pakistani Census, in 1951 Hindus constituted 22 percent of country’s population and were mainly concentrated in East Pakistan that subsequently became Bangladesh. The Hindu population in West Pakistan was less than 2 percent of its total population. By 1998 the Hindu population came down to about 1.7 percent.
This sharp decline is due mainly to creation of Bangladesh in 1971, where the bulk of pre-1971 Pakistani Hindus resided coupled with emigration of Hindus from Pakistan. The Pakistan Hindu council claims that there are about 7 million Hindus in present day Pakistan, but the official counts of the 1998 Census gives the figure of the Hindus as merely 2.5 million. More than 90 per cent of the Hindus live in the southern Sindh Province and are poor and of low caste origin. Despite that the community, the remnants of those who left Pakistan after partition, have produced a number of philanthropists, politicians and sportsmen who include cricketer Danish Kaneria and Chief Justice Bhagwan Das.
Of late the community feels extremely marginalised due to increasing influence of Muslims extremists and their interventions into Hindus life and culture. Forced conversions of Hindu girls into Islam, attack on their temples and encroachment on their cremation ground which is shrinking to none has forced some to bury the dead bodies of their kith and kin that goes against the Hindu tradition, and their neglects in jobs and other economic endeavours seems to have encouraged increasing migration of people of this community.
The erosion of minority rights with the process of all encompassing Islamisation began during President Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime in the eighties. It was under his regime that Pakistan was declared an Islamic republic. Following that its social and political life was influenced by the Islamist agenda and the Hindus have had negligible privileges and rights since then. Consequently, cultural marginalisation, discrimination, economic hardships and religious persecution have forced many Hindus leaving Pakistan, especially from the Sindh area, to India and to other parts of the world. Mostly the Hindu migrants come to India officially as a pilgrimage tourists by signing an undertaking with the Pakistani authority. They cross over to the Indian side with a promise to return before the expiry of their 30-day visa. However, a large number of them request for a visa extension immediately after they enter into Indian territory.
Since India has, so far, no asylum policy for Pakistani nationals, migrants commonly apply for a visa extension of six months to a year. According to Indian government estimates, there are around 4,000 to 5,000 Pakistani Hindus on extended visas in India. Life is very difficult for these migrants. They have complained that in Pakistan they are Hindus and in their Hindu homeland they are treated as Pakistani refugees. Despite that, there are many Pakistani Hindus who have preferred not to go back to Pakistan and are banking on the Indian government’s generosity.
According to a report published in Deccan Herald dated 11 April 2013, probably owing to the reasons mentioned above eighteen years after the Babri Masjid demolition at Ayodhya triggered migration of Pakistan-based Hindus to India, in Punjab alone over 1000 families of Hindus settled continue to live illegally, banking on Indian benevolence for guests. They do not want to go back and are now demanding either citizenship or visa extension. They are settled in various parts of the state, including Amritsar, Jalandhar and Rajpura.
According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, approximately 20-25 kidnappings and forced conversions of Hindu girls take place in Sindh every month. One burning example of such type is the Rinkle Kumari case which was reported in February 2012. On August 15,2012, The Times Of India revealed that for 19-year-old Rinkle Kumari, the ordeal began in February 2012, when she was allegedly abducted from her village Mirpur Mathelo in Ghotki province of Pakistan.
Rinkle was allegedly forced to convert to Islam and coerced into marrying one Naveed Shah. The ‘abductors’ were reportedly supported by a People’s Party of Pakistan member, Abdul Haq alias Mian Mitho. After a legal battle between Rinkle’s parents and the ‘abductors’, which lasted nearly two months, the Pakistan supreme court ruled in April that Rinkle (christened Faryal Shah after the conversion) chose to live with her “husband” and “embraced” Islam of her own volition.” Elsewhere it was pointed out that the Dargah Aalia Qadria Bharchoondi Sharif madrassa, where Kumari was converted, is headed by Mithhoo and is widely known for converting Hindu girls. As per the report it aims to convert 2,000 Hindus to Islam every year. A 14-year-old Hindu girl, who was kidnapped from Jacobabad city in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, was forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man. The kidnapping of the Hindu girl, Manisha Kumari, had sparked widespread concern in the minority community amidst reports of the exodus of several Hindu families from the region. Manisha’s father Rewat Mal reportedly said his daughter had telephoned him from an unknown location saying that she had converted to Islam and changed her name to Mahwish. According to the family members she was forced to do so, instead.
