I grew up in fear – every face around me depicted nothing but fear. I am sure that the first expression on my parent’s face on my birth as a female child born to Hindu parents living in Kandhkot would have been that of fear also.

Why did I bring so much fear into the lives of my parents? I grew up always wondering what is it about me that continues to terrify. But I always drew a blank. How naïve I was.

Before I knew it, the time to attend school had arrived. School was comfortable; however, there were times when I felt like an outsider, finding it difficult to gel in with rest of the majority. Perhaps the snide remarks and incidents of discrimination led me to believe that I am not one of ‘them’. Of those incidents, I still vividly remember no one eating with me and refusing to sip from the cup I drank from.

Home wasn’t very different either. My mother asked questions about my life at school and otherwise looking for answers that would somehow relinquish her from the unknown fear. Afraid to disappoint her, I realised very early in my life that my mother could not be my confidant.

Growing up was not easy.

And then it happened. The fears of my mother and many Hindu mothers like her materialised. I went out to one of the largest markets of Kandhkot and was abducted by a man I knew very well. He was none other than the guard who was responsible for safeguarding our temples.

Knowing his face well prompted me to sit with him in his car without protest, however, instead of taking me to my house he turned to an alley that I wasn’t too familiar with. Scared and unsure about what lay ahead I started screaming just to hear my abductor scream louder and threaten me. Astonished and unable to comprehend the gravity of the situation I sat still until it was time to step out of the car to a small house which looked abandoned.

We entered the house to find a large room devoid of any furniture and other bearings except for a carpet that covered the floor. I was made to sit down on the floor.

Uncertain about what was going to happen to me; my mind raced with thoughts of the recent news of the abductions and forced conversions of Hindu girls. I sat there shuddering. The realisation struck me and I could see my entire life in front of me in kaleidoscope. My mother’s fears, my father’s warnings, the alienation I felt, the yearning to be a part of the circle of friends, the search for a confidant, a friend.

My worst fears were reaffirmed when a man wearing a turban entered the room to teach me about a religion which I grew up hearing about, however, felt no urge to practise or embrace. He kept sermonising me for hours but was unable to get me to listen to him, realising that he left asking me to ponder about the true religion.

His departure did not ignite any fire for eternal glory inside me but only made me wonder why did my parents not relocate to another country when they had the chance to do so? Why did they continue to live in fear waiting for the inevitable to happen instead of making a move to safer pastures? And, what made me think that I am any different from countless girls who are forced to change their faith?

Each passing day appeared to be more and more surreal. The ritual of preaching continued for days, I lost track. Eventually, when preaching did not do the trick, my abductor threatened me.

The routine ranging from threats to persuasion and from glorifying the paradise to the wrath of God for non-believers only made me wonder: Do we not all pray to the same God — a God who is manifested in nature, colours, happiness and love? Why would he punish me for being a Hindu?

Somewhere along this relentless persuasion, came that horrifying threat of harming my family – I gave in. My approval followed a small ceremony in which I was forced to embrace Islam and later married off to the man who will always be remembered as the ‘messiah’ who for saved me from the unknown territory of sin and infidelity I was treading on.

After the ceremony, instead of receiving blessings for a happy and prosperous life ahead, I was immediately escorted to a local court where a Muslim magistrate declared my conversion and marriage in accordance with the law.

The news of my conversion and marriage to a Muslim man spread like wildfire. I dreaded the moment of meeting my parents. I never wanted to see pain and agony on their faces let alone be the reason for all their grief. Sure enough, one look at my mother made me yearn for my own death.

I wanted to tell her that I love her and that her safety was all I had in mind when I converted. I wanted to tell my father to keep my sisters safe. I wanted to tell my brothers to leave the country whilst they still could. I wanted to say much more but their silent pain and suffering made me wish if only I wasn’t born a girl, if only I wasn’t born in Pakistan, if only I had the right to be myself and practise my faith without being herded into a religion that I failed to comprehend, if only I could make them all understand that there is just one God for all, if only I could give us all an identity that we rightly deserve.

Looking at all the faces that once seemed familiar; I wondered: who am I?

