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- Thousands of young girls and women have been victims of forced conversion in Umerkot and Tharparkar districts
- Forced conversions and Muslim men eloping with underage girls are frequent in the area
- Rising fundamentalism in the region has led to such a situation
July 26, 2017: Many believe that religious identity is one of the strongest identity to categorize an individual. It strongly reflects one’s background and growing up. Hence, it is an aspect of life that most people hold dear to them. But forced conversion, a violation of basic human rights, is changing the person’s identity at their very core.
In the Umerkot and Tharparkar districts of Sindh province, Pakistan, there have been multiple incidents of forced conversion. Young Hindu girls and women have been forcibly converted to Islam. Many young girls have to give in to the impositions of the older Muslim men.
Particularly those girls belong to scheduled castes have been the victims. Recently, Ravita Meghwar’s case has caused the issue to come under the spotlight. Ravita, a 16-year-old girl, was abducted by a group of men who belong to an influential Muslim community in Tharparkar district. Pir Ayub Jan forcibly converted Ravita and married her off to one of the kidnappers.
This was the story that Ravita’s parents narrated. However, Ravita herself denied any such claims by her parents and told the court that it was her decision to run off. She made her decision of staying with her husband clear to the court.
Such stories have been emerging time and again in the Umerkot and Tharparkar districts, where a large number of Hindus reside. In fact, Tharparkar district’s population is 50% Hindu.
Historically, things have drastically changed today. The Hindu and Muslim community in Umerkot and especially Tharparkar district co-existed peacefully. The marriage between a Muslim man and Hindu woman was very acceptable among the community. But now, Tharparkar is like any other part of Pakistan that has become divided along religious lines.
[bctt tweet=”Men armed with guns abducted their daughters, Samjoo and Sonari, in the midnight of 15th January 2016.” username=”NewsGramdotcom”]
In November 2016, the Sindh Assembly had passed a bill against the practice of forced conversion. However, when some religious organizations threatened agitation and instability if the bill was to pass, the governor’s signature never made it to the proposed bill. Now with increasing cases of conversion, the urgency of the bill is in demand again. But to what extent it will be successfully passed remains to be seen.
Dawn reports that the Samaro tehsil’s Pir Ayub Jan Madrassah is responsible for the conversion of thousands of young girls and women. The Pir Ayub Jan’s younger brother proudly tells his tales of conversion but maintains that none of them have been forced.
Pir Ayub Jan is reportedly gathering support for a movement against the bill in Karachi. Simultaneously, reports have come to highlight the forced conversion of Hindus in the Southern Sindh region. The Sarhandi Shrine is a famous spot for mass conversions.
An activist, part of the local human rights organization, revealed to Dawn, “At least 25 conversions of young Hindu girls and women take place every month in Umerkot’s Kunri and Samaro talukas alone.”
Other activists have exposed that the deprived region is a miserable location for scheduled castes who “are powerless” in front of everyone. Many cases are often not even reported to the media. While mainstream media of the country reports that only 13 Hindus in Samaro district were converted from 2015-2016, the locals of the area say the numbers are much higher.
Dawn reported the story of Shiv Dhan and Mani. Men armed with guns abducted their daughters, Samjoo and Sonari, in the midnight of 15th January 2016. One of the men who went on to marry Sonari was the son of a rich landlord. In this case, too, Sonari claimed she willingly married the person while her parents refute such claims. They still haven’t got their daughter back. The parents also sat for protest but nothing was achieved. Their younger daughter, Samjoo, is back with them but they have not seen or spoken to Sonari since her abduction.
The other case of a Hindu man marrying a Muslim girl is very few. But that did not turn out well for the couple. The Hindu man, hailing from Umerkot district, worked in Karachi where he met a Pakhtun girl. The man changed his religion to Islam and brought the girl to his native place where they married. When the family of the girl found out, they paid a visit to the guy’s family and abducted the women of his family. The story ended with the women returning to their respective homes. The police managed to find the women and rescue them, and the Pakkhtun girl was returned to her family.
If we closely inspect the Sindh region, the demographic divide is a major factor to any socio-religious issue. The Northern Sindh and the Central Sindh is where most of the rich and upper-class Hindus reside. Here, they have intense protection from the police and politics.
