On March 26, 19-year-old Rinkle Kumari, from a village in Sindh, told Chief Justice of Pakistan that she had been abducted by a man called Naveed Shah, and pleaded with the highest court to let her return to her mother. It was a brave plea. Hindu women in Pakistan are routinely kidnapped and then forced to convert if they want the respectability of marriage. They are helpless, as they have neither the numbers nor the political clout to protect themselves. As Rinkle left the court, she screamed before journalists, accusing her captors of forcible conversion, before she was hustled away by the police.
The case grabbed headlines, generated impassioned editorials, and highlighted the cause of a persecuted community, the 3.5 million Hindus in Pakistan. It angered liberals in Pakistan.
But Rinkle had dared to raise her voice, and there would be a price to pay. Her parents in Ghotki village were threatened, her 70-year-old grandfather was shot at, gun-toting goons roamed outside her house. When she returned to the Pakistan Supreme Court on April 18, she meekly said she had converted to Islam. At a packed media briefing in Islamabad’s Press Club, with Shah by her side, the spunk in her snuffed out, she would only say she wants to become an “obedient” wife.
According to police records, each month, an average of 25 girls meet Rinkle’s fate in Sindh alone, home to 90 per cent of the Hindus living in Pakistan. Young Hindu girls are ‘marked’, abducted, raped, and forcibly converted.
Discrimination, extortion threats, killings and religious persecution are driving the remaining Hindus out of Pakistan. They had chosen to stay back after Partition; six decades later, they are no longer welcome.
In India, they are facing a shock worse than catastrophe-betrayal. The Government of India refuses to recognise them as refugees and is unmoved by their plight. In its reply to activist S.C. Agrawal’s RTI query on November 1, 2011, on the status of Pakistani Hindu refugees, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) claimed it was an “internal matter” of Pakistan. In the same reply, the Ministry of Home Affairs admitted that it could not say how many Pakistani Hindus had emigrated.
According to Delhi’s Foreigners Regional Registration Office, there has been a rapid increase in the number of Hindus coming from Pakistan. Till mid-2011, it used to be around eight-ten families a month. But in the past 10 months, an estimated 400 families have come. They are settling down all over India, in Rajasthan, Punjab and Gujarat. A trickle has become a stream. Hindus, who accounted for 15 per cent of Pakistan’s population in 1947, now constitute a mere 2 per cent of its 170 million population. Many have migrated, others have been killed, and yet others forced to convert to survive. In some cases, the dead have even been denied a proper cremation.
Government must provide protection to the rights of minorities, their lives and properties
On August 16, 2012, the representatives of Hyderabad Hindu Panchiat, Young Hindu Association, and other Hindu Community organizations and members of civil society and human rights organizations including (Sindh Democratic Forum (SDF), HRCP, Pakistan Peace Coalition, Sindh Human Rights Council, Minority Rights are Equal Rights has welcomed the move of the formation of a three member committee in order to address the issues and grievances faced by the minority but however called it an ethno-religious cleansing and exodus of Sindhi Hindus and demanded that it was more than a committee that was required to protect.
These points were raised in a draft addressed to Zardari and handed over to the members of parliamentary committee on minority issues, federal minister senator Moula Bux Chandio and Senator Hari Ram.
Community and civil society resolved that on the eve of 65th day of independence there is a need that government should respect the rights of minorities, their lives and properties shall be protected as promised by the founder Jinnah in his speech on 11th August 1947 in which he clearly mentioned that political affairs shall be separated from religious matters.
Community and civil society call the establishment of committee as a move of displaying solidarity and look forward to ensure the best possible protection but unfortunately the level of threats that include non-safety of life and property, forced conversion of minor girls, kidnapping for ransom and above all irrecoverable forced are too high and shows disappointment on insufficient steps taken the federal and provincial government in order to address the above mentioned threats and grievances faced by the minority at large.
Community representatives and civil society further said that in the last couple of months more than two dozen minor children, traders, shopkeepers and businessmen were reportedly kidnapped for ransom and more than 700 families have reportedly migrated to India and Southeast Asian countries in a few months due to insecure and unsafe future of their families and businesses. Registration of fake cases and pressure of local influential are a routine threat to them. Extortion is another crime happening and the Hindus are bound to pay this amount in different parts of the province.
Community representatives and civil society leaders appealed to the president that the Hindu community has done a lot to develop the socio-economic landscape of Sindh and Pakistan, and all their hopes are attached with the land and this hope should not be shattered and it is government’s fundamental responsibility to protect its citizens for all kinds of exploitation and discrimination.
Today, hundreds of thousands from this patriotic community feel alienated and like strangers in their homeland. No religion has allowed its followers to convert others by force; even Islam does not allow it. Then how can its followers indulge in such wrong conduct?
Community representatives and civil society leaders had said that if PPP is serious to resolve this issue they first should ask their legislators to stop harassing Hindus and stop forced conversion of Hindu girls and simultaneously PPP should promise to the community that in the coming elections party tickets were not issued to anti-minority and especially anti-Hindu people- And severe actions should be taken against those who are directly involved in the crimes against Hindu community. Resignations shall be demand immediately.
Community representatives and civil society leaders’ shows concern on the unfair trial of Rinkle Kumari in the supreme court of Pakistan.
It was resolved that as per the spirit of 18th amendment and promised for more provincial autonomy, evacuate property trusts shall immediately be handed over to the respective provincial governments and all the historic and religious sites and places of Hindu community shall be protected like other religious places.
It was also requested that the Hindu marriage registration bill should immediately be presented in the national assembly for legislation.
The group also condemned the aggressive tone of Interior Minister Rehman Malik and demand for public apology from Hindu community who feel threatened and humiliated on his remarks that Hindus will be stopped to move outside the country.
It was further said that civil society, political parties shall follow the course in exposing those individuals and groups who are behind religious cleansing of minority groups in Pakistan. We assure of our personal efforts in solidarity with the just and moral cause of our Sindhi Hindu brothers and sisters in Pakistan.
We have to carry on our voicing the painful plight of native Sindhi Hindu community, which has been under systematic onslaught of government agencies, criminal groups, decadent Sardari system and violent clan groups in Sindh. Decades of religious extremism; collapse of judiciary and law enforcement agencies; criminalization and commercialization of political parties in the country especially in Sindh has created an environment where various religious, gender, and ethnic minority groups are thrown under serious vulnerability.
Although it is an unequivocal responsibility of State to safeguard life and property of every citizen but it does not relieve other individuals, groups, and institutions from their moral obligation to fight social injustice and discrimination. In times when even advanced nations are actively alluring global talent, the most peaceful, law abiding, and hardworking, highly skilled and entrepreneurial native children of Sindh are being forced to leave their motherland just because they happen to be part of a successful but defenseless community.