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A Hindu temple in Pakistan's Punjab province was reportedly vandalized by hundreds of people after a nine-year-old Hindu boy, who allegedly urinated at a local seminary, received bail, a media report said on Thursday.
According to the Dawn news report, the incident took place on Wednesday in Bhong town, about 60 km from Rahim Yar Khan city.
Besides the vandalization, the mob also blocked the Sukkur-Multan Motorway (M-5), the report added.
Citing sources, Dawn news said that a case was registered against the minor on July 24 based on a complaint filed by a cleric, Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim, of the Darul Uloom Arabia Taleemul Quran.
The sources said that "some Hindu elders did tender an apology to the seminary administration saying the accused was a minor and mentally challenged".
But, when a lower court granted him bail a few days ago, some people incited the public in the town on Wednesday and got all shops there closed in protest, the report quoted the sources as further saying.
A video clip showing people wielding clubs and rods storming the temple and smashing its glass doors, windows, lights, and damaging the ceiling fans went viral on social media.
In response, one Twitter user said: "Ganesh Temple, village Bhong in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab has been ravaged. Another day, another attack on Hindus in Pakistan."
Another said: "Yesterday, the mob ran amok at Temple over minor boy issue who allegedly urinated, the boy said to be mentally handicapped. Hindu community made an apology for the boy — a case registered against the nine-year-old boy. Those vandalized temples, no FIR registered against them."
District police spokesman Ahmed Nawaz Cheema said Rangers had been deployed in the troubled area and the situation was under control.
A small town close to the River Indus and Sindh-Punjab border, Bhong houses a number of gold traders who originally hail from Ghotki and Dehrki (Sindh), according to the Dawn news report.
A ruling PTI member representing the minority said he had been in touch with the local Hindu community and influential Rais family of Bhong since the issue surfaced.
The Hindu community in Sindh has been protesting against government inaction and the injustice being committed by it towards the Hindus.
The Hindus in Sindh had given the government 60 days for initiating legislation on the safety and security of Hindus in the province. However, the government has not taken any action on the matter thus far.
The Pakistan Dravid Ittehad (PDI) has demanded that insecurity among the Hindu community should be redressed on priority by the government.
PDI Chairman Faqira Shiva and others addressed a massive gathering of protesters on the Mirpur Khas road in Sindh on Monday, warning of a protest in front of the Sindh Assembly on August 1 against forced abduction of Hindu girls, forced religious conversions, and other such issues.
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These leaders have decided that they would continue to protest till a law is introduced for the safety of the Hindu community. Representatives of several Hindu societies were present at the meeting.
Advocate Sulema Jahangir, board member, AGHS Legal Aid Cell, while writing in Pakistan daily Dawn had said that over the years, the laws applicable to the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan have shifted from being neutral to blatantly discriminatory -- from electoral laws, family laws, law on evidence, Hudood laws, redistribution of income through Zakat and Ushr, trust and evacuee property laws, domicile and nationality, to offenses against religion.
Hawan at Shri Hinglaj Mata temple during Hinglaj Yatra.Wikimedia Commons
"The discrimination against women belonging to religious minority groups is worse; they become victims of rape, abduction, forced marriage, and forced conversion. That it is largely underage girls who are 'converting' to Islam speaks volumes of the vulnerability of the converts, and the motivation of those behind the conversions," Jahangir said.
Jahangir also said that twice the Sindh government had attempted to outlaw forced conversions and marriages, including laying guidelines for the court process in the Protection of Minorities Bill, placing an age limit of 18 years upon conversions and enabling better due process.
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In 2016, the bill was unanimously passed by the Sindh Assembly, but religious parties objected to an age limit for conversions and threatened to besiege the assembly if the bill received approval from the Governor, who then refused to sign the bill into law.
In 2019, a revised version was introduced, but religious parties had again protested. A sit-in was organized by Pir Mian Abdul Khaliq (Mian Mithu), a political and religious leader and a central character in many cases of forced conversions of underage Hindu girls in Sindh.
In March 2019, nearly 2,000 Hindus had staged a sit-in to demand justice for two sisters, Reena and Raveena, who they claimed were forcibly converted and married.
"Pakistan has failed to comply with its international obligations to protect non-Muslim women and girls from exploitation by powerful groups and criminal elements," Jahangir wrote. (IANS/KB)
- No job, no house, no money, no food
- Pakistan’s largest religious minority are Hindus
- 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.
– prepared by Sabhyata Badhwar of NewsGram. Twitter: @SabbyDarkhorse