This was discussed by the participants of a media consultation organised by the South Asia Partnership (SAP) at the Regent Plaza hotel on Wednesday. All the attendees of the workshop agreed that the discrimination against religious minorities was on the rise in several parts of Sindh.
Dr Jaipal Chhabria, the member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said, “Hindus had also contributed in the formation of Pakistan. They also contribute to the GDP and pay taxes as citizens of Pakistan.” SAP provincial coordinator Shahnaz Sheedi said that the consultation aimed to generate recommendations for the establishment of minority rights commission so that the religious minorities of the province can be protected. “We are trying to promote religious harmony. It is the sole responsibility of the state to protect and provide security to the minorities,” she said. “There was a time when the identity of a person was associated with his name but now it is associated with his religion.
The participants highlighted the increasing number of incidents against minorities in different parts of the province, including attacks on temples and the incident in which the body of Bhoro Bheel was dug out. They said that the issue of forced conversion is also on the rise, adding that religious harmony is under serious threat in Sindh.
“It is time to include religious literature of all religions in the text books,” suggested Dastar Kumar, a journalist of a Sindh-based newspaper. “We need to enhance the level of tolerance for all religions,” he said. Kumar also said that Dalits are not being given their due share in the assemblies. “The political parties should understand the issues of oppressed Hindus and their issues won’t be addressed until and unless they are given their due rights in assemblies,” he added.
SAP programme officer Irshad Junejo said that their organisation was working to change the current state of minorities in the province. “Pakistan is a signatory to several conventions and it has to ensure rights of religious minorities but the state has failed to do so,” he said.
The participants from different print and electric media groups said that it would be hard to ensure interfaith harmony without the active participation of the media. “The civil society and parliamentarians should also play their due role in this regard,” said another Sindh-based reporter Muhammad Ali Nukaraj. He further added that the education syllabus should promote equality and peace, and all content that can incite hatred should be removed immediately. The participants pointed out that the forced conversion of lower-caste Hindus was at its peak especially in Badin, Umerkot and Tharparkar and added that the government should keep a check to ensure such atrocities are curtailed in the province.