Ramanath Maharaj, a Karachi temple priest comes to Haridwar to immerse the ashes of 160 Pakistani-Hindus in the Holy river of Ganga
Most ashes are about 3-4 years old and some 40 were still left behind at the ‘ashram’ in Karachi
Tedious visa process and complicated bilateral ties between the two countries makes it very difficult for Pakistani Hindus to get their desired send off
New Delhi, Sept 17, 2016: Carrying the ‘asthi-kalash’ of no less than 160 Pakistani Hindus Ramanath Maharaj ,a priest in Karachi is set to immerse them in the holy river of Ganga in Haridwar.
These ashes of these Pakistani Hindus will be immersed in the Ganga at Haridwar on September 24, the seventh day of Pitru Paksha, the day Hindus pay homage to their deceased and forefathers.
Panchmukhi Hanuman Temple which is said to be about 1500 years old and said to have a ‘natural’ idol of Hanuman has a high religious value among Hindus worldwide. It is for the same reason it is approached by many people expressing their desiring for their relatives ashes to be immersed in Ganga. The ashes are kept at the 400-year-old Sondari Shamshan or Asthi Ashram in Karachi, which is near the temple,” said Ramanath.
Regrettably about more than 40 ‘asthi-kalash’ still remain in the Sondari Shamshan. “We could not carry them all because just two of us — out of 10 other priests and sewaks (helpers) were granted visas,” Maharaj told IANS.
“Our visa applications were rejected by the Indian High Commission three times. The visas of eight others is still pending. If they are also granted visa by the Pitru Paksha, then they will arrive with 40 more asthi kalash from the Karachi shamshan,” the priest added.
After Maharaj crossed into India through the Wagah border with his nephew Kabir Kumar this thursday evening, he was received by volunteers of a Delhi-based organisation, Shri Devodhan Sewa Samiti (SDSS). Since he was not granted permission to travel to Delhi, Ramnath said he went directly towards Haridwar from Punjab.
Speaking to IANS, Ramnath recalled his last visit to India in 2011 when he arrived with 135 asthi kalash, some as old as 30 years. For this reason most ashes even this time were three to four years old waiting to immersed in Ganga.
The priest said that recently both the temple and cremation ground were renovated with the help of the Pakistan government.
– prepared by Anubhuti Gupta of Newsgram with inputs from IANS. Twitter: @anuB_11
August 17, 2017: A Hindu girl, Ravita Meghwar living in a village in Pakistan for 16 years was recently married off to a Muslim Man. The family members of the Hindu girl believe that the kidnappers drugged them and abdicated their daughter. Ravita who was rechristened to Gulnaz says she eloped and married by her own choice.
In the recent years, case after case has been reported of Hindu girls converting to Islam in the courts in Pakistan’s southern eastern Sindh province which is also the home to the majority of Pakistani Hindus. Lower-caste and low-income Hindus in Sindh work on farmlands for powerful, rich landowners as a result of which they face discrimination and are often cut off from the Hindu community at large.
The purportedly forcible conversions of Hindus have almost similar pattern in the cases. Targeting of minor girls has deeply disturbed the Hindu population in Pakistan.
The alarming situation feeds into a wider judgment-
Today Pakistan is deemed as an Islamic nationalist state where hardline religious groups are an intimidating force, and religious minorities are voiceless.
Pakistan was established as a Muslim state in 1947 where the country’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah proclaimed that the religious minorities should have the independence to live in the nation and follow their religion, however, as the time elapsed such has not been the scenario
The prominent Islamic religious organizations are striving hard to convert Hindu girls to Islam due to which some Hindus are leaving their settlements and migrating to other cities in Pakistan, or even so leaving Pakistan completely and departing to India. The community of Hindus in Pakistan has sharply declined from roughly 23 per cent in 1947 to barely 6 per cent presently owing to coerced conversions, suppression and oppression in Pakistan, mentioned ANI.
Ravita Meghwar’s brother-in-law, Lajpat Meghwadh says with respect to the issue, “The person who Ravita has gone off with has no connection to the family, except that they had a dispute. He has never come to our house”.
There are two contradictory perceptions from both the religious groups- while the Hindu activists claim that young girls are kidnaped, forced into converting to Islam, and wedded to Muslim men in an orderly manner, the Muslim leaders are defensive about the issue saying that conversions are a way of meriting blessings. Shockingly, these conversions are often strengthened by powerful muslim clerics and local politicians which assert that the girl voluntarily flew, converted, and married.
This poses a hurdle for lawyers who have to decide the justice for such cases. And in most of the cases, the girl’s assertion to marry at her own will settles the case, whereas her parents live in denial.`
Forced conversions became the focal point of the nation in 2012 when three Hindu girls were reported to have been forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslim men.
