from birth to death are an ordeal of indignity, humiliation, insecurity bereft
of basic human rights.
frightened father with his wife and three scraggly toddlers soldiered on. Hope
was on the horizon. He could see the beacon of safety in a distance. Behind him
lay the land of his oppressors, to his right was the Arabian Sea and in front
was his promised land or that is what he thought. He heaved a sigh of relief as
he crossed the boundary of modern Bharat—at last he and his family were safe.
But suddenly a bunch of ugly ogres fell upon the hapless family screaming
profanities, some had names just like him and others bore the names of his
oppressors; they kicked him, abused him and pushed him back into the land of
misery. Two of his children ran unknowingly towards the water; the mob pursued
them and pushed them into the sea.
done, the mob proclaimed loudly: We believe in equality and the Constitution of
India. Next day the news media hailed them as champions of liberty. The moral
corruption of an ancient civilisation was complete: right was wrong and wrong
of human life lies in its acknowledgement of human milestones—the joy of birth,
the sanctity of marriage and the ritual mourning of death; and importantly the
acceptance of one’s existence by fellow inhabitants. Take away these essential
artefacts of life and you reduce human beings to mere creatures; sub humans, no
better than animals.
dehumanizing of one man by another has been a constant refrain in the history
of mankind: the slavery of blacks in America, apartheid in South Africa and
closer to home the ill treatment of Dalits.
has changed for many of these oppressed communities. But for one community the
misery is still a stark and unaccepted reality; a galling truth that mocks the
increased awareness of human rights in a globalized world—they are the Hindus
But it was
not always so. The Hindus of Pakistan were once a proud, vibrant people; the
bearers of an ancient civilisation that flourished on the banks of the River
Indus. They stood their ground as one invading army after another passed by on
their way to subjugate India, even as their numbers dwindled by killings and
forced conversions. But worse was still to come. In 1947, the British with the
stroke of a pen disenfranchised them and the ancient civilisational state to
which they bore allegiance abandoned them. They became nobody’s children.
1947, Hindus constituted between 14% to 23% of the population of what is now Pakistan
that is more than the current percentage of Muslims in India. Cities like Karachi
(about 50%) and Lahore (roughly 30%) had sizeable number of Hindus. Today, as
per the 1998 census, Hindus comprise a mere 1.6%.
Life for a
Pakistani Hindu from birth to death is an ordeal of indignity, humiliation and
insecurity bereft of even basic human rights. Discrimination is an
institutionalized phenomenon endorsed by the Constitution, taught in schools
and facilitated by the police and courts, with the Muslim civil society
complicit in this calumny—there is no recourse for redress.
The list of
atrocities perpetrated against Hindus include forced conversions, forced
abduction of young girls, lack of voting rights and desecration of places of
worship—to name a few.
the most barbaric of these monstrosities is the forced abduction of young Hindu
2019, two minor Hindu sisters—aged 13 and 15—were kidnapped from their hometown
in Sindh’s Gotki district, forcibly converted to Islam and married to two
Muslim men. A video of their hapless father wailing and beating his chest in
front of the police station went viral provoking international outrage.
official investigations into such incidents go nowhere. For these are not
random acts but carefully planned conspiracies as this report indicates:
article in Scroll pointed out, “A few shrines, such as Barchundi Sharif in
Gotki, are particularly notorious for facilitating the abduction process. In
the hundreds of such kidnappings…it is this shrine that has prepared conversion
documents, which are then used by lawyers to draw up marriage certificates.
Once the legal proceedings have been undertaken it becomes difficult for the
Hindu families to get their daughters back.
August, a 19-year-old Sikh Girl, the daughter of a “granthi” (priest) of
Gurudwara Tambu Sahib in Nankana Sahib was married off at gunpoint to a Muslim.
