Millennium Post

Dire need for Legislation

I cannot forget the words of Rinkle Kumari’s mother, “Please save my daughter! I beg you to give her back to me and I want nothing except her.” at Sindh High Court and I felt helpless that I could do nothing but stare into her tearful eyes. Not just Rinkle’s mother but many mothers whose daughters have been kidnapped ask the same question.

It was not just Rinkle Kumari or Asha Kumari who had been kidnapped in the name of religion, there are many such people who can tell the number of girls who have been kidnapped and how thugs enjoy their crime with apparent impunity because our system has no distinct law that can punish criminals who use the name of religion.

You can close your eyes to the  problems but that will not make it go away. You have to open your eyes to the cause of problems. Unfortunately, in our country, from leaders to rich classes, all want to cover their eyes and keep singing the song  All is well.                      

If we peep into our society we see that all is not well, especially with the  Non-Muslims: the Ahmedis, Sikhs, Christians, and Hindus. All are living in a shadow of fear. Ahmedis fear that out of nowhere some unknown person will appear and declare them Non-Muslim, then they  may be killed for being Non-Muslim by a Muslim.

The Sufi land issuffering the walk of those souls who have not heard the  song of Sufism/Bakhtism.
What can the State do to protect Non-Muslims? Let me ask, why does the State not protect its own citizens for the single clause of Human Rights?

All citizens are equal and simultaneously are provided to be secured under the umbrella of Human Rights, if the State fails in protecting its own people on grounds Human rights that means the sense of security among people is being injured.

Each government claims to be a protector of the rights of Non-Muslims. Personally I disagree with the word “minority”. How can you call a person  minority whose roots are  in the land? State has declared them as minority because their religion is not of the majority!

When will we start living peacefully? I learn that indigenous people (Sindhi Hindus) of this land are being killed and their daughters kidnapped. Where are we going? Sometimes we cannot recognise that path that leads us into a dark cave but when we reach  the dark cave, we will realise that it was not the path which we had thought of.

So far, our country has a problem of violating  Human Rights. I do not want to dig  past stories when Hindu girls were kidnapped and converted to Islam, it does not mean that these incidents  have been stopped; such  problems continue to exist.

Given such  issues, political leaders realise the need to  have Laws, we can at least enforce regulation on the problems.

PPP government announced that they were going to introduce a law of Safe Houses which could solve the problem of Hindu girls’ kidnapping. What happened that PPP could not present the Hindu Marriage and Forced Conversion Bill? However, a committee was formed of Rana Baghwandas, Dr. Majida Rizivi, Minister Dr. Khatoomal, Jhut Mal and others in July 2013.  At that time I did contact  Dr. Khatoomal and asked him, “Would you believe if your government could present a law on Hindu Marriage and Forced Conversion?” He responded confidently that they would make a law and present in Sindh Assembly. That was  important because Safe Houses is to play its main role to stop forced conversion. Courts could not do anything in the cases of forced conversion but  they can make  laws which could help be a detterent. “We are committed and will present a Bill. Don’t forget that Justice (r) Rana Bhagwandas and Majida Rizivi are in committee” said Dr. Khatoomal Minister of PPP, Sindh.
It is strange that we are in 2014 but there is no Bill which was to be presented  by Sindh government on Hindu Marriage and Forced Conversion?

After Sindh Government, we hear a voice from PML-N (MNA) Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani who presented a draft regarding Hindu Marriage Bill but his bill has gone invisible.

When I called Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani regarding his Hindu Marriage Bill, he told me, “what are you asking me? I am struggling and trying to pass this Bill but no one is serious regarding about it. Do you know this would be the first time in the history of Pakistan, we will make a law about Hindu Marriage and our people can have a right to get their marriage registered even divorce procedure would be easy because in our religion to difficult to obtain a divorce.” I asked him another question that the Bill, it does not speak of Forced Conversion. Why? Dr. Ramesh said ,“they cannot pass our simple Hindu Marriage Bill; yes I agreed with you on that I have not mentioned distinctly regarding forced conversion in the Bill because if I had mentioned that clause, Bill would not have been allowed to even be presented the way I  present it now. Nevertheless, I have mentioned an age limit that can help us stop forced conversion.”

