QUETTA: Forced conversions to Islam and increasing incidents of kidnapping have instilled a deep sense of insecurity among the Hindu community in Balochistan, said Minister for Human Rights and Minority Affairs Basant Lal Gulshan.
As many as four girls and three boys of the Hindu community forcibly converted to Islam in 2011. “At least 50 Hindu families have migrated from Quetta alone,” Gulshan told The Express Tribune. “The families migrated to rural Balochistan and Sindh because their rights were not safeguarded in Quetta.”
The minister claimed that investigations have not begun in the conversion cases reported in Loralai, Chaman and Sibi.
He criticised the Balochistan government for its lack of interest on minority rights and said: “I took up the issue with Chief Minister Aslam Raisani and also discussed it on the provincial assembly floor, but they are not serious in addressing the grievances of minorities.”
He added that at least 25 people of his community have been kidnapped for ransom this year. “There were 55 cases last year and we are witnessing a sharp rise this year.”
Dr Rajesh Kumar, a pharmacist, was kidnapped in broad daylight from outside the Bolan Medical College Complex in Quetta approximately one and half month ago. His whereabouts are still unknown.
According to a rough estimate, around 200,000 Hindus reside in different parts of Balochistan and most of them are either businessmen or traders. “Criminals consider Hindus an easy target for earning money.”
Gulshan assured that as a member of the provincial cabinet, he will continue to raise his voice for his community, regardless of his reservations being ignored. “My colleagues in the cabinet often say that this is not happening only with Hindus and that Muslims are being kidnapped as well. In some way, they justify the abductions.”
In a statement, the Human Rights Organisation of Pakistan (Balochistan chapter) expressed strong concern over the kidnapping of Hindus and urged the government to curb this menace. The kidnapped pharmacist was also a member of the HRCP. They organisation has blamed influential people for the kidnappings.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2012.