JODHPUR, India — By the time an angry Muslim mob stormed the local Hindu school and ransacked an adjacent temple a few weeks ago, many members of Pakistan’s dwindling Hindu minority had already been wondering whether it was worth trying to stay in a country where they felt increasingly unsafe.
In April, an angry mob vandalized a different Hindu temple, smashing its idols and chucking the pieces in an open sewer. In May, a Hindu veterinarian was accused of blasphemy in a neighboring town, his shop burned to the ground on the rumor that he was selling medicine wrapped in Islamic religious text.
More than 70 years after the partition of India and Pakistan, increasing violence in this officially Muslim country against the Hindu minority — about 1 percent of Pakistan’s 210 million people — is leading some Hindus to rethink the choices and fate that left their families on the Pakistani side of the line in 1947, residents say.
“Most of our elders at the time of partition did not migrate to India because they did not want to lose their businesses. But now they see it was the wrong decision,” said Kumar, a small-business owner from Ghotki District in Pakistan’s Sindh Province, where the attacks unfolded on Sept. 15. He asked that his last name be withheld, fearing mob violence.
“I am considering moving to India, where at least no one can kill me on the basis of my faith,” he said.
The trepidation among Pakistani Hindus is mirrored in many ways among the Muslim minority in India, where a campaign of Hindu nationalism led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party has left many Muslims feeling targeted. Sectarian fears in both India and Pakistan always peak during times of tension, and hostility between the neighbors is running particularly high right now.
In Pakistan, local officials say the pressure for Hindus to weigh moving to India has not been this great since a wave of sectarian violence led many to migrate in the 1990s, after a Hindu mob in India tore down a 16th-century mosque, the Babri Masjid, leading to retaliatory attacks in Pakistan.
The current migration is because of Mr. Modi’s open appeals to Hindu identity in India, they say, stripping the country of the secular framework it was founded on to give supremacy to their religion.
Since Mr. Modi’s election victory, Pakistani Hindus say they have had an easier time obtaining religious or pilgrimage visas to India, which they can then convert to long-term visas if they seek Indian citizenship.
Though the exact number of Hindu migrants is hard to pin down, indications of a wider push to go to India can be seen in the numbers of those long-term visas. In 2018, the Indian government granted 12,732 long-term visas, compared with 4,712 in 2017, and 2,298 in 2016, according to the Ministry of External Affairs. About 95 percent of long-term visas are granted to Pakistani Hindus, officials say.
Millions of Hindus remained in Pakistan when Britain carved out the state from the subcontinent to create a Muslim homeland at independence in 1947. They were unwilling to abandon their homes and businesses, like the millions of Muslims who ended up on the Indian side during partition, where now about 200 million live.
But angry sectarian mobs on both sides of the border sought to change those demographics at the nations’ birth, killing up to two million people and displacing 14 million. Trains packed with terrified Muslims and Hindus fleeing in opposite directions on the railway between India and Pakistan arrived full of corpses, passengers massacred mid-journey.