Before we know what those cases were, here is a brief understanding of ‘Love Jihad’:
Where did Love Jihad come from?
In Islam, ‘Jihad’ typically means struggle or battle for a religious cause. Hence, ‘Love Jihad’ basically is a push to instill infatuation in girls of religious minorities by feigning love and hopes of marriage. In 2009, there were claims of forceful religious conversions in Kerala and Mangalore. In 2009, Justice KT Sankaran (Retd.), observed there were indications of forceful religious conversions in Kerala and that the government should mull over a law to prohibit such instances. “Under the pretext of love, there cannot be any compulsive, deceptive conversion,” the court said.
Some of the famous cases of Love Jihad:
In 2014, a case of Kaleem and Shalu Tyagi’s love affair from Meerut caught national attention which was pitched as a case of ‘Love Jihad’.
In the same year, another famous case where a national-level shooter Tara Shahdeo alleged that the person whom she thought to be a Hindu was actually a Muslim and that her in-laws were coercing her to convert to Islam.
This year, again with the Hadiya case, ‘Love Jihad’ came into recognition. The Kerala High Court declared the marriage of a Hindu girl and Muslim man null and void after the woman’s father testified that his daughter has been recruited by Islamic State (IS) in Syria. After this, the Muslim husband approached the Supreme court seeking justice. On Wednesday, NIA stated that ‘Love Jihad existed’ in a response to SC orders. The agency further claimed it was not a distinctive incident on the part of Love Jihad campaign but a ‘pattern’ that has been emerging in Kerala, mentioned PTI.
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There was not even a single day when we could live in peace
New Delhi, August 15, 2017: After India got Independence from British Rule, India and Pakistan were created, Pakistan became a separate nation on 14 August 1947 and India, a separate nation on 15 August 1947.
Still, for some Hindus, Partition is not over yet as they are still struggling to come back to India and even when they reach, they are unable to live a life of dignity as an Indian Citizen. For decades, Jogdas (a Hindu who lived in Pakistan) wanted to move to India to escape the hostility he suffered as a Hindu in Muslim dominated Pakistan. But the reality of life they (all Pakistani Hindus living in camps) are living over the border is starkly different from what they wanted. It has been 71 years since the partition, the largest migration of people in the human history ever. Pakistani Hindus are still moving from Pakistan to India, where thousands are living in deteriorating conditions in makeshift camps near the border area with no legal right to work.
Many have no choice but to move illegally around the places near which they live because their movements are strictly controlled by the authorities who sees anyone who move from across the border with suspicious eyes. It is not the kind of welcome most of them expected in Hindu-majority India in-spite of being Hindus.
Jogdas, 81, said” No job, no house, no money, no food. There, we were working in the fields, we were farmers. But here people like us are forced to break rocks to earn a living,” mentioned AFP report. It’s a tough life for them.”For us, the partition is still not over. Pakistani Hindus are still trying to come back to their country and when they come here, they have nothing.” He lives in a camp on the outskirts of Jodhpur.
Due to partition many people were uprooted, the estimate suggests 15 million and it triggered months of tragic violence and chaos all around, a million people were killed due to their religion. Amid all the chaos and bloodshed, Hindus and Sikhs came to India and Muslims moved to Pakistan.
Despite the mass departure of people from both sides, Pakistan’s largest religious minority are Hindus. They are believed to be around 1.6 % in 200 million Pakistanis with Muslim religion.
Many say they have to face discrimination, risk getting kidnapped, raped and also forced marriage. Jogdas said that the harassment started very soon after partition. His family had only moved to Pakistan only a few months before partition in order to escape a devastating drought. He said, “There was not even a single day when we could live in peace. I wanted to come back to live with my Hindu brothers.We are alone,” mentioned AFP report.
Pakistan’s Sindh province is the place from where many migrants came to India. They took a 4 hour long train journey, going through Thar Desert to Jodhpur in Rajasthan. They share the culture, food, and language of Rajasthan should have made it easier for them to adjust in their adopted homeland. But the reality is totally different as they live far from local communities and local people in isolated camps, and are treated with suspicion by authorities on a frequent basis.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government have said that it wants to make it easier for persecuted Pakistani Hindus to find refuge in India. Last year the rules were changed and it allowed immigrants to apply for citizenship in the state where they currently live, instead of going to the central government for this.
Hindus from Pakistan are qualified for a fast track to citizenship after living seven years in the country. But because of bureaucratic delays, the process of citizenship takes much longer to complete.
