Some people in the establishment in Pakistan will probably smile triumphantly at the news that “dozens of Pakistani Hindu pilgrims who reached the Indian state of Rajasthan on September 9, say they don’t intend to return to their country”. The establishment will rebuke the government for not placing an embargo on their movement out of Pakistan and will probably succeed in getting it to stop any families from the Hindu community from going out of the country in future.
The Hindus visiting India mostly said that they would come back. No sane person can expect a persecuted and scared community to tell the truth about what they will do next after the Supreme Court backed off from inquiring into cases of alleged abduction and marriage of Hindu girls after ullema came out threateningly, proclaiming that Hindu-Muslim marriages after the girl ‘embraced’ Islam were according to sharia. Once in Rajasthan in India, the stricken community was more outspoken and expressed their unhappiness about the abnormal trend in Pakistan of marrying Hindu girls after making them run away from their parental homes.
There is no telling what the Indian government will do: treat them as Pakistani citizens and push them back into Pakistan or take a humanitarian view and accept them for naturalisation as Indians. But in Rajasthan, there were ‘social workers’ aplenty, who took care of them as they arrived. The Samenath Lok Sangathan (SLS) wants India to give them the country’s nationality and help them settle in India and not go back to Pakistan where, by Pakistanis’ own admission, religious extremism is rampant to an extent that even fellow Muslims are not safe. This kind of a thing has happened to thousands of Christians, Bahais, Ismailis, etc, now settled in the West.
The Hindus who arrived in Rajasthan for ‘pilgrimage’ are from the cities of Sanghar and Hyderabad in Sindh. They are the Bheels traditionally targeted by our waderas for bonded labour. They said, according to BBC: “We are feeling insecure because of the alarming rise in Islamic extremism in Pakistan. We would rather die here (in India) than go back to Pakistan.”
Our TV channels are striving to prove that the Hindu girls who married Muslim boys did so with consent. One TV field reporter went to the house of a Hindu bride and heard her recite the Quran and assert that she had decided to embrace the superior faith and was no longer willing to meet her parents. At the conclusion of the interview, he turned triumphantly to the viewers and proclaimed that proof was finally available to give the lie to the Hindu parents’ plaint in the court that their daughters had been forcibly converted.
The question, alas, is not whether there is freedom of religion in Pakistan; it is whether a community feels safe about preserving their religion, which is protected under the law and under sharia. What the Hindu community is pointing to is the changed environment in Pakistan, wherein conversion to Islam has picked up. After 65 years, the Muslim majority community has suddenly become so exemplary that it attracts Hindu girls — and not so much Hindu boys although that may start happening too — to Islam at such a high rate. It is the duty of the Pakistani state to create conditions in which the minority communities are not pushed so far down in the scale of well-being that its youths find it more tolerable to convert.
One factor is the condition of life which has plummeted for the non-Muslims; the other is the increased victimisation of them under various forms of blasphemy in which even the law relating to the desecration of the Holy Quran and the law about the insult of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) are often clubbed together in the mind of the common man, who then proceeds to inflict death on the accused through vigilante action while the police stand aside and admire this shameful summary justice. The other irony is that there is no real freedom of religion: Muslims embracing Hinduism would be immediately killed.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2012.
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