I am one but share the pain of many. I am Rachna Kumari, Rinkle Kumari, Manisha Kumari and the many more Hindu girls who will be forced to convert in Pakistan. I am the fear of their families and the agony that they undergo. I am the misery of those girls who die a little every day for the injustices done to them.

I am a minority living in an intolerant society.

Forced conversions and religious intolerance forcing Hindus to abandon the country

By Altaf Hussain

The mass exodus of minority Hindus from Pakistan particularly from Sindh, has stirred the lethargic and ignorant government authorities who otherwise had kept mum over the security concerns of the Hindu community. Significant number of families of Pakistan’s Hindu community particularly from Sindh, reportedly have started migrating to India, because of forced conversions, extortion and kidnapping for ransom.

Hindus, whose sizeable population lives in all the districts of Sindh, have been facing continued incidences of violence compelling them to live under the dark shadows of insecurity. The trend has continued for many years now. However, the recent spur of events has given impetus to the un-fortunate trend forcing the indigenous dwellers to abandon their motherland.

The current wave of migration started in the backdrop of a 14 year old girl (Manisha) from the Hindu community was abducted in Jacobabad town of Sindh which generated the fear of her being converted.

The aftermaths of the incidence have witnessed sudden mass departure of Hindus from different parts of Sindh and Baluchistan to India with some families rejecting the idea of permanent settlement and other sticking to the widely reported factor of migration for lifetime to India. It is of utmost significance to look into the issues to analyze the myth and reality behind Hindus abandoning Sindh.

Eashwar Lal, President Hindu panchayat, Sukker Division and Sukker district, however, categorically says that Hindus migrating to India in significant numbers are going due to the forced conversion of their girls, kidnappings and waning law and order situation for Hindus in particular in Sindh.

Eashawr Lal, repeatedly claims “our girls and women are not safe here”, we do not want to abandon Sindh, but continuous onslaught on us and our women by the criminal elements and indifference towards our issues from law enforcement agencies and political representatives have pushed us to the wall to take these steps, he adds.

At the time of independence Hindus constituted about 15 percent of Sindh’s population which was reduced to around 6.5 percent as indicated by 1998 Census.

The local landlords-cum politicians and the police have been blamed for their nefarious character of patronizing extortionists and criminals and other elements that carry out kidnappings of girls resulting in forced conversion, ransom and extortion.

“Police and local politicians have turned deaf ear to our grievances and due to that criminal elements are at large”, deplores Eashwar.

He says that Hindu community in different districts of Sindh informed and requested police and district administration of the growing incidences of kidnappings and forced conversions of their girls, extortion and kidnappings for ransom, but to no avail.
He also lamented on the Hindu parliamentarians saying they are not representatives of the Hindu people but have been imposed by the political parties on their will.

After events started unfolding in quick succession with Interior Minister of Pakistan putting bar on Hindus crossing the border which too resulted in the large hue and cry from civil society. The President of Pakistan, constituted a two member committee comprising of Senator Mola Bux Chandio and Senator Hari Ram to look into the matter and submit initial report to him.

Eashwar Lal says “we have put some demands in front of them, including our one-on-one meeting with the President”. Our major demand is security and safety of our girls and women, maintains Mr. Lal.

Pakistan Young Hindu Panchayat Convener, Dr. Dileep Daultani notes that Sukker and Larkana Divisions in Sindh are increasingly becoming religiously intolerant for the minority communities especially for Hindus.

“Hindus are quitting their motherland because their families, businesses and lands are no more secure here”, he says. “70 per cent of the Hindus going to India are going to settle there, others who have other options are also thinking to settle in Europe and America”, observers Daultani. He suspects that the conspiracy has been hatched by expelling Hindus from Sindh and trun the local people into minority in the face of changing demographic paradigms of Sindh in particular.

He says, “Committees are no solution to the problems of Hindu community”, nevertheless, we have presented them with our demands including setting up minority desk at district level in police and district administration for the redressal of the complaints of minorities, particularly Hindu community”.

