Tausiq Kumar begins his day with a cup of tea and a phone call to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. A trader by profession and hailing from the Patel Bagh area of Quetta, Kumar applied for asylum in India after his relative Ramesh was murdered for resisting a kidnapping attempt on February 6.
Even before Ramesh’s killing, says Kumar, there was a palpable fear among the beleaguered Hindu community in Balochistan. He traces the insecurity among 27,000-strong Hindu community as having started only in the last few years and painfully points out that Hindus have generally had their rights respected in the province, even after the Babri Masjid was destroyed in India in 1992.
Ramesh’s killing was the final straw that convinced Kumar he would be better off moving to India. He says, “I first became scared when a priest Maharaj Laxmichand Gujri was kidnapped and never found. He was highly respected in our community and after that we couldn’t ignore what was happening.”
After his relative’s murder, Kumar got in touch with the Indian High Commission, filed his application and waited. A couple of months passed by and he didn’t hear back. So, he decided to come to Islamabad and is now living in a guest house trying to expedite the process. Kumar knows of five people from the town of Mastang, close to Quetta, who have already migrated to India and is hopeful he will be able to move soon.
Although statistics are hard to come by, Saeed Ahmed Khan, the Balochistan director for the federal human rights ministry, says that he knows of more than two dozen Hindu families that are looking to migrate from Balochistan.
Quetta-based journalist Abdul Wahab says that at least 43 Hindus have been kidnapped in Balochistan in the last three years, three of whom were later found dead. He adds that whenever the provincial assembly has debated the issue, parliamentarians have either taken a head-in-the-sand approach to the issue or blamed the intelligence agencies for the kidnappings and killings.
Kumar says Hindus felt safer when Akbar Bugti was alive because he provided religious minorities the protection they needed. He also says that Hindus generally felt safer in the Baloch areas of the province as opposed to the Pakhtun areas.
Now Kumar is spending his meagre earnings in Islamabad trying to leave the country as soon as possible. He says, “I considered moving to a safer part of the country but I don’t know if there is any safe part. I am not sure if it is just criminals who kidnap Hindus for ransom or a hatred for Hindus but I am not safe here.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2011.