PAK HINDUS SEEK CITIZENSHIP
By Ravi Shankar
Pakistan is a difficult country ever since its birth. Fed up with their relentless persecution, a group of 480 Pakistani Hindus recently came to India on valid passports and visas to take holy dip in Allahabad during the mahakumbha, but they had one thing uppermost in their mind. It was to settle down in India permanently.
“We have come to India to save our religion (Hinduism). We are leading a life of hell in Pakistan,” says Lakshaman, who is not alone revealing the sorry state of affairs prevailing in Pakistan, to Uday India.
It may be recalled that all the 480 Hindus from Pakistan have now been staying at Bijwasan in South Delhi. One Nahar Singh has been taking care of their lodging and fooding.
Earlier in 2011, a batch of 145 Hindus from Pakistan, too, had taken shelter in the house of Singh. They, too, did not want to go to Pakistan. The Delhi High Court in its verdict said that if they did not want to return to Pakistan, the government of India should not force them to return. Among the 145 people, as many as 113 are now settled around the Bijwasn village while, 32 are still staying in the house of Singh.
The present exodus of Hindus from Pakistan is the result of the news shared by these 145 Hindus to their kith and kin back in Pakistan.
A 76-year-old Shobharam shares his plight with saying, “We shall happily bear every trouble in India, but will not return to Pakistan. Our fault is that we are born as Hindus on Pakistani soil.” This is not all. Everyone has his tale to share. Needless to say, they all have been pushed to the wall in their home land- Pakistan. The group of 480 Hindus comprising 200 families has left behind everything in their country. They have left all their properties, business and moreover their dear and near ones. No one has come with his entire family. Some has left behind their parents, some their children or even wife or husband.
An octogenarian Baishakhi Lal says, “I cannot see with my eyes the outraging the modesty of our women.”
Out of the present batch of 480 Hindus, the first batch of 229 came on March 10, 2013, the second batch came on March 18 with 222 people in their group, while the last one came on March 27 with 29 people. They all did come officially citing the reason to take a dip in Allahabad during the mahakumbha. However settling in India was their primary aim due to their endless persecution at the hands of Pakistani Muslims in cahoots with administration. Lakshman says, “The police in Pakistan do not respond to the complaints filed by the Hindus. They in fact say why don’t you people convert to Islam. Even if they register case due to pressure from media or other agencies, the accused are let off later.”
The life of these unfortunate Hindus in Pakistan is in tatters. They are discriminated on every front. Whether it is education or government job, discrimination is quite obvious. “There is no system of imparting education to our children in Hindi or Sanskrit. It is only Arabic or Urdu, that is the medium of instruction in Pakistan. Our children are coerced to learn <Kalma>,” says Hanuman, who himself was a butt of joke with his name among Muslim students and teachers back in Pakistan. “When I went to school for the first time, everyone started laughing at my name. Everyone started to tease me throwing with stones. When I complained to teacher, I was told if you keep such name, you have to bear with the consequences. Change your name, keep it Aasif. I stopped going to school since that day,” says Lakshman with heavy heart.
Whatever happens in India, there is repercussions in Pakistan. Sharing his bitter experience, Hanuman Prasad Rajput says, “Since 1992, several temples were razed in Pakistan and no case was registered. If India wins a match, they settle score with us. When Virat Kohli scored 173 runs, three girls of Kohli clan were kidnapped.” Adding further, he narrates, “Our mothers and daughters go out in burqua. The incident of Rinkle Kumari, Meena Kumari and Asha Kumari is fresh in our minds. They failed to get justice even from the court.”
The situation has come to such a pass that the Hindus in Pakistan cannot even celebrate their festivals openly. Sharing her woes, Yamuna from Sindh says, “We are frequently reminded that if you want to stay in Pakistan, you have to live like Muslims. You have to celebrate Muslim festivals. Even cows are slaughtered in temples.”