Some people have claims that the migration of Hindu community to India and other other cities of Sindh like Karachi started in the wake abduction of Hindu girl (Rinkle Kumari) from Ghotki district of Sindh who converted to Islam at the behest of local Pakistan Peoples Party MNA and his cronies. The case was taken up at the highest level by the Supreme Court of Pakistan through a Suo Moto. Rinkle Kumari in the end decided in favor of her Muslim husband. Rinkle’s relatives however alleged that she was forced to decide in favor of her husband. Supreme Court’s suo moto too could not yield any dividends for the Hindu community.

Raj Kumar, uncle of Rinkle Kumari, says that Hindu community had submitted to the kidnapping for ransom practices against them; however, kidnappings of girls followed by forced conversions alarmed his community whose fear started increasing with every passing day.

“Our people have started shifting to India and elsewhere after Rinkle’s incident”, says Raj kumar.

Raj’s contention is also substantiated by other activists too.Migration of Hindu Community to India and other cities of Sindh is direct offshoot of the neglect this community has been going through far many years, notes M. Parkash, Chairman Pakistan Minority Commission. “The impetus to this trend was provided by Rinkle’s case”, he says.

Civil society activists believe, government and its institutions have allowed current situation to worsen because of its willful neglect. Muhammad Parial Maree, human rights activist from Shikarpur says government has failed in ensuring the good governance in the province. “Honest and neutral police officers and district administration is extremely necessary for the protection of the rights of the citizens including minorities”, he observes.

Committees and meetings have never resulted in producing tangible results in Pakistan. It is important that both Sindh government as well as the Federal government take steps ensuring the life, religion, dignity and property of minorities in general and Hindus in particular. The introduction of minority desk at district level with close liaison with police and district administration may help in taking timely and appropriate measures to stop activities of kidnapping, conversion and extortion. Both the government must ensure that article 25 of Pakistan’s Constitution is implemented in its spirit which mandates the state to treat all the citizens equally without difference of religion, caste or creed.

Altaf Hussain can be reached at pinjaro1@gmail.com.

The Jihad to convert Hindu girls is continued unabated under the indifferent attitude of Pakistani authorities. In recent months, seven Hindu girls have been targeted in the conversion to Islam campaign. Of the seven, five have been abducted and converted by Muslim goons. One Hindu girl was abducted and forced to convert to Islam, but she has been subsequently recovered by the police. In one case, the attempted abduction was foiled by the passer-byes.

The Muslim abductors have also begun using new modus operandi. In one case, a Muslim man first became the ‘brother’ of a Hindu girl, and also observed the Rakhi Bandhan, a custom cementing the bond between brothers and sisters. Later, the same ‘brother’ abducted his ‘sister’. After the abduction, he married her. Perhaps, as the prevailing understanding goes, he will be extra pleased with the idea that he will be rewarded after death for converting one Hindu girl to Islam.

Incidents of abduction of teenage Hindu girls are of no concern to the Sindh provincial government. And, such abductions are music to the ears of Muslim fundamentalists and powerful local elements that operate freely within and around the local administration.

According to advocate Veerji Kolhi, President of Progressive Hindu Alliance and Council for the Defense of Bonded Laborers, two Hindu sisters belonging to a low Hindu caste were abducted on 7 July 2013 by armed men from their village Kohli Vairi, located in Nangar Parka Taluka, Tharparkar District, Sindh.

The girls, Ms. Tarki aged 16 years and Ms. Beena aged 14, daughters of Vanoon Kohli, were abducted by Hanif Nohri, Inayat Nohri, Majnoon Nohri , Jamal Nohri and Ismail Khoso, residents of Bado and Jud’dan villages located in the same taluka and district. They forcibly entered the house of the Kohli family in the night at 8 p.m. Mrs. Savarian Kohli, mother to the girls, was taking dinner with her children when the armed men entered her house. The abductors are alleged to be henchmen of the former chief minister of Sindh who has now joined the ruling party, the PML-N.

Mrs. Kohli fears that her daughters will be moved to another location, converted to Islam forcibly, and be killed by her abductors, as they are powerful and have great influence in the area. Demonstrators also appealed to the authorities to search the madressas for the recovery of the girls.