But Southern Sindh is where most Hindus of the entire Pakistan reside. They are mostly employed in the agricultural sector. This is the region where education and employment are often lacking for the Hindu communities. The Hindu girls and women are constantly under threat from the Muslims.
Human rights activists and campaigners in the region have highlighted many incidents where old Muslim men promise a life of luxury and leisure for young Hindu women. Although convincing is not a crime, but when it is done to young and underage girls it becomes a heinous crime. Minors’ consent does not account for a legal marriage.
Patron in Chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council Dr. Ramesh Vankwani spoke to Dawn, “There is not even one case in which anyone has willingly converted. These men, who are often already married, kidnap the girls, keep them in their custody for 15 days, rape them, and through threats and intimidation, make the girls say they converted willingly”
These girls, once targetted, have little to no chance of escaping the situation. If she rejects the offer, she is at risk along with all her family members. Giving in to the offer means a forever goodbye to the family.
It has been strange that in a place where once two religions coexisted peacefully, such cases are on the rise. Dawn has remarkably identified the rising fundamentalism as a critical reason. Rising fundamentalism is leading to such rising cases.
Religious conversion is considered an important feature of religious fundamentalism. Mohammad Yaqoob, who is the head of Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arabia in Umerkot and Tharparkar districts, is also a head of the Madrassah that is trying to establish New Islamabad. He stated that families who come for the conversion are often given what they asked. Yaqoob also refused to speak against Pir Ayub Jan Sarhandi. He also estimated that in the last 15 years, more than 9,000 conversions were carried out in the Madrassah.
Lastly, few Hindus actually choose conversion. But it is not because of their allegiance to Shariah or Islam, it is their survival strategy. Poor Hindus, when converting to Islam, become beneficiaries of the Madrassah’s welfare and charity.
The rise of fundamentalism in the region has become increasingly evident. While the government ‘lacks money’ for education and infrastructure, the establishment of new Madrassahs has been easily funded.
The solution to the problem is not that simple either. Hindus can be at under immense threat of a social conflict breaks out. But forced conversions, a major violation of the human right, deserves focus from international human rights groups.
– by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394
Since the 7th of December 1949, the Armed Forces Flag Day has been observed in India, annually. This one day is dedicated towards collection of funds from the citizens of India for the welfare of the ‘Indian Armed Forces personnel’. It has become a tradition to pay respect to the people who have served in the army, Navy and Airforce, on this day.
“The idea behind observing a Flag Day was to distribute small flags to the general population and in return collect donations.” The color-scheme of the flag is very similar to the ones used by fellow Commonwealth members like Cyprus, Kenya and Nigeria. The Flag Day signifies that it is the responsibility of the citizens of India to take care of the families and dependents of the armed forces personnel who fight for the country.
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A need for such a day was realized by the Government after India gained Independence from the British rule. In order to manage the welfare of its defence personnel, the Defence Minister of India and a committee together decided to recognize 7th December as the Flag Day. This decision was taken on the 28th of August 1949.
The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated the day saying that,
“A few weeks ago, I visited Indo-China and saw our officers and men attached to the International Commission there. It gave me a thrill to see their smart bearing and the good work they were doing in that distant land. What pleased me still more was their general popularity with the people there. By their efficiency as well as their friendliness, they enhanced the reputation of India. Among them were people from all parts of India. They observed no provincial or other differences amongst themselves. I am sure my countrymen will be pleased to learn of them and would like to indicate their appreciation of these young men who serve our country both here and elsewhere so well. A way to indicate that appreciation is to contribute to the Flag Day Fund.”
The fund is collected through official and non-official means with the help of voluntary organizations. The Kendriya Sainik Board, which is under the Ministry of Defence, arranges for the collection of the fund.
