By Altaf Hussain
The mass exodus of minority Hindus from Pakistan particularly from Sindh, has stirred the lethargic and ignorant government authorities who otherwise had kept mum over the security concerns of the Hindu community. Significant number of families of Pakistan’s Hindu community particularly from Sindh, reportedly have started migrating to neighboring country, India, because of forced conversions, extortion and kidnapping for ransom.
Hindus, whose sizeable population lives in all the districts of Sindh, have been facing continued incidences of violence compelling them to live under the dark shadows of insecurity. The trend has continued for many years now. However, the recent spur of events has given impetus to the un-fortunate trend forcing the indigenous dwellers to abandon their motherland.
The current wave of migration started in the backdrop of a 14 year old girl (Manisha) from the Hindu community was abducted in Jacobabad town of Sindh which generated the fear of her being converted.
The aftermaths of the incidence have witnessed sudden mass departure of Hindus from different parts of Sindh and Baluchistan to India with some families rejecting the idea of permanent settlement and other sticking to the widely reported factor of migration for lifetime to India. It is of utmost significance to look into the issues to analyze the myth and reality behind Hindus abandoning Sindh.
Eashwar Lal, President Hindu panchayat, Sukker Division and Sukker district, however, categorically says that Hindus migrating to India in significant numbers are going due to the forced conversion of their girls, kidnappings and waning law and order situation for Hindus in particular in Sindh.
Eashawr Lal, repeatedly claims “our girls and women are not safe here”, we do not want to abandon Sindh, but continuous onslaught on us and our women by the criminal elements and indifference towards our issues from law enforcement agencies and political representatives have pushed us to the wall to take these steps, he adds.
At the time of independence Hindus constituted about 15 percent of Sindh’s population which was reduced to around 6.5 percent as indicated by 1998 Census.
The local landlords-cum politicians and the police have been blamed for their nefarious character of patronizing extortionists and criminals and other elements that carry out kidnappings of girls resulting in forced conversion, ransom and extortion.
“Police and local politicians have turned deaf ear to our grievances and due to that criminal elements are at large”, deplores Eashwar.
He says that Hindu community in different districts of Sindh informed and requested police and district administration of the growing incidences of kidnappings and forced conversions of their girls, extortion and kidnappings for ransom, but to no avail.
He also lamented on the Hindu parliamentarians saying they are not representatives of the Hindu people but have been imposed by the political parties on their will.
After events started unfolding in quick succession with Interior Minister of Pakistan putting bar on Hindus crossing the border which too resulted in the large hue and cry from civil society. The President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari constituted a two member committee comprising of Senator Mola Bux Chandio and Senator Hari Ram to look into the matter and submit initial report to him.
Eashwar Lal says “we have put some demands in front of them, including our one-on-one meeting with the President”. Our major demand is security and safety of our girls and women, maintains Mr. Lal.
Pakistan Young Hindu Panchayat Convener, Dr. Dileep Daultani notes that Sukker and Larkana Divisions in Sindh are increasingly becoming religiously intolerant for the minority communities especially for Hindus.
“Hindus are quitting their motherland because their families, businesses and lands are no more secure here”, he says. “70 per cent of the Hindus going to India are going to settle there, others who have other options are also thinking to settle in Europe and America”, observers Daultani. He suspects that the conspiracy has been hatched by expelling Hindus from Sindh and trun the local people into minority in the face of changing demographic paradigms of Sindh in particular.
He says, “Committees are no solution to the problems of Hindu community”, nevertheless, we have presented them with our demands including setting up minority desk at district level in police and district administration for the redressal of the complaints of minorities, particularly Hindu community”.
Some people have claims that the migration of Hindu community to India and other other cities of Sindh like Karachi started in the wake abduction of Hindu girl (Rinkle Kumari) from Ghotki district of Sindh who converted to Islam at the behest of local Pakistan Peoples Party MNA and his cronies. The case was taken up at the highest level by the Supreme Court of Pakistan through a Suo Moto. Rinkle Kumari in the end decided in favor of her Muslim husband. Rinkle’s relatives however alleged that she was forced to decide in favor of her husband. Supreme Court’s suo moto too could not yield any dividends for the Hindu community.
Raj Kumar, uncle of Rinkle Kumari, says that Hindu community had submitted to the kidnapping for ransom practices against them; however, kidnappings of girls followed by forced conversions alarmed his community whose fear started increasing with every passing day.
“Our people have started shifting to India and elsewhere after Rinkle’s incident”, says Raj kumar.
Raj’s contention is also substantiated by other activists too.Migration of Hindu Community to India and other cities of Sindh is direct offshoot of the neglect this community has been going through far many years, notes M. Parkash, Chairman Pakistan Minority Commission. “The impetus to this trend was provided by Rinkle’s case”, he says.
Civil society activists believe, government and its institutions have allowed current situation to worsen because of its willful neglect. Muhammad Parial Maree, human rights activist from Shikarpur says government has failed in ensuring the good governance in the province. “Honest and neutral police officers and district administration is extremely necessary for the protection of the rights of the citizens including minorities”, he observes.
Committees and meetings have never resulted in producing tangible results in Pakistan. It is important that both Sindh government as well as the Federal government take steps ensuring the life, religion, dignity and property of minorities in general and Hindus in particular. The introduction of minority desk at district level with close liaison with police and district administration may help in taking timely and appropriate measures to stop activities of kidnapping, conversion and extortion. Both the government must ensure that article 25 of Pakistan’s Constitution is implemented in its spirit which mandates the state to treat all the citizens equally without difference of religion, caste or creed.
Altaf Hussain is a researcher at PILER and can be reached at email@example.com.