By Our Representative
In a strongly-worded defence of the minorities in Pakistan, the country’s human rights activist and journalist Rabia Mahmood has said that Hindu girls in Pakistan “are victim of abductions and forced conversions through marriages”, even as pointing towards how poor Hindu farmers are victims of land grab, too.
In an interview with her well-known Indian counterpart Teesta Setalvad, pitted against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2002 riots cases, Mahmood said, “Most of the Hindus in Pakistan live in Sindh, they are at the lowest rung of the economic scale, not just the ‘lower castes’ but also agricultural labourers.” “Sindh has been traditionally the more tolerant part of Pakistan unlike Punjab”, she said, but regretting, “But over the past years we are seeing things changing, there is fear and intimidation; Hindus now do not go into the Bazar to celebrate Holi.” According to Mahmood, “Many Sindhis I spoke to have reported that more and more mosques are being built up by influential persons in neighbourhoods where largely Hindus live”, and is the “root cause” of the problem.
Giving specific instances, Mahmood said, “In 2013, in Larkana in Sindh –- an important constituency for the Pakistan People’s Party that rules the Province —- a Hindu Dharamshala was burned and looted after a ‘blasphemy’ case was slapped on a Hindu man.”
She further said, “Often the blasphemy laws are orchestrated to actually grab land that belongs to the Hindus who are very poor, just agricultural labourers.”
Then, she added, “there are also increased cases of ‘forced conversions’ and ‘forced marriages’ as well. Hindu girls from the poorest sections are abducted and married off. Then the Hindu family has no legal recourse. In the rarest cases, these are relationships of choice.”
“The Hindu community in Sindh has demanded that they will accept a Certificate of Conversion if it comes from a Judge –a judicial authority –but they will not accept it otherwise. They are asking for established procedures”, said Mahmood.
Hindus constitute about 2.5 per cent, or 26 lakh, of Pakistan’s population. Though sprinkled all over Pakistan, 95 per cent of Hindus in in Sindh. Only Tharparkar district in Sindh has Hindus in majority: 51 per cent. Here Hindus own land.
Other districts with sizeable population: Mirpur Khas (41 per cent), Sanghar (35 per cent) and Umerkot (43 per cent). Nearly 82 per cent of Pakistani Hindus are lower caste, most of them farm labourers. Cities with some Hindu population are Karachi, Hyderabad, Jacobabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta.
As for the Christians minorities, Mahmood said, like Hindus, they too are also “among the most oppressed and vulnerable: they are the poorest of the poor.”
Referring to the 2015 Youhanabad bombings, in which churches were targeted, she said, there is “understandably huge anger” among Christians, who “came out in large numbers”, only to be “beaten and allegedly lynched”. Two of them died.
“The Pakistan Interior Minister went on television and spoke against the Christian community”, Mahmood recalled, adding, “Many Christian people I spoke to who had survived the blasts have reported how badly even doctors treated them at the hospital.”
“Then”, she said, “the Punjab Police went on this profiling spree in the Youhanabad area; all those poor people who are domestic workers, perform menial jobs in factories, contractual labour – there were night raids and hundreds of men and boys were picked up.”
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