The Sindh High Court Chief Justice, Mushir Alam, has ordered by March 12, the production of 19-year-old Rinkle Kumari, a girl kidnapped from Mirpur Mathelo in Sindh’s Ghotki district. She is said to have been subsequently forcibly converted to Islam and married off to a Muslim man — or that’s the version of her family members. The judge was outraged by the event and pledged that law would no longer tolerate such crimes.
So far, so good. But the judge will ascertain from the kidnapped girl whether she wanted to be with the Muslim husband or not. That is where the rub is. The parents of the girl have already said that she was abducted by one Naveed Shah who was threatening the family, forcing it to flee from Sindh and take refuge in a gurduwara in Lahore. Those backing the kidnappers are said to be related to Abdul Haq alias Mian Mittho, a member of the National Assembly. A local magistrate has already been pressurised to give a ruling in favour of the abductors and to ignore the written testimony of girl. In fact, the girl, who has now been named Faryal Shah, appeared before the media in Sukkur on March 8 and said that she had not been forced to convert and wanted to live with her husband of her own free will.
What is promising is that President Asif Ali Zardari has directed ‘the authorities’ to investigate the kidnapping and has asked the Sindh government to submit a report on the incident. But those who have seen the phenomenon of Hindu girls’ conversions in Sindh are not very sanguine especially after her most recent appearance before the media. Dozens of people belonging to different minority communities have jointly held a demonstration in front of the Lahore Press Club to protest what has happened to Rinkle Kumari. Here the facts were more clearly revealed: the girl was allegedly kidnapped by the son of a relative of a PPP member of parliament. Also, that girl had then given a statement in the court that “she was not willing to convert to Islam and wanted to live with her parents” which is in complete contradiction to her words now.
The father of the girl, Nand Lal, is a teacher at the Government Primary School in Ghotki. According to him, Mian Aslam, son of MNA Mian Mitthu and his friend Naveed Shah kidnapped his 19-year-old daughter from his house. He is quoted as saying: “Initially, Mirpur Mathelo police station refused to register a case against the culprits, but later, after a protest by the relatives, they lodged an FIR and produced the girl and Naveed Shah before Magistrate Hassan Ali Kalwar. The girl denied that she wanted to convert to Islam and said that she wanted to live with her parents, but the court sent her to Darul Aman and the abductor was handed over to police on a one-day remand.”
President Zardari should do something about the Ghotki magistrate who, according to a report “saw the culprits along with the girl before court time and then straightaway handed over the girl to Mian Mittho’s men without asking the parents to appear before the court”. It is on the basis of this magistrate’s villainy that the feudals are now pressurising the victims. The president should also look closely at the statistics on this Women’s Day. There are approximately three million Hindus in Pakistan. They are a part of Pakistani life and need to be treated with respect and dignity. At the founding of Pakistan, Hindus comprised nearly 15 per cent of the country’s population and are now barely two per cent. Many have left, many have been killed, and many have converted to other religions to protect themselves.
Around 25 Hindu girls are abducted every month and converted to Islam forcibly in Pakistan. Counting other non-Muslims girls, at Shantinagar in Punjab, Christian girls were forcibly converted in the 1990s, then married to Muslims. This kind of dirty business has been going on in the Tharparkar region of Sindh too. Islam disallows conversion of its followers to other religions but welcomes conversion of non-Muslims to its fold. However, what is ignored at the popular level is that Islam bans coercion during conversion.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2012.
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