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Interfaith Dialogue ( 17 March 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Hindus Leaving Homeland Amid Security Fears

By Ali K Chishti

March 16, 2012

Having lived in Sindh for centuries, Hindus are migrating because of forced conversions, murders and abductions for ransom

In 2010, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that at least 25 Hindu girls are abducted and converted by force in Pakistan every month.

"Every time there's a forced conversion, we hear of a love story and the usual court proceedings, but there's no follow up," says Ram Kumar, a 63-year-old Hindu elder from Karachi.

Mohan Lal Harchandani, another Hindu leader, says his community has been living in Sindh for thousands of years. "Not only do we see Pakistan as our country, we work and pray for its prosperity," he said.

But the community is concerned about its security. Hindus were 16 percent of Pakistan's population in 1947, but have been reduced to 2 percent. In 1947, there were 428 functioning temples in the country. Now, there are only 26, according to Jamohan Kumar Arora from Rawalpindi. But the 3 million Hindus as per the 1998 census are still the largest religious minority in Pakistan. Most of them live in Karachi, Mirpurkhas and Sukkur regions of Sindh.

"You cannot understand how much we love this land," said Ajeet Kumar. "We have been living here for millennia and are among its indigenous people. This is our land and its people are our people. We are Sindhis and have never discriminated on the basis of religion."

"But due to the constant fear of abductions, we are leaving Pakistan and Sindh," Ajeet Kumar said.

Last year, three Hindus - Naresh Kumar, Ashok Kumar and Ajeet Kumar - were gunned down in Shikarpur while a Hindu student's mutilated body was found in Hyderabad.

Although the liberal Pakistan People's Party is in power, Sindhi Hindus are still being murdered, abducted for ransom, or converted by force.

Hindus were 16 percent of Pakistan's population in 1947, but have been reduced to 2 percent. In 1947, there were 428 functioning temples in the country. Now, there are only 26

Thirty-seven Hindus from five families of Thul, a small town in Jacobabad district, have recently left for India for good, because of security concerns.

"It's extremely sad that the Hindu families who have been living in the province for centuries are being forced to migrate from their motherland," Pakistan Hindu Seva (PHS) President Sanjesh Kumar said. "The government is not providing them adequate security."

Since 2008, more than 10 Sindhi Hindu families have been migrating to other countries every month. "The Hindus who migrate to India are not entirely happy, but they don't have too many options," he said.

"Eight to 10 Hindu families migrate from Pakistan to India every month," said an official at the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi. "Most of them are well off."

Earlier this month, thousands of Muslims in Sindh celebrated the Hindu festival of Holi. "We must integrate and understand other religions and celebrate their festivals to show solidarity with them," said Muhammad Noman, a 24-year-old student who had organized one such event.

Murad, a Muslim from Lyari cleans the Hindu temple in the locality. "Islam is misunderstood. It has been hijacked by clerics," he says. "Islam teaches peaceful coexistence and this is my jihad."

Murad is also in charge of a 20-acre Hindu cremation ground since 1987. "I remember the time when I was a child. We never cared who was Hindu, Muslim or Christian." Local Hindus call Murad 'Rakhshak', or guardian.

The recent case of the alleged forced conversion of a Hindu girl Rinkle Kumari has brought attention to the issue of forced conversions once again. "We all worship the same God," says Murad. "Why convert someone by force? And convert them to what? If you convert someone by force, it is not Islam."

Source: The Friday Times, Lahore