The Daily Awami Aawaz has recently reported that the case of Hindu Girl from Tendo Jam village who was kidnapped on the pretext of  a ‘love marriage’ has been solved. Police have arrested a man, Mr. Mohammad Ali Machi, along with a woman, said to be his sister. There was an emotional scene in the police station as the girl, upon seeing her father Lilaram and mother Laxmibai, embraced her mother and started crying. In her statement the girl said that she came to Korti with her maternal uncle. She visited a dargah to seek blessings, after which she proceed to the Md. Ali Machi residence where she was forcibly taken to Kinri, converted to Islam, and married to Md. Ali Machi. She pleaded to be handed over to her parents. After recording the statement of the girl, the police arrested Md. Ali Machi, along with his sister Zarina. A case of kidnapping has been registered against them.

According to the Internationally Unity for Equality (IUFE), on 28 June 2013, a Hindu girl Ms. Rekha was abducted by Mr. Yaseem Lashari when she was on her way home from her work place. Rekha and her mother, Naavi, work in the factory where they met with Yameen Lashari. He made Rekha his sister and Rekha tied him a Rakhi (thread cementing bond between brother and sister, tied on the Hindu festival of Raksha bandhan by a girl around the wrist of boy, making them both brother and sister). Lashari became close to the family. He often visited their home. One day Rekha didn’t come back home from work and on the same day Lashari was also absent from the work place. Navvi realized that her daughter had been abducted by Yameen. She filed a case of kidnapping against Yameen Lahari. On the day of  the hearing the couple came to court and Naavi tried to meet with her daughter, but Lashari did not allow them to meet and talk. He abused and insulted Navvi and told her to get out of the court. Navvi informed the police about the incident but police didn’t take any action.  Later, one day,  Lashari informed the mother through a messenger that he and Rekha have gotten married and there is no need for her to follow them.

On April 6, six persons riding motorbikes tried to abduct a Hindu woman from a bus near Toban Shakh, in Kanri, Sindh. The bike rider stopped the passenger bus and tried to drag out a married Hindu woman, Ms. Tarri, from the bus. When they were pulling her, she cried and shouted loudly for help. Other passengers and bystanders near the bus came to her aid and the perpetrators ran away. The Hindu community tried to file a first information report at the Kinri police station, but even after 6 hours of making the complainants wait, the police refused to file a case. According to the police the incident took place outside the limits of the Kinri police station.

Jamna Kumari, a 12 year old girl, was abducted by influential persons from village Arbab Rind, located near Bhit Shah, Hyderabad. According to the father of the girl Altaf Rind, Pathan Rind, Wazir Rind along with their companions entered his house, looted cash, gold, and other value able things. After looting, the men dragged out and took away his daughter Kumari. He filed a First Investigation Report (FIR) against the criminals. The Bhit Shah police arrested the men. But after taking bribes, the police released the them. The abductor goons are said to be from a religious seminary. The whereabouts of Jamna is still unknown.  Her Hindu family fears that the girl will be sold to the Taliban in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkha, after her forced conversion to Islam.

In March 2013, Ganga, 18 years of age, daughter to gold trader Ashok Kumar, was abducted at dawn from her home located Jhanjhri Street, Sarafa Bazaar, in the limits of the City Police Station, Jacobabad. Mr. Asif Ali, the son of another gold trader Bahadur Ali Surhio, converted the abducted girl to Islam and married her. The marriage ceremony took place at the Amrot Sharif shrine.  An FIR was lodged by the parents of the girl against Asif Ali, Bahadur Ali Surhio, and Miran Bukhsh. This abduction occurred at the time of the election of the Hindu Panchayat, which was postponed until this incident could be resolved. A big protest was organized against the alleged abduction and forced conversion. The protestors demanded protection of Hindu girls and Hindu people. They demanded the reunion of Ganga with her family. See www.sociableinfo.com/hindus-protest-after-woman-converted-to-islam-in-pakistan/#.UeY5sG2bFVU and www.awamiawaz.net/jacobabad-protest-4