“Would it be possible for the Islamic Ideology Council to accept your clause of an age limitation, if a girl is kidnapped and converted to Islam because religious groups follow their law of Islam then how will they be made to abide by your bill?” I asked him. He said, “I discussed the matter with IIC and they agreed that forcible conversion is not allowed. I am still helpless that we cannot even pass a simple law regarding Hindu Marriage.”

The simple Hindu Marriage Bill is not yet passed by the  National Assembly and the Sindh Government has also forgotten its committee on Hindu Marriage Bill in an attempt to stop forced conversion.

Let me share comments of Jai Parkash Moorani, who said “nowadays people do not send their daughters to schools because they are afraid of forced conversion, that is reason they get them married early. So where is the implementation of Child Marriage Bill?”

He further said on Hindu Marriage Act that “the current situation is very critical; we do not need a piece of paper called an agreement which grantees marriage, due to present bad situation in our society where your wife is kidnapped and person cannot provide any evidence for his own wife and daughter’s right in her father’s property which is also an important issue. That is reason we support and need a Hindu Marriage Bill.”

Mr. Parkash totally disagreed on the question of divorce when I asked him that how do you see the matter of divorce, don’t you think that as a human each person has a right to choose who to live with? “Human Rights are best things but when you make Hindu Law, you will have to be obliged to follow religion as Hindu religion has no place of Divorce. The same holds for Christianity, where getting divorce is difficult. Otherwise, we should make a unanimous Marriage Act which is applicable to everyone in Pakistan.”

I wish to share with you that Mr. P.K Shahni drafted the Hindu Marriage Bill  that was presented in an era of Shaheed Zulifkar Ali Bhutto and Hindu Marriage Bill’s draft was taken from Indian Marriage Act, not a single word was changed, Dr. Ramesh has also lately presented the Bill as  it is, which had been already presented but Rana Chandr Singh expunged the section of divorce and said that as long as  “I am alive this law will not be passed” and he proved his words that till he was alive, Hindu Bill could not be passed in Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Era.

I asked Mr. Parkash that Dr. Ramesh’s Hindu Marriage Bill is not openly criticising a forced conversion, the Bill has mentioned only age limit. “Do you think that age limitation can be helpful to stop forced conversion?” Mr. Parkash said, “No it will not stop forced conversion and to be honest, IIC will never accept any line which goes against its fanatic thoughts.”

Then, I did contact his wife Mrs. Nirmela Parkash, who was  supporting the  Marriage Act, she said that “our girls have been kidnapped and we still cannot  provide any evidence of their marriages.” She shared one  incident, “I could not recall the names when once a rich man kidnapped a Hindu lady and when her husband filed a complaint and she claimed at court that she is a married, but when court asked him for furnishing evidences that he could not provide. Therefore, we feel that now we should have legal documentation - right it is very imperative to us; we must have a legal document.” She also said about Property Section, being a wife and a mother I am concerned about my daughter, what will be her future, if she gets married? We have no right to property.

On the question of divorce, Mrs. Nirmela laughed and said, “Personally I believe that person has right to choose their own partner but religion is not allowing us that. We cannot deny that women suffer a lot. One man got  married for a second time as his first wife had given him permission for the second marriage. Later the man was not happy with his second wife. So, it is absolutely unfair to both women who are being subjected to suffering, to stop such incidents at least we ought to have laws”, Mrs. Nirmela shared. It is painful that due to insecurity, girls get burden by marriage. The ignorance of the State is killing the childhood of children. We all know that if Hindu Marriage Bill which was presented by Dr. Ramesh, could stop forced conversion but it is a right that they should have Hindu Marriage Bill and it is demanded that we must have laws that can stop forced conversion and girls get a safe shelter.  

Does Law have its implementation? Of course, this question needs an honest answer but before going to that question another question raises, do we have a single law for indigenous people? We want to knock  the doors of the government through this piece of writing, Dear state! Hindu Marriage and Forced Conversion Bills need your attention.

The author is a journalist and political interviewer. She writes daily news review, articles on socio-political and human rights issues.
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