Khanaramji, 64, in 2005 became an Indian citizen but the irony is that he fled Pakistan in 1997. He said that there were many others with him but they gave up their hopes and returned to Pakistan, disappointed by life in India where they couldn’t live a life they thought was possible here. According to AFP report, he said, “There is no assistance from the government. We are just like cattle with no owners. We are just surviving on our own. Life becomes hell.” What is worse than the poverty for them is the suspicion from authorities.”Those who do not have citizenship are harassed by (intelligence) agencies. They are always treated like suspects and agents of Pakistan,” said Khanaramji.
Hindu Singh Sodha said, “They spend most of what they earn on going to police stations and agency offices,” mentioned AFP report. He runs a charity in Jodhpur for Pakistani Hindus seeking to settle in India, said that they had high hopes from Modi when he came to office in 2014, but had to taste only disappointment.
The migrants are the ones who still have to face inspection whenever tensions come up between India and Pakistan; this is become a frequent occurrence under the Modi government. Their life becomes a living hell. “Because everything is affected, their shelter, healthcare, access to education, their livelihood,” said Sodha. But sad truth is that some tolerate this also.
Two years ago, Horoji fled to India with his two adult sons after receiving death threats from their Muslim neighbors in Pakistan. “To save our lives, we had to run to India,” said 65-year-old Horoji. His grandparents were originally from India but they found themselves on the wrong side of the border at the time of partition. “My grandfather had gone to the other side for work. But he told us to move to India at the right time as he sensed that times would not be safe for Hindus in future.”
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Lahore, Feb 28, 2017: Last spring, Anila Dhawan was abducted from her home in Hyderabad, Pakistan. She was forced to marry the abductor and convert to Islam.
The police refused to step in. Her abductor stated that Voluntarily, the girl had eloped from home, converted into Islam and married him. But post her family mounting pressure on the court, she spoke the truth to the judges and she was freed.
“Her life was threatened,” her attorney, Ramesh Gupta, stated. “She wanted to go back to her parents and the statement (she made to the court) helped to sway the decision in her favor and she was freed to join her family.”
Anila is among those Pakistani Hindu girls who are abducted due to draconian religious discrimination in a country that comprises of 98 per cent Muslim majority.
According to South Asia Partnership-Pakistan, a local human rights group, every year, it is estimated muslim men abduct about 1000 girls of Christianity and Hinduism faith but mostly Hindu girls. According to Pakistan Hindu Council, about 5000 Pakistani Hindus flee to neighbouring country India where 80 per cent population practises Hinduism. They flee to evade the religious persecution and discrimination.
Last year, the legislature in Southern province of Sindh (where the Kohlis reside) passed a legislation that outlawed the forced conversion of those below age 18, but it never came into effect. Conservative Islamic factions and groups objected to this measure and criticised the 5 years imprisonment on those who were guilty of forcing conversion. They produced the rationale that the law was ‘anti-Islamic’ and an endeavour to make Pakistan a secular country.
“We will not remain silent on this controversial law,” said Hafiz Saeed, a leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a self-proclaimed charity that the United States has declared a terrorist group.
In January the measure was vetoed by Sindh government. The legislative defeat was a major let down to human rights, activists stated.
“The problem of conversions is real,” said Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a mewmber of the Pakistan Hindu Council and parliament. “We are not against the conversion of religion as a result of research or preaching. But why are only underage Hindu girls in Sindh changing religion?”
For instance, last summer’s night, Ameri Kashi Kohli’s 14-year-old daughter was abducted from her home while she was sleeping in Southern Pakistan.
It was a harrowing experience for her when she discovered what happened to her daughter. “She had been converted to Islam and became the second wife of our landlord,” Kohli stated. Her landlord falsely claimed that the teen was compensation for a $1,000 debt the family owed him.
On top of that, the police refused to intervene. “They just said forget your daughter, she has converted,” Kohli described. They said “my daughter Jeevti is now known as Fatima.”
The defeat of the bill exhibited that religious conservatives have considerable power in the country.
“Government after government, military and civilian, have caved in to pressure from the extremists,” said Farahnaz Ispahani, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., who specialises in Pakistan’s minorities. “It is imperative for the government to stand by the people it represents. The bill to stop enforced conversion must be passed unaltered.”
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She said that the muslim leaders are critical of new protections extended to religious minorities and woman to and safeguarding them, especially women.
As per Kohli, she says she has lost her daughter. The landlord produced an affidavit from the teen and claimed that she was neither forced to convert nor marry and she ran away voluntarily. The parents claim she was forced to write this. As per Husband’s wishes, she was not allowed to meet her family or friends.
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Kohli stated that the plight of her daughter speaks volume about the uncertain future of Hindus in Pakistan.
“There (are) many Fatimas in this country,” Kohli stated. “But does this country have place for a Jeevti?”
Many stories dealing with such appalling and gruesome stature come across in Pakistan but no action is taken to prevent this social evil.