The plight of displaced Pakistani Hindus
Akram Kumar, a Hindu labourer from Sindh, Pakistan and now newly settled at Dera Baba Dhooni Das Ashram in Majnu ka Tila in Delhi, states he will never go back to Pakistan whether the Indian government gives him asylum or not. About 15 families have settled here.
More than 500 Pakistani Hindu families have arrived in India during the last 10 months because of religious persecution. Hindus are not safe in Pakistan. Everyday it’s a struggle for survival. They cannot dare to send their girls to school for fear of being abducted and forcefully converted or raped.
Even boys are picked up and released only after a ransom is paid. They cannot give the dates or the exact places where these incidents occurred, but name about four Hindu girls who were abducted and forcefully converted in the recent past. Abductions and forced conversions have increased in the last few years in many parts of Pakistan where the Hindus live. There are more than 3.5 million Hindus in Pakistan.
There are traces of prolonged harassment on the faces of the refugees. Nevertheless, the satisfaction of having crossed the Wagah border is also observed. They know they can now enjoy sound sleep in India.
The exodus of Hindus from Pakistan should be a matter of concern not only for India and Pakistan but for Amnesty International and the United Nations as well.
Ram Das, another sufferer from Sindh tells that there has been a spurt of kidnapping for ransom. Usually businessmen from the minority community are victimised. The money thus ‘earned’ is being used by the Jamat-ud-Dawa’s militant wing. Mukesh Kumar, from Balochistan, breaks down when asked about the shape of things in Pakistan. ‘Even if I am to die in India, I’ll not go back to Pakistan,’ he moans.
Khushhal Singh had a flourishing business in Swat before moving to India in 1999. He had a palatial haveli [mansion] in the Khyber area. He could not sell it as he was told by the local panchayat not to sell it. It was plundered, and they were forced to move to Multan.
According to police records, each month, an average of 25 girls are abducted in Sindh alone, home to 90 per cent of the Hindus living in Pakistan. Young Hindu girls are ‘marked’, abducted, raped, and forcibly converted. Discrimination, extortion threats, killings and religious persecution are driving the remaining Hindus out of Pakistan. They had chosen to stay back after Partition; six decades later, they are no longer welcome.
The Pakistan Supreme Court case of Rinkle, a Hindu girl, 19, abducted by one Naved Shah, grabbed headlines, generated impassioned editorials, and highlighted the cause of a persecuted community, the 3.5 million Hindus in Pakistan. It angered liberals in Pakistan and caused the Dawn newspaper to take a strong position on the persecution of minorities.
But Rinkle had dared to raise her voice, and there would be a price to pay. Her parents, in Ghotki village were threatened, her 70-year-old grandfather was shot at, gun-toting goons roamed outside her house. When she returned to the Pakistan Supreme Court on 18 April, she meekly said she had converted to Islam. At a packed media briefing in Islamabad’s Press Club, with Shah by her side, the spunk in her snuffed out, and she would only say she wants to become an ‘obedient’ wife.
A report, prepared by the National Commission for Justice and Peace[NCJP], Pakistan, states that almost three-quarters of women from Pakistan’s Hindu communities have faced sexual harassment while nearly half, complained of religious discrimination at workplaces, educational institutions and neighbourhoods.
India does not have a national refugee law, dealing with arrivals from neighbouring countries. Despite that thousands of Tibetans live here. Thousands of Pakistani Hindus who came here in the past two decades have still not received Indian citizenship. But it’s high time that some policy is formulated to give asylum to those who are in India.
Two things are of paramount importance. Firstly, the Pakistani Hindus who have come here and don’t want to go back at any cost, must be helped in their Indian citizenship efforts. Secondly, the Indian government must talk to their counterparts in Pakistan to stop this horrendous and discriminatory treatment of Hindus there.
Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a commentator on social issues