Human Rights Defence (GHRD) estimates that more than 1,000 Hindu and Christian
girls are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam annually. The Human Rights
Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) indicates that about 20 to 25 girls are abducted
or other non-Muslims minorities live in perpetual dread: parents are not sure
whether their beti, who left for school or college in the morning, will return
home at night. Even their homes are not safe: armed goons barge into their
homes and blatantly cart away their daughters.
for nearly 70 years after Pakistan became a country, there was no law for
registration of Hindu and Sikh marriages—effectively there was no legal
document to prove these marriages. This made Hindu and Sikh women vulnerable to
abductions and forced marriage. Lack of a marriage certificate also meant no
state benefit for couples and no inheritance for widows.
the Hindu Marriage Bill 2017 (passed by the Pakistan National Assembly) is not
an ironclad guarantee; it contains provisions to appease religious fanatics.
Clause 12(iii), which states that “a marriage will be annulled if any of the
spouses converts to another religion” can be easily exploited to continue the
practice of forced abductions.
and Sikhs also suffer from a dearth of places to worship. Desecration of Hindu
temples and Sikh Gurdwaras are not a thing of the past, but a reality of
demolition of the Babri-Masjid in 1992, 120 Hindu temples were destroyed. Of
the 428 Hindu temples at the time of Partition, 408 of them have been converted
into toy stores, restaurants, government offices and schools and even toilets.
The Varun Dev Mandir in Manora Island Beach, Karachi, which is estimated to be
1,000 years old is being used as a toilet for visitors. Only 20 major Hindu
temples remain operational.
the administration of the remaining temples is fraught with irregularities. The
Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), tasked with managing Hindu temples lacks
Hindu representation and illegal sales have resulted in a lack of crematoriums.
Hindus and Sikhs are not spared ignominy even in death; they are now forced to
bury their dead.
laws are another bane of minorities; a law that is maliciously invoked by
Muslims to settle personal disputes as this news report indicates: “Nautan Lal
only scolded a Muslim boy for not completing his homework. The boy accused him
of blasphemy and that triggered violent protests in the city.”
to rights groups, around 1,549 blasphemy cases have been registered in Pakistan
between 1987 and 2017. More than 75 people have been killed extra-judicially on
regards to voting rights, the less said the better. In 1980s, Zia ul-Haq
introduced a system under which non-Muslims could vote for only candidates of
their own religion. To date, there has been only one Hindu candidate who has
won a general seat in the Pakistan National Assembly.
persists in parts of Pakistan even today. In 2009, 150 Sikh and Hindu families
fled NWFP after being targeted by the Taliban for not paying jizya: the Sikhs
were asked to pay Rs 50 million a year.
discrimination also exists in Pakistan. The fact that Dalits constitute more
than 80% of the Hindus in Pakistan adds another element of discrimination into
the equation. Most of them are illiterate and work as agricultural labourers,
making them more vulnerable to exploitation by Muslim landlords.
context, it is important to remember Jogendra Nath Mandal, a prominent Dalit
leader and an associate of Dr B.R. Ambedkar, who migrated to Pakistan in 1947
to further the ideology of Dalit-Muslim unity. Mandal served as a founding
member of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly.
than three years later, Mandal resigned and returned to India unable to
tolerate the rampant discrimination against Hindu Dalits in particular. He was
a disillusioned man. His notion of Dalit-Muslim amity in a shambles, he spent
the remaining years of his life helping Hindu refugees from Pakistan.
ironic that Dalit leaders like Chandrasekhar Azad and Mayawati are opposing the
CAA instead of supporting it in memory of Jogendra Nath Mandal.
nutshell, the life of a Pakistani Hindu, Sikh or Christian is an existence of
unmitigated suffering. He/she has limited voting rights, their marriages were
not recognised till recently, their daughters are mere chattel and any moment
they can be charged with blasphemy and dismembered.
Is this a
human existence and can anyone with even an iota of conscience deny this
Headline: The Hindus of Pakistan: Nobody’s children