Bloggers unite to bring minorities’ issues into the limelight

Harmony campaign aims to promote peace and minorities' rights

Our Correspondent January 27, 2017

KARACHI: Depressed by successive governments' policies neglecting minorities' issues, a group of young bloggers have joined hands to bring the issues of non-Muslims into the limelight.

Bloggers in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Mirpurkhas have also started a 'harmony campaign' for co-existence, peace and tolerance in the province by working for the rights of minorities as enshrined in the Constitution and showcasing a positive side of Pakistan, said the minority rights activist Ross Mahtani.

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"The entry test of Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences was postponed last year when a blog was written about the fact that it was falling on the same day as Diwali," said blogger Sapna Bai.

Bai, who highlights issues faced by minorities in Sukkur via her blog 'Minority Voices' said that hundreds of students from the Hindu community were supposed to appear in the entry test of medical universities but the university administration only realised their error after the blog was published and later highlighted by the mainstream media.

According to her, the absence of worship spaces for minorities in institutes, such as the Sukkur Institute of Business Administration, and the dearth of religious books in libraries are creating unease for minority students.

"We are creating an impact through our write-ups by facillitating people about the religious rituals and festivals of minorities and partially succeeded in getting attention of Muslims as well," she told The Express Tribune.

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Another blogger, Ashok Sharma, who contributes to Minority Voices, said that he succeeded in drawing the attention of the minister for minorities to the debilitating state of infrastructure in Kali Mandir Colony in Hyderabad, where 3,500 Hindus of the Meghwar community reside.

According to Sharma, then minister Gianchand Israni visited the area and ordered the provision of a security check post at the temple. In 2014 the Hanuman Temple was attacked in the same area.

"Minorities in Sindh comparatively feel safer than in other provinces, as the Muslims in Sindh are more aware and see minorities as indigenous people of this land," said Sharma. He added that a few years back, the forcible conversion of Hindus in Sindh was on the rise, but Muslims fought this menace along with the minorities.

"There are no restrictions when writing blogs highlighting minority issues and we can do it without discrimination as we know our own problems best," he maintained.

The ‘minority problem’

A student and blogger from Hyderabad, Deehraj Kumar, said the Hasrat Mohani District Central Library in Hyderababd has no religious books on Hinduism such as the Bhagavad Gita or Ramayana despite half the visitors to the library being Hindus.

The conversion of religious minorities is a serious problem that is not highlighted when it occurs in small villages. It is highlighted if it happens in Ghotki district and Samaro, the headquarters of Umerkot district, said Pawan Kumar.

"The 5% quota for minorities in jobs must also be implemented by the Sindh government," reiterated Pawan, who contributes to Minority Voices and works for a Sindhi newspaper. He said that cases of conversion, which were not being highlighted earlier in small and scattered villages, are also being highlighted and then picked up by national media.

The bloggers demanded the Sindh government amend the Sindh Hindu Marriage Bill on the grounds of human rights. The bill was passed last year and only deals with the registration of marriage; it has no provision for divorce, separation or alimony.

"Minorities are marginalised segments of society and in this era of globalisation blogs highlight, sensitise and mobilise the government and civil society," said blogger Chander Kumar.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2017.

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