A tale of migrating Hindus
* Patriotic Hindus, who had refused to migrate to India and remained in Pakistan after the partition in 1947, are compelled to leave the country because of feudalism, class system, religious discrimination, forced conversion and marriages and poor law and order situation in Pakistan
By Kashif Hussain
LAHORE: Patriotic Hindus, who had refused to migrate to India and remained in Pakistan after the partition in 1947, are compelled to leave the country because of feudalism, class system, religious discrimination, forced conversion and marriages and poor law and order situation in Pakistan.
The minority feels society has become more insecure for their young girls and it is also scared after court’s decision in Rinkal Kumari’s conversion case.
A special report prepared by Daily Times revealed that around 7,000 to 10,000 Pakistani Hindus (around 1,600 families) had left the country in the last two years.
Of them, around 450 families, comprising more than 3,000 members, have migrated to India in the last four months following conversion cases of one after another Hindu girl in Sindh.
Approximately 4.2 million Hindus are living in Pakistan, making it the largest minority in the country.
According to the data collected from independent sources of Hindu community and civil society organisations, around 3.2 million Hindus are living in Sindh, around seven million are settled in Punjab, 30,000 to 50,000 are living in Balochistan and others are settled in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and northern areas of the country.
What is major reason for exodus? Talking to Daily Times, Hindus from interior Sindh, southern Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan said that lower class Hindu communities settled in different provinces were facing the same depression and problems as faced by lower class Muslim citizens. But, they added, all of these people were more patriot than upper, ruling class who were not only exploiting national resources and exchequer but also involved in money laundering.
They observed that a large majority of Hindus in Pakistan are not financially stable and belong to the working class or have poor agricultural background, particularly in interior Sindh and southern Punjab where feudalism is much stronger than other parts of the country.
In the past, whenever Hindus faced lawlessness, threat or any other problem from feudal lords, clerics, extremists, dacoits and other criminals, courts gave them relief. They said courts were their last hope but this door was closed for them after the Rinkal Kumari case. “So there is now no option for us but to leave our beloved country where no one is protecting us and our girls from forced conversion,” they said.
Interior Sindh situation: Hindu community members from Sindh told Daily Times that they had been facing several problems such as forced labour, unpaid or low-paid working conditions, kidnappings for ransom, abductions and rapes of girls, forced conversions, restrictions on religion and robberies in the last 65 years but the situation had worsened after the start of war on terror.
Resultantly, Hindu families have started migrating to India for their safety.
Initially, one or two Hindu families would silently migrate to India during a month, crossing the border illegally from Khokhrapar or other border areas of Sindh.
“But due to sharp increase in incidents of kidnapping for ransom of rich Hindu traders, their family members and abductions and rapes of poor Hindu girls in the last three years, more Hindus have started leaving the country,” they said.
They said that the major reason for the recent exodus was Rinkal Kumari’s case in which the court, which was their “last hope of justice”, “did not provide relief to Hindu victims”, stirring a sense of insecurity among the minority.
They said a sense of insecurity among Hindus increased after some extremists from another religion started a street campaign and made announcements using loudspeakers in different areas of interior Sindh to “choose and pick” Hindu girls for their forceful conversion. “The court’s decision in Rinkal Kumari’s case has given such a courage to these extremists,” Hindus said.
“Due to such hate campaigns which are backed by feudal-cum-parliamentarians, more than 450 Hindu families have already left the country using both legal and illegal ways of border crossing into India. They have migrated after selling their properties and other assets at low prices,” they said, adding that 60 to 90 families were migrating to India each month.
Migrations from other provinces: Hindus living in central and southern Punjab areas said that they had seen some Hindu families migrating to other places some time ago, but no such exodus had happened in the last two to three months.
They, however, confirmed that Hindu families from southern Punjab were gradually leaving their native cities or villages after facing suppression and insecurity from the Muslim society. Some elements of society, backed by feudal, are involved in criminal activities such as land-grabbing, torture of Hindu males or abuse of Hindu women.
A Hindu citizen from southern Punjab, who sent his family to India three years ago, said that he was a well-to-do trader and was kidnapped for ransom by some anti-state elements in 2009. He said that his family members, especially women, were also under threat and there was no option left for him but to send them to another country to save their lives and honour.
But he was still optimistic and coined the idea of calling his family back from India once the law and order situation gets better in Pakistan. He was committed to continuing his struggle for a better life in his beloved country.
