Just two days before the annual pilgrimage to Hinglaj Mata in Balochistan, the chairman of the committee that runs the temple’s affairs has been kidnapped.
Maharaj Ganga Ram Motiyani was taken from Lasbela, Balochistan. On Sunday, protesters gathered at the Karachi Press Club to demand the government take notice.
“Motiyani’s kidnapping appears to be a conspiracy against Hindus since he was kidnapped two days before the gathering,” said the Pakistan Hindu Council’s patron and former Sindh Assembly member, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani. “He has not been kidnapped for ransom because he is a poor man.”
In April each year, thousands of Hindus flock to the cave temple of Hinglaj Mata, or the goddess Sati. According to a Hindu myth, Lord Vishnu cut up the body of Sati with his flaming disc into 50 pieces, which fell to the earth. Her head fell at Hinglaj. “Thousands of Hindus from across the country gather for the Hinglaj mela every year,” said Vankwani.
According to a council member, Dr Chandar Turshani, two men in police uniform arrived at Motiyani’s shop at 8:30 pm and said that a senior police official wanted to meet him. “We contacted the area police station within half an hour but he was not there,” Turshani informed The Express Tribune. “When we spoke to Motiyani on his phone, he said that he was being taken to meet a major.” Motiyani’s family lost contact with him after an hour.
“The provincial and district governments have assured us that he will be rescued but we are clueless about why Motiyani was taken and what condition he is in,” said Turshani.
Sindh and Balochistan’s Hindus were already in the thick of the controversy of forced conversions. The kidnappings add to their insecurity. Hindus are largely seen as wealthy merchants in Sindh and as they don’t have traditional tribal backing, they are considered fair game. The kidnappings have been protested before, but Maharaj Motiyani’s case has hit a nerve.
The council organised the protest and its speakers stressed that even though the constitution provides rights to all citizens without discrimination, Hindus in Pakistan are still seeking equality.
“Our problems are getting worse by the day,” said Vankwani. “[Another Hindu] Asha Kumari has been missing for 41 days from Jacobabad.”
Vankwani told The Express Tribune that despite orders from the Supreme Court, nothing had been done to rescue her. “We are continuously in touch with the Sindh government and police as the court has asked them to find Asha by April 18.”
“One should question whether Hindus are free citizens of Pakistan? Are we given free religious rights?” asked the Pakistan Hindu Welfare Association’s chairperson, Mangla Sharma. “We strongly condemn forced conversions.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2012.