Magh Krushna Ashtami, Kaliyug Varsha 5111
The idea that religious minorities in Pakistan (anyone non-Sunni) get a fair treatment by the government and other institutions has always been a highly suspect claim. But whereas massacres of Shia and Ahmadiyya groups are regularly in the news, much less is known about the roughly 2.6 million Hindus that still live there.
While claims of everyday low-level persecution are constantly bubble underneath the surface, the more charged issue of Hindu women being abducted and forced to convert is increasingly coming to light in Pakistan and India.
Indian politics magazine Outlook has a cover story this week on the issue, giving further impetus to voices that something must be done. First, some background.
Pakistan’s English language Dawn newspaper first published a story in November on the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expressing “deep concern” at recent reports of Hindu girls being abducted. The paper said:
An HRCP release issued here on Wednesday stated that according to newspaper reports 19 girls mostly from Punjab Colony were missing from their homes. Relatives of these young girls had reasons to believe that they had been kidnapped and being forced to change their religion, the press release added.
Although the commission urged the government to take action, nothing was heard futher on the issue.
A week later Mumbai’s Mid-Day newspaper followed up with a more detailed story on the issue, which raised many more eyebrows and was also highlighted by Sakhi Juneja on her blog.
A column by Dawn’s Irfan Husain followed in early December in which he cites his own investigations on the growing problem and urged the Pakistani government to take action.
Meanwhile in London, a demonstration was organised for 18th December in front of the Pakistani Embassy to force the government to take action, though I don’t know how that went or the outcome.
Outlook’s cover story may raise the political temperature, and in this case that may be the only way forward.
Human rights activists in the country remain concerned at the governments continuing lack of regard not only for Hindus, who are leaving their country in growing numbers, but also other religious minorities.
Women groups in the country say the abduction of Hindu women is part of Pakistan’s rampant gender discrimination:
Aurat Foundation’s Nuzzhat Shirin too blames Islamic fanaticism for the ordeal of Hindus. “It’s Muslims winning by intimidation. It’s Muslims overcoming a culture by threatening it, by abducting young girls so that an entire community moves out or succumbs to the Muslim murderers,” she says. Shirin, however, says the crime against Hindu girls should also be seen from the perspective of gender discrimination rampant in Pakistan.
The foundation’s figures show that on average 10 women are killed daily countrywide in honour crimes. “The ratio is higher in the northern tribal areas, with cultural affinity to Afghan tribal practices. Not only that, on average, two women are raped every hour in Pakistan. During 2005, close to 600 women committed suicide across Pakistan.
President Musharraf? Nowhere to be seen on the issue. He probably thinks women get abducted to get a visa.
This is sensitive but important issue that should not be about demonising an entire country and its people, but about dealing with the backward village mentality over religion that still exists in many parts. The Pakistani government needs to act to protect its citizens.
Source: Pickled Politics