A Hindu from Balochistan told Daily Times that although he had no exact figure about Hindu population in the province, he was sure that the number would be in five digits. He said that after the unrest started in the province during the military regime of Pervez Musharraf, several Hindu families left the province for other provinces or even India.
Hindus living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said that due to the war on terror and existence of hardliner Taliban in western parts of the province, they were afraid of being killed. That is why, they added, Hindu families had left their homes or were still moving. They, however, said that most of the Hindus were still living in the province and they had never tried to leave the country.
He said that only Hindus in western border areas of Pakistan had moved to other places.
Role of law enforcement agencies in addressing Hindus’ grievances: Pakistan has a strong ‘police culture’ and mostly laws were established by British rulers before the partition. These laws accommodated tactics of suppression, oppression, crushing, inhibition, quelling, beating and usage of third-degree torture against lower classes to avoid any revolutionary act or a demand for rights from them. Unfortunately, the same system is in practice in the 21st century in Pakistan.
The police culture continues to harm minorities and they claim that they have never got relief from police in the past.
They said that on one hand they were victimised by feudal or criminal elements and on the other, police and other law enforcement agencies did not give them protection but join hands with oppressors of Hindus.
Members of the Hindu community said that police in all four provinces were consisting of Muslims in a good majority along with some Christians or a few Sikh people, but no Hindu had been inducted in police force in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa or even in Punjab where more than 700,000 Hindus are living.
They said that no Hindu had been included in Sindh Police and few Hindu men were inducted in security forces in Tharparkar where Hindus are living in a huge number in villages.
Hindu traders said that they were in good numbers in different areas of Sindh such as Kandhkot, Badin, Galarchi, Umerkot, Mithi, Gharo, Thatta, Tharparkar, Jacobabad, Daharki, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Kashmore “but unfortunately our businesses are insecure as some policemen are allied with robbers and other criminals and they loot us”.
Hindus are also living in big numbers in nine districts in Punjab – Rahim Yar Khan, Sadiqabad, Multan, Sialkot, Narowal, Mandi Bahauddin, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Attock. But they also face the same problems as by Hindus in Sindh. “Hindus face similar problems in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan,” they added.
The Hindu traders said that people from other religions, especially majority community, usually borrowed loans on interest and made business deals with them in interior Sindh. “But instead of fulfilling their commitment, they dodge us to avoid paying back the money and start levelling allegations on us. They call us traitors, blasphemers or Indian agents and pressurise us in cooperation with police who always support them,” Hindu traders said.
“On the other hand, some policemen, linked to extortion mafias, also inform extortionists about the presence of a rich Hindu trader so that they kidnap him for a ransom.”
They said that these were basic issues which had forced Hindus to leave Pakistan. They said they wanted to stay in their homeland provided the situation normalises in their favour. They said that other law enforcement agencies working in the interior Sindh or other areas where Hindus were living in big numbers had also not protected them from criminals.
India’s dealing with migrated Pakistani Hindus:
Do Pakistani Hindus, who have migrated to India in recent years particularly in the last four to five months, have a bright future and is there any possibility that Indians will accept them as a citizen? When the question was raised by Daily Times before members of the Hindu community, they said that some of the families, which had crossed the border into India in an informal way, had told them that Indians did not accept these Pakistanis and consider them “spy” of Pakistan. “Pakistani Hindus are not able to move freely in different parts of India,” they added.
Sources said that the Hindus, who had gone to India, had told their community that Indians were not happy and considered the Hindu exodus from Pakistan a “new game of Pakistan”. On the other hand, Pakistani authorities are also considering this phenomenon as “some kind of conspiracy against its government”, and resultantly Hindus have been grinded between two sides of the border and find themselves helpless.
About laws regarding migration, they said that usually Hindus, who use a legal way of going to India, obtain a 30-days travelling or pilgrimage visa and there are less chances of getting it extend until a convincing reason such as death of a relative in India or personal illness is given.
They also said that some of Hindu families, which had migrated to India from Pakistan several years ago, had yet not been granted Indian citizenship and they were still passing a hard life there as their movement had been restricted in that country.
Solution to the problem: Although the Pakistani government, political parties and human rights organisations have shown serious concerns over the issue of minorities migrating from Pakistan, unfortunately no concrete step has been taken to address grievances of Hindus living in the country.