By Faiza Mirza
March 12, 2012
Festivals, whether religious or cultural, have always fascinated me and being a devout advocate of coexistence I enjoy celebrating Christmas, Eid, Navroz and Diwali with my friends — an act which is unfortunately officially ‘extinct’ now.
The festival of Holi, which remains one of my favourites, took place last week and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, however my celebrations were slightly overshadowed by surreptitious glances that I received from strangers. Do I blame them to be sceptical towards me? Have I given them any reason to treat me with such paranoia? Perhaps we all know the correct answer.
The recent rise in forced conversions, killings and kidnappings for ransom targeting non-Muslims, specifically the Hindus of Pakistan, proves that intolerance and bigotry in our society runs deeper than we’d care to admit.
Whether our society has always alienated and harassed people who profess other religions or if this is a ‘trend’, a recent ‘development’ which is haunting everyone, including Muslims who demand peace and coexistence, are questions that can best be answered by someone who has been living in Pakistan since the time of its establishment.
Hari Motwani, former Member Manager Committee of Pakistan Hindu Council said, “The situation was never as bad as it has become. I remember the good old days when we were invited to Qawwali evenings and Naat competitions. We participated in all Muslim religious festivals and our sentiments were reciprocated wholeheartedly, however now it is extremely difficult for us to trust anyone,”
“When your daughters and sons are at stake, everything seems threatening,” added Motwani, whose own nephew was kidnapped and has been missing for the past three months.
The endless horror tales that I read and hear about people, who suffer from the ‘minority syndrome’ in Pakistan, make me question who are the culprits behind these vicious acts and most importantly what factors influence them to act in such an inhumane way.
My religious knowledge might not be ‘at par’ with the so-called advocates of faith but I do know certainly that there is no compulsion in religion. Coercing and threatening Hindus to accept Islam will most likely not land us a palatial mansion in heaven. Kidnapping and killing them for ransom will never be justified and above all ‘expunging’ them from the country will not ‘bless’ us in any way whatsoever.
Hindus constitute almost 2.5 per cent of the overall population of Pakistan and most Hindu families have been living in the country before 1947’s partition. Raja Assermal, a businessman of Sikh origin said, “My family has a 1000 years worth of history in Pakistan. We identify with this country because this is our homeland. Many Hindus have migrated but we will not change our ‘abode’ and will continue to fight for our rights.”
Assermal claims that Hindus are being targeted everywhere, however, the situation in Sindh is critical and deteriorating with the passage of each day. Whilst narrating the abduction and forced conversion of a 17-year-old Hindu girl, he demanded for their civil rights and urged the authorities to protect them from the miscreants.
Intolerance and ubiquity of the pseudo-religious clerics continue to tarnish young minds. Blaming everything on the authorities, lack of true Islamic knowledge and illiteracy will not change the situation. Measures taken in individual capacity can be extremely motivating for people who face the brunt of being a non-Muslim in Pakistan. In order to develop a society which is ethnically rich and civilised, tolerance and accommodation of each other’s ideas play a predominant role.
A society which fails to accept its own people is perhaps more vulnerable and prone to disintegrate. Perhaps our own set of insecurities plays a vital role in considering other people and factions inferior.
We consider ourselves safe which is why most of us do not voice our condemnation toward such crimes, however, our realm is as penetrable and susceptible to the dangers of bigotry. Each targeted temple and attacked individual push us closer to the precipice of doom.
It is time to take measures to curb the hostilities toward Pakistani Hindus. It is time to identify the culprits behind the terrifying abductions and forced conversions of non-Muslims in Pakistan. It is indeed time to make amendments by making individual efforts to save people professing other religions before it’s too late.
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan,” is the most highlighted phrase of one of the most significant speeches made by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
However, the question is if Jinnah had been a witness to the barbarism which rules Pakistan now; would he still dream of creating Pakistan?
The writer is a Reporter at Dawn.com
Source: The Dawn, Karachi