Leaving behind her three-day-old son, Bharti says, “I had come with my three-day-old son to the border, but the police asked his passport and visa. Even my imploring did not move them. If I waited for my son’s passport and visa, I could have never come to India. I have left my son at the altar of India.” She has come with four daughters and two sons with her husband. On being asked why did she leave behind her new born, she revealed, “For saving the religion, for the sake of our daughters. Whatever happens with other Hindu girls, should not happen with our daughters. That is why, I have come even leaving behind my son.”
What happens with Hindu girls? Why do not they venture out of their homes freely? Bharti has the answer, “All mock at us. They taunt us saying- see Kaafirs’ daughters and sisters. They kidnap beautiful girls and rape them and later convert them to Islam.” She does not even spare India. “If we get passports, we fail to obtain visas from India. Thanks to kumbh, we got the visas after a great deal of difficulty.”
Ramkali is only 13-year-old today. She got married when she was barely 10-year-old. On being asked why was she married at such a tender age. “If the girls are young, the Muslims take them away. So, the girls are married off quite early,” said another woman. Though only 13, Ramkali is a mother of six-year-old child.
A woman from Sindh has her own story. “When the girls turn to 6-7 years old, they are kidnapped and raped. Our parents are scared and they do not allow us to go out. The Muslims had demanded a girl from our brother-in-law and when he did not oblige them, he was shot dead and the girl was taken away. We kept on roaming with his body demanding justice, but no one helped us,” narrates Yamuna with tears in her eyes. So much so, the Hindu women are afraid to visit hospital even for deliveries. Yamuna tells, “Sometimes back, one Hindu lady doctor had come to assist us, but she was kidnapped by the Muslims. She was raped and later converted to Islam.”
The 13-year-old Mala is happy in India. She has started learning. Even in less than a month, she has learnt to write a few names. “I can study here. I can go wherever I want to. This is not possible in Pakistan,” says Mala with glee in her eyes.
Though the Pakistani Hindus are staying in cramped rooms, they do not complain. “We are quite happy here. We have no problems, but we do not intend to return to Pakistan,” says one of the women staying at Bijwasan.
On the other hand, Nahar Singh has been working hard for the citizenship of these Hindus from Pakistan. “These people should be given citizenship from 1947. The present Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has come from Pakistan. Earlier, Inder Kumar Gujral, who, too, was the prime minister, also migrated to India from Pakistan. LK Advani, who was home minister, too, had come from Pakistan. All these people coming from Pakistan held high positions in India. Why can’t these Hindus from Pakistan get Indian citizenship? When in 1947, Pakistan was formed it was demanded by Muslims and not the Hindus,” says Singh, who is in the forefront of demanding citizenship for these Hindus.
Meanwhile, besides Nahar Singh, several Hindu organisations have sought citizenship for these Hindus from Pakistan. The Delhi unit of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has been more vocal in demanding the citizenship for them. A delegation of these Hindus has met BJP senior leader LK Advani and JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav in this connection recently. Later, BJP president Rajnath Singh, too, visited Bijwasan and assured all possible help to these Hindu families. Later a delegation of the Hindu from Pakistan met Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who has assured them to set up relief camp to take care of them. Till filing of this report, the relief camp has already been set up. Meanwhile, the move has been afoot to grant citizenship to these Hindus by the government. ■
A BBC story on March 2, 2007, reported about kidnaping and murder of a Hindu engineer, Garish Kumar, in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh. His dismembered body parts were later found near a madrassa. Kumar’s father, Saspal Das, a trader from Kunri town in Sindh’s central district of Umerkot reportedly said, “No one listens to the Hindu minority, … we have no security. We are targeted because we are Hindu. There is no other reason for kidnapping of Garish.”
According to a news published by the prestigious Pakistani Website , Dawn.com (of the Dawn, the well kown Pakistani Daily) on 8th November 2012, the Pakistani Hindus feel that their place of worship are not safe. The report quotes Mol Chand, one of the teenage boys gathered at the temple saying, “We have no place to worship now.”
