Hindu Panchayat leaders from Jacobabad have been accused of accepting kickbacks to make less of a fuss about the migrations to India. But the government has said that the offerings were legitimate.
Kalpana Devi, who is a Larkana bar leader and a human rights activist, has alleged that the panchayat leaders were bought off during their recent meeting with the Pakistan Peoples Party members at Bilawal House in Karachi. She claimed that they were offered Rs500 million, 25 jobs and permits for wine shops.
“They [community members] are looking at it as an attempt to sweep the problems under the rug,” she said at a press conference with nationalist leader Dr Dodo Mehri among others on Friday.
The allegations were refuted by Federal Minister Maula Bux Chandio who presented a report on Hindus to the president on Friday. He acknowledged that during the meeting chaired by MNA Faryal Talpur with the Jacobabad Panchayat in Bilawal House, Rs50 million was approved – but for development schemes.
He also accepted that jobs were offered to the panchayat. “The chief minister was asked to give them jobs according to their five per cent quota, as a courtesy of the meeting.” He did not have any knowledge about any permits for the wine shops.
The fears of kickbacks could be allayed if the report were made public. Indeed, Mehri and Devi have demanded this. The report encapsulates the community’s complaints, demands and recommendations. The president asked Chandio to hold meetings to gather the information as increasing reports of Hindu migration to India put the government in a bad light. The migrations have been blamed on kidnappings and forced conversions along with a general lack of security and protection for the minority.
“It is necessary to officially acknowledge that these problems exist and that the migration is a reality, even if it’s happening on a small scale,” said Devi. She asked the migrants to return.
According to Devi, the Hindus are skeptical about achieving any tangible outcome from the special committee’s interaction with their representatives.
“Greasing the palms of one or two panchayats will leave the basic problems, including the issue of migration, unresolved,” remarked Dr Dodo Mehri. He interpreted the alleged kickbacks as a move to create rifts within Hindus living in different parts of Sindh. He believes that the community’s grievances can only be redressed through legislative and executive measures.
For his part, however, Minister Chandio has emphasised that no migration was taking place. “Only 20 people from Jacobabad have migrated to India which is not alarming as a larger number of people have migrated to Europe, America, Middle East and other countries.”
The population of Hindus in Sindh is over 6.84 million (6,842,526), according to the Pakistan Hindu Council. In Pakistan, around 94 per cent of the Hindu community lives in Sindh.
Dr Mehri said that even though an overwhelming majority of Hindus voted for the Pakistan Peoples Party in the general elections, criminals behind the extortion and kidnappings have the support of the local political leaders.
Advocate Devi reiterated the need for laws to prevent the forced conversion of Hindu girls, the marriage act and regulation of the panchayats. She said that the government needs to bring all the Hindu castes, which lack consensus on the marriage act, to agree to a draft before it can be made into a law.
In answer to a question about taking matters to the Supreme Court, Devi said that they have no expectations from the higher judiciary after the Rinkle Kumari case. “The court didn’t provide us the justice we were expecting.” Kumari was allowed by the Supreme Court to live with her husband even though her family alleged that she was forced to convert and marry a Muslim.
The lawyer highlighted the need for a law to bar the immediate conversion of Hindu girls after marriage, suggesting that they should be kept in a shelter house for at least a month till the court decides if it was by choice or forced. “These love marriages are eating at our society like a termite. Either the government should introduce Akbari laws or allow Hindu and Muslims to marry without changing their faith as is done in India.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2012.