Some 350 Hindu families have now entered India, perhaps fearing religious persecution in Pakistan.
Over 200 Hindu families were allowed to cross into Amristar on 10.08.2012 on their scheduled pilgrimage after a brief detention by Pakistani authorities in Lahore following reports that they were planning to migrate to India to escape from abductions and attacks on their businesses in Upper Sindh.
Though such pilgrimages to temples in India are an annual affair around this time of the year, they caught the media eye this year because of the spate of attacks on members of the Hindu community in Upper Sindh. Several members of the community in Jacobabad are said to have shut shop, sold their properties and moved out of the Upper Sindh district in recent months for fear of their daughters being kidnapped and forcibly converted.
According to the vice-chairman of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (Sindh chapter), Amarnath, 50 per cent of the Hindu community in Upper Sindh have moved out — most of them to the melting pot of Karachi and some to other countries.
After the “exodus” from Jacobabad made it to the Sindhi papers, it was picked up by the national media and became an issue over the past 24 hours with Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Thursday night claiming it was a conspiracy and that the Indian High Commission should explain why so many visas had been issued.
However, various Hindu community leaders maintained that this was “yatra season” and people went on the pilgrimage in large groups.
“They are all going on a short-stay visa for pilgrimage or to meet their families. Whether they will all return is not certain,”’ Mr. Amarnath told, claiming that over the past three years 3,000 families have moved to India. Last year 300 families had gone to India on pilgrimage and 60 of them stayed back.
While Hindus and other minorities in Sindh have always had it better than their counterparts elsewhere in the country, they have of late become targets; primarily because of a degree of prosperity among some sections of the community.
This has made them easy prey for the Wadheras (feudal lords) of the province. Ironically, the Wadheras who have been giving the community maximum grief owe allegiance to the Pakistan People’s Party, which is said to be the most minority-friendly of all political organisations of Pakistan. Hindus who participated in various television talk shows over the past 24 hours said the Wadheras were targeting them primarily to get them to leave their areas so that their properties can be taken over.
Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari has called for a report on the situation and civil society members agitated by reports of Hindus fleeing their country sought to mobilise support for them and petition the Supreme Court but this was of little consolation to a community which feels let down by the superior judiciary in the Rinkle Kumari case.
Another batch of 115 Hindu families crossed over into India from the foot crossing point at Wagah in Lahore on 11.0 m.2012 morning as the government observed Minorities Day to commemorate founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s ‘August 11′ speech in which he said “religion or caste or creed… has nothing to do with the business of the State”.
President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday night set up a three-member committee of parliamentarians to visit the areas of Sindh from where Hindus are said to be fleeing. His party’s all-inclusive policy credentials are under question now in the wake of several attacks on minorities and smaller Muslim sects including Shias.
In his message on Minorities Day, Mr. Zardari said: “As the Quiad-e-Azam once said that Pakistan symbolises also the aspirations of a nation which found itself in a minority in the Indian sub-continent. We therefore cannot be unmindful of hopes and fears of minorities in the country. We cannot be oblivious of our responsibility to continue making efforts for bringing into the main stream of national life peoples of all faiths and allay their concerns about their rights and privileges as guaranteed by our religion and the Constitution.’’
While the Indian pilgrimage of Hindus has drawn considerable attention because of the fear that they are migrating, the economic slowdown in the country due to the security situation and energy crisis has resulted in many people seeking greener pastures. Industrialists are taking their businesses elsewhere and recently the Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa Government said boys from Chitral along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border were joining the Afghan National Army.
Rinkle Kumari Issue – May 2012
Faryal Bibi formerly Rinkle Kumari is a 19 year Pakistani girl and a student, who was kidnapped and allegedly forced to converted from Hinduism to Islam and marry Muslim Naveed Shah.
Her case was appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court of Pakistan and generated widespread news interest & talk shows. In the Supreme Court of Pakistan, she was sent to a shelter to make up her mind.
Chief Justice sent them to the Registrar Office after relatives tried to influence the girls in the courtroom. The bench observed that since the girls were adult, they could decide their future. This event was despite Rinkle Kumari’s open shrieking on camera and in court against being taken to a shelter, as she insisted on being returned to her mother.
Though the three women — Rinkle Kumari, Lata and Asha — were allowed to choose according to their free will by the court, their relatives and civil rights activists alleged that injustice had been done to them as they chose to go with the men they were married to out of coercion.
S.M.Krishna’s reaction to the forcible conversion issue
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna appealed to Pakistan to protect the constitutional rights of its minorities by ensuring their safety, security and wellbeing.
He hoped that Islamabad would discharge its constitutional duties towards its minority communities in view of the purely humanitarian nature of this issue.
The Minister was making a statement in the Lok Sabha regarding the alleged ill-treatment of Hindus — particularly women — in Pakistan, an issue that was raised by senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi on May 2, 2012 in the House.
He said though the 1972 India-Pakistan Shimla Agreement specifically provided for non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, “nevertheless, based on the reports of persecution of minority groups in Pakistan, India has taken up the matter with Pakistan in the past.” Pakistan had said that it was fully cognisant of the situation and looked after the welfare of all its citizens, particularly the minorities.
Dream Dare Win