Hindu miseries in Pakistan
Religious freedom is the most admirable segment of democracy, which entitles the citizen of the land to propagate his/her belief under its umbrella. India and Pakistan both enjoy parliamentary democracy and the principal of equal right. When Pakistan came into existence, it preferred to be called an Islamic republic. In contrast, India denounced to be known as Hindu republic, regardless of knowing the fact that Muslims demanded the creation of Pakistan. Pakistan was created in the name of Islam, which was considered to be the most secure place for Muslims, although right from the beginning, most of the intellectuals were suspicious about the future of the two major religious minorities–Hindus and Sikhs–in Pakistan.
At the moment, the relentless attacks on religious minorities comprising sects like Shia, Ahamadiyya and Ismaile Muslims have created a serious concern over the statement of Jinnah on the protection of minorities in Pakistan. Jinnah said, ”Minorities, whichever community they may belong to, will be safeguarded. Their religion or faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life and their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste or creed. They will have their rights and privileges, and no doubt, along with it goes the obligation of citizenship. Therefore, the minorities have their responsibilities also and they will play their part in the affairs of this state. As long as the minorities are loyal to the State and owe true allegiance, and as long as I have any power, they need not have apprehension of any kind.”
But the condition of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has always been abysmal. As a country created on the basis of religion, the minorities were never given an opportunity to be equal citizens of the State. Consequently, the number of religious minorities declined from 23 per cent in 1947 to less than four per cent in 2017. Instances of forcible conversion of minorities, especially young girls, and targeting of their religious institutions continue unabated. Many of them have been slapped with blasphemy charges to settle personal scores. Many textbooks propagate hatred against religious minorities and project them as inferior citizens. Certain constitutional provisions also discriminate against minorities.
After pushing religious minorities to the margins, Pakistan has started targeting sectarian minorities. In 1974, Ahmadiyyas were declared non-Muslims. They were subsequently barred from reciting <azan>. It is a punishable offence for them to call themselves Muslims or to preach their faith. They are neither permitted to call their places of worship mosques or to have Quranic inscriptions on their graves. Many old graves have been vandalised. They have also been virtually forced to stay out of Pakistan’s electoral system. Many TV programmes have openly expounded violence against Ahmadiyyas and their targeted killings continue to this date.
Zulfiqur Shah, an activist of Sindh, has been actively engaged in raising issues like forced conversion, abductions and targeted murders of Hindus in Sindh and Baluchistan. Owing to threats and numerous deadly attacks like once poisoned in Nepal by Pakistan’s ISI, Shah has taken citizenship of India and for last five years, he has been living in Delhi. While talking to <Uday India> on the pathetic conditions of Hindus in Pakistan, he said, “Pakistan has become a gradual ethnic cleansing ground for the indigenous Sindhi Hindus in a bid to convert them into minority in their own homeland. Hindus are 5.5 per cent in Pakistan and are part of the indigenous population of Sindh, where they count 7 million. Several factors exist to cause a massive forced exodus of Sindhi Hindus. If seen carefully, crime of Hindu exodus embodies the various connotations of ideology, economy, power politics, fanaticism and demography. Sindh is a demographically vulnerable province of Pakistan, where Hindus are facing threat of being converted into a permanent minority in their historical homeland. In August 1947, Sindhis were 98 per cent of the province out of which 35 per cent were Hindus.’’
The history of political and social conflicts in Pakistan is the history of demographic conflicts based on struggles for security among the federating states and particularly between Punjab province and the rest. It is an emerging public concern in Sindh that northern Punjab bordering Sindh is being converted into a hub of religious extremism through extraordinary support to religious extremists, frequent settlement of ethnic Punjabis and increase in the anti-Hindu activities. Ironically, Hindus are being considered a demographical threat by the security establishment.
Shah further said: “Sindhi Hindus are considered to be the backbone in the field of trade and business of the province. Their exodus will, therefore, create a new business space for ethnic Punjabis. After the recent wave of Sindhi nationalism, Hindu exodus is the most suitable for the establishment. Northern and Southeastern parts of Sindh, which house a large number of Hindus, have now become a hub of madrasas of politically motivated and radical brands of fundamentalists. Being just a ten-hour road journey from Kandahar and Delhi, Sindh was once a trade hub with Eurasia, Central Asia and Afghanistan during early 1990s. Hindus in Sindh, and particularly in its northern parts, are often kidnapped, plundered, murdered and are forcedly converted to Islam by mostly non-Sindhi mullahs or their associate criminals, and these non-Sindhi mullahs are employed in local mosques.”
In 2014, from January to June, a series of attacks on Hindu temples in Sindh was reported. In November, the incidents of dozens of forced conversions of Hindu girls came into light. Undoubtedly, Pakistan has proved to be a living hell for the Hindus, who preferred to live in Jinnah’s country at the time of Partition.
Recently, a news was published in The News of Pakistan, which reported about Hindu community seeking top court’s help to stop forced conversions. Following the report, the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC) appealed to the Supreme Court to take suo motu action against the increasing kidnappings, forced conversions and marriages of the community’s underage girls across Sindh. The Council also convened an emergency meeting to review the prevailing situation following the recent abduction of a Hindu minor, named Ravita Meghwar, from District Tharparkar.
Sometime back, due to high rate of crime in Pakistan, around 114 Pakistani people applied for Indian citizenship and now there is no bound to their joy as they are among the people who have got Indian citizenship. Among them, 50-year-old Nandlal Meghani said, “I came to India with my wife and daughter. We sold our house and business there to make a new start in India. We were influenced by the lives of ordinary people in India and came here to apply for citizenship. The main reason for taking shelter in India is high rate of crimes in Pakistan. Not only this, due to the ever-increasing terrorism, our Muslim friends in Pakistan also inspired us to shift to India.” Meghani used to trade in auto parts in Pakistan.
Owing to the relentless support of Pakistan government to its radical Islamists, the Hindu minority in Pakistan is undoubtedly in a very pitiable condition. Therefore, this apathy to religious minority in Pakistan, demanding impartial justice from the international community and India, should prove to be a beacon light for saving the existence of Hindus and other religious minorities in Pakistan.
By Ravi Mishra