The Defence Ministry of India decided to integrate all the related welfare funds into a single unit called the Armed Forces Flag Day fund. The funds that were integrated are:
- Amalgamated Special Fund for War Bereaved, War Disabled and other ex-Servicemen/Serving Personnel
- Flag Day Fund
- St Dunstan's (India) and Kendriya Sainik Board Fund
- Indian Gorkha Ex-Servicemen's Welfare Fund
The Flag Day signifies that it is the responsibility of the citizens of India to take care of the families and dependents of the armed forces personnel who fight for the country.Unsplash
Problems have to be resolved by and welfare of the ex-servicemen and dependents are mostly settled by the States and the Union Territories, although it was to be a shared responsibility between the Union Government, the State Governments and the governments of the Union Territories. In order to help the Central Government in carrying out this process, there are 32 Rajya Sainik Boards and 392 Zila Sainik Boards. The Kendriya Sainik Board, the Rajya Sainik Board and the Zila Sainik Board are all responsible for the policy formulation and implementation of resettlement and welfare schemes for ex-servicemen, widows and their dependents residing in their respective States or Union Territories or Districts.(Keywords : armed, forces, flag, india, independance, donation, citizen, army, navy, airforce, tradition, respect, government, state, center, union territory, district, funds.)
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A large majority of Indians seem convinced that social media is responsible for the increased gulf between the Hindu and Muslim communities in the country.
This was revealed by a nationwide poll conducted by IANS-CVoter with a sample size of 1942 using random sampling on December 5, one day before the beginning of the 30th anniversary of the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992.
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Close to half the respondents surveyed, 48.2 per cent to be precise felt that social media had increased the gulf between the communities to a large extent.
About 23 per cent of the respondents felt that social media had increased the gulf to some extent. In effect, more than 71 per cent Indians hold social media responsible for the recent friction between the two communities.
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In contrast, 28.6 per cent were of the opinion that social media had no role to play in this phenomenon. If you look at political divides, 40.7 per cent of NDA voters felt social media was responsible to a large extent while 53.6 per cent of opposition voters felt the same.
48.2 per cent to be precise felt that social media had increased the gulf between the communities to a large extent.Unsplash
Social media platforms have come under increased scrutiny of late for their alleged role in spreading misinformation, fake news, abusive and defamatory content and direct incitement to violence. It has become routine for state and local level administrations to temporarily ban access to social media platforms in areas that report tension and fears of violence.
A parliamentary committee has recently submitted a set of recommendations to regulate social media platforms. One major recommendation is to treat them as publishers while the other is to form a regulatory body on the lines of Press Council of India to regulate their activities. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : social media, Hindu, Muslim, community, country, poll, respondents, political, religious, misinformation, violence. abuse, regulations)
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Final preparations are in full swing at Six Senses Fort Barwara which will host the much talked about wedding of celebrity couple Vicky Kaushal and Katrina Kaif.
According to sources, the event company working for this wedding has procured crystal balls and chandeliers from abroad to give a royal look to the wedding. These will be installed in the hotel soon.
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Six Senses Hotel has also parked indicator vehicles on the road at frequent intervals for the guests to reach the hotel easily. A glass 'mandap' has been prepared and decorated in Rajwada style for the couple to take 'pheres' (rounds around the fire) as per Hindu rituals. Moreover, the glass carvings on the mandap is such that it creates an optical illusion.
This wedding ceremony will be held amidst tight security arrangements. Secret codes have been given to each of the guests, so that it is impossible to know which guest is staying in which room.
Mobile phones have been banned inside the venue. International photographers have been hired to shoot the entire wedding. The ceremonies will be held from December 7 to December 9, with bouncers and police personnel looking after the security arrangements. As many as 100 bouncers have arrived from Jaipur to look after security arrangements at the wedding.
Katrina and Vicky's wedding is to be solemnized on December 9.Unsplash
Vicky Kaushal and Katrina Kaif's outfits have been designed in Mumbai which they will wear during different wedding ceremonies.
As per information, Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal are scheduled to reach Hotel Six Senses Fort Barwara located at Chauth Ka Barwara, by 9 p.m. on Monday, via car from Jaipur where both are expected to receive a grand welcome by the hotel management.
Along with Vicky and Katrina, their family members too will reach the hotel on Monday. However, some close family members and other guests will reach the venue separately. Katrina's sister Natasha and friends reached Jaipur airport on Monday afternoon from where they left for the wedding venue by car.
Katrina and Vicky's wedding is to be solemnized on December 9. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : wedding, Bollywood, Vicky Kaushal, Katrina Kaif, Rajasthan, hotel, Fort Barwara, ceremony, photographer, bouncer, outfit)
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