This was second time when this Sri Krishna Ram temple was attacked. This small temple, is situated on the outskirts of the city. It was the latest in a rising tide of violence and discrimination against Hindus in this Muslim dominated country, where religious extremism is unlikely to halt. At Karachi, the capital of Sindh, on the premises of the 150-year-old Swami Narayan Temple, thousands of Hindus gather during the year to celebrate major religious holidays. At the 200-year-old Laxmi Narain Temple, Hindus scatter the ashes of their cremated loved ones in the waters of an inlet from the Arabian Ocean. But these Hindu temples are also not safe.
According to a BBC report dated December 5, 2012, the demolition of a Hindu temple by a Karachi property developer is yet another reminder of how insecure religious minorities have become in Pakistan. Witnesses said, as per the report, the developers chose deliberately the day when higher courts were closed and there was no hope of immediate legal intervention. This Rama Peer temple, which is about 80 years old, was one of many Hindu temples in Karachi that have in recent years been the subject of property disputes involving commercial builders.
According to a report in The Express Tribune dated November 29, 2012, Hindus in Dera Ismail Khan are forced to bury their dead relatives due to the unavailability of proper cremation grounds. The national Daily quoted Sawan Chudhry, a resident of DI Khan, who had to bury his father Jawarya Chudhry after his death in 1965, said, “My father was buried at the Munawar graveyard in Madina Colony. It is unfortunate that his final rites could not be performed according to our faith.”
The Express Tribune quoted Chudhry, as saying, “In 1985, Pandith Kahdaree Lal was cremated and he is the only Hindu whose remains were incinerated in the district since the inception of Pakistan.” Hindus in DI Khan have to bury their dear ones because there are no cremation grounds in this area. The Hindus in other parts of Pakistan may perform funeral rites according to Hindu custom but not in DI Khan. Nothing can be worse than this.
Hindus in Pakistan are a small conglomeration and politically weak. They are becoming a convenient target and subject to systematic exploitation and attack. Political forces are not at all serious about promoting their political involvement and their overall economic development. No political party can dare to champion the Hindu cause. Political leaders, parties and even governments are merely interested in their political support and they do it by nurturing a few Hindu leaders. The leaders of the Hindu community continue to be dependent on their Muslim patrons, and cannot dare to raise Hindu demands. This suits the Muslim leadership and their governments who may not like to appease the Hindu minority beyond a point and thus invite an err from the Islamic brotherhood
The prosperity of Hindu business community could be a possible reason for the persistent targeting. Hindu minority in Pakistan are educated and doing good in business and the civil service. This needs to be understood in the light of the reported attacks by Wadheras on the economically well-off Hindus in Upper Sindh areas. More than hundred economically prosperous Hindus were kidnapped for ransom from Larkana and Sukkur divisions of Sindh province since January 2012.
Yet another reason of Hindu migration is the growing radicalisation and religious intolerance in Pakistan. Non-adherence to the Wahhabi-Salafi-Takfiri school of Islam makes anyone a target for fanatics. Not only Hindus, but also other religious minorities like non-Sunni Muslims, have been under constant threat. Sindh province, which was earlier known fort of Sufi culture mizaz and invariably referred to as Bab-ul-Islam, that is, the gateway of Islam, has been rapidly inching towards radicalisation. This is mainly due to the growing activities of militant groups with the support of various religious and secular political parties. In Pakistan, targeting minority Hindus is also a means to mobilise and consolidate the majority Muslim support base in the country. The attacks is a psychological mechanism of equating Pakistani Hindus with Indians with the aim of reaffirming Muslim solidarity.
President Asif Ali Zardari’s recent direction to the chief minister of Sindh to devise a law against forced conversion is a positive development that needs to be appreciated. However, political conviction needs to be tested against resistance from Muslim fundamentalism which considers such a move a negation of the Islamic faith. Only time will say how political parties articulate their attitude towards minority groups in Pakistan ahead of the forthcoming elections. What seems certain is that the continued mistrust towards each other between the Hindus and the Muslims both in Pakistan and in India is likely to survive. It will take years to overcome this dilemma. There is no escape to the plight of the Hindu minority community in Muslim dominated Islamic state called Pakistan.
By P C SINGH