By Mohammad Ali Mahar
20 August, 2012
Why should Hindus be forced to leave the soil they inhabited since time immemorial? What is their fault?
Los Angeles, August 17, 1988. On the fateful day Genera Ziaul Haq’s plane exploded in the air above Bahawalpur, I was in Los Angeles. Adam Leghari, my friend who unfortunately died young, was my host for the day. At around 9:30 pm, while discussing politics as usual, he asked me if I wanted to meet Jaggat Bhatia, an eminent lawyer and a childhood friend of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Excited, we drove half an hour to where he lived. When we pressed the buzzer it was already past 10 pm and from the darkness surrounding the house I could deduce that the residents were asleep. After a little wait the door opened a bit and an enraged man looking at us from behind the chain yelled, “Who are you and what do you want at this hour?” We told him we were Sindhi students and wanted to meet him to talk about his early days in Sindh and his friendship with Mr Bhutto. The elderly gentleman still trembling with anger let us in saying he could not spare more than 15 minutes.
As we sat down in his lavishly furnished living room, the first thing Mr Bhatia said, “If you are here to talk against Pakistan, then leave this moment. I cannot hear a single word against my country. I love it and have been fighting for it all my life. I will not let Pakistan be harmed.” It was only after our assurances that we were not there to talk against Pakistan that he loosened up. We ended up spending more than two hours with him upon his insistence. All through the meeting, he kept talking about Pakistan — sometimes tears flowing down his cheeks — and his days in Karachi where he lived in the Clifton area. I would not have believed his emotions thinking he was behaving thus due to the fear of the agencies had I not known that we were in the USA and not Pakistan.
Chicago, 1988. I was visiting Chicago and I had borrowed the car from Lal Chand Jagwani, my best friend to this day, to drive to Chicago. The people we stayed with advised us to remove all the valuables from the car before parking it in the street overnight because Chicago was not a safe city. As I was emptying the glove compartment, I noticed a small book wrapped in a cloth cover; unwrapping it, I saw it was the Surah Yaseen. Upon return to Detroit, while returning the car I asked Lal whether he knew somebody had forgotten the Surah in his car. Lal laughed and said, “Why do you think so? Do you think that only you Muslims own the Quran? We, Sindhi Hindus, respect and believe in the Quran and its blessings as much as you Muslims do.” Lal’s late father, Mehru Mal Jagwani was a great Pakistani who contested and won elections in Pakistan.
Karachi, 1989-90. Inside Ramaswami Mandir compound in Karachi, I was chatting with Kako Teerath, a spiritual leader of Hindus living in Sindh. Before the independence, Kako had been a Congress Party leader in Sindh and a freedom fighter. After the partition, he decided that he would live and die in Pakistan rather than migrating to India. In the 1970s, Indira Gandhi’s government decided to honour the freedom struggle heroes, and therefore Kako was invited to India. In a one-on-one meeting arranged between Mrs Gandhi and Kako, the elderly Sindhi leader said to the prime minister of India, “Why is it so that there are so many communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims in India? Can you not protect a minority like they do in Pakistan?” “Well,” said Mrs Gandhi, “As you know, India is a very large country compared to Pakistan. Its size sometimes makes it difficult to maintain control.” “In that case,” Kako advised her, “Why don’t you keep only the part you can control and let the rest go?”
The other day, I saw a picture of a couple of women in a train window crying while leaving for India for good (or, maybe, bad). The caption of the picture said they were abandoning their soil. Then I saw another picture of an innocent looking little boy holding a banner that read, “I am a Hindu. Do I have a right to live?” My heart filled with pain and eyes with tears.
Why should Hindus be forced to leave the soil they inhabited since time immemorial? What is their fault? What gives me, a Muslim, more right to live in Pakistan, than, say, a Hindu, or a Christian? If it is the brute majority rule we follow in our country, then why do we cry foul when other nations do the same. What right do we have to castigate India on the real or perceived atrocities it commits against Muslims, a minority in India just like Hindus are in Pakistan, in Kashmir? Do we have a moral right to criticise Israel for its abuses against Palestinians?
If a daughter is kidnapped, regardless of whether she is Muslim or Hindu, and the superior judiciary endorses the atrocity, shame on us all. Then it should not be just Hindus but all of us who should abandon the country, for a country where the honour of its citizens is not secure is not a country but a jungle.
Altaf Hussain of MQM asks whether there is a conspiracy behind the Hindu exodus. Yes. It is a conspiracy and everyone can see it. It started in 1948, when the Sindhi Hindus were targeted in Karachi by the refugees in order to occupy their houses and property. The city saw one of the worst pogroms in history where scores of Hindus were killed and their properties and houses were plundered. Dr Haider Nizamani wrote an excellent article recently mentioning how when the then chief minister of Sindh, Ayub Khuhro, tried to protect the Hindus, he was scolded by the prime minister of the country. Liaquat Ali Khan said to Khuhro: “What sort of a Muslim are you that you protect Hindus here when Muslims are being killed in India. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” writes Nizamani.
Ever since the Zia days, there have been constant news about Hindus killed or robbed. And Hindus still stuck to their land. But lately the new technique of agencies-backed fundamentalists of kidnapping their daughters is too much for them to bear. The whole world saw how judges sided with the culprits in the case of Rinkel Kumari. Would the judges have delivered the same verdict had a Muslim girl been kidnapped and converted to, say, Hinduism? The establishment backing the conspiracy to empty Sindh of Hindus and the judiciary approving it, what venue was left for Hindus? Having lost faith in the last venue, the judicial system, they are leaving the motherland in droves.
A Sindh without its Hindus will not be Sindh, for Hindu Sindhis, like Muslims, are the children of the soil. If the Muslim Sindhis closed their eyes and let the forced migration of Hindus continue unabated, then they, too, should better start looking for a place to migrate to. Sindhi Muslims, being Sufis by nature, are the real target. Actually, all thinking, feeling, non-conforming, people of the country are the target of discrimination.
In a country with a flawed judicial system, a government indifferent to people’s life and death issues, an establishment systemically marginalising minorities, and with no Kako Teerath to advise the power-wielders to keep only as much of the country as they can handle, the conscientious citizens of the country should either take control or be prepared to leave.
The writer is an independent political analyst based in the USA