By Saher Baloch, Karachi
Even after facing a natural calamity and being displaced from their home and hearth, people at a roadside camp near Makli are reluctant to give up their prejudices and will not even share water with members of the Hindu community while sharing the same camp.
Some 35 families are living at a camp in front of the district and sessions court near Makli, Thatta. Arranged side by side, these camps include members of a minority community as well. Despite a drinking water tank just a few steps away, arranged by an NGO a month ago, most of the people at the camp walk as far as six kilometers in search of water just because that tank is frequented by the Hindus.
“I cannot drink water from the same water tank as these people,” said Khairoo, 45, who lost everything in the recent floods. Attempting to give a reason he said that the water got “impure” if a non-Muslim drank from it. Lighting a cigarette as he spoke, he candidly added: “My family and I have compromised with our life, home and everything that we had. But we cannot compromise with our belief.”
Elderly people were of the same opinion as well. Sammo Ali, 75, is living at the camp since Ramazan and proudly says that he has not touched the food that was given to them and to the Hindus in the same dishes. Although all these people belong to the same village, yet there is a divide in the camps as those belonging to the lowest caste or minority are kept aside, as a medical camp set up by Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) is built in between.
The minorities living at the other side of the camp, oblivious to how they are treated, keep a vigilant eye for a van or a truck carrying food. Most of them admit that they get into a fray if “one of them hits us,” but some of them silently take the beating when a fight breaks out during food distribution.
Soni, 16, left her goth with her parents when they heard the flood warnings from a nearby mosque. Being the eldest among her eight siblings, she said that women from the “other side” often beat her sisters up when they went ahead to get food. She said her family had just been waiting for the floods to subside so that they could go back to their home. “We are continuously suffering by the hands of these people and have to accept the fact that we have to stay with them until we are free to go to our homes.”
Discrimination on the basis of caste and religion was a huge issue in Sindh, said Pirbhu Satyani, founder and an active member of the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network.
He said that for the past few weeks he had been receiving a lot of complaints where, merely on the basis of religious differences, many people belonging to the minority sect were not issued registration cards at the camps.
“A majority of the two million people belonging to the Dalits and Scheduled castes are settled in the province of Sindh. And even being one of the early settlers of Umerkot and Thatta district, they are silently suffering from the discriminatory treatment meted out to them from various quarters.”
In the same vein he said that what he found to be most distressing was the fact that even in these times when a large portion of the country’s population had been displaced with no clue about their future, some people were still bothered about such matters. “The fact is that as a nation we have let the differences, either they be of ethnic, sectarian or religious nature, grow inside us and they are now so deep-rooted that no matter what happens we think in the same terms.”
The camp is being run by lawyers and doctors belonging to the Lawyers Bar Council and the Pakistan Medical Association respectively.
